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Elijah Kabungaidze: ‘I have nothing to give them’

The Rev. Elijah Kabungaidze, a district superintendent in Zimbabwe, worries about both his active and retired pastors struggling to make ends meet.
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

April 3, 2008 | MARANGE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)

The United Methodist pastors in the Rev. Elijah Kabungaidze's district are always on his mind. He knows retired pastors and widows are suffering the most.

“Many times, pastors go for two or three months without a salary, and the situation is worse for retired pastors,” he says. “Retired pastors and widows come to me for help to buy maybe a loaf of bread. I have nothing to give them.”

When the annual conference — the regional entity that includes Kabungaidze's district — has money, it supplements the salaries of pastors, “but there is no money now,” he says.

Kabungaidze was appointed the Marange District superintendent in 2002. His area has 14 circuits, 65 churches and three new preaching points or gathering places — such as trees — for congregations.

“Pastors serve three to six churches and must travel up to 25 kilometers from their parsonages,” he says. Because of the severe fuel shortage in the country, most of those miles are covered by foot or on a bicycle. The farthest church in this district is 150 kilometers away from where Kabungaidze lives. He sometimes rides his bike 50 to 80 kilometers to visit churches.

The United Methodist Church is working on developing pension models for clergy, church workers and surviving spouses in Zimbabwe and elsewhere through its Central Conference Pension Initiative. More information is available at www.ccpi-umc.org.

Kabungaidze worries about the future for himself and the church.

“Sometimes young people join the ministry and leave because of the financial situation,” he says. “It is difficult to get highly educated pastors.”

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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