In 1980 the African Enterprise team in Zimbabwe launched a new ministry, under the name of “Operation Foxfire”, to reach out to young people with the love of Christ. Launched under the leadership of Chris Sewell, leader of the Zimbabwean team at the time, and Sheckie Masika, it consisted of young people who went out into rural communities in pairs to teach, preach, pray for the sick and help reopen churches that had been closed during the Zimbabwean Bush War.
Not long after the first sixteen young people had been sent out into the mission field Chris Sewell received a message to say that one of the teams had been arrested by separatist soldiers and accused of being spies for Bishop Abel Muzorewa, the country’s Prime Minister at the time. Sewell jumped in his car and drove out to the area where they were being held. The shirts had been ripped off their backs and their money stolen, but they were otherwise unharmed. “They took us into the bush and showed our friend, Steven, where they were going to bury him,” wrote one of the Foxfires in his dairy. “They said, ‘You are trained guerrillas’ and they circled us, picking up poles to beat us. Some said, ‘Leave them!’ But others said, ‘Kill them!’ Then their leader told us, ‘Leave here! Go back to Salisbury (now Harare). Away with your Jesus! When you want me to worship Him, bring Him here!’ We said, ‘He is here!’”
This was the beginning of the immense work the Foxfires would do, and the opposition they would face in trying to spread the Good News. Despite these odds, the Foxfires persevered. If no one invited them to stay in their homes, the Foxfires would sleep under the stars. During the day, they joined the local people in whatever part of life they were engaged, sharing the Gospel in word and deed: they spoke about Jesus while drawing water for people at a local well, they helped a pastor spread manure on his fields, pushed a man’s car out of a river when it got stuck, stacked cotton for a farmer, prayed for a woman with asthma and a man who was deaf, and cast out a demon from a young girl thought to be mad.
“To be a Foxfire one has to be an evangelist at heart,” said one of the original recruits. “Then you must be a pastor, an organizer, a teacher, a friend, a musician, a counsellor, a cyclist, and a first-class pedestrian!”
Obert and Nhamo were among the first recruits and were sent to Karoi, in the north of Zimbabwe. Pastor Maronda asked them to help him build an extension on his church hall and for two weeks they mixed cement, pushed wheel-barrows, and carried bricks. At night they would sit with the farm workers around the fire and share the Gospel with them.
Similarly, another pair of Foxfires found themselves on a farm fifty kilometres east of Harare. “Every day we helped the farm workers to dig the lands and to feed the chickens,” Cleopas said. “Then, sitting under the trees or in the sheds or out in the maize lands, we led those that responded to the Lord.”
Still another team was sent to a coffee estate in the Vumba mountains, on the border of Mozambique, to the workers’ accommodation dubbed “Sodom and Gomorrah” by local pastors. After two months the Foxfires returned discouraged, having made only one convert. They were sent back two weeks later and, stopping at a local store to buy provisions, were approached by a man from the estate. “He was known as the estate gambler,” they said, “a drunkard with a reputation as a womanizer.” This man told the Foxfires that he wanted to become a Christian but the team dismissed him, thinking he was not serious. He asked them a second time and again they turned him away. But he persisted. So they led him in a prayer of commitment and he repented and invited Jesus into his life. “Some days later, we heard that this man had completely changed,” the Foxfires said. “After that we had more and more people attending our meetings and by the time we left them, thirty workers had given their lives to the Lord.” A chapel was later built on the estate and the Word of God continued to be preached.
The Foxfire Ministry has grown and changed format over the years, being now a basically urban ministry, and today there are Foxfire teams in Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa. One of their major and very effective ministry specialities is missions in high schools where their impact is often enormous.