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					                           MISSION ZIMBABWE TWO
                          A TESTIMONY TO GOD’S GRACE
  “There is such a great need for us to be in communion with Christ. That
communion reawakens an inner life in us. Living for Christ means choosing a
  life that is sometimes exposed, and not one that is turned in upon itself.”
                           Brother Roger of Taize

             The Children of St Matthews, Filabusi thank you for your generosity

We departed Pretoria on our second trip to Zimbabwe on 13 June 2009, carrying with us nearly
2.5 tons of goods consisting of basic food stuffs, medicines, seeds and second hand clothing.
We were able to do this by the generous donations received from many people, both in the
parish of St Francis and St Judes and people outside of our parishes. Seven people went on this
trip – Erik and Gesine Buiten, Linda Lewis and
myself, Nina Lowes, from St Francis of Assisi
Waterkloof, Ann Thistlewhite and Thebe
Moja of St Judes Hartebeespoort and
Beatrice Leola of the Assembly of God
Church, Sunnyside. Also accompanying us
was the driver of the truck donated for the
trip, Thabo Molefe.

We experienced various setbacks in
preparation for the trip, including problems
with communication with Bulawayo, car
issues etc and at times we were caused to wonder if this was really what God wanted us to do.
However, we persevered and finally left Pretoria on Saturday morning at 6h30 heading for the
Botswana border at Martin’s Drift. We took with us the sweet smell the oil used by Fr. Timothy
to anoint both us and our vehicles before we left. Let us not forget to mention here that Erik’s
car received a triple anointing, due mainly to our lack of faith and not her lack of ability but she
vindicated herself on the trip and will forever hereafter be known as “The Queen of the Road”
to us her staunchest, converted supporters!

We had chosen to go via Botswana believing that the border crossing would be easier than our
first experience at Beit Bridge during our previous trip. We arrived at the border at 11h30 and
cleared the South African side without problem. On arriving at the Botswana authorities we
were informed that we needed an import permit for the amount of mielie meal we were
carrying, i.e. 60 x 12.5kg and that this permit could only be obtained from the Department of
Agriculture, which was closed until Monday. No amount of pleading changed this and we
retreated to the parking lot to pray and consider our options. Our group of seven people
prayed and asked God to show us what He wanted – was this setback an indication that the trip
was a mistake and we should go back to Pretoria or should we proceed to Beit Bridge and make
the crossing there? We knew that the people of Ascension were expecting us and we did not
want to disappoint them. We made some phone calls to Fr Shingi and arranged with him to
meet us at the Beit Bridge border post together with some of his parishioners, so that if we
experienced a problem with gaining entry with the amount of goods in our possession, we
could allocate the goods out per head and so get it across the border. In faith we re-crossed
the border back into SA and at 16h30 started on the approximately 320 km trip to Beit Bridge.

We reached Beit Bridge at 20h45 and with the assistance of Fr Shingi and Fr James of St
Columbus Anglican Church, Location, Bulawayo we completed the border formalities, gained
entrance for all our goods and left for Bulawayo at 01h30 in the morning. At one stage the
queue of vehicles to clear the customs line was so long that we thought we would be there the
rest of the night but we prayed “Lord, you parted the Red Sea, you can part this snarl up of
vehicles so that we can get through”. About 5 minutes later a customs official started clearing
the path in front of us and 10 minutes later we were sitting at the front of the customs queue
with our truck and two cars. All around us vehicles were being unpacked for customs
inspection and we prayed “Lord, please let us clear customs without having to unpack our
goods”. We cleared customs approximately 30 minutes later with only a cursory inspection of
our goods.

We travelled the 320 km to Bulawayo in the dead of night, surrounded by empty bush and pitch
darkness. We were very tired as we had now been travelling since 6h30 the previous morning
but we knew we had to be in Bulawayo in time for the 7h30 service. There is no doubt in our
minds that God sent us an angel of light to guide us on that road. I can personally testify that I
usually find it difficult to drive at night even under normal circumstances but that night the road
ahead of me was lit as clear as day and I kept envisioning an angel of light above us. We
subsequently found out from Fr Shingi that the Bulawayo road had been repaired about 2
months prior to our visit, which was indeed a miracle when you see how every other road in
Zimbabwe is more potholes than road. God prepared the way because if we had had to travel
that road unrepaired at night, we would surely have come to grief.

