Zimbabwe visitor

Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Blantyre, Southern Region, Malawi
In the morning I thought I thought I’d go out to this spacious lodge and read and work using one of the couches. I got my briefcase and cup of coffee in hand and tip-toed into the reception area ready to sit down and to my work. As I approach, I see a man sleeping on the couch.  Maybe more than one, and I turn away back to our room. Yet another inconvenience! One after another. We have one towel between us. One plug in the room. Sporadic Internet. The lyrics of an old song came to mind: “You can check in, but you can’t check out.” At breakfast the containers were bonded very tightly. I finally ripped it open and it squirted all over me. No one is in a hurry to do anything, or even check to see if everything is “all right.” Far from it. I cannot believe that a place like this functions at all. But, it has a nice pool and what looks like a business center with a board room for business conferences, although we are about the only ones here. 
Dan Ringo picked us up at about 9:30 to take us to the Blantyre church hall for the LifeNets board meetings as well as the meeting with Mabasa Chichaya.
As we arrived, Mabasa was there and it was so good to see him again. The last time I saw him was in January 2013 when I did a Kingdom of God seminar in Zimbabwe. At that time I ordained Mabasa a deacon and Mike Mukarati an elder. That was when his wife Primrose was still living. It all seems so long ago. I remember that visit to Harare and the Kingdom of God seminar that was actually well-attended, but in my heart I knew that there would be little pastoral support for the people who came. I have mourned what has happened to country of Zimbabwe and how it had deteriorated. I remember walking into downtown Harare and taking pictures of some billboards and being stopped by the police and questioned. My camera was almost taken away from me.
The first thing that we did was hold a LifeNets board meeting. Malawi is the largest recipient of LifeNets funding by far. We discussed the projects in place… the largest part being student scholarships. The people present were deacon Osborne Liyawo, pastor Gracious Mpilangwe, Daniel Ringo, Bev and me.  
After the LifeNets meeting we spent the rest of the afternoon with Mabasa Chichaya. The first thing he did was place a map of Zimbabwe on the table. He started talking about the terrible plight of the country and it’s affect on our brethren. People are starving to death. Cattle are dying. Yet, in the midst of all this, he still travels a circuit of small congregations. He looks after half the nation geographically and Mike Mukarati oversees the other half. My heart was sinking. I was feeling sickened by their plight and also by the fact that none of have visited in Zimbabwe for three years. Bev and I visit these countries about once a year, but we can only do about three countries per visit; otherwise it’s just traveling from one airport to another. I know the Zimbabweans feel like we have neglected; even abandoned them. There are just small pockets of brethren and some deacons who oversee their areas.
Both Mike Mukarati and Mabasa own cars that are wearing out.  Our church subsidy hardly stretches to care for this nation of scattered people.   As I write this I am pained as to all that I heard.  The brethren have lived in terrible economic and political circumstances.  The local currency is a surrogate currency just to keep things going, but the real value is through the US dollar.  Gasoline (petrol) is $8 a gallon and only US dollars will be accepted for it and it is in VERY SHORT supply.  A line for gasoline may stretch a mile.  Yet, our two pastors plug on in spite of shortages, horrible politics. Yet, they do not despair and were boldly asking for help.  We will help them short and long-term.  We gave some money to brethren to buy sacks of maize for immediate food relief.  In the Gokwe area where our largest congregation is found, unemployment is 99%!  Attendance there on the Sabbath ranges into the 50’s. The deacon Vincent Moayo is a great support.  He also spoke highly of deacon Mike Yamasoka in Harare.
Mabasa Chichaya spoke about his late father Elliott Chichaya who was an elder in the Worldwide Church of God and they attended in Bulawayo.   He was just a young boy and remembered stopping by Melvin and Dyanne Rhodes home and pick them up on the way to services.  He remembered our daughter-in-law Alix Kubik who was born in the Bulawayo area.  All so interesting.
He also told us about long-time member Faxxon Katiza who we remember from the Feast in Zimbabwe in 1996.  He died a few days ago. 
Also, Mabasa gave us a bit of disturbing information. He is able to put out the Beyond Today magazine in the Kingston bookshops. A member from the group that broke away from the United Church of God goes and pastes the telephone number of their organization on our magazines.  So, people getting the BT magazine get misled into another group by this “clever” technique.  All this is just more woes in a very difficult environment.
We were so glad to visit with Mabasa.  He told us how much a personal visit means to the people who feel ostracized.  We will do something about this!
In the evening Dan and Carolyn showed us the home that they will be living in after they are married. We were glad to see that. It is within walking distance of the Church hall where he works—about 15 minutes.
Then we went to the Shoprite mall and had some chicken at a fast food place.  And, some ice cream. We have so many things to think about after each day. Things that we think about before we finally fall asleep.
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