A pastor in Harare, Zimbabwe, stunned a congregation when he had a conversation with God on a mobile phone during a church service. Paul Sanyangore claims he has a “direct line” with heaven but he told France 24 that “anyone can call God”.
Sanyangore is a pastor with Victory World International Ministries Church, an organisation he founded. In the video, which was published in its entirety on YouTube on May 22, Sanyangore holds a mobile to his ear, asking, “Hello? Is this heaven? Is it heaven?” A woman kneels before him with her arms raised. The congregation around him claps and screams after his pronouncements. He asks ‘God’ what he should ask the woman, asking, “What else, Papa God? What else, Papa God?” He tells the crowd that ‘God’ is saying that the congregation needs to pray for her children. ‘God’ tells Sanyangore that the woman has two children, one of whom is asthmatic and the other epileptic, and that they are currently in Bulawayo (a city in southwest Zimbabwe). When these details are confirmed by the woman, the crowd erupts into applause.
"People believe that he picked up the phone and spoke to God - as crazy as it sounds"
There’s a lack of critical leadership at the top. People are struggling, and pastors have stepped in and filled the void. They’re giving people hope. A lot of needy people think that God will give them what they need. Then these people appear and say that they are closer to God than everyone else and that they can do miracles: they pick you out of a crowd, they pick up the phone and talk to God. People are looking for hope, and these prophets are able to provide that hope. They do believe that he has picked up the phone and spoken to God. As crazy as it sounds. People are gullible. They fall for stuff like that.
I believe in God, I am a Christian, my family is Methodist, and I do have a problem with the prophets who lie to people and are taking the livelihood of ordinary folk. A lot of these prophets make a lot of money. They’ll have nice suits, pools and big gardens. If you want an audience with the prophet, you’ll pay the church money; the guy sitting in the front row has paid more than the guy sitting in the back.
They are misleading people. They’re not being truthful. I mean, I would love to pick up my cell phone and talk to God, say, ‘Hey man, I prayed the other day for that thing and it didn’t happen, what’s up?’ But it doesn’t work that way.
"If God can speak through a donkey, why not through a phone?"
It happened only once. I can’t remember the date. The Bible says in the Book of Numbers that God spoke through a donkey. If God can speak through a donkey, why can’t he speak through a phone? People don’t believe that God spoke in a phone yet they believe that the mouth of the donkey was opened by God, and that God spoke through a burning bush. The problem we have today is that many people call themselves Christians, but they are not Christians. They don’t believe. There are real miracles that happen. If you don’t believe that God spoke in a telephone, why do you believe that the blind man’s eyes were opened or that Jesus walked on water? What he did then he can do today.
It’s not about the [telephone] number. It’s not about knowing a number. It’s about my relationship with God. Everyone can call God.
I said to the woman, give me your phone, and had God speak to me through the phone. It’s not me that chose the phone [as a medium of communication with God]. It was God who chose me to use the phone.
At the end of the video, after having spoken with God on the telephone, Sanyangore shouts, “Heaven is online!” Sanyangore founded his church in 2014 and set up a television station in March this year so that followers could watch his services. The church has a large social media following, with a YouTube channel and Facebook and Twitter accounts. People can book their slots being baptised or “delivered” in the swimming pool in Sanyangore’s garden – known as Bethesda Pool, the “pool of mercy”.
Sanyangore was unclear as to whether worshippers have to pay to have an audience with him, or to be “delivered” in the pool. He said that “the gospel of Jesus Christ is free”, but also said while the power of God is “free to receive”, congregants can pay “for the means for God to have the power to reach you”.
The phone call is just one of the ‘miracles’ that Sanyangore has performed. He also claims to have walked on water (in aforementioned swimming pool), to have created new kidneys for a man equipped with a catheter, to have healed a child’s broken legs, and to have brought a dead baby back to life.