In 2004, our Mission in Zimbabwe will be celebrating its centenary and the Zimbabwean Presbytery is already giving thought to commemorating the event in an appropriate manner. When the Rev J B Radasi “pitched his tent” at Ingwenya in November 1904 and established our mission there, the resources available to him were meagre indeed; so meagre, that its survival and subsequent growth and success must surely be attributed only to the good will and faithfulness of Him who has decreed that repentance and remission of sins are to be preached in His name among all nations, and who has never failed to fulfil His promise: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world”. In 2001 we have about 30 places of worship, several primary schools with hundreds of pupils on their rolls, the very highly-regarded John Tallach Secondary School at Ingwenya, a Children’s Home at Thembiso, a Reformed Bookshop in Bulawayo and a highly-valued Hospital at Mbuma. In 1906 there was only £166 in the Foreign Mission Fund; in 2001 we have to send out to Zimbabwe a monthly sum of £17 000 in order to ensure the smooth running of our missionary activities. As a direct result of a recent Zimbabwean Government directive to employers throughout the country, our mission’s wages bill will shortly have to be increased by 44%, which in turn will mean that this sum will have to be proportionally increased.
Where do our resources come from? First of all, we have to acknowledge the liberality of our own people who give so willingly but, however generous their contributions may be, the expense involved in continuing our mission activities at their present level could not be met apart from our friends in Holland. Their interest began about 36 years ago and has increased to such an extent that now about four-fifths of the sum required is provided by the Mbuma Zending. We are, therefore, most grateful for their continued support. Our ministers and those working in the field have, over the years, endeavoured to impress upon the members and adherents of the African indigenous churches that it is their duty to support the cause of Christ among them but, sad to say, the response has not been encouraging. Even making allowance for the poverty-stricken circumstances in which many of them are found, their support, as far as the majority is concerned, remains far short of the standard set by the churches of Macedonia, whose “deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” “Their poverty”, Hodge comments, “abounded unto their liberality, because it produced it. Their poverty abounded unto their liberality, because it was seen to be great in relation to it. Their liberality made their poverty, by contrast, appear the greater.”
In Zimbabwe, some of our mission buildings are now old, and their condition is such that it is necessary either to demolish and rebuild them, or carry out extensive renovations in order to bring them up to what might be regarded as modern standards. This involves additional expenditure. In recent times a new house and a new girls’ dormitory have been completed at Ingwenya. The need for the extensive renovation of most of the other dormitories is patently obvious. By our standards, the accommodation provided for boarders at the John Tallach School is spartan indeed and we would like this to change. The same is true at Mbuma Hospital, where the accommodation provided for African nursing staff could almost be described as primitive. Resources being limited, it was the best that could be done at the time.
In recent times, however, we have, in the Lord’s providence, received unsolicited help from Oikonomos, a Dutch-based charitable organisation which describes itself as “a Christian institution for the public good”. On their own initiative a delegation visited our Zimbabwean mission in 1998, and as a result they were moved to provide the money necessary to purchase a new mini-bus for the Thembiso Home, build two new classrooms at Mbuma School, and houses for teachers at both Lutsha and Zenka. Oikonomos have now agreed to provide the finance necessary to build new accommodation for African nursing staff at Mbuma, a classroom at Ingwenya, classrooms at Lutsha, and accommodation for teachers at both Mbuma and Zenka. They will also provide a field representative who will supervise and, hopefully, expedite the building of all these projects. As a matter of courtesy we have kept the Mbuma Zending fully informed of these developments. It is to be understood that we have not entered into any permanent agreement with the Oikonomos Foundation and our present relationship with them will come to an end once these further projects have been completed.
Our Kenyan mission was re-opened in 1999 largely as a result of encouragement given by Mbuma Zending. They generously agreed to meet the costs of re-opening and also to provide the finance necessary to meet the subsequent running costs. Now that we are in the process of settling Rev K M Watkins as an ordained missionary at Sengera, it is anticipated that their contribution will be all the greater. They have pledged their support.
As far then as provision of resources necessary for the day to day running of our missions is concerned, we have to acknowledge that thus far they have been wonderfully supplied. However, there is a crying need for harvest labourers! Over the years, the mission’s need in this connection has been met and we trust that that will remain the case into the future. Regretfully, the Rev A B Ndebele has had to resign from his charge at Ingwenya due to ill health. For 35 years he faithfully discharged his duties there and the fact that he is now unable to do so means that our two active ministers in Zimbabwe are fully stretched. It is, however, encouraging that the two Zimbabwean students are due to come to this country later on in the year to complete their studies. It is therefore possible that they may be ready for licensing by the spring of 2003. We believe that there are other promising young men in Zimbabwe (as elsewhere in the Church) who may be yet useful in the Master’s service. The Lord of the harvest would have us petition Him that He would send forth labourers to labour in His harvest field at home and abroad.
