Greetings from Zimbabwe – Pastor Gari Masuka

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Pastor Gari, Jettie, and Hanna

On behalf of our team at Hands of Hope Trust in Zimbabwe, I would like to thank you for your support towards our orphan ministry. God has enabled you to be consistent in partnering with us in four Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs in four consecutive years. Your week of VBS is like a weeklong on-the-job training for our camp leaders. Thank God the high standard you have imparted on us has been noticed by our country’s biggest compassionate ministry –Higher Life Foundation– and a Harare SOS Children’s Village. These two organizations have asked us to do VBS for the children they support. This means revenue for Habitation of Hope (HOH) Campsite, much-needed jobs for our camp leaders, and greater ministry opportunity for all of us at HOH. As I speak, one of our camp leaders got a full-time job as a camp director with an international organization. Your standard has taught us how to serve God with excellence. You spare no less effort in preparations, and you execute the VBS with Godly love. You have recognized that our challenges are deeper than what money can bail out. You have touched us, and the eyeball-to-eyeball experiences we have had with teams created living memories. Thank you for carrying our burdens. Your teams have moved into the most despised communities and given the inhabitants of those communities, like Donhodzo compound and Greenvalley, an assurance that a cloud of witnesses is cheering them to soldier on. Thank you for the high value you put on communion and fellowship.

Our ministry owes a lot to God’s people in your church. We are setting up a camp specifically for children from hard places. Our hope is to have a more vibrant camping ministry which complements work done by our Transformation Centers (TC).  Our TCs seek to bridge the gap left by deceased or absentee parents in children without putting children in institutional care. Through your support in sending teams, we hope to continue giving our partners a week-long breather from their day to day ministry work. I have seen hope kindled in kids as they leave our camp. Caregivers also recharge as we give them a breather. We have recently completed building two kids’ dorms, and we have an opportunity to add more on our 134-acre property. We are hoping to increase our camping capacity so that we won’t deny children a chance to camp because we can take only 4 of our 30 partners per given school holiday.

We are looking forward to walking hand in hand as we serve our Lord Jesus together in 2018. We thank God for making you answers to our prayers.

Gari Masuka –Hands of Hope Zimbabwe

Taking It All In

Author: Tiffany Price

Hello, everyone. Most of our team is back in the U.S.!  Thanks so much for all the prayers and support. It was truly a humbling experience, and I’m sure you will all be hearing personal accounts from our team members soon.

Here is a recap of how we spent our last few days in Zimbabwe.  Once the week of Vacation Bible School was over and the kids had returned to their village, we took a couple of hours to do some souvenir shopping at a Harare flea market before heading to Chegutu, which was a bit over an hour away from Harare.  In Chegutu, we visited St. Francis High School. The school has a number of students whose school fees are being sponsored by the Menlo Church community. We met with the school leadership, had a tour of the school, and heard from the students about the various subjects they’re taking. They all thanked the church for supporting their education and asked us to pray for their academic pursuits.

After leaving Chegutu, we spent the night at a beautiful campsite called Lasting Impressions which is run by a Zimbabwean man and his American wife. They provide environmental education and leadership development experiences from a Christian perspective. Together, they have created a unique habitat seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It was a wonderful respite, however brief, and certainly made a ‘lasting impression’ on all of us. 🙂

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Lasting Impressions Housing (interior)
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Lasting Impressions Pool
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Lasting Impressions Housing (exterior)

The next morning, we got the opportunity to actually visit the school and the village, Donhodzo, of the orphan kids who attended Vacation Bible School at Habitation of Hope. It’s one thing to have heard a few stories of the kids’ lives and to imagine the context, and it’s a completely different thing to see that context in person. Education is not a ‘given’ for these young people, and it’s by the grace of God and the persistence of local volunteers who work to make sure these kids have a consistent educational experience.

The Donhodzo school site was relocated from a small one-room building on the village property to a site a few miles away with more space. Currently, the new school site is undergoing some improvements, including the addition of a pump to a water well on the property.

