Sharing Hope in Hatcliffe

by - 9:52 PM

Mindblown. Again.

Today was another eventful day spent at the Hatcliffe township. We were going to visit a few families and pray together with them. I went along with Pastor Sean and Mr. Lovemore, a Zimbabwean who is currently living in Hatcliffe, pioneering the new church with Sean and serving the community by teaching orphaned children as well as using his skills as a physiotherapist to help those in the village who are elderly, crippled, bedridden and disabled. Now I have quite a few stories to write about, and I hope these incredible individuals and their God-inspired tenacity will challenge you out of your comfort zone too – wherever you are.

There’s Noma, who is a beautiful, ever-smiling young lady who runs a preschool for children living in Hatcliffe. She charges a minimal school fee and makes sure that the children have a hot meal each day, too. She and her friend Ellen was kind enough to cook us a simple lunch of rice, curried potatoes and carrots, with a chunk of meat – which is most certainly a treat in such places. We were honored to pray for their work and their amazing hearts and burden for what God is most concerned about – the orphans and widows.

Sean led us along the muddy fields to a brick-dwelling where we met Mama Maibana (I hope I got the spelling right!), who is one of the few midwives in the area. With the support of ONE Church, she has finally been able to construct a brick home and another extra room with two rickety beds and thin mattresses for the young women she will be helping. This month alone, she has already helped to deliver fifteen healthy babies! What a feat, especially in such difficult circumstances. Maibana also has a daughter named Progress (legit, that’s her name!) who recently started a pre-school in a makeshift hut they have constructed out of wood planks. There were ABC’s and some coloured drawings posted inside. At the moment, she has 15 children under her care, and the room is really much to tiny for that number – but she has a vision, and we prayed that God would enable her mission to raise and disciple young children for His glory and purpose. And that progress would come through this amazing initiative.

After that, we walked through a sort of market lane. There was a sadza stand, a paraffin-fill-up kind of hut, a furniture hut, a barber stand, a tuck shop selling air-time and other miscellaneous stuff, a rack selling tomatoes, a piece of cloth with a few pairs of slippers and crocs displayed for sale, and some others. But it was a strange sight indeed. Even in Harare, you would never see such a set up. It all looked very unofficial (obviously) and the uneven mud-path just made it hard to walk without having to look carefully where you’re stepping foot! Anyhow, we arrived at the hut of a girl named Evon. She was only fourteen years old, but she sat in a wheelchair and greeted us with a wave and handshake. Other children – her brothers, I presume – ran around, eyeing us and saying ‘howar yuuuuu’ incessantly. Lovemore explained that Evon was actually first bedridden in 2011, after an operation that remove a cancerous brain tumour. She wasn’t able to communicate, write or do anything, really. But one year ago, Lovemore started to help Evon with physiotherapy methods and eventually, she was able to walk very slowly with the help of a walker. Nowadays she gets around with a wheelchair (to be honest I don’t know how that is even possible on the muddy grounds). Lovemore, being a teacher, was also able to teach her English and mathematics. He found that Evon was a truly bright girl, and he wanted to invest more time with her. It was so inspiring to see how one person can make such a huge difference for a young girl who used to be bedridden and who had no hope of going to school.

We knelt down beside Evon while Sean prayed for her with a deep sincerity that struck me. He spoke words of life and encouragement to this beautiful girl. When he noticed that she was sad, he told her that Jesus loves her so much, and that she has people like us, Lovemore, her funny brothers, and her Gogo (grandma) who loves her and cares very much for her. Then he asked her what she wanted to become in the future. Evon had her chin rested on her arms, as they perched on the walker bar. She looked so doleful, it pained my heart. She didn’t want to say it. But then Lovemore asked her again, this time in Shona. Finally she replied him and Lovemore translated, ‘She wants to be a pilot.’

That broke my heart even more. Seeing her, unable to run, unable to go to school, unable to communicate freely with other children her age, her dream seemed an impossibility. But you know what, in that moment, Lovemore and Pastor Sean demonstrated a faith that I will never forget. Lovemore immediately said with the sincerest of smiles, ‘You know, Evon is a smart girl. She can become a pilot. She is clever, and she is so good at math!’

Sean picked up on that and said without skipping a beat, ‘How about we pray for you again, Evon? We will pray that one day you can become a pilot.’

