The 2023 Team
MZ 2023 Team departs for Zimbabwe on May 10th and returns to Canada on May 25th
Follow our updates here
Mission Zimbabwe Easter Update
The Mission Zimbabwe 2023 team is presently preparing to travel to the Zimbabwe. This will be the fifteenth team, sponsored by Hope Community Church in Hanover to travel to Zimbabwe. The team is scheduled to depart on May 10th and will return on May 26th. The nine team members began preparation and training in early March and have just participated in a team retreat at the Ethnos Canada Centre in early April. When the team is in Zimbabwe, daily team updates can be followed on the Mission Zimbabwe website at www.missionzimbabwe.org or on the Mission Zimbabwe Facebook page. For two weeks the team will be working at the Village of Hope and also visiting a rural children's home, Vimbainesu Children's Home. The team will be supporting the workers and house mothers, participating in building projects, providing assistance with community outreach nutrition programs, and interacting with the children'
Wednesday May 10
Mission Zimbabwe is prepared to depart for its 15th trip to VOH Zimbabwe, and last night the nine team members gathered to pack all of the suitcases - 18 checked bags, each filled as close to the 50 pound limit as possible. While we did the physical work, YOU did all of the work leading up to this. Everything that we packed was either donated, or purchased with donated money - what a blessing! Sports equipment and uniforms. Medical and school supplies. Blankets and clothing. We are so thankful to be able to bring these gifts to VOH.
Many things can still happen between now and our arrival in Harare. Our route includes 3 separate flights and 2 layovers, using 3 different airlines. We are praying (literally!) that all of the luggage makes it to Harare with us. And, we have no idea how each of the team members will handle the many flights either. But we leave it all in God’s hands, knowing that HE knows what is in store for us.
We are currently in the check-in line at Toronto Airport. Anticipation and spirits are high. Please pray for us during the next two weeks. Pray for team unity, good energy, life-changing experiences - and that God will be glorified through this trip! We will do our best to keep you updated on our experiences, as time and connectivity allow.
Thursday May 11
We have arrived in Zimbabwe!
So many things could have gone wrong on our trip - missing documents, delayed flights, horrible seats, crying babies, Visa delays in Harare, missing luggage at the end of it all. But NONE of that happened! All of our documents were in place, and we sailed through every checkpoint. Two of our flights were on time, and one actually departed early. We had excellent seats on every leg of the trip. All of the babies on board were cute and sleepy. The Visa line up in Harare was less than 10 people deep. And ALL 18 bags made it to Zimbabwe at the same time as we did! Praise God!
We are so thankful for such a great start to this trip. We are currently settling into lovely accommodations provided for us by VOH, where the unpacking of all of those donated items has begun. Bucket showers are happening (… yup … no hot water this year either … sigh), and we all have comfy beds calling our name. Tomorrow the real work begins, but for now we plan to sleep well, knowing that God is watching over us.
Friday May 12
On the Grounds
It was a beautiful day to wake up in Zimbabwe. Sunny skies, temperatures in the high teens, and the sounds of birds and children in the distance. For many of the team members, our arrival here finally became real to them this morning. They had heard the stories, participated in the planning, packed the bags … but now the adventure was finally beginning.
Members of the Leadership Team took us on a guided tour of the grounds this morning, with each one leading in their area of expertise. The medical clinic, primary and secondary schools, church and children’s homes all finally became concrete items to us, not just pictures in a presentation. It is clear that each of the leaders, as well as any staff member we spoke to, is very committed to helping make the VOH a truly great place of learning and spiritual growth. Their concern is for the development of the whole child, and they are so proud of all that is being accomplished here. And while that pride is well-deserved, they also acknowledge that none of it could be done but by the grace of God.
