Mbuma Mission Hospital

Dr. Angus Macleod

Mbuma, in a rural part of Zimbabwe near the Shangani River, is an unlikely location for a busy hospital. After a long drive north from Bulawayo, the nearest city, along corrugated dirt roads through mopane forest and past scattered villages, Mbuma Mission Hospital appears suddenly out of the African bush. I recently visited and witnessed first-hand how it plays an important role in the prevention and treatment of illness in a large rural area while bringing a remarkable number of people into contact with the gospel. Clinical work at Mbuma. The hospital consists of four inpatient wards: a female adult ward, a male adult ward, a children’s ward and a labour ward. These are usually full, often with extra patients sleeping on mattresses on the floor under other patients’ beds. The outpatient clinic has nurse-led clinics five days a week and the doctor’s clinic three days a week, often running until 9 or 10 o’clock at night. The maternal and child health department is busy with antenatal and postnatal clinics. Elective surgery takes place in the operating theatre one day a week, with further emergency operations at other times, as needed. Minor procedures, such as setting fractures in plaster or tooth extractions, take place in the procedure room. Compared with hospitals in any Western country, the available diagnostic investigations are basic. Digital x-rays and ultrasound are readily available but more sophisticated scans, such as CT or MRI imaging, require a journey to Bulawayo (about three hours’ drive) and a fee of several hundred US dollars, which many patients simply cannot afford. There is a laboratory on site, where testing for TB and HIV is readily available, but many simple blood tests, such as kidney function testing, are not available at present due to lack of necessary reagents. The staff at Mbuma often therefore have to rely on their clinical skills in situations where tests would otherwise give a ready and reliable answer. The Mbuma Mission is a hive of activity. About 100 staff members live and work on the site. Most inpatients have an accompanying family member to help care for them, who will sleep on the concrete veranda at night with only blankets for a bed. Long queues of outpatients are present in the clinic during the day, and at any one time about 50 pregnant women live in a dormitory at the hospital. These women come to be near the labour ward in the last month of pregnancy, given the lack of transport to get them to the hospital expeditiously when they go into labour. The church and the primary school are on the same site as the hospital. Dr Snoek has been the doctor at Mbuma since 2005; more recently assisted by Dr Janse, who was on leave while I visited. Dr Snoek has a remarkable breadth of skill. By contrast to most Western hospital doctors, who are increasingly specialised, she ably combines the role of general physician, infectious diseases physician, emergency physician, general surgeon, urologist, gynaecologist, obstetrician and paediatrician. Working long hours, and dedicated to the work at Mbuma, Dr Snoek has built up the reputation of the hospital, together with Sister Geurtsen and the many others who work so hard at the hospital, so that people come from far beyond the catchment area. Some even come from neighbouring provinces and from Bulawayo seeking good healthcare. One patient I met had travelled home from South Africa to be seen at Mbuma. Medical work also takes place in several nurse-led peripheral clinics and many community workers provide basic health care and health education over a wide area. Many patients seek medical attention later than is common in the UK and often come with multiple problems. One sad case I saw was a seven-year-old boy who came to the outpatient clinic looking very ill. Not only had he HIV (transmitted from his mother at birth, but previously undiagnosed), but also tuberculosis and anthrax in the skin, the latter from eating meat from an infected cow. It was good to see him looking cheerful after a few days of appropriate treatment. A young man had a tumour growing slowly in his neck for 11 years before he came to the hospital. He eventually came because he had developed severe weakness in all his limbs and was unable to walk. A scan showed that the tumour was invading the spine, with compression of the spinal cord causing the weakness, but it had also spread into the brain. Unlike the seven-year-old boy, who was doing well with treatment, sadly nothing could be done about this lad’s tumour. Some diseases are much more frequent there than in the UK. Gastro[1]intestinal infections are common in those who drink dirty water from the river or from dams. Pneumoconiosis – damage to the lungs from breathing dust – is common in mine workers due to inadequate personal protective equipment. Mortality before and after birth is higher than in richer countries: one morning I was there two babies died, one still born and the other only hours old, though this was unusual. On the other hand, there were many similarities to the UK: chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes, injuries due to drunkenness or accidents, and