Kerkhistorische wandeling in Gouda

Kerkhistorische wandeling in Gouda

De zendingscommissie van de GGiN te Gouda heeft een kerkhistorische wandelroute gemaakt door de mooie stad Gouda. De opbrengst van deze route is voor de Mbuma-zending. De routebeschrijving is te bestellen door € 8,- over te maken op het bankrekeningnummer van de GGiN te Gouda: NL49 RABO 0322 4636 45 met vermelding van ‘wandelroute Mbuma’ en uw adres. Dan wordt de route u toegestuurd. Ook de fietsroute rond Gouda is nog verkrijgbaar voor dezelfde prijs. Voor € 15 ontvangt u zowel de wandel- als de fietsroute. Voor meer informatie bel: 06-25181258.

Church in Zimbabwe – Mthoniselwa

Church in Zimbabwe – Mthoniselwa

Eight miles from Mbuma, in the forested province of Matabeleland North, you come to a large mud hut in a clearing, with a long, snaking bush road leading up to it. The trees hugging the sides of the road have come into leaf after a couple of recent rains, marking the end of the long drought of the Zimbabwean winter. 

There is nothing particularly remarkable about the exterior, although it is plain to see that this is not a regular dwelling. The door is barred by a hefty branch to keep animals out. The roofing still looks fresh, but it has not been completed yet; the ridge is still open. Even with this in mind, it is clear that this is not just any hut; it is a modest Zimbabwean church. Mthoniselwa, an outstation of the Mbuma congregation, meets here for Sabbath worship. 

The reason for the still-incomplete roof is an incident a couple of months ago. One Sabbath, as the service was nearly over, the congregation had an undesirable visitor: a snake that had made its home in the roof poked its head through. The service was promptly ended in prayer and everyone hurried out of the building. The roof had not been maintained for years, giving the snake an opportunity to take up residence. After this fright, the congregation decided to remove the old thatching and replace it with new. However, not enough reed was available to have the whole roof recovered in time for the next Lord’s Day, but the warmth of the season made it tolerable to carry on with services in the meantime. 

Mthoniselwa is a small sub-congregation. Typically, fifteen to twenty come together for worship here on the Lord’s Day. Sadly, they do not have elders or deacons of their own. Sometimes, an elder or catechist will come from Mbuma to take a service; when one is not available, the congregation takes it upon itself to read the Scriptures, sing and pray. Some of the adherents have over an hour’s journey to reach the church. 

On the last Sabbath of November 2021, the congregation knew that a man was coming to take the service; they had heard that a couple of days previously. The first arrivals in church came well over half an hour before the commencement time. While the building was being put in order for worship, one of the adherents walked a short way down the road to a gaggle of teenagers crouching by the village shops, who were guzzling liquor to the accompaniment of loud music. The invitation to attend the service was extended to them; they declined, but they did agree to turn the volume down.  

The church was already quite full by half past nine. The men took their seats to the right, some of them on a makeshift pew, others on an inbuilt clay bench. The women sat on the floor to the left, on rugs they had brought with them. The catechist due to take the service took up his place at the simple pulpit. A solemn rendition of Psalm 45 in Ndebele opened the service. After the prayer, a few stragglers joined the service, having been delayed en route. There ended up being over 35 worshippers that day, including some who had never come before. 

Under the roof with its gaping hole at the top, the sermon text was read out: “Saying that there is another king, one Jesus” (Acts 17:7b). With no pretentious words, the speaker addressed his hearers on the greatness of that King set forth by Paul in the Thessalonican synagogue—the Lord Jesus Christ—and on the fulness found in Him. He went on to impress on the congregation the need to be translated from the kingdom of darkness to the rule of King Jesus, by new birth; a kingdom presided over by a faithful King who never forsakes His subjects. The sermon ended with a personal question for each one present: “Which kingdom do you belong to? Who is your king?” 

Outside, the congregation stayed a while to discuss the service. They were grateful to have been able to hear a sermon again, after quite a while without a preacher. There was a sense of unity and of the Holy Spirit’s ministering presence. 

