As some of you many know, while I was in college, I learned about the genocide, poverty, disease, war and immense suffering present in many countries in Africa. Since then, I have been carrying a burden for this continent and have been attempting to learn all I can about how I can help. I want to go to Africa and learn about what is going on there from the people themselves. I want to hear their stories, see where they live, experience their culture, religion, and suffering with my own eyes. I want to hear from them what it is that they need, instead of guessing from afar and risking my help being irrelevant, un-received, or even worse, hurtful. My plans for doing something for the people on this continent are not completely clear at this moment, but I have been praying that God would show me how I might use my skills and passion for these people to do something that would be helpful, not hurtful.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to meet a great couple who are serving in the country of Zimbabwe as missionaries there. I was able to talk to them and share with them my burden and love for Africa as well as hear their stories about the experiences they’ve had in Zimbabwe. During this conversation they told me about an orphanage with which I might be able to partner. The man who organizes this orphanage is looking for help working on a program for the older kids so that they might learn ways to cope with the pain and trauma of their past, and ways to move forward and live successfully. They further suggested that I come to Zimbabwe to meet some of the people working there with them and experience what Zimbabwe culture really looks like. Shortly after this conversation, I was invited to go on a trip with 9 other members of our church in Clinton, NJ to travel out to Zimbabwe and do some work there.
I will be traveling to Harare, Zimbabwe on January 7, 2011 and will be staying there with missionaries Doug & Nancy Everswick and Bud & Mandy Jackson. Some of the things that we will be doing there include, but are not limited to:
• Learning about the African church, and more specifically the Zimbabwe community, praying to be sensitized to the needs of the people who live there, and hopefully catching a glimpse about how we can extend ourselves to meet their needs.
• We will be visiting the Hands of Hope ministry, which is the orphanage the Jacksons told me about in June. I encourage you to go to their website to see more about what this ministry is about at www.hohafrica.org.
• We will be visiting the Foundations for Farming ministry which is an organization built there to partner with churches and people to help them learn to grow and sell crops and to help them strengthen the farming industry in Zimbabwe. I also encourage you to go to this website to see more about what this ministry is about at www.foundationsforfarming.org.
• We will be traveling to a hospital called Karanda, which is mainly for prenatal care and Aids victims, for several days. We will be hearing about Karanda’s response to HIV/AIDS and learning about their Home Based Care program. While we are there we will be learning, but also visiting with people in the hospital wards and participating in Home Based Care-related visits with the Karanda workers in the surrounding villiages to hear people’s stories, pray with them and witness the work that Karanda is doing for them.
Zimbabwe is an extremely poor and suffering country. The population there is approximately 12.5 million, with 43.9% of that population being children under the age of 15. The infant mortality rate is 32/1000 births (US for comparison is 6/1000 births). In Zimbabwe, 17% of children under the age of 5 are underweight (US for comparison is 2%). The life expectancy is 45.8 years of age and 1,300,000 people living in Zimbabwe are suffering with HIV/AIDS, 15.3% of those people are adults. Approximately 140,000 Zimbabweans died from AIDS in 2007. This country is in need. (statistics were all given to us by TEAMworld organization)
I am excited about this opportunity and grateful that I even have a chance to meet some of the people from Zimbabwe. I am writing this letter, not only to tell you about the exciting opportunity I have, but also to invite you to participate with me. Here are a couple ways that you could participate in my trip to Zimbabwe:
1. It will be a challenging experience for all 10 of us. We will be flying for about 25-30 hours each way and will be immersed into a drastically different culture for 8 days including risks of disease, injury, as well as emotional stresses we will experience as we meet and learn about the intense suffering of these people. Please pray for our safety and that we would be humbled and made aware of the needs and truth about the lives of people in Zimbabwe. You can also pray for the Karanda hospital, the Foundations for Farming ministry, the Hands of Hope ministry, and for the Everswick and Jackson families.
3. I will also be collecting school supplies and used games/clothing/toys for the children in the orphanage. If you would like to participate by donating items that I will take to Zimbabwe you may contact me at: email@example.com. I will be getting a more clear description of the items we will need to collect sometime in late November.
I appreciate all your prayers and support and will update you with pictures, stories, and my experiences when I return. If you would like, you can visit my online blog where I will be posting updates on the development of my trip as well as entries about my experiences in Zimbabwe at shortsimplestack.blogspot.com. (which is here!!)
With Love and Gratitude,