Lieutenant Chakanaka Watch

Lieutenant Chakanaka Watch, commanding officer of the Harlem (Temple) N.Y., Corps, talks about witnessing the Salvation Army’s global ministry, choosing the Church rather than pursuing fame, and how radio became one of his first ministries.

When I was young, I wanted to be a celebrity and God was kind enough to fulfil that desire. In Zimbabwe, I had worked as a radio DJ, a musician, and a professional athlete. I became famous, but it was God’s way of saying, “I let you sample the fame that you thought you wanted. Are you done? I have another path for you.” Today, I can say I have only achieved real success by being in His service.

After I had finished playing a season with CAPS United F.C., a Zimbabwean soccer club, I was invited to a nightclub as a New Year’s Eve VIP. But my mother said I would bring in the New Year in church with her. I agreed to stay for the service, but then go to my party. At the corps, Captain Musafiri’s sermon talked about the mistake of following a path of destruction. “If we are committed to God, we will be with Him every Sunday,” he said. I cried, knowing that I had not been to church in eight months; Sunday was when soccer games were played. After the service, I told the team that I would leave soccer. Freddie Mukwesha, the manager of CAPS United F.C., personally came to my job and asked me to come back. But I said no to him, because I had already said yes to God.

As a radio DJ in Zimbabwe, I hosted a program called “Beat with a Message,” which played Christian and gospel music. At first, the station manager thought no one would want to hear a Christian radio program. But it became so popular, he increased the show from one hour to three. Gradually, I began to see “Beat with a Message” as a ministry. Its message to people was about God, and it taught me to think carefully about every word I used on the air. On live radio, you never get to take your words back.

Even though I had grown up in The Salvation Army, the scope of its presence in the world only became clear to me as a teen. The first time I boarded an airplane, I went to Cape Town, South Africa to represent my country for the Army at an International Youth Forum. That forum changed my life. I met 500 other young Salvationists from all around the world.

The Peekskill, N.Y., Corps, where I served as an envoy, had full Sunday services, active soldiers, and a wonderful advisory board. I wondered, should I leave it all for two years in training? But I was reminded that “God knows the plans He has for you, and you will prosper and have a future” (from Jeremiah 29:11). As an officer, I’ve had the joy of helping to change lives and bring souls to the Church. Today I wonder, if I had said no to God when He called, what would have happened to those lives and souls?

interview by Hugo Bravo