Afgelopen dinsdag 18 oktober is in aanwezigheid van veel genodigden de kliniek in Simbo geopend. De kliniek is gebouwd om het ziekenhuis in Mbuma te ontlasten en de medische en geestelijke zorg dichter bij de mensen te brengen. Naast de kliniek in Simbo zijn er afgelopen jaren ook klinieken gerealiseerd in Lutsha en Vova.
Several evangelists work at Mbuma. They have a special role at the Mission Hospital. Kees and Beppie van der Linden had the opportunity of speaking to one of them, Mr G. Nkiwane, during a visit to Mbuma in June 2022. Together with Sister Willie Geurtsen, they visited him at home and saw him at work both at hospital and in the bush. We are grateful that he gave us permission to write up this interview for the Stichting Mbuma Zending magazine on his experiences and ministry.
Mr G. Nkiwane is 57. He did not have an easy start in life. Following his parents’ divorce, he went to live with his maternal grandmother because his mother was occupied with the search for work. His grandmother, who effectively brought him up, had some knowledge of the Gospel. Mr Nkiwane recalls her praying every morning and evening. However, she had no Bible and never mentioned the Word of God. She also took part in ancestor worship. Half a century ago, everyone in the area believed in the power of ancestral spirits.
Halfway through primary school, an aunt of Mr Nkiwane’s came to live with his grandmother. She had a New Testament, and he started reading it. When he came to the accounts of the passion and death of Christ, he was deeply moved by what he read, even though he did not grasp the spiritual significance of these things at the time. His relatives took his tears to be a sign of feeble-mindedness and took the New Testament off him.
It was at Mbuma Mission that Mr Nkiwane attended primary school, thanks to which he also attended church services regularly—though he understood little of what he heard there. Yet when Rev. Mazvabo preached once on Dost thou love Me? from John 21, he was cut to the heart and saw what a vital book the Bible was.
There was no money for secondary school fees, so Mr Nkiwane asked Margaret Macaskill for assistance. Miss Macaskill was a nurse at the Mission Hospital and he got on well with her. He could see that hers was a life led by faith from day to day. It was from her that he heard that he had a soul, that God owns that soul and that he must listen to God.
This friendship was a key impulse for Mr Nkiwane to seek the Lord. The conviction took shape in him that the love of Christ was also for him. Margaret ensured that he could go on to study at John Tallach High School. As a teenager, he read the Scriptures often, at home as well as at school. This did not go unnoticed, and he was teased for being like an elder. To this day, Mr Nkiwane is ashamed that he did not respond to the taunt. What is worse, it made him lose his fellowship with God for years. In hindsight, he acknowledges that this was God’s disposition with him, and says, “His ways and His thoughts are higher than ours.” Although he remained outwardly a believer, praying and reading the Bible, he was cold-hearted within. It upsets him to think that it took a bout of serious illness to return him to the Lord.
After teacher training, Mr Nkiwane obtained a post at a school in a location that also had a Free Presbyterian congregation. There, he befriended an elder who urged him to return to his faith and start attending church again. Rev. Mzamo also encouraged him at that time that he was capable of confessing his sins and of looking to Christ. This pastoral care brought him great peace. In 2003, Mr Nkiwane returned to Mbuma, now as a teacher. He became a member of the Free Presbyterian Church in 2005.
His Bible knowledge did not go unnoticed, and Mr Nkiwane was asked to take the Scripture class at hospital. He was perturbed to come across people there who were close to death and living in gross darkness. This strengthened his resolve to speak to them of the Gospel. When the hospital management saw that development, they conferred with the elders and appointed him a hospital evangelist in 2008.
Work as an evangelist
Asked how people respond when he arrives and starts speaking to them, Mr Nkiwane says that patients welcome it when he prays for their healing and reads the Scriptures to them. He adds that it takes several bedside calls before people open up about the needs of their soul and preparing for death. He often has good opportunity to press this subject home, and when he does, it is striking how little knowledge of the Christian faith people have. While they do acknowledge the existence of God, they are ignorant of reconciliation in Christ. People are frequently prepared to listen to that message when they are ill and in pain. Outwith the hospital, he encounters more resistance.
Mr Nkiwane leads a team of four evangelists, but he spends as much time as he can engaging in evangelism with people himself. He is keen to speak one-to-one with patients and relatives, loves being present at the hospital and makes himself as available as he can to speak about the realities of sin and salvation. He also tours the villages around Mbuma for a range of meetings, such as discussions with chiefs and health workers or co-ordination with representatives of other churches.
