CHAMBERSBURG, Pa.—Churches around the world are experiencing social distancing measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and worship centers in Zimbabwe are no different.
In fact, Zimbabwean pastors are at an even greater disadvantage because they may not have the technology to broadcast virtual services or recorded sermons. But The Tide® (www.thetide.org) radio ministry, which has shared the Gospel in this African nation since 1983, is helping to provide a path for pastors to reach their congregations over the airwaves.
“Pastors are unable to meet with their congregations in person due to the coronavirus lockdown, and many do not have the means to film, record or broadcast church services or messages,” said The Tide Director Don Shenk. “Therefore, The Tide studio has enabled these pastors to record sermons and prayers to share with their parishioners at a time when they are desperately needed.”
The Tide ministry reports that many Zimbabweans identify as Christian, but a large number still participate in traditional African religious practices, including ancestral spirit worship and witchcraft. Even though Zimbabwe has been fairly extensively evangelized, many still need to hear the Gospel message, while others are hungry to learn more about Jesus Christ.
Through The Tide partnership, preachers record messages from home, oftentimes on their smartphones or other recording devices. Studio personnel then produce and distribute the topical and relevant recordings via WhatsApp.
“There has been an upsurge in people joining ‘Amagugu Evangeli’ chat groups,” The Tide partner reports. “This has been attributed to the unavailability of Sunday church services due to the COVID-19 lockdown.”
Nearly four decades ago, The Tide ministry began working with a church group in Zimbabwe to produce and air a Ndebele language radio program called “Amagugu Evangeli,” which means “Precious Gospel” in English. In 2016, fundraising and construction began on a new radio studio, and late last year, solar panels were installed on the studio through the generous donation of a Pennsylvania business. The much-needed addition allows the studio to continue running and broadcasting, with electrical power only sporadically available in Zimbabwe.
In fact, the studio also shares the solar power with the neighboring Brethren in Christ Church (BICC). Through this power source, the church—during regular circumstances—is able to run its lighting, projector and public address system during Sunday services.
The Tide partners on the ground say the COVID-19 pandemic has “changed how things work in general and for radio in particular.”
“‘Amagugu Evangeli’ has not been spared, offices are closed, but we are attuning to new means of reaching the masses with the Gospel,” one partner reports. “If there was a moment where people needed to hear more about Christ, this should be the time.”
For instance, urgent prayer needs that are reported to the radio ministry in Zimbabwe run the gamut, but a critical need is health care-related.
“Hospitals don’t have the needed medicines, and there have been insensate and incessant strikes by doctors and nurses,” the Zimbabwe partner reported. “That makes people helpless at times, and their only possible help will be Christ.”
Likewise, “Amagugu Evangeli” radio leaders are a part of the BICC COVID-19 Taskforce, which was created in response to the pandemic to create, design, and send correct and accurate information to BICC members, radio listeners and social media subscribers via videos on Facebook and YouTube. The group also seeks to raise funds to fight the pandemic.
“These are indeed difficult and new times,” The Tide partner shared. “COVID-19 has changed how people live and interact, but radio is a tool that is able to penetrate directly into homes. We thank God, The Tide, listeners, preachers and the radio committee. We pray that God intervenes and a vaccine for COVID-19 be found.”
For nearly 75 years, The Tide ministry has recorded and broadcasted Gospel programming in nine countries on three continents in 27 heart languages spoken by millions of people in multiple regions of Albania, Bhutan, India, Kosovo, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand and Zimbabwe. With more than 7,000 languages spoken worldwide and more than 2,000 people groups that have been unreached by the Good News of Jesus, the opportunities are tremendous.
For more information about The Tide broadcast projects, history, radio programs around the world, special yearlong campaigns, the weekly Global Update radio features or other news, visit its website at www.thetide.org or its Facebook page. Read more about The Tide ministry and Director Don Shenk here.