By Samuel Kadungure
A dark cloud is hanging over the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) in Zimbabwe following the death of its first black president, Reverend Jeffery Mvenge, in Chikanga, Mutare, on Monday.
He was 94.
The cause of his death was complications from stroke and diabetes.
A gentle, kind man who loved and trusted God throughout his life, Rev Mvenge served others humbly, generously, and graciously.
He was loved and respected by his followers, who referred to him as a conciliator, an astute and sagacious cleric.
Rev Mvenge had a stupendous work ethic and was a leading authority on proper clerical garb and rites of ordination and consecration.
His passion was three-fold — preaching, church-planting and mentoring — and he executed all three with excellence.
No sketch of his life, however perfect, can give an adequate conception of what a unique man he was.
One would require to know him privately to understand his deep, simple and honest piety. He was fascinating, gentle and simple; and this endeared him to both the young and old.
Each time he rose to preach — all those in attendance would be attentive, expecting to hear some apt illustration of the word.
Despite his advanced age and poor health, Rev Mvenge exuded a mind deeply exercised in spiritual things.
The current president of the AFM in Zimbabwe, Reverend Amon Madawo, described him as a father, a counsellor and a well of wisdom.
“He was the first black president of the AFM, in whose time the church was characterised with peace, order and stability. He did a lot of pioneering work in Manicaland and Mozambique.
“He was overseer for the whole Manicaland Province, an astute teacher of the word, whose departure is a great loss to the church as he was one of the fathers we looked up to. He fought a good fight and finished his race,” said Rev Madawo.
Former AFM president Dr Aspher Madziyire said as church leader between 1988 and 1996, Rev Mvenge handled church conflicts with great wisdom, preventing them from escalating into fights.
“Sekuru was a man of a few words, but full of wisdom. He was a peaceful man who never fought back those who fought and disliked him. I cannot say the AFM family has lost because we learned a lot from him. He set a standard that we must follow without compromise,” said Dr Madziyire.
The family spokesperson, Rev Simon Mabota said: “We looked up to him, we still do and we will do so for as long as we live. He was an indispensable unifier. This man has joined Christ in heaven, and I know there was so much celebration there. He is no longer in pain or fighting with deteriorating health. For he is with Christ our Lord.”
AFM Manicaland Central provincial chairman, Elder Andrew Nyekete described Rev Mvenge’s death as a piteous spectacle.
“Rev Mvenge was an astute and sagacious leader par excellence. Manicaland Central got the rare privilege of being with him until his last breath.
“My condolences go to Gogo Mvenge and the church at large. As the province mourns the religious leader, let us take solace from the fact that Rev Mvenge has graduated to another glory.
“His footprints and works in the service of the Lord are well chronicled, and shall forever be indelible in the annals of the church. He is overqualified to have his name inscribed permanently in the hall of fame of this apostolic movement,” said Elder Nyekete.
Rev. Mvenge was born on February 10, 1926, in Buhera, under Chief Chimombe.
In 1945, he was baptised in Mavhaire River near Murambinda.
He went to school in Buhera before transferring to Gobatema School in Gwanda, where he completed his Standard Six in 1953.
Rev Mvenge came to settle in Rusape, where he ventured into his teaching career between 1954 and 1960.
In 1953, he married his wife, Esnath Mvenge (nee Magadaire).
God called him to ministry and he enrolled for theological training at Kasupe Bible College in Zambia.
He was then transferred from Rusape to Sakubva to fill the vacancy left by Pastor Magoronga.
He was soon to be appointed the Overseer for Manicaland Province.
He rose through the ranks to become the deputy superintendent to the late Reverend Langton Kupara, who become the AFM superintendent in 1982, at the end of Rev Willard Wilson’s term.
Between 1967 and 1970, Rev. Mvenge opted for an expansionist approach that saw him cross into Mozambique for missionary work, planting churches in that country.
Following the demise of Rev Kupara in 1987, Rev Mvenge became the church superintendent, a title that morphed to make him the first black president of the AFM in Zimbabwe.
Rev Mvenge received several awards, including a doctorate in ministry work.
After retiring in 1996, Rev Mvenge remained a source of inspiration in the church, teaching the word and doctrine.
In 2015, Rev Mvenge suffered a life-threatening stroke that saw him in and out of hospital.
The stroke struck twice again, leaving him frail and largely confined indoors.
He succumbed to sugar diabetes on October 19th.
He is survived by his wife, eight children, 26 grandchildren and 29 great grandchildren. The Manica Post