The road from Harare to Rusitu is long beyond any singing of it. We left Harare at noon with a gentle hurry-up from Tawanda. So we hit the Mutare Road with no idea that we would finally get out of the car just on the right side of midnight.
The last part of our Zimbabwe trip is to accompany Tawanda home to Rusitu. To meet the family firstly, and secondly, to make some decisions about the Honeyworld Zimbabwe project begun by Tawanda's village and supported by Anglican Aid.
From Harare to Marondera it is hot. From Marondera to Rusipe it is hotter still. We drop the lovely Pastor Luckmore (who has travelled with us from the conference) at Rusipe where he climbs into a Kombi in his fine forty-degree suit. He is bound for Nyanga which is called Little London for its rain and where trout I have heard of in whispers past run in the rivers today. One day I will visit Luckmore and fish with him. We drive on and meet the likely future Bishop of the United Baptist Church (What the?! Baptist bishop?!) in a very dusty village among hookoo (chickens) and karakuni (turkey).
The air cools as we climb the road to Mutare. You hit the top of the ridge and look out into a giant, green mountainous bowl. Or as the Zimbabweans say, 'mountaineous'. Why is it that Zimbabwean English sounds so very right, even when it is wrong? Mutare is so very green. The city sits like a happy skink in a terrarium. It is the prettiest Zimbabwean city I have seen. Green and clean and it's Pick and Pay puts the super in Zim supermarkets. I buy chocolate and eat it all before I have left the shop. We pick up Tawanda's sister, Chipo, and head out of town in the dark for Rusitu.
When I say dark, I mean We stop at Biriri for dinner with Shupi's mother, and leave the car on the road and hike down a hill, across a river, and up again to the house for sadza. All by mobile phone light. Thank you God for mobiles. (A prayer I never thought I would pray.) When we leave Biriri at 8.30 it is only 70 kms more to Rusitu. We'll smash out that distance, I think, until we hit dirt road about 65 kms out. It takes 3 and a half more hours to climb the mountains to Rusitu. Mercifully, I sleep much of it, waking now and again to see walls of stone looming up in our headlights before we swerve away to scan the air above gigantic drops with our headlights.
Rusitu in the dark can be described with only one word. Uphill.
When we wake in the morning I see why. Lord! The place is beautiful. Mountains climb behind the house with banana groves. The house is surrounded by mangoes, plums, peaches, grapes and avocado trees that host avocadoes the size of a children's soccer ball. I kid you not. We eat them with yams and bread for breakfast. Smashed avo on toast at $12 a pop in Maroubra? Keep it. We buy avos in Maroubra for about $2 per 100 grams. Sadly, these farmers sell 100 kgs to distributors for $2. If they sold to Maroubra it would be a 1000% mark-up. These farmers cannot get the avos to market and are being rolled by respectable thieves. $2 for 100kgs?!! Something is rotten in the state of Chimanimani. Of course, this is replicated in every state in some way.
Tawanda's mum is delightful, and the house rocks with people throughout the day and evening. We visit Tawanda's personal waterfall, his old school, Rusitu Bible College - where many of the pastors at our conference were trained. We pass the Beer Halls where many of his former peers from Rusiti High spend their time. They breathe out Maize liquor and it is terrifically sad. These are people who may benefit greatly from Tawanda's bee project.
Ministers in Sydney worry a lot about a social gospel. What if the gospel is removed from the centre by development efforts? So the argument goes. Rightly. It has happened and often. This fear is not unreal. But while caution is necessary, fear can exaggerate the argument.
What about this new line of argument...well, not argument, let's call it what it is - observation. What if you do no development and your family nearly starve and you cannot afford to do gospel ministry at all? What about instead....you do a development project, care for your family, give work and reward to your unemployed school peers, generate a rare example of fair monetary reward for labour in your town and use it as a pilot which will help in the future raise cash to do gospel ministry, also keeping it central by running a conference whose first aim is 'keeping the gospel central'. How about that?
The key to this clear development project is to keep it a clear development project. It is not gospel ministry, but it will support both the community and, in time, gospel ministry. The trick is to avoid two classic social gospel dangers. This is how....
1. Do not redefine this as gospel work. Not all work needs to be gospel work to have dignity. See this town, see this project, and you will see the dignity of this work.
2. Do not be distracted by this work from gospel work. If you are a gospel minister who initiates such a project, prepare other leaders well and early.
Tawanda is unlikely to redefine the gospel as this work and this work as the gospel. He thinks about the gospel every day. We can hold him to this. He is also doing well in raising the management. someone else can hold him to this. Of course, there also is this to consider if he does not raise bees: because this project is a potential 'tent-making' effort to support ministry, if this project does not develop, gospel ministry will be undermined.
Make that an essay question. Are these bees biblical? Discuss.