Limited resources do not diminish perseverance among Zimbabweans

GRANTHAM, Pa. (Mar. 2, 2009)—“It’s amazing how simple life becomes when you have little access to resources,” says Steve Newcomer of the continuing economic and social hardships facing the people of Zimbabwe.

Steve, a BICWM missionary serving at the Ekuphileni Bible Institute (EBI) upon the request of the Zimbabwean BIC Church, elaborates: “Think about it. You have no means to travel anywhere except for the kindness of friends or strangers. Your diet is limited to what you can grow or barter. Because of the rains the mosquito populations are high and there is quite a bit of malaria. Health care institutions have closed, teachers are on strike, and civil servants are engaging in a ‘go slow’ action.”

Although Zimbabwe’s two major political parties—the ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change—agreed to a power-sharing structure in mid-February, Steve reports that the Zimbabwean people remain unconvinced that these bureaucratic re-configurations will spur real change.

“The mood of the people is either one of great expectation or cautious optimism,” says Steve. “At the moment, uncertainty and rumor reign.”

The recent report from Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe that his government will continue to seize the property of white farmers indicates that the power-sharing agreement is merely a formality, according to BBC News. Mugabe made his announcement during a lavish celebration of his 85 th birthday, for which supporters raised $250,000.

The seizing of white-owned farms has led to gross lapses in productivity and food production within the country, leading to a food crisis that the United Nations’ World Food Program has called “critical.”

And yet in the midst of these circumstances, Steve admits that he and his wife Chris “are humbled” by the determination and steadfastness of their Zimbabwean sisters and brothers.

At EBI, Steve’s fellow administrators and teachers managed to open the current term on time and even add three new students to the roster.

Meanwhile, Steve reports, “The rainy season has been an incredible answer to prayer. Villagers that were able to obtain seed and planted early are anticipating a bumper harvest. We had our first green mealies (buds of white maize) this week. The veldt is lush and green.”

The stories of Zimbabwean perseverance are overwhelming, Steve says. At Mtshabezi Mission Hospital—the only source of healthcare for the 300-mile stretch between rural Bulawayo and the border town of Beitbridge, near the South African border—an administrator faced the tough task of telling his workers that the Zimbabwean government could not afford to pay them in foreign dollars, the only valuable form of compensation in an economy suffering hyper-inflation and a rapidly depreciating currency. “He spoke gently,” Steve says, “and stated that if they decided to ‘down tools’ and go to their homes that no one would condemn them.

"Not a single individual left,” Steve reports. “The administrator’s appeal that they consider the needs of the patients they were serving touched their hearts. This gives you some idea of the spirit of the people of Zimbabwe that we have grown to love and with whom we are so privileged to work.”

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