Zimbabwe Report

by Mike Burn on December 4, 2007

Zimbabwe ChildrenThe trip was at the invitation of a large church in the capital city, Harare. Friend and record producer, Dave Bankhead, had been to Harare the previous year for a conference, and found himself working with the children of some of the delegates to that conference. He taught them songs from Heal Africa, and presented them on the final day, and it was so well received that the church (One Way Ministries, pastored by Langton Gatsi) wanted him to come back the following year and put on a whole conference just for children.

So, Dave invited us to think about going with him and his wife Jean. I was born in Zimbabwe but had not been back in 40 years, so jumped at the chance. Of course we knew that the country is in terrible turmoil at preset, with massive food shortages, hyper-inflation, unemployment, and a volatile political situation, so we prayed, and Sue did as much research as possible to find out whether it was safe and wise to take our younger two children as part of the team. Some people urged us to be cautious and some thought we were crazy to even think of going at this time, but in the end, we felt God was saying to go, so we did.

Zimbabwe DanceWe stayed with local families from the church, and were overwhelmed by their hospitality and generosity. We had heard that meat was very hard to get hold of, so were surprised to sit down to a first meal of chicken. It turned out our hosts had been rearing some chickens especially for our visit, and had killed them all just before our arrival, so we had chicken all week. Very humbling, when we knew that millions in the country would only eat meat rarely at present.

The conference was held in an old hotel that the church had just purchased (the story of which was a miracle in itself), and there was a limit in terms of the number we could fit into the hall – had there been more room then we were assured that we could have had thousands in attendance, but with a team of 7 of us, we were more than happy to try to cope with the 250 or so that had registered to come. Electricity is often out for hours or days at a time, and so the church had arranged for a generator, and managed to get hold of petrol for it, which is also in very short supply – on the rare occasions that it is available, then people will queue in their cars for hours at garages to get a few litres.Zimbabwe Team

We had the children for 5 hours each morning, from 8am to 1pm – the kind of length of time that would be a real challenge for a kids club in the UK, but African children have a far longer attention span it seems, and are so well behaved, that it was no problem. We used a mixture of songs, dances, drama, puppets, talks, DVD’s and games – it was the games that were by far and away the children’s favourite activity, and perhaps one of the greatest benefits of the week for the children was just to have a load of fun. The children were very keen to copy out all the songs and bible verses we used into their notebooks.

Zimbabwe LionIn the afternoons, the church was keen that we should have the chance to see some of the sights, and so took us out and about. There are virtually no tourists visiting the country at present (and those that do visit mainly go to Victoria Falls in the north) so on one trip, for example, we had an entire lion park to ourselves, apart from a brief appearance of a minibus with some Chinese tourists! A particular highlight for me was the chance to visit the house where we lived when I was born – it was in the process of being renovated so the workmen there invited us in to look round the house and garden. As the youngest of 4 children, I am the only one in the family who has no memories of the country, so I was really thrilled to see for myself the country where my family had lived happily for many years.

Many people have asked us since we returned what it was like to visit a place that is so notorious in the news at present. The people there, in the midst of extraordinary hardship and suffering, were warm, welcoming, friendly, and hopeful, and it was the hope in particular that made an impression on me. We took as the theme for our conference “Arise, shine Zimbabwe”, and it is always the hope of Christ that can sustain a person, a family, a church, and a nation through adverse times, to a brighter day. The church in that country is a living example of Paul’s injunction in Romans to be “joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer”. Our prayer for the children especially is that they would know the peace and joy that can only come from knowing the God who is love.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Soph December 16, 2007 at 2:14 am

lets do it again! x

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