I was hungry… I was thirsty: Drum majorettes to greet us in the Diocese of Masvingo

We arrived in Masvingo Diocese and were warmly greeted by Bishop Godfrey and his wife Albertina and by many of the people with whom we were to meet during our brief visit.   There were the six Archdeacons of the Diocese (except not all of them had quite made it at that stage because of the roads) and the ordinands who are taught day by day at the Cathedral as well as those who worked around the Cathedral.

We had come now to expect that the tables and chairs would be draped in white shiny material and coloured bows and this was no exception as the hall was all draped in cloth and yellow sashes.   It makes ordinary garden chairs look much more interesting and brings colour and life to the room.

It is quite an amazing sight to see this wherever we went.

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But at this first meal in Masvingo I was even more surprised to see a full tea service in fine white china with the MU logo on it. I thought it would be a fun thing to have back in the Bishop’s office at home and also how much it continues to tell us about the importance of the MU in the life of the Dioceses in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa.

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During our stay in Masvingo we were pleased to be able to visit the Daramombe Mission, which, like other Mission stations, is a lot more than just a school.  It isn’t often that one gets met by drum majorettes who have been standing in the sun waiting for you and who then lead you into the place you are about to visit.  Well that’s what happened when the Bishop, Dean and Archdeacon of Southwark and I arrived at Daramombe Mission.   It was quite amazing to see the lines of young women waiting and then marching in front of us with their batons and leading us in.   They waited in line – heads down at every place we visited – except during the school assembly of which they were a part.   We marvelled at their ability to be so still for so long in the sun!

 

Daramombe is an amazing school.  It is large and residential for most pupils and the grounds and classrooms are well kept and clean.  But, the school is not content with where they are and is busy building new classrooms and living areas which we were able to see.  There is to be a new space for computers and new and fully equipped rooms for different teaching subjects.  These are sturdily and well built and are nearing completion.

Schools such as Daramombe are so important in Zimbabwe because here future generations of leaders are educated and learn how to be leaders for the future.  Many of them go off to university and many of these are abroad and it is always hard to know whether those who have left will return in order to help make the future of their country, or whether they will choose to stay out of the country where life is definitely likely to be easier.  We spoke to students whose hopes were high but few of them talked of further education in Zimbabwe and this is a cause of real anxiety because where will the leaders of the future come from if those who can achieve university places leave and do not return.

As we were led into the school we went into an assembly.  Sadly, as ever, we were a little late and the students had been waiting a long time.  The hall is huge and was very full and hot but the students had waited patiently for us and stood as we arrived.

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Introductions followed and then the choir sang.

They were absolutely amazing and were led by Fr Fungayi Nyandoro. The Bishop and I had met him at the Shearley Cripps festival in 2015 when he was newly returned to Zimbabwe from South Africa and then he had been at St George’s Jerusalem with the Dean and I.  He is a truly inspirational character.  What we had not known when we met him in Jerusalem was that he is a brilliant musician as the choir’s performance showed.  He is also a wonderful advert for the religious life as he is so full of fun and energy and faith.   He is Chaplain to the school as well as the rector of the parish in which the school stands and the Vicar General.

Daramombe had been occupied by those aligned to the deposed Bishop Nolbert Kunogna and, as with other places in Zimbabwe, the are differences to be healed still but this Mission station provides so much for the pupils who study there and for the people around it that there is little doubt that such things will be overcome to ensure the best for all those in the area.

Food security is important here too and so the Diocese makes sure that the food necessary can be provided and helps the parish as well as the school to be able to grow and rear enough or to be supplied with enough that the students and teachers can have sufficient to be able to learn and teach properly.  Many see a good education as the way forward and without a doubt Daramombe Mission tries to provide that for the children in its care.

But, it is not just DARAMOMBE.  There are 6 Secondary Schools, 1 High School and 8 Primary schools located in the various Districts and Provinces within the Diocese of Masvingo.  The Education departments sees its vision in words expressed in Provers 22:6 – ‘Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.’

Having seen some of the other schools here in Masvingo and and others around the Dioceses few can doubt that they work very hard to ensure that their students get the best of possible starts.

That’s partly why food is so important and why the Diocese of Masvingo has, with the help of its Link, Southwark Cathedral, provided food programmes in lots of their schools to ensure that the children have eaten enough to both get to school and to learn.   There will be more about that on our next blog on Wednesday.

