Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mission Highlight: Zimbabwe

South Carolina Conference VIM Relationship with Hatcliffe UMC- Written by Jessica Connor, editor for South Carolina United Methodist Advocate newspaper
South Carolina United Methodist Volunteers in Mission have been helping one small community in Zimbabwe since 2006, building a parsonage, office and larger sanctuary at Hatcliffe United Methodist Church outside Harare.

The church serves a dense population of men, women and children in the suburban community, and though the Spirit was strong, the congregation had vastly outgrown its space. The S.C. Annual Conference embraced the UMVIM project as its own, and many churches statewide stepped up to help Hatcliffe. The first UMVIM team, led by Robin Landers, traveled to Zimbabwe in October 2008 to pour the foundation and leave supplies. In April 2010, Landers and a second team finished the parsonage and office. Its third and most recent trip, in summer 2012, built the structure for the roof.
Thanks to funds donated from UMCs throughout South Carolina, Hatcliffe members have continued work since then, and the building is almost complete.

“It’s all about God and serving Him,” Landers said. “And that is just what we tried to do.”
Jessica Connor, one of the eight missioners who journeyed to Zimbabwe in 2012, and the editor of the conference’s S.C. United Methodist Advocate newspaper, said the trip was a life-changer for her.
“Yes, I worked my tail off, but I also connected – truly connected – with people like never before in my life,” Connor said. “A classic workaholic, I stopped looking for work to do. Rather, I looked for people to talk with, learn from, spend time with. My team became my family. I threw all my expectations out the window and learned to truly rely on God. And today, I’m better for it.” She added, “I guess you can say I’ve been bitten by the ‘mission bug.’ I can’t wait for my next trip to serve.”
Blessed in Zimbabwe- Blog post written by Derrick Scott, Executive Director of Campus to City Wesley Foundation of Northeast Florida- Florida Conference Campus Ministry Team
I had the privilege of traveling with a team to Africa University in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe. I am still trying to put words to my experience. One thing is for certain — my first trip to Africa has left an unforgettable impression on my soul. I am looking forward to visiting this continent many more times over the course of my life.

One of the abundant blessings I received during this trip was meeting the people of Africa University and Zimbabwe. The “Shona” people, native to the country, are some of the most welcoming and hospitable folks on the planet..super generous and open-hearted. Also, hearing the stories of the students of AU was inspiring. I can honestly say that I have made some life-long friends. Thank God for Facebook!

The national politics of Zimbabwe was of particular interest to me. The current president is Robert Mugabe, whose picture has to be displayed by law in every store, restaurant, school, etc. The people are eagerly waiting for Mugabe to set a date for presidential elections. I wish I could have had some deep conversations about this and other issues related to the nation’s government, economy, and policies. The little bit that I picked up from newspaper stories left me intrigued and longing for more.
There are so many things I could tell you about my trip: experiencing the deep faith of the AU students, the impact of being a black man in the Motherland, the ways my preconceived ideas about Africa were challenged, learning the rich history of the UMC’s mission in the nation, and so much more. I will probably spend the next several years processing my time there. It has been said, “When you visit Africa, you depart leaving half of your heart behind.” Friends, that is a true statement.
Gulf Breeze UMC Relationship with Zimbabwe UMC and Zambezi Hunters- written by Dr. Lester Spencer, Senior Pastor of Gulf Breeze UMC in Gulf Breeze, Florida, Alabama-West Florida Conference
Gulf Breeze UMC , in Gulf Breeze, Florida , has been doing UMVIM work in Zimbabwe with the Zimbabwe UMC and Zambezi Hunters for two years now. It all started with a member of GBUMC, Duke McCaa, who was on safari in Zimbabwe when he became aware of the great need for fresh, safe drinking water in the remote villages of Southern Zimbabwe.
From this initial trip, Duke returned to Gulf Breeze UMC to discuss this need with Dr. Bob and Linda Spencer, Madelyn Tucker ( chair of the missions committee ) along with the Pastors. UMVIM investigative teams to Zimbabwe were birthed from these meetings which lead to meetings with the Leadership of the Zimbabwe UMC and, ultimately, with Bishop Nhiwatiwa , the Bishop of the Zimbabwe UMC .

Zambezi Hunters, a Safari organization based in Zimbabwe, also became a partner in this effort due to the fact that they had many connections with the Chiefs and villages in the Southern part of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe UMC , Zambezi Hunters , GBUMC and UMVIM began to drill fresh water wells in various villages providing safe drinking water for thousands of people. Also, a new UM church was started in Nyangombe, one of the remote villages , (with five thousand people and no church) and a new Pastor was assigned there by Bishop Nhiwatiwa. All of this a as result of the this partnership.
In July of 2012, I took my youngest son, Joshua Spencer , with me on an exploratory UMVIM trip along with Duke and Becky McCaa and a few others from GBUMC . Our purpose was to meet with the Bishop and other leaders of the Zimbabwe UMC as we finalized plans for future work. We also visited the Old Mutare Mission, Africa University, Nyangombe , other villages and various wells that GBUMC had drilled throughout this region through this partnership.
Part of our mission was also to lay the ground work for future teams to Zimbabwe. In April of this year , one of those teams went back to Zimbabwe to start the construction on the new parsonage in Nyangombe as well as visit other mission sites and wells which we have recently drilled.
The UMVIM mission experience with my son and the other folks from GBUMC, was an awesome experience and my second time to Zimbabwe with GBUMC , UMVIM and this partnership. For several days,we camped at the ARDA Safari Camp, owned and run by Zambezi Hunters, which is one of the sites where teams will stay when they are serving in is region. It is in the middle of one of the most beautiful , wild and remote parts of Zimbabwe. It is in the Save Valley which is where the largest numbers of African wildlife reside in Zimbabwe. We heard Leopards and Lions at night . Crocodiles and Hippos dwell in the river next to the camp . On the way to the worksites each day, one can see all manner of African game. It is truly an “Out Of Africa ” experience.
I hope many of you will seriously consider taking an UMVIM team to Zimbabwe ! There are many needs there . Medical teams are needed desperately at the Old Mutare Mission Hospital . More construction work needs to be done on various church related projects . More wells need to be dug.
Please contact the UMVIM office for more details . Our UMVIM, SEJ Director , Paulette West, just returned from Zimbabwe as she had served there with our GBUMC team . She is up to date on the needs of the Zimbabwe UMC and knows how to plan for an UMVIM experience there .
Though there are serious economic problems in Zimbabwe at this time, we have not had any major problems in all of our travels and work there. Due to the partnership we have with the ZUMC and Zambezi Hunters, our teams have been well taken care of and able to do our work as we seek to offer Christ Love In Action!

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