I was moved to hear such a testimony about the service. The adherents’ poverty, the mud hut with the unfinished roof, all paled into insignificance set against the riches of the Word. Truly the Apostle writes: “Hearken, my beloved brethren; hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” (James 2:5). 

Church in Zimbabwe – Rev Mwedzi

Rev Trycot Mwedzi was interviewed for the Reformed Daily Newspaper in the Netherlands in January 2022. The published text was rather short therefore the full text is published in our magazine and follows below.

1. Introduction

My name is Rev Trycot Mwedzi and I am 45 years old. I am married to Norah Mwedzi and we were blessed by three children two boys and one girl who are all in school.

I am currently a Probationer Minister in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in Zimbabwe currently under New Canaan Zvishavane Congregation in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe. Before I have been an elder in the same congregation for 6 years.

In 1986 when I was 9 years, I met a Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland Minister preaching under a tree. He was the first Missionary of the FP Church in the Shona speaking people of the Midlands Province. I got interested in his preaching and became a regular attender until in 1993 when the Lord spoke strongly to me from Hebrews 2:3, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.”

2. Church information.

The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland has been in existence in Zimbabwe for 117 years and the congregation which I belong has been in existence for 40 years. The whole presbytery is spread over four provinces with the farthest distance between station being 530km, Munaka in Masvingo province on the South and Somakantana on the north. There are six congregations in terms of Kirk sessions and each congregation has several preaching stations adding to a total of about 50 preaching stations.

My congregation has 10 preaching station spread over a radius of about 110km covering two Provinces and two Districts. There are 6 stations in Zvishavane District in the Midlands province, 3 stations in Mberengwa District in the Midlands province and 1 station in Chivi District in Masvingo Province. The Minister has to go around all the stations having at least 3 visits for each station every month. The Minister has to go to other provinces also for Communions and occasional visits to vacant congregations. About 230 people from the 10 stations attend services and when the minister is not able to be present at a station, elders would exhort the brethren. The average distance travelled by congregants to the nearest preaching station is 8 km.

About 84% of Zimbabwe’s population profess Christianity, with 69% being Protestants and about 8% being Roman Catholics. The rest are Apostolic sects. The remaining 16% is shared between African traditional religion, Islam and Judaism.

3. Difficulties

This church in Zimbabwe is undergoing a spiritual decline and most people are being carried away by the gospel of prosperity where their faith has much hope in getting much wealth. It is a time when true shepherds are needed. There is a competition from members by the hypocritical preachers who have left the commandments of the Lord and removed the fence of the Word. Sin is not being spoken of in many congregations and there seems not to be any need for godliness. There is therefore much pressure among the young generation, hence the need for them to be warned all the time, giving more demand for true preachers. The elderly have however continued to hold fast to the Gospel of Christ and have not been much affected by the mushrooming of the false teachers.

The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland has been much hit by the current situation of religion. The Zimbabwe Presbytery has been facing much difficulties in the past years. After the dearth of one Minister in June 2020, and I was still studying for the Ministry, there was only one Minister, Rev Khumalo, moderating all the 6 Kirk Sessions. Although at the present moment the two of us share the duties, there is much demand for travelling. Speaking with an example from my congregation, the Minister has to take at least 3 services on the Lord’s day and at least 4 prayer meetings every week during week days. This means the minister may have to drive for 250km on rough roads on the Lord’s day. This has increased the demand for fuel and the small car I am currently using is often in the garage for repairs. There is need for a fuel-efficient four-wheel drive vehicle for such duties. There are also some members who are now too old to walk to church and the minister has to visit them in their homes either to take them to church or to speak to them in their homes. This is very expensive for the people of a country which has undergone a massive economic decline with most industries having closed and a few civil servants are earning US$140 when the poverty datum line is around US$571. Much being used on travelling expenses has also led to difficulties in maintaining church buildings and currently our two main buildings need roof repairs.

The Free Presbyterian Church has struggled more than other churches mainly because they don’t have any false promises and have not attracted the young and the rich. This is a temptation which we pray that the Lord would uphold us in the true faith. It has kept the very few ministers but faithful to the Lord and the ministers have to travel a lot. Another reason is that it is much in the rural areas and most people in the rural areas have no income. Only 4 stations out of the 50 stations are in town. The church runs 6 schools, a hospital and 3 rural health clinics and a Children’s Home for orphans, all which have not been commercialised since the aim is to spread the Word of God. Ministers need to visit these institutions regularly working with the teachers and health workers as well as the Home mothers. It is at these institutions where the church can speak to the young. When I visit the boarding school, I feel much duty speaking to more than 600 children but economically and physically I cannot speak to them every Sabbath.