This afternoon was our first opportunity to spend quality time with the mothers and residents of the children’s homes at VOH. A simple project of painting t-shirts allowed us to learn so much more about many of these children. Some are definitely budding artists! Others not so much, but they all participated and enjoyed the experience. And through it we were able to chat with them, learn some names, catch up with the moms, and start making the personal connections that are such a big part of this trip. The base was laid today, and we have almost two weeks more to build on it - thankyou to VOH for allowing us this opportunity!
A couple of numbers from today:
Jason + Sierra + Nicole + 2 basketballs = 200 children wanting to play too
3.5 bags of groceries = 389,023 Zim dollars
Size 15 feet (Lorne) = too many questions to count!
Saturday May 13
On the Road Again
Today we took a trip to Vimbainesu Children’s Home, located about 1.5 hours outside of the city of Harare. Past trips on a weekday gave us little time with the children as they didn’t return from school until after lunch. Switching to a Saturday trip this year gave us more time to interact with the children and meet with the VCH management team. While the date of the week was new, much of the physical trip was the same. We had lots of people packed into one vehicle, there was creative driving by Richard to avoid the worst of the potholes, we often encountered stop lights that weren’t working, we cringed over large speed bumps - and we also took advantage of the time to learn more about the people seated near us, as well as the country that we were traveling through.
A tour of the facilities at VCH showed a home brimming with possibilities. Pig and chicken projects have the potential to provide healthy protein for the children, as well as additional income through the sale of surplus livestock. Rich soil can grow nutritious vegetables like cabbage, tomatoes and kovo (much like kale or spinach). Loving house mothers do their best to guide the young people in their care. The management team has much to be thankful for - the children receive a good education from a nearby school, hygiene practices have improved so that the children are generally quite healthy, and solar powered pumps have provided easier acces to water.
However, we also learned of the many challenges that they face. It appears that there is no “expert” person to take the lead in the various food projects, leaving them underperforming. The 2 men providing security to the property are stretched thin as they also do all of the maintenance work and run the maize mill. The property is home to 54 children - with only 2 house mothers to supervise these vulnerable children. The teen-aged residents do a great job of assisting the moms in the care of the younger children, but the situation is not ideal. The management team struggles to find a steady source of income in this small rural community. All of these challenges left some of our team members feeling helpless. What can be done to help improve the situation? It seems so overwhelming!
And so we give it to God. Pray for wisdom for the management team. Give thanks for all that is going well. Pray for additional resources (finances, people, supplies) to help ease the situation. Pray … and pray some more. All things are possible through him.
Sunday May 14
Mother’s Day, Zimbabwe Style
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the significant women in our lives! We pray that you know how much you are honoured and appreciated.
Today we had the privilege of joining the congregation at Hope Community Church as they honoured the mothers and worshipped God - what an experience! All of the music and preaching was led by the men of the congregation, which was a new role for some of them. While there were several different song leaders, they all displayed the same passion and love for the Saviour which they sang about - and the rest of the congregation joined in with full-hearted praise. When all of the mothers were called forward to be honoured by the congregation, we were overwhelmed by how many women came to the front of the church. It is clear that the women of this community are committed to raising their children in the ways of the Lord!
While the mothers were the focus of the service, we as a team were also impressed by the many children in attendance. During the Bible Hour before the service, they actively participated in the discussion and regularly found the Bible verse being discussed MUCH faster than we could. Each of us sat with different children, and they made us feel very welcome. Their attitudes and behavior are a tribute to the mothers in their lives - strong women of faith who are clearly a valued part of this community.
And finally, those of us who have been here before had the opportunity to reconnect with old friends. We learned about new jobs and new school opportunities, we met new babies, and shared about recent events in our lives. While we were worshiping in a different community thousands of miles from our regular church - we ALL felt at home. What a blessing it is to be a part of God’s universal church family!
Monday May 15
Mother’s Day Part 2
The VOH is blessed to have so many caring women who interact with the children on a daily basis, both in the homes and at the school. Today we were able to honour just a few of them. The 8 house moms, along with Mrs Chisoro (social worker) and Mrs Zowa (pastor) came to our residence for a morning of crafts, games, bonding time, and laughter.
