More than 3 000 people packed the United Family International Church (UFIC) Centre in Bulawayo yesterday morning where the church’s founder Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa was expected to lead the Sunday service.

There were winding queues outside the centre along 15th Avenue as people jostled to enter the giant venue.

However, the thousands of people who had packed the centre that reportedly has a capacity of 3 000 people, were told by UFIC overseer Tinashe Zuva that the charismatic preacher had failed to make it for the service.

Zuva could not give reasons for Makandiwa’s no-show despite the fact he had held crusades at White City Stadium in the city on Friday and Saturday.

“Although father (Makandiwa) is not here in body, he is here in spirit and he is the one who will perform all these miracles through me,” the overseer said.

Zuva told the service that he had sat next to Makandiwa during the Friday and Saturday crusades and would perform miracles using the “anointing”.

“It is such an honour that I sat next to the man of God and I also had the privilege to receive his anointing, which is at work today,” he said.

When the NewsDay crew got to the centre at 9am, some people who said they had arrived an hour earlier were still struggling to make their way into the church.

One of the church leaders was instructing UFIC members who were already seated to give seats to visitors.

“I understand that he (Makandiwa) came on Thursday and has already conducted two of his crusades at White City Stadium on Friday and Saturday,” said a woman who preferred to remain anonymous.

“I came here at 08:30, but there are so many people in front of me such that I doubt if I will even get a chance to get inside the church as it would be already full.”

Zuva said Makandiwa was anointed by God to end poverty in Zimbabwe.

“Today you shall cross over from rags to riches, from poverty to riches, from pedestrians to motorists with the anointing of Makandiwa, which is in me today,” he said.

“Poverty is a demon and a curse. Your life must change for the best and you shall begin on a prosperous journey starting today.”