various cancers are all common. One major problem, which is worthy of note, is the difficulty of retaining trained nurses and midwives at the hospital. Many leave to work in the UK, where pay is much higher than in Zimbabwe, and their skills are sought to fill gaps in nursing rotas here. When we hear people talk about shortages of nurses in the UK, we should remember that relative to Zimbabwe we have an abundance of nurses. Given their vastly greater need, it seems deeply unfair to the people of Zimbabwe that a rich country such as ours should steal their doctors, nurses, midwives – and teachers. Spiritual work at Mbuma. While the medical work of the hospital is important, the spiritual work is much more so. The aim of the Mission is that everyone who comes to the hospital will hear about the gospel. At the two services on Sabbath, the gospel is preached to a large congregation, and more attend the Thursday morning prayer meeting, when the benches at the front of the church are filled with primary school children. For those of us who are used to very small congregations in Scotland, it is encouraging to see so many hearing the true gospel being preached and particularly that so many are present who belong to a variety of sects or churches where a false gospel is preached. There is no minister in Mbuma at present, so the services are taken by an elder, divinity student, or visiting minister. Another part of the spiritual work is the morning and afternoon worship. Every day, at 7.15 am and at 4 pm, the staff members and patients who are able, together with patients’ relatives and the women in the dormitory, gather in the veranda of the outpatient clinic for worship. Well over 100 people gather for these times of worship – for Psalm singing, prayer, and a Scripture reading – and the hearty singing can be heard all over the hospital. The catechists have a vital role in the spiritual work at the hospital. I previously visited Mbuma in 2002 and was disappointed that no one was focusing on the spiritual needs of people at the hospital, so I was pleased to find that there are now four catechists working at the Mission, who have many valuable roles. They speak to the patients about sin and salvation – both inpatients and outpatients, often one to one – during their time at the hospital, pray with them and read the Scriptures with them. They take morning and afternoon worship, and lead Bible studies. They also have a role in counselling particular patients where needed, such as a teenage girl I met who was in hospital after making an unsuccessful suicide attempt when she discovered she was pregnant. They also play a part in health education, such as warning people about the dangers of harmful traditional practices. One of these is to hold babies in the smoke over the fire, supposedly to help the closure of the soft parts of the skull. The smoke, unsurprisingly, can damage the baby’s lungs, but these efforts have been successful in leading to a marked reduction in the number of babies with health complications from this practice. A particularly enjoyable aspect of spending time in Mbuma was the Bible studies. I attended three in the week I was there, although others also took place. On Sabbath afternoon, there is a Bible class for everyone at the hospital, with a similar attendance to the daily worships. They are currently going through Revelation, and the discussion on the occasion when I was present was about the locusts in chapter 9. While this may seem an obscure text for a mixed gathering, it was a profitable discussion, in which the locusts were considered as a picture of false teachers. Mr Nkiwane, the head catechist, used his personal experience of being under false teachings in the past to warn those present about the dangers of false prophets. It was clear that most present were listening intently, including the pregnant women, who mostly do not belong to the Free Presbyterian Church. On Thursday evening there was a Bible study for the senior management at the hospital, when we profitably discussed a verse in Jude. On Saturday morning I was invited to join the trained nurses’ Bible study. All the nurses present participated in the discussion on John 17:24. The questions asked and points made were thoughtful and pertinent. Some of them gave evidence of spiritual understanding and appreciation of the profound truths relating to the glory of Christ. Conclusion. A remarkable work is going on at Mbuma, which is worthy of our support and prayers. There is a continual need of financial support, for which we have the encouragement that “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). But, more importantly, there is a need for prayer: that those who work there would be helped and encouraged; that those who are sick might have suffering eased and recover, where it is God’s will; that a minister would be provided for the congregation; and, above all, that an abundance of spiritual blessing would follow the gospel work there. We should seek grace to be assiduous in prayer for the Mission and to be kept from formality in asking for God’s blessing on its work. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jas 5:16).