 

 

 

I was hungry… I was thirsty: Crops, schools and very, very potholed roads in the Diocese of Manicaland

The Umoja project is such a good one but that is not all that the Diocese is doing to try to ensure that people have food security and that they are properly educated.  After a Eucharist and welcome at the Cathedral in Mutare we journeyed off to visit schools and projects in the Diocese.

There is so much to see and experience in such a large Diocese as Manicaland that we spent a lot of time journeying and learning all about the effects of rain on untarmaced roads.   One journey of 31 kilometres off the main road took so much longer than it would normally have done to because the rains had made the roads so potholed and full of rain and puddles, and the vehicle which Ron had borrowed from the Malaria project struggled a bit at times.

We saw Holy Family Junior School where the head teacher had been to visit schools in the UK and spoke about the things that she had learned and took back form the visit and implemented in her school.  They are moving towards offering more boarding places and building new accommodation blocks.

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The Headteacher of Holy Family Junior School introduces Bishop Christopher to pupils

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Building work at the school

From there we visited another maize project at St Mary Magdalene School at the St Mary’s Mission.  The maize project is on some of the Schools land and suffered from the rains.  One half of the crop is much more grown than the other as one half had to be replanted as the rains washed it away.  Here they are not yet using the Farming God’s Way method and have used tractors and ploughs to clear the land and were spraying the crops when we arrived.  As the project leader explained this was the first year that the land had been cultivated and so it seemed good to use machinery to make sure that the land was properly prepared and that was hard work which needed the help of machinery.   They will see if they can farm in another way in future years.

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Then see if you can add in here a small clip probably from the beginning of the video which talks about the different types of maize.  There is 9 minutes worth and after the first 10 seconds or so there is the explanation of seeds but see what works.

From St Mary’s the Bishop went off to see the Bonda Mission Hospital and to meet with Archdeacon Luke Chigwanda, who had been ordained in the Diocese of Southwark, and The Dean, the Archdeacon of Southwark and I went to Penhalonga Mission.   The Dean had very much wanted to visit this Mission as it is associated with the Mirfield Fathers and he had trained for the priesthood at Mirfield.

St Augustine’s Church there is absolutely magnificent and the school and the grounds are wonderful.  They are so well kept and look beautiful.   We were in the church just before a service was to start and some of the boys and girl had gone into the church early in order to pray and to prepare.  It was really rather moving to see their devotion and faithfulness.

We were also able to meet with the Sisters there who run the orphanage and who worked so hard through the many difficult times that they faced when the Mission was taken over.   We were able to say a prayer with them, and to spend a little time before having a quick look around this wonderful place, and then it was back to Mutare in time for Evening Prayer and a braii (an African BBQ).

We had a brief amount of time in Manicaland before moving onto Harare the next morning and on our travels we didn’t get to interview Bishop Erick about his hopes for the Diocese.

However, last weekend Bishop Erick and his wife were able to travel to the UK for the consecration of Bishop Karowei who is the Bishop of their Link Diocese of Woolwich.  Whilst he was here Bishop Christopher asked him about how things were in the Diocese and what they were working towards.

Manicaland, just like the other Dioceses in Zimbabwe still has many challenges to face as they continue to grow and work together under Bishop Erick’s leadership but they are not downhearted and are clear that, with God’s help, they will ensure the best of possible futures for their Diocese and their people

I was hungry… I was thirsty: Stories of crops, cows and chickens

We arrived at the Diocesan Offices in Bulawayo which is quite near to the Cathedral in the mid- afternoon and we were swiftly led to the Umoja project at St Joseph’s Mrehwa.   The project is lead locally by Selina who is a single mother with a grown child.   We were greeted by a group who were from the local church and from the Umoja/HIV project.  The group was mostly women and as is often the case it was soon clear that the women are motivated and eager to change their circumstances and the circumstances of those around them.

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The Umoja/ HIV project works on two related issues simultaneously.   People in each village are trained to help people to live with HIV/AIDS and to deal with the illness and try to prevent its spread, and there is a great deal of encouragement and help in order to ensure that crops are produced and dried and stored for the dry seasons as well as, where possible, sold in markets or by the women themselves as small vendors or to the local churches.

