Wow, a full day. We stated at 8 a.m., from Mustasa/Nyanga District Superintendent Daniel Mutidzawanda's house and headed for Honde North Circuit (Charge) in the northeast edge of the district, a stone's throw (a couple of mountains actually) from Mozambique.
We met Pastor John Mwaita (pictured at left with Mark Conard), the local pastor serving there and Patricia Chimuti, the chair of the Pastor/Parish Relations Committee.
The Honde North Circuit is a Chabadza partner with the Pratt, Kansas, UMC. Together they have a parsonage nearly completed and a worship space nearly covered to accommodate inclement weather.
The Pratt church also equipped pastor Mwaita with a motor bike that he uses to travel the area to do evangelism work and to visit his parishioners.
He is enthusiastic about the ministry as are his congregants. Several spoke of how alcohol abuse has been a long-time problem in the area and how the church has become a place for ministry and sobriety to people who are reaching out for help.
Commitment was demonstrated by one man who walked about 10 km with a cane to attend today's "charge conference" meeting. The district superintendent used our visits to churches today as an opportunity for the circuits to report on their ministries so that we can bring back the stories from those congregations to their Chabadza partners.
Chimuti led the congregation in spirited singing and dancing to praise the Lord.
The Honde North church served us yam, carrots, coffee, tea and soda; and treated us with extraordinary hospitality with what little they had.
The drive to Honde North was beautiful with big flat rock mountains juxtaposed against Colorado Rocky Mountain-type terrain. In between mountain ranges were wide hilly low places filled with banana plantations (small farm-like plantings with residences), plus every so often roadside stands and people selling tomatoes, peas, peanuts, phone cards and more. Every few miles a series of buildings with shops would appear in strip-mall like fashion offering up fashions, more phone cards and other services and wares.
After leaving Honde North we went further up to Dambanda UMC which partners with the Pleasant Valley, Kansas, UMC (near Wichita). Retired Pastor Mark Conard presented on behalf of the Pleasant Valley church where he once served, to the Dambanda the church, a soccer and net ball, school supplies and $150 in cash to help pay for tuition for about 16 primary school children in the church (pictured on right).
Pastor Ruth Maguta showed us the progress on a parsonage and we toured her office space and church. The women of the church fixed us a fabulous lunch of sadza, rice, beef, chicken potatoes, carrots and tomatoes as well as beverages and of course, bananas. Maguta and members of the congregation expressed gratitude to the Pleasant Valley church for its generosity.
Part of the tour included seeing the hand-made bricks used to make the parsonage walls. We also saw an outdoor kitchen at work and the primitive means by which the cooking is often done and then presented in almost elegant fashion in chafing dishes and using China and glassware.
God is central in helping this worshiping community come together around agriculture. Several fields were in place to grow produce whose proceeds are earmarked to come back to the church and to also help the worshiping communities’ families. The church hosts about 100 worshipers on Sunday with another 2-400 members including children.
Maguta is a provisional elder working on her seminary degree from the Christian Theological Seminary in Harare.
The ride back to Old Matare was equally as scenic and breathtaking as the trip up. The climate, the beauty and the nature of the people made one truly believe you might be close to paradise.
Our final tour of the day was to visit the district office in new Matare.
A young man, Lloyd Chaukura (pictured at left with Mark Conard), joined us for the day. He is the Mutasa-Nyanga District Chabadza chairperson. He is a delightful and committed 26-year-old who is committed to the work of the church while attending Africa University.
He plans to help us with content on the Great Plains website. In fact, on Wednesday morning, after the Rev. Kalaba Chali preaches at the morning Africa University chapel time, I plan to train Chaukura on content management
Africa University will supply us Internet connection and a place to work. Later in the day we are to visit an HIV/AIDS clinic and a youth development project.