“We r fasting 5 days a week, no food” was the SMS from our friend Trymore (Try), a pastor of four churches in rural, northern Zimbabwe. Try was one of the students in the Bible school in South Africa at which I taught last year. He is a fine man of thirty-six years, well educated with A-levels. Although he had an opportunity to leave Zimbabwe, he chose to stay to serve the Lord.
When I was asked to join an outreach visit by a local South African church to Zimbabwe, I hoped this would give me opportunity to meet up with Try. And so it was. As there is no public transport operating, he hiked the one hundred miles from his rural area to the capital, Harare. The journey took him three days and cost him a considerable amount. I had hoped to see his wife, Bester, as well; however, she was due to deliver their third child any day.
“She may have to be induced, but there are no government clinics operating,” he said. “And private maternity clinics charge $1,500”—a figure way beyond his reach. (In fact, his salary as a pastor only pays for him to be able to get to Harare to pick up his wife’s salary. And she, as a qualified teacher, earns $2USD a month!)
Unspeakable Hardship in the Land
That afternoon, we visited an orphanage run by Eternal Word Ministries. The leader of the ministry and Try’s mentor, Pastor Tatemba, has two hundred churches under his care, each of which also has a home for AIDS orphans. In Harare they run four; the one we visited showed happy, well-cared-for children in a positive environment.
However, we heard that three of the children at one of their other orphanages in Harare had contracted cholera, and one had died the previous day. With no drips or rehydration fluid (even sugar and salt are unavailable locally, and thus one cannot make up a solution), the little child had succumbed.
This is the reality of life in Zimbabwe today for the majority of the people who do not have access to foreign currency. Their own currency has become worthless so much so that a church that received a check in their collection for “six quadrillion dollars” (that is, six with fifteen zeroes!) did not even bother to deposit it in the bank.
An apple costs fifteen million dollars; a single loaf of bread costs two months’ salary for workers at an informal chrome mine outside of Harare. (At this mine, they work twelve hours a day, with no safety precautions, tunneling one hundred yards into the earth, lighting the way with candles. They then drill holes into the sides, push in dynamite, ignite it, and run for their lives. Astonishingly, their monthly salary of six million dollars buys half a loaf of bread!)
We visited two government hospitals in Harare. The first was completely empty, apart from five pediatric wards, which are run completely by a Harare church that buys the medicines, cleaning materials, etc., to give hope to forty-two seriously-ill children.
The other, built nine years ago by the Japanese, is in disrepair; the silent halls echo eerily with the lack of a single patient. The matron, a godly woman, is assisted by a handful of nurses who all continue at their posts and care for, out of their own pockets, seven abandoned children who have nowhere else to go. Under normal circumstances, this hospital would care for one thousand terminally-ill children, as well as adults with every kind of illness. Where then are these critically-ill people? Dying with no relief for their pain?
The matron’s words continue to challenge me: “I never thought Zimbabwe could get this low, but it can’t get any lower.” The economic system has collapsed, as has the medical system, the educational system (no government schools are operating), the transport system, and the social care system. Indeed, the only things that are functioning for the average person (orphanages, schools, and one clinic) are those run by local Christians. And they are making a difference, shining in the darkness, being salt in their society.
Crying Out to the Lord
Several times during our week’s visit, local Christians made reference to the parallels with the Israelites’ situation in Egypt, the Pharaoh’s hardness of heart, and the Lord sending plagues to break his opposition. They see the cholera as part of what the Lord is doing to deal with Mugabe. They, along with most Zimbabweans, are peace-loving people, determined to wait for God to remove the tyrant.
But they cry out to God, bringing their pain in lament to him. A notice on the matron’s door said this: “Pour out your heart like water before the face of the LORD. Lift your hands towards him for the life of your young children (Lamentations 2:9).”
So as one who has felt the pain of a land in crisis, I urge you to cry out to the Lord for his deliverance to come to Zimbabwe. Thousands are coming into the kingdom, day by day, but pray that they will have food to eat and be healed from their diseases.
Pray that Christians, in Zimbabwe and outside, will continue to sacrifice and give and share and care—that the Kingdom of God would be established in a vital way in Zimbabwe, and be an example to the rest of the world.