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.

"If God can speak through a donkey, why not through a phone?"

"People believe that he picked up the phone and spoke to God - as crazy as it sounds"

Nigel Mugamu is a journalist in Zimbabwe, and runs the site 263Chat. He says that pastors who claim to perform miracles are quite common in the country.

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.

Article written with
Catherine Bennett

Catherine Bennett , Anglophone Journalist