Zimbabwe Report – Fall 2011
To my family, friends, and supporters. Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and the sacrifices many of you made to help with the food shortages in Zimbabwe. This past October/November I joined a team of four South Africans (Henry, Hazel, an acquaintance of Henry’s, and Ruth & Jack who are full-time missionaries in Gwayi now) and a number of Zimbabwean locals (Cornwell, Fred, Adam, Washington, etc.) with the goal of blessing the local primary schools with maize and continued improvements to the Gwayi Community Center where the local church meets. Long story short: All was accomplished, but not without many challenges.
Our goal was to distribute as much maize to the Gwayi area schools as our funds would allow. Fortunately the local farmers had just enough surplus to meet our needs. This was a true blessing as it allowed us to save significantly on transportation costs and helped boost the local economy a bit. All in all, we managed to distribute 13.5 tons of grain to five schools, and in spite of many vehicular problems, did so with less than a day to spare. You would not know how miraculous this was without some context, which I will now provide.
So, when working in a third-world nation on a very limited budget, where do costs usually get cut? Vehicles! It’s difficult to justify spending $ on vehicles when God’s children are lacking food to the point of nonexistence. But, God was surely given a great platform to flex His sovereign muscle…and He did. In spite of multiple flat tires (6-10 I believe), a propeller shaft that fell out on the highway, a clutch that fried in an area where replacement parts are rare, etc, etc, the job was completed. I can’t even begin to list all the issues we had to deal with, but there is one on which God’s finger prints were very obvious. In the beginning of our maize distribution efforts the clutch plate on our main vehicle disintegrated. This is the kind of part that can only be acquired at an auto shop and is usually not a stocked item. There are no auto supply stores anywhere near Gwayi River where this happened much less a qualified mechanic. However, Henry found a “bush mechanic” in Gwayi who just happened to have an old discarded clutch plate with enough material left on it to keep the pickup running for another week or so. Coincidence… I think not. By this time our other vehicle (40 year old Toyota Landcruiser which had reached its expiration date a decade ago) had kicked the bucket permanently. I say permanently because we have resurrected this vehicle several times in the past few years. Not this time. Thankfully this one gimpy pickup truck managed to finish the job and in the midst of extremely hot weather (110-115F during the day).
Interestingly, one day while I and a few others were delivering the final load of grain, Henry, who was in town wrapping up some other vehicular issues, ran into Lucy the head teacher at the school which I was in transit to. She explained to Henry that the school had been out of food for a while and that the teachers were praying for God to fill their store room once again. To say the least Lucy was stoked to find out that her prayers were being answered at that moment. Mabale Primary School, where Lucy works, received a little over 4 tons of maize. Coincidence… I think not.
As many of you may already know, one of the primary factors contributing to Zimbabwe’s economic demise comes out of the “Land Redistribution Act” which was a sugar-coated title applied to President Mugabe’s tyrannical policy to take land from white farmers and give it to Zimbabwean “war veterans”, or at least that’s how his administration spun it. According to critics, myself included, in actuality this was a desperate attempt by Mugabe to maintain power when economic reserves at his disposal were running dry. His thugs need incentive to maintain loyalty. The application of this policy resulted in many deadly battles as these “vets” took over most of the white-owned farms in the country. The fall-out of these take-overs was manifest in many highly productive and exporting farms being run into the ground which sent this primarily agrarian economy into a tail spin nearly ten years ago. Why the history lesson? Well, some of those “vets” are still on the loose and one in our area decided to show up three days after we arrived threatening to have us forcibly removed if we did not vacate the property by the following morning. You could feel the darkness as these two men marched into our lodge/camp.
As my experience with God has been He turned this into something redeeming. Long story short, the local authorities sided with us allowing us to stay, which is a miracle as the corruption runs deep there. Later that week we had the opportunity to give this “vet’s” wife a ride to her home where we discovered that her husband had gone very ill, likely with Malaria based on the symptoms. Coincidence … I think not. Karma aside, our team prayer warrior, Ruth, jumped into action and gave him a thorough dowsing of the Holy Spirit. He was very thankful for her prayers. I don’t know how the “vet’s” illness played out after that, but it was wonderful to see the loving and merciful side of God’s character revealed in these circumstances. If I were a gambling man, I would bet on this “vet’s” understanding of God being seriously challenged by the love he received from those he was persecuting.
Finally, the beauty of it all comes together. Why does God lead His children into the many various opportunities of service? Love. And, the apex of this love, I believe, is realized when His lost children accept the gift of eternal life through His son. The highlight for many if not all on our team was serving and leading a group from the local church in baptism. This was a great time of celebration as one young man and 16 women professed their faith in Jesus.
So, there we have it, God’s servants being obedient to His call to serve with love in a remote area of Africa and His children there running into His eternal arms. Coincidence …
Todd Martin, Director, SLI and Last Chance for Africa