In Zimbabwe, self-help projects spark evangelism

Since May, the Chibuwe Rimbi United Methodist Church Circuit in the Zimbabwe East Conference has won 32 converts in the Mahenye community.

Mahenye is situated near the border of Mozambique in the Chimanimani Chipinge District, within the Gonarezhou National Park Area.

The Rev. Sophrina Sign, district connectional ministries director, described the Mahenye community as patriarchal and “very cultural, with a very strong African tradition.”

Working primarily with Gulf Breeze (Florida) United Methodist Church, said the Rev. Jonathan Ndaramwi, “we have drilled 45 boreholes” and provided electricity for staff houses and the school. “These have become evangelism tools to win souls to Christ and improve lives.” Ndaramwi is senior pastor of the Chibuwe Rimbi Circuit.

In search of potential converts, Ndaramwi called on 37 families. “It was tough,” he admitted, “because of the language barrier. Shangaan is their language.”

He prayed with the chief and several sub-chiefs and visited homes of elderly people “who received food aid and have one room built by brick blocks through funds from Gulf Breeze,” he said. “A motorcycle, driven by new convert Darvy Chauke, was our mode of transport.”

They visited and prayed at all the projects — water, livestock (cattle and goats) — that Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church has helped to provide.

“We have successfully helped fund pastors to start new United Methodist congregations in Mahenye and Benzi/Devure West areas,” said George Hulme, Gulf Breeze manager for the Zimbabwe projects.

Three Florida United Methodist churches (Gulf Breeze, Community Life and St. James) fund practical self-help projects for disadvantaged communities in the Save Valley of Zimbabwe.

In November, Hulme and the Rev. Stephen Jeyacheya, Chimanimani District superintendent, gave 50 Bibles and hymnbooks to the new converts.

“You can find only one primary school and a clinic, which was built recently and supported by well-wishers, including the church and government,” Sign said. “Most girls are not allowed to further their education, which leads to early childhood marriage.”

Sarudzai Chenyika, Mahenye United Methodist Church’s first lay leader and a primary school teacher, expressed hope for the congregation’s growth “as we welcome new members each week.

“Old age dominates the community, and they need interpretation as most people (speak) Shangani.”

“With Gulf Breeze UMC,” said the Rev. Lloyd Marange, acting superintendent of the Chimanimani Chipinge District, “we managed to bring development through the electrification of the school and teachers’ houses, and drilling of boreholes to provide the community with safe water. Recently, $1,500 was donated to purchase 18 school desks.”

Hulme said 100 goats were purchased for an orphans’ project initiated at Mahenye. Each orphan received a goat.

“Our agreement with the beneficiaries,” he noted, “is that they return the first female progeny from their goat to the project, where it is then allocated to a new orphan beneficiary. The original female goat and all other progeny remain the property of the first beneficiary.

“The project is self-sustaining and grows rapidly. We find that beneficiaries are already selling progeny, once they have fulfilled their initial commitment, to help purchase school uniforms and supplies and pay school fees.”

A cattle project at Mahenye, Hulme said, is nearly self-sustaining. The community relies almost solely on raising livestock for survival, so the cattle initiative is extremely important.

Sign said additional pastors are needed to visit people in the community, baptize new converts, organize crusades and teach God’s word.

Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, Zimbabwe Episcopal Area, called the Mahenya Preaching Point

“an oasis of gospel channeled by The United Methodist Church.”

Despite the challenges, he continued, “here we are. We are reaching out, irrespective of what language people speak. Our people are working with them; we have the Shangani who speak Shona and English.”

A goal is to translate literature and hymnals so more people will understand the Gospel.

“We can’t give them a typical Shona or Ndebele hymnal. We can see how much of the Bible they can read because we do have in Chipinge languages a bit closer to them, and … some Biblical translation (has) been done.”

Nhiwatiwa said he invited himself to the area “as a way of showing sincere and in-depth appreciation of their being there.”

Kumuterera is a communicator with the Zimbabwe West Conference.

News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests

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