German evangelical preacher Reinhard Bonnke, who claimed to perform miracles on stage and had a huge following in Africa, died on Saturday aged 79, his family said. The family made the announcement via his official Facebook page that Bonnke passed away peacefully in the company of his relatives.
“It is with sorrow that the Bonnke Family would like to announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, and grandfather, Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke. He passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, on December 7, 2019,” read the statement from Anni Bonnke and Family. It was not immediately established what he was ailing from, however, the man of God had a right bone femur surgery in November 2019.
Founder of the Christ for All Nations church, Bonnke first visited Africa in the 1960s and preached across the continent for decades, often at open-air events.
The obituary on his website claimed Bonnke had drawn 1.6 million people to one gathering in Lagos, Nigeria in 2000, and that he had converted 79 million people during his career.
“Hundreds of millions of people from nearly every nation in Africa have heard Evangelist Bonnke’s clear, fiery presentation,” the obituary said.
“The crowds were drawn to much more than Bonnke’s passionate oratory. From the very beginning, the multi-day events were marked by profound miracles.”
Bonnke, who lived in the United States, claimed to raise the dead, and to cure the deaf, blind and disabled — often attracting criticism and anger from skeptics, other faiths and more traditional Christian churches.
But Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said that Bonnke’s “legendary contributions to the body of Christ in teaching and writing will always be remembered by posterity.”
“Bonnke’s crusades in Nigeria, across Africa and the globe strongly accentuated the message of Jesus Christ,” Buhari added in a Twitter statement.
Bonnke’s events in Africa were occasionally marred by stampedes, and in 1991 a deadly religious riot erupted in a Muslim area of northern Nigeria when he announced plans to visit.
Born in 1940, the late son of an army logistics officer has left behind widow Anni Suelze, three children and eight grandchildren who have asked, in lieu of flowers, the world make a donation to Christ for all Nations – Africa Crusade.