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Old one-room school (exterior)
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Old one-room school (interior)
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New school
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New school

The students greeted us with a warm welcome, with many of the students who had attended camp wearing their camp t-shirts and crowns (sons & daughters of the King! – 2 Corinthians 6:18). They sang songs, recited poems and Bible verses, and presented us with a gift of food – out of little, they gave much.

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Donhodzo School
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Donhodzo School
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Donhodzo School

A few of the students were selected to show us their homes back at the village. We had the luxury of vehicles to transport us all to the village, but the students typically walk to and from school.

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Camper in front of her home

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Camper showcases her art from camp

After leaving the village, we headed back toward Harare to Pamuzinda Safari Lodge, where we debriefed our visit to Zimbabwe and had a chance to see some of the local wildlife. We were greeted at Pamuzinda by Jasmine, a 4-year old orphaned giraffe with a lot of spunk. The safari lodge and activities were a great reminder that our realities of privilege separate us from the realities of the orphans we left behind.

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Jasmine, orphaned giraffe
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Team members go horseback riding
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A safari vehicle

Overall, the past two weeks in Zimbabwe were a whirlwind. We did so much in such a little time, and the next few weeks we will all be processing the experience. Continue to pray for us as we go through this critical stage and seek for lifelong fruit to be born out of this mission.

God Made Us

Author: Jettie Stedham

“In the beginning God created . . . . .  and He said it was good.”  Day 1 of 2017 Zimbabwe VBS Camp was good indeed.  As our team was very excited and anxiously awaited the beginning of camp, we can now exhale and see what God had in store for us.

Today we learned the Bible verse theme for the week, “I will be your father and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord God Almighty.” -2 Corinthians 6:18.  Needless to say, the children blew us away with their remarkable memory skills.  Our friend Maxwell made his 2017 camp debut during the puppet show.  He was struggling with his relationship with his cousin Freddy.  The children were also treated to a reenactment of the Genesis creation story.  But enough on the given.

I was amazed at how disciplined all 52 children were at breakfast as they waited to be served their food.  When I walked into the dining hall I greeted with the Shona word for Good morning,  “Mangwanani” and a chorus of the same reverberated back to me.

During small group, they were very shy and needed a lot of coaxing to answer some of the questions.  One of the prompt statements was, “Describe a time when you felt precious and valuable.”  Answers like, “when I didn’t have a pencil and someone gave me a pencil, when I couldn’t go to school because I didn’t have shoes, when I could not go to school because I didn’t have school fees and the Pastor gave money for the fees”  These answers were very heavy for the heart to hear but this is the reality of these children’s lives.

Three particular children stood out to me, Paddington – a teeny little 7-year old boy, and Mary and Mona Lisa who both spoke English.  Paddington was little but has such a large presence.  Little as he is, he was readily available to accept the challenges just like the big boys, without hesitation.  Mary is one of the older girls and is just bursting with potential.

She is outgoing and a natural leader.  Her leadership aptitude led her Yellow Tiger Team to multiple victories.  Mona Lisa is a very observant girl and displays the personality of a methodical thinker.  She listens, absorbs, processes the situation then takes the necessary action.  However, she is painfully shy and has very low self-confidence.

These are only 3 of the 52 children who have their own story and yet seemed to have the same theme, poverty, abuse and neglect.  Their prayer requests vary from getting pencils, stationaries, and shoes.  Please pray for wisdom for the team to know how to give without hurting.

It’s a good thing that their Heavenly Father who loves them deeply, “owns the cattle on a thousand hills”, Psalms 50:10.

 

Field Trip Day

Author: Barbara Wilcox

It’s tough to have Saturday roll around – the last day with the kids. Though we’re exhausted, we’re broken-hearted to say goodbye to kids we’ve gotten to know and whose needs and dreams we’ve just begun to understand. One local leaders told me, “Let’s not say goodbye, because there will be tears.”  One said, “Let’s just say, ‘Till next time.’”

This is my third trip to Zimbabwe with Hands of Hope. Each time I am honored and fascinated to learn more about this country’s inspiring, resilient people. This year I learned that children love to teach as well as to learn. Mary, Moreblessing C., Laina, Nomatter and several others taught me their favorite game, netball, which is Zimbabwe’s No. I sport for girls. They taught me folk stories and Shona words. Though they are sometimes shy in our American-led groups (not Mary – she and David always have hands up), within ten minutes these awesome girls had formed two sides of their best players, explained the rules, demoed the play and got us playing. I’m probably getting it wrong but I try to keep in mind one word they taught me, ushinge – courage.