The major concerns of the church at the moment is a reliable vehicle and the roof of one of our churches. Despite all these difficulties, we have experienced God’s grace that the Gospel in the church has not changed since it was brought by the first missionary in 1905, it was and is still the grace of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the same Psalms and the dignity of worship. The lockdowns have failed to destroy it and the zeal for the Word is still being witnessed.

4. Looking Ahead

While we are beginning a new year, my prayer to the Lord is that He would strengthen me in the heavy duties ahead of me. The congregation has been without a minister for nearly ten years now. Some sheep got lost, some are sick and some are asleep. I hope to visit all who stopped coming to church and some who were carried away by the false prophets. I need to exhort the elderly and give them a word of comfort. I pray that the Lord use me to speak to the children in the schools and that the Lord will pour down His spirit and bring light to them. I pray that the Lord will enable me to speak to those who have never tested the light of the Word. Much more that the Lord would send more labourers into His vineyard. I hope to approach the local leaderships, Heads of other schools and speak to them about the judgement that is upon our nation and the need for us to repent so that the Lord may heal our nation and moreover, grant eternal life to our people. This would require me to have more visits and attend more funerals because normally a time is given to me to preach whenever I am present. I hope many will be brought to the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and that He will send forth all our needs by the hands of those to whom His Spirit was given that the true Gospel may be maintained to the Glory of our Lord. “The harvest is plenteous but the labourers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest.”

Patience in tribulation

Clara Boer describes life at Mbuma Mission Hospital from a patient’s perspective. This article is based on the real experiences of Singazi, a patient, with permission.

How long have I been lying here?

I can answer with my own name, Singazi, because it means “We don’t know”. So I ask my daughter, Beater, my one constant companion who’s by my side day and night. This is the African way: the nurses supply the medical care and the family supports and helps the patient with daily needs. She says it was in April that Dr Snoek admitted me to Mbuma Mission Hospital for the ceaseless, piercing, unaccountable pain in my back and legs.

I’m only 32 and my body is breaking down—literally. Cancer is eating up more and more of me. It’s a severe trial, but even so, looking back over seven months since my admission here, I’m counting my blessings. Yes, life at Mbuma Mission Hospital is good, and it is a blessing to stay here: we are well cared for medically, but above all because we are given heartfelt spiritual care with an open Bible.

Here, from my place in Ward 2, with a view of the inner courtyard, I see and feel love: love from the Lord, and love for the Lord. “Surely the LORD is in this place.”

Let me take you through a week of hospital life and share some of how it feels.

Sabbath    

I’ve woken up early this morning. Judging from the angle of the climbing sun, it was about 5 am when I stirred. Was it the rising warmth or my dream that woke me so untimely? It’s so quiet on Sabbath morning in this normally so busy hospital. I see Sister Mapfumo hooking up a fresh drip in the men’s section of our surgery ward. Outside, under the canopy, patients’ relatives are tidying away their sleeping mats. Beater is making sadza, maize porridge, for me.

I’m still brooding over my dream, which won’t let me go. I saw my mother sitting in front of our hut. The only detail of her that I remember—she died when I was little—is her face. She was devastated to see my suffering. Where is my mother now? Is the hour of my death approaching? That’s what my dream suggested. I often hear around me that such dreams portend what really does happen. Deep-rooted folk beliefs still haunt me often and leave me perplexed, yet I believe that the Lord is sovereign over my life and my death.

Litshonile sisiwami!

