The unusual mission of Zion Evangelical Ministries of Africa

ZION, IL – ZEMA is an acronym for Zion Evangelical Ministries of Africa. Based, somewhat ironically, in Zion, Illinois, ZEMA primarily serves Zionists from independent African churches.

African Zionists Photo by Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

This would probably be the time to explain African Zionism. This requires setting aside any preconceived notions of the popular use of Zionism linked to the nation of Israel. African Zionism has no discernible connection to the political Zionism that was the driving force behind the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people in 1948.

African Zionism is a syncretic combination of teachings that emerged from the infusion – and resulting confusion – of certain Christian practices within indigenous tribal cultures, customs and beliefs.

With approximately 15 to 18 million adherents, African Zionism has become the largest religious movement in sub-Saharan Africa. It is also probably the largest religious movement that Western Christians have never heard of.

The vast majority of African Zionists live in rural communities.

ZEMA’s ministry is based on their observations that a large number of Zionists have a desire to study and follow the Bible. ZEMA’s mission is to bring the clarity of the gospel to those who have been misinformed and misled.

Working primarily in Swaziland and South Africa, ZEMA has successfully established 87 Bible schools and colleges in the region since 1996.

ZEMA hopes to raise a whole new generation of biblical believers who will not only have a solid biblical foundation and understanding, but who are equipped to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, are able to reach out and encourage others in the faith once delivered, and are ready to assume leadership positions in local churches and Bible school.

Bible schools and colleges offer a solid curriculum of courses designed to achieve this goal, including

  • Survey of the Old Testament and the New Testament
  • Preaching and pastoral ministry
  • Principles of Church Administration
  • Systematic theology
  • Missions, Evangelism and Ministry
  • Exegesis and hermeneutics
  • Religious Literacy: World Religions
  • Bible studies chronologically
  • Sunday School Basics
  • HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention

Zion Evangelical Ministries of Africa targeted a very specific group of people located in contiguous areas. The need may not be well known, but it is nonetheless great.

There are approximately 2,400 students enrolled in ZEMA Bible Schools who desire to know God intimately and make him known among the millions of Zionists in Africa.


Read more news about Africa and global missions on Missions Box.


Barry F. Howard