Traditionally, on the last day we treat the kids to an outing, ideally one with educational value. It used to be a lion park on the way to their hometown, Chegutu, but many of this year’s kids have seen it more than once. So we tried the small amusement park in the Chinese-owned shopping mall in Harare. 

The little kids liked the miniature train, the revolving teacups etc. The bigger kids had mixed feelings, at best, about the flying boat ride. 

We forget how removed they are from mass culture and from typical Western kid experiences. If anyone has an idea for next year’s outing, I’m sure our leaders are all ears.

Sunday Worship at Highfield

Author: Christine Taylor

Our second Sunday in Zimbabwe gifted us with a glorious dawn as the cocks in the neighboring “informal settlement” crowed, Cape turtle doves sang and the weavers chirped around their swaying nests. After a hearty breakfast we enjoyed a time of praising and thanking God for the amazing time we had enjoyed with the children this week. Today’s devotional challenged us to think of our own areas of poverty and to recognize our inner brokenness. We have seen so much spiritual wealth here!

We worshipped at Highfield Nazarene Church

 where Pastor Mutatu and his wife, Pastor Irene, are responsible for 6 for the Hands of Hope homes in which 66 orphans are housed in family settings. Only about 10% of their congregation  has jobs so many are working informally by selling goods that they find in the main market or in South Africa with slight mark up to bring in a little something.  Sarah, Emily and Christine brought the Word of God to a very receptive church.

God wove together Sarah’s message of dependence on God and our need to forgive others with Emily’s message of our need for intimate connection with Jesus and not to let busyness and focus on tasks keep us from time with Him (the story of Mary and Martha). Christine’s passage from John 15 of Jesus the vine and our need to remain attached in order to bear spiritual fruit seemed to echo this theme.  The pastors here all take notes during sermons by others! As usual the worship was vibrant and we were warmly welcomed. We experienced God in a powerful way.
After a stop for lunch in town at a popular food court with overhead Christian music we took a brief stroll through the African Unity Square (formally Cecil Square after Cecil Rhodes, founder of Rhodesia the colonial name for Zimbabwe). Crossing the road we had a few minutes in the Famous Meikles hotel founded in 1915 which is a 5 star hotel and of the highest Western standards. We noticed that this is where the Emirates flight crews stay!

Back at Habitation (which we now call “home”) we scrambled up the granite rocks to the highest point on the property and watched a gorgeous sunset in a cloudless sky. 

After dinner we sorted craft materials to leave for the local leaders to use at future camps before packing for our last 3 days in the Chegutu area where our camp children live.

We will do some souvenir shopping tomorrow and then drive to Saint Francis High School where we will see the 12 students who are supported by some prior team members. It will be a joy to be reconnected with them as they could not be at our camp this year owing to their mid-year exams last week.  Tuesday will be our reunion with the camp children in their home settings.

We may not have Internet access again before we leave on Thursday but we will fill in the last two days of debrief as soon as we can! We are immensely grateful for your faithful prayer support and interest in our mission here.   God has blessed our socks off!

 

Goodbyes

Author: Tiffany Price
Saturday was our last day with all the camp kids. All the kids and local camp leaders brought their luggage to be loaded on 3 vans. We took group pictures before departing Habitation of Hope. 

The Leaders

All the Camp Kids
Once all the kids were loaded up, as Barbara mentioned, we headed to a local amusement park.

Christine taking a turn at driving

After the amusement park, we had some afternoon snacks and icecream. Then, we said our goodbyes. It was very bittersweet.

Next, the team had lunch at Nando’s and went to visit with Pastor Henry of Rugare ACOP Church and learned about his orphan ministry. Through their ministry, they feed 200 to 250 kids and house 32 in various homes. Pastor Henry and his wife house 8 orphan girls and a child of one of the girls.

Team with Pastor Henry at Rugare ACOP

In addition to these programs, they serve 40 kids in their Bridging School with Pastor Henry’s wife as the headmistress. They also have various gardens (cucumber, tomatoes, rabe), rabbits, and fish.

