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Moira's Tales from our Linked Diocese of Central Zimbabwe

Coming into Bulawayo airport we could see the storm clouds and rain in the distance. Fortunately, by the time we had managed to get our visas sorted at the airport the rains had moved on. In any case the smiling welcome from Bishop Ignatius and his wife Flora made up for any stormy weather!


Steven Chapman, the treasurer of our Croydon Central Zimbabwe link, and I were beginning our 5 day visit to meet with our friends in Gweru in the heart of the Diocese. As Archdeacon in the Episcopal Area, I am the co-chair of the link alongside Revd Christopher Machakaire of the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe.

 

Holy Spirit Monastery

Setting off on an exciting journey, we headed for the Holy Spirit Monastery nestled deep in the heart of the Zimbabwean wilderness. Here we found a secluded sanctuary where a community of dedicated nuns and a Friar, Friar Joshua, resided. Surrounded by the wild bush, approximately 20km from Gweru in Central Zimbabwe, we found ourselves engulfed in peace.


Following a simple meal that rejuvenated our spirits, I was shown to my modest dwelling for the night. As darkness descended over the land, the chorus of bullfrogs serenaded me, evoking a profound sense of connection. Could it have been the warm hospitality of my hosts that stirred this sentiment deep within me?


Holy Spirit Monastery, near Gweru Central Zimbabwe


St Patrick's High School and Hospital

During our journey, our first destination on Friday led us to St Patrick’s High School and Hospital, nestled about 30km north of Gweru. Originally founded as a mission station with a noble mission of providing healthcare, education, and spreading the gospel, this historical site now stands as a beacon of community leadership in Gweru. Today, the church, now fully managed by the local community, remains dedicated to delivering essential education and healthcare services. Our collaboration has played a crucial role in supporting the Diocese's efforts to upgrade the clinic into a hospital, a transformation project that has been steadily progressing over the past decade. Regrettably, the hospital is currently awaiting government approval to bring in medical professionals.


Our visit to St Patrick's was not just about witnessing history but also about making an impact. We joined hands with the Anglican Communion Forest initiative by planting trees, a joint endeavour across various dioceses to combat climate change. In a light-hearted moment, Bishop Ignatius named his tree 'Justice', sparking a playful exchange with Flora who jokingly asked about another tree named 'Justice' from a previous visit. The Bishop's witty reply, 'Yes, but Justice was stolen,' struck a chord in a country where the well-being of its people hasn't always been the top priority in governmental decisions.


Bishop Ignatius about to plant ‘Justice’


Gold!

Exploring Bishop Ignatius's entrepreneurial side, our journey led us to a gold mine where his innovation shines bright. Formerly a Self Supporting Minister turned bishop, he's not one to merely spend money, but rather invests in income-generating projects. Witnessing the intricate process of extracting gold from rock, we learned of the risks involved with mercury and cyanide. To prioritize safety, the diocese has heavily invested in top-notch equipment. Every use of this equipment incurs a fee, with the earnings going towards supporting a dedicated priest. A true testament to turning risks into rewards!


Mining for Gold involves dangerous chemicals


Mother's Union and Anglican Women's Fellowship

In the afternoon we were privileged to join a confirmation service and saw women join the Mothers’ Union and the Anglican Women’s Fellowship. The Mothers’ Union is a powerful force for good in Zimbabwe, but if women are not married they cannot join in Zimbabwe (in the UK even men can join!)


The Mothers’ Union holds a special place in Zimbabwean society, with its unique traditions and values. While unmarried women may not join this particular group, the Anglican Women’s Fellowship warmly welcomes all women with open arms. It was a beautiful sight to see members of both groups donning their church uniforms, symbolizing their shared faith and sisterhood.


Bishop Rosemarie, a pillar of strength who raised Jayne as a single parent, is closely linked with the Anglican Women’s Fellowship. On the other hand, I proudly wear my Mother's Union badge, a symbol of my deep connection to this organisation. Despite our different affiliations, we both cherish the strong bonds we share with all our Anglican sisters in Central Zimbabwe.


New members of the Anglican Women’s Fellowship


Church Visits

Sunday brought trips to churches – I went to St Francis Church in a suburb of Gweru. The church was planted in 2020, and is now about 50 strong. They meet at 8.30am in a United Methodist Church building. Excitingly, they are on the brink of a new chapter as they work towards acquiring land nearby to construct their very own church building!


That afternoon we met with the members of the Link committee who live in Central Zimbabwe – it was wonderful to see them face to face at last. But while we met the rains came again, and it thundered, and then a bat flew into the room!! Still they were glad of the rain.


Antelope Park

Monday was a memorable day as we embarked on our final adventure together, setting off to explore the wonders of Antelope Park alongside Friar Joshua. Despite its close proximity to St Cuthbert’s Cathedral in Gweru, a mere 15km away, Friar Joshua, the dean of the cathedral, had never had the chance to visit due to the steep entrance fees designed for Western visitors. It was a heart warming experience to treat him, contribute to the local economy, and immerse ourselves in the beauty of the wildlife that graced the park.


With Friar Joshua at the Antelope Park

 

And then we flew home, to the snow and cold of Surrey in December, but with joy in our hearts at having met our friends in Zimbabwe. 


Please pray for them, for last winter the rains did not come and the country is in drought and food inflation is at over 100%. The Zimbabwean dollar was so depreciated that the government has started again with a new currency, the Zimbabwean Gold.


Our abiding memory will be of love and welcome from all we met.


Archdeacon of Reigate, The Venerable Moira Astin

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