A small craft made of stones glued onto canvas allowed the women to express their creative side. A Bible quiz based on things that come third in the Bible tested their knowledge, and helped us to realize just how much information is packed into that book! A devotion based on “A Mother’s Love” led to a discussion of the challenges of maintaining good relationships between parents and children of all ages.
For the ladies of our team, it was such an honour to spend time with these women! They are a very close-knit group, a sisterhood of support and encouragement. They work together to raise the children of VOH. They pray together through good times and through challenges. They worship together and encourage each other in their faith. They sing together to bring praise to God. And all the time, the children watch and learn from these
loving, amazing role models. Praise God that they are here! And may they be blessed in all that they do for the many children of VOH.
Tuesday May 16
The Daily Buffet
This is the 15th time that Mission Zimbabwe has sent a team to VOH. But we know that any team is made up of individuals, with different strengths and gifts. The beauty of our partnership with VOH is that we are allowed to serve in areas where God has gifted us, which may be different for each team member. As a result, our paths often separate after morning devotions, with each of us heading to different projects where we feel called to serve. In each project we partner with a different VOH staff member, giving us an excellent opportunity to meet even more of the dedicated people who work here. Let me give you a sampling of the activities we are involved in:
Taking photos - Dale and Sierra are taking pictures of all of the children involved with CCP sponsorship. This allows the sponsors at home to have updated photos of their sponsor child. Today they took around 250 individual photos!
Building - the gazebo which is used to shelter children while they wait to be picked up after school needs to be replaced. The men of the team are doing most of the work, but the ladies might pitch in from time to time as well.
Tutoring - Audrey has been helping Form 2 and 3 (grades 9 and 10) with their math skills. Not surprisingly, few other team members have offered to help with this one!
After school sports - Barry and Jay have been connecting with students through a shared love of sports.
Youth Chapel and after school programs - Nicole and Sierra have been working with the youngest children here through games, songs, stories and crafts.
We are always welcome to assist outside of our comfort zone when we have free time, and there are also other projects that all team members will participate in. There is so much going on here! What a blessing to be able to serve where we are gifted! And this buffet of activities reinforces just how many amazing people are already here at VOH. All of them are dedicated to providing a loving, supportive environment where each child is valued and God’s love is made real. What a blessing to be a partner in this work!
Wednesday May 18
Can You Feel It?
Emotions have been running high for the team this week - but that’s a good thing! There have been a lot of tears this week, but those emotions have many different sources and we seem to have experienced them all.
There have been tears of sadness as some team members are missing family members at home. Three of our team members have each lost a parent within the past 5 months, and those sad emotions seem to crop up at unexpected times. There is sorrow at seeing some of the living conditions experienced by families in the outreach communities, and on the streets of Harare.
There are feelings of frustration as we realize that, while these students are receiving an excellent education and have big dreams for the future, the current economy in Zimbabwe means that there are very few jobs for them to pursue. And the sheer amount of change we have experienced, and the busyness of our days, has left many of us physically and emotionally drained.
But we have also had tears of joy. The sheer praise and adoration that has been displayed by the various singing groups (the men’s praise team last Sunday, the house mothers, the youth choir, the family groups in the children’s homes) has left each one of us in tears at some point.
We have heard inspired devotions that have touched our hearts. We have met with sponsored children and delighted in their progress over the years. Today Jason shared his testimony at the
Teen Chapel and, while it was a difficult story to tell, his statement that “I know God has a plan for me!” left many in tears as well. We thank Jason for sharing this story, and showing others that it was ok to share their difficult stories too.
But through it all we have felt love, and the working of the Holy Spirit. God's love has sustained us through all of these emotions, and we pray that he will sustain you too.
