Former football player, now an evangelist, tackles disability

Rolling his wheelchair toward the pulpit, Tawanda Mupingo stretched out his right hand to hold a microphone while in the other, he held a Bible.

Greeting the congregation of 4,000 at Kuwadzana United Methodist Church in the Harare West District, Mupingo’s strong voice immediately overpowers the limitations of his wheelchair.

“I can testify without fear or hesitation, that there is a God in heaven. My prayer is that God sees me differently from human eyes. Where people see a cripple in me, God sees his vessel of honor,” he said.

For centuries, many Africans have viewed disability as a curse. Mupingo is changing perceptions.

“Through the preaching of evangelist Mupingo and the response by [the] congregation here,” said Bernard Mutsago. “I have seen a new shift in how people now view disability.” The retired educator recalls a childhood in which husbands cast out wives for giving birth to a child with a disability.

“Giving birth to a disabled child … was viewed as a curse,” Mutsago continued.

Mupingo said being stuck to a wheelchair does not limit him.

“One day, our faithful God will remember me, and I will get back to my feet,” Mupingo said.  He is actively involved in church and leads in various capacities in Harare Central District and the Zimbabwe West Annual Conference.

The Rev. Stephen Anesu Kumuterera said The United Methodist Church strives to afford everyone equal opportunities. “The church values [all people] and provides the arena for members to display the gifts of grace God has bestowed upon them.”

From trial to triumph

Born 38 years ago, Mupingo was a budding football player, even as a child. In 1991, he entered Nyamuzuwe High School, a United Methodist boarding school in Mutoko.

On Sept. 21, 1997, tragedy struck the 19-year-old.

“I initially dismissed it as a minor body misbehavior,” Mupingo remembered. Two weeks later, however, doctors told him he would never walk again.

Mupingo refused to give up. His fellow youth members encouraged him to proceed with his advanced-level education. Graduating from the University of Zimbabwe with honors in business studies with a major in banking and finance, today Mupingo is a revenue specialist at the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.

“It was through God’s grace that he has achieved this,” Kumuterera said.

Mupingo agreed. “God will always be by my side.”

Maforo is a conference communicator in the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area.

News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. 

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