A Christian pastor in Zimbabwe died from malnourishment caused by excessive fasting she had been employing to become closer to God, according to church members.
Hilda Bvunzawabaya, pastor at the Pentecostal church Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa (ZAOGA), died late last month and members of her ministry are pointing to her commitment to fasting and prayer as the cause of death.
“She used to engage in absolute fasting …for days,” an anonymous pastor told Zimbabwe news agency ZimNews, adding that Bvunzawabaya constantly preached on the importance of fasting.
“She died because of much fasting,” a member of the congregation added.
Believers of many faiths partake in fasting in an attempt to attain higher levels of consciousness or to be closer to God. Some fasts last for weeks, and some fasters have been known to spit so as to not swallow even their saliva.
A person may live while fasting for as long as three months if they are also drinking water, according to a Scientific American report. Without water – or in an absolute fast – fasters may die in as little as a week.
For both types of fasting, variables such as body type, environment, physical exertion and more play a major role in biological effects. It is unclear if any pre-existing condition facilitated Bvunzawabaya’s death, but congregation members assert that she had been fasting.
Bvunzawabaya was known to engage in several absolute fasts every year. She would sometimes hold sermons in the midst of her fasts to better engage her congregation.
A memorial for the pastor on Facebook includes dozens of comments from her followers, expressing the unique passion with which she approached her role.
ZAOGA pastor Ed Chizeya eulogized, “I remember me and my friend jumping over the AMFCC durawall just to go and hear you minister. You inspired me to pursue the gifts of the Spirit especially the miraculous.”
“God used you to speak and challenge my life concerning holiness and a supernatural walk with God. May you rest in eternal peace! We will carry the legacy you left!” Chizeya continued.
It is unclear how many days Bvunzawabaya was into her last fast before passing away.