Update on construction at Mbuma Mission Hospital

Plenty has been done in the last couple of months. Consignments of excavated clay soil exited the hospital gate; lorryfuls of sand came in. The clay was removed from site because it does not afford enough support to the foundations; it was replaced with locally available Kalahari sand, which allows much better drainage. Once the sand had been compacted, the foundations were installed on it. The floor is now in place, and all the doorframes and windowsills have been delivered, so we can get started on the walls.

We’re glad to have the foundations in place, especially now that we’ve entered monsoon season, when cloudbursts are a regular occurrence. This time of year is also a more pleasant temperature to work in; in November, the thermometer was pushing 40 degrees for days on end. The photos give you an impression of how the building works have been progressing. We would like to thank you warmly for your financial support, without which the project could not have been undertaken.


Casting the floor of the new pharmacy

Digging out and sealing the new sand channel

Laying the foundations of the maternity department

Fresh bricks delivered

General view of the building site

Construction and expansion at Mbuma Mission Hospital

Looking through the Mbuma budget, you may have come across items once or twice for the extension of Mbuma Mission Hospital. This article sets out what work is being undertaken.

The hospital has been too small for its considerable patient numbers for some years now. It is regularly so full up that patients have to be doubled up: one person on the bed and the other patient (sometimes with baby) on a mattress under the bed. This is now standard practice on the women’s ward and in the maternity department in particular, and it is obviously far from ideal. To improve the hospital and the quality of care, it has been desired for some time now to extend and renovate the hospital. In addition, the pharmacy needs to be extended for proper storage of materials and medicines.

Plan The plan is to extend the hospital in three departments:

1. Extension to the store and pharmacy (orange box): the store is far too small and the medicines have to be kept in various spaces around the hospital premises. A newly built pharmacy will allow central storage of all medicines.

2. Construction of a new maternity department (red box): a new wing will be built, housing the maternity patients. The building will contain delivery rooms, ante-natal and post-natal wards, sanitary facilities and a consultation room.

3. Renovation of the women’s ward (green box): what is currently the delivery and women’s ward is being extended, allowing this space to be used for women’s care, as this is the department with the most patients. Two one-woman rooms will also be built, allowing for isolation of patients or a greater degree of privacy.

Progress The contractor has already commenced works. The ground has been prepared for building and the foundations were expected to be complete during December (the time of writing of this article). As the soil is clay-heavy and many buildings in the locality are subject to subsidence, great attention has been paid to proper foundations, so that the buildings can remain in the service of the Mission for many years to come, if the Lord will.

The works are planned to be complete by summer 2024. It has been wonderful to see local people’s involvement in the construction and how they eagerly watched the digger and lorries arrive with the first building supplies. A highly competent constructor from Bulawayo is carrying out the project but, where possible, locals are engaged.

Stay up to date As you will appreciate, this is not a cheap project. It has been budgeted at 300,000 euros. If you would like to contribute financially, you can send money to the Stichting Mbuma Zending bank account with the explanatory note “Hospital extension”. Many thanks indeed for your gift!

We will be keeping you up to date on the progress of construction with updated photos at www.mbuma.nl. We hope and pray that all these efforts will promote the medical and spiritual work of the Mission here at Mbuma.

Sjoerd Janse

Encounter with a Witch-doctor* – Rev Aaron Ndebele

It was about October or November 1952 that a popular witch-doctor went to stay in the home of a local chief at Nkayi in the Shangani reserve. The woman claimed to have been sent by some great spirit in the Matopo hills to make rain, heal the sick and kill the witches and wizards in Chief Chukuro’s territory. Her arrival in the district was reported to the District Commissioner, who gave her permission to perform her work as an official herbalist who would treat some mild ailments among the population. In the witch-doctor’s mind, as well as in the peoples’, such a permit from the District Commissioner would cover her in her divinations, although the law of the land treated such actions as a crime punishable by law. Men, women and children from all walks of life consulted Shoko, as she used to be addressed – by the term which meant a goddess.

