Reinhard Bonnke was known as the “Billy Graham of Africa.”
On Saturday, Rev. Bonnke passed away at the age of 79 in Orlando, Fla., surrounded by his family.
For six decades, this renowned German-born evangelist crisscrossed the African continent telling people about the love of Jesus Christ.
He would often say that his life’s mission was to plunder hell to populate heaven.
“Jesus did not call us to deliver sermons, he called us to deliver people and I believe this is what happens in our crusades,” Bonnke said in a December 9, 1986 interview on CBN‘s The 700 Club, “I am not decorating prisons cells, I’m setting the captives free.”
Bonnke gave his life to Christ at the age of nine. During a CBN News interview with him in 2010, Bonnke said he heard the call from the Lord to the African mission field early on in life. CBN News asked him why he felt the urge to preach in Africa.
“Because it is my calling, it is very specific and personal,” Bonnke said. “God spoke to me as a kid that I would preach the gospel in Africa.”
Bonnke was 24 years old when he moved his wife Anni, and their baby son, to the tiny African nation of Lesotho.
The couple spent seven years working there as missionaries. He said it wasn’t easy, but it was during those difficult years that he started praying to see more souls saved across the African continent.
Dr. Corne Bekker, dean of the School of Divinity at Regent University and a native of South Africa, attended several of Bonnke’s crusade meetings.
“He said very early on he heard this voice that said, ‘Africa shall be saved’ and to the end of his life, he never stopped believing that this was indeed the voice of the God,” Bekker told CBN News.
God gave Bonnke a vision of a continent washed in the blood of Jesus Christ.
He started holding gospel meetings in a yellow tent that could hold just 800 people, but soon outgrew it and needed a bigger one.
“There would be a wonderful time of worship, he would preach the gospel, very simple gospel of Jesus Christ, and then he would give an invitation for people to come forward, and people in their thousands, sometimes, hundreds of thousands of people, would come forward and dedicate their lives unto the Lord,” Bekker recalled.
In 1974, Bonnke founded Christ for All Nations with the goal of reaching Africa with the gospel. He ditched the tent and started crisscrossing the continent holding open-air crusades.
At one such rally in Lagos, Nigeria held in 2000, more than 6 million people came out to hear him preach.
During his last appearance on CBN‘s The 700 Club in 2018, Bonnke told host Pat Robertson how the Lord had touched so many people’s lives over the 5-day event.
“But the last day, in one service, over one million people got saved and completed their decision card so, you know, that gave me faith for the rest of the world. If Jesus can save a million in a meeting, it will take less than one year to get America saved,” Bonnke declared enthusiastically.
Bonnke has always insisted that such remarkable numbers were only possible through the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit.
“We need the Great Commission and we have the Holy Spirit,” Bonnke told Robertson during his appearance on The 700 Club. “If we have only the Great Commission and only the Holy Spirit, we have power without purpose or purpose without power. It is a package deal.”
Dr. Bekker says his crusades were often accompanied by miraculous healings.
“Many of these miracles would be spontaneous. People that were not able to walk, could walk; People that were blind could see and the deaf could hear.”
Bekker believes Bonnke’s 60 years of evangelistic efforts have transformed the continent.
“I had the opportunity to go to a number of these crusades and would meet people over and over again that 10, 15, 20 years after the crusade was still following Christ.”
All told, Christ for All Nations says from the start of Bonnke’s ministry in 1967 to this day, more than 79 million people have made the decision to follow Christ in Africa and other parts of the world.
Tributes have been pouring in since his passing, including from Nigeria’s Muslim President Muhammadu Buhari who called Bonnke’s death a “great loss to Nigeria, Africa and the entire world.”
Bonnke leaves behind his wife Anni, three children and eight grandchildren.