Nearly 260 people were baptized in Zimbabwe on the eve of a major two-week evangelistic series that is expected to result in 30,000 baptisms.
The nightly “Revelation of Hope” meetings begin at 5:30 p.m. Sunday in a large outdoor area complete with a stage and large screens in Chitungwiza, a town about 30 minutes by car south of the capital, Harare.
Eighty-six other evangelistic meetings will be conducted simultaneously in churches and other venues across the country, culminating on Sabbath, May 30, with the expected 30,000 baptisms at sites countrywide.
“Over 5,000 small groups have been working for several months in preparation for the meetings,” said Duane McKey, coordinator of the two-week series and vice president for evangelism at the Adventist Church’s Southwestern Union in Texas.
“Many are praying for 30,000 baptisms,” he told the Adventist Review.
The first 258 Zimbabweans who had participated in the months of Bible studies were baptized following worship services in Chitungwiza on Sabbath, May 16.
Adventist Church leader Ted N.C. Wilson, who is leading the main evangelistic meetings in Chitungwiza, preached at the outdoor area about the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on the water from Matthew 14, emphasizing that people today, unlike Peter as he walked toward Jesus on the water, need to keep their eyes on Jesus.
Two deaf people who listened to the sermon translated first into the local Shona language and then into sign language led about 300 people in responding to an altar call for baptism at the end of the worship services. The 300 people will join the small study groups already in progress.
The Adventist Church in Zimbabwe has more than 800,000 members on a continent where church growth is booming. A few weeks ago, neighboring Zambia celebrated reaching a milestone of 1 million members.
The evangelistic series is being held under the auspices of “Mission to the Cities,” a church initiative to share Jesus in the world’s biggest cities, and “comprehensive health ministry,” a type of church outreach that seeks to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of the community.
To coincide with the evangelistic meetings, a free healthcare event has kicked off in Chitungwiza, providing medical services to more than 3,000 people in its first three days. It is track to treat 1,000 people a day for the rest of the two weeks, church leaders said. The event is similar to an Adventist free clinic that treated more than 6,100 people in a stadium in San Antonio, Texas, last month, and 3,000 people in San Francisco and Oakland in 2014.
Local church leaders have established 61 evangelistic sites across Harare and two dozen additional sites in 17 other Zimbabwean cities for the two-week series. Among those preaching in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-biggest city, will be Anthony Kent, associate secretary of the Adventist world church’s Ministerial Association, and Lael Caesar, associate editor of the Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines.
Many local churches have been divided into two to accommodate the expected surge in new believers from the series. Huge banners and billboards announcing “Revelation of Hope” line the streets of Harare.
Wilson asked Adventist believers worldwide to pray for the meetings in Zimbabwe, as well as for other evangelistic initiatives taking place around the globe.
“Certainly Jesus is coming soon, and it is a privilege for all of us to be part of God’s great mission to reach the world through the Holy Spirit’s power,” he said.