Home from Africa with high spirits
MUTARE, Zimbabwe -- A group of ten students and clergy members began a week of mission through the Volunteers in Mission program that ended with heavy hearts, fulfilled minds, and transformed spirits. The Volunteers in Mission, Mission Discovery program trains its members to become leaders in global mission work through the North Central Jurisdiction.
The creation of the trip to Africa University began when Eric Mulanda, the 2010-2011 student body president of Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe was warmly invited by Reverend Kim DeLong and Reverend Laurie Haller to speak at the West Michigan Annual Conference on behalf of the Methodist-related university in June 2011. DeLong and Haller invited Mulanda to join them at the conference after their visit as part of a team to Africa University earlier that year to explore the construction of the Ubuntu Gathering Center. Mulanda spoke about the transformation in the continent of Africa, how God played a role in getting him to the United States and the construction and importance of the Ubuntu Center at Africa University. Mulanda invited several members participating at the conference to “come and see” what Africa University had to offer. And with those invitations the preparation began.
On May 10 of this year members of the team traveled from their respective locations around the U.S. to meet in Chicago, some meeting for the very first time. After a rigorous amount of travel, the team finally made it into Mutare, Zimbabwe. To prepare for their week, the team created a mission statement, one that each member could refer back to during the week to strengthen their vision. The mission statement read: Mutuality in mission: transforming as we transform, connecting as we are connected, investing and being spent, teaching and being taught. Members of the team used this statement to reflect on the importance of mutual understanding and reciprocation during the duration of the mission.
The Africa University students went above and beyond to welcome the team onto their campus and spent time with the team in their work and devotions. Each day was kept full, whether that was in spirit, work, or knowledge, the team was always reaching new depths in their transformations. The team visited several sites during the week.
They visited Project Tariro, a project that means “hope” in Shonah for its clients living with HIV/AIDS. Project Tariro creates opportunities for its clients to teach them how to sew, and make items that they can later sell to sustain themselves and their families. Ishea Nesu was another site that the team visited. It means “God is with us” and it pays school fees and provides meals for its children. However, children that participate in the program do return to their homes with their families after the day is over.
The team spent a lot of time at the Fairfield Children’s Home in the Old Mutare Mission. Fairfield houses orphans and sends them to school. Two of the team members spoke about how working at the Fairfield Children’s Home was a highlight during their tip. “I will remember for the rest of my life, the joy in the face of Shami, a two-year-old orphan at the Fairfield Children’s Home. Her Zimbabwean spirit and love, even at such young age and with so little, truly inspired me,” said PhD student in the English Department at Illinois State University, Sarah Hercula.
Jenna Hoover, a student at the University of Dayton in Ohio had similar feelings. “From the moment I stepped off the bus, I kept envisioning myself there. It enlightened my experience there and I became one with the children; loving them and playing with them as if I had known each one of them personally. It was a very emotional and sentimental experience. I will definitely return one day,” she stated.
There was no doubt that each member of the team to Africa University had been transformed. Each person had been touched by the generosity and love from people while in Zimbabwe. The team left Zimbabwe with high spirit, new friends, and transformed hearts. “This trip has transformed me in that I know my future holds more mission work, whether at Africa University or elsewhere. Through this trip, God has called me to continue to serve, and serve I will, ”said Sarah Hercula.
The Mission Discovery Team thanks all who helped to support the trip. Through your donations, prayers, and gifts the ten team members have shared God's love in Zimbabwe and gained leadership skills for future mission work locally, nationally and internationally.
~Lisa Batten, Campus Pastor, Wesley Foundation of Kalamazoo