Funeral chaplain puts faith to work

United Methodist Elison Kamupira has a way of brightening even the darkest rooms. With his calming presence and unique sense of humor, he has been winning hearts in his role as a funeral chaplain for the past 15 years.

Zimbabwe Area Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa described Kamupira as a talented evangelist and motivational speaker.

“When people are feeling dismayed, Kamupira can revive and motivate them. He is like Paul sent to the Gentiles,” the bishop said.

Kamupira said his faith leads him in his work at Nyaradzo Funeral Services.

“When someone is grieving,” explained Kamupira, “he or she needs a pillar of strength, and I will be there for them.”

Kamupira said he came from humble beginnings. His father died when he was 11 and he had to take care of his mother and younger sister.

“When I look back on my humble life after the death of my father, Johani, in 1963, I see the grace of God. I did not manage to acquire a degree because of financial constraints, but with God, nothing is impossible,” he said.

He said he had to work odd jobs to support his family, eventually dropping out after primary school (the equivalent of eighth grade in the U.S.).

“For some years, I was so frustrated and depressed with life, so much that I reached rock bottom until God located me in 1970. Since then, my life was transformed and I have never looked back or regretted (anything).”

Dealing with the bereaved can be a difficult job, Nhiwatiwa said.

“Having a person like Kamupira fits very well. Therefore go, Matthew 28-29, give hope to the hopeless, faith to the faithless — this is his mission.”

Last month, Kamupira officiated at the funeral of Raymond Chigayo, the father of former United Methodist district superintendent the Rev. Annie Grace Chingonzo. Her husband, Dr. John Chingonzo, commended the chaplain’s commitment to the families he serves.

“The service from Kamupira is out of this world. He has consoled us, and that gave us strength. He always enters into our shoes and (he) became part of the family. He has a special calling.”

Nyaradzo Funeral Services manager Lazarus Tendayi Bvuma echoed similar sentiments.

“Evangelist Kamupira … is a father, unifier, preacher and counselor with a calling and passion in his domain.

“He touches on all phases of the life cycle of a human being, from birth to death, all based on the word, but also accommodating all cultures,” Bvuma said.

“He is able to console bereaved families in his own unique style, so that they are able to accept the loss of a loved one. … He is a source of inspiration to the young generation who are pursuing this new career path of becoming a chaplain.”

Kamupira also is known as an evangelist in the area.

Harare East District superintendent, the Rev. Oscar Nyasha Mukahanana, said Kamupira is a charismatic preacher with a great sense of humor.

“His work has supported the church greatly. When he is hired as a master of ceremonies out of church business, he is not shy to associate himself with his denomination. Hence, he earned himself a title, ‘Muvhangeri mukuru’ (great evangelist).

“In most of the church crusades, conventions and beyond, he is our preacher. He has championed in bringing new souls to Christ and circuits were planted,” said Mukahanana.

Kamupira said when he started his journey as an evangelist, he planted three circuits, Chachacha in Bulawayo Midlands and Goromonzi and Hopley in the Harare East District.

“At one point, I was appointed by the bishop to shepherd a circuit while the pastor in charge was on sick leave. … I worked very hard, motivated the people and within four months, I had raised enough money to construct a sanctuary for Marondera Innercity. Today, the church is one of the best in the area.”

He said he has traveled to the United Kingdom, Israel, the United States and South Africa, among other places, “doing God’s work.”

Zimbabwe East Conference lay leader Simon Mafunda said despite his difficult upbringing, Kamupira is a unique, multitalented and gifted character.

“He has a magnetic spirit that cuts across all walks of life,” he said. “His ministry has impacted hundreds of thousands of lives and he has become a darling of many societies and communities, from Christian organizations to political groups. He commands respect from social, economic and political strata and exudes an irresistible humorous character.”

Mukahanana said Kamupira also handles challenges in a mature way.

“He knows how to conduct big events, like the death of the late President Robert Gabriel Mugabe.”

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Kamupira served as master of ceremonies at the funeral of the former Zimbabwean leader, Mukahanana said, coordinating details and finding amicable solutions when issues arose.

To keep up with the times, Kamupira started a Facebook page, Muvhangeri Mukuru Ev. Kamupira C.G, where he livestreams his sermons. The page has more than 1,600 followers.

Isaac Takawira Hapureni Dirani, who is from Zimbabwe and follows Kamupira on social media, said he enjoys his messages.

“(They) have great wisdom, very practical and full of humor. I am working in Zambia, but this keeps me close to home,” he said.

Kamupira has been married to his wife, Chipo, since 1991 and they have two children: Kudzai and Rufaro.

Chipo Kamupira commended her husband as a very busy man who always has time for his family.

“He is such a loving and very cheerful husband. What he does in the public is the same as what he does at home. He jokes a lot and loves his family,” she said.

“He is a generous giver. Sometimes, he would take 10 of his old suits and give to others. Within a week, someone would give him one. He has great faith that when you give, you will receive,” she said.

Kudzai Kamupira, 27, his first-born, said he has a lot to emulate from his father.

“My father is very humorous, but will only cool down when watching his team, Liverpool. … His giving, ability to host visitors and praying gives me pride. In church, I am a good singer and dancer because of him.”

Kudzai Kamupira received his business management degree from Africa University and said he hopes to utilize some of his father’s traits in his new event management business.

The elder Kamupira said God gives him the time to balance his job, church and family.

“I am happy that despite my failure to acquire a degree, I have managed to educate my children to acquire what I didn’t attain.”

Mafunda said Kamupira’s evangelistic passion has brought hundreds to Christ and his impact has had regional and international bearing.

“He is a valuable asset not only to The United Methodist Church or Christian family, but to the whole nation. May the Lord continue to enlarge his territory.”

Chingwe is a communicator for the Zimbabwe East Conference.

News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umnews.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.––

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