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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Rev. Matsimbe attributes church-planting success in Tanzania to the Rev. Harold Wheat

    January 4, 2022 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the 2021 Issue II of the Advocate, which focused on the theme of mentorship. Click here to access the full issue.

    When clergy across the Upper New York Conference were asked to share who has mentored them and helped them to become successful in their ministries, many responded with the upmost gratitude about the mentoring they received from the Rev. Harold Wheat. 

    Canton UMC pastor, Brett Johnson, said, “One of my most impactful mentors was the Rev. Harold Wheat. Harold was assigned as my mentor in 2016 after some personal turmoil in my life and being told I was not ready to move forward in the ordination process. Harold's calming presence, care, and concern for my physical, mental, and spiritual health, helped me to navigate the minefield I felt I was in. We prayed often and laughed a lot about the spiritual kung fu that we were performing as I claimed ownership of my identity as a disciple of Jesus Christ and as a pastor within the United Methodist Church in Upper New York. Even when I had doubts about my preparedness in 2019 as I planned to interview again, Harold stood beside me and encouraged me to proclaim my truth and faith in Christ. Without Harold's mentorship, there is little doubt that I would be who and where I am today.”

    Rev. Wheat’s impact as a mentor goes beyond the Upper New York Conference through his mentor assignments from the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM). One of his recent mentees is the Rev. Fernando Matsimbe.

    Rev. Matsimbe’s upbringing

    Rev. Matsimbe felt called to become an ordained minister from a young age. Born into a Christian family in Mozambique, Rev. Matsimbe was active in the church as president of his church’s youth program.

    After secondary school, Rev. Matsimbe earned a diploma from the United Theological Seminary of Ricatla in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. He then earned two degrees in theology from the University of South Africa, and a Master’s certification in rural development from the University Eduardo Mondlane, also in Maputo.

    Rev. Matsimbe’s role in the Mozambique South Conference

    Rev. Matsimbe became an ordained elder of the Mozambique South Conference in 1991 and served as Conference evangelist and director of the department of evangelization and church growth of his Conference for 20 years, and for three of those years he also served as a missionary pastor in Swaziland and Madagascar.

    A Conference evangelist in Africa is equivalent to church planters in the United States and the building of New Faith Communities.

    Rev. Matsimbe’s missionary work in Tanzania

    Rev. Matsimbe’s passion is in church planting. In 2017, GBGM assigned him to be a missionary in Tanzania. He said, “Tanzania Annual Conference is a relatively new Conference in Africa. It started in 1990, compared to Mozambique South Conference, for example, which began in 1890.”

    With the help of prayer and financial donations, Rev. Matsimbe, has delivered the love of Jesus Christ to thousands of individuals and has transformed their lives with unique mission centers.

    He said, “I go into the community and build friendship with one family and from that family you meet other families. And then I start sharing the Gospel with them. For the last three years, I have planted one church a year.

    My focus is to build infrastructures to bring visibility to the church…I bought three portions of land…and built three mission centers. People know God exists, but what we are showing them is that we can be the hands and feet of Jesus. The mission centers show God’s love in action.”

    The Sebring-Mwanza Mission Center

    One of the mission center’s is the Sebring-Mwanza Mission Center, which is in Tanzania’s second largest city, and is on 20 acres of land. This center is a product of partnership and generosity of the First Sebring UMC from Sebring, Florida.

    The Sebring-Mwanza Mission Center houses Alison’s House of Hope, an orphanage where there are currently 60 orphans. This orphanage is a place of hope for the children.

    The children are taught English at the center’s English Medium School. This school also welcomes children from all over the area. Rev. Matsimbe said, “We offer English because when you know English, doors open for you world-wide.”

    The children are also taught vocations. Rev. Matsime said, “We teach vocations like carpentry and business administration so that when they go back to their communities, they will have skills that can help them build a career and sustain themselves.”

    Rev. Matsimbe continued, “We’re trying to take out of the children’s minds that they are orphans and that they can be owners of their own future.”

    Rev. Matsimbe is also in the process of building a dispensary in the center’s community hall to help people with their healthcare needs.

    He said, “We’re showing people how the Church can be relevant.”

    Blue Mound Geita Mission Center

    Blue Mound Geita Mission Center is in Kalembela, Geita on 10 acres of land. Here, there is an empowerment center for women. Much of the land is used for integrated agriculture. As of the writing of this article, they were growing sunflowers and watermelon.

    Rev. Matsimbe said, “This is a place for women to have training to generate income for their families through agriculture; the goal is for everyone in their families to be able to have two meals a day.”

    Rev. Matsimbe has also started a school at the mission center.

    Sebring-Serengeti Mission Center

    With financial support from First Sebring UMC, Rev. Matsimbe has broken ground for a church that he is building in the Serengeti National Park. He said, “Once visitors pass the two gates into the park, there is the church. There will also be a United Methodist lodge for visitors to stay; this will be a way to generate income for various ministries”

    Over the years, he hopes to welcome mission teams from all over the world and host them at the lodge in the Serengeti National Park.

    Despite the obstacles posed by the COVID pandemic, Rev. Matsimbe is continuing his trend of “one mission center a year. which is preventing him from being able to see his wife and children who are still in Mozambique. Rev. Matsimbe’s current project is Longfu UMC, a new church plant at Kigoma District near the Lake Tanganyika region.

    How does Rev. Matsimbe do it?

    In addition to the support from his wife, a lawyer, who is training to also become a missionary, Rev. Matsimbe attributes much of his commitment to the mentoring he has received from the Rev. Harold Wheat. Rev. Matsimbe was ready to quit almost as soon as he started his missionary assignment in Tanzania.

    Rev. Matsimbe said, “GBGM assigned Harold to be my coach…he was such a good listener…and prayed with me. He was a God send…without having him, I would have quit. His encouragement is more than can be measured. He was instrumental for keeping me going. God sent him to deliver light to me. God brought us together when I was broken hearted and in despair. And now I consider him a good friend of mine.”

    Rev. Wheat said that mentoring is one of his joys of the Connection. He said, “It is such a joy to see Christ in a person.”

    He explained that he and Rev. Matsimbe had powerful connection almost immediately. Rev. Wheat is humble about his mentoring abilities. He said, “There is a way of listening to the point where the person you are listening to begins coming up with the reassurance they need to hear. For Rev. Matsimbe, he heard that God had big plans for him. And these amazing ministries that Rev. Matsimbe has produced make God’s plans so visible.”

    Rev. Wheat believes that mentees can inspire mentors as well. He said, “God uses us to speak to each other in ways that we may not even realize.”

    Rev. Wheat gives gratitude to the two mentors who were highly influential in him becoming a pastor: The Rev. Tom Jones and the Rev. Beckie Sweet.

    Consider the power that mentoring relationships produce for years ahead. Rev. Jones and Rev. Sweet have helped Rev. Matsimbe’s ministries because they mentored Rev. Wheat.

    To learn more about how you can help Rev. Matsimbe and his ministries in Tanzania, email Rev. Matsimbe at

    Go to and type in “Matsimbe, Fernando” in the search field to read his biography. To learn specifics about his church construction work in the Tanzania Lake Region, visit You can also follow him on Facebook for regular photo updates of his projects.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."