The crops produced and dried were really impressive.   We saw some fresh vegetables and some dried ones but we also saw that some of the produce had been used to make nutritious snacks for people.   Selina explained to us that the grounds nuts and produce such as mbwirembwire which is Shona for a food made from roasted dry maize grains, ground into a flour with a little salt given in small quantities will help a child to go to school without feeling hungry and to last until they can come home.  This ensures that they can continue to their education even when things are very difficult around the country which is excellent for their future and the future of the country.

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The Umoja project is brilliant in that it offers help to people in villages and outlying areas to ensure that the farm in an ecologically sustainable way and raise crops which can cope with the difficulties of the weather: when there is too much or too little water.  It provides food for the family and for the villagers but it also provides a way of generating some income for those who grow and make things.

And it is not just crops and  handiwork – those involved in the projects raise chickens, as do so many around Zimbabwe.  I was amazed just how quickly the chickens grow and are ready to eat.   Here are some which are just a day old:

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They are given food and water and supplements and soon they grow to be big enough to eat.

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And, as well as chickens there are sometimes cattle who can provide milk and meat for the villagers.

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Life is not easy and cooking is often outside and facilities are few.

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But the work that the Umoja project does ensures that people have a chance to eat and to make something of a loving and to feel that they are empowered to help themselves.   I was really struck by the fact that the women said that they did not ever sit and do nothing – they were always cooking or planting or doing handicrafts because in this way they could provide for their families.

However, once the crops are grown and the nutritious snacks made or the fruit dried, one of the issues is how they get to sell it.   It is complicated because there needs to be sufficient production for markets to be found and sustained but as you will see from this video clip Ron Lumbiwa, who is the Projects Officer for the Diocese of Matabeleland and who we have been privileged to have as a driver and guide on our journeys around Zimbabwe, who is usually mild mannered and quiet, is passionate about the need for markets in order for subsistence farming to become more than that – and the people listening responded enthusiastically when Ron’s words were translated into Shona.

In order for life to change for people in Zimbabwe they really need to learn again to farm on a bigger scale and to be able to feed themselves and then others in the continent.  But it is so hard to see how this can happen when very often it is a huge effort to feed just your own family.   Life is so restricted and hand to mouth in Zimbabwe that I find it hard to see how people can be as positive and resilient as they are.  But they are – they work tirelessly to make sure that people have enough and that the next generation is prepared through education and in their faith to take on the daily challenges of living in such a rich and yet fragmented and suffering land.

More than anything else it never ceases to amaze me that the people of Zimbabwe will sing at every possible opportunity and their songs come across as joyful and full of life.

I pray that we will learn from their enthusiasm for life and faith and become more willing to celebrate and share all that we have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was hungry… I was thirsty: Sharing food and faith

On the Sunday morning that we were in Matabeleland the Archdeacon of Southwark, the Venerable Jane Steen, preached at the 7am service at the Cathedral in Bulawayo.  It is extraordinary to see the difference in the congregations at the 7.00 and the 8.30 services.   The earlier service has a smaller (about 60!) congregation and is predominately older and white and the other has around 300 people and is predominately black and has more young families and young people.  It was extraordinary that as the Archdeacon preached a bird alighted on the pulpit and stayed there for much of the rest of the service turning attentively to the altar as the creed was said!

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The Dean preached at the later service and the Archdeacon of Southwark and I rushed of to St Peter, Njube, in the western suburbs of Bulawayo, to join Bishop Christopher who was already there with Bishop Cleophas. The service had started and the church was full to overflowing, with young people at Sunday school under the trees outside.  We featured some of the music and the children from Njube in the first blog about Matabeleland and so it is good to be able to say something about the way in which the parish serves the people.  Each Sunday they provide a plate of food for lunch for anyone who turns up for $1.  If it is anything like the food we received (and every one had the same plate when we were there) it is a really good way to spend a dollar and it makes sure that people get at least one full meal over the weekend and means that they have had at least one full meal in the week.

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The Vicar, Fr Manjengwa, took us proudly to see around his new rectory and we were able to see the car which the parish had recently acquired for him and which was waiting to be blessed by the Bishop. A car is so necessary for the clergy who often have stations (that is congregations without a church building) way out in the bush.  The members of the congregation of St Peter told us that their vicar was very busy and often out visiting people all over the parish and at the stations.  He has been there since 2010 as Bishop Cleophas decided that there should be a priest at this church which had not had one for thirteen years and was beginning to decline.  So he made sure that there was a decent rectory  and put in a priest and now the church is thriving and very full each Sunday and beginning to reach out to others and to draw them into the church.  It is amazing the difference that Fr Manjengwa’s leading has made to the parish and to the local people.