Friday May 19
Star Learning Centre
Mission Zimbabwe has been partnering with VOH for 17 years, walking beside them and supporting them as they grow as a community. In the same way, VOH has been partnering with a community for the past three years, helping them improve the situation for the children and families living there. Today, the whole team visited this outreach site.
Star Learning Centre is a school located in an economically challenged region near VOH. The school provides an education for 130 students ranging from ECD (Early Childhood Development) to Grade 1. Try to imagine directing 130 children aged 4 to 6 years, with only 5 teachers! While there are many more students living in the community who would love to attend the Centre, there is not enough space to accommodate any more students. The next nearest school is 7 km away, and students have to walk along a busy roadway to get there. Some parents feel that it is not safe for the children to walk that path, so they are kept home instead of attending the more distant school. While there is empty land available in the community, the owner is not willing to sell it, so the school cannot expand. Please pray for a change of heart, and that the land may be made available.
The current classroom space used to be a large, round water storage tank! It has a diameter of approximately 40 - 50 feet, with a brick wall about 6 feet tall. This open area is covered with a steel roof. An additional small classroom was built recently, but there is still not enough room for all of the students to sit inside when using both locations. Instead, half of the students learn outside while the other half are inside, and then they switch places part way through the day.
Out of all of the students at the school, only 5 are currently sponsored through CCP, which creates quite a financial challenge for the facility. The VOH is committed to continued support of this school, but we pray that more students will receive sponsorship to ease the burden. We also pray that this community will continue to grow in knowledge and in faith.
Despite these challenges, the teachers do their best to meet the needs of the children. One of the teachers intentionally hugs every student each day, just to ensure that they receive love every day. We pray for strength and compassion for these teachers as they work with these energetic young children.
Today our team had a chance to bless each of these students through a donation of food staples. Parents were invited to the school at the end of the day, and each student received a large bag of fortified cornmeal, a bag of self-rising flour, and a small bag of sugar beans (a protein source). While this is certainly not a long-term solution to the challenges these families face, we pray that it will be a small blessing that will encourage them to continue on this path of improvement for their community.
Wow, that's a lot of prayer requests in one post! But this community has many needs which VOH cannot even begin to meet on their own. However, we know that all things are possible through Him.
Saturday May 20
The VOH has 9 children's homes, each of which can have up to 9 children. However, the government currently has an initiative to reunite these vulnerable children with some relative - an aunt, a sibling, or a grandparent for example. As a result many faces that would be familiar to past team members are no longer at VOH. House 1 has been converted to a Resource Centre where special events can be held, and children can receive homework help from the interns on attachment to VOH. Two of the houses are empty, and the remaining 6 houses are staffed by the 8 mothers. The "spare" mothers fill in when someone has a day off, or if someone needs to be away for some reason.
For the approximately 50 children who live here, their world is contained within the walls of VOH. This 20 hectare property contains their homes, their school, their church and a medical clinic. Everything the children need is on the property so they never have to leave. While that may sound wonderful to us, the children aren't always quite as impressed with it. Seeing and doing the same thing every day gets BORING after a while! And summer holidays are particularly long as they don't even get to visit with their friends from school - the children from VOH rarely leave the property.
Today we had a chance to change that, as we took the children and mothers to Longcheng Amusement Park. Many children didn't sleep last night because they were SOOOO excited about the trip! We saw children waiting at the VOH gates at 5 AM, when the bus wasn't scheduled to leave until 8 AM! They arrived at the park but had to wait 30 minutes before the gates opened there. Once they had their tickets, they raced through the gates … only to find that there was no electricity and the rides didn't work! It is not uncommon for the electricity to be off in Zimbabwe, but this was particularly unfortunate timing. They made do with trampolines, slides, swings and a wading pool as they waited. Eventually, the park started up their generators, and the children ran to the rides - the swinging Pirate Ship, the Rocket, and other typical amusement park rides. The look of fear on their faces as they waited for the ride to start, and then their squeals (of delight? of fear?) as the ride progressed, were such a joy for us to hear. The mothers were able to relax and watch their young charges be typical kids. We were an average family out for a day at the park - if a family of 60 people can be considered normal!
