MOST of us pray hard for divine intervention when we come up against difficult times.
Christians pray to God through Jesus Christ, Moslems pray to Allah and traditional Africans pray to uMlimo or Musikavanhu, God the Creator, through their ancestral spirits.
Routine prayers such as those regularly scheduled at churches will be conducted with an intensity far different from that where life is under immediate threat.
But what is the intensity of prayers for the recovery of a missing child swept away by a flooded river?
In this piece I share with readers my family’s spiritual agony as we spent 10 days searching the flooded waters of the raging Manyame River for our 31-year-old son, a father of three.
I recount a personal and very tragic experience that forced me and my family to desperately seek for divine intervention.
Even as we wailed and wept by the riverside, we desperately prayed and hoped that somehow, miraculously, he would emerge alive from the muddy flood waters.
But fate dictated otherwise!
Our nightmare as a family began on the afternoon of January 22 2017 when our 31-year-old son apparently tried to cross the flooded Manyame River in a dug-out canoe.
The canoe capsized, the operator fought his way out, but our son disappeared.
For the next 10 days, we desperately tried to recover his body so as to bring closure to the tragedy.
The Police Sub-aqua Unit must be commended for trying to search the river’s flood waters on three separate occasions though without success.
We sought divine intervention through Christian Church prayers; through apostolic prophets and finally through local traditional Mhondoro spirit mediums.
We tried anything that our neighbours and farm workers suggested that could possibly lead to the recovery of our son’s body.
One thing I know is that we prayed with all our hearts as did the men of God who visited us at the farm and those who invited us to pray with them over the phone.
We had no time.
We feared what was happening to our son’s body with the passing of each day.
We were desperate to do anything that could assist us to recover our son’s body.
We sought divine intervention.
And we got amazing results that I thought I could share with readers as part of us rediscovering our African spiritual roots.
As Church people prayed, we got word of a local ‘man of God’ who was renowned for pinpointing the location of drowned persons.
We rushed to consult him within hours of our son drowning in the river.
He came with two colleagues.
They all prayed for divine intervention so we could recover the body.
They then said they were not being shown the exact location of the body.
One of them said he was seeing a vision as they came to our farm where an old woman dressed in traditional clothes appeared and tried to protect our son and his mother (my wife) from danger by covering them with a black and white cloth.
He interpreted this vision to mean that the ‘solution’ would come through the ancestral spirits, ‘vadzimu’.
He then advised: “Tevedzai chivanhu chamunenge mapiwa.” (Follow whatever traditional guidance you may receive from your ancestral spirits).
Particularly they wanted us to take note of any visions or dreams and follow whatever was indicated.
They did a final prayer and left, assuring us the answer to our problems lay in the realm of chivanhu.
I know some readers will quickly dismiss this ‘chivanhu’ angle.
Perhaps devout Christians will dismiss the reference to our ancestral spirits and prefer that only through Jesus Christ could we expect our tragedy to be eased.
We did not have that luxury; we clutched at anything that gave us hope to find our son!
The following night a family member had a dream.
In the dream, an elderly woman emerged from the river.
She advised that for our son’s body to be found, the roots of a named local tree must be crushed and mixed with ceremonial snuff (bute) to be scattered in the water where the tragedy occurred.
Within an hour’s time of performing the above ritual, we heard calls from the eastern bank of the raging Manyame River.
The body had been sighted stuck in a small clump of water berry (mukute) trees in the middle of the raging river.
The description of the clothes matched that of our missing son.
We hailed the ancestral spirits and Mwari Musikavanhu!
The dream had solved our problem.
We contacted the Police Sub-aqua Unit to come and retrieve the body.
The police sub-aqua unit only arrived around 7pm.
It was almost dark.
They searched, but could not locate the body.
The flood waters were also rising.
They left to face another day of extreme anxiety.
We prayed that our son’s body would remain on that island of mukute trees so it could hopefully be recovered the next morning.