When he is not busy out visiting and running the parish he is busy raising chickens and crops.  He showed us the chicken hutch, explaining that it would be empty for a couple of days as we had just eaten the last of them in our fine lunch!

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Alongside the vicarage there is a field of maize which he has been carefully raising.   He stood among it and it was very tall, having survived the rains.  The chickens and the maize helped to feed his family and members of the congregation and some would be sold to raise a little money too.  But, more than that, his work here provided a good model for the congregation to help them to think about the things that they can do to help them to survive in these uncertain times.  As well as the maize there was an extraordinary orchard.  It is well established and we were told that this had been planted about 30 years ago by the confirmation classes.  Apparently, after the classes they would plant a tree and water it and watch it grow.

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Food is so important wherever we are but it is really clear as we travelled around the Dioceses in Zimbabwe that people are very concerned to make sure where ever they could that they were using any available land to grow food and raise chickens and other animals to try to find ways to ensure that everyone has enough. Many don’t have paid employment but have to work in the so called ‘black’ economy making a living in whatever way they can and thus they do not always have money to buy food from the shops, but grow it themselves and trade it or buy from street vendors.

After we left St Peter Njube we went back to Bishop Cleophas’ house and prepared to move on but, before we did, Bishop Christopher asked Bishop Cleophas to tell us a little about what was happening in his Diocese, focusing particularly on their Lay conference which works to highlight the importance of Lay ministry wherever there is church – just as we do in Southwark Diocese.

Just as we were leaving Bishop Cleophas showed us some empty sheds.  That may sound like an odd thing to say but these were very important sheds.  Here was where grain had been stored in order to service the feeding programmes which the Diocese of Matabeleland had been running over the last few months.  They had given out maize to schools and through the churches in order to ensure that people had some food during the very difficult times which they had been experiencing.  This maize was bought from monies which had come to the Diocese from their Kingston Area link.  It is this kind of important contribution to our Link Dioceses which is so significant as we move forward.  For, no matter how difficult we might find things here in our own lives, we have an abundance in comparison to the majority of those in our Link Dioceses.  But, although we may have more in material senses than our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe, I am always struck by the way in which they have a faith which they put into action.  We can learn a great deal from them as we share their stories of growing and sharing food and faith.

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I was hungry… I was thirsty: Rivers of faith in the Diocese of Matabeleland

If you go to the west of Matabeleland Diocese, to the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, you are near to the Victoria Falls and that very proximity tells you something about the amount of rain that Zimbabwe has had.  When we saw them in 2015, admittedly at a different time of the year when the waters would have been lower anyway, it was clear that they were not as full as sometimes not least because we did not get wet as we walked to the viewing points.    But this time those of us who did not have them were advised by Bishop Cleophas to hire raincoats – which gave us a clue of what might happen!   Then from the very first viewing point the contrast was immediately evident.

I find it impossible to describe the Falls except to say that it is just clear why they are one of the natural Wonders of the World and that nowhere shows more clearly God’s work in creation and its power, force and beauty.  It is impossible not to say ‘whoa!’ – repeatedly.

It was wonderful once again, after our visit to the Falls, to be able to say Evening Prayer in the Chapel at the Victoria Falls Hotel. The Chapel at the hotel is one of those quirky things in life that become really really significant.  It was built as part of the hotel in 1929 and has remained there ever since.  This is really significant because, with all the challenges that the church in Zimbabwe has faced and continues to face, there is always one chapel in Zimbabwe that is uniquely constituted as a special place of prayer.

That evening Bishop Christopher had coffee and chatted to several of the staff.  One of them told the Bishop that his brother was an Anglican priest in Hwange – where we were to visit the next day – and the Bishop said that if he saw him he would tell him that he had met his brother.  Remarkably, we did meet him the following day.  Hearing the Bishop talk about this at breakfast the next morning reminded me how full of Christianity the people of Zimbabwe remain and how much it is still steeped in them even if they are not all Anglicans.

The Church of St James in Hwange, like so many others in Zimbabwe and here, works hard to ensure that the young people are involved and grow up in the church.  So when we arrived there that day we were met by the priest Father Shem Zumba who was training some new servers for the next day, one of whom was his grandson.   The servers robes were all rather big but one of the servers was also called Cleophas and here he is pictured with Bishop Cleophas.