I’m gently shaken awake from my daydream. It’s 3:30 pm and Clara is coming to collect me for Bible study. It’s a time to look forward to, with so many patients, relatives and interested hangers-on coming to examine the Word of God. All the varied religious backgrounds melt away here. Although we come in with varying views and opinions, here we find the truth of Paul’s words: “One Lord, one faith … one God and Father …”

I suddenly realise that my ride to the Bible study, which is held under the canopy, is being jolted by the dips and thresholds I’m being wheeled over. If Clara weren’t continually saying “Sorry, sorry!”, I’d hardly notice the bumps in such a princely Dutch hospital bed! I was perfectly happy sleeping on the ground in my own familiar hut in the village of Siganda.

Monday    

Another early start today. I hear the ambulance roll into the courtyard at 5 am. They’re taking me into town for radiotherapy. They’ve already got my mattress waiting for me in the ambulance, on top of four empty oxygen bottles that need changing in town. Fortunately, I’m not the only passenger today. I prefer being wedged in among the other bodies like this, so that the potholes all over the road into town won’t bother me so much. When your bones are brittle from cancer, this makes quite a comfort difference on a three-and-a-half hour journey lying down. Khumalo, the driver, has some papers thrust in his hand, Sister Willie does a last check of the vehicle and wishes us a good journey, and we’re off, calling Livukile (Good morning) to the porter at the gate.

9:15 pm. Finally back in Mbuma safe and sound.

“Please come to Ward 2!”

Clara is at my bedside quick as a flash in response to my emergency text message. She’s my Dutch friend; I even call her sisiwami (my sister). With a worried look, she asks me how it went today. I point silently to my right arm, tears of agony wetting my eyes. I’m trying to be strong; well brought-up Africans dislike being emotional in public. Velani, one of the catechists, whose turn it was just now to take evening prayers, tells her on my behalf: “Everything went fine today until she broke her right arm while being transferred back to bed.” Words fail us, so we sing one of my favourite verses, Psalm 23:4. However dark our path is, He is with us and He comforts us.

Tuesday

Once again, the ward has become a hive of activity at dawn.

It’s theatre day, so the patients needing operations have to be readied first thing in the morning: here an infusion, there a blood pressure cuff. Amid the scene, a new patient is brought onto the ward with a sizeable wound to the arm. A donkey bite, as I soon find out.

On the rounds yesterday, Dr Janse told me they’d be needing another biopsy from me today, so Dr Snoek harvests a bit of bone marrow from my right hip. When she’s done, she phones the nurse to let her know I’m ready to be taken back to the ward. My empty bed is wheeled into theatre, I’m transferred to it from the operating table, and in just a few minutes I’m back in my own spot. Fortunately, Sister Willie gave me a good dose of anaesthetic, so I was fine during the procedure, but when it wears off—ouch!

I’m a bit dozy for a few hours after that, but when Keith the catechist comes around for Bible study at 2:30 pm, I’m wide awake. We’re discussing John 3 today, the need for the new birth. The error persists stubbornly in our communities that we’re saved by being church members, by baptism or by the Lord’s Supper. Here, I hear what God has to say about it: that there is no salvation outwith Christ! We need regeneration: to become new creatures in Jesus through faith, by the power and ministry of the Holy Ghost. What a solemn meditation today. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Wednesday     

Julianah, who works in the Mbuma lab, has prepared my biopsy for Khumalo to take to the lab in town. It’s of a type that they can’t process in-house in our own lab. Dr Snoek should be e-mailed the results in a few days. What will the finding be this time? Another disappointment, or dare I expect better news? I know how gravely ill I am, but still I hold out hopes of improvement.

I’m motivated to fight on by seeing Beater, my fourteen-year-old, with her swelling belly: her first pregnancy, my first grandchild. I think of Banele and Sanele, my four-year-old twins. Who’ll look after them when I’m not around any more, out in my forest village? My husband has left us for South Africa. Life in Zimbabwe is not easy, and children with no-one to look after them are so very vulnerable. I renew my prayer that the Lord would give me strength, and that He would also give me peace to accept His will and His way. I also pray that He would faithfully look after my children, especially if I’m not going to be on earth much longer.

In the evening, I have a long talk with Keith. I tell him about my sinful past, the needs of my soul, my loneliness. My struggle is palpable to him. He listens carefully and takes me through II Timothy 4. I’m reinvigorated by prayer and by the Word, especially verse 17: “Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” He is well able!

