Moving her fingers cautiously over the raised dots on the page, 16-year-old Laura Muzambi sings a song from the hymnal for the first time.
Zimbabwe Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa presented the first ever Braille hymnal in Shona to Muzambi, who is blind. The hymn book was produced in response to resolutions passed in the two annual conferences held in the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area in 2014.
“Let us continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ by making the church relevant to the world,” Nhiwatiwa said as he handed over the book. “You have a blessed future and your passion for singing will not go to waste.”
Churches in Zimbabwe are beginning to give worshippers printed material such as order of service, announcements, hymns of the day, Bible readings and the church newsletter. And other churches are using projectors and screens.
“All this is bringing a challenge of isolation and disconnectedness for the visually impaired,” Laura Muzambi said. “It was difficult for me to participate fully in the church service without a hymn book. Now I will be able to sing UMC hymns with others in church.”
Persistence paid off
Her mother, Vernamay Muzambi, was not easily discouraged and persisted in searching for a
Braille hymnal for her daughter so she could sing with others. Eventually, the Zimbabwe East and West Conferences resolved to produce a Braille hymnal in Shona, the first language of many in Zimbabwe.
The hymnal is a spiral-bound, two-volume set with 27 lines on each page.
“This is the starting point. We will ask for reviews and add the responsive reading in the next edition,” said the Rev. Gift Machinga, Zimbabwe East Board of Discipleship chairman. “We will work on getting more Christian material into Braille.”
The new hymn book cost $350 U.S. and was sponsored by United Methodist Discipleship Ministries. Subsequent copies will cost $60 U.S. and will be sold for cost. The church will produce the first 50 copies for children at the Mutambara and Murehwa mission centers.
Connectional Ministries is making an effort to nurture the spiritual lives of all members with disabilities so that they become professing and active members of the church.
The Ministry with Women, Youth and Children conference committee has just embarked on a series of sign language workshops at the Nyadire Mission and St. John Chikanga United Methodist Church. These workshops target students, teachers, nurses, youths and parents so that they can communicate with the hearing impaired within their communities.
Muzerengwa is a communicator for Zimbabwe East Annual Conference.
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