Behold, I make all things new.
Interview with Pastor Joshua Philip Mosha
Mafia Island, Tanzania
Mafia Island is roughly 50 kilometers long. It is situated in the Indian Ocean, south of Dar es Salaam, and has a population of around 50,000. More than 20 years ago, Joshua Philip Mosha arrived there “by chance” to spend a few weeks helping to establish a pioneer church. The island had a bad reputation as a former penal colony, and was anything but the budding Bible school student’s dream destination.
This is the story of a man who received salvation at a CfaN evangelistic campaign, placed his life fully in the Lord’s service, and lit the bright light of the gospel in a hard and dark place in Africa.
Before I got saved I lived a very rough life. I sold alcohol and had a little house in Dar es Salaam that was used as a brothel. That also earned me money. I worked for different companies, cheating here and taking some money from there, doing business that was not good. I met and married my wife at a very early age. I was greedy and listened to the wrong people. Because we were living such a rough life, we did not have any children. We were considering divorce.
My brother-in-law and my sister used to witness to me and encourage me to go to church with them, but I did not listen. However, they continued to encourage me; then in 1987 Bonnke came to our city. My brother-in-law persuaded me to go with him to the campaign. He told me there would be a nice preacher from Germany and a nice choir. Miracles would happen. I went along to hear the choir. A lot of people were there, but I looked down on them because I had a lot of money. So after listening for a while, I was bored and ready to go. But then Bonnke stepped forward and something took hold of me so that I simply could not leave. I lost sight of the huge crowd; he seemed to be talking to me personally. The message hit me hard. I was sweating. When he finished preaching and invited people to make a decision, I was the first to run forward. I accepted the Lord as my Savior. I was really happy.
So I went home to that house where I did “business” and threw everything out – the beds and the mattresses. Then my brother-in-law and his pastor came along and prayed for me. I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I was really happy and I joined the Assemblies of Godchurch in Tanzania.
Please explain a bit more about how you felt Pastor Bonnke was talking only to you at the meeting.
Now that I am a pastor, I understand it better. The Lord opened my heart to the Word of God and showed me how wicked I was. The Word of God struck me deep in my heart, because I was doing everything that Bonnke preached about. That message broke my heart and shattered the greed that was in me. I said to myself, “I need this Jesus of Bonnke! I want to study and become a preacher like him.” I was empty and wanted to learn more about the Word of God.
God really changed my life and I was completely healed of smoking. Before, I could not sleep at night without drinking alcohol. I used to drink a lot – about ½ liter of spirits as well as 20 or 30 bottles of beer. Yet that night I did not smoke a single cigarette and threw away all the beer. I slept like a baby. In the morning, I was new – everything in my life was new. Suddenly the smell of cigarettes and beer had become an unbearable stench. Everything that I had previously cherished had begun to stink.
That first Sunday after the campaign, I went to Sunday School. While the pastor was teaching, I saw two angels standing behind him and walking up and down. I was so hungry for the Word of God, it was like eating a delicious meal. It felt as if God were embracing me, and I felt His love in my life.
No one told me that alcohol, smoking and all that was evil. I just did not like it any more. My wife and I had agreed to have a divorce because we did not have any children. However, the next year when we joined the Assemblies of God church, the pastor prayed for us, and soon afterward, my wife got pregnant. We were so thankful, because the doctors had said that she would not be able to get pregnant. Our gynecologist was amazed and said it was a miracle. So we forgot about divorce and our baby daughter was born.
My pastor said, “I have met Werner Drotleff. He was on Mafia Island and he needs people to lead a pioneer church there.” My pastor arranged a meeting with him.
The next day we went to see Werner, and he told me he had a man who claimed to have been called to pastor a church on Mafia. So my pastor said, “Go to Mafia with him for two months and then go to Bible school.”That was in October.
We got ready to go. We travelled on a sailing boat and it took about 1½ days to get to Mafia. When we reached the island, it was night, about 10 p.m. We found a guest house and slept there, and the next morning we had a look around. The man we had travelled with suddenly said, “Joshua, I have had a word from the Lord. I need to go back to Dar es Salaam.” I was shocked and told him we had not even taken our things off the boat, and we did not know where to go or where to put our luggage. We would not have enough money to stay at the guest house. He only said, “You told me God had called you – so He will take care of you. The Lord has told me to go back.” And off he went, leaving me behind.