But it is not only Mr Ndebele’s absence from Ingwenya that is felt. Miss Marion Graham’s departure from the compound on her retiral from the post of Headmistress of the John Tallach School has left a great blank. For nearly 40 years she served the mission faithfully and well, and we believe that throughout Matabeleland her memory will remain green for many years into the future. She sought to enhance the reputation of the school not only as an excellent teaching establishment but also as a boarding school to which parents could safely send their children in the knowledge that they would be taught to uphold the standards of Christian morality, and where firm, but not oppressive, discipline would be exercised. Largely as a result of her all-round ability, and especially her administrative skills, she earned the respect of parents, pupils and members of the teaching staff alike.
We believe that the standards she set will be maintained by those who have now taken her place but they need help in the form of expatriate teachers joining the staff. There is an especial need for such as would be able to teach Bible Knowledge and if this article comes into the hands of any teachers who may have thoughts in regard to serving the Saviour on the mission field, the Foreign Missions Committee would be glad to hear from them. Miss N B MacLean is at present home on furlough so that Miss K M MacAulay has meantime to carry additional burdens. Also leaving the Ingwenya compound before the end of the year will be Jake and Nella van Praag. Their presence will be much missed. Jake is an electrician to trade but he proved to be very versatile in solving all sorts of practical difficulties. He also was of great help in taking services. Nella, being an artist, repainted most of the mission signs at Ingwenya and Mbuma, and the mural paintings brightening up the walls of the Children’s Ward at Mbuma will remain as evidence of her skill and versatility. The Committee would greatly rejoice to hear of any person willing to take over Jake’s work.
At Mbuma, the staffing problems are becoming acute. Sister Margaret Macaskill, the Matron, will not be renewing her contract when she returns to this country in September. She feels that her mother now needs her help at home and the Committee well understand and fully sympathise with her position. We are deeply grateful to her for the years of service which she has given, and those of us who visited Mbuma Hospital can bear witness to her nursing skills, compassion and selfless devotion to duty. As well as her interest in the bodily health of her patients, it was obvious that she had a concern for their souls’ salvation. Her interesting report on Mbuma Hospital, as printed in the 2001 Synod Proceedings, makes this clear. Sister Lia Terlouw has now returned home to Holland and she will be much missed. She served the mission faithfully and dutifully over many years and we would like to express our gratitude to her also. Once again Miss Jessie Coote will soon be arriving at Mbuma to help out for a while and we are thankful to have people like her upon whom we may call in an emergency. Her zeal and devotion are exemplary. Will any other trained nurses reading this feel constrained to come and help at Mbuma? When Sister MacAskill departs, Sister Louise Leiper will be the only permanent expatriate nursing sister left. It is very difficult to recruit trained African nurses, partly because the Mbuma Hospital is situated in such an isolated part of the country and partly because trained nurses are not very numerous on the ground.
Lack of suitable and adequate nursing staff will, no doubt, make Dr Benschop’s work more arduous. It is, however, encouraging that she and her husband Teus are so willing to continue to labour at Mbuma. They have both made great strides towards fluency in Ndebele and Teus’s contribution to the work of revising the Ndebele Bible has been invaluable. The other main person engaged in this work is Miss K M MacAulay and it is obvious to others, if not to her, that it was her zeal, dedication and perseverance in it that led to such progress being made.
The Kenyan mission was re-opened in the hope that an ordained missionary would come to be settled there. Prayer, we believe, has been answered and, all being well, the induction of the Rev K M Watkins at Sengera, Kenya, will take place on July 25. We are much encouraged that he has so clearly expressed his conviction that he is called to labour there and we know that the people of Sengera are eagerly anticipating his arrival among them. We trust that it will all redound to His glory. Meantime Mr Hugh MacKenzie is in Kenya and attending to his administrative duties in his usual efficient manner. Duties connected with the Omerembe Clinic are being faithfully attended to by Sisters P van de Ridder, C Renes and T Ringleberg. We would welcome applications for nursing posts at Sengera.
It is hoped that the foregoing will stimulate both prayerful interest in our Mission and continuing material support for what we believe to be the Lord’s work in Africa.
1. Mr MacLeod is Convener of the Jewish and Foreign Missions Committee.