Faith Talk with Francis Mupazviriwo 
“Mgeni siku mbili; siku ya tatu mpe jembe (Treat your guest for two days, on the third day, give him a hoe)” goes a Swahili proverb. Mutual co-operation between local and “modern-day” missionaries outside Zimbabwe, reaches sad levels when it degenerates into an overt dependency syndrome.
Historically, missionaries built schools and hospitals, among other infrastructure. Methodists in Zimbabwe, Roman Catholics and Seventh Day Adventists, among other mission churches, depend on help, in one way or the other.
Biblically, there are many examples showing help schemes from one church to another. In 1 Corinthians 16 vs 2, goods were donated to the inhabitants of Jerusalem affected by a flood.
Said Paul: “. . . each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn so that collections need not be taken when I come.”
Material and monetary help towards the “smaller” churches continues even today.
According to the Church of England official website, financial support to United Kingdom and overseas missions peaked at £40 million in 2004.
Over £200 million was handed under the “Gift Aid” scheme meant to help churches, mostly in developing countries.
The Baltimore Washington Conference has a covenant relationship with the Zimbabwe Episcopal since 1997.
The partnership with United Methodist Church (UMC) has seen sustainable projects ranging from refurbishing clinics, hospitals and schools being upheld. It has been appealing. As reported in the Baltimore Washington Conference Summary (BWC), the Nothing But Nets campaign managed to donate 17 000 nets in 2007 and 2009.
The Annapolis District (in the United States) provided funds for orphan caregivers and paid school fees for vulnerable children covered under the Mushenje Orphan Trust.
In the above Swahili proverb, being given a hoe is a sign of self-responsibility. This disposition has been assumed by missionary churches across Africa now administering properties through qualified personnel.
In Zimbabwe, the UMC owns the elite Africa University; Catholics own the Catholic University in Hatfield while Solusi University belongs to the Seventh Day Adventists. Kudos!
Yet, the need to be weaned off the breast of dependency is still vital to accomplish philanthropic activities.
One church minister once said: “We do not have the money to sustain ourselves.” The question is: Is it a case of money, or a case of locals failing to support each other?
If corporates, prominent personalities and various organisations — and even musicians — partnered the Church, fulfilling social responsibilities for both Christians and non-Christians would be achievable.
Notably, Econet, through its Joshua Nkomo and Capernaum Trust, helps the less privileged, but bright students.
The culture of support within and among churches and the corporate sector is imperative, if ethical objectives are to be met.
This culture of support and mutual co-operation was greatly upheld in the past through the tontine system (humwe in Zimbabwe) and ujamaa in Swahili. Villagers worked in each other’s fields, while sometimes even singing songs to up their spirits. They had a spirit of togetherness.
Likewise, mutual co-operation within and among local churches cannot be achieved if churches are divided on denominational lines.
The tragedy of overdependence is symptomatic of division; lack of support and mistrust creeping into Christians. It is this indictment which affects mutual co-operation, otherwise imperative for spiritual, social and economic elevation.
Zimbabwean-born Robert Reese, in his masterpiece “Roots and Remedies of the Dependency Syndrome in World Missions”, giving mission case studies in Zimbabwe and Tanzania, among other countries, calls on churches to engage each other. This brings more joy and exhibits self-worth, as opposed to receiving funds.
Kenyan journalist Joyce Mulama in Africa rejects donations from churches that support gay unions, writes about African bishops who refused monetary and material benefits that came from the Episcopal Church of the United States in America (Ecusa).
Ecusa wanted to ordinate gay priests in Kenya, a move seen as unorthodox by African ministers.
Following the schism, African Anglican priests, led by Nigeria’s Bishop Peter Akinola, the president of the Council of American Provinces, rejected the money. This was a Damascus moment where the churches contemplated self-reliance after their fallout with Ecusa.
The need to upgrade the lives of all in the Church is a shared concern.
Society is riddled with disease, hunger, orphans and even widows.
Who shall lead the cause, if their aspirations for a good life are ignored?
It would be troublesome to expect “those with the means” to continue helping, as this is akin to conceding lack of willingness to co-operate.
It would make more sense for the Church structures to engage these people first, as opposed to hankering for funds from abroad. The authoritative allocation of resources, even at church level, is binding.
Prioritising purchasing top-of-the-range cars, luxurious houses to match new-found statuses is a negation. There is need for those in leadership to be people-centred, as this resonates with the teaching of the Body of Christ. Late last year, the Synagogue Church of all Nations (SCOAN) led by Prophet TB Joshua sent an aid package to the Lord’s Ranch Church in the outposts of Washington, DC.
The Lord’s Ranch’s operations were hampered by shortage of funds.
This aid was an extension of the SCOAN’s humanitarian activities in Nigeria and Haiti as well as the Pakistan School Project.
Adrian Simila, the head of the Lord’s Ranch, appreciated the aid package, though he, in his words, “just wasn’t expecting” such gifts from an African church. Typically, online tabloids even joked, saying: “This (the aid) is real not a scam from Nigeria.”
Though demeaning, the reality, however, was that one church extended its hand to those in need! It was commendable.
Should we not take the hoe so that we co-operate among ourselves? Or should we only wait for missionaries to hand us the hoe?
Economic salvation in the Church is imminent, only if the dependency syndrome is remedied through a culture of support that will be supported by individuals, the corporate sector and other bodies.
Churches ought to be one as well, if their earthly aspirations are to be met.
l Francis Mupazviriwo is a Journalism and Political Science student at             a local university. Feedback: [email protected]

l Faith Talk is an interactive column. We encourage different writers, including church leaders, to contribute articles. Send your articles to [email protected]




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