Taken from Free Presbyterian Magazine, July 2023.

A report from Mashonaland

You might recall that Rev. Mwedzi was installed in the New Canaan congregation in May last year. Being the only other minister currently in the Zimbabwe Presbytery besides Rev. Khumalo, he has a heavy workload—but he found the time nonetheless to tell us about his progress. 

How are you doing at the moment? 

Rev. Mwedzi: “The Lord has been helping me greatly since May last year. I preach at ten locations that fall under the charge of this congregation. Let me give you an overview of the stations, the distance from my manse, how often each month I minister there, and some remarks on each location.” 

New Canaan (mother congregation) ~ 14 km ~ 7 times per month : A congregation of largely older people; the younger folk have mostly moved out of the countryside 

Makovere ~ 10 km ~ 6 times per monthA congregation with many young families 

Zvishavane (Ebenezer) ~ 3 km ~ 6 times per monthA congregation with many young families 

Maware ~ 40 km ~ 4 times per month 

Ingezi  ~ 50 km ~ Once a month 

Akori  ~ 60 km ~ Twice a month 

Chiedza ~ 70 km ~ Four times per month 

Chiware ~ 93 km ~ Once a month 

Munaka  ~ 130 km ~ Once a month 

Gwemomber  ~ 45 km ~ Once a month 

Gweru ~140 km ~ Once a month 


In addition, I visit John Tallach High School at least twice every semester, and one or other of the congregations has communion season almost every month of the year.  

A weekday service at Maware  

A weekday service at Maware

 I have received 6,000 Bibles from the TBS and distributed them around the country. There is great demand for Bibles, but our supply was limited and we hope that the Lord will move a friend to allow the printing and shipping of more copies.” 

The photos below are of Bible distribution at Marondera, due east from Harare, more than 400 km from the home congregation at New Canaan. 


How do you get to all those preaching stations?  

Rev. Mwedzi: “I have a decent car, a four-wheel drive, but the roads are poor and the tracks leading to some of the stations are almost completely worn away. I drive about 5,000 km a month on those roads, so I have a higher fuel and maintenance bill than most. Thanks to assistance from the Mission, I’ve been given a better car for my long journeys.” 

The quality of road surfaces declines most dramatically during rainy season, with the battering rain causing washouts and flooding. Rev. Mwedzi shared a photo of a flooded-away road that caused him severe delays on his way to preach at Ingezi. 

With Rev. Somerset and the congregation after a weekday service at Chiedza


There’s a lot resting on your shoulders!  

Rev. Mwedzi: “There is, but there are encouragements, too. Let me share three of them. 

Next to our church building in Maware, there is a school for about 334 pupils. They have opened their doors to me to preach the Gospel there. They’ve offered us their well. Unfortunately, the solar panels that power our pump broke down last month, so we’re anticipating problems with our water supply during communion season next April. 

Although this is (generally speaking) a poor congregation, their contribution to sustaining the ministers has shot up from $360 in 2021 to $1,008 in 2022. 

And, in God’s grace, I’ve seen a number of people who hadn’t come to church for nearly ten years return to our fold—four of whom took their place at the Lord’s table again.”  


People of the Mission; Michael and Miriam Khumalo

The Khumalos have been working at Mbuma Mission Hospital for nearly 17 years. It’s time to make their acquaintance.

Kindly introduce yourselves.

Michael: We’re Michael and Miriam Khumalo, and we’ve been working at Mbuma Mission Hospital since 2006. We have seven children: the eldest is 27 and the youngest is eight. I was born and raised in Nkayi, an hour’s drive from Mbuma. After attending school in Nkayi, I went to Bulawayo in search of a job. I worked at a supermarket for four years, then as a gateman for a further six. When the economy went downhill, I lost my job, so I went back to Nkayi. I was a postman and post office guard there for a few years, until my grandfather, James Mpofu, let me know they were looking for a gateman at the entrance to Mbuma Mission Hospital. I applied and was appointed in May 2006.

