News from Budiriro 2012 12

Robert Dart's exchange trip to Budiriro in December 2012

Robert writes:-

Our Partner Church in Budiriro

Many people will now be familiar with our partner church in Budiriro in Zimbabwe but for those who are not or who would like to read more then what follows is a brief account of my visit in December 2012 and a summary of what has happened since I returned.

Perhaps it’s helpful to remind ourselves of the background to the partnership. It started 3 or more years ago with a visit to Zimbabwe by Jane Rowell who is the URC Secretary for World Church Relations. It was Jane who identified the opportunity to develop a link between our church and the congregation at Budiriro. This was followed by the celebrations at Rayleigh of our centenary year in 2010 and the decision to raise money for a church building project at Budiriro. We eventually donated in the region of $15,000 which was sent to Zimbabwe in 2011 with the aim of purchasing a plot of land and helping with the cost of building a new church for the congregation. And in December 2012 I had the opportunity to visit Budiriro and spend time getting to know more about the people and their situation.

The Journey and my companions

There were 5 of us from around the Eastern Synod who took part in the visit – myself, Dani from The Cornerstone in Southend, Lindsey from Epping URC and Paul Whittle (Synod Moderator) along with Chris Wright from the Eastern Synod. We started our journey on 6 December when we left London City Airport and made a short hop over to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. After a short wait we then boarded a plane for an overnight flight to Nairobi where we arrived early in the morning on 7 Dec. The final leg of the journey took us from Nairobi to Harare airport where we ended our journey late morning on the 7th.

We were greeted by a large welcoming group at the airport where we each met our respective hosts for our stay and then travelled to the Presbytery office for an official welcome and lunch. From there we were taken to a hotel where we were able to relax until the following day and catch up on some much needed sleep.

Budiriro Church Members

The church in Budiriro started out meeting at the home of Alois who is 1 of the Elders until there were too many people and then they were given a temporary plot of land by the City Council which is where they now meet. They have 5 Elders and about 60 members.

I stayed with 4 families from the congregation while I was in Zimbabwe. Morres is also 1 of the Elders and the Session Clerk at Budiriro which means he’s a combination of the Secretary and Treasurer. Morres works as the Chief Accountant for the Ministry of National Housing. He is married to Georgina and they have 3 daughters – Eunice, Mercy and Trish.

On my first full day I met with the Elders and a couple of the other church leaders. Alois and his wife Agrina are both Elders. Alois has been married for 30 years. He has 3 grown up sons and has worked for the Canadian embassy in Harare for about 30 years. He and Agrina live with their 3 sons, daughter-in-law and 2 grand-children.

I also stayed with Mrs Mtuwa and her 4 daughters. She is a church member and also leads the Ladies Fellowship. Her husband is a long-distance lorry driver and was away from home during my visit. I attended a short meeting of the Ladies Fellowship where Mrs Mtuwa gave an interesting presentation about the aims of the group. I would be happy to provide more details if people are interested.

The Revd Michael Mutaurwa and his wife Beauty also hosted me during my stay. He is officially the interim Moderator for Budiriro church. In practice he has his own congregation to look after and although he preaches once a month at Budiriro he has very limited time for any further involvement. He has oversight of the church but is frustrated that he’s not able to do more. He is strongly committed to seeing Budiriro established as a growing church and has a real passion for evangelism. He asked me to pass on the huge appreciation and gratitude felt by himself and Budiriro for our church’s involvement so far and for the continuing partnership between our 2 churches.

Church Life and Congregation

The church has put in an application for a permanent piece of land so that can build a more fit-for-purpose church but this is still waiting formal approval from the City Council. The process was delayed when their local Councilor who is not a member of President Mugabe’s political party and was acting as their advocate was arrested and imprisoned on trumped up political charges. This meant the church had to find another Councilor to support their application.

