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Reflections from Zimbabwe

March 29, 2006

The following reflections were written by the Rev Majaha Nhliziyo, the Zimbabwe Synod Secretary of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa. Rev Nhliziyo is an International Board member of the Common Global Ministries Board.

In this report he offers a synopsis of the situation prevailing in Zimbabwe while at the same time he “offers a possible response and invites the rest of the UCCSA family to walk with us even closer as our valleys of the shadows of death seem to be getting deeper, longer and more intimidating.”

INTRODUCTION

As we take a look at the Synod of Zimbabwe through this report our prayer is that the Lord may:

Enter again into the wilderness of our world;
Into the places of hunger, doubt and imprisonment;
Where people are locked in their cells or themselves
And whole nations are trapped in war, oppression and debt.

This report is written from a context of the first week of Lent when the church marks the journey of our Lord Jesus to Jerusalem and to the cross. It reminds us that although the signs of suffering, hunger and death abound around us there is life after the cross and the empty tomb. It is also comforting to remember that our Lord Jesus Christ who walked the long journey from a hostile Samaritan village right up to Golgotha has given us the Holy Spirit to be our Comforter and Helper on our journey as a people of God. We need the presence of the comforter every step of the way especially as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

This report seeks to give a synopsis of our context and offers a possible response and invites the rest of the UCCSA family to walk with us even closer as our valleys of the shadows of death seem to be getting deeper, longer and more intimidating. Let us proceed to SEE, JUDGE and ACT.

I. SEE (seeing the valleys and shadows of death.)

The long tale of economic hardships engulfing our nation continues unabated. Inflation has proven completely elusive to contain. The fuel situation seems to be the engine room for the sky-high cost of living. The predominant black market suppliers charge for their fuel on the basis of black market foreign exchange rates. This high cost of fuel results in high cost of living. For employers paydays are the most haunting periods on the calendar. The church is not spared of the nightmares. There is a higher moral obligation to pay well but the capacity to deliver is just not there. If the hardships are bad for the employed they are worse for the retirees and the unemployed. In response many have left the country at first chance. One sees loss of hope when people leave their country in droves in search for survival. Unfortunately many fall victim to xenophobic abuse and sexual violation to mention only two of the evils that Zimbabwe economic refugees face. At home, split families are a common sight, thus exposing people to more temptation and disease. One shudders to consider the long-term effect on children raised without full parental participation.

The Valley of political stalemates.

Some would argue that the solution of our economic woes lies in finding a political solution. This may be a true observation but one that is very difficult to translate into reality. The political chasm between the major political parties is still wide and even more confusing. The church has always been seen as a potential peace broker but has so far failed to rise to her true stature. The situation continues to present itself again to the ecumenical movement to play a role for peace and find a political solution. As UCCSA Zimbabwe Synod we shall continue to engage our local ecumenical partners to strive for dialogue. In the final analysis it is the people who suffer from the resultant confusion and economic melt down. The Zimbabwean church leadership needs to unite and revisit the ministry of peace making.

The valley of spiritual and moral stagnation.

The problems we are experiencing in the socio-economic sector have resulted in a rapid decline in the moral spiritual values and practices of our people. The problems of corruption which are fueled by black economy activities are a symptom of a deeper moral problem. Greed, the desire for maximum gain in the shortest possible time is rampant as people chase money/ prestige, power and property, by any means possible. The newspapers often carry stories that indicate that we face the challenge of a deep spiritual crisis and calls for a metanoia and return to the Lord for the true meaning of life. In this sense the WCC 9th Assembly theme finds meaning as a prayer that God may transform the world. Our world has become a wilderness indeed and we need the guiding presence of the Lord to enter again into our wilderness and heal us.

II. JUDGE- Inspiring examples of faith.

Now that we have seen three of the valleys and wildernesses in which the Zimbabwe Synod finds itself in, let us, in the light of Scripture, seek to hear what the Lord is saying to us.

Habakkuk 1:1-2 “But the just shall live by faith”.

