Christianity in Africa #5
If the lake is a mile wide and an inch deep, there is always the ambition that it might be more. Before long, Zimbabweans feel that the lake might be a hydro-electric dam, with a massive hotel on its shores. They have plans it will be so. The gospel will prosper here. It will. There is always ambition.
I met Reuben at school at 6pm. He is a head boy at Matthew Rusike College. I was using the natural light in his assembly hall. He said, 'How is your morning?'. I said, true Australian, 'OK. It might have started a little early.' He said, 'Aaaah, the day is full of possibility.' I stood rebuked. Well, I sat, but I was still rebuked.
For a country where plans have been routinely ruined, and where good things are noticed by others and then taxed or extorted in a way to stunt their growth, this is to me a miracle. It is a national trait, Howard Spencer tells me. It is not an Africa thing. It is a Zimbabwe thing. Howard is the director of 'International Ministries' for the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students. He goes to Wild Street and was a missionary in East Africa - Tanzania. He knows the joint. He says, 'this is the remarkable thing about Zimbabwe'. Optimism.
A. took us out past the city limits. Women appeared on long roads with burdens on their heads. Men whipped oxen pulling wooden carts. 'This is Africa!', Howard said. Clearly excited. I was pretty sure it was Africa when I was dodging traffic on Julius Nyrere Avenue too.
A. took us off the grid. He showed us the house he is building. A chicken project will first feed them, then the ministry apprentices, and then generate an income for many more staff. Beef will follow - and we could see cattle grazing in the middle distance on common lands. The house will have a verandah so that students can overflow. Perhaps cottages so that training courses can be run there and house students from overseas. The vision ran on. Such ambition.
The house is not the point. A. and T. dream of something bigger. A network of like-minded Christians who are saved by the gospel, know the gospel, guard the gospel, teach the gospel, and let the gospel shape ministry. The seed of this is student ministry - for it generates the future from people who are flexible and able to be trained. But the churches must be changed too. And a path for theological training. And church music. And mission.
I can't remember it all. I can see the next step, and maybe the one after that. Ask T., let him draw a diagram for you. The vision is vast. It will take a mighty work of God. I am learning to draw the diagram, and I am filling it with questions from my observations here. Zimbabwe bends your brain. It overflows the edges.
It is time to bring my observations to an end.
Christianity in Zimbabwe is a lake that is a mile wide - those professing faith stretch from hill to hill. It is very often an inch deep - with many spiritual infants in danger in the shallow water. It has deep Baptist trenches, and scary, bitter bays of cults. But it is wildly optimistic. A. and T. and their confederates are innately ambitious. Mentally, they have the lake all but connected up to the sea, and they do not expect the usual out-flowing tide. They fully expect God to fill it.