Our Missions Trip – PART 1
Our goal was simple; to show the love of Christ through ministering the gospel and providing clothing and food to widows and orphans living in extreme poverty in a remote area in Zimbabwe.
I have always had a heart for widows and orphans, having lost my father at a young age and being raised by my widowed mother who had to struggle to clothe and educate five children by herself. Looking back, there were people who expressed compassion, showed pity but those I remembered the most are those who actually did something to help us! By the grace of God, we therefore decided to put our faith into action by actually doing something to relieve the suffering faced these families. As Christians, we are instructed by God that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world,” James 1:27.
We laid the ground work and preparations a year before we left for the trip. We were astounded by the kindness and readiness to help from the people we told about this work. They readily donated their used clothing, some even to the extent of buying new clothes! I remember we removed tags from some of the brand new clothing as we were sorting through them prior to shipment.
We shipped about 250kg of used clothing from Australia to Zimbabwe. On arrival in Zimbabwe we partnered with a local pastor (Ndlovu) who also ministers and disciples a group of homeless youth in the city. They ranged in age from ten to about twenty years. Before leaving for the rural areas, we started by ministering to these youths together with the local pastor. We were also joined by three other local Christians (Samkeliso, Khabo and Saida) who showed great commitment and passion to this work. Our mentoring and discipleship program was birthed from the time we spent with these youths. They had heart breaking stories why they left their homes, and they recounted the hardships they faced on the streets. The way pastor Ndlovu nurtured and guided them was inspiring to watch. Some of them were Christians and others were not, but they all felt safe and comfortable with pastor Ndlovu who treated them equally and with love. We spent time with them individually and as a group, getting to know them and to understand their circumstances. When we asked about their hopes and dreams for the future, most of them wanted assistance with gaining some life skills or learning some trades to make a living. To demonstrate this, some of them were making some money in the city through offering to wash windows, watch people’s cars for a fee and others were into music, singing in the streets to passers-by for small change. These are the youths who requested donations of old music musical instruments. Any prior misconception that most street kids are into petty crime and left home due to rebellion was greatly challenged by this group of youth. It became clear that the difference with them was the support, guidance and modelling they were receiving from pastor Ndlovu. They wanted more than handouts. We encouraged them in the Word, prayed and sang together and it was a great joy watching them go through the clothing and trying them on.
Figure 1. We had a great time with this group of lovely Youth
After ministering to the youth, it was time to prepare to set off to the rural areas. We gathered together as a team and committed everything to God in prayer.
We had gone to the wholesalers and bought basic groceries and food. Our local team members had reached out to the Chief in the area to seek permission to minister to his villagers. They explained the kind of families we were hoping to assist and he asked us to pass via his homestead on our first day. He was a humble and compassionate men who clearly cared for his people. He recounted the dire circumstances of some of these underprivileged families. Including child led families and orphaned children who were looked after by either their grandfathers or grandmothers after their parents had died.
Figure 2. With the Chief and his wife in their homestead, Bornwell, Samkeliso and Saida
The Chief joined us the first day and directed us to the homesteads. It was exhilarating in the car as our anticipation soared. We were finally getting to meet the families we have only been imagining, not quite sure what to expect but elated nonetheless.
One of the very first families was a widowed grandfather looking after a twelve year old boy who had lost both parents. They go for some days without food. The boy looked hungry and weak. He told us he hadn’t been able to go to school because of hunger and they couldn’t afford school. What touched me the most about these two which I also noticed from other families was their sweet, gentle and kind spirit despite their circumstances. To every home that we entered we started by sharing the Word of God first and they all graciously welcomed and accommodated us way before receiving anything from us. I was also humbled by their prayer requests that consisted of God’s peace in their situation, bibles, daily provisions such as food and the ability to send their children to school. Things that we sometimes take for granted. The pure joy and gratitude they showed upon receiving these very basics we had brought was truly touching.
Figure 3. Looking happy after changing into new clothing with Samkeliso
Some of the families we ministered to had lost their faith or backslidden due to hardships. At one time they believed in God, but due to multiple challenges and hardships, they gave up. I remember an old lady who was living with four young orphans. At one time she was a follower of Christ but she had reached a point where she had just resigned herself and was merely focussed on getting the next meal for the children. After sharing words of encouragement and God’s unending love for them, they rededicated their lives again.
We also met families that encouraged us by their faith in God. One widow with six children who were all saved loved the Lord despite struggling with school fees and uniforms. Another lady couldn’t stop praising the Lord as she shared a miracle she received during a period of trials in her life. After losing her husband and children, she then became blind for a while, but one day she miraculously received her sight back. She said that was when she got saved. We joined her in praising the Lord and shared the word of encouragement and prayed.
We just never knew what the circumstances were like each time we entered a homestead. They were all so unique and different. We just had to trust God and believe that he would equip us to minister accordingly as needed. He was faithful. Each time we learnt something, and our own faith was strengthened to another level. Some believed our unannounced presence to their homes was a sign that God hasn’t forgotten them. They celebrated by singing and dancing. The smiles and sparkle on the children’s faces upon receiving clothes, toys and sweets just melted our hearts.
Figure 4- Young lady happy with her gifts! With Samkeliso and the Chief
I remember reflecting on the way back, that indeed we are one big interconnected community and God loves us all. People in Australia kindly donated their used clothing and toys but they had NO IDEA the impact that they would make to these families thousands of kilometres away. To the villagers, that was a message that there is God who can even send strangers to visit and minister to them unexpectedly. I was also challenged to always remember to be grateful and appreciate the simple things in life. Finally, I was reminded that God works through people, he uses them to reach out to others in need, and we are his hands and feet here on earth. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger and you invited me, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me (Matthew 25:35-36).
Figure 5. Hands full! Grandma and her grandkids