Over the last few days we have had the privilege of hosting Pastor and Mrs. Wastemore Sarireni in our home and at our church in South Africa. This couple lives in an undeveloped area in Zimbabwe with the church they officially planted in 2012. Wastemore is a graduate of the Limpopo Bible Institute who also benefited from training at the African Pastors Conferences as well as other South African churches.
Below is the transcript of portions of an Interview With Wastemore Sarireni (17 min. 8 mb) I conducted with him a few days ago. It is encouraging to see genuine pastors living in difficult circumstances, and his comments about money are especially meaningful because of the context in which he serves.
SM: First of all, could you introduce yourself to us?
WS: My name is Wastemore Sarireni, and I am married to Mary, and God blessed us with three kids: John (13), Sharon (9), and Keith (5). We are in a rural village, in Dzingira where I’m a pastor there at Dzingira Baptist Church.
SM: So, Dzingira is in Zimbabwe, southern Zimbabwe?
WS: Yes, Masvingo Province. In the far south.
SM: What’s the difference between a rural area and a city area?
WS: A rural area is where there is no electricity, no [avenues] for employment, no tarred road. And we rely on water from the well. It’s undeveloped.
SM: And are most of the people poor there?
WS: Oh, the people there are very poor. They depend on other people for living, maybe on their brothers, sisters, their sons who are working in towns to support themselves.
SM: How did you become a believer?
WS: It was a time when I was in Joburg  during xenophobic time. And Pastor Brosnan came with his church which is Calvary Baptist Church, came to preach to us. I had to ask a lot of questions concerning the Word of God. And he has to show me that I have got a problem. And I need to be correct with God, and he shows that the problem I had was that I was a sinner. I need to receive Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. And I had to understand it, but it takes time for me to confess that Jesus is my Lord.
SM: So, the xenophobia was critical in your coming to Christ?
WS: It was critical. But at the other side I can say it was the right time that God sent His servants so I had to understand it.
SM: I just think of the Puritans where the one man [William Still] said, “God uses sin sinlessly.” He took that terrible thing, xenophobia, and He used it to save you and other people as well.
WS: I also believe on that. Because when we look to the book of Genesis, Joseph says to his brothers, “You meant it bad, but God meant it good.” Which means God can use any means.
SM: Tell us briefly about your church. What is your church like?
WS: Our church is in a rural area. We don’t have a building, but we know that a church is not a building, it’s believers. We have about 60 people coming to the church. We teach the gospel, and we love the doctrines of grace in our church because we know that God is doing everything, not us doing everything. We are only the tools to reach the other people.
SM: Where does your church meet?
WS: Now because of the number, we are meeting under the tree outside.
SM: Do you have chairs?
WS: We have got almost 27 chairs which is not even half of the people coming to the church. Which means others are staying on the stones, others on the ground.
SM: How many of those are true believers?
WS: Maybe, I can say, 30 of them. Others are still, I am still looking at them. I don’t see fruits coming out of them. To be a shepherd is to see that you have to look to your sheep and find their health.
SM: Many pastors in the African villages love money. If they can get any connection with US dollars—they’ll do anything to get that connection. How can we avoid that? How can we avoid giving money to foolish men while at the same time helping people who are in genuinely in need?
WS: That’s true. When you meet a guy who says he’s a true Christian, true pastor, a true servant of Christ—you don’t rush to help him or to work with him. You take time looking at him. As I said, many people say I [Wastemore] am a pastor who is looking at fruits. Look at him, something must be seen. Even the time will tell if he’s a true pastor or if he’s not a true pastor. Don’t just work with him, go with him. He will reveal himself if he is a true servant or false servant.
SM: So, it takes time?
WS: It takes time. Take time. Don’t rush to help.
SM: What advice do you give to a Western missionary, someone coming from another economic world; how can he tell the difference between a “rice Christian” and a true Christian?
WS: Something must be seen in a believer’s life. Time will tell. As Galatians 5 is talking about the fruits, the fruits of faith. Faith should produce something in the life of a man. So we have to see what comes out of the man. Others they can trick us, but let us be sure that we know the people very well.
SM: Do African churches need American money? Would they be better off if America kept its money? And if they do need the money what does that say about the Holy Spirit—does the Holy Spirit need that money to keep the churches going?
WS: If you say, they have to wait for the money to start the churches, I can say, “No.” But there are sometimes when they need the money. They can live in a very poor, rural area, but of course, they can live without the money. Someone who is a true believer and a true servant in Christ can shift his direction looking for the jobs to support the family. It takes faith to remain in the church. Which means we can say it’s a balance. They can live without the money, or they can live with the money.
SM: So, in one sense, yes, and in one sense, no.
WS: In one sense, yes.
SM: Who is right in the debate about social ministry or churchplanting? Should we obey the Great Commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves, or should we obey the Great Commission to evangelize people? Should Christians come to an area to bring development or churches or both?
WS: Planting churches is good because even the Great Commandment starts with “Love God.” And how do you love neighbor if you don’t lead him to Christ? You don’t love your neighbor. If you lead him to Christ, you show you really love your neighbor. If you don’t, it’s not a lasting love. It’s a temporary love.
When Jesus answered the question on “who is my nieghbor” in the context of loving him he proceeded with the parable of the good samaritan. We should obey all of scripture, the great commandment and the great commission. One does not negate the other.
Certainly, these two commandments do not contradict each other. However, there are some complications in this discussion that are commonly overlooked in typical discussions of social justice, mission, and spreading the kingdom of God.
It may not be loving my neighbor to offer a solution that has not grappled with the root cause of his condition.
Secondly, just as those who advocate churchplanting need to be certain that they are actively loving the poor, so too, those who advocate social ministry need to be certain that they are involved in genuine churchplanting. Not merely buildings, but actual life and worldview change–the work of learning the language and slowly peeling off generations of thinking that are opposed to Scripture and ultimately to their own prosperity here on this earth.