Already there is a real danger that it feels as if the whole of my trip to Zimbabwe was a unreal. I have pictures of the sights and sounds and people in my head but the whole trip was so extraordinary that I worry that I have misrememebered things. That’s why our continued links are so important because as I e-mail Ronald, the Diocesan Project Manager in Matabeleland and Simba and his wife, with whom I stayed in Central Zimbabwe Diocese, I know that these are real people, living real lives, which I was privileged to be a part of however briefly.
The Links between our Episcopal Areas and the Diocese in Zimbabwe provide the focus for continued relationships which help us to grow in understanding of each other and of our experiences of the importance of the work of the church where we are.
I have come back knowing that it must be possible to simplify my life, to live with less and to seek God more. I have returned with a real desire to see how we, in the churches here in Southwark, can begin to be more obviously joyful in our faith and more grateful for all that God has done for us. But, I have also come back knowing that there is so much more to know about Zimbabwe and its people and that I want to continue to find out about them and to be able to watch and where possible, help as the country recovers from the difficulties of the past decades.
As I head off on holiday I know that part of what I shall do as I sit by the Lake is try to process, more effectively, all that I saw and heard and the many things which I experienced. I know that I will keep trying to work out how people manage to survive and provide for themselves and their families without any obvious means of income. I will remember the faces of the smallest children at St Martin’s school on my last morning in Central Zimbabwe Diocese and how they hung out of the window smiling wanting their photographs taken too – I am sure I unwittingly caused chaos in the school that morning. I can still feel my body wanting to move to the music of the songs and hymns of praise and sense the effect (at the confirmation on the first Sunday) of trying to get my tongue around the long Ndebele words which meant nothing to me but obviously spoke of the wonder of God.
The people have left a strong impression on me but so has the countryside. Vast swathes of land which no longer produce the food which used to make Zimbabwe (as I was told frequently) ‘the bread basket of Africa’; the long straight roads that we hurtled down from Gweru to Kwe Kwe or Bulawayo; the potholes on the long straight roads and on the smaller roads where Norman, with whom Deirdre and I stayed (with his wife Sippho) whilst in Matabeleland Diocese, would swerve onto the other side of the road so as to avoid the worst of the bumps and then there is the simple vastness of the land and its wildlife.
Zimbabwe is a beautiful country and the people whom we met were gracious, kind, generous, hopeful and full of energy. But, their lives are not easy and the work that they are trying to do within the churches and the MU is demanding. There is much still to do and I shall go on thinking about what we here in Southwark can most helpfully do to help to sustain those who are working so hard. Clearly the resources we send are important but more than that I am convinced that our prayers and concern; the knowledge that we are thinking of them and willing them on helps to ensure that even when times are really hard and things begin to feel impossible the people in the Anglican church in Zimbabwe find the strength to continue to serve God and love one another. I shall continue to ponder all that we saw and might come back and share some of those thoughts in due course but for now....
God Bless Zimbabwe and let us thank God for the people in Central Zimbabwe and Matabeleland Diocese whom we have meet in the last few weeks and pray for them and all those in the churches throughout Zimbabwe particularly those with whom we have direct Links.