A retired couple from South Dakota have found a mission focus in helping their United Methodist sisters and brothers in Zimbabwe. Their labor of love has led to deep admiration.
“Zimbabwean people are faithful and content in spite of difficult political and economic circumstances because they depend on their faith during tough times,” Arvid Liebe said. “They are a resilient people who love and care for each other.”
Liebe, a retired pharmacist, and Janet Liebe, a retired teacher, are members of Central United Methodist Church in Milbank, South Dakota. Eleven years ago, they first traveled to Mutambara Mission, a United Methodist institution in Mutare, to help build an eye clinic.
Today, the Liebes are focusing on the mission’s farm, schools, hospital and church, and they’ve involved teams from their home church to assist the mission and build relationships with leaders in Zimbabwe.
“Arvid and Janet developed an interest in the activities we were doing as a school, particularly in the area of trying to put the farm back to use,” said Forgiveness Chawareerwa, mission headmaster.
“They helped us with farm equipment that includes a 4020 John Deere tractor, a wagon with hoist, a planter, a corn cultivator, a fertilizer spreader, a loader, a Farmall tractor and a grain drill.”
The Liebes also assisted with procuring medical equipment and school computers, furniture and art supplies and constructed a farm shade under which the equipment is kept, he noted.
“Transporting a complete line of farm equipment through shipping containers has been a major project,” Arvid Liebe said. “Our idea was to continue educating leaders at the mission about farm production and current practices that increase production of grain.
“We anticipate farmers from our home community in South Dakota traveling to Mutambara to learn about farming in Zimbabwe, and hopefully, farm managers from Mutambara will have the opportunity to visit farms in South Dakota to learn about farming practices.”
Justice Chakanaka Nyakunu, Mutambara farm manager, said the farm is providing food for students and livestock.
“We are supplying to the mission boarding schools beef and milk from the crossbreed herd of cattle, pork from the piggery and poultry layers and broilers,” he said. “We have 33 cattle now from the 57 we had last year.” The school development committee bought the herd.
“Currently, 1.5 hectares (four acres) of wheat is at production stage,” Nyacuna added. Most is sold to the Grain Marketing Board to generate income for the school.
“Arvid and Janet’s affection of Mutambara Mission is so strong,” said mission physician Dr. Emmanuel Ufonna Mefor. They “helped in the initial free feeding of the pregnant women in the mothers’ shelter (and) completion of the hospital canteen.”
The couple also recently worked on building a guesthouse at the mission.
“(It) was a major project that impressed us,” Arvid Liebe said. “It provided an opportunity to work with many local people, and we learned a great deal about construction in Zimbabwe.”
The guesthouse provides lodging for U.S. mission teams as well as Zimbabwean visitors and generates income for the mission through guest fees.
The Rev. Lloyd Marange, mission station chair, said the Liebes aided the mission by establishing a fuel station that supplied fuel to the mission and the local community.
“It eased operations for the mission and the Mutambara community,” he said.
Marange said more than 25 people from the Liebes’ church in South Dakota also have visited the mission to learn more.
“Education is very important in Zimbabwe” said Janet Liebe. “The school programs have impressed me. Educators from Milbank, South Dakota, have experienced classrooms at Mutambara Mission. We have benefited immensely through self-actualization as we are aware of our great potential to do more in church ministry.”
In the future, educators from Mutambara could experience and learn about school programs by visiting South Dakota.
The Rev. Stephen Jeyacheya, Chimanimani-Chipinge District superintendent, said the couple have done a lot for the mission, including donating internet connection for the district.
“We have witnessed the Liebes’ love to the Mutambara Mission,” he said.
Kumuterera is a communicator with the Zimbabwe West Conference.
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