Zimbabwe Visit April 2018 Report

This year’s visit found us leaving the UK on Wednesday 18th April and arriving in Harare early evening on the 19th.  The flight went well but the engine of one of the cars taking us from the airport to our accommodation stopped 20 times before we arrived there! As this was the vehicle that was supposed to take me to Mount Darwin the next day one’s confidence was not reassured!  It took a while for Maciek and Mary to get through customs with two tyres because of the number of Zimbabweans returning with many purchases that required examination and negotiation over duty to be paid.  Just importing two tyres took the custom officer considerable time to do all the documentation.  Then one had to pay at another desk. 

Friday 20th April Maciek and Mary travelled to see the Wiltshire school, which had grown considerably in its number of pupils since our last visit three years previously.  The vehicle ferrying them the 60 mile journey from Harare had not only had the two new tyres fitted, but two further new tyres to replace ones damaged the previous day.  They were Chinese make and cost more than the ones imported, even allowing for the VAT paid in the UK and Zimbabwe customs.  The guy fitting the tyres was very impressed with the ones from the UK and commented that you don’t see tyres like that in the country.  The 25 miles from the main tarmac highway took nearly two hours and it is no wonder tyres do not survive long given the condition of these rural roads.


     Road to Wiltshire School                   New Classroom Block                   Brick making machine

More accommodation had been built and general improvements made to the school.  The school had recently invested in a couple of brick-making machines.  It was the middle of school holidays, so in one sense it was a pity not to see the school functioning with pupils.  It did give an opportunity to inspect the whole site with all its buildings without disrupting classes and activities.  The site is hardly recognisable compared to three years ago.  What was then the main building appears part of a complex of new classroom blocks and dormitories.  The number of pupils has expanded three-fold.  The tech room has an inter-active white board for teaching with state of the art methods.  The State no longer supplies the teaching staff, it all has to be funded by the school itself.

Derek’s visit to Mount Darwin was somewhat fraught first by the late arrival of Trymore and his vehicle, delays getting the vehicle taxed, and ultimately the engine dying on us about 35 km outside of Harare in the middle of nowhere.  It had over 300,000 km on the clock so it was not entirely surprising that it broke down. Attempts to rectify the problem proved fruitless and eventually the vehicle was pushed into a suitable overnight parking space, while a good friend of Israel (who was one of our passengers), named Simon, drove out of Harare to take us back there for the night.  He also agreed to take us to Mount Darwin the next day, stay with us and them bring us back to Harare after the Sunday meeting.  It is quite amazing how there is this wonderful network of believers who are only too pleased to help out when problems arise, and Simon excelled.

Saturday 21st April brought us  to Mount Darwin arriving in the middle of the afternoon.  On route we stopped to check the abandoned car was still OK and there were two of Try’s friends who were going to attempt a repair and get the car back to Harare.  We left them to go on our journey, but their efforts also proved fruitless and they arranged for the car to be towed to Harare for repairs.  The first 100 km of our journey was on tarred roads, and the 39 remaining km’s were on a typical Africa dirt road with its dust, huge potholes and large stones to navigate.  This latter part of the journey took as long as the first 100 km.  We eventually reached the Nyamuti School in Mount Darwin where Bester teaches, and she and Trymore live.  Their Church meets in one of the classrooms each Sunday.


                        Nyamuti School                                  Try and Bester’s Two rooms

Their house is school property and is only available to them while Bester teaches at the school.  They had recently had this accommodation halved as the school needed the other rooms for another teacher.  This left Try and Bester with two small rooms plus a kitchen area for them and their family.  Bester was away on a course for her degree and their children were visiting their grandparents.  Try had built another room for extra storage and this was where I slept, accompanied by large red ants and the usual mosquitoes plus several other interesting insects!  We were met by over 50 families, most of whom had walked a considerable distance through the bush to spend the weekend with us.  In all 11 churches were represented, all having been planted by Trymore over a ten year period, and most now having pastors.  They had arrived the day before and as we brought all the food I do not know what they did prior to our arrival, except that some of the pastors used the opportunities for ministry to these families.  The ladies were soon in full cooking mode and made the usual sadza and chicken for the hungry families to enjoy. 


The first meeting took place before the meal and was for married couples.  After our meal everyone was invited to the meeting although the emphasis was on the church leaders.  They sang spiritual songs with usual African zeal and found it impossible to stay still!  The songs were very simple ones usually based on one Scriptural truth, but sung repetitively.  I could not help but see how they would benefit from singing full hymns as these would include additional teaching.  The need of these dear believers, who were incredibly poor, was for Bibles.  Several church leaders present did not own their own Bibles and a good number of the women in attendance also had never owned their own copy of the Scriptures.  We had been able to purchase a number of copies of Bibles thanks to gifts from the Church members at Hanney Chapel, and it was a joy to be able to distribute these to those in need after the Sunday morning meeting.  Night time in Africa is special as the insect life comes alive as the sun goes down and the dark hours are constantly punctuated by insect noises.  The sky at night is also spectacular as there was no light pollution, just the wonderful heavens full of God’s handiwork.

