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The Heart of Discipleship

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Gourley is a member of Nichols-Bethel UMC in Odenton, Md., and Sue McCann is a member of First UMC in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. They are both GBGM certified “Individual Volunteers In Mission (IVIM)." Over the past nine years, they have spent a considerable amount of time (a total of almost 24 months) in Zimbabwe and the DRC. Their efforts in Zimbabwe include the coordination and monitoring of the 25+ BWC Hope Fund Projects along with participation in multiple ZIM Vim trips with Community UMC, Crofton. Over the past several years, they have been to Zimbabwe multiple times to assist in the Rural Clinic Revitalization Projects at the Chiukwizo, Nyahuku and Dendera Clincs that are being coordinated by The Nyadire Connection in the Western Pennsylvania Conference. They just returned home last week from two months in Zimbabwe where they facilitated the Rural Clinic Revitalization Project at The Munyarari Clinic.  This latest project is being funded by the Bel Air UMC under the leadership of Dave Talbot. Below is their report and a story of faithful discipleship.

March 26 - Digging clinic footers

Greetings to All:

We are wrapping up our almost seven weeks stay at the UMC Munyarari Mission and will be headed across country to the Nyadire Mission today. Other than a few days with Charlie and Carol Moore and a few more days down with the wicked flu, we have lived in a teacher’s cottage and been observers in the major clinic renovation build now ongoing at this remote UMC Mission. We have been privileged to be a part of this effort sponsored by the Chabadza Healing Hands Across Zimbabwe group, led by Dave and Beverly Talbot, from the Bel Air UMC Church in Bel Air, Maryland. We really have done no work while here, but simply been a presence, representing the many folks from Bel Air who have so generously donated the monies needed to make possible the dream of improved health facilities serving the 20+ villages in the current Clinic’s catchment areas.

We have tried to document both the progress, the challenges, and the many sights we have witnessed and convey these images in words and pictures to many backs in the States. We have been so warmly welcomed here and people, from the Station Chair to the workers at the site to the many, many locals we have met at the site and as we walked along the surrounding dust roads, have all continuously praised the fact that the work is finally actually started and, to the majority of the folks, surprise that the contractor is making such swift progress.

April 30 - Ring beams poured and gables started

The Out-Patient Department (OPD) would already be at roof level if not for the challenges of getting the stones for the concrete transported from the collection points in the many villages to the building site. The week’s delay has now been resolved and when we leave today, the building should almost be ready for the roof. Much work remains on this building, but our impression of the contractor is that he is used to working on a schedule and has the resources to continue the rapid progress, given that the village supplied materials are on site when needed. It is a partnership with the sponsors supplying the funds, the UMC providing the centralized management and procurement of the commercial materials and the villages providing the farm bricks, pit sand, river sand, gravel, and stones for the structures. Each party has a part to play and having the villagers provide their items is traditional in local building AND ensures buy-in with regards to long-term support of the clinic. We have watched these dynamics play out in the construction of three other clinics and the group effort seems to work well.

So many folks from the congregation and the local villages have pitched in to help with this effort. We have met war veterans, one a retired Zimbabwean Army Major who is the ZANU-PF Ward Councilor for one of the Wards served by the Clinic and another retired Army Major who is running in this past weekend’s ZANU-PF primary for Ward Councilor of one of the other Wards served by the Clinic. These men have been here often, shoveling stones when they were delivered, attending meetings with the Chiefs, Head Men and Village Heads and working hard to facilitate the efforts to make this renovation happen. We have spent hours with one of the high school history teachers learning more about the culture, the challenges faced and the hopes of many of the local peoples in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

Child crying during immunization

We live next to one of the other history teachers and his family and have enjoyed sunset talks about current and future challenges. We have noticed an openness among the average peoples to discuss the changes which have taken place since the “assisted transition” of government in November 2017. They all express a hope for more changes and improvements to come. The political leanings of folks are more openly discussed, and it seems that about half of the area near the clinic are from the majority party and about an equal number are from the out of power party. This weekend’s primary is for the ruling party’s primary and the next primary will be for the other party all leading to the General Elections, currently slated for some time in July 2018. Campaigning has been seemingly orderly with lots of trucks driving by full of enthusiastic support shouted for one or the other parties. There was not so much celebrating on Independence Day on 18 April as many expressed the feelings that the promises of 38 years ago had not been realized and there were not any causes for major celebrations until some of these dreams were realized.

Mealie Meal distribution at Dzobo, Zimbabwe

One other sign of changes happening was observed when we went with the Clinic nurses to visit the five outreach locations served by the Clinic to do under 5-year-old children’s vaccinations. The first stop only had a small number of mothers and kids waiting for us, but at the other locations, seemly hundreds of people were gathered.

Only a few short months ago, any gathering of these sizes would have been observed by tens of uniformed and plainclothes “observers” to see what was afoot. There may have been some plainclothes officials present, but the total absence of uniformed Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) was noticeable. I asked our friend and he said that since Nov, the people did not want to tolerate being so closely observed and that the ZRP was honoring these desires. Only a casual observation on our part, but a noticeable change. At one of the outreach points, one of the government agencies was disturbing mealie meal in 50 kg (110 lbs.) sack and hundreds of people were gathered, sans any police presence, something unheard of in the recent past. I asked if this was one of the parties doing a little electioneering and handing out incentives and was told probably not by our knowledgeable friend, who felt the government was distributing the mealie meal. Lots of visible and probably not so visible changes and the people are looking for more to come.

Eye testing with Council for the Blind equipment


The last two full days at Munyarari, 28-29 April, were spent at the old Clinic where a pilot project was conducted involving the Global Vision 20/20 eyeglass system introduced to the UMCZ by Carol and Charlie Moore during their recent visit. We brought one of the kits to the Zim East Area Conference for evaluation and this was done at Munyarari Clinic. An alternate eye testing method was used by government licensed individuals from the Council for the Blind. About 175 eyeglasses were provided to men and women in the Munyarari area. A more detailed report will be provided soon.

A woman happy with new eyeglasses to match her dress


We leave this area with a large measure of sadness. We have made many new friends and shared their hopes and dreams and can appreciate how much they value what the sponsors of the Clinic renovation effort are doing. We do not know if we will be back to this area any time soon as another clinic renovation is soon to be starting in the Murewa District, at Dindi, and we will work towards being able to share that experience at some future point. We know that the people here are very much looking forward to Dave, Beverly and as many other supporters of Chabadza Healing Hands Across Zimbabwe as can make it for the Bishop’s dedication when this project is completed. Praise the Lord for all the many contributions to this effort.

We will be at Nyadire for four days gathering information for The Nyadire Connection (TNC) folks out of Pittsburgh and then head home on 8 May. This has been a rewarding (except for the flu) and fulfilling ZIMVIM 2018 trip.

In His Service, Sue & Jim

 Last sunset at Munyarari


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