Reinhard Bonnke, messenger to Africa, passes to eternal reward

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By Michael Ashcraft —

Reinhard Bonnke, called the Billy Graham of Africa, died Saturday at age 79.

The German-American pentecostal evangelist recorded 79 million conversions to Christ in a lifetime of ministry that started in 1967.

Most of his outreach was in Africa, where he saw many miracles to help usher in souls to the Kingdom of God. No other Western evangelist spent more time in Africa.

“Those who knew him off-stage can testify to his personal integrity, genuine kindness, and overflowing love for the Lord,” said his successor, Daniel Kolenda, in Christianity Today. “His ministry was inspired and sustained by his rich prayer life, his deep understanding of the Word, and his unceasing intimacy with the Holy Spirit.”

Kenyan politician Esther Passari thanked him, at the announcement of his death, for his life of service.

“I spoke in tongues for the first time at Rev. Reinhard Bonnke’s 1988 crusade,” she said. “He picked me from the crowd and arranged a meeting where he prayed for God to use me. I send my condolences to his family and his congregation.”

Nigerian President MMuhammadu Buhari, who is Muslim, also eulogized the beloved evangelist, saying he “joins Christendom at large in mourning the passing of renowned evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke, 79, describing his transition as a great loss to Nigeria, Africa & entire world.”

Bonnke founded Christ for All Nations in 1974 as the organization to take charge of the massive crusades in Africa and elsewhere. Bonnke wrote 40 books, including his 2009 autobiography, Living a Life of Fire.

“I still have only one sermon,” he said about his remarkable ministry. “I preach the simple ABCs of the gospel.”

As a pastor’s son, Bonnke felt the call to Africa as a kid and attended seminary in Walese to become a minister with the German Pentecostal Church. He was sent to the tiny nation of Lesotho in Southern Africa but became frustrated with the slow pace of evangelism.

With virtual no help, he rented a stadium in Gaborone and started meetings with only 100. He built up attendance. He had a vision of God saying, “Africa shall be saved,” and it became his rallying cry and life-long focus. At the conclusion of his long career, he staged a meeting in Lagos, Nigeria, attended by 1.6 million.

He has been compared to America’s Billy Graham.

“Billy Graham has inspired me personally when he preached in a tent in Hamburg, Germany,” Bonnke wrote on Facebook after Graham’s death in 2018. “I always felt connected to him.”

Bonnke died at home, surrounded by family, and is survived by his wife, three children, and eight grandchildren.

Michael Ashcraft supports his Christian journalism by selling bamboo steamers on Amazon.