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).