1:00 P.M. EDT July 21, 2011 | HARARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)
The Rev. Jason Roe (right) checks a patient’s blood pressure in a makeshift
medical clinic at Sunningdale United Methodist Church in Harare, Zimbabwe.
UMNS photos by Priscilla Muzerengwa.
View in Photo Gallery
Curtains and ropes formed makeshift consultation rooms in the church. The smell of drugs greeted those who trickled in. All ages sat on benches at the preliminary health-check desk, the first port of call for medical attention.
Drums and rattle instruments accompanied the praise songs echoing in the background in celebration of both spiritual and physical restoration inside the Sunningdale United Methodist Church in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Theresa Shumba shuffled into the consulting room. She tolerated the searing pain in her chest, but today her breathing was labored, and she gasped as she narrated her medical history.
“I have been suffering from chest pains for some time, but I could not afford medical treatment,” she said. “I am visiting my sister, and when I heard about the free medical treatment, I decided to come and try my luck.”
Shumba, a member of the Apostolic sect, is visibly moved by the non-discriminatory nature of the clinic. “The clinic was open to people from all walks of life, not just The United Methodist Church.”
This is Vicky Snyder’s sixth year in Zimbabwe.
“Our aim is to extend the love of Jesus Christ to Zimbabwe, especially Sunningdale, showing that Jesus heals body, mind and spirit,” said the medical practitioner from the Holston Annual (regional) Conference in eastern Tennessee.
She wiped her brow with a towel and sat stooped, a visible sign of fatigue. The day is already waning, yet the mobile clinic still is lively with activity.
Dr. Hank Hanks, a physician, and Snyder treated more than 450 patients with ailments such as stomachaches, chest pains, hypertensions and skin infections. The volunteers worked alongside a local practitioner, Dr. Peter Gonda Musuka.
Bible comes to life
The Rev. Jason Roe, the head of the delegation, said that on average the medical clinic receives 500 patients a day and the vision center receives 200. He said the clinic has to turn nearly a thousand people away.
Roe said the results are rewarding. “You have a person who hasn’t been able to read for 30 years,” he said. “They put on a simple pair of reading glasses and put a Bible in front of them, and it all comes to life again.”
“We saw the love of God in action,” said Sherpherd Kadzere, the church lay leader for Sunningdale United Methodist Church.
“We are here to do a medical clinic, help with the electrification of the church, paint the exterior of the church, do community work and hold evening crusades,” said Roe, who is a General Evangelist for the Holston Annual (regional) Conference.
“I have seen the hand of God reach out to me. The exterior of my house was plastered, received two door frames and three window frames, and all this I never dreamt it happening to me,” said Tracy Nyakupinda, a widow, with tears of joy running down her cheeks.
“These are action people, they don’t just donate money and leave, but they actually do the work,” said Ashworth Hwata.
The group would like to focus on two more areas of ministry. Roe said his team hopes to set up a dentistry clinic, but hasn’t been able to connect with dentists who were able to make the trip. He said roofing houses and churches also is a priority.
“At one point, there were 70 churches bricked up with no roofs on them,” he said, adding that many men in Zimbabwe are skilled in bricklaying but unable to do roofing. He said the cost of an engineer is too high, so many churches are filled with benches and worshippers but uncovered and unprotected from bad weather.
Missions promote growth
Roe said he hears encouraging news from pastors in the months after the trip. He said many report 100-150 new people attending church services. “The church grows because of what we’re doing.”
Vicky Synder (left) visits with a patient. This is the sixth year Snyder has made the trip to Zimbabwe.
View in Photo Gallery
Samuel Kamhungira is one of the patients who received treatment during the day. He has chosen not to go home but instead to wait for an evening church service at the close of the clinic’s consultation hours.
“I am very grateful to what The United Methodist Church has done for me and many other people. It is striking how men and women of God whom I don’t even know have dedicated their time and resources for my welfare,” said Kamhungira with a smiling face.
“I have never been to any church in a long time, but through the unconditional love that has been shown to us today,” he added. “I have decided to spend the day helping out at this clinic and accord myself my first church service in years.”
When the clinic opens each morning, Roe said thousands of people will be standing in line. Even after many of them are turned away, Roe said, “people wait all day long to see the doctor.”
The mission team also takes time to enrich spiritual health. Roe said the group conducts Bible studies and worship services all morning with the people while they wait for medical treatment.
“When you focus on health issues, you are in the heart of Jesus’ ministry,” said Bishop Eben Kanukai Nhiwatiwa of the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area. “He wouldn’t pass anyone making a call on health issues. These people are here to make Christ’s love real to the world.”
Roe said he was grateful to the government of Zimbabwe for its dedication to improving the delivery of health services.
“There is a statutory instrument which requires foreigners to seek registration three months prior to starting medical operations, but by the grace of God working through the government of Zimbabwe we were able to secure registration within a week,” Roe said in his sermon at the close of the two-week visit.
The Rev. Tafadzwa Musona, the local pastor in charge, said she appreciated the love and commitment of the volunteers. She described the team as giving light to the world through faith in action.
Roe said he has been taking groups of 10 to 30 to Zimbabwe each summer since 2003. In addition to the medical treatment and the construction work, the missions are host to vacation Bible school and evening worship events.
Roe described the evening crusades as a “townwide event.”
“You don’t have to teach them how to worship,” he said. “All you can do is jump in and hold on. It makes our high-energy stuff look dull there.”
*Muzerengwa is the communicator for the East Zimbabwe Annual Conference.
News media contact: Tafadzwa W. Mudambanuki, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.