CAPE TOWN, South Africa – The words tumble out of her mouth a mile a minute.
“Murena u a ri funa! Murena o ri tonda! (God loves us, God has blessed us),” she raps in Tshivenda by way of greeting. Rendani Tshamiswe doesn’t need a beat to start rapping – she’s always ready to “spit a bar or two” at any given time. She’s a freestyler, just like rappers at a cipher (battle).
But instead of a rap crew, she has a congregation who hang on to her every word at her church in a village outside Vuwani in Venda. Rendani’s following grew after a video of her rapping in her mother tongue went viral. And now the popular pastor plans to make a CD of holy hits.
“I’ve been doing radio interviews and as a result receiving calls requesting my CD but I don’t have one,” she says.
“Now things are getting serious.”
She’s shocked by all the attention. “I was just doing what I do best at a graduation ceremony where I was preaching in Vuwani, Venda.” She didn’t know someone was recording her.
“The video was recorded in 2018 so when it surfaced now, I was really surprised that people loved it so much.”
But Rendani believes there’s a bigger reason behind her sudden fame. “God is never late. He’s always on time.”
The 45-year-old mother to Tondani (23), Maanda (17) and Orifuna (9) started rapping a few years ago to spread the word to young people.
“It’s a myth that people should love church and God only when they are old.” She’s seen many youths living their lives aimlessly. They wake up to spend the day on the street corner, asking passers-by for R2 or a smoke. And when Sundays rolls around they’re either hungover or making plans to get drunk. They’re not thinking about church or God.
“Young people are out there drinking and wasting their lives, being tempted by bad things of the world,” she says.
She grew up in church. Rendani sang in a community choir called Servants of God, founded by her mother, between 1995 and 1998 in Ha-Mutsha, Limpopo. From 1998 to 2007 she was part of the Worship Ya Elshadai and later sang at Synagogue Worship church from 2008 to 2011.
When she and her husband, Alfred, established their spiritual home Vision of Glory back in 2013, she wanted to fill the pews with young people. Rendani decided to make church a little more exciting to attract the younger generation by introducing hip hop style rap sessions to her sermons.
“They love it and pay attention to what I preach about. I don’t even write my lyrics down. Because I love God so much, I easily get into it.”
SEE A VIDEO OF THE PASTOR HERE:
Her teenage son, Maanda, was a great influence in Rendani’s quest to modernise her sermons.
“He plays the keyboard and bass guitar in church. So, one day he was playing the keyboard at home, and I started rapping. “He then went on to download a beat on the internet and I just flowed and started rapping,” she shares.
It was so good they decided to take the “cool discovery” to church, where her new skill became a hit. Maanda is proud of his mom’s new popularity. He comes back from school just before 16:30 on the day we pop in at the family’s home for our interview, quickly changing out of his school uniform so he can get ready to go to a mid-week prayer service with his mom, who he calls his bestie. It’s clear the teen adores his mother.
“I am so happy to have an opportunity to create music with my mother, especially something that appeals to the youth. “My friends have given her the thumbs up and that’s so nice because it gives me some popularity,” he laughs.
She and her husband established Vision of Glory in 2013 after years of dodging “God’s calling”. “So many things were going wrong in our lives. I told Alfred we had suffered enough so he needs to trust where God was leading him and that I would be there to support him,” Rendani says.
Starting the church put the couple on a new path and brought them closer. It also strengthened her faith.
“I walked with Him and as a result the gift of prophecy started manifesting in my life as I became closer and closer to God. “Things were revealed to me in my dreams or when I preached and worshipped. Even now, He has given me His blessing and says whatever I want to do He will support me all the way.”
Rendani feels like her life’s purpose is starting to unfold beautifully – particularly now that she can spread the gospel on a bigger platform, even though it’s in a rather unusual way.
“God can use anyone, like me . I dropped out of school when I was in Grade 11 but in the eyes of God, I am important because I have devoted my life to bringing people closer to Him,” she says.
Dropping out of school was one of the worst decisions she ever made, but Rendani was blinded by love. “I was in love, when my husband told me he loved me. I was so in love that I became a housewife and helped him grow the spaza shop he had at the time.”
However, she doesn’t for a minute regret standing by her husband. The couple have been married for 23 years, something she says is a blessing from the Almighty.
“I’m not educated, the only thing I have is a baptismal certificate, a marriage certificate and pastor ’s certificate. When I preach I always tell people that they should not give up on themselves and their lives. “At the end of the day, no matter what situation you face, you are loved by God.”