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Here the church is vibrant and full, offering a place for young people to be and to learn about God and to grow their faith.

But it is not just young people whose faith is remarkable.  The women of the Mothers’ Union are incredible and on our way to Hwange we had gone to the Church of the Resurrection at Victoria Falls to pay an all-too-brief visit to the Mother’s Union training day which was taking place there.   Here the Mothers’ Union worker, Lydia Lumbiwa, was working with a group of women and sharing with them some of the latest projects in the Diocese which the Mothers’ Union are developing.   The women are being empowered to work together to change their situation and that of their families and communities.

The Mothers’ Union is extraordinarily effective at encouraging women to take action to make sure that there is subsistence farming and sustainability in their towns and villages, and the meetings that they have encourage them in their endeavours.

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The church in Zimbabwe is so important to so many people.  Their faith sustains them through the difficulties that they face and, more than that, it helps them to see how they can work for change and development.

Whenever I have visited I have been struck by the number of children and families in the churches, as well as by the size of the congregations, and I am always moved by the vibrancy of the singing.

At the end of the service at St Peter Njube on Sunday 5 February Bishop Cleophas and Bishop Christopher blessed the children whilst the choir sang.  The thought of it makes me smile and gives me great hope for the church in Zimbabwe for many years to come.   I hope you enjoy it too!

 

I was hungry… I was thirsty: Food, schools and healthcare in the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe

The crops growing in the Harben Park Plot  were very good to see as we began to think about how the Diocese would survive following the drought and then the flooding, but Central Zimbabwe Diocese had other plans that would also help with providing incomes for people and places in which people could gather and celebrate.

Just a little along the road from Harben Park is the Mother’s Union Centre. We were unable to get to it with the vehicles that we had as the road was not tarmaced and the water had done quite a lot of damage.  But, by returning to the main road, we were able to see the new building and to see someone working in the grounds.  The President of the Mothers’ Union, Bishop Ishmael’s wife, Mrs Elizabeth Mukuwanda, had had the idea of using some of the land to build a conference and reception centre so that people could come together and celebrate important life events such as weddings.  They need to drill a bore hole and secure a water supply and make sure that everything is ready before they can begin to use the centre.

Whilst we were there we were able to see the worker who lives on the site beginning to clear away the weeds as they prepare to lay some of the grounds to grass for a social space and some to crops.  It will be a good income generator for the Diocese and provide a useful space for meetings and celebrations which is much needed and, more than that, it shows the innovative ways in which the Diocese is striving to make the best of the resources it has.

Few people are a better example of how to use scarce resources well than Bishop Ishmael himself.  In the years that we have been visiting Zimbabwe, St Patrick’s Mission, Gambiza has changed enormously and much of that is due to the hard work and determination of Bishop Ishmael and how he encourages others to work to provide better facilities and care for the people in his Diocese and in the area served by St Patrick’s.

There has been a mission station there for many years with a clinic, a school and a convent.  There has not been a doctor at the clinic for some time and it is run very efficiently by a nursing Sister who has been there for a number of years now and has been eagerly awaiting the developments.

I first visited St Patrick’s in July 2011.  I went as part of a Croydon Link Visit which was led at that time by Bishop Christopher as Bishop Nick had just gone to be Bishop of Bradford – it was Bishop Christopher’s first visit too.  At that stage the Diocesan retreat and training centre was newly built and each room was being furnished and looked after by a parish.   This is well used and some of the older rooms in which we had met before have been renovated and made into rooms in which to site and relax and to work.   The dining room was opened by the time we next visited in 2015 and it was good to be able to eat in this bright environment and so much easier for the sisters to cook in the modern kitchen.

The biggest change, however, has been to the hospital.   When we went in 2011 Bishop Ishmael was full of plans for what would happen and we saw the bricks being made for the maternity unit.  They were being paid for by the Mouthers’ Union.

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Then by 2014 some of the hospital wards were partially built

And in 2015 a group from the Croydon area went for the dedication and opening of the hospital

But now so much more is done and the men and boys wards are awaiting some plumbing and for then for the beds and other furniture to arrive from Australia.  So many people, especially the Mothers’ Union and one of our Croydon parishes, have helped to raise money for this project that it is brilliant to see it all beginning to come together.

Here Bishop Ishmael talks to Bishop Christopher about the hospital.  They are standing outside the Men’s wards.