Our prayers for safety were answered and we arrived in Bulawayo at 06h30, exactly 24 hours
after leaving Pretoria. We had time for a quick shower and a bite to eat and we then presented
ourselves for the 7h30 service. The reception we received from the people of the Ascension
Church was so welcoming and gracious. We gave our testimony about how God had led us into
this ministry and how even now we are never quite sure what He has in store for us or what the
next step is going to be but we nevertheless continue to trust Him to show us the way.
During Sunday after the two services we met with people of the Parish who run a clinic from
the church to assist poor people who do not have the means to pay cash in US$ for treatment
at government hospitals. The local clinics had largely broken down although at the time of our
visit we were told that these were now starting up again. The clinic operates every Wednesday
and usually has about 200 people waiting to be helped, some of whom would arrive at 3 am in
the morning in order to make sure they would be attended to. The nurses and doctors at the
clinic are all volunteers ably assisted by parishioners who have gained experience and
knowledge as they went along. We were shown photos of the clinic in operation and it was
wonderful to see the church pews filled to capacity on a Wednesday as the people waited to be
helped. Surely this is a most Christ-like use of God’s house. The medical supplies we had
brought are to be used in this clinic. (Unfortunately the pictures of the clinic in operation are
being posted to us and are therefore not available for inclusion in this letter.)

                                                  On Monday we took a large portion of the
                                                  food and second hand clothing out to a
                                                  mission station supported by the Church of
                                                  the Ascension, called St Matthews, Filabusi.

                                                 St Matthews is situated about 115km from
                                                 Bulawayo in a rural poverty area. The priest
                                                 at St Matthews had died and his wife, aged
                                                 about 70 years, had taken over caring for the
                                                 people of the mission. Our visit to St
                                                 Matthews was a soul refreshing experience.
                                                 They have a church and a school and we
were received as honoured guests with much singing and dancing and hugging. We were
ushered into the Church to be part of the handing out of the gifts as everything at St Matthews
is done as a community in consultation. The goods we had brought were laid out at the front of
the church for all members of the community to see and were handed out according to a list
drawn up by the women in charge. There are only 7 men in the whole community, all of whom
are middle aged. We had tears in our eyes as we watched an 80 year old woman come dancing
and singing up to the front to receive her new blanket. Such joy and gratitude for such a simple
gift! Even more moving was the handing out of the big bags of mielie meal – one bag given to
the head of each family and in one case the head of the family that received a bag was a 6 year
old orphan.

The old Mama in charge was an inspiration. She has started a baking project in order to sell
bread in the community. She has also started a sewing project, manufacturing school uniforms
which are sold for the mission. The big bags of flour we had brought were allocated to the
mission’s baking project and were received with much joy.

The people sang as the gifts were handed out and the words that they sang moved my heart
greatly – “My God, be with me on judgment day”. I thought to myself, these people need have
                                              no fear for indeed God was right there with
                                              them. On receiving the gifts they sang
                                              “Hallelujah Lord, thank you for remembering
                                              me”. God’s grace was so evident in this place
                                              and we felt humbled to be a part of it.

                                                  We walked around the St Matthews School
                                                  and met a teacher who is in charge of a class
                                                  of 90 children. Despite his poor classroom
                                                  facilities, he was neatly dressed in shirt and tie
                                                  and cheerful about his work. We walked
                                                  around and inspected the children’s school
books, much to their delight and we can only
say that that teacher was doing a superb job
in very difficult circumstances. Each child has
only one exercise book and one pen. The
school supplies we had brought were to go in
part to the St Matthews School.

We were treated to a traditional African
meal and after hungrily consuming chicken
livers, baked pumpkin, beans and peanuts,
we were told that this was only the starter
and we were to come back in about 30 minutes
for the main course! We did and got to enjoy
pap, meat and gravy, with agreement all round
that the food was delicious.

The community has a big vegetable garden
where they grow spinach, pumpkin, beetroot,
rip (a type of cabbage), carrots and other
vegetables. The women take care of the plot
and the windmill pumps water up for irrigation.
The seeds we had brought were ecstatically
received as they could now begin planting.

                                                   We eventually left St Matthews in mid
                                                   afternoon, dancing our way with the people
                                                   to our cars. It was a wonderful time and we
                                                   felt blessed to have been in the presence of
                                                   people who despite having so little and being
                                                   beset by so many problems could praise God
                                                   for his goodness and mercy in their lives. God
                                                   dwells in St Matthews, Filabusi and we were
                                                   privileged to be in His very real presence

                                                   From St Matthews we went to visit Fr James
of St Columbus Anglican Church, Location (the name of this area of Bulawayo coming of course
from the previous appellation “the location”). On the way to St Columbus we had the
opportunity to see a bit of the city of Bulawayo. As you drive towards downtown Bulawayo, the
skyline could be that of any city in the world, with tall buildings that give the appearance of a
functioning business centre. The reality is that peak hour traffic in the city consists of very few
cars and we were told that of Zimbabwe’s approximately 11 to 12 million people, about 4
million live outside Zimbabwe’s borders, mainly in South Africa, and of the remaining 7 – 8
million only about 463,000 have jobs.

