Central Zimbabwe Diocese is linked with the Croydon Episcopal Area. Its Bishop is the Rt Revd Ishmael Mukuwanda.
Monday 17 February
Our travels take us from Bulawayo, in Matabeleland Diocese, on the road to Gweru where the Cathedral for Central Zimbabwe Diocese is situated. We are met at the Cathedral by Bishop Ishmael and Dean Austin July. Dean July had only been in post a short time when we were last in Central Zimbabwe Diocese but is now well established and is often out and about in the Diocese with Bishop Ishmael as well as at the Cathedral.
From the Cathedral we head to the Diocesan offices for a welcome drink and some cakes. Food and drink are staple welcomes to anywhere that we go. People are very generous especially as they have so little.
Whilst at the Diocesan Offices Bishop Ishmael tells us about his experiences during the recent elections. He was accredited as an observer and so was in Harare. It is clear from all that he says that things have not been easy since the elections and continue not to be so. There is a real worry that tax increases for overseas businesses are causing them to leave which is not helping employment in the country.
But amidst such despondency there is a bright spark in the Anglican churches in Central Zimbabwe Diocese. Bishop Ishmael has a vision for the Diocese, a vibrant and clear one, and the people in the parishes, especially the rural ones, are catching it and doing amazing things. We began to see this on our visits around the Diocese after we had settled in the Mpulumga Lodge which was to be our home for the next two nights.
We began our visits at the Harben Park Garden. Here the Diocese owns a large plot of land which they are farming and they hope to sell the produce through the local parishes.
The water tank which is large enough to irrigate the whole plot, but they need extra pipes
They have a 500 litre water tank which is plenty to irrigate the land they have. The 45 foot deep borehole which has been dug ensures that there is plenty of water for all they need. The water tank and borehole were both partly funded by the Diocesan Link group.Progress has been slower than they might have hoped as some of the land had been encroached on by the people who lived in the large and well constructed house just beyond what is now the perimeter fence of the Diocesan land. They had to be removed and the fence erected before further development could start.
Here are the irrigation pipes. The Development Worker, Darlington, is hoping to buy more in order to water more of the land.
But, all is now going well on this part of the land and crops are beginning to grow. As well as maize, potatoes are grown in round white plastic sacks and in addition they are growing leafy vegetables organically.
Some of the land remains uncultivated and yet another piece of the land was taken over by a Pentecostal Group and they have built on it. They are going to give the Diocese another piece of good land in exchange. It is hard for those of us who come from rule bound England to quite understand the complexities of all that happens, but it is very clear that Bishop Ishmael and his Development Worker, Darlington, have their finger on the pulse of all that is happening.
From Harben Park we head back through Gweru to St Mark, Lozane. Here there is a Primary school and the children are sitting under the trees waiting to welcome us.
Waiting for visitors – we were late!
Some come from villages very nearby but others walk up to fifteen kilometres each way to get to school. The headmaster told us that there were only a few that came that far but it does seem an awfully long way. Some, he told us, would run to and from school and later after the visit we saw some of them doing just that as we drove back to Gweru. It made me very conscious of why African nations produce so many very good middle and long distance runners!
Sadly, the school roll is falling as people are leaving the local villages in order to find work. But, here Bishop Ishmael’s passion for and ability to build things comes into play again as the school is hoping to completely renew its buildings, partly because they need improving but also in order to encourage parents to use the school. Good buildings make a school an attractive proposition to parents the world over it would seem.
One of the new classrooms that are being built at St Mark’s School, Lozane
This is just one of the many cracks on the 2003 Rectory
Having looked around the school we went to see the priest and his wife. They currently live in a rectory which was finished in 2003 and which is now so badly cracked that it cannot be repaired. Ten years doesn’t seem very long for a building to last and it tells us something about why Bishop Ishmael is so passionate about the way in which rectories are constructed. A new rectory is being built next to the existing one and they hope to be able to move in some time this year. They are retaining the traditional rondeval for cooking.
The Church of St Mark, Lozane the walls of which are also badly fissured
The new rectory which is being constructed alongside the old one
A traditional kitchen
Sometimes this happens because it is good to ensure that the people who live in rural areas maintain the skill of traditional cooking because there is often no electricity.It is here that we begin to discover the extent of Bishop Ishmael’s involvement in the many building projects that are going on. He insists on the rafters being of steel rather than wood because of the termites which quickly ruin wood. Termites are wonderful for creating pure earth which makes brilliant bricks but they are a real menace to the rafters which hold up roofs. The reality of their threat can be seen in the size of the termite mound which can be found just a few metres way from the church and vicarage and very near to the land which the priest and his wife have planted.
This is an impressive termite mound. Sadly it is really near the rectory and the rafters will suffer!
When a rectory is to be built Bishop Ishmael not only insists that the rafters for the roof are metal, but, having come from an engineering background, he has designed the struts to be used in the rectories and even the layout of any new rectories himself. His vision for his Diocese is very ambitious and he is right in the forefront of ensuring that is happens.
We return from St Mark’s for a brief visit at our hotel before we head to St Matthew, Gweru for dinner.
Here we are greeted by Fr Caleb, his wife and members of the Church Council as well as some other clergy of the Diocese. It is a beautiful big church which is linked with the Caterham team. Charles Bradshaw, the priest there, had brought a group out from the parish for a week at the beginning of 2013 and Fr Caleb was anxious that I should photograph the trees that they had planted to show that they are still alive.