It may seem odd that I am writing about the provision of a hospital when we are primarily thinking about food in this year’s Lent Call, but whilst food is of primary importance for people it is also important to realise that people who live in the villages surrounding St Patrick’s will walk miles and miles each way for the services that can at present be provided at the clinic and they need so much more than the clinic can provide.

Whilst we were there we saw twin boys born that morning whose mother had walked from her village to the clinic about a week before the boys were born to be sure to be somewhere save to give birth.  But twins being born at St Patrick’s is very unusual because if a mother is know to be having twins then she would be sent to hospital in Gweru.   The clinic is not really equipped to deal with any emergency that might arise with the birth of twins.  But, no one had known and thankfully the boys arrived easily and healthily – each weighing around 2.5kg – and they and their mother were doing well.   As well as the nursing staff the boy’s grandmother had come in with her daughter to help her.   Children are a joy and the future of the country, which is why it is so important to provide healthcare but the unexpected birth of twins can cause real hardship as there is often not enough clothing and space.

We saw, too, a mother who had brought her two week old baby back for a check up.  These little bundles of new life need food and clean water but they also need healthcare so that they can grow strong and be part of Zimbabwe’s future.

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That’s why the work that Bishop Ishmael is doing to make sure that places like Harben Park and St Patrick’s are growing and thriving is so important.

St Patrick’s offers children the chance of a good education both at primary and secondary level and the children will leave there to go off to universities in Zimbabwe, South Africa and other parts of the world.  They are also seeking to farm some of the land here, as well as at Harben Park, and to provide healthcare.  For the church in Central Zimbabwe caring for the whole person and making sure that they are fed and have all that is necessary for life is so important.   Their view is a holistic one:  people need to be enabled to grow and thrive and that is why it is so important that we are part of all they do.

So please pray for the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe, for Bishop Ishmael and for Elizabeth and for the priests and people there.  We have so much to learn from their determination and strong vibrant faith.  But as we pray please think of what you can do individually and as a church to raise money and donate to the Bishop’s Lent Call that the very important work there and elsewhere in Zimbabwe can continue to grow and thrive.

I was hungry…I was thirsty: Growing crops in Central Zimbabwe

The Diocese of Central Zimbabwe is literally that – it is in the middle of the vast country and is in the Province of Midlands: which rather sums up where it is!

It touches the boundaries of three of the other four Dioceses, just missing touching Masvingo the fifth and newest of the Dioceses.

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Bishop Christopher, the Dean, the Archdeacon of Southwark and I travelled to Central Zimbabwe, having first visited the Diocese of Matabeleland, arriving there on the afternoon of Sunday 5 February.

I had been immediately struck upon arriving in Zimbabwe by how green it all was and this was no less true in Central Zimbabwe than it had been in Matabeleland Diocese.  Everywhere was lush and full of promise of growth and plenty.   But nothing is ever as simple as it seems and it was soon clear that here, as elsewhere in the country, the rain had brought hardship as well as promise.

Once again we stayed at the Mpumalanga Lodge and here too the dampness was immediately evident as we were told that they were having problems making sure that there were enough dry towels because of the dampness in the air and the rain.   This was not a problem that I had ever encountered in Zimbabwe before and says a great deal about the way in which the rain had fallen and the amount that had fallen in such a short time.   The land had been so dry that it had not been able to cope.

Having settled at our Lodge we went to St Cuthbert’s Cathedral where we were greeted by clergy, their wives and Mother’s Union members from around the Diocese.  One of the things that we had asked to do whilst in the different Dioceses in Zimbabwe was to meet with those who had travelled to the Link Groups study course in Jerusalem in November 2016 and this gathering provided the first opportunity for the Dean and me, as we had both been in Jerusalem, to say hello to them.   It was great to see them once again but this time on their ‘home territory’.

No matter how difficult the food situation is anywhere in Zimbabwe one thing that can always be guaranteed is that there will be plenty of food for us as guests and those who have been invited to join with us and this occasion was no exception.   Each of us from Southwark was invited to sit on a table without anyone else from Southwark and I was delighted to be with Caleb Nyereyegona and his wife.  I had met Caleb on my last visit with Bishop Christopher when we had been warmly welcomed to his church St Matthew, Gweru.  It is St Matthew’s church which you can see surrounded by water in the Ash Wednesday post on this blog.

