Heat. Happiness and Heaps of Hospitality



It was hot. And I mean not just hot....but HOT! The sort of heat that makes you really hot. Did I mention...it was hot?

If you haven’t guessed by now, in good British fashion, I’m talking about the weather and clearly not the British weather. I’m talking about the sweltering heat of Zimbabwe.

For those of you who think that it’s been quiet around here for a few weeks, it has. I’ve been away. For the past 2 weeks I have been overseas in Zimbabwe, meeting and hearing about the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and sharing stories, ideas and thoughts between our two Methodist Churches and experiencing Zimbabwean life.  

One of the first questions I was asked when we got out there was “What did you expect?” and honestly, I didn’t really know, I had no answer. What do you expect from a country that you know little about? From a climate that is really alien to you? and from people who you had never met? I wouldn’t like to say I had no expectations, but I didn’t really have a clue what I was going into and actually that was the best way! It meant I had a really amazing surprise.

Five interesting things I learnt about Zimbabwe:

1). You can get scorpions in Zimbabwe. How do I know this? We had one in our room.

2). The best thing you can invest in on a trip to Zimbabwe is bug replant.

3). If you’re eating something that is a mixture between chicken and fish, it’s probably crocodile.

4). The sun set in Africa is one of the most beautiful things you will ever see.

5). The hospitality of people will leave you amazed. 

I was completely overwhelmed by the endless hospitality and generosity of our hosts. We were hosted by The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe Youth Department for the 12 days of our trip. They did such a good job! Although the trip was quite full on in regards to its travel and meetings, I actually wouldn’t have wanted it any other way as this enabled us to meet a huge variety of people and experience so many different things that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss.

For the first few days of our trip we stayed at the Matthew Ruskie Children’s home just outside of Harrare. We were welcomed here as family and nothing was too much of an effort for them. The children’s home is an amazing place that is run by the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and provides residential care facilities for orphaned and vulnerable children. Whilst we were staying with them, the home faced an additional challenge with electric and running water being out of use. Whilst we were there we told that this was a regular occurrence and sometimes they could go months without power or running water. Yet, through all of this they carry on and meet each day with a smile and grace. This is something that continued to confront me throughout the trip, people’s happiness and grace. It was everywhere!

Throughout our stay in Zimbabwe we managed to travel what felt like the length and breadth of the country, sometimes spending up to 11 hours on a mini bus to try and reach the next group of people we were meeting. As I said at the beginning we met a variety of different people, from young adult groups, to the youth council, to Bishops, to Minsters, to the Boys Christian Union, Girls Christian Union, Sunday schools, rural churches, Methodist Young Disciples, the Connexional Youth President, the pupils of a Methodist school, the Connexional Youth Co-ordinator and many many more. All of these people and groups made us feel so welcome and I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality and friendship. I felt we learnt so much from them and can only hope we were able to return the favour.

Wherever we were we asked to address these various groups, telling them about ourselves and about Methodism in Great Britain. Whilst most of the time improvising what to say, I found myself repeating something which sort of just came out. I said that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. It doesn’t matter if we are in the Great Britain, in Zimbabwe or somewhere else in the world, we are all joined together in Christ and are one body. We are all disciples and are here to support and help one another in our journeys. Although this was something that seemed to come out of my mouth on a bit of a whim, I really felt this in Zimbabwe! I felt that I was a long lost sister who had come home. I felt the fellowship of Christians and specifically I felt the fellowship of Methodists.

I don’t want to mislead you in the sense that it was all work and no ‘play’, that is certainly not the case. We did have some time to explore a bit more of Zimbabwe with visits to a Game Park and an amazing trip to the stunning Victoria Falls. All of this was such a blessing but actually I found that some of my highlights were the parts where we were able to share with people and experience that fellowship.
 
All in all the entire trip was just amazing. A challenge at times, but that’s what made it even more amazing.  One thing I’d love to encourage people to think about in response to this is about how we welcome people? How we create fellowship? How we share with one another? How we relate to one another as Christians? We are brothers and sisters in Christ and are here to support and help one another on our faith journey. “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5)

 

 
The link below is a sign post to some work already done by the Discipleship Development Group in this area of hospitality and includes a range of resources to help churches think about how they welcome others, including a course entitled ‘First Impressions Count’ http://www.methodist.org.uk/mission/welcome-and-invitation.

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