Miriam: I was born in Kwekwe, but early in childhood I went to live with my grandmother near Mbuma. In the course of time, I was asked to go and work for Dr Hak making fruit juices for patients. I asked to be sent on a Red Cross training course too, and I was delighted to find that the funding was available for me to do that. After three years in hospital housekeeping, I started as an assistant nurse in December 2006.


What’s it like to work at the hospital?

Miriam: I love looking after the patients, and in a hospital, you’re very aware that you’re working in the sight of God.

Michael: I am glad to be at the Mission’s service, guaranteeing security and keeping things in order. What’s special about Mbuma is morning and evening worship and the Bible studies. These are personally valuable, and it’s well worth studying Scripture together and discussing what the Lord is saying in the passages of His Word.


Is there a Bible verse that is particularly meaningful to you?

Michael: A key text for me is Hebrews 11:6, where we learn that without faith, it is impossible to please God, but also that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

Miriam: Ephesians 6:1 tells us: Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. My grandmother would always say that if you obey your parents, God will bless that, and that doing so helps us to learn obedience to the Lord. As a mother of seven, I hope and pray that my children will obey God, will walk in His ways and will do good to their neighbours.


What are you most grateful for?

Michael: For the Lord’s blessings. As we both have a job, we have been—and still are—in a position for all our children to attend school.

Miriam: We are grateful to you for your support. I saw a photo of Dutch children collecting for Mbuma Mission. My special thanks to you for that!

Western Wedding without Lobola

A wedding invitation from Canada to attend Maria and Roy Bartle’s wedding on January 4, 2023 in Ingwenya was my main reason for visiting Zimbabwe last December and January, the second I attended there in two weeks. Maria Kerkhoff has been employed as teacher at the John Tallach High School for almost five years now.

How honoured I felt to be invited to the wedding by Maria’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Willem Kerkhoff, being a family friend of theirs for almost 50 years. Although it was going to take place in Zimbabwe, I knew it was not going to be a traditional Zimbabwean marriage. No lobola was going to be paid by the bridegroom’s family.  It was not like in the Old Testament days either, when the dowry or lobola was a compensation to the parents for the girl, as they lost the girl’s labour. David married Michal and the compensation was a hundred foreskins of the Philistines. In Europe it was the other way round up to the 1970s. The father of the bride paid for the wedding as a compensation for all the work the daughter had done for the parents. The Kerkhoffs did it in the traditional way and made sure all the guests were looked after well. Mr. Moyo, the Boarding Master, assisted with the wedding preparations.

Being foreigners, The Zimbabwean government found many excuses not to approve  a wedding license for this couple. After many complications, the much-desired paper was finally obtained, with just a few days to spare!

Both marriages took place in the Free Presbyterian church of Scotland in Zimbabwe. This couple had met through the FP Church like Velani and Gugulethu had. Maria from Canada and Roy from the UK met in London in 2018, when he informed Maria of what to expect as a teacher at Ingwenya, as he had been teaching there in 2015. Both love working in Africa with the Africans and feel it as their calling.  Maria is the only non-Zimbabwean currently working at the John Tallach High School at Ingwenya Mission.

The wedding took place in Ingwenya, the site of the primary and secondary school. This time, the summer holidays, there were no teaching activities and there was plenty of space for the family friends who had come from afar. Early morning, on the wedding day, we all awoke to the roaring of the school bus heading for Bulawayo to pick up Maria’s colleagues and about 40 students for the wedding, which was to take place at Ingwenya Church at 10.00 am. How elegantly dressed they all stepped out of the bus! Locals, teachers and the ones staying at the compound all joined the wedding service. The ushers showed everyone where to sit, whereby women to the left and men to the right is common practice.

