Taurai Mhishi has been in a wheelchair for the past 34 years, but his disability hasn’t stopped him from serving his church.
On a recent morning, Mhishi labored to get out of his wheelchair to clear the church grounds at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Harare. The church is making space for a parking lot.
His gesture of servanthood has been contagious at the church, said Charlotte Phillips, St. Paul connectional ministries chairperson, noting that servant leaders focus on others, not themselves. “This is true humility,” she said.
Mhishi said that that even though he does not have money to contribute toward church activities, he still can offer his service to the Lord.
“I do not go to work and do not have money to contribute, but I thank God for the hands I can use to do something in the house of the Lord,” said Mhishi. “It pained me to pass by seeing the ground in need of clearing.”
Zimbabwe is deep in the throes of a severe economic crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation, and erratic weather patterns have affected crops. Prices of goods are rising fast, and cash and foreign currency continue to be in short supply.
The pandemic also has led to reduced salaries and job losses for many.
Phillips said servants are making a difference during these difficult times.
“They do not insist on recognition and they do not wrap themselves in robes of superiority. Servants find status symbols unnecessary and they never measure their worth by their achievements,” she said.
The Rev. Happy Chirara of the Macheke United Methodist Church circuit said servant leaders “offer their time, energy, skills and resources proceeding from choice or free will.”
Those who give are rewarded with blessings, said Andrew Chigudu, Harare East District building and location chairperson.
“The more we give, the more God sustains us. He blesses us so that we can be a means of blessing, a channel to bless others. But if we are selfish, God will cut off the supply and entrust it to others,” he said.
Chigudu, a town planner, has developed church architectural designs for three churches in the Harare East District and several designs for pastors’ retirement homes. He did the work free of charge.
“It is important to partner with the church and make some critical contribution to the church, particularly to your profession. Members can contribute skills and energy to support the church in ministry,” Chigudu said.
Charity Njagu, an events manager and member of St. Paul, offered her time and expertise in arranging decorations for church events free of charge.
“I was born in The United Methodist Church. As a child of God, this is my way of contributing toward the growth and ministry of the church,” she said.
“I entirely served my church wholeheartedly from the time I was still a youth to date. I always put God first each time I play with the spoon. I did not keep the knowledge to myself, but I went as far as training waitresses, waiters and chefs who are employed in hotels, resorts and restaurants dotted around the country and out of the country, all free of charge,” he said.
Rennie Katai, 74, has been serving the elderly, sacrificing her car to ferry seniors in Mbare for church activities. She has been giving secret gifts to many in need through the financial help she gets from her children.
Katai is now at retirement age herself.
“The Holy Spirit inspires me to help others in need,” she said. “I love the Lord and find joy in helping people, meeting the needs of others and responding to God’s call to action.”
Phillips said servant leaders aren’t looking to be the center of attention.
“The ultimate goal of servanthood is to win many souls to Christ through our examples as servants of the Lord. It includes showing the love of God through our actions by providing food, shelter and compassion to those in need,” she said.
Chirara said servant leadership can lead to social-political and economic change outside the church.
“Only those with a servant heart in Zimbabwe can be game changers. … Servants are there to serve their masses and not to serve their own interests.”
Servant leadership also lessens the burden on church resources.
Robert Kaisi, finance chairperson for St. Paul United Methodist Church, explained that the church is facing financial challenges due to the pandemic. Restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus are having a drastic effect on churches’ income, he said.
“There was a substantial drop in church incomes, which usually would come through tithes, offerings and thanksgiving,” said Kaisi. “Some members, though fewer, continued to remit mainly their tithes through mobile banking, transfers and cash.”
According to Katai, people’s skills and talents are gifts from the Lord given for a purpose.
“As Christians, we can work hard without focusing on remuneration. This is because we know that God can reward us beyond our current job,” she said.
She believes God has resources far greater than any company can offer, and we are to embrace the spirit of servanthood and sacrifice.
“Our God is well connected. If you are faithful at your workplace, the Lord who knows your needs and wants will take care of you in another way,” she said.
Phillips encouraged church members to remain loyal during challenging times.
“If you are faithful, God may promote you by giving you an idea or by giving you confidence to start something new or make you stand out to another employer who will pursue you and offer you a better job or just meet you at the point of need in life,” she said.
Muzerengwa is a communicator for the Zimbabwe East Conference.
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