n 1st October 1914, many strange events took place in Zimbabwe (then called Southern Rhodesia). According to witnesses, at around 7:00 p.m., a bright star moving from east to west illuminated the country. The atmosphere roared and the earth trembled – shaking people, implements and utensils. Wild animals left the forest and came to people’s homes. On the following day at Gatoma gold mines, a European manager gathered his workers – twenty-seven groups in all. After a question and answer session, he disclosed to them: “A man of God has been born today. This is the Lord who teaches about the Kingdom of God … this man will bring back the Church that was known as the Last Zion. He will start his ministry eighteen years from now – in 1932”.

Towards the end of June, 1932 Shoniwa was cycling home from Norton Railway Station when he saw a bright light and fell unconscious from his bicycle. He fell into a coma for ninety days` after which he was extremely ill. He spent much of this time in hut together with a number of friends namely: Sampson Mativera, Cheurombo, Mazhambe, and four Malawians.  At the end of this period he was presumed dead. On that day, he lay in the locked hut when his friends heard two voices conversing outside the hut. One voice seemed to be his while another seemed to be coming from above – giving instructions.

The voice from above instructed:

Tell your people to honour the Sabbath” And He replied: “Lord, give us strength to honour the Sabbath

By similar command and response, the following instructions were given:

  • Tell your people to have no God but me – the Almighty God.
  • Tell your people not to commit adultery
  • Tell your people not to call God’s name in vain.
  • Tell your people not to murder.
  • Tell your people not to steal.


After this, Shoniwa disappeared mysteriously from his locked hut. On 1st October 1932 Salatiel, a shepherd, and his (Salatiel’s) European boss saw him on Mount Marimba, near Norton Railway Station. He alone appeared to be on the mountain seated under a tree, despite the many voices that could be heard singing Hosanna choruses with him. Shoniwa narrated to Salatiel what had transpired during the three days after his presumed death and disappearance. His spirit had gone up to heaven where he was baptised and named John the Baptist or Johane in Shona Language. He had a staff, a white robe, and a small book. The book, he explained, was: the Gospel of God that would be preached throughout the world”. The robe was: “The holy temple for the whole world – like the holy temple of Jerusalem.” About the staff, he said this was: “The sign of the final Judgement.”

 On hearing what transpired at Mt. Marimba, the colonial government at Salisbury (Harare) ordered a search of the mountain. After failing to capture John the Baptist the policemen on the mountain called for reinforcements. More policemen were sent together with dogs. The search was temporarily halted when the dogs developed multiple heads. On seeing this, Government officials contacted Musami Mission. The missionaries there contacted Pope Pius XI in Rome – who advised a Priest known as Father Bobricki, to fast and pray for three days, and then to go to the mountain empty handed and talk to the strange man.

Accompanied by police, the priest met Father John (or “Baba Johane”) in the mountain. They exchanged pleasantries and conversed at length. The conversation traversed dozens of languages. By the time it was over, the priest’s linguistic mastery had been challenged and exceeded in every language the he could speak – including Latin and Italian. Yet, John was still provident enough to avail an opportunity to the eager colonial empire – to test its might. As soon as the conversation ended the police changed the agenda to arrest and detention. Despite no visible resistance, efforts to chain John turned futile as the handcuffs lost their usual grip. It was only by his own command that they were able to bind him.

While in prison, despite torture, John refused to abandon his mission. The prison authorities came to terms with the futility of their efforts the following morning when they found him seated outside the locked cell. More stringent locking on the following night turned scandalous when John was found outside – singing Hosanna with the other prisoners. The prison authorities sought an explanation for his actions. To this he replied that he had been sent to redeem sinners. When they demanded some evidence he told them:Tomorrow, the entire city of Salisbury (Harare) will be covered by locusts!” True to his word, at a quarter past ten on 30 October 1932, Harare (then Salisbury) was completely covered by a cloud of Locusts. As a result, the Colonial Government offered to build him a Church. However, John asked for a Church that would traverse the whole world – a suggestion that was promptly turned down.