We were so happy to be able to provide this day for the families. We're pretty sure that they will be telling stories about this day for quite some time. And we're also pretty sure that the kids will sleep VERY well tonight!
Sunday May 21
A Time of Sharing
Yesterday the 5 men from our team hosted a men's breakfast, complete with pancakes and Canadian maple syrup. There were about 40 men in attendance, representing Hope Community Church here at VOH, Star community, and another community church nearby. Lorne shared a part of his life story, and then they broke into small groups to discuss God's faithfulness in times of trouble. Men from two different countries were able to share about the same concerns and worries, and how God had been with them through those challenges.
Today our team brought the message at the church service, and it was such an honor to be trusted to lead a community of believers in a different culture, as we worshiped the same God. Lorne facilitated the presentation as Barry, Dale, Nicole and Jason all shared their testimonies. There were a lot of nerves leading up to this, but all of the speakers were blessed with the courage to be vulnerable in front of this large crowd. The Holy Spirit was definitely present as they all spoke about finding strength and hope in God through difficult times in their lives. It was clear that their stories resonated with the church members here, as the congregation realized that people in all parts of the world have struggles. Hurt, brokenness and fear are universal problems. And God is faithful throughout all of our challenges, regardless of age, gender or nationality.
After the presentation, we invited members to the front of the church for a time of individual prayer with either a MZ team member or a church pastor. About 30 people came forward to share their burdens and fears with a fellow believer. What an honour to be able to encourage and bless them through prayer!
We give God the glory for the success of all of these activities. We serve a faithful God who gives us hope even in times of struggle. Amen!
Monday May 22
Since our arrival here, the MZ team has been acting like a big family - breakfast conversations about our plans for the day, card games after supper, and shared jokes about things that have happened (ask Sierra about her driving experience here in Zimbabwe!). And along with any family comes the completion of the household chores. I want to share a bit with you about how that has been going.
Breakfast preparation tends to be “each man for himself” as we all wake up at different times and have different food preferences. Lunch is prepared for us by the VOH staff, and we eat in the offices there. When we eat supper at home, our team has been split into two groups who alternate the cooking responsibilities - and we have been eating very well!
Our house has running water, but it is not safe for us to drink, so we buy bottled water. Our house also does not have hot water, so we need to boil whatever we need for doing dishes and bathing. Fortunately, we have been provided with 3 buckets with an electrical heating coil inside of each one. The water heats quite quickly - as long as the electricity is working! Our shower then consists of a bucket of hot water, a bucket of cold water and a cup or bowl for pouring the water. Most of our showers are pretty quick ... except for Jason.
On two occasions we have come home to find no water working at the house, as there have been problems with the pump. It only took us one experience with this to learn to immediately refill every bucket that was empty. And every pail. And every empty water jug. Now we always have water to wash the dishes, to wash ourselves, and to flush the toilets!
Each day when we come home, Lorne is on pest control - because we have ANTS! Any small crumb of food left out attracts a hoard of these little invaders. We have learned that they are not fond of bleach so we use a pretty direct attack with them. We also have spiders (3 at last count) which just seem to stay on the walls, with only slight variations in their location. Every day we check to make sure that they are still where we last saw them, give or take a few feet.
Grocery shopping occurs on a very regular basis. We have been going through a lot of fruit and chocolate, and drinking Orange Fanta and Stoney Ginger Beer. Alex seems to be in charge of these trips as he has his international driver’s license. Prices are in Zim dollars, which is quite shocking (the conversion is around 1700 Zim to 1 Canadian). A shopping bill of 300,000 is not uncommon.
So life here is the same ... but different. And we are just one big family, trying to navigate it all.