Despite ongoing difficulties and discouragements, the work of the gospel continues unabated in our Zimbabwean and Kenyan missions, communion seasons are regularly observed in our congregations, and the educational and medical work is being wonderfully maintained.
What is especially needed in Africa, apart from an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, is that ministers of the gospel would be sent there by the Lord of the harvest. In May, the three African divinity students completed one stage of their studies, under the tutorship of the Rev K D Macleod, Leverburgh, and have now returned from visiting their families in Africa to continue their studies under the Rev H M Cartwright, Edinburgh.
The contributions and prayers of our mission supporters are very necessary and much valued. We are thankful to the Most High and our Dutch friends that Mbuma Zending has increased its quarterly contribution for our work in both Zimbabwe and Kenya from 122 000 to 150 000 euros (£76 384 and £95 480 at the time of writing).
Zimbabwe: The Foreign Mission Committee is most grateful for the generous response to its appeal for the Famine Relief Fund. Two things have helped the situation in Zimbabwe somewhat. It is easier now to purchase maize than when the appeal was made in June, because supplies have been sent in from several countries. Although the next harvest is a long way off, the situation is well covered at the present time – thanks to the speedy response of those who contributed to the fund.
At the John Tallach Secondary School in Ingwenya, Miss Norma MacLean and other members of staff have appreciated the help of some young friends from the UK – Angus and James Macleod from Leverburgh (whose late mother, the then Miss Margaret MacKenzie, taught at the school from 1967 to 1981) and Eleanor Wylie from Larne. James, for example, has been working on the school computers and computerising some records.
Building work goes on. The foundation for the new dormitory for first-year girls at Ingwenya has been laid by the Mission building team. Also, a new classroom at the John Tallach Secondary School and two staff houses at Mbuma, funded and organised by Oikonomos, are being built.
Miss Katie Mary Macaulay, after a sad period of compassionate leave during which one of her brothers passed away, is due to return to Zimbabwe this month to resume her translation work, along with Mr Teus Benschop, on the Ndebele Bible revision.
At the Mission Office in Bulawayo, Mrs N Mahlango, an administrative assistant at Thembiso Children’s Home, takes the place of the long-serving and capable assistant, Mr Clifford Moyo, who has taken a post elsewhere.
At Mbuma Hospital it is expected that a nursing sister from Holland will replace Sister Louise Leiper, who has resigned after many years of valuable service. There have been severe communication problems at Mbuma because thieves have stolen some equipment from the radio telephone field station at Lupane, including the solar panels which power the system.
Rev Keith M Watkins of our Kenyan Mission was in Zimbabwe in June for two weeks attending the Presbytery and assisting at Chiedza communion. He was impressed to find the friends throughout the Mission in remarkably good heart despite the great difficulties in the country.
Kenya: Mr Watkins has now completed his first year as minister of the Sengera congregation and superintendent of the Mission there, and is due to be on furlough in the UK this month. In his absence the Mission will be supervised by Mr Hugh MacKenzie, the Administrator, who returned from furlough last month. Regrettably, his wife Kathie could not accompany him because of health problems, but she hopes to join him in due course, God willing.
Mr Watkins reports that the Sabbath services continue to be well attended, especially in the morning, when 300 people come, and the people seem to listen well to the preaching. Most Fridays are set apart for pastoral visiting, and this has contributed to increased church attendances. Sabbath School numbers have grown over the last three months, and there are now five classes instead of four, with an average of 50 children in each.
“There are providential encouragements from time to time,” says Mr Watkins. “One morning I was preaching on Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, who was lame on both his feet. Unknown to me, there was a new visitor in the congregation that day. He was a local schoolboy, about 14 or 15, and he had to be brought in a wheelbarrow. He is lame on both his feet! He has been coming to both services, the catechism class and the Sabbath School ever since, along with his brother. May he be found sitting at the King’s table as one of the King’s sons!”
The Health Centre staff have been kept extra busy. In addition to the usual maternity and other cases, they have had many more malaria patients than usual. The Kenyan Daily Nation website reports a malaria epidemic in Nyanza – the province in which our mission is situated – and that 345 people had died there by the end of June (120 of them in the Kisii Central district), and more than 28 000 have been hospitalised.
A new ambulance is on order. When it arrives, the existing ambulance will revert to being a pick-up truck, replacing the current pick-up, which continuously needs repairs. The extremely rough mud road leading from the Mission to the Sengera market has been upgraded by casual workers employed by the Mission – a vast improvement!
Recently the Mission maize store was opened for the second time this year for the relief of the poor. The maize is purchased by the Mission Poor Fund, which is financed by donations from kind friends abroad, local church door collections, and voluntary gifts from the workers.
Translation work on the metrical Psalms is going ahead steadily and a new Psalm book has been printed. A first translation review has covered almost half of the Shorter Catechism – it was most necessary to correct some unhappy renderings in the old translation. Many of the late Margaret Macleod’s Dear J letters, which originally appeared in The Young People’s Magazine, have been translated and it is hoped that each of the Sabbath school children will be given a copy in the New Year.
A group attached to Mbuma-Zending in Holland has kindly offered funds to buy a heavy-duty printer-photocopier for much-needed publishing work in Sengera. It is hoped that sufficient funds will be available for the publishing work, as there is very little sound literature in the Ekegusii language. The library continues to be well used by the congregation, especially by the young people. The Trinitarian Bible Society has kindly agreed to print the Words of Life calendar for 2003 in Ekegusii for the first time.
Mr Watkins and three others do an hour’s language study each day with a Kisii lady from the congregation. They still find reading and writing easier than the spoken word – so these sessions give further helpful practice in speaking and listening. “We are very mindful of Robert Moffat’s experience in Africa,” says Mr Watkins, “and what a wonderful difference was made in his ministry when he mastered the people’s language. But the task is a continual, uphill struggle. Very few “outsiders” have ever learnt the Ekegusii language. May we be given strength for it!”
“The longer I am here,” Mr Watkins concludes, “the more I see of the people’s bondage to so many evils – superstition, false religion, false Christianity, corruption, aspects of their culture, and so on. Now I know, much better than I did a year ago, why the text that came to David Livingstone’s mind about Africa was Ecclesiastes 4:1, ‘So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter’. There is only one solution for the African, and it is the same solution for sinners worldwide: the gospel of Jesus Christ blessed to their souls by the Holy Spirit. ‘If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed’ (John 8:36). May the friends of the Kenya Mission be found praying for the life-giving power of Christ to accompany the teaching, preaching and publishing of His Word!”