I prayed like never before, “Lord Jesus, why did you bring me here – to kill me? Why are you embarrassing me by sending me here?” I stood there and wept. Suddenly, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said,“Praise the Lord, you are here.” I thought the man was making fun of me, but he said, “The bishop has sent me to meet you, he knew you were coming.” He also asked where my companion was, and I said the Lord had told him to go back.
The man took me to his office, and then he gave me his car so that I could get my things from the harbor. After I had collected everything, I started to pray and completely lost all sense of time. The Lord told me He wanted me to serve Him here on Mafia. He showed me exactly what He wanted me to do, so I took pen and paper and wrote it all down. The Lord also told me exactly how to go about setting everything up – registering the ministry, getting a mailbox, and acquiring some land.
The next morning I took my papers and went to the police station. One police officer, a Muslim, asked me what I was planning to do. I told him I needed a plot of land because I was here to help people. I said I wanted to open a school and a hospital and help poor people – maybe financially. I told him I would do whatever I could if I got the land and a permit. He called the police officer in charge of those matters.
So I went out on the streets and I shared the message one-on-one. That way I got a few people – three or four. We met in different houses in turn and prayed together.
Mafia is not a place to take lightly. It was a really dark place. 97% of the people are Muslim. A former president had used that island as a prison. All the troublemakers, people who had opposed the government or done bad things, had been sent to Mafia. That was why no one wanted to go there. Spiritually, it was very dark. For example, I once saw evil spirits appearing – you could really see them – and then suddenly they disappeared. That was not a vision; it was real. People were full of fear.
We started to pray and pray and to witness on the streets. Those were very tough times. Sometimes I felt like quitting and going back to Dar es Salaam. My daughter was three years old when my wife and I talked about doing that. She said, “Dad, I’d like to go back to Dar es Salaam because I have friends there. But would you be a pastor there?” My wife said, “No, he wouldn’t be a pastor there. He’s only a pastor here.” She said, “Fine, then I don’t need to go.” “Why?” we asked. “It’s not good if Dad can’t be a pastor. If we stay here, Dad can be a pastor.” I was amazed at what that little girl was thinking, particularly as we only had about five members in the church. She was so happy that I was a pastor. For me, that was a sign from the Lord that we were to stay.
So we continued working there, and we have since established five churches. It is very hard, and we have to struggle because there is a lot of opposition. We also started a school because we love children. We now have 87 children in our kindergarten and our school. Our vision is to continue to invest in children. If the Lord opens a door, we would love to open a second school.
We want to help teenagers with their schoolwork and teach them about God. In the kindergarten we pray for the children, encourage them, and love them. This is very different from the social culture on Mafia. People do not love children. Even in school, they are beaten to force them to learn the Koran. In our school, we do not hit them but treat them lovingly. They like our school more than anything else in the world. We are very thankful to God for that.
We have been praying for Mafia for over 20 years. Slowly we can see a little breakthrough, even with the public authorities. They have started to build an infrastructure – a proper airstrip and a harbor for big ships, for example. People now want to move to Mafia, whereas in the old days, even government officials who were transferred here could not wait to leave because the island had the reputation of being a prison island.
Can you give me an example of what God has done for you from the day He saved you until today?
I thank God. I have seen different people being saved, but not in the way God touched me. I was totally delivered from my wicked life right on the campaign field, and have become a new creation. The Lord put me in the right church and sent me to the hardest place in the whole country so that I could do His will. I did not know Mafia. I was just escorting somebody. I have tried to run away several times, but the Lord has said I have to stay. So I am still here, doing the will of God. On Mafia, a whole generation needs to be changed, and so we have started by changing the young children. They will come to accept the Lord – I am sure of that, because we have been praying for them. Most of them have been abused in their childhood and have now experienced deliverance. When we show them love, the Lord does something in their lives. Many children love me, my wife, and my family, and they love to come to our house because we love them. So my wife and I have decided to stay on Mafia. We have sold everything we had on the mainland – even our house – and have used the money for the work of God on Mafia.
On Mafia, we do what God tells us to do. We do not follow our own ideas. Although we do not have the resources, we have seen that God has provided for our needs everyday. We have seen God’s power at work in our lives in many different ways – even when people tried to cast evil spells on us. That did not work and it never will. I know Jesus is so powerful and can do anything in this world.
Interview: Kai-Uwe Bonnke