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Zimbabwe’s problems pose ‘deep concern,’ missions chief says

Map of Zimbabwe
A UMNS Photo courtesy of UMCOR
Aug. 24, 2005

By United Methodist News Service

The United Methodist Church missions agency is trying to expand its humanitarian work in Zimbabwe in response to the country’s food crisis and homelessness problem, the agency’s top staff executive said.

“The current situation in the nation of Zimbabwe is of deep concern to the United Methodist family and other Christian churches worldwide,” said the Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, in an Aug. 23 letter.

Addressing church members and ecumenical mission partners, Day responded to questions the board is receiving about how it is responding to crises in the sub-Saharan African country.

“A severe drought and food shortage have gripped the land for more than two years,” Day said. “More recently, hundreds of thousands of people — perhaps a million — have been left homeless and jobless because of a government program to tear down urban shelters and commercial stalls considered illegal structures. We receive heart-rending stories of families and children living in the open during the cold months.”

The board has missionaries and mission volunteers working in Zimbabwe, as well as church-related health care programs, humanitarian projects and child-care ministries assisted by two of the board’s units: the United Methodist Committee on Relief and the Women’s Division.

“One big concern is for the safety of the clergy and other leaders of the Zimbabwean church,” Day wrote. The board is guided in its public witness by those leaders and has ongoing contact with them.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
The Rev. R. Randy Day
“We are working in faith and spiritual solidarity with the Zimbabwean church to sustain the existing ministries of preaching and service,” he said. “We are attempting to expand humanitarian ministries in the light of both the food crisis and the enormous number of homeless people.”

UMCOR has spent $234,000 in humanitarian relief in Zimbabwe since mid-2003, when the most recent food shortage began, and it has sent $90,000 in assistance for the homeless so far this year. The board is working to help the homeless through the ecumenical agency Action by Churches Together International, and Christian Care, a Zimbabwe-based relief partner “with major United Methodist involvement,” Day said. Money also has been provided to the Zimbabwe church for emergency needs, he said.

“We face restrictions on what churches themselves can and cannot do in response to the displaced people,” Day said. “Many Zimbabwean congregations do not have buildings that could serve as shelters, even if this alternative were permitted.”

International attention and action, along with the cooperation of the Zimbabwean authorities and people, are needed, he said.

Day said United Methodists can help by:

  • Praying for the people and the church of Zimbabwe.
  • Assisting those who are hungry and homeless.
  • Monitoring social, economic and political developments in the country.
  • Keeping “our hearts set on justice, mercy, and peace for our Zimbabwean brothers and sisters.”

People interested in contributing to relief efforts for Zimbabwe can make contributions to “All Africa Famine Relief,” Advance No. 101250, or “Zimbabwe Emergency,” Advance No. 199456, and drop them in local church offering plates or send them directly to UMCOR at P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068. Credit-card donations can be made at (800) 554-8583.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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