Raising the Dead and Helping the Poor: The Life of Surprise Sithole

In 2013, I visited Iris Global in South Africa. On the third day of my trip, I was helping the men and children to cook food on a women’s conference. Suddenly a jeep with the Iris logo appeared, and out stepped a man whose big smile I recognized so well. “Surprise! Wow, I’m so glad to meet you! I’ve read your book!!” The smiling apostle shook my hand, told me I was welcome, guided some ladies to the jeep and then pointed at me: “Micael, get into the car!”

We dropped off lady after lady until we arrived to the house of the last one, where all three of us entered. There was a very, very thin and weak man. I didn’t catch what condition he was suffering from, but I eagerly joined Surprise in praying for his healing. Then we left, and Surprise drove me back to the conference.

I met this man’s wife some weeks later. He has had severe problems with his liver and kidneys as well as TB, and has not been working since October last year. However, now he started to feel much better, he went to the doctor last week – and the doctor pronounced him 100 % well. He started working again last Wednesday. Glory to God!

This first meeting of mine with Surprise Sithole was very Surprise-ish. In his book Voice in the Night, he shares his amazing life story. He was born in a family of witch doctors in a small village in Mozambique. At the age of 15, he heard a booming voice in the middle of the night: “Surprise! Get out of the house! If you do not leave, you will die.”

Surprise with the children at Village of Hope
Surprise with the children at Village of Hope, Backdoor, South Africa

Surprise obeyed (he thought it was one of the spirits) and took his friend Gafar with him out in the jungle. They walked there for two weeks until they arrived at another village where a Christian man, Mr Lucas, was waiting for them. God had told him to take care of two boys coming from the jungle. When he told this to them, they wondered who God was, so he led them to the Lord. Soon, they received the news of that a rivaling family of witch doctors had killed all of Surprise’s family. He was the only survivor.

This painful conversion formed Surprise as a radical soul-winner, because he didn’t want anyone to die without knowing Jesus Christ. He and Gafar travelled from village to village, preaching the Gospel. The Lord called them to Malawi, and soon they were on the island of Chikusi, gathering people for a prayer meeting. There, they discovered that the people didn’t understand their language, and they didn’t understand theirs. Surprise started to preach anyway, and suddenly God did a miracle. He was preaching in Chichewa. Everyone surrendered their hearts to Jesus when they saw this miracle, and a church was planted in that village. Surprise still knows Chichewa. Even the first Bible he owned was in that language!

As he has continued to preach in different areas and cultures, God has continued to provide him with new supernatural languages. Including English. The same thing has happened to his wife Tryphina. I asked him how this works in practice, and he simply answered that the details belongs to the Lord, but he basically don’t know a language the first second and then suddenly he does.

Surprise is also known for having prayed for eight dead people that have come back to life. I’ve met one of them, Francis Shongwe – pastor for Iris Ministries in Clau-Clau. In September 2003, he was violently beaten by a gang, went to heaven, woke up in the hospital where he had been pronounced dead, and even though his clothes where filled with blood his body was healed. He said that even though he initially was sad to leave Heaven, he was glad that pastor Surprise prayed that he would come back, since he now could continue preaching about God’s love. Directly after he left the hospital, he went to the police station and forgave his murderers, demanded their release and led them to Christ.

Another time, Surprise had a dream where he saw a man rise from the dead. The next morning he received news that a man had died so he went there only to realise that this was the same man he had seen in his dream. He started laughing and rejoicing, and the man got up.

The Smiling Apostle
The Smiling Apostle

And then we got the food multiplications. He is writing in his book how he was in Maputo just after he had met Heidi and Rolland Baker and connected with Iris Ministries in the mid-90’s. Iris was going through some serious troubles, the Mozambiqian government had confiscated their orphanage so that they had to move everything to their small office, including the hundred children they were taking care of. And they didn’t have food to give them. A lady from the US embassy called Nelda Lawrence brought some food for Heidi, Rolland and their two children. Heidi blessed the food and started to give to her hundred children. And there was enough for everyone. They even got left overs.

I was doing an interview with Surprise a couple of weeks ago and asked him about this food miracle in Maputo. “Oh, there has been three food multiplications in Maputo!” he replied. He told me about when Georgien Banhof where bringing chicken to the kids there. They got 500 pieces of chicken but fed 2000 people, one piece per person. Then Surprise told me about how he went to Malawi during the big drought in 2001 with a friend from Australia. They managed to feed 24 districts with 10 000 dollars. “God multiplied the money AND the food!”

In a world that’s getting increasingly secularized and wounded, we need wonder-workers like this whose lives are screaming HOLY SPIRIT. As Surprise told me in the interview:

“There is no single doubt in me. I believe fully that God is alive. I believe the sick can get healed. I believe the dead can rise. Others wait to see before they believe. I believe for me to see.”

Micael Grenholm is editor for PCPJ. This article was originally posted on his personal blog Holy Spirit Activism.
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Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please join our Facebook forum, and sign up for our newsletter!

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