Bishop Christopher with one of the trees planted by the visitors from the Link church in Croydon
Here is an example of where a parish Link works well. It seems to me that for Links between parishes to work well there needs to be real person to person commitment. Individuals need to want to get to know each other and maintain communication. Where this happens the Link is real and vibrant and it can be a wonderfully enriching experience for everyone involved.
From there we return gratefully to our hotel as it is another early start the next day.
Tuesday 18 February
We begin our day – as we do most days – with another drive, this time to St Patrick’s Mission. It’s not really all that far from Gweru but the journey is amazingly bumpy and we are grateful for the Bishop’s Land Rover. Bishop Ishmael throws the Land Rover around on the unmade road with a practise and determination which belies the short time he has actually been in possession of the vehicle, which is less than a month.
St Patrick’s is an old-established Mission Station which has been in need of work and is recovering from some really hard times in the recent past. When the group from the Croydon Area including Bishop Christopher and I had last visited in 2011, the one ward had been partially built and the bricks were being made for the maternity ward. At that time the bedrooms for the conference facilities had just been finished. Now there are partially completed wards and administration blocks everywhere. There is also a new refectory for those who are staying in the accommodation blocks.
Each parish adopts a room for their priest to stay in when he is visiting St Patrick’s
The new dining room opened last year
We are shown around the site and it is clear that people are excited by all that is happening and that they want to be a part of it. Bishop Ishmael is really aiming to build a good healthcare complex and the ultimately the aim is, once again, to have a resident doctor. The local Council is so impressed with what they see that they are talking to the Bishop about the possibility of it eventually becoming a training hospital eventually.
Some of the buildings are now finished
The clinic offers care for the members of the school communities based on the site and for people from the local villages. There are also outreach programmes with women having been trained to go into the villages and help those who are sick to manage their disease or encourage them to come to the Clinic for vaccinations etc.
…and some are still being built
The catchment area for the clinic is huge and the work that they do is carefully documented to show the numbers of patients from each area and the vaccinations that are being given etc. As with any hospital the number of patients and the number of births and deaths varies but this is a busy and productive medical facility which Bishop Ishmael and the staff of St Patrick’s are determined to make even better.
I was pleased that there were no bodies in the morgue when we visited!
The foundations for the maternity ward are badly waterlogged
The morgue, which we were shown very proudly, has made an enormous difference to the clinic and the local area as people now have the time to make proper arrangements for burial rather than having to do it very quickly because of the heat. So, family and friends who are at a distance are enabled to come and grieving can be properly handled.
This is the early years class
The day that we visited the school had a power cut and so the Sisters were cooking all the meals in the traditional way
Whilst at the Mission we also visited the Primary and Secondary schools on the site. Both are what we might call improving schools. As in Britain the clearest measurement of this seems to be in the fact that the pupils’ results are improving year on year. The facilities that they have might well be considered basic but the pupils are eager to improve their chances by learning and where possible going on to further study, quite often in other countries. Most of them board as they come from distant parts of the area.
Whilst we were at St Patrick’s Mission, Bishop Christopher spoke to Bishop Ishmael about the progress being made there. Watch them here
Once we have left St Patrick’s we journey on to visit three churches with rectories in different stages of development. As Bishop Ishmael pointed out the three that we are to see have each taken the design that he has produced and used it differently, one is larger, one is smaller and one is as he has designed it.St Barnabas Church has built the Rectory almost half as big again as the Bishop would have planned as it was originally designed to be a hall. The extra half of the building is going to be separate guest rooms with its own entrance.
This rectory is really large and has a separate entrance for guests!
This photo gives you some idea of the size inside
St Andrew’s is finished and is the size that it was meant to be. The priest and his wife live there happily and look forward to the day when there will be a borehole on the site and they can have water and electricity in their house. In the meantime they use solar panels to provide electricity and although they have a nice kitchen the priest’s wife still cooks outside in the traditional way.
The rectory at St Andrew’s
It has a good-sized and equipped kitchen, but without water or electricity cooking traditionally is easiest
The rectory at St Philemon’s is moving towards being finished and it has been beautifully made. It is a little smaller than Bishop Ishmael’s plan but it will nonetheless make a really good home for the priest whom Bishop Ishmael has promised to the congregation if they can build their rectory. It’s a remarkable story of a group of women who have worked really hard to fund raise and provide the materials for the house. They have even made the bricks.
The rectory at St Philemon’s is nearly finished
Here you can see that they are prepared for when electricity arrives. All the wiring is done and all they will have to do is connect it all up
The remarkable enthusiasm that the congregation have for providing homes for their clergy must be at least in part inspired by Bishop Ishmael’s commitment to the building programme. He is so committed than whenever he hears that a roof is to be raised he sets off (with Dean Austin) to go and help. Bishop Ishmael is the first one atop the roof and says that he thinks others are encouraged by this to think, ‘if the Bishop can do this then so can we’. I am utterly convinced that it is his vision and commitment that spurs on the people in his diocese to do such remarkable things.
A typical roof before it is finished. I can’t help but imagine Bishop Ishmael and Dean Austin up on the top of it!
Tired but grateful for all that we have seen we head back to our hotel and a welcome shower before going to dinner with Bishop Ishmael, his wife Elizabeth and Dean Austin, but we are not out late as it is another early start and busy day next.