On 6 December 2000 my wife and I left London for a two-month visit to Africa. We spent only two weeks in Zimbabwe, yet with the much appreciated assistance of Mr and Mrs Jacob van Praag, we were able through “journeyings often” to see many parts of the Church’s mission.
My duties began with assisting at Chiedza communion. Chiedza is one of several congregations in Mashonaland, a district where Free Presbyterian mission work began in 1981. Just 20 years later, it testifies to the Lord’s blessing on Rev Z Mazvabo’s labours to see hundreds in attendance at the communion. Many walked long distances in hot temperatures to reach the church. A number stayed within the church premises over the weekend.
As yet our Shona people do not have all the Psalms translated metrically into their own language. But no one listening to their hearty singing could fail to long for the day when they will have all the Psalms to sing. It is also hoped that work can soon begin in earnest to provide them with an improved Bible translation.
Before our arrival it had been very dry and it was with thankfulness that rains came, enabling the people to plough. Before that the ground was too hard. It was when rain began to fall on the Monday of the communion at Kirk of Shotts that the Holy Spirit was poured out. How we need showers from heaven to fall, so that our hard hearts would be softened to receive the seed of God’s Word!
Our second week saw us move to Bulawayo, to assist at the communion there. Services began here in 1968, as children from the country districts of our mission moved to town in search of work. Services are held regularly in three places in and around the city. They people came together for the communion, so that the congregation could be as many as 400. Although many understand English, all the sermons were interpreted, as they are throughout the mission. As at Chiedza, we were struck by the dignity displayed by the communicants as they solemnly took their places at the Lord’s table. Rev A Ndebele’s continued poor health prevented him from preaching, although he was enabled to address the second table on the Sabbath.
In addition to the communions, I conducted prayer meetings at Nkayi, Zenka, Ingwenya, and also at Singwangobe and Gampakalale in the Mbuma area. Thus I was privileged to preach 15 times during my fortnight in Zimbabwe. We hope that the warm welcome we received in each place indicates the reception that our people are giving to the Word of God. “He that receiveth you receiveth Me” (Matt 10:40).
At Mbuma we were thankful to see Rev P Mzamo in good health following his treatment in South Africa, and able to preach the Word among his people. However, Mr Ndebele has now resigned from the pastoral charge of Ingwenya. No doubt eternity will declare that there has been much fruit from his unwearied labours in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. With only two active ministers to cover some 40 congregations spread over a wide area, and often with larger attendances than we are accustomed to in the United Kingdom, the Zimbabwe mission is crying out for help. “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest”. I was encouraged by meetings with the two divinity students, Mr Khumalo and Mr Mloyi. They value the prayers of the Lord’s people throughout the church, as they study in preparation for their divinity course, as well as working full-time and taking services.
Miss MacAulay and Mr Benschop, with the help of local church people and the support of the Trinitarian Bible Society, are busy improving the translation of the Ndebele Bible – a vital and overdue work. I was pleased to visit the Reformed Bookroom and the Thembiso Children’s Home in Bulawayo, through which the gospel of Christ continues to be made known to old and young. May the distribution of literature and the care of the orphans – including taking them to the Bulawayo services – be made a blessing to many!
The hospital at Mbuma continues to provide a remote community with high standards of medical care. This demands and receives sacrificial commitment and sheer hard work from the nurses. Suitably qualified persons from overseas are continually needed. In the current political climate fresh expatriate applications can take many months to process. Through the hospital the mission seeks primarily to bring gospel healing to souls. We enjoyed taking evening worship on the hospital verandah, attended by staff, the more able-bodied patients and families of the sick. Mr Mloyi usually takes this, as well as catechising the patients from day to day and speaking to their families and friends.
At Ingwenya, the school children were on holiday, but there was still much activity: building a new dormitory, various painting projects, and re-covering mattresses. In term time, the congregation numbers about 1000. Hundreds of young people are being given an excellent education at the school, but again, of primary importance is that they are taught the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom.
Anyone visiting our Zimbabwe mission cannot help but be stirred by the evidence of decades of gospel effort. In One Hundred Years of Witness Rev James Tallach wrote: “It is often said that Reformed Calvinistic teaching does not generate a missionary spirit or draw men and women away from their homes to travel half-around the world to preach the gospel to sinners. From Rev John Radasi onwards our Mission demonstrates yet again that a living Reformed Church will give itself in men, women, time and money to missionary work. As Calvinism puts God at the centre of the whole of salvation, so the 90 years of missionary work in Africa . . . are but an extension of David’s prayer:
And blessed be His glorious name
to all eternity:
The whole earth let His glory fill.
Amen, so let it be