Gaborone – A respected veteran journalist from Botswana Tefo Pheage has released interesting facts about charismatic preacher Shepherd Bushiri, whom he says to have Exposed.
Call him whatever you want. Describe him however way you wish. The truth of the matter is that while arguments and endless discourse about his authenticity escalate, the Malawian-born and South Africa-based prophet, Shepherd Bushiri is one of a kind. Staff Writer Mmegi Online, TEFO PHEAGE encountered him in Pretoria, South Africa from July 28 to 31.
As I enter the gates of his larger than life ministry, anxious of an unknown future, the first thing that strikes me to the core is the perennial incoming movement of hardcore believers from all corners of the world – pregnant with hope for a miracle upon departure.
The church I hear starts around 1000hrs and I wander around directionless choosing to acclimatise myself with the system and culture in order to equip myself and avoid unnecessary pitfalls. This I do in remembrance of the fact that peace and security comes first from knowing your environment.
To the flock, Major One as Prophet Bushiri is affectionately known as, enjoys a God-like status accorded to him by the masses to the extent that some even think God, Bushiri and Jesus are “the author and finishers” of our faith.
I keep on applying brakes in my pursuit for the truth and constantly remind myself that I am visiting not as a journalist but a Christian, even though the journalist in me irrepressibly keeps sneaking out to take a peep into Major One’s unfathomable world. As I battle with my conscience, faith and reality, I remember and seek guidance and consolation from the fact that we should always be open-minded yet not gullible to new discoveries.
People are still flocking in joining those who slept outside the gates waiting for them to be open
. Bushiri is not just a prophet. He is a brand that employs hundreds of people. I develop cold feet thinking about asking some of these employees whether they do what they do for a penny or faith. However, it is clear that the ministry makes money and the flamboyant prophet is not apologetic about his wealth.
“I am rich and I do not need your money. I make around five million every Monday,” he has frequently said at his services. These services frequently attract around 50,000 believers – a feat which often eludes the Zebras or even a cup final between Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers.
The service starts, and while he has not yet arrived, his lieutenants, being priests and evangelists, keep the congregants busy with the Word of God as well as praise and worship.
I immediately fall in love with one Pastor James whose jokes and eccentric remarks keep the congregation awake. However, when the time to minister comes, he adopts a seriousness and firmness similar to that of Robert Mugabe when he talks about Tony Blair.
Despite all the forerunners’ theatrics and scintillating delivery, it is clear the congregants want only one man – Major One – the healer, blesser, anointer, preacher and teacher.
All are carrying documents, files and everything for him to lay his hands on and declare a miracle. I notice that the prophet is not only a magnet for the so-called masses but also in attendance are the well educated, wealthy and those well-studied in the scriptures.
One thing that strikes me is that while many take him as some sorcerer, Bushiri and his team encourage believers to pray for themselves for God to locate them and hear their cries. Every 30 minutes, a reminder is made to the worshippers to pray and connect with God, something I find thought-provoking and intriguing.
Inwardly I say indeed he must be a true man of God who promotes and defends God, but I am quickly reminded of Matthew 7:15: “Watch out for false prophets.
They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves”.
Bushiri attracts all manner of people from many different churches who believe in his sweeping powers and anointing. I realise immediately that he also attracts Indians who from birth are not Christians and other believers from first-world countries such as the United States and Australia who speak passionately of his greatness.
As the worship continues, a sudden noise erupts and I conclude that the ‘Messiah’ has arrived. We all crane our necks to catch a glance of him but before we can, some in the congregation are struck by his mere appearance and leave the church in disarray.
Major One goes straight to his pulpit and kneels down to hold a short prayer, which I hear is customary. He reveals that his God
is showing him some things which he is struggling to keep to himself.
“Prophesy man of God, go deeper Papa,” the congregants chant. I join the chorus. Like all of them I too am looking for a miracle.
I had gone as an international visitor. In case you are not aware who these are – they are counted as the prophet’s special visitors who part with R7,000 to sleep over in Pretoria to see the prophet. The money, we are told, is for four-days of meals, hotel stay and transport to and from hotels after each service, which takes about 10 hours. I had no problem with that as we slept in luxurious hotels, ate good meals and travelled in luxurious buses from the church to our hotels. The truth is that the expenses could not amount to R7,000 Rand, but I chose not to care and like others my focus was on my anointing.
“But the hour cometh, and now is,” John 4:23. The time we all have been waiting for has arrived, the time of hope and miracles. We are all called to form queues and assured that despite our overwhelming numbers, we will all experience the touch and grace of the prophet. We have no reason to doubt what we are told. Everyone goes down upon his touch and he gives others more time because, according to him, they are demon-possessed.
As my turn nears, I go deep into prayer and meditation, surrender my all to God and lay bare my desires and worries, full of hope as others. A soothing low-key praise and worship melody plays in the background: “I surrender all to you, everything I give to you, withholding nothing,” the song goes.
Bushiri fixes his eyes on me and grants me a smile before he pats my forehead. I immediately lose myself, a bit slowly but surely going into a state of wilderness. An electric feeling prevails in me and I begin to walk to my seat like the Drunken Master of old Chinese and Hong Kong martial arts movies. The feeling lasts for about five minutes and it is only after that, that I can fully recover, bask in it and enjoy it. This might as well be my miracle.
The second time he touches me, I go to the ground immediately and recover immediately. Before I fully wake up from my slumber, some are already receiving their miracles, miracle money, debt cancellations healing messages from families and relatives and many other miracles declarations. All fix their eyes on their phones but the prophet reminds us that miracles come in different forms. “Some will come later in your life, some after a week and some right now. Remember there is what we call God,” he says to our satisfaction, eliciting a seemingly well-rehearsed chorus of “I receive,” from the congregation.Perceptions, they say, matter more than facts and the prophet is alive to that reality. Every now and then he shares incredible stories of how people are tarnishing his name calling him a false prophet.
He takes a swipe at mainline churches across Africa ascribing their bitterness to losing their members to his ministry.
“At some point pastors grouped themselves in Malawi in an effort to close down my church only to find that all the leaders they went to were my followers,” he says with his trademark smile.
The time for testimonies arrives and this is one of the most emotional and fascinating moments in the service – thrill a minute if you like. This is when you realise the power of Bushiri’s hand and anointing. This is when evidence-filled stories and testimonies are shared and this is when you become compelled to believe the prophet in Bushiri.
Criticism for the sake of it is foolishness and to be critical for the sake of it would be unfortunate and grossly unfair. While doubt will always force itself through, a great part of me, I must admit, fell for Bushiri and his anointing and improbable powers because I experienced them. At the end of it all, I came to the conclusion that whether his miracles are from God or not, Bushiri can indeed perform them.