Team checking out fish pond
Team with Pastor Henry and “Uncle” Oscar

Aging orphans mostly take care of the various gardens run by the ministry. It was a great visit, and we continue to be inspired by the compassion we are surrounded by in Zimbabwe.

God Will Always Love Us

Today we are learning that God will always love us and that nothing can separate us from his love.

Today’s bible story skit was quite elaborate as it included the last supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, and Jesus reinstating Peter after he denied him 3 times.

The afternoon included a very competitive game of Giant Jenga and plenty of running around and singing.

I personally have mixed feelings as we approach tomorrow. It will be such a joyful celebration day to end camp, but it means we will soon be saying goodbye to our Zimbabwean family.

I’m sitting in the kitchen listening to the beautiful sounds of our Zimbabwean leader counterparts practicing a song for the children tonight. I could listen to them practice forever. It’s moments like this that I am so grateful the world is so big and diverse, but we all  find unity in Christ.

Author: Katie Sherwin

Friday Fun

This is sekuru (elder or old guy in Shona) Curt reporting as the eldest member of the team. This has been a big day! Our last full day with the kids was full of adventure and surprises. We had the usual morning activities of memory verses, singing, Bible story skit and, of course, the final puppet show where Maxwell leads his cousin Freddie to Christ.

After lunch we were treated to a tour of the aqua-ponics operation that is developing at Habitation. This combines fish farming with hydroponics farming in order to generate income for Hands of Hope. They will raise tilapia and grow vegetables such as cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and herbs. Right now they are trying to raise funds to install solar panels to power the pumps. This is necessary so they are not reliant upon the grid which is frequently down.

After that it was time for the mud hole with the kids. This is a popular activity for the kids and for a few of the more adventurous leaders!

Eric and I had noticed a veld fire approaching from the east and were concerned about whether it would reach habitation. Steve was showing some concern so we picked up some hoes and started creating defensible space around some of the green houses. Fortunately the fire burned itself out before it got to our property.

The evening was filled with festivities as this was our last night with the children. We had lots of singing, a talent show, dance contest and finally gave out gifts to the leaders. Some of the older members surprised he audience by busting some moves!

We were blessed with the greatest group of leaders! They were so helpful to us in terms of translating and were experts in managing the kids. It really was sort of a bittersweet time as we have really grown to love these kids and they would be leaving us the next day. The good news is that we will see them again in a few days as we visit them in Chegutu.

As has been the case every other evening we were ready for our beds by the time things ended! It was another excellent day at Habitation.

Author: Curt Taylor

God Will Fight For Me

It was a wonderful day two of camp! Our theme for the day was God fights for me. We had an enthusiastic presentation of the story of Moses parting the Red Sea. During craft time the children decorated cardboard shields. In small groups we wanted the children to see that God protects and fights for them. 

Moses parts the Red Sea

We started our small group asking the children who they lived with.  In my group of 12, no one lives with a parent. The children’s responses were grandmothers, stepmom, and aunts. The children participated a bit more in small groups today as they are becoming more comfortable. We ended small groups by asking the children if they had any prayer requests. Their requests were heart breaking. Many asked for school fees and school shoes. The kids value school so much and they want a good education. In Chugutu there is an informal school run by Pastor Erasmus. The school services 350 students with 8 teachers. The children do not have to pay a fee for this school. There is also a private school nearby. Many children wish to go to this school but there is a fee per term to attend.

As a teacher in the States, the differences between these children and my own students are striking. I think many of my students, if given a choice, would love to not go to school.  The children here pray to go to school. I love how the children here know how to spend their free time. They are okay with sitting and not talking. They know how to entertain themselves with games and songs. They don’t have to be constantly busy like many children back in the states. It is also incredible how all 52 kids participate in everything. The older kids are not too cool to sing or do crafts. Truly all of the kids are happy to do anything we present them with. Their joy and excitement is something I hope to never forget. 

Our day was filled with a lot of singing, dancing, and fun! Thank you for all of your prayers.  God is doing amazing things here in Zimbabwe.

Author: Emily Shull

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