We have just returned from a three-week visit to Zimbabwe, staying with John and Celia in their house in Chegutu. We were able to arrange a lift from Blantyre in Malawi, by road, which enabled us to take in medicines and food, which proved invaluable in the present difficult situation.
We found Chegutu as poor as we had expected with hardly any food in the shops and what is available is priced in US dollars. Last week a 12.5kg bag of maize was selling at US$15. Only those who are able to get access to foreign currency are able to buy food. The Zimbabwean dollar changed from 1million to the $US dollar to 250million while we were there.
Some were selling fruit and vegetables they had been able to grow or acquire. There is quite a bartering system going on in places.
One reason for us to be in Zimbabwe was to teach the second module of a series for
local pastors and church workers. We had 13 candidates to begin with but lost two with ill health, both Cholera related. The Bible Training Centre for Pastors course has 10 courses each with it’s own manual. The plan is to run 3 courses a year with students finishing after 18 months. Most of this work rested on Terry but he had input from John, Ebenezer and Frances. We had to condense the material to half of the recommended time so this was quite a challenge. But it was fun interacting with the students. Students return back to their homes and have to complete at least 35 hours of course work. The ‘homework’ now rests with John Valentine to mark!
The cholera outbreak was not expected as part of our agenda but once it struck we became very personally involved. One of our students, Sebastian, went down with the disease very quickly and within 3 hours of feeling unwell became seriously dehydrated, vomiting as soon as he tried to drink and had watery diarrhoea. His eyes were sunken and starring and we thought we were going to lose him. Fortunately, he was brought to John and Celia’s house by his sister asking for help and we were able to give him rehydrate fluid and doxycycline capsules. He was then taken back to his mother’s house in Chegutu’s township with instructions to sip the fluid every few minutes and continue with the drugs. By the following day 50 local people had died. The M.S.F. (French health organisation) came in and set up a cholera clinic in Chegutu. They were refused entrance at first but had photos to prove how bad the situation was. People were being taken in wheelbarrows to the clinic because they were so sick they couldn’t stand. The clinic soon became full and at least 150 people were lying around the perimeter fence with drips attached to their arms.
Many of these died quickly from lack of fluid being given in time. People were not allowed in the clinic unless they couldn’t walk. Bodies were being piled up in groups according to the day they died, and relatives had to identify them and take them for burial. Sebastian was taken in, and we started to pray. We were able to contact people in Eltham (our home church) and asked them to join us in prayer. Sebastian pulled through and on Sunday we were able to visit him in the township. His area was the worst hit. People had lost friends and relatives all around them and they were very scared. M.S.F. brought in water tablets and soap and sprayed some of the houses. There was a lot of health education being given out continuously. Cholera doesn’t need to be a killer, but the infrastructure has broken down and the sewage was getting into the well water. Added to the fact that people are malnourished, and many have Aids, the prognosis was bleak.
Frances was able to open a clinic on the farm for 3 mornings a week and treated about 500 people. We took in some rehydrate sachets and were able to get more locally. After that we made up our own sugar and salt solution.
Please pray for these people but above all for John and Celia as they tirelessly give out each day. Please also keep this confidential we certainly do not want to put the work at risk. We value your continual prayers.
We were blessed by being able to speak at four local churches and hold Bible Studies with ladies groups, Elsie’s home group, and an Afrikaans home group. Many of you will know that Ian and Elsie are in the UK in Exeter with their son. Ian had to undergo a serious operation for cancer diagnosed while on a family visit and will be under treatment for a few months.
We are very well, being fed on fresh vegetables from John and Celia’s Garden!
We also visited the old farmhouse that was burnt down. Maybe the good thing about that situation is that no one wants to take on a farm with no house!
The rain was another cause for prayer. John was able to get hold of a tractor and driver to plough the fields at Ameva and then to plant about 20 hectares of seed. After a week the rains came, and everyone was excited. A lot of time is spent trying to get food for the workers. The packs for the pastors are coming in again from South Africa. Thousands of pounds of Ameva project money is being spent on food and medicines so we do appreciate your continuing support. There is a need for repairs to farm equipment and vehicles most of which lack spare parts.
John and Celia are encouraged as they see the hand of the Lord. Please pray for them to be kept in good health and to have the strength to carry on day by day. They are aware that people are afraid to visit but are encouraged when they do. We do thank the Lord as well that they had the foresight to build a house in Chegutu, just in time to move in.
Communications are very difficult and emails erratic. Many times, the electricity is off and the phones are not working. As and when they can, they will continue to send out their weekly newsletter. If it is not received it is because it has been impossible to send.
Terry & Frances Watson 20th December 2008