|Church can do more to help poor in Africa, commissioners find|
Members of the Commission on Communication give porridge to primary school students. A UMNS photo by Linda Green.
By Linda Green*
Jan. 23, 2007 | MARANGE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)
The daily life of a rural African woman is heavy-laden, and the
governing members of United Methodist Communications experienced that
Arnold Rhodes and Gary Henderson, members of the
Commission on Communication, pass out mahewu, a fortified beverage, to
children at Mt. Makomwe Primary School. A UMNS photo by Linda Green.
Members of the Commission on Communication spent hours doing what is
known in rural Africa as "woman's work." They hauled water, broke wood
and built fires, cooked meals for schoolchildren over an open flame and
made drinks. They also unloaded tons of staples and delivered foodstuffs
to homes in the countryside.
The commission was in Zimbabwe Jan. 4-11 for its first board meeting
outside the continental United States. The members observed the living
conditions of people in the Mutare area, and saw the impact that the
Zimbabwe Orphans Endeavor - a United Methodist-supported ministry - is
having in helping children orphaned by AIDS. Some of the commissioners
held a two-day communications training for pastors and lay people at
United Methodist-related Africa University.
Commission member Gary Henderson, pastor of East Shore United
Methodist Church in Euclid, Ohio, got a firsthand taste of the hardship
many people experience.
Zimbabwe is a country in economic turmoil, and Henderson wanted to
know how the people coped with hyperinflation "at rates that we as
Americans would not even begin to understand."
As he moved through the countryside, he saw "a lot of need but also
people who were willing to share in the midst of their own need," he
said. "... There is a sense that people are in the struggle together.
They are doing what they can to be a community, to be a family and work
Henderson said he was carrying a message back to his Ohio
congregation and network of friends and acquaintances that there is
something for them to do. "We have to do more ... and challenge people
to make a difference."
Poverty and its effects have been identified by the church's African
bishops as the most significant issue in daily life, but "poverty" is
not a term the people use to describe their circumstances. "It does not
define who they are nor define their communities," said the Rev. Larry
Hollon, top executive at United Methodist Communications.
Americans think of poverty in financial terms, but it is bigger than
that, Henderson noted. "Poverty is the absence of basic, essential kinds
of things. In so many ways in our own country, we are missing some
basic kinds of things." People have become anesthetized to violence and
"how we really love each other," he said. "(We) have become a nation of
the living dead. We have become numb."
ZOE makes a difference
Elnora Hamb builds a fire for making porridge for schoolchildren. A UMNS photo by Linda Green.
Commission members visited two mission centers outside Mutare that
are operated through the Zimbabwe Orphans Endeavor. ZOE is an advance
special program of the North Carolina Annual Conference that seeks to
embrace and assist children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic through
providing school fees, purchasing uniforms and feeding them. The program
is supported by partners from across the United Methodist connection.
Every 14 seconds a child is orphaned in Africa because of AIDS, and
6,000children become orphans every day, according to ZOE literature.
Africa has 12 million orphans, and that number could reach 40
million by 2010.
As the commission visited with orphans and people suffering from
AIDS, "I felt that I walked to the very brink of suffering and despair,"
Henderson said. "But I also found it a holy time to be present with
people who were living with that kind of suffering that would be hard to
imagine in America."
The nearly two-and-a-half-year-old ministry is led by North Carolina
clergyman Greg Jenks. He was introduced to the plight of AIDS in 2001 by
a 15-year-old girl who said her calling was to help AIDS orphans in
In 2003, "I sensed that Christ was calling me to offer leadership in
The United Methodist Church in caring for these suffering children,"
Jenks said in a testimonial. "I am convinced that this is the hour that
the church needs to respond to the devastating suffering of the little
ones in southern Africa.
"As God has begun opening doors, ZOE Ministry has responded by
offering care to thousands of suffering orphans," he said. "Hungry
children are being fed, eager children are being educated, and little
ones are finding hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."
The ministry's infrastructure in Zimbabwe is under the leadership of
the Zimbabwe United Methodist Church. ZOE is also branching out to
assist AIDS orphans in Kenya through the Maua Methodist Mission, and it
is involved in an inner-city ministry in Zambia.