The following morning the body and the little island of trees were nowhere to be seen.
The river level had risen.
Then we became desperate.
Who could help us?
We know that in African tradition, all nature including forests and rivers and the creatures in them belong to the Creator, Musikavanhu, and are under the custodianship of the ancestral spirits of the land.
I said to my wife ‘let us go visit the spirit medium of Sekuru Nyasoro, the local ‘mhondoro’ spirit to see if he can assist us to recover our son’s body from the Manyame River.
We rushed to the mhondoro’s shrine.
As soon as we arrived and the spirit medium sighted us, he became immediately possessed by the mhondoro spirit and began to roar like a lion.
After the attendant, mutape, had led us in the tradition hand-clapping and greetings ritual, the mhondoro told us he had seen this tragedy coming and had asked his mutape to summon me to the shrine to warn me before tragedy struck. Mutape confirmed receiving the instruction, but he had been prevented by other family commitments and the incessant rains.
The mhondoro immediately ordered his mutape to go up the local sacred hill with snuff and send out a solemn plea to all the mhondoros and ancestral spirits of the land immediately to stop the rains which until then were incessant, hampering our search efforts along the river.
The mhondoro spirit also asked for a token of a one dollar (Bond) coin which mutape tied together with some snuff into the corners of one of his ceremonial black cloths.
Mutape then tied knots at the corners of all the mhondoro’s cloths as a symbol of cutting off the rains.
The mhondoro spirit then pleaded with the heavens to cut off the rains until the missing person was found.
We then asked where, in the river, we should search.
The mhondoro said our son’s body was a short distance below the last position it had been last sighted.
He assured us the body would be found.
Amazingly, the rains, which had been falling almost continuously, ceased to fall while we were still at the mhondoro’s shrine.
It did not rain again for the next 12 days.
When we got back to the farm, about mid-day, a report came again from the eastern bank that the body had been located just below its previously reported position.
The mhondoro’s predictions became reality.
Again we contacted the Police Sub-aqua Unit to come and retrieve the body.
Again the police came after dark and failed to locate the body for a second time.
The following morning the flood waters had washed the body away.
Our nightmare continued.
I remembered one gentleman of the Mbari family who are the traditional inhabitants of the whole area around Harare and Nyabira area.
I phoned him and explained our tragedy.
He asked for time to consult his elders.
Early the following morning he called and referred me to his elder brother.
The elder brother, over the phone, instructed me and my wife to carry out a simple ritual prayer to invoke the ancestral guardians of the Manyame River to reduce the intensity of the rains in the upper catchment.
The second part of the prayer was to be directed to the great ancestor of the Mbari people after whom the Manyame River is named.
This ancestor is named Mhanya Umire, shortened to Manyame.
We were advised to implore the latter to lower the river water levels; acknowledging that it was his river.
We also prayed that he throw our son’s body out of the water so that we could retrieve and bury it.
We did the ritual prayer around 9 am.
Amazingly, within three hours of performing the ritual prayer, just after mid-day, a telephone call came through from Berry’s Post Farm, some six km down the river.
They had retrieved our son’s body.
Farm workers who had gone to bath in the Manyame River had stumbled on the body at the edge of the water.
Those who retrieved the body did not have to go into the flood waters; they simply pulled it ashore and secured it until the police arrived and took it to the mortuary.
So our prayers to Musikavanhu, through our ancestors, had been answered in a dramatic way.
Those who purported to follow the Christian way had advised that we follow whatever signs and advice came from African sources; the dreams, what we called chivanhu.
We noted that all three sitings of the body were a direct response to our prayers as per traditional African religion.
We finally recovered our son’s body and buried it.
As a family, we take this opportunity to thank all those who assisted in different ways to help us weather the terrible tragedy.
I thought to share these experiences with you readers.
Different people have found different ways of accessing our Creator’s divine intervention.
We found ours!
MOST of us pray hard for divine intervention when we come up against difficult times.