News from Zimbabwe - June 2018
This article was written by Geoff and Erica Saunders, Elim missionaries in Zimbabwe.
40th Anniversary Commemorations
This weekend we will be joining others in a commemoration service in Mutare remembering the lives of the missionaries given for the gospel in the Vumba. The service will take place where the Elim missionaries are buried. They will also be remembered in our church services throughout Zimbabwe. These are among very memorials that will take place in Elim churches all over the UK and beyond. Those dreadful events of that June have impacted multitudes in the Elim family and the wider Christian community. Let me take this opportunity to share my own story.
When I heard the news of the massacre I was teaching in London. I had become a Christian while at university in Southampton and became and active member of the Christian Union and in 1975 I spent a week at Capel Bible Week in the grounds of Elim Bible College. It was at that camp in response to a stirring message from … I first stood to declare my commitment to serve as a missionary.
On completion of my degree under the encouragement of Christian friends from Africa I trained as a teacher with the intention of becoming a missionary teacher in Africa. The serious illness of my father led me to put that vision aside to stay at home and support my mother in that difficult time. When the news of the massacre in the Vumba came through it reawakened that call to mission and a determination that the devil would not win by ending the lives of those who died in the Vumba. At that time Elim quickly announced that the school would not reopen immediately and that together with the death of my father caused me to shelve the vision again.
In 1980 the fire was rekindled at church service celebrating the growth of the church in Uganda following the overthrow of Idi Amin. I applied for a job in what was then Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. After a long wait I was offered a job and made plans to travel to Salisbury to teach Maths at Churchill High School. Patrick, one of my friends on the staff of the school where I taught turned out to be a Zimbabwean and encouraged me not to spend all my time in the country teaching in the city. Shortly before I departed the UK in August Patrick told me that Emmanuel High School would be reopening the following January and he had been appointed to be its headmaster.
Patrick gave me the name of a man I should meet when I arrived in Salisbury so two days after landing I made my way to Ambassador House, the headquarters of the Ministry of Education, where I met Peter Griffiths for the first time.
It was Peter who the following year asked me to teach at the Elim School, Emmanuel Secondary School. When I was planning to leave Zimbabwe after completing my three year contract it was Peter who encouraged me to apply to become an Elim missionary and stay in Zimbabwe. In 1990 our national conference decided to plant our first church in Harare and I agreed to leave Emmanuel to be part of the team launching that church. It was Peter Griffiths who suggested I apply for a post at Gateway High School, a new Christian school that would open its doors in January 1991.
I am now the deputy head at Gateway and we now have more than a dozen congregations and four preaching points in Harare District.
At the end of April Erica went to the Women’s National Conference in Nyanga town where about 400 women came together for their annual weekend. Unlike last year when she preached daily, this year she was occupied with counselling individuals during break times. Many women are brokenhearted due to the economical conditions in the nation. Marriages and family relationships are being destroyed due to unemployemnt and poverty. Erica is kept busy counselling pre-marital to divorced women to bring many hearts to hope and trust in God. Widows are her main burden. The younger widows are encouraged to work hard with their hands and trading to be able to pay school fees for their children. Some women she trains sewing at the women’s office. Other women gather to learn to make detergents and sell them in their locations.
The monthly all night prayer meetings continue to be a great blessing to busy women who cannot find time to attend meetings during the day. As well as prayer the programmes includes teaching on relevant topics and time for sharing and mutual encouragement.
Last weekend Erica was speaking at the Harare youth conference and enjoyed the personal development seminar.
Elizabeth finally passed both her driving test and her B2 German proficiency exam in March. The following month she travelled to Germany to stay with a family she met during her exchange year. She has a part time job in a café/art gallery and is applying to universities for a place to study architecture. She has joined the church worship group and is learning to share the gospel in an atheistic culture. Joseph is now in the middle of the final exams of his sports management degree and is looking for a year’s internship to complete his degree programme. Geoff continues to be involved in preaching and supporting the leadership in the Prospect Assembly, while at school he is responsible for two of the critical areas in the school’s process towards accreditation with the Association of Christian Schools International. We are grateful to friends who have helped us trade our aging Prado for a newer smarting looking Honda CRV.
Elizabeth passed her driving test and German exam and has a good place to stay in Kronach. So far with elections approaching at the end of July there is very little of the violence we have seen in the past.
more about the Saunders
40th Anniversary Commemorations
Elizabeth’s University applications
Joseph’s exams and a good internship
Zimbabwe’s coming elections and the economy (so we more easily take care of Joseph and Elizabeth’s needs.