Born In: Königsberg,Germany
Reinhard Bonnke was a Christian evangelist known for carrying out extensive gospel missions throughout the African continent. Born in East Prussia, he was inclined towards Christianity since his childhood years, owing to his parents. His father, after the Second World War, became a pastor. Reinhard moved to Wales to study in the Bible College of Wales and the years he spent there, became the transforming years of his life. When he was 10, he had already decided to move to Africa to spread God’s word. Following his graduation from the college, he began holding gospel meetings in Germany and in 1967, he moved to South Africa to do work as a minister. When being minister in a small church did not set well with him, he decided to enlarge his scale and decided to become an evangelist. By the early 1970s, he became extremely popular, with his meetings attended by tens of thousands of people. By the early 2000s, he was receiving record breaking attendances, in millions, during his meetings. He also began the CfaN, Christ for all Nations, press and his popularity further grew. He preached until the very last phase of his life and held his farewell meeting in November 2017, before passing away in 2019.
Died At Age: 79
Spouse/Ex-: Anni Suelze (m. 1964)
children: Gabrielle Bonnke, Kai-Uwe Bonnke, Susie Bonnke
Born Country: Germany
place of death: Orlando, Florida, United States
Notable Alumni: Bible College Of Wales
City: Königsberg, Germany
education: Bible College of Wales
Reinhard Bonnke was born on April 19, 1940, in Konigsberg, East Prussia, Germany, to a family of devout Christians. His father, Hermann Bonnke worked as an army logistics officer in Germany. However, soon after he was born, the region of East Prussia was going through mass evacuation, owing to the fear of the Red Army approaching the German lines towards East Prussia.
He was 5 years old at that time and he spent the next few years of his life in a displaced persons centre. It was there that the faith inside him flourished.
As per himself, he was reborn when he was 9 years old when his mother discussed with him a sin that he had committed. By the next year, he believed that the God had a word with him and that his life’s destiny was in Africa, preaching God and Jesus’ message. Following the end of the war, his father had also become a pastor.
For his higher education, Reinhard Bonnke moved to Swansea, Wales, to study at the Bible College of Wales, and came in touch with a teacher named Samuel Rees Howells. Samuel was the director of the Bible College of Wales and was a deeply spiritual man, inspiring Reinhard to further develop a deep sense of spirituality inside himself.
Reinhard also met famous preacher George Jeffreys in London, and told him about his divine calling to spread the message of God across Africa. George encouraged the young Reinhard, who then graduated and began his journey as a pastor in Germany.
Reinhard Bonnke began holding several meetings in Rendsburg, Germany. He became extremely popular locally, which led to him receive invitations to speak in Christian gatherings from all over Germany and the world.
Before that, he faced a few hurdles. Reinhard had wanted to move to South Africa, but the Velberter Missions Board in Germany told him that they had no positions in South Africa. He was offered a position in Zambia, but he denied.
In 1967, Reinhard Bonnke finally moved to Africa to realize the goal that he had set since childhood. He moved to Lesotho, and began an African ministry in a local church.
He was running a small ministry in the South African country of Lesotho, but he was not satisfied with the result he was gaining. He frequently talked about a dream where the map of Africa was smeared with red, and the voice of God crying out to save Africa and Reinhard just knew that it was his destiny to save Africa.
This recurrent dream somehow inspired him to leave the ministry and adopt a large scale evangelist approach. He had realized that Lesotho was known as ‘graveyard of missionaries’ and people exhibited very little interest into his efforts. People sparsely attended churches. He decided to roam around Lesotho’s streets and located new converts. Somehow, it took a few more years until the street converts further spread the message and the attendance into the churches rose.
Reinhard Bonnke further found out that many people in the country and the city were unemployed and he devised a plan. In order to spread the Gospel, he hired youngsters and gave them a bicycle and a waterproof pouch, and instructed them to give away ministry’s magazine and Bibles.
The venture turned out to be successful. While Reinhard gathered funds from the nearby churches, his 30 young men rode around on their bicycles, spreading the world of the ministry. Within two years, they managed to expose more than a million people to the Gospel. Some of those employees eventually became pastors themselves.
He settled his base in Gaborone, Botswana, and decided to start his preaching from there. Initially, only a 100 people attended the meetings and very few local churches came forward to support him.
In 1971, Reinhard Bonnke moved to the city of Maseru, where he relied on the printing press heavily and began CfaN press, Christ for all Nations press. Through the publication and local radio stations, the locales were informed about the upcoming church meetings and many people did show up, with the churches getting packed within weeks.
In the mid 1970s, he gave up his missionary position with the Velberter Missions Board and narrowed down his focus on evangelical endeavours after moving to South Africa.
In 1974, he moved to Gaborone, Botswana’s capital, and asked a pastor there to arrange a meeting with city officials. He wanted the the permission to hold a large meeting at the National Sports Stadium where he wanted to bring more than 10,000 people. The pastor asked him to hold a smaller meeting as there was no way this many people were going to show up to the meeting.
Reinhard took it as a challenge and began to advertise extensively, and came in touch with Pastor Richard Ngidi, who helped him bring the audience. On the first day of the meeting, a few hundred people showed up but within the next three nights, the stadium was packed with around 10,000 people.
He held most of his meetings in tents that somehow accommodated large crowds. In 1984, he began the construction of a large tent that had seating arrangements for more than 34,000 people. However, before the first meeting was underway, the tent was destroyed in a storm, which led the meeting to take place in open air. However, the meeting was attended by close to 100,000 people, way more people than the tent could have held.
Apart from South Africa, Reinhard Bonnke also expanded his evangelical activities in more African countries such as Kenya and Nigeria. He became known as the Billy Graham of Africa.
By the early 2000s, the attendances during his meetings began breaking records. In a February 2001 edition of Christianity Today magazine, it was reported that recent meetings held in Nigeria were breaking records. In a 2000 gospel crusade held in Lagos, more than 6 million people were there in attendance.
In November 2017, he held his final gospel crusade, in Lagos, Nigeria.
However, his life had not been away from controversies. He visited Kano region in Nigeria in 1991, which led to the outbreak of riots. The cause of riots was the rumours that he was defaming Muslims, and hence, several Muslim youth and clerics began protesting, which led to riots. Several churches were burned and several people were injured. Reinhard did not held meetings in Nigeria for many years after that.
Reinhard Bonnke met Anni Suelze during a gospel music festival. He offered to preach in the church she attended and hence, they became close. They got married in 1964, and had three children together.
He has written an autobiography titled ‘Living a Life of Fire’, wherein he has written about his growing up years and how the God communicated with him to ‘save Africa’.
Reinhard Bonnke passed away on December 7, 2019.
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