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It is a tradition that our Minister writes a letter every month which is printed in our magazine, "The Messenger". Here is Deacon Marilyn's letter from the July/August summer double edition, written following her recent visit to Zimbabwe as a representative of the Birmingham District.
The hope of the visit was to continue the discussions about the twinning of the two Districts of Kadoma and Birmingham and to attend the three-day Synod of the Kadoma District. Also, to explore ways of working together and learn from one another. It was not to be an "aid" package or an old fashioned missionary relationship.
Our team of six arrived in Zimbabwe as true Methodists comprised of four Ordained and two Lay people, exploring together.
The fact that Zimbabwe had been a British colony was very evident (the names of streets and layout) in many ways as we drove through the suburbs into Harare where we were to spend the night and start our adventure. First impression was that of a welcoming culture, and greeting people (like in all African culture) was of great importance. This was evident in the warmth of those who met and welcomed us; in the local cuisine which included the staple sadza with various stew like sauces; and in the hospitality until we had settled in comfort for the night.
The following morning we travelled from Harare to Kadoma to fulfill the first of our preaching appointments, as we were preaching on two Sundays we were there. The church where I preached was two hours' drive from Harare and others went further for another hour to Kwekwe Circuit in the southern part of Kadoma District.
The service was led by a local preacher and was a family service in Shona, and the sermon was translated into Shona. It was easy for me to pick up the hymns and sing in English. The congregation was made up of 60% young people and children and 40% adults. The service started with praise and worship when each group: choir, men, women, youth and children danced to the front to a Shona praise song in amazing harmony.
What was striking was the presence and participation of the young people and children in the services. They led the singing, did the readings and said some prayers with a local preacher present who would have given the message if I hadn't been doing it. In my second service in Chinoi East Circuit I was totally blown away by the youth's participation in the service and church activities when the notices were read.
After the service most of the young people wanted to take photos and have selfies with me, which was quite nice.
There was also some recreational time built into the programme that enabled us to travel to the north west of the country, through Gweru, Bulawayo and Hwanga to visit Victoria Falls. This gave us an understanding of the economic crisis in the country and how it is eating away under the surface.
We got to Synod, which was like Conference, and lasted three days in Moleli High School, one of the Methodist boarding schools in Zimbabwe. On the first day after the opening session and a great welcome and worship, there were separate ministerial and lay sessions. The language was very familiar to those who have attended the British Methodist Conference. There was a visible representation of the youth of the District at Synod.
I am still trying to process and discern what can be translated back to Sutton Park Circuit or Birmingham District.
I was pleased that Methodist Zimbabwe is still raising cradle Methodists and has kept a good number of the youth and young professionals active in the church. Maybe it is because church attendance is still by the family as a unit, and every service is a family service. Maybe it is because the conversations at Synod and other gatherings were primarily about the wellbeing of people (mind, body and spirit) and hospitality - buildings and the like were way down the line.