Dr D.W.B. Somerset, minister of The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in Aberdeen had been busy with coaching the two catechists who are going to study in Scotland to become ministers and conducted the wedding service.  Mr Moyo, the boarding master, translated from English to Ndebele simultaneously. Unbelievable how fluently he was able to do that!

After singing Psalm 136 a cappella in the Ndebele language from the Psalms of David in Metre (English script provided), the minister read John 2 about the marriage in Cana in Galilee. It teaches us that marriage is a divine gift to mankind, and we are to rejoice. Wine in a marriage is associated with rejoicing. Jesus was present at the wedding in Cana so we know that marriage is an honourable thing. Marriage is ordained by God and involves a solemn vow in which wedding couples commit themselves to each other. It is a public matter, as we are the witness of it. This and other marriages are a picture of the bond between Christ and his church. The solemnization was done by the moderator, Rev. S.  Khumalo. Heavy rainfall on the corrugated iron sheets made his words barely audible. He was the one who made sure all the vows were said and all the signatures put on the right place, including thumbprints by the bridal couple. On behalf of the bride’s parents, Rev. Khumalo presented the newlyweds a Bible with the words that in this Bible they could find the way for the future.

After the ceremony, everyone present was invited to the school’s dining hall. The Zimbabweans had been quiet up to the moment the bride and bridegroom entered the dining hall. Local Zimbabweans would expect a cow to be slaughtered on the occasion of a wedding and they would certainly break out in exuberant singing upon the news of the lobola agreement being settled. Here, however, the Zimbabwean guests spontaneously started singing in their Ndebele language, in traditional Zimbabwean style, with Nkosie Khumalo as lead singer in After five minutes or so of singing, we had a delicious lunch served by the school dining room staff.

At 2.00 pm the school bus took the guests, including the students, back to Bulawayo and at 4.30 pm it was time for the special guests invited for the evening dinner at Bulawayo Club to board the bus. Mr Ncube, John Tallach School’s principal sitting opposite me, suggested that I order some Mopane worms. Those worms are cheap and healthy food with three times more protein than beef. It is a delicacy for the Zimbabweans. We both tasted them. Not something I particularly liked. but how international and special!


Mopani worms alive…

... and fried

… and fried









The table setting was carefully planned, with wedding guests from countries far and near like Zimbabwe, Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. How enriching it was to be in international company and how special to notice that, in spite of the cultural differences, you conversed with like-minded Christians from all over the world, all supporters of the Mbuma and Ingwenya Missions, who were joined together on the wedding occasion of Maria and Roy. What an interesting experience this was!

Roy concluded this special day by saying: “on behalf of Maria and myself We beseech you in God’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. He alone, it is not our wives, our husbands our relations in this world, but He  alone Who is the Friend that sticketh closer than any brother.  It is our prayer that God would bear with us together”.



Prayer Meetings in Mashonaland

On recent visits to our Mission location in Mashonaland, I had the privilege, while visiting New Canaan, Maware and Chiedza, in being able to attend prayer meetings held there by our minister, Rev Trycot Mwedzi (see picture 1). His sphere

1. Rev Trycot Mwedzi

of labour extends out from his manse in the town of Zvishavane to a total of 11 preaching stations, some of which are as far away as 140 km, often accessible only by very bad roads, made almost impassable in the rainy season.


2. Maware Prayer Meeting

Maware is situated northward, about 40 km from Zvishavane. Weekly prayer meetings are regularly attended by children from the nearby school, where all the pupils have been issued with a copy of the new Shona Bible recently provided by the TBS, with substantial assistance from the Dutch GBS (see picture 2). On this occasion, Rev Mwedzi preached on the Commandment “Thou shalt not steal”. We were impressed by the intensity with which the children listened to his exhortation to obedience.