Bulawayo is like a city fallen asleep. The wide, colonial era roads are badly potholed, the grass
verges overgrown and a silence hangs over the city. No sounds of heavy traffic, no sirens
wailing. The relative absence of urban noise is very noticeable at night, when the city streets
are dark and indeed parts of the city lie in darkness due to the daily power cuts. When you
drive at night in Bulawayo, your only light is from your car headlamps and yet we saw people
walking in the dark city in apparent safety.
The shops are beginning to open as trade is once again allowed. We saw evidence of painting
and restoration in some businesses and there are goods in the shops, some local and some
imported from South Africa. The prices are marked in either USD or Rands and you can see
signs up saying payment in USD, ZAR or mixed currencies, Zim dollars not included. The
imported goods are about double the price sold in SA. Only brown bread is available and it
costs about R5 a loaf.

Cars on the road are mainly old with a smattering of new 4x4 bakkies. Petrol is hard to come by
and one is never sure if petrol labeled unleaded is really unleaded. We had to drive to about 5
petrol stations on the morning of our departure in order to try and find unleaded petrol for
Gesine’s car. In the end we had to fill up with leaded petrol.

As in Harare the houses and gardens are all run down with a seedy air of neglect. Money is
scarce and is used for survival rather than the upkeep of houses and gardens. But like an old,
elegant lady, you see traces of a younger beauty in the lines of the city.

Bulawayo’s atmosphere was very different to Harare where we went in December 2008.
Whether this is specific to Bulawayo or actually a sign of changing times, we are not sure.
Harare in December was taut, suspicious and fearful. Bulawayo is more relaxed and the people
congregate and chatter normally. They are friendly and full of smiles despite their
circumstances. There is an air of cautious hope, although complete trust in the Unity
government’s ability to work together is not yet a given.

St Columbus is based in a poverty- stricken area surrounded by tenements and has
approximately 3000 people at its services on a Sunday plus 1200 children attending Sunday
School. We were so grateful to Fr James for his help in clearing us through at Beit Bridge that
we wanted to see him to thank him again. He took us on a tour of his church, which has a
Diocesan high school attached as well as workshops for training young men in mechanics etc.
The inside of the Church is big and beautifully plain but they have a treasure of wooden carved
panels representing the Stations of the Cross, the Last Supper as well as the history of St
Columbus Church. All the carvings represent an African Jesus. The carvings were done by an
artist of the parish, who had since died.

The set up is vast and has many projects on the go. Fr James told me that he had just prepared
his five year strategic plan and that they had requested the Diocese to give them a priest with
both a degree in Theology and Business Administration, as they feel this is what is needed to
run their parish. One of the projects is a school for Aids orphans and we gave Fr James a
donation towards supplies for the school as they were desperately in need of exercise books.
As burdened as he is by enormous responsibilities and a severe shortage of resources, Fr James
is cheerful and optimistic about his Church and its work and one feels energized by his faith.

We left Fr James with promises of further contact and went on to meet with the newly
appointed Bishop Lunga, who had been told about us by Fr Shingi and had graciously agreed to
meet with us. We met by candlelight due to there being no electricity. Bishop Lunga has been
in office for three months. He welcomed us and thanked us for showing our love by coming
personally to Zimbabwe and bringing goods with us. We assured the Bishop of our prayers for
his country and he said to us “It is very seldom that change happens in an African country
without a war and we thank God for what He has done for us”.

It was a fitting end to a wonderful journey and we thank God for the people we met, the
gracious hospitality we received and the sense of joy and hope amongst the people of God in
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
We returned to safely (and uneventfully!) to Pretoria on 16 June, exhausted but filled with
thankfulness for God’s blessings on our trip.

We would like to thank all the people who by their donations of money, goods and a truck,
made this trip possible.

We would like to thank all those who prayed for our safety and for the success of the trip. The
cradle of your prayers supported us.

We, the Mission Zimbabwe team, continue to seek your prayers for God’s guidance in this
ongoing ministry.

Please continue to pray for Zimbabwe and her people.

If you have not read the diary of the first mission to Zimbabwe but would like to do so, please
email us on missionzim@gmai.com

We are in the process of setting up our website and more photos can be viewed there in due
course. Go to www.missionzimbabwe.co.za