Here Caleb and his wife in their Mother’s Union clothes are pictured with the Jane Steen, the Archdeacon of Southwark.  Like Jane Caleb is an Archdeacon in Central Zimbabwe Diocese.

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Following the reception and a good night’s rest at the Mpumalanga Lodge it was off for a very busy day visiting projects and churches in the Diocese.

It was really good to be able to say Morning Prayer together at the Lodge looking out on the beautiful green land and to be able to give thanks to God for the rain and for all that we were able to see in Zimbabwe and to learn from our friends there.

The first visit was to the Harben Park Plot.   I have visited this plot a number of times now and there is always something new to see and to think about.  It is not far from Gweru the Cathedral town in Central Zimbabwe Diocese but the countryside is so vast that this plot of land has been growing and growing as the Diocese has expanded the amount of land that it is cultivating.

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Here they are eagerly working on ‘Farming God’s Way’ which is a natural way that involves not ploughing the land and allowing the crops to grow alongside the weeds, which are dealt with by hand.  It sounds as if it should be very a labour intensive way of farming but the Mother’s Union, who now look after the Harben Park Plot, seem to be able to produce many crops with only one full time worker.   There were two workers there when we visited as there was so much to do as a result of the rain.

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The plot is now about 2 acres and is in desperate need of a new bore hole.  The old bore hole is in need of renewal and creating a new one which is deep enough to reach the water table is likely to cost around $5000 as it costs $2700 to drill the first 40 feet and then 450 for each subsequent one and in addition the equipment costs $2300 to hire.

Getting the water to the right place is an expensive business but the plans which the Mothers’ Union and the Diocese have for the Plot make them well worth while.

The crop of squash is extraordinary and here you can see a squash growing amongst the weeds.  I have to say that it shows how much of a towny I am when I say that I had no idea that it grew in this way!

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The maize is growing too.  It isn’t as high as some of the crops that we have seen but it was planted later because of the rains.  You can see on the right hand side of the picture the irrigation pipes ready for irrigation lines to be fitted.  These won’t be necessary this year – or at least not just yet!

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Throughout the Diocese the Bishop and his project worker, Darlington Musekiwa, work with the parishes and people to ensure that they have the necessary skills and materials to begin to grow food to feed themselves and perhaps even have a little to sell.

Please pray for them as they work through the effects of the drought and the rain and pray that there will be enough food for all to be satisfied.

I was hungry…I was thirsty: Ash Wednesday

Wendy S. Robins, Diocesan Director of Communications and Bishop’s Press Officer writes:

main-posterThis year’s theme for the Bishop’s Lent Call is “I was hungry… I was thirsty”.  Our focus is mainly on our Link Dioceses in Zimbabwe and the difficulty that they have had there recently because of drought.

Much of the information which we have received from our partners in Zimbabwe has been about drought and the impact that this has had on food security and the consequences that this has for health and schooling. Ironically, just as the Lent Call resource packs were about to go to print it rained in Zimbabwe and it has been raining on and off ever since!

But, whilst it is always right to give thanks to God for the gift of rain, the amount that has fallen in some parts of Zimbabwe and the short amount of time in which it has fallen has brought with it its own challenges.   The rain around this church fell in under thirty minutes and gives a fair picture of the fact that the ground had become so hard and dry that it could not absorb the amount of water that came in the short space of time.

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At the very beginning of February the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun; the Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn and the Archdeacon of Southwark, the Venerable Jane Steen,  visited all five Dioceses in Zimbabwe.   I was privileged to go with them to record the journey and to gather information to enhance the materials which we are offering for Lent this year.

So in the weeks of Lent we will be blogging about the visit and the people we meet and the places that we were able to see.  We hope that this will enrich your Lenten journey of prayer and support for Zimbabwe and the projects in this Diocese which the Bishop’s Lent Call will also support.

These projects, which will feature in the last week in Lent are: Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation, Faith in Action Merton Homelessness Project and Deptford Reach and we will have short videos about these projects in the same way as we will about Zimbabwe.

Pleased pray for all those supported by the Lent Call and give generously to it.  Why not use some of the Fundraising ideas contained in the Lent Call resources pack or come up with some of your own?  And don’t forget to share what you do with us for this blog and for the Diocesan newspaper the Bridge.

As we begin Lent today here is a message from Bishop Christopher which he recorded earlier in the week.

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The Bishop of Southwark's Lent Call 2017