The Government officials asked for the meaning of the locusts that had covered the city. When he told them that these locusts signified the return of the 1914 war (the Second World War); they then asked for a survival tip. To this he explained:

If you (British), Africans, Americans, and Jews pray to God, the war will end”.

He then went out to teach the people – showing them great wonders, and prophesying. About the fate of colonial rule in Africa, he prophesied: “The white shall fight the black. The white with guns and the black with stones, but the white shall be defeated”.

 One day, John was walking past a village, when he saw a tree that had been felled.  This apparently usual occurrence prompted him to ask:“Who has cut this tree?” When this question attracted protests from the owner of the homestead, he politely explained:“The son of the man who cut this tree will indeed be the first black ruler of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). He shall liberate this country when he will be living in another country”.The man who had cut the tree was called Gabriel Mugabe, and this prophecy came to be fulfilled in 1980 when Zimbabwe attained independence from Britain.

While John had neither been to school nor attended any of the missionary churches, he taught the word of God in depth and in breadth. He not only unravelled the Bible, but also even taught from many ancient texts that were not available in Zimbabwe at that time. His followers were asked to travel as far as South Africa and Kenya to purchase books in order to witness and confirm his teachings. Some of books include the books of Adam, the books of Enoch, the book of Jubilees, and Zohar.

Still in the same year, John was arrested for a second time and taken to prison at Malondera. The futility of the venture was seen in broad daylight. John and the other prisoners sang Hosanna, as spades, wheelbarrows, hoes, and mattocks worked the quarry unmanned. Puzzled and confused, authorities ordered that he be released and taken to his birthplace at Rusape. Without any delay, John resumed his mission and travels – through out Zimbabwe and beyond.

It was a journey of great sacrifice for John and his followers. They sold their property to finance the mission. Many of them abandoned their homes leaving behind crops, animals, and land to their relatives. Much of the initial travel was done on foot. This way they travelled through Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and went as far as Port Elizabeth in South Africa.

It was in South Africa that John and his followers (apostles) were treated with dignity and great consideration from the local authorities.  However, the African population there remained hostile – preferring to stick to their old ways. For this reason he decreed: South Africa will be the last African country to be snatched from colonial rule”. 

Some of the highlights of this long journey included:

  • The ordination of Evangelists, Pastors, Prophets, and Teachers.
  • The formation of the house of covenant or the ark of virgins – which comprised of female members chosen from the congregation.
  • Practical teachings on the law and aspects of life including work and trade.

From South Africa, travel resumed northwards into Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, and Kenya. On September 13 1973, Father John rested physically – leaving behind the Holy Spirit to guide the Church under the structures and leadership that had been set up. Instructions were given about future challenges and travels. The Church elders would travel all over the world – announcing the Sabbath and the Judgement day. The entire congregation was admonished to look after the house of covenant:

Take care of these virgins properly so that they can remain holy before God till the end of time.

It is for this reason that there are many churches that profess the teachings of John the Baptist or John of the Wilderness (Johane Masowe). However, it is the Gospel of God Church that has stuck to the original teachings and mission. Beyond Kenya, congregations now exist in other countries like: Ethiopia, the Sudan, the USA, and Britain. John asked his followers to specifically make pilgrimages to seven countries:

    • Israel,
    • Ethiopia,
    • Britain,
    • Germany,
    • United States,
    • India,
    • Australia.

In 1998, twelve elders and twelve sisters from the House of Covenant visited Jerusalem as was prescribed. In 2000, a similar pilgrimage was made in Britain, Ethiopia followed in 2001, with a trip to the historical town of Axum. Then in 2003 the elders and the House of Covenant visited some stipulated sites in Berlin, Germany. In 2004, the trip to the USA followed, in 2005 the pilgrimage to India was made; the preaching of the Gospel of God still continues.