When he has these opportunities to speak to people beyond the Free Presbyterian remit, Mr Nkiwane seizes the chance to speak practically about health and sickness. What does the Bible say about marriage and sexuality? What causes disease, and how should it be treated? What does the Word of God tell us about calling on spirits? In what do we place our confidence? This plain speaking was difficult in the early days and met with displeasure. It calls for a wise approach and prayer to speak properly in such circumstances, but the Lord is blessing his endeavours. As time has gone on, these encounters with outsiders have proven very fruitful. Mr Nkiwane asks for our prayers to continue these conversations.
We also paid a visit to Mr Nkiwane at home on his smallholding. His garden and fields are excellently maintained. He says that he sees it as a calling to farm as carefully as possible, to set a good example for locals—particularly the young people, to impress upon them that it is perfectly possible to live decently here. The youth are very tempted to get themselves to South Africa one way or another; failing all else, as illegal immigrants. Often, that decision ends in misery.
Mr Nkiwane was hesitant at first when we asked him what his special message for Dutch readers was, as he is unfamiliar with life in the Netherlands. However, he did say that we need God wherever we live in the world. Seek Him! We can only prosper in life with His blessing. God is good and that is why each of us must seek Him.
Towards the end of the year 2021 in the beginning of December, Mbuma Mission Hospital received an elderly sick male patient into its care. Accompanying and assisting him was his eldest son and they came all the way from Mukoko Village which is situated in Gokwe deep in Mashonaland, 136km away from Mbuma Mission Hospital which is about a 2 hour and 20 minute drive. The Word of God tells us in Acts 17 vs 26-27 that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” In the Lord’s all wise Providence, the suffering ordained in the lives of this father and his son were used by the Lord for good to bring them into contact with the everlasting Gospel message. They came to Mbuma seeking physical healing but their spiritual senses were awakened by their contact with the Word of God and two experiences in their lives which will be detailed below seemingly provide evidence for the above.
The father’s health when he was admitted at Mbuma was not admirable, in fact, it brought fear to both nursing staff and those observing that perhaps soon he would depart from this world because it would deteriorate with each day. This was a heavy trial for his son who initially had no hope for his father’s survival or any hope regarding the difficulties of life because in reality; he did not have a spiritual comfort for his soul which would give him hope in God and in the purposes of God which come through suffering. His church, the Roman Catholic Church seemed to have never taught him about suffering or point him to the God of Comfort “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”- 2nd Corinthians 1:4. But in the Lord’s wisdom, the period of time in which this family arrived into our premises was a period in which the sermons and Bible studies seemingly were focused on this area of life. The Lord’s Day Bible study which is open to all within Mbuma was focused on the second coming of the Lord and how through suffering God draws His people closer to Himself and opens the eyes of those outside His Kingdom to see that there is no other hope of salvation but Him through faith in Christ. When talking daily with the son of the sick father about these lessons from the Bible studies and sermons, and praying with him as well as listening to his own expressions about his father’s health, it was a pleasure to hear him say these words: “I have been in pain about my father, I do not want him to die. But now I know that God allowed this suffering for us and I see that suffering is designed by the Lord for our spiritual good. When I came to Mbuma, I was disappointed in God, far from God, running from God; but since this trial with my father’s illness I find myself reading more from the Word of God, growing closer to God and praying to God. The Bible studies of Mbuma have helped me to understand this and the sermons have been a blessing, that whatever brings me closer to Jesus it is good.”
On the 28th of December, at midnight, the understanding which this son had attained was put to the test. He called me over the phone and woke me up in tears asking that I would come pray with him for his father because his father in his unconsciousness mumbled the words that he is about to die, and physically he was both pale and frail. I immediately got up and ran to the hospital, and for the next hour I prayed with this family. We read together as well as comforted each other from the Word of God. What happened the days following was a miracle – through the Lord’s intervention working through the dedicated nursing staff at Mbuma, the Lord heard our cry, and the father regained consciousness! He awoke from his bed and could even now walk on his own and talk coherently. The Lord answered prayer, and both this father and his son rejoiced and saw the hand of God in it. This was especially comforting because in the rural community, the first port of call in times of distress is the village witchdoctor for help, but they did not bow down to Baal, the son sought the face of the Lord “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”-Psalm 34 vs 4.
After some weeks when Dr. Snoek was now satisfied with the condition of her patient, the father was now discharged from hospital and allowed to go home and be with his family. However what was so peculiar now about their departure was that they no longer wanted to leave, especially the son because in his own words in shona he said “Kuno dzidziso yaIshe Jesu Kristu yawanda, yakasiyana neChurch yangu inonongedzera kuna Maria, apa wotaura nezvaMambo mambo Jesu, kuti iye ega ndiye nzira yeruponeso uye zvinondiita kuti ndinzwe rugare. pano.” In English he said: “There is so much teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ here, it is so very different from my Church which points to Mary, here you talk about the King, King Jesus, that He alone is the way of salvation and it makes me feel at peace here.”
The Psalmist expressed it well, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” -Psalm 119:71.
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