In December a headman from Zenka district, who also was an important right-hand man of the Chief, took the witch-doctor from Nkayi to Zenka so that the local people would make use of Shoko’s services. Huge crowds of men, women and children went to see Shoko at her home about three miles from Zenka Mission and about half a mile away from my then home. Every day people of the Zenka community took provisions to the witch-doctor such as beer, goats, hens and oxen. There was so much food in the headman’s home that the crowds who patronised the place were well fed.

Once, about the middle of January 1953, after I had attended a normal church service at Zenka, where the late Rev James Fraser preached, I was sitting in my house reading my Bible and meditating on what I had heard in church. The noise of the drums, which were being beaten at the party for Shoko, made it impossible for me to continue in my duty. The beating of the drums was accompanied by singing and dancing. The shrieks from the crowd of women, anything up to 500 strong, made the impressive festival a real challenge to Christianity.

At that period of my life I had just undergone a change in my soul, which made me value the claims of God’s Word and His law, including: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”. I believe the zeal for the law of God, which was being trampled at my door, made me go to the home where the noisy, godless party was.

On arriving in the home I went straight to the owner of the kraal and asked for his permission to see his great visitor, the Shoko. At first the man said, No, because the woman was very touchy and she would be offended if I would criticise her. But I insisted that I was indeed trying to help Shoko by telling her a few things, and he then reluctantly agreed to let me see her. On turning my eyes away from the headman I almost bumped into the Shoko, who asked me, in English, “What do you want?” I told her that I wanted to speak to her. She replied, “Nonsense”, and walked away into a hut reserved for her as her private residence. I followed her into the hut. She sat down on a mat with some women attendants.

I then began to deliver my message to her, which went along these lines: “Woman, this is the Lord’s Day, the day in which God, who made heaven and earth, rested after He had created all things and creatures in heaven and earth and in the seas, and that includes you and me, poor sinners. God commanded that this day shall be used only in the worship of God and in the enjoying of Him for ever, but you have taken all these crowds of men and women from the worship of God to the worship of a poor creature like yourself. You tell people to address you as God when you are only man. You are therefore guilty of breaking the Sabbath, and the First Commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”. Thou shalt not bow to any graven image or any likeness of anything on earth or in heaven above. You are a messenger of Satan. You are doing his work; you are therefore guilty in the sight of God. Unless you repent of your sin you will die and go to hell.”

The woman replied that she also was a Christian, in the Methodist Church; at that time she had been sent by the great spirit in the Matopo hills to heal the sick and make rain for the people; that was not a bad thing to do. She continued to say that she prayed before she did any work in her practices. Also she said that the District Commissioner had given her permission to do her good work in the Nkayi district, and who was I to stop her from her work?

In reply to her defence I said that it did not matter where she got the permission to practise her witchcraft, the point I was making was that there is a God in heaven who is greater than all the kings of the earth and who has His laws, that must be obeyed by all human beings. Permits from the Chief, the District Commissioner, Governor, King or Queen do not give licence to any man to break God’s law. The poor woman, who was human after all, broke down and wept. In conclusion I said, “Shoko, you are invited to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, to worship Him who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords”, and speaking to the whole crowd I continued, “You men, women and children of Zenka, stop worshipping this woman and calling her a goddess. Worship the Lord Jesus, who invites you all to His church to worship Him.” The atmosphere in the whole home was very tense; women wept and men groaned. I left the place and walked back to my home and continued my duties after the Sabbath services which, in short, were reading, prayer and meditation.

Two days later all the men and some women were assembled at the headman’s home, and I was summoned to appear before the crowd to explain my Sabbath action. I went to the headman’s home, where I found an angry crowd, among whom some men suggested that I should be beaten up by the Chief’s order so as to take away my madness. I must say that at that stage I got really frightened. Some young men who appeared really strong said that they had been standing behind me and were ready to knock me down, to kick me, but they had just not got round to that kind of action. I was then called every name known among Africans in Zimbabwe to disgrace and really humiliate me.

