The African Plain of Zimbabwe
On a fifteen-hour plane ride I try to find ways to
pass the time, so I read a couple books, sleep a little, walk around the plane, and listen to the person next to me snore. To drown out the person snoring, I plug in my earphones and listen to music stored on my phone. While listening, I come across an old song from the Newsboys titled “He Reigns,” a song recalling the various sounds of praising God around the world. The song begins with the lyrics “It’s the song of the redeemed, rising from the African plain.” As I was flying to Africa that song resonated with me, and I began to wonder what that may sound like. As I landed in Harare, Zimbabwe, the song stuck in my head, and soon I would come to hear with my own ears the song of the African redeemed.
The African plain of Zimbabwe, once abundant in crops, has seen a major decline in its economy and agricultural production in the last century. Zimbabwe, once a major exporter of grain, beef, and eggs, must now import these and other necessities from surrounding countries at a much higher cost bringing great economic burden on its citizens. Thus, the people are hungry and worn from the hard work required just to have the means to survive day to day.
It’s often said if you can help people meet their needs, they will listen to what you have to say. Reclaimed Project missionaries Brett and Allison Barnhill use this concept to play a major role in providing hope where it seems all hope is lost. They serve in Zimbabwe and nearby Lesotho to help those most affected by economic decline. They live out James 1:27 daily: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”
Brett does a great job teaching the locals how to be more effective in their farming practices. It does not rain often in Zimbabwe, so efficient use of the water God provides is crucial. During my visit, I had the opportunity to visit the farms of 12 different church members who were eager to show off their homes and farms. Their faces were full of joy when they had the privilege to share about their farm and what they had grown in the previous planting season. Unfortunately, their current farming practices are unable to sustain their families, but Brett is working to teach each of the farmers a practice known as Farming God’s Way and Foundations for Farming using biblical principles such as the Parable of the Master and Servant from Luke 17:7-10.
Foundations for Farming teaches that a manageable 39x16 meter plot can produce enough corn to feed a family for one year. The farms not using this practice are 10 times larger yet less productive. During our visit we were able to spend a few days with those 12 farmers from the church teaching them how to plant differently this season. With the help of a donation from the Agriculture Development Foundation, an organization that provides help in agriculture development projects around the world, we constructed a sample plot at the church as a hands-on model along with a sample drip irrigation system to help distribute water evenly during times of drought. Joining me on this trip were Dan Watson and Tom Kilpatrick, two representatives from ADF with whom I was connected through FBC members Dr. David May and Don Blasingame, also members of ADF. During our visit, Dan and Tom were able to share with the farmers what we would call very simple farming practices that can make a huge difference in a culture where every single plant is vital in providing for the family.
Brett recently taught a group of widows the Foundations of Farming practices and gave them a place to farm and grow crops for their families. He is helping provide a way for those with nothing to have a place to grow food for their entire family. They are the ones who are singing the song of the redeemed.
October is the beginning of planting season in Zimbabwe with the first rains typically coming towards the end of the month. While the lack of water for crops is a major factor, clean water for drinking and cooking is scarce. Long walks to the local water source are common practice. These wells are often a hand dug well or a creek, not good sources for drinking and are a major health concern for many. During our visit Allison took us to visit with Chipo, a mom Allison has been discipling whose young child became sick after drinking from the local water source. Through the help of FBC Member Dr. David May, we were able to provide a simple water filter system for her to use, and after drinking from the well for the first time, she exclaimed, “Wow! That tastes different.” That simple water filter, costing less than Sunday lunch for your family, will literally help a sick baby grow up and hopefully have the opportunity to hear the gospel and sing the song of the redeemed.
Reclaimed Project also sponsors orphan care centers. The orphans need extra care because there is often no one to provide for them, and they are abandoned. Reclaimed meets their needs in many ways including providing nutritious daily meals, paying for school fees, uniforms and shoes, teaching them God’s Word, fostering a safe space for them to play, and surrounding them with loving adults who care about them.
Brett and Allison have been working diligently to spread the gospel with their local community. They have also been working to disciple new believers and plant churches with African pastors. They work alongside North American Mission Board Missionary Nick Moore who serves as a professor at the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zimbabwe. Recently the seminary was struggling financially and in danger of closing, so Brett and Nick began a chicken farm project to help support the seminary and provide jobs for seminary students. Additionally, this project teaches soon-to-be pastors a trade so they can be self-sufficient after seminary and focus on sharing the gospel with their community.
How can we as FBC Starkville help those in Africa and around the world be one of those who sing the song of the redeemed?
- Pray - The prayers of God’s people do not go unheard. Brett and Allison work daily with those in great need. Pray for the widows and children to have their basic needs met.
- Give - Your donations help support FBC Missions around the world. Our giving can help fund the digging of clean water wells in Africa or provide water filters and supplies for farming.
- Go - We will have an interest meeting June 10 at 4:00 pm for those interested in finding out more about an upcoming trip to Zimbabwe. If you want to share the love Christ has shared with you, we want you to go. This trip is open to anyone wanting to go.
- Tell others - Share the story of God’s redemption with others. He has been faithful to each of us, so share with others how he has been faithful to you.