The vision of the ministry, according to its Web site, includes:
- Establishing care for orphans and vulnerable children in cooperation with United Methodist and ecumenical ministries in Africa.
- Equipping orphans with essential life skills.
- Linking churches with ministries caring for orphans in Africa.
- Reaching children for Christ.
- Coordinating work teams from the United States.
'The work of God'
Devin Mauney and Chase Bannister, members of the
Commission on Communication, haul a container of water to make porridge.
A UMNS photo by Linda Green.
At United Methodist-related Marange Mission Center, the commission
members arrived for the first day of school and assisted mothers of the
schoolchildren attending Mt. Makomwe Primary School in preparing the
noon meal for 500 children. Nearly 40 percent of the students have been
orphaned by AIDS.
Across Zimbabwe, nearly 15,000 children are fed daily through ZOE.
For some of the children, this will be the only meal they receive on
some days, Jenks said.
"This is the work of God," he said. "When I look at what is going on,
I do not ever sit back and say, 'Look at what I have done.' It is more
of feeling like an observer of something that God is doing. It is a
calling, and it is a lot easier than being a pastor." Before he was
appointed to lead ZOE, Jenks was pastor at Christ Community United
Methodist Church in Clayton, N.C.
Commission members arrived early in the morning, like the mothers do,
to begin the process of making porridge. While some broke wood for a
fire, others hauled water to fill a large cast-iron pot.
In sweltering heat, they stood over the fire, stirring the porridge
until it was done. They also carried water to fill a large barrel to
make mahewu, a vitamin-fortified, cereal beverage that is served to
students ranging from 2 to 14 years old.
A different way
Elnora Hamb, the pan-Methodist representative to the commission from
Chicago, is no stranger to circumstances in Africa. A member of the
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, she is involved in ministries
across the continent and supervises 380,000 women in Africa, Haiti and
She came with the commission, she said, "to do outreach ministry that
would strengthen the people in this area." She was impressed by the
warmth and hospitality of the people, she said. "Although they may be
deprived by our standards, I saw joy in them because they do not know
the other side."
"The trip for me was about finding something different, a different
culture, and a different way of doing things." Upon returning home, she
will convey her findings so that her women's organization can become
even more mission minded.
Greg Jenks, director of ZOE ministries, stirs a pot of porridge. A UMNS photo by Linda Green.
Hamb, who participated in the "life of a rural African woman"
experience, said "it is a hard day for them. It is a hard way of
Richard Mawondo, headmaster of the primary school, said ZOE provides
funding for student uniforms, medicine, stationery and other
necessities. More than 1,500 children across Zimbabwe have received
school fees and uniforms from ZOE, and the ministry has donated more
than $500,000 in medical supplies and served at least 3,000 children in
the past year.
ZOE is establishing sewing projects to empower local communities as
they are paid to produce the uniforms. It provides sewing machines for
the women at these projects, and they are expected to train orphan girls
to participate in the endeavor. The commission visited a cooperative
while in Mutare, and members distributed uniforms to children at the
"ZOE assists orphans within the school who would otherwise not come
to school because they don't have fees and things needed for learning to
take place," Mawondo said. Last year, ZOE helped 197 orphans from
around the area to attend school.
United Methodists can assist AIDS orphans by contributing to the "ZOE
Advance Special S00148." Checks to can be mailed to North Carolina
Conference/Raleigh Area, The United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 60053,
Charlotte N.C. 28260-0053.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
The Rev. Greg Jenks: "40% of the children have lost a parent."
The Rev. Greg Jenks: "The child knows the child is not forgotten."
Farai Mashonganyika, ZOE Director, Zimbabwe: "People want their kids to be in this school."
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Zimbabwean ministries get boost in communications skills
Communications commission meets in Zimbabwe
United Methodist gift to assist 2,000 AIDS orphans
United Methodist Church Makes Difference in Rural Zimbabwe
AIDS Orphans Trust
Board of Global Ministries