Blog — 5th January 2021
Cosmos’s story: Called to follow in his father’s footsteps
When thousands of displaced refugees flooded the African city where Cosmos Mutowa pastored a local church, the direction of his life and ministry changed.
He realised that the church does not just bring people together for Sunday worship, but prepares people to live their faith in Jesus Christ among their neighbours every day of the week.
Cosmos credits his Master’s Degree in Theology (2019), through Nazarene Theological College-Manchester’s Compassionate Ministries Pathway, as equipping him to lead compassionate ministries for the Church of the Nazarene denomination across the continent of Africa.
Growing up a pastor’s child
Born in Zimbabwe, Cosmos grew up in a pastor’s home. His father was one of the Church of the Nazarene’s founding pastors in the country.
Raising eight children on a pastor’s salary, his parents always struggled to meet their basic needs. That tested Cosmos’ faith early.
If God is so loving and caring, why do we have to struggle?
“I would question, ‘If God is so loving and caring, why do we have to struggle?’ My dad just taught us to trust in God and to believe in Him. And He met our needs. We never really begged for food. We were not living well, in terms of getting all we needed, but we never lived a day without a meal, and we saw God answering our needs.”
As he neared high school graduation, Cosmos envisioned going on to university, getting a good paying job and then supporting his parents financially. It didn’t quite work out as he planned, however.
Called to follow in his father’s footsteps
During a revival service, a teenage Cosmos recognized God’s calling into pastoral ministry. But he was afraid to tell his parents.
“I thought my daddy would be upset with me. Each parent would love their children to do well. But my parents supported me: ‘If it is God speaking to you, then follow Him. He will not let you down.’”
That wisdom proved true. God expanded Cosmos’s ministry over the years to include higher education. Having earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology, and a Master’s Degree in Religion at Africa Nazarene University in Kenya, in addition to pastoring local churches Cosmos also taught at Nazarene Bible College (NBC) in Zimbabwe, and Nazarene Theological College of Central Africa, in Malawi. In Malawi, where for two years he worked as national mission coordinator for the denomination, he simultaneously filled the role of interim Principal.
But it was during one of his local pastorates that his life and ministry took a significant turn.
A healthy church is a compassionate church
‘A healthy church is a compassionate church’ During a time of political turmoil, displaced people surrounded his local church, seeking refuge, food and shelter. He led the congregation in providing hot meals, clothing and emotional and spiritual support.
“Our church became the center of compassion,” he said. “That prepared me to understand the church is not only about coming on a Sunday…. The church was being called to be out there, to be God’s hands and God’s feet every day. Sunday became a day of celebrating God, but the actual living of the life was not what was happening on Sunday. We’re only effective when we’re out there in the community.”
When he gained significant experience in compassionate outreach at the local church level, in 2008 he was asked to replicate this on a much wider scale: the Nazarene denomination in Africa asked him to take leadership of its continent-wide compassionate ministries.
“We coined the term in Africa, ‘A healthy church is a compassionate church; a compassionate church is a healthy church.’ That became our model, and drove us to see how each local church can play a significant role in meeting the needs of the community.”
Harvesting the seeds of compassion
The need for compassionate ministry in Africa is never-ending. The continent is afflicted with repeated natural disasters and health crises, political and religious turmoil.
Cosmos believes the local church has a central role in bringing healing. For instance, the Nazarene church was critical to helping Swaziland reverse the spread of HIV-AIDS through driving community education, challenging stigmas, and increasing testing.
We helped people to say, even if you have AIDS, you are not condemned by God. God loves you!
“We helped people to say, even if you have AIDS, you are not condemned by God. God loves you,” he said. “That opened up people to testing, and even pastors disclosing deaths in their families and children who have died of AIDS.”
Cosmos is proud of how local churches across Africa are actively engaging in disaster relief and public health issues, as congregations minister to their own neighbours and communities through resources God has provided them.
“You don’t need money from America or England to serve your neighbour,” Cosmos said. “We can be our brother’s keepers in the areas where we live.”
Equipped for effective ministry
Cosmos credits his studies at NTC-Manchester with powerfully shaping his understanding of God’s compassion, and thus the church’s role in compassionate works.
“The time that I spent at NTC was really a time that deepened my faith, my understanding of God and His compassion, His care for the world and for those people on the margins of society,” Cosmos said. “NTC is different from the colleges I attended before. NTC allowed us to think outside of the box of our understanding of who God is and how He works with people.”
His thinking and reflection were sharpened through studying alongside people from a variety of denominations, he added.
“Now I can articulate why we do compassion and why we need to care for our world that God has given us, and who God wants us to be in helping heal our world.”
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