Twenty years ago, the Rev. Abiot Moyo left his home in Zimbabwe to serve a United Methodist congregation in the United States. At Maynard United Methodist Church in Massachusetts, parishioner Bill Booth handed Moyo $800 to use as he saw fit.
“A voice inside me echoed, ‘Help the needy,’” Moyo recalled. “I donated the money to a widow, a member of Rugare United Methodist Church in Harare.”
He then shared his story with U.S. churches, telling members the money had offered “hope to the widow in paying tuition fees for her grandchildren.”
Inspired by Moyo’s account, congregations of many faiths in the community, as well as individuals, decided to raise money to pay tuition fees for more than 100 African students. Each student would have an individual sponsor who would pay for the child’s education until graduation.
That marked the beginning of the Balm in Gilead Ministry, popularly known as “BigM.”
“My involvement unexpectedly began when I was an adjunct professor at the Bethel Seminary of the East in Auburn, Massachusetts, remembered the Rev. John Lindsay, BigM board chair.
“Donors through BigM,” he said, “funded building projects for the construction (in Zimbabwe) of Budiriro United Methodist Church, Chingwere Mhondoro United Methodist Circuit, Mount Jenya United Methodist parsonage and Mukubva United Methodist Church.”
Over two decades, BigM has helped students pay for their schooling — including college and university degrees — in Zimbabwe. But that’s not all. BigM has provided toys for children and purchased bicycles for pastors, and it supports newly ordained United Methodist pastors in the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area with a gift of a study Bible with a case and $10.
Recently, Moyo, now pastor of Harbour United Methodist Church in Scituate, Massachusetts, met 12 beneficiaries of the ministry in Harare.
Percy Musiiwa, now 27, joined BigM as a young teenager. “It has been a big part of my life (and) helped me to be what I am today,” he said. He graduated with a degree in statistical science.
“Coming from a background of poverty, Dr. Moyo brought a big relief to my mother, a widow,” Musiiwa said. Today the young man teaches mathematics in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and aspires to become a data analyst or a business analyst.
Shingirai Nyakabau, a coordinator for the Shining Stars albino ministry, said he realized his dream and passion when, thanks to BigM’s generosity, he was able to earn an advanced diploma in hospitality management.
Crediting BigM with transforming the lives of him and his twin brother, Brighton Moyo said he is working toward a bachelor of commerce honors degree in finance.
Melisa Dongo, a student at Hartzell High United Methodist mission school, said, “BigM has changed my life. I shall work hard in my studies.
“Whenever I think of BigM’s love,” she added, “I visit Old Mutare United Methodist Fairfield Children’s Home” to share that love.
Lindsay, now retired, carries memories of Zimbabwe in his heart. “I am privileged to have been of some small support to those whom I fell in love with in the Lord when I was there,” he said.
During his visit, Moyo advised the students, “Do good, study and inspire others.”
The Rev. Alan Masimba Gurupira, assistant to Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, said, “The greatest gift you can give to your sponsors is to do well, have good moral values, see the future and remember to help others as you tell your story.”
Kumuterera is a communicator for the Zimbabwe West Conference.
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