Sunday 22nd began fairly early as sunrise seems to dictate the start of the day, around 5:30 am.  After washing and breakfast – bread and some margarine spread, plus lots of tea to drink -  and time to prepare for the day ahead, there was an interesting sound which when I investigated was the meat for Sunday lunch – a goat had been killed and hung up on  a tree while it was skinned and prepared for cooking.  That was certainly fresh meat! The goat had been donated for the occasion.  The morning meeting was again lively with its singing, quiet concentration when the Scriptures were read and excellent attention when God’s Word was preached.  There were also times of mass prayer when everybody present prayed out loud.  I first met this kind of thing in South Africa while amongst Zulu pastors and find it difficult to concentrate as there is a lot of noise. 

  Singing in the morning meeting       Families who attended          Orphans waiting for their meal

After the morning meeting about 60 children from two nearby villages benefitted from the orphan feeding programme that Trymore and Bester run and which ZPT supports.  Most of them went to the Sunday School that Try’s Church run in an adjoining classroom, where the main meeting was being held. These children were exceptionally well behaved as  they patiently queued for their hot meal.  For many this was the only hot meal they could be guaranteed to have until the next orphan feeding day.  I noticed some had little containers so that they could take some of their meal back home to have later. 

Before lunch Try took me on a tour of the building work done so far for the Community Development Centre.  There were two partly built buildings which would house the workshop areas and give some accommodation for trainers and trainees who may need to stay at the Centre during the various courses they have in mind. 


Partly built CDC buildings

Then I met the management board Try had set up to oversee the Community Development Centre.  There are 9 community leaders involved, six men, two ladies plus Try; and conversations with them were very positive. One man has supported the orphan feeding programme since it began and was very committed to do something to help the young people.


CDC Management Board

Their vision is to teach the young people a variety of skills so that they could be self-supporting in coming years.  These included building skills, welding, fish farming (a suitable pond would be dug on the site to enable this), shoe making, cookery and other useful subjects.  They all realised the importance of making this a Community project which would continue if at some time in the future the Lord called Try and Bester to serve him elsewhere.  We discussed the need for them to have a clear statement describing their policy for the centre including a child/young people’s protection policy in line with Zimbabwean legal requirements.  I was able to let Try have some examples of such protection policies to give the CDC management board something to work on.  Try will let us have these once they have been prepared.  They see the wisdom of getting one of these buildings up as soon as possible and for the other building to be completed as well.  All the work done so far has been voluntary by members of the community.

Try showed me the maize he had planted and which had been ruined by rain washing the soil away, an insect infestation that had eaten much of what had grown, and theft by chickens from a neighbouring village who just wandered about helping themselves to whatever they could find.  This will have serious consequences later in the year as maize in this area will be in very short supply.  One family nearby normally grew and stored two tons of maize for the year ahead, but this year their entire harvest was less than a quarter of that amount.  I anticipate there will be requests for help as the year progresses, as what has grown is used up.  Undoubtedly this will be the case from other parts of the country that have suffered similarly.

After Sunday lunch we had the usual photoshoot and the joy of those who had Bibles was plain to see.  Our journey back to Harare went well and we met with a really big rainstorm, which is unusual for this time of the year. 

Meanwhile, back in Harare, Mark Drury had arrived on the Saturday evening from the UK. Mark is the pastor of the Baptist Church in Crockenhill, Kent.  Mark was going to share in the teaching with the TOT men during the week. Earlier in the day Mary and Maciek went to Norton to see William Danyere’s dwelling under construction on his plot of land.  This is only a temporary building being built with rough bricks and no mortar.  The walls were up, plastered and the roof on.  It would appear that temporary here could well mean a number of years.  The Danyere family are hoping to move in later in the year.  This will come as a big relief to them, especially Lorraine, as the difficulties with the step-mother-in-law is taking its toll.

On the Sunday Mark, Mary and Maciek went to Norton where Wilson Ganiywa pastors a small church.  They meet in a school where other churches have their meetings in adjoining classrooms.  There were about 25 people in the congregation.  Mark preached his first sermon on African soil.


The next five days were spent conducting the Training of Trainers course.  Ten of the twelve men were able to attend.  Those who did not come were Lovemore John who was quite unwell with boils on his neck, and Bigboy Chabwera who could not get the time off from his work. The training consisted of an exposition of Galatians by William Danyere, exegeting and preaching on the parables by Maciek, the  application of Scripture in sermons by Mark, and the life of Abraham from Genesis 12 to 17 by myself.  There was a full programme from 8:30 am to 5:30/6:00 pm, and this included listening to different men each afternoon expound their assigned parable which was followed by constructive criticism.  Clearly the men had been helped by the material Maciek had sent out in advance and really benefitted from the practical exercises.  There were constant questions from the men throughout each session which helped to clarify issues, and the men were also asked questions by the leaders of each group and it all helped to apply what was being taught.  Some did struggle a bit with William’s exposition of Galatians and perhaps more work needs to be done on this in future TOTs, the main difficulty was in the age old issue of law and grace.  Each day had a review session on the day’s teaching and also on how they had found the indigenous workshops that most had been involved in throughout the past year. 


We were able to leave the men with several books to help them in their studies, and also Bibles to be made available for those who do not have a copy of the scriptures.

Mary had a very profitable two days with the ladies conference teaching on the ‘I am’s’ of Christ from John’s Gospel. 43 ladies attended the first day, which increased to 47 on the second day.  Mary tried a different way of interacting with the ladies but feels that reverting to group work with set questions works better.  Mary would find it helpful to share the teaching ministry with another lady.  It could of course be an indigenous sister.  Mary was translated by Diane into Shona.  This is mainly for the benefit of the older ladies as the younger ones can follow the teaching in English.

Derek and Maciek