We have trouble as Australian Christians imagining our way into the kind of circumstances early Christians faced. We are familiar with the need of the gospel going forward amidst polite opposition, general indifference, various lifestyle obsessions and good and godly distractions like a great run of south swell. We are less familiar with the gospel going forward amidst social disorder, governmental chaos and biting poverty. We are a long way from this kind of gospel hardship, which was familiar enough to earlier Christians. And to our Christian brothers and sisters around the world.
I am heading to Zimbabwe with my good friends Tawanda Masango, Joe Radkovic and Michael Neilson in September to help a great team of Christian leaders there advance God's gospel in the midst of hard times. World news is necessarily selective, so you may not have heard of Zimbabwe for some years. Here's the news. In January 2013, the finance minister reported that Zimbabwe's financial reserves were at the princely sum of $217. My teenage daughter has more in her savings account. There is less there now. Public servants have not been paid for over a month, prompting strikes that have stilled the normally bustling streets of Harare. The army has now not been paid for a fortnight, prompting nothing yet...but this is usually a disastrous tipping point in countries. Queues at banks go round the block and down the street, people are looking to put their meagre cash where only they can get it. When you trust the space under your bunk bed more than a bank, you know things are not going well. 2000 prisoners have just been pardoned to ease the prison system. 'Excess' animals in Hwange National Park are up for private sale. Even the elephants are doing it tough.
The greatest resource Zimbabwe possesses is a rich deposit of gospel faith and hope. Alongside a natural entrepreneurial instinct which serves Zimbabweans well in good times and hard, they have from God something much greater - good news from Jesus even when the news is bad from Harare. Tawanda and his friends are hoping to found a movement of pastors who will guard and keep the gospel central in church life and ministry. This keeps the gospel central in the hopeful hearts of Zimbabweans. So we are going to lead a conference on 'Preaching the Psalms (Without Missing the Gospel)'.
The platform for this conference is a bolted together by Zimbabwean prayers and $AUS. The prayers from many and the dollars from us. There is simply too little cash around in Zimbabwe to run the conference, let alone get a bunch of cash-strapped pastors there. This is a plea. we are looking to not only get a conference running at a hard time, but dig foundation deep enough for it to run for 5 years. Would you consider joining me for dinner (with a bit of a crowd) next Friday August 5th, 7.30pm at St John's, Maroubra? Bring $40 for admission, and feel free to bring a truckload of other cash if you like. Zimbabwe needs it more than we do. We will learn about Zimbabwe, hear about The Gospel Confederation of Zimbabwe, pray for Zimbabwe, and eat Sadza!
If you wish to come, let Laura Radford know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love many of our friends to be there! In the words of a Zimbabwean friend - 'the day is full of possibility!'