THE APOSTOLIC FAITH MISSION
The first Pentecostal evangelists to arrive in South Africa were the Americans John Graham Lake and his long-time friend Thomas Hezmalhalch who landed in Johannesburg in 1908. By the time they arrived in South Africa they were integrated into a thriving community of Black and White Zionist churches already established in America. According to the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) of South Africa’s historical documents: These two American evangelists were used by God to play a prominent role in the establishment of the AFM.
In Johannesburg, an American woman missionary called Mrs Goodenough met John G. Lake and his family at the station. She asked Lake whether he was an American missionary and the composition of his household, and it fitted with Mrs Goodenough’s vision, as she told them that during the night, God had told her about their coming to Johannesburg and that she should meet and accommodate them. By the afternoon the Lakes were settled in a furnished home. The first time they conducted a meeting in Johannesburg was on 25 May, 1908. This perhaps is the acceptable date for the beginning of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa, only a few days after the arrival of the Lakes in Johannesburg the message they brought had penetrated to the remote areas of South Africa. An apostolic revival of such power broke out that in a short time hundreds of churches and missions were established throughout the land. The secret of the success of these men was of course the fact that they possessed an apostolic ministry in which signs, wonders and miracles were manifested continually.
When Lake and Hezmalhalch arrived and saw the well-developed civilisation with a strong Christian character, they started running church services which were intended to be interdenominational. They wanted to testify of, and demonstrate, the glorious ministry of the Holy Spirit. They never expected the negative reaction they received from the main-line churches. There was no room in the main-line churches for people who spoke in tongues, prophesied, and prayed for the sick and baptised believers. So, immediately after their arrival, they started their services in a Zionist church that had a mixed, i.e. multiracial, population. At their first service, a dramatic healing took place. The employer of a black woman witnessed the healing the next morning and, being ill herself, she attended the next evening service where she also was healed.
The attendance grew daily. Within a few weeks the hall was overcrowded and the Zionists offered their church building at Bree Street to Lake. Services were held there daily. According to David Du Plessis, Lake was a tremendous draw card. Healing once again proved to be the instrument by which the Lord drew the people to himself. The work began to be known as the Apostolic Faith Mission. There are different theories about the origin of name of this evangelistic movement: some say it was given by prophecy through prayer and, according to David Du Plessis, Lake and Hezmalhalch had seen the famous ministry at Azusa Street in the United States which was called the Apostolic Faith Mission. Although they were not in any way connected with Azusa Street, the name was a popular one, and they took it, later adding the name of the country to it to give the full name, the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa.
The history of the AFM in Zimbabwe is very difficult to trace. It can only be written by piecing together the scraps of evidence recorded by the government of the day and oral tradition. There is little in documented account of the church activities. It is believed as far as 1913 migrant workers from Zimbabwe working in South African mines had began to preach their new found faith to their families and relatives in Zimbabwe upon their arrival back home from South Africa gathering in their villages for church meetings. The official work of the AFM in Zimbabwe is said to have began in 1915 in Gwanda through the preaching of Zacharias Manamela a convert of the AFM of South Africa. The work was recognized by the AFM of South Africa and G.J. Booysen was appointed to look after the work and seek registration of the church with the colonial government. In the late 1990 AFM in Zimbabwe members began to relocate to the United Kingdom were they started AFM congregations across the United Kingdom. North London assembly was started from South East London assembly.
Today the AFM has over 2000 congregations in South Africa, representing over one million Christians. AFM churches have been established in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Kenya and other parts of Africa.There are also thriving AFM churches in Britain, Europe and Asia.