More than 100 United Methodists embarked on a cleanup campaign June 6 in the sleepy rural center of Murombedzi.
“The UMC mission is about action, hence the current quadrennium theme which tells us to go,” said Pastor Taurai Emmanuel Maforo, who shepherds the Murombedzi flock. The town is located 100 kilometers northwest of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital.
“We should go and clean our environment as we cannot be well-dressed and live in a dirty place,” he told the volunteers drawn from the congregations of Murombedzi and Harare Inner City United Methodist churches. Joining the effort were Zimbabwe government authorities and environmentalists.
Scores of people concerned by the indiscriminate disposal of garbage at the rural center spent three hours picking up litter, sweeping the road curbs and clearing an informal dumpsite created by residents on the outskirts of Murombedzi.
Women swept the dirt roads and picked rubbish while the men, led by pastors Maforo and Stewart Mawoko, armed themselves with shovels and rakes and braved the smelly dumpsite.
Maforo said the church was concerned about the high levels of pollution and decided to enlist the assistance of the Harare Inner City congregation in the exercise.
Free dental service offered
To further promote cleanliness, the United Methodist Church Dental Clinic spent the day teaching about oral hygiene and providing free dental services to residents of Murombedzi.
“Our mouths must be friendly, so go and get your teeth checked and cleaned as part of The United Methodist Church in action at Murombedzi,” said Maforo.
The outreach team of three dentists and two dental assistants offered oral examinations and treatment to about 80 clients.
Persistance Mare said the makeshift outreach clinic — located in a vacant room at a local college — sufficed to perform general dental checkups and simple tooth extractions.
“Some clients requiring more complex treatment, such as extraction of wisdom teeth, were referred to the dental clinic in Harare since we brought limited equipment. The referred people will not be charged for services done at the main clinic,” Mare explained.
Due to the high costs of dental care, he said, most people do not seek attention early and usually go to the dentist when their teeth are badly decayed and need removal. Consultations cost $20, while procedures range from $30 for simple fillings and extractions for patients who do not have medical insurance.
“We were educating people to go for regular dental check ups every six months even when they do not have any problems,” he said.
Councillor Kizito Chamunorwa, who represented the Zvimba Rural District Council, commended The United Methodist Church on behalf of the local authority.
“I have been councillor for this area for three terms but I have never witnessed such an event,” he said. “We have many churches in Murombedzi, but the UMC is the first to show residents how to maintain the environment.”
He said he also was amazed by the commitment and high level of professional skill displayed the dental clinic. “I was surprised to see some people eating soon after having their problem teeth extracted. Normally people experience pain after such procedures but the UMC treatment was different.”
Praise from environmental agency
Munyaradzi Nhariswa, environmental education and publicity officer for the Enviromental Management Agency commended the church for the successful cleaning exercise.
Nhariswa said the agency was concerned by the litter at Murombedzi and urged the local council to continue the work started by United Methodists, warning that indiscriminate disposal of litter could cause cholera.
“At EMA, one of our core values is stakeholder participation and the example set by the UMC fits perfectly with our vision,” he said.
After the clean-up campaign, Maforo presented four metal litter bins to the local council. Fruit and vegetable vendors at the center could not hide their joy and joined church members in song and dance.
Mawoko, the pastor from Harare, said he was impressed with the commitment of church members. “This is exactly what the church should do – to balance the theological aspect with helping the communities.”
Maforo said the clean up and dental outreach were a practical response to the needs of the community. “The church must be relevant in the community which it exists, and cleaning the environment was in line with UMC social principles and our millennium development goals.”
The activities were a build-up to an open-air crusade to be held at Murombedzi Grounds June 15 – 21 under the theme, “Jesus is the permanent solution,” which is drawn from Luke 5:17–26.
Chikwanah is a communicator of the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference.
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