Thursday     

What a litany of diagnoses I’ve heard the doctor giving on the rounds this morning: food poisoning, snakebite, HIV, compound fracture, cancer … not to speak of the gory and often extensive wounds that I’ve seen being attended to. There are diabetics with amputated feet, nasty oxcart accidents, and gaping bedsores on those who didn’t change position, and more. A recurrent problem out here is that people delay far too long before presenting with symptoms. They’re afraid of medical bills they can’t pay, or they reckon they’ll try their luck with the ‘trusty’ witch doctor first. I call them “broken cisterns” now. Only once they’re at their wits’ end do they show up at hospital, by now immobilised and in great pain. If healing is possible at all by this stage, it tends to be a drawn-out process.

I watch Sister Mkwananzi expertly dressing the amputated front of the foot of the lady beside me. She keeps up a commentary for her on what she’s observing and what she’s doing. I flush with quiet pride at the excellent medical knowledge and ready skills of our Zimbabwean nurses.

Before the sister bandages the lady’s foot up again, I can see from my angle that she sprinkles sugar in the wound. She tells us that it’s a cheap but effective anti-bacterial agent.

Friday  

After morning prayers at 7:15 am, a merry din breaks out. It’s cleaning day. All our bedside cabinets are turned out, bathed in suds and then taken out to the courtyard to dry. The hot sun is a great disinfectant. The pharmacists do their daily restock of nursing supplies and medicines. Beds are flattened and any spots noticed on them cleaned.

Mid-morning, I see from a distance that the queue for the pharmacy is swelling; many patients have just been given a doctor’s prescription. They’re all hoping that the product they need is available; otherwise—if they hear the dreaded words “Out of stock”—there’s nothing for it but a long bus ride into town, where they might hear the same message, or to head straight home without their medication.

Today, as usual, there are plenty of outpatients needing a consultation, as they know that doctors are available for them on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. After Covid screening at the front gate, patients head for the entrance area under the canopy, where the intake is seen to. Blood pressure is taken, patients are weighed, and so on. It’s all noted in the patient file, which out here is something patients have to provide for themselves, so in most cases it’s a school exercise book. You then take your place in the waiting room until the doctor calls you, in order of arrival. If you don’t show up until later on, you might be left hanging on for hours, especially if emergencies intervene. It’s hard going if you’re feeling ill, but it’s not in our nature to grumble. Zimbabweans aren’t timetable people; we have boundless patience.

I hear footsteps. Assuming that it’ll be a nurse back from lunch, I don’t bother opening my eyes in the post-prandial lull—but I can’t resist peeping out from half-closed eyelids. An elderly lady is standing by my bed, with two children. I open my eyes and the drowsiness vanishes. With deep gratitude, I acknowledge God’s goodness in bringing my grandmother and the twins to visit me in my loneliness. Such joy!

Saturday

What’s this hubbub of children’s voices? Oh yes, it’s Sabbath school on Saturday afternoons. I can’t count them all but it sounds as though quite a few children have been today. After many months of Covid restrictions, the group is growing again. “We even had 46 children today,” Mrs Dube, one of the teachers, says. Train up a child in the way he should go, as the Word says. She hopes zealously for growth that will stand the test of time!

5 pm. The children’s voices have made way for the rumbling of food trolleys. It’s sadza enriched with chicken and vegetables, or bean soup. They also serve goat stew sometimes, made from animals given to the hospital as payment in kind by those with no money. There’s nothing to beat a full stomach!

It only takes a couple of minutes after dinner for the sun to sink below the hospital. I reminisce over all that’s happened. “Lord, from the depths to Thee I cried.” So many earthly blessings, none of them deserved. I feel small in the face of them. My heart runs over with gratitude and joy.

Under the magnificent firmament of southern stars, out in the courtyard, sleeping mats are being rolled out as night draws in. I listen for a while to the sounds: the weak cry of a child from the paediatric ward next door; the monotonous hum of an oxygen concentrator in Ward 3; the yell of a psychiatric patient. My exhausted body succumbs to sleep, as my heart prays, “O God, of my salvation God, me from blood-guiltiness set free … Show kindness and do good, O Lord, to Zion, thine own hill … Then shall thy praises by my mouth abroad be publishèd.”