United Methodist missionary Tawanda Chandiwana (left foreground) is embraced by Thomas Kemper, head of the denomination’s Board of Global Ministries , at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines, after Chandiwana was released from a detention center and allowed to leave the country. Photo courtesy of Thomas Kemper, GBGM.

By Thomas Kemper
December 13, 2019 | ATLANTA

Read General Secretary Kemper’s personal remarks to the friends and family of Tawanda Chandiwana, read at Tawanda’s funeral by missionary Larry Kies. 

It is with deep sorrow and acute pain that we have received news of the death, December 13 in Zimbabwe, of Tawanda Chandiwana, 29, a former United Methodist Global Mission Fellow who was at the center of a 2018 campaign to win his release and that of two other young missionaries detained on spurious charges in the Philippines.

Reports from church contacts in Zimbabwe indicate that the young man, seven days shy of his 30th birthday, had been hospitalized for several weeks, likely suffering from leukemia. His health situation and treatment were complicated by a prolonged strike of many doctors in Zimbabwe. The General Board of Global Ministries had learned of his illness only hours before his death.

Tawanda Chandiwana exhibits a broad smile as he arrives back home in Zimbabwe following a 56-day detention in the Philippines.

Chandiwana returned to his home in Zimbabwe in July 2018 after having been jailed for two months, arrested May 9 while attending a training seminar at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute. He was charged with overstaying his visa and was found to be on a government watch list for suspected subversives. He and two colleagues were suspect because they had taken part in an international team investigating allegations of human rights violations in Mindanao.

In the summer of 2018, a global campaign of prayer and petition, “#LetThemLeave,” was launched on behalf of the three, directed to the government of the Philippines. It attracted thousands of supporters and wide media coverage and was quickly successful.

“Tawanda Chandiwana was a deeply caring young Christian, nurtured by and valiantly served The United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Dr. Judy Chung, executive director of missionary service for Global Ministries. As a child he attended Ishe Anesu, an afterschool ministry founded by United Methodist missionaries located at Hilltop UMC in the Zimbabwe East Conference. Tawanda’s education at Africa University was supported by the Holston Conference of The United Methodist Church as well as through direct scholarship gifts given by a California couple.

To express condolences, please direct them to:

Tawanda Chandiwana Memorial
Young Adult Missionary Service Office
General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church
458 Ponce de Leon Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30308

Thomas Kemper is the general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.