The experience of Habakkuk and his bewildering situation may shed light and hope for our socio-economic woes. Habakkuk looked at his situation and waited upon God to give an answer to his question on how one could live in those treacherous times of Babylonian oppression. He arrived at the answer that “the just shall live by faith”. Faith means an active trust that triumphs over all evil. His focus on the just or faithful shows that the call for “just-ness” and righteousness applies in all situations. Faith, Justice and Righteousness are values that should characterize our life even when we face the deep valleys of the shadows of death.

Mark 4:35-41 Peace be still.

The story of our Lord calming the storm when the boat was sinking in the sea of Galilee is quite pertinent for us today.

Here, as with Habakkuk’s story, the theme of faith is key to the outcome. Jesus challenges us with the words: Where is your faith? He asked the question when he had just calmed a life-threatening storm, Peace be still!

A faithful response to a challenging situation is a practical engagement of the Lord: “Master don’t you care if we perish?” The master cares and calls the disciples to a faithful involvement in the drama of salvation. May we draw inspiration from this story and show our faith by what we do.

Luke 8:43-48 “Daughter your faith has made you well, Go in peace”.

The story of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment is a tale of courage in the face of a desperate situation. The woman, unnamed as she is, somehow knew that it was her only chance and had to find a way to touch Jesus and be healed of her problem. She knew the urgency of her crisis and decided to seize her only chance for healing. This was her kairos. It was her responsibility to push her way right up to Jesus. It was a touch of healing faith. We have in her story the triumph of sheer courage, conviction and determination to solve a problem. She had to show her faith by what she could d

III. ACT -The proposal for the Zimbabwe Synod

Having done the see-judge stages we must now attend to the Action.We have alluded to the response of showing our faith by what we do in the stories of Habakkuk, the Disciples and the unnamed Woman.

Certain principles and values are needed to guide our action in response to what we have seen and judged in the light of scripture:

Faith- A practical expression of faith in the salvation of the Lord.

Unity- A united approach, which engages the leadership and guidance of the Zimbabwe  Synod as the people on the hot spot.

Hope- Our living hope assures us that the Lord will never abandon us, even when we walk through the deepest valley of the darkest shadow of death the Lord is still with us and sustains us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Justice and Righteousness- The values of justice and righteousness should define the  Character of the church and the nature of its interventions & Ministries.

As a synod we are calling for your support in the development of our capacity to respond in a faithful and practical way to the challenges of our time.

In practical terms we have over 3500 hectares of land resource capable of good cattle ranching up to 800 herd, an intensive piggery and poultry farming; a capacity for own grain production for human and stock needs, a human skills resource base.

We need help in transforming all this potential into reality, especially by:

  • commercializing our marketing strategies for our products;
  • improving the water resource base for expanded activity in crop and animal production;
  • acquiring tillage implements.

When these have been acquired then the goal of a sustainable mission programme will be achievable. As a church we exist for the mission of God and mission has a necessary step of planning and mobilizing resources. And this is the stage where we are: resource mobilization to meet the urgent need of the Lord’s business.

While resources are being mobilized mission action needs to continue. Our focus is on the following:

  • Building a durable faith base among the people to live by faith even in the most difficult times,
  • To engage in social analysis and to read the signs of the times and to know our kairos,
  • To read the Bible, worship, pray and engage other spiritual disciplines that will bring us closer to the Lord,
  • To share stories of pain, struggle and victory over forces like poverty, HIV-AIDS and ignorance,
  • Opening up new frontiers for mission and evangelism as well as consolidating the existing ones,
  • To engage all socio-economic and political structures that have a bearing on the quality and fullness of life for the people.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we re-iterate our thanks for your visit and presence with us at this critical point of our journey in mission and history.

We shall surely revisit our raison d’etre, our calling and purpose for existence as a church. God has many things that are still to be done through us if we remain faithfull to the gospel calling.

The road may be hard but the victory will be sweeter since we shall be enabled by the Holy Spirit to fulfill our calling.



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