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    Going the Distance

    How two Canadian corps are investing in a small community in Zimbabwe. March 13, 2015
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    Feature
    Tshelanyemba is a small village in rural Zimbabwe, located about 160 kilometres south of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city. It's a poor region, often suffering from severe drought. Salvationists from Cariboo Hill Temple in Burnaby, B.C., and St. John's Temple, N.L., have travelled to Tshelanyemba on short-term mission trips for many years, coming alongside the community to give and receive. Here are their stories.

    Like Coming Home
    By Max Vincent, Cariboo Hill Temple

    I participated in a mission trip to Tshelanyemba for the first time in 2000. Right from the start, it claimed a piece of my heart. I was hooked. In 2004, I returned with another team to help build a roof. We also provided funds for six children to attend school. This was the beginning of the Silokwethemba Project (which means “we have hope”) to support orphans and vulnerable children.

    School fees put education out of reach for many children in Zimbabwe. Since 2004, the project has made it possible for 6,400 children to go to school. We have now supported some students all the way through school, seen them go on to post-secondary education or training and obtain meaningful employment to help support their families.

    One of these students is Banelenkosi Moyo, who was entering his final year of high school at the height of the economic crisis in Zimbabwe in 2007. “My mum didn't have money to pay for my tuition fees. That's when the Silokwethemba Project came to my rescue,” he told us. He went on to teacher's college, and now teaches at Tshelanyemba High School.

    The Salvation Army - Salvationist.ca - Going the Distance Each year, the Silokwethemba Project pays school fees for more than 650 students at 35 schools. They also provide each child with shoes (Photo: Max Vincent)


    One day, as we were visiting a school to pay fees, the children came out to greet us. We could see them shivering in the cold morning air and noticed that many of them were not wearing shoes. They often walk long distances to get to school, so we decided then and there to provide shoes for all the primary school children we support. Since then, we have distributed 600 pairs of shoes each year.

    What started out as a fun way to celebrate the 2010 World Cup in South Africa—our own mini soccer tournament—has grown into one of our main programs. In the past four years, hundreds of children have participated in our soccer camps and we have established four annual tournaments in the region. We work in collaboration with local coaches and community clubs so they can continue to develop and run these programs. Although soccer has typically been a boy's domain in Zimbabwe, there were girls who wanted to play and develop their skills. We are pleased that with some encouragement, there are now girls' teams, with hope of a girls' league in the near future.

    The Salvation Army - Salvationist.ca - Going the Distance In 2014, the mission team led a music festival. “It was a powerful, Spirit-filled weekend,” says team member Anne Ivany (Photo: Timothy Braund)


    Last year, our mission team was larger than usual and so we were also able to plan a weekend music festival, attended by more than 60 Salvation Army youth and leaders, representing four corps. Anne Ivany, one of our team members, reflected on it later: “It was a powerful, Spirit-filled weekend. The enthusiasm of the young people was evident and infectious as they worshipped and praised Jesus with their singing, instruments and dancing.

    “It was also exciting to see many of the young people displaying leadership skills. We hope that by modelling and teaching various aspects of a music festival—vocal instruction, band and music theory, crafts and games—local leaders will take on the challenge to develop the program further.”

    The Silokwethemba Project has become a focus for mission at Cariboo Hill Temple. It has brought the needs of the global community into our lives here in Canada. For me, not a day goes by that my mind doesn't wander to Tshelanyemba. You can't help but be affected on all levels when you live among such amazing people. They aren't sad because of their situations. They work hard, love their children and are very welcoming of guests. They live a life of faith, depending on God for tomorrow's meals and all their needs. Every time I come to Tshelanyemba, it's like coming home.

     

    Zimbabwe Dirt Under Our Nails
    By John Fagner, St. John's Temple

    The Salvation Army - Salvationist.ca - Going the Distance A team from St. John's Temple helps fence a garden plot that will provide food for the hospital (Photo: Angus Fleming)


    In Tshelanyemba, the Salvation Army hospital plays a major role in the community. It serves more than 40,000 people over a 40-kilometre radius, providing maternal health care, HIV testing and treatment, X-ray and lab services, and a nursing school. It also offers a grain mill, welding shop, bicycle repair shop, hair salon and carpentry school.

    St. John's Temple's connection to the hospital can be traced directly to one of our own: Major (Dr.) Dawn Howse, now retired, was the sole doctor there for 20 years until her return to Newfoundland and Labrador in 2008.

    While home to visit her family in 2005, we asked Major Howse if there was a practical project a team from our corps could tackle at the hospital. She quickly outlined the need for housing for graduating nurses. In 2007, a team travelled to Tshelanyemba and, with the help of local expertise, constructed a three-unit apartment building,

    While the additional housing helped, it was clear the needs at the hospital were great and we had to try to return. There are many worthy projects closer to home and less expensive to undertake, but the staff at the hospital had become our friends. We had Zimbabwe dirt under our nails.

    In 2009, a team constructed three additional apartment units and installed a phone system linking the hospital, nursing school, residences and other buildings. In 2008 and 2011, we shipped containers filled with medical supplies, plumbing materials, a large generator, bicycles, tools and other items. In 2012, we upgraded the hospital's water supply system and nurses on our team assisted hospital staff. In 2014, we continued to work on the water system, helped fence a garden plot and oversaw the drilling of an artesian well.

    Securing funding for these projects has become a year-round activity. While it often appears that we will fall short of our financial goals, we always manage to find what we need.

    In We Take Care of Our Own, Bruce Springsteen sings: “Where's the work that sets my hands, my soul free?” My involvement in international mission work liberates me from the troubles and trials of my everyday life. It allows me to witness firsthand the power of the Spirit when we are involved in God's work. I feel connected to a greater purpose and that somehow obstacles will be overcome and all things will work for good.

    It would be a huge mistake to think that the people of Tshelanyemba are the only ones who benefit from our projects. We experience a way of life and a people that views the gospel as good news. Despite the hardships encountered daily, they have hope.

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