At first I thought it was such a cruel thing to do – to give false hope. But then, when Sean started praying, I realized that it wasn’t false hope at all. It was faith-filled hope. I was mind-blown.

Sean prayed that God would enable Evon, fill her legs with new strength, give her the wisdom and resolve, the intelligence and the means, to achieve her dream. God knows she has it in her to be the first female pilot out of Hatcliffe. He prayed that every dark, doubtful thought would not bring Evon down; that depression and sadness and hopelessness would go in Jesus name. He prayed that light and inspiration would come to this place through a bright, hard-working young girl like Evon. It was a relentless kind of faith that I saw right before my eyes – in a place so dank and dark, where it can be so difficult to envision a future bright and beautiful. But that mustard seed of faith was there. I believe it infused a new spiritual strength into Evon. Sean told Evon, ‘Do you know, that you inspire and encourage me?’ Wow. It was true. This girl blessed us more than she could imagine by the life she has fought to live, by the pain she has fought to overcome.

I learnt something so important today. I learnt that I need to see as God sees. When I walk in these tough places, I need to see God’s light, and not be overwhelmed by the engulfing darkness. I needed to be encouraged by the constant reminder of God’s goodness and love through the redemptive work of Christ Jesus. I needed to fix my eyes on the hope that comes through him and not be discouraged by all the obstacles in the way.

The storm clouds were gathering and blowing over Hatcliffe. It started drizzling as we finished praying, so Lovemore told us we’d better hurry on to the last family we wanted to visit. Now as we were almost reaching the next place, only about 500 metres from it, heavy rain started pouring down cats and dogs. It was so heavy we didn’t risk running on the muddy path, so we ran into a shelter where a bunch of guys were already hanging out. It turned out that the guys had been drinking the local brew made out of sorghum alchohol. Anyway, they were actually quite friendly and jovial. We all introduced ourselves, and very soon Sean was joking and laughing along with them in colloquial Shona. Eventually, he actually asked them what they were doing, and when they admitted they’d just been lazing around and drinking, he told them point blank: ‘You know, there’s a verse in the Bible – in the book of Ephesians I think – that says, “Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with God’s spirit.”’

The guys laughed him off and demanded to know, ‘Where in the Bible does it say huh?’ Sean without hesitation whipped out his iPhone Bible and found the passage – but before he read it out, he asked the guys if it’d be okay to pray with them and commit this time to God. Amazingly, they were cool with that. I just smiled in awe at the sight. Here we were, filthy with mud splotched on our legs, rainwater in our hair, standing under a rickety shelter with a bunch of half drunk Zimbabwean guys, and Sean proceeded to read in Ephesians where it says, ‘Redeem the time, because the days are evil. Do not be drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, singing songs and psalms to each other at all times.’ He asked them, ‘Does what you’re doing look like making good use of your time?’ That obviously put them on the spot, but they got into a friendly (and rather funny) discussion about all that – through which Sean used every opportunity to share with them some business and entrepreneurship ideas based on Biblical principles (that he has been incorporating through his micro-finance initiative – NDEIPI – in Harare with unemployed or homeless youth).

Eventually though, the guys seemed pretty open to us. Sean asked if they knew who Jesus was and why he came. In the ensuing minutes, he shared the Gospel with them in such simple but truth-filled terms. He asked if anyone wanted to know Jesus more, not tomorrow, but today, right now. Amazingly, three of the guys – Herbert, Philip and Trust – put their hands up and nodded. So there we were, laying our hands on their shoulders, and we prayed together as Lovemore led these guys in a prayer to receive the gift of God’s love and salvation through Jesus in Shona. Wow. And guess what, just about then, the rain started to taper off and soon enough it was time for us to go since the storm had blown over. I truly believe it was by no small chance that we ran into that shelter just in the nick of time.

It was worth all the slipping and sliding in the mud, getting filthy and wet from the rivers of muddy rainwater. God knew where we were headed even when we thought we were just going to visit a few families on our agenda. I believe when we live a life surrendered to Jesus, there will be no coincidences. There might be accidents and troubles that come along our way, but as long as we fix our trust on Him, we can wade through these trials with our head above the mire – knowing that where we’re headed, God will refine us through the fire. 

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