April 2015 Update...
In February 2015 Pastor Stuart Wood, ActionOverseas’ Africa Coordinator visited Zimbabwe with Pastor Marcus and Pat Thomas. This was the first ActionOverseas visit to the country for almost 3 years. The visit involved church services, leadership training, a visit to the Bambadzi Water Project and various formal and informal meetings.
Here is his report...
'Despite the ongoing difficulties within this troubled country it was encouraging to hear the stories of God’s continued faithfulness to His people in Zimbabwe. It was also good to see that since adopting the US $ as the country’s currency there is a greater availability of products within the shops and markets.
The greatest challenges facing the churches, as identified by the pastors, are unemployment and lack of finance to support projects or develop church sites. Whilst some of the Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe are experiencing some small growth others have seen decline due to people leaving to find work in neighbouring countries particularly South Africa.
This migration has, however, also had a positive impact with some of those who have relocated starting church plants in their new locations. As a result one church has been planted in the area of Salt River near Cape Town, South Africa with around 50 people attending. Two churches have also been planted around Johannesburg. In Tafontein approximately 20 members meet weekly and in Hillbro the congregation is in excess of 120.
The Apostolic work in Zimbabwe is divided into two regions, split geographically north and south. There are currently 4 full-time pastors in each region together with a number of part-time pastors and elders. There are currently 26 churches across the country plus the 3 churches in South Africa, which are visited at least annually by the regional apostles from Zimbabwe. There are over 1000 members in the Zimbabwean Apostolic Church.
Marcus and Pat flew into Harare where they stayed with some old friends before driving down to Bulawayo where they picked me up from my flight in from Jo’burg. We had some lunch before heading out of town to Siphenzini to conduct a church service. It was good to see that the lighting system that Lurgan church had provided was still working well (minus a couple of bulbs and fittings). There were many children and young people in the service and Marcus got the children to colour some pictures to swap with children from a disabled school in Lurgan.
On the Saturday morning of our visit we met with the National Executive members to get an update on the state of the church in Zimbabwe. It was good to spend time with the brothers and hear honest reports of both the good things that are happening in the churches but also regarding the difficult challenge they face.
Sunday was ‘Big Sunday’ in Pumula when a number of congregations joined together. The worship was vibrant and loud – we wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other way! There were 2 services – Pat Thomas preached in one and I preached in the other. There was a strong sense of the presence of God and many people responded to the ministry.
On Monday and Tuesday Pastor Marcus and Pat visited the water project in Bambadzi, close to the Botswana border. The 2 boreholes are functioning well and the market garden is proving to be a real benefit to the community. Local village leaders report that the Apostolic Church is held in very high esteem because of the difference that this project has made to the lives of local people.
Whilst Marcus and Pat were in Bambadzi, where they slept overnight in the truck, I did some leadership training with pastors and elders in the national church office in Bulawayo city centre. There was a real thirst to learn and we plan to conduct wider leadership training sessions in the future.
For me personally it was good to be back in Zimbabwe after an absence of more than 10 years, to meet some old friends and to make some new ones.
It is clear that Marcus and Pat Thomas have made a real impact during the various visits and they are highly regarded amongst the leaders and the churches. It was a privilege to be able to spend time with them in this country that they have grown to love.
Please continue to pray for the churches in Zimbabwe. Life is still a daily struggle for many due to high unemployment but the people remain faithful to God and His church.'