‘I found hope in hard times,’ Peter says
Once desperately poor and addicted to alcohol, Peter Mukoneri was impacted by the same message that moved a white pastor to wash his feet as a sign of love and respect.
Peter was 25 when he went to Muchike stadium to hear a sermon about a blind beggar named Bartimaeus.
"The preacher said, 'you are sick and tired at the life you are living. Jesus is passing by, He wants to change you'," Peter recalls.
"Really I was tired of the life I was living, being a drunkard and short tempered and even having dreadlocks in my hair."
As the sermon continued, Peter began to feel like the preacher knew him.
"The preacher said, 'Jesus is going to change you today, if you will only give Him a way to be your Lord and Saviour'," Peter says.
"I found myself lifting up my hand in prayer, confessing all my sins. One of the counsellors took my hand and started talking with me in a very lovely way, welcoming me to Jesus, and congratulating me for making this special decision."
His life was associated with bad habits so Peter says it took people time to accept that he was a truly converted Christian, even his own wife.
"Friends began to make fun of me but I continued loving my God and going to church and finding strength daily in God's Word [the Bible]."
The same year he trusted in Jesus, Peter's work began to pay him so little that he was forced to move back to his childhood home in rural Zimbabwe.
This did not help his situation but he continued to praise and thank God for His protection.
"We could still work in people's fields to feed the family," he says.
"All these trials failed to shake my faith in Jesus Christ. I enjoyed every moment because this also brought me closer to my wife.
"We were working together and praying together for the situation in the country and for ourselves."
Peter and his wife then decided to move to South Africa in 2006 and he found a farm job in Limpopo.
"Life was not easy in this place, as many Zimbabweans forgot their purpose," he recalls. "The biggest activities in the compound became prostitution, drinking, gambling and stabbing each other.
"Praise the Lord, He kept me from temptation even though I was considered a coward by other men there."
Feeling grieved by the sadness in workers at the farm, Peter says he began to pray for them.
"Soon God led me with other men to start a church. Jesus worked mightily among us and people were deciding to trust in Jesus."
At the end of 2006 the farmer did not have enough work for everyone so Peter was sacked and went to Pretoria to join his friend Trymore.
"He was living in a squatter camp at Mooikloot where people were sleeping in plastic papers, the place was very dirty, and only enough water to bathe once a week."
As he walked through the camp alone, Peter noticed Bible pages on the ground and a few men wore dirty red t-shirts that said "Real men follow Jesus".
Trymore told him that a group of people regularly visited to preach about Jesus, as well as hand out food and clothes to those who wanted them.
"I became very close to these Christians and I began interpreting for them when they preached to us and shared food.
"Sometimes they took me to other camps where they were preaching and gave me time to preach to my fellow countrymen."
One of Peter's new friends suggested to him that they help him apply to a Bible college. Shortly after this he was invited to share his testimony at his new friends' church.
"The next Sunday we gave testimony of how God is keeping us in such a difficult place.
"After sharing my testimony, William Badenhorst asked to wash my feet and I agreed. This is one of the occasions I will never forget in my life. A white man, a pastor, touched my feet. It showed me that in Christ we are one regardless of our skin complexion or racial heritage."
Later, another man told him that God had prompted him to employ him as a laboratory assistant and this man eventually supported Peter financially through Bible college.
Peter says "God had proved Himself to be Jehovah Jirah" - meaning God my provider.
After finishing his theological training in June 2012, he went back home to Zimbabwe to be a missionary in Masingo.
"I am enjoying telling others about the love of Jesus Christ," Peter says.
"'Even though I go through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil', as Psalm 23 says, because I am covered on both sides. Our God is a loving God. He takes us from glory to glory, lifting a beggar from the ashes." •