In Zimbabwe you can sit in a queue for fuel for hours. Now and then, political and business heavyweights jump the queue and—as if that is not uncivil enough—get extra despite the fuel being rationed. Parking the car and opting for a bus ride sounds like a better option but only until you realise that bus operators have tripled and quadrupled the fare saying they had to buy fuel on the black market. Despite these challenges, our quest is not one to easily abandon. After all, this is the only time my colleague is able to make this journey
My name is Simon. I am a Christian journalist. I use my journalism skills and training to challenge Jesus followers to act beyond their church walls and extend help and hope to others. I love to research unreached people groups, write their stories and challenge believers to go and make vibrant communities of Jesus followers. Sometimes the quest for these stories takes me to destinations others are afraid to tread and to cultures that are unwritten about or largely unknown.
I’m travelling this time with a friend from overseas. Our destination is a remote school where we are on a quest to distribute Bibles to those who do not have any. We joined the fuel queue at 05:00 but only got the precious liquid after 12:00. It is 150km from the town where we got our fuel to our destination, but the journey takes about nine hours due to a combination of canyon-filled dirt roads and a small vehicle not suitable for off-roading.
The hours however pass by without much pain as roadside events catch our attention. Women wash clothes in the river; men plough fields with oxen; youngsters herd cattle and donkey carts are everywhere carrying supplies. Now and then we stop to chat with illegal gold panners as they dig just a few metres off the road in the stony red earth. Some, mistaking us for authorities, bolt into the woods when we stop and try to have a conversation. Kids sell huge watermelons and women holding out enamel bowls of wild fruits are everywhere as we drive past. Children wave at us with a smile and make us feel welcome.
In areas where there is no human habitation, comes the dazzling raw beauty of Zimbabwe. Spectacular balancing rocks, granite kopjes, impenetrable valleys and deep gorges down rushing rivers revives one’s soul and repairs a broken hope. A troop of baboons defiantly make their way across the road with tails arched and babies hanging off their mothers or riding them like equines. Oh Africa, such beauty, such variety!
In a matter of hours, my friend and I have morphed from Christian workers going to hand out Bibles to conservationists warning illegal miners not to dig near the road. Philanthropists to the children selling wares on the roadside to tourists in areas where we experienced the raw beauty of the land. Whenever we encounter a need beyond our organisation’s reach but know of another organisation or church working in that specific area, we take note and try and link the two. Sometimes long after we are gone, we hear of successful connections and are filled with great joy.
However, the situation is not always rosy. Sometimes we encounter adversity, opposition or downright confrontation when doing pioneer work in communities with unique and unknown cultures and religions. Despite best efforts to research and respect the host culture, mistakes and misunderstandings happen even for me as a Zimbabwean serving in my own country.
We arrive at our destination after an eventful eight hours of travel. The sun has already passed the duty to shine light on the earth over to the moon, so after a quick meal we retire to bed. The next morning, we are given an opportunity to share a message at the school assembly and give Bibles to the next generation of believers. To them, the Bible is not just a book for their spiritual edification, but it is also a set book for their studies, so we are glad to meet both the needs. But it is what they do with the Bibles that we are more interested in than in the giving itself. So thereafter, we take our leave.
Once again it is time to hit the road, satisfied to have met a need and knowing the road ahead is lined with friends made the previous day! These new friends, the stories of change and transformation and the raw thrill of adventure motivates me to overcome any hardship in pursuit of a story. Yet, the point is not so much that I have any special abilities, but that my story is a story of obedience to God. In fact, there are generations of other Christians who gave up their homeland to travel a worse road just to bring the message of hope and healing to other people. I tell my story, because it is a story of how a simple act—one that is actually fun and enjoyable—can still lead to transformation.
Simon is a Zimbabwean journalist who is passionate about using research, media, and testimonies to mobilise, excite, and challenge others to pray and get involved in world missions. He serves as OM Zimbabwe's Media and Communications Officer.