I had privilege of preaching at Budiriro on my first Sunday there. This was at the start of Advent and I preached on the theme of being ready and prepared for what God has in store in the future. I was warmly welcomed in song and prayer and I presented the church with an olive wood cross  which had been made in Palestine as a gift from our congregation. The worship was full of dancing and included drums and percussion instruments and a small singing group. They use a hymn book written in Shona, their local dialect, for most of their songs. The congregation have all-night prayer meetings at Easter and New Year and their focus on prayer and their absolute confidence in God’s ability to answer prayer are very evident. There is a belief that some of the current members of the congregation along with other people in the community are not coming to the present church because they want to worship in a proper church building.

I visited many church members in their homes and I want to tell you about a couple of those visits. I met Alice sitting under a mango tree in front of her home. She is a widow and has difficulty walking due to bad leg. She has 3 sons none of whom work and her only source of income is selling fruit and vegetables from a stall in front of her home.

I also met Mrs Charumbera whose brother had died the day before our visit. She is unwell with no appetite and losing weight and believes she has stomach ulcers. She needs a scan to identify the problem but she can’t afford to pay for the cost of the treatment. Some people in Zimbabwe have medical insurance if they can afford it but there is no equivalent to the NHS. There is a welfare support system  but it is slow to access and unreliable. Without medical insurance you have to pay cash up front for any treatment. Mrs Charumbera cannot afford to pay for any treatment or medication. It would cost about $1,200 for the treatment and medication that she is likely to need which is about £800.

Another member was out when we visited but I met her husband who makes clothes in a small workshop in their home. His wife had gone to collect water from the nearest borehole. They have to go twice a week and collect 40 litres at a time and transport the containers in a wheelbarrow.

These visits gave me some idea of what it’s like to be alongside people in their suffering. It was hard to know how to pray and what to pray for and hard to believe that there is a way for God to answer prayers in these situations.

Water and electricity

The infrastructure in Budiriro and across Zimbabwe is in a very poor state due to lack of investment by the government. The water supply to homes is sporadic and there can sometimes be several days without running water. The water that comes out of the taps in Budiriro is not fit for drinking as it is badly polluted. UNICEF sunk a number of boreholes a few years ago and these provide the main source of clean water for most people.

Budiriro also has regular planned power cuts in order to ration the use of electricity and I experienced a couple of these during my stay.

There are not regular rubbish collections by the local council so the only option is for people to pile up household waste along the roadside. This obviously presents a health hazard and risk of cholera etc.

Employment

Very few people are in full time formal employment other than those working in the public sector such as teachers, nurses, police, etc. Many people worked in the manufacturing industry but lost their jobs when factories closed as a result of the economic collapse a few years ago. Many people now live a hand to mouth existence as they try to make and sell whatever they can. Some earn a little from small scale agriculture or by making furniture or clothes and try to feed, clothe and support their families on this very meagre and unreliable income.

Corruption is an issue. Alois said it is widespread and common practice and is like a cancer which spreads and is difficult to stop unless you can cut it out at its source eg the government officials in most cases.

Recent developments

A referendum on a new constitution for Zimbabwe was held in March and voting took place in a relatively peaceful atmosphere. Alois said he thought that many people did not vote because they are now just tired and do not have confidence in the process. An election is expected to be held some time this year but there is no date fixed at the moment. Again Alois is not sure whether a big number will vote at the election, He thinks people will just ignore them because they don't want a repetition of the last election.

It may seem that progress has been very slow so far towards purchasing the land and building a new church but the congregation in Budiriro continue to hope that God will bring to completion the work that has been started.

Prayer Points
Please pray for the following:

  • That the election likely to take place this year will be free and peaceful.
  • Final approval for a plot of land for the congregation at Budiriro.
  • Elders at Budiriro
  • Opportunities for evangelism and growth in the congregation at Budiriro
  • New leaders to come forward from the congregation to share the work.

Please come and talk to me if you would like to know any more about my visit to Budiriro .