The man who led the proceedings said that by the law I was guilty of: (1) breaking into a man’s home without permission and disturbing the peace in the home, in front of a multitude of spectators; (2) insulting the Chief and District Commissioner by defying their authority in permitting the woman to practise her craft; and (3) infringing the freedom of worship by enforcing my so-called Christian views on the Shoko when she also worshipped God in her own way.

In reply to the three charges I said that I was sorry if Mr Ncube, the local headman, felt that I was looking down upon him by my going to his home and speaking to his woman visitor. I stated that I thought he had permitted me to see Shoko. The second accusation, that I had defied the authority of the Chief and the District Commissioner, was a matter I was sorry about because the Word of God teaches us to honour our rulers. I thought they had misunderstood my point, which was: the law of God was of far greater importance than the laws of men. On the third count, that of interfering with Shoko’s worship of the spirit of the ancestors and my accusing her of worshipping Satan – for that I could not apologise, as my statement was a true description of her work.

Insults were then levelled at me, while the headman, who was crying with rage, was demanding an open challenge with me, with fists, in face of the spectators. I made it clear that if he would beat me, I would not retaliate. Judgement having been postponed a few times, in about March of that year the final decision was reached, in which I was told that the law required me to pay the woman whose craft I had seriously disturbed by my accusation, by giving her an ox.

I told the Sub-Chief, before whom the case had been brought, that I could not do that on principle. The Sub-Chief claimed that he was being kind to me and therefore he was reducing the fine from an ox to a heifer, to a goat, and then to a hen as the last chance granted to me before the witch-doctor would pronounce her curses upon me and my family. I was given some days to think about it.

In the interval some of my relatives came to me suggesting that they were prepared to give Shoko their beast instead, in order to avoid the imminent doom that was sure to befall me according to the witch-doctor’s threats. I told them that they would help me far better by leaving me alone. I must say that at that time I found my father to be a real strength to me when some of our people were criticising me for not behaving like the Apostle Paul, who became all things to all men. They were saying I should have gone to the home and taken worship – that is, reading, singing, prayer and then an address in which I could have brought in the evils of witchcraft. They insisted that my method was too militant. I must say that these criticisms quite disturbed me at the time, but the Word of God, which I hoped I was defending, gave me light – in that passage when the Lord Jesus found the Jews in the temple selling and buying and He overturned the tables and took a whip and drove men and beasts out saying, “My house is the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves”.

Although there was pressure from the devil, my own heart and men, I refused to pay the witch-doctor with a beast or money, but told the Chief’s assistant in the district that I was prepared to challenge the witch-doctor in the strength of the Lord God, and that he should therefore tell her to go and pronounce all her curses against me.

In April of the same year Shoko, the great witch doctor, was taken by ambulance to Nkayi District Hospital ill with pneumonia. The large sum of money she had gathered from the people in the district as fees for treatment given for various diseases was reputed to be some thousands of pounds. It would be understandable that she was able to make so much money within so short a time, about three or four months, if we consider that she claimed that she could raise the dead from their graves, give medicines to make people rich and medicines to make people immune from the witches’ curses or enchantments. Many heathens, and even some good people, were tempted to consult Shoko, who was thought to be expert in charms and witchcraft.

After medical treatment for pneumonia, Shoko seemed to have a complete breakdown of her health; she was in and out of Nkayi hospital until finally she died in the middle of June 1953. I must say I got a shock and could not understand the ruling of providence at that moment, but surely His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are past finding out.

(Taken from the March 2005 edition of the Free Presbyterian Magazine)

* This account has been transcribed from a tape-recorded account of this incident made by Mr Ndebele in the Stornoway manse about 20 years ago.

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!