Chiedza is located 70 km south of Zvishavane, where the tar road runs into dirt track for

3. Chiedza Prayer Meeting

26 km. The church is situated in heavily wooded forestation, giving the impression of remoteness and with little obvious habitation. However, as from nowhere, out of the bush, people starting arriving for the prayer meeting, where Rev Mwedzi preached from John 20:15 “Woman, why weepest thou?” In expounding the power of the resurrection, in the divine revelation to Mary of a risen Christ, the minister gave an encouraging discourse on this event which is so central to the Gospel message. After the meeting, we had the pleasure of meeting those attending (see picture 3)


4. Mr Sibanda, Mr Mashavakure and Mr Mpofu


Also present were our Mashonaland missionaries, Mr A Sibanda and Mr J Mashavakure (see picture 4). Before the meeting, accompanied by the missionaries and Mr T B Mpofu, our Mission Administrator, I took the opportunity to visit Mrs Mazvabo (widow of the late Rev Z Mazvabo) in her home, which is close to the church. The occasion evoked happy memories of her dear departed husband while we partook of true Shona hospitality, fellowship and worship (see picture 5).


5. Mrs Mazvabo

A Turn of the Year in Zimbabwe, Everdien Schalk

From December 7, 2022 to January 4, 2023, we, Annemarie Visser and I, went to Mbuma. There is a lot to tell about our visit to Mbuma. About the bumpy roads, about the work in the hospital, the heavy showers, the dirt roads that suddenly turned into rivers, the deafening sound of the chirping crickets, the electricity that kept going out, the fact that no water came out of the tap, so that we had to boil rainwater, the encounters we had, the special conversations with various people, the bond you can feel when you experience that there is only One God who rules. And that the Lord God is the same everywhere, whether you are in the Netherlands or in Zimbabwe.

We could also tell you that it was so special to see that in the Mboma magazine of February there are pictures of the water pump during the month of September, where everything is barren and dry and where four to six men are needed to pump up the water. In the month of December it was completely different! Everything was beautifully green, the sandy plains have turned into grassland, the cows look healthy again and there is enough water available for people and animals, even outside the pump. All nature has been revived!

But every period has its peculiarities. That is why I am writing a little about the question: What is it like to be in Mbuma at Christmas and the New Year?

Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Zimbabwe

It was the first time for us to experience the time of Christmas and the New Year abroad, and that at Mbuma in Zimbabwe! It was a very special experience.

While it was getting colder in the Netherlands, we left for the warm south at the beginning of December. It was high summer in Zimbabwe, where temperatures of 37 degrees in the shade were no exception. Everything was beautifully green. Then you notice that the weather conditions we are used to also play a role around Christmas and the turn of the year: we in the Netherlands are used to cold, dark days around that time. And the whole month of December is dominated by Advent. That is different in Mbuma. That’s because the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland does not connect the event of the birth of the Lord Jesus on earth to December 25 and 26. Although the sermons we heard in Mbuma were not Christmas-oriented, they were very educational. (…)

Around Christmas and the New Year in Zimbabwe there are a number of “public holidays,” days when everyone is off. In Zimbabwe, they generally do have some sort of ‘Christmas’, linked to December 25/26, but unfortunately this often only involves thinking about presents.

At the hospital, it was also noticeable that the adults had the day off; mainly because of the heavy drinking and its consequences. Several people were brought in with wounds from fights. But most poignantly, two young men died from the effects of excessive drinking. One was 26 years old. Married and had recently become a father for the first time. Oh, what an impression that gives. It has become eternity for these young people….

From Mbuma, Keith Mpata, the evangelist, Sister Willie and several others took the opportunity to engage in conversation with the people around the shops in the nearby villages. To point out to them the wrong way they are going and that there is only one right Way, the Lord Jesus Christ. We hope it may be a blessing!

At the turn of the year, communion was held in Nkayi, which we also attended. Rev. Khumalo administered Holy Supper on January 1. How special it was to be able to start the new year 2023 like this. Then all circumstances fall away. The Lord is not bound by time or place, and His eyes roam the whole earth.

Our wish is that the Lord will give His blessing over the many works that are taking place in Zimbabwe; above all, that the proclamation of His Word may touch and shatter people’s hearts, to His glory!