Bridge provides lifeline for Chitora community

Octogenarian Keresia Muzaruwetu from Nyamana village carefully minced her steps toward the newly completed Chitora-Gwarada Bridge with eyes cast on the eastern end of the bridge. For more than a decade, Muzaruwetu could not walk across this bridge. Cyclone Eline had ravaged eastern Zimbabwe and Mozambique in 2000.

Bridge rehabilitation finished in record time – starting in November 2014 and completing in April 2015.

Muzaruwetu is one of scores of villagers who thronged to witness the dedication of the Chitora-Gwarada Bridge by the Zimbabwe Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa on April 25, 2014. Gwarada is a village in Chitora, located in southern Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe, some 56 kilometers (35 miles) from the provincial capital, Mutare.

“This is the first ever bridge project by the United Methodist Chabadza Community Development Program,” said the Rev. Lloyd Nyarota, program director.

The Chitora Gwarada Bridge, built by the government in 1992, improved transport networking, trading, market linkages and easy access to the social systems of the community. Eight years later, Cyclone Eline struck the Chitora community, leaving a trail of destruction.

Immediately, nine village communities lost connection to essential services. Because of damage to the western part of the bridge, children and sick and pregnant women had to travel 10 kilometers instead of fewer than four to school and the clinic. The rehabilitation of the bridge has brought life back to normalcy.

“In doing such activities as a church,” Nhiwatiwa said, “we are practicing what John Wesley would call ‘social holiness.’” He applauded the transformation of community life through Chabadza projects.

Be sure to add the alt. text

Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa has maintained the practice of planting a tree at every dedication event. Photo by Taurai Emmanuel Maforo.

 

 

‘A miracle waiting to happen’

Following repeated and unsuccessful attempts by the community to engage local authorities to repair the bridge, the community learned of the Chabadza Community Development Program.

The Chitora Gwarada Bridge project was completed successfully through the Norway-Chabadza Development project office in Mutare and the Chitora community. The Mutare Rural District Council provided technical support. This was the bishop’s 16th project to dedicate.

Community involvement amounted to providing all locally available materials – 32 loads of stones, 24 loads of river sand and 45 wheelbarrows of gravel. The Chabadza Community Development Program supported with materials worth $16,000.

Muzaruwetu described the bridge completion as “a miracle waiting to happen.”

“I thought I will never live to see this day, but when [The United Methodist Church] came in November, we were just praying for this day to come,” she said.

“Unbelievable!” she exclaimed. Her face beamed as she looked at the bridge’s concrete surface. She staggered to get balance from her staff in her right hand and continued to move stealthily. Midway, she came to a shaky halt and stretched her hand toward me to help her cross the bridge.

In 2009, the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area and the Norway Annual Conference established a partnership that extends support to communities.

Nhiwatiwa’s Chabadza Initiative created a paradigm shift in the way the denomination handles mission work – a radical departure from the traditional missionary approach where communities were recipients. Today the church and communities are both partners and participants.

*Taurai Emmanuel Maforo lives in Mutare, Zimbabwe.


Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

UMNEWS-SUBSCRIPTION
Social Concerns
Demonstrators carry placards during a march against xenophobia in Johannesburg in 2015. Xenophobia — fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners — continues to be widespread in South Africa, where harassment and violence against African and Asian non-nationals are routine and sometimes lethal, according to Human Rights Watch. File photo by Mike Hutchings, Reuters.

Church takes on xenophobia in South Africa

In collaboration with the Council of Churches of South Africa, United Methodists are educating young people about xenophobic attacks and the meaning of being “foreign.”
Disaster Relief
UM News is the official news gathering agency of the 13-million member United Methodist Church. Map courtesy of Pixabay; graphic by UM News.

Alert: Bishop calls for prayers as volcano erupts in DRC

More than 5,000 United Methodists are fleeing Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, in the wake of a volcano. Bishop Gabriel Unda asks for prayers.
General Church
The Rev. Dr. Jean Claude Masuka Maleka. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Is church separation a good or bad idea?

Separation in the church could affect Africa more than any other continent, and United Methodists must work to keep the unity of the Body of Christ.