We are off to Africa! Ten people from the Brethren in Christ have been invited by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to learn about how our relief, development and advocacy arm acts with and through the largest concentration of Brethren in Christ people in the world in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The ten include Rod and Gwen White, who helped organize the tour (Gwen is secretary of the MCC U.S. board), Joshua Grace and Bethany Hornak.
I intend to do some blogging about it here. We’ll see how my internet connections work out!
Today I am writing because people have asked to follow along with our itinerary and pray. It is a rare occasion when a loved one connects you with a faraway and relatively unknown place. From the look of our schedule, it appears that our hosts are making sure we don’t suffer too much hardship.
After 20+ hours in the air, we get to rest at the eMseni Retreat Center in Johannesburg, South Africa.
On Sunday the 17th we fly to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and settle into Sethule Lodge. Monday to Thursday we are in and around Bulawayo, the center of the Brethren in Christ Church in Zimbabwe. On Tuesday we will take a day trip out to Mtshabezi school and hospital. On Friday, we head to Zambia by car, stopping at the Hwange National Park and then Victoria Falls on Saturday!
In Zimbabwe an estimated 1.5 million people – 16 % of the population – are projected to be food insecure at the peak of the 2015-16 lean season, the period before the next harvest when domestic food stocks get scarce. This represents a 164 percent increase in food insecurity compared to the previous season. Nearby Malawi declared a state of emergency today due to scarce food supplies after prolonged drought. The Brethren in Christ sent missionaries to Zimbabwe in 1905. MCC started working there in the 1980s. The BIC is active in renewing the life of the Church amidst the country’s prolonged struggle for social, economic, and political welfare. The leaders of the BIC Church not only urge their people to embody a life modeled after Christ, but urge other members of the global Anabaptist-related churches to walk with them in their struggle. The BIC Church- Zimbabwe has 317 congregations. Historically, the Church was based in the Matopo Mission region with extensive membership in Bulawayo. The Church sponsors the Ekuphileni Bible Institute and the Mtshabezi Mission Hospital. Lobengula BIC Church in Bulawayo is known to be the largest BIC congregation in the world.
On Saturday the 23rd we are in Zambia and begin our time at Macha Mission/Hospital. Tuesday and Wednesday we are in Choma making connections with the BIC in Zambia and MCC work centered in that area. Thursday we travel half a day to Lusaka (the capital) where we will meet with MCC staff and BIC leaders. On Saturday it is back to the airport for an all day and night travel experience.
Zambia is one of the 20 poorest countries in the world. 60% of its people live in poverty. The Brethren in Christ Church sent missionaries from Southern Rhodesia to Northern in the early 1900s. MCC started a program in 1962. Throughout the 50+ year history, MCC has had an ongoing relationship with the Brethren in Christ Church. The church has congregations and ministry throughout the country, but has its headquarters in Choma, Southern Province. The majority of the church congregations remain in Southern Province. The BIC has about 180 congregations with about 15,000 members, and administers 12 schools, a hospital and nursing school in Macha, and a pastor’s training institute in Sikalongo. In recent years, MCC has focused the placement of MCC workers in Southern Province, because of the ongoing commitment to work with the BIC.
That should get your prayers started! We see ourselves as your representatives on this trip. So we will try to keep you informed.