Since 2010, Bishop Eben Kanukayi Nhiwatiwa has been called many names — all of them good. The nicknames simply reflect the man’s practical vision and leadership style, say fellow United Methodists.
“A person is known by what they do,” said the Rev Alan Masimba Gurupira, Nhiwatiwa’s assistant. “Bishop Nhiwatiwa is known for introducing practical programs that transform lives, institutions and the church at large. All these names come from programs he masterminded during his illustrious term of leadership at the helm of the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area.”
As bishop, Nhiwatiwa has introduced a variety of initiatives, and it is not unusual for people to coin nicknames from the names of those programs. Many of the names are in the Shona language, spoken by most Zimbabweans.
One nickname is “Usu ku Usu Bishop.” Through Usu ku Usu, which means face to face, the bishop travels to his districts to meet United Methodists and hear their concerns.
Closely related to that moniker is “Chabadza Bishop.” The Chabadza philosophy gives direction and unique meaning to the episcopal area’s international partnerships and local missions. One example is the Zimbabwe Norway partnership.
“We are truly grateful and appreciate his active participation in the Chabadza concept and in other parts of the partnership between The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and Norway,” said Anne Ng Forster, program advisor for the Board of Global Ministries in Norway. “The work done in Chabadza and in mission stations like Mutambara, Nyadire and Dendera has a special place in the heart of the Norwegian United Methodist family.”
The partnership between United Methodists in Zimbabwe and The United Methodist Church in Norway (Metodistkirkens Misjonssselskap) was nurtured in 2010 “when Bishop Nhiwatiwa and the Rev. Tove Odland agreed to carry out a consultative meeting … to strengthen the cooperation and partnership.” Odland is a deacon at Centralkirken in Oslo.
The spirit of Chabadza can be expanded to include the contributions of dedicated church members who spearhead developmental projects in the church and the community.
Another nickname for the popular leader is “Ebenezer Bishop.” During the 2014 Ebenezer Convention, people from the entire episcopal area gathered in the Zimbabwe National Sports Stadium in Harare for celebration and worship. The event emphasized The United Methodist Church’s strong presence in Zimbabwe.
Ranganai Tinashe Dzotizei, Craneborne United Methodist Circuit communicator, recalled the excitement when more than 55,000 congregants turned the stadium “into a sea of blue, red and white.
“The nation was brought to a standstill as The United Methodist Church hosted the unforgettable, historic Ebenezer Convention initiated by the Ebenezer bishop.”
Nhiwatiwa is committed to sharing his faith, leading to another moniker, the “BEB Bishop.”
The acronym represents church growth and development: Bring more to Christ/ Ebenezer Convention/Building New Head Offices.
The bishop enjoys traveling around the episcopal area, lending him the nickname “Maziso Pasi Maziso Mudenga Bishop,” which translates to “eyes up — eyes down.”
Nhiwatiwa said this is his favorite nickname.
“It is the passion in seeing how infrastructure happens, either schools or hospitals, and to appreciate what people are doing, instead of saying ‘I am supervising you,’ I say, ‘Eyes Up, Eyes Down’ to see and appreciate.”
Hlowani Moyo, acting headmaster at Emsizini United Methodist Mission School in Bulawayo Midlands, said hosting Nhiwatiwa was a great experience. Before the visit, the headmaster worried that it was an inspection. In his keynote address, however, the bishop expressed appreciation about learning firsthand about the daily challenges the school faces.
“It was so touching to see him energetically moving around the school,” Moyo said. “I felt motivated to do more. I deduced that the bishop is passionate about Emsizini.”
Munyaradzi Timire, Zimbabwe East education secretary, affirmed that Maziso Pasi Maziso Mudenga has improved the church’s educational infrastructure, with construction of new schools and renovation of old structures.
“The bishop,” Timire said, “came as a caring and loving father in the schools. (He) developed a positive attitude toward the denomination and our schools; hence, school discipline improved.”
Two more monikers are the “Mhururu Pa Basa Bishop” and “the Green Bishop.” Mhururu Pa Basa, which means ululating at work, is a special fundraising effort. Church leaders gather at a building site and donate whatever they can to speed the process. “The Green Bishop” refers to Nhiwatiwa’s practice of planting a tree whenever he officiates at a groundbreaking ceremony.
For Nhiwatiwa, “The Safari Mood” is a promotional catchphrase. The idea is to instill a spirit of readiness and urgency as the church forges ahead in ministry. “We need this safari mood — the spirit of action, action and little talk,” Nhiwatiwa said.
“Bishop Nhiwatiwa is a true visionary and great leader … whose direction you willingly want to follow,” said Simon Mafunda, Zimbabwe East Conference lay leader. “He is of a very innovative mind. No wonder he earned himself many names.”
“I am not surprised his names are branded on good events he has initiated — good names and good memories,” said Bernard Mwashita, who chairs the conference board of trustees.
Kumuterera is a communicator for the Zimbabwe West Conference.
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