Trip to Northside Community Church in Zimbabwe
In September 2011 five adults from Thornapple traveled to Harare Zimbabwe to spend several days with the leaders and congregation of Northside Community Church. Gary Cross is the senior pastor there and at his invitation we went to explore what it might look like to become sister churches in the work of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our trip was not a mission trip as much as it a relationship trip, an opportunity to meet fellow disciples and to see how God might be calling us to work together. Though our context is vastly different both Gary and I feel God wants us to meet together as pastors to learn from each other as churches to see how we might support each other in the ministries we each have in our communities. Thank you for praying for Akorkor Addy, Patti Raisch, Mark and Marian Hunt, and me.
Below are updates sent to the church between Sept. 26 and Oct. 6:
*Click here for photo album.
Wednesday, October 5 update from Akuorkor Addy (note: the internet was down for a few days):
Yesterday, Sunday, was a great day. We had a beautiful service at Northside Church where we were so warmly welcomed. Pastor Rob preached three times-at the 9 am English service, the 1 pm Shona(African) service, and again at the evening service at Central Baptist (Pastor John Bell's Church).
There was an open house for us in the afternoon at the Cross's home and we had a great time of fellowship with our brothers and sisters at Northside. We had a time of praise and worship (And yes we danced with them), sharing about ourselves and then a time of prayer for us at Thornapple.
It was indeed a beautiful day, a gift from God to us and for which we praise his name.
Sunday, October 2nd update from Patti Raisch:
Zimbabwe is a beautiful place--the people are even more beautiful. On Friday, the 5 of us took some time to talk, share, and pray about our experience thus far. Following are a few things out of that conversation:
- We have found the people of Northside and extended ministries to be warm, welcoming, loving, kind, generous, and steadfast.
- We have seen how they keep their focus on Christ instead of their circumstances.
- We have observed a passion for God in the midst of great adversity.
- We are impacted by who these people are, not just by what they are doing.
One specific person we have gotten to know is Andrea Whatman. She is the founder and director of Kidscan in Harare. Harare has the only pediatric oncology unit in the country. Here, one must pay first and receive treatment after. If you cannot pay, you will not get treatment. Kidscan provides funds for diagnostic testing, chemotherapy drugs and procedures for children who cannot pay. There are parent support groups and 3 pediatric playrooms because of Andrea and her small team. There is much they have done, but so much more that they want to do.
Pastor Gary said that in Africa people say that life is cheap-people are expendable. The love and light of Christ is reaching into this bleak way of thinking through Andrea and her team.
Kidscan verse: “I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Is. 49:15-16
Please pray with us for Andrea, Max, and Francis and the Kidscan ministry.
- Ask God to move hospital administrators to say “yes” to the improvements and updates Kidscan wants to provide for a treatment room.
- The vision of Kidscan goes way beyond their funds and manpower. "We could say “yes” to so many more children if we only had money.”
- Ask God to raise up an administrator (along with the money for salary) and new volunteers.
- Pray for Andrea, Max, and Francis. Ask God to strengthen them and encourage them, to provide for their every need.
Click here to see photos. Note: new ones have been added.
Saturday, October 1 update from Mark Hunt
On September 30 we went to Kambuzuma and Houghton Park, two high density neighborhoods (formerly called "townships"). These are low income areas. We visited St Philip's Preschool (run by the Methodist Church and we were there with Oasis) where we led about half the students in a series of lessons and brought them snacks of an American nature (well done, Patti!). Then we visited two family homes in these districts.
Click here to see photos.
Thursday, September 29 update from Pastor Rob
We arrived safely in Harare Zimbabwe on Tuesday evening. After a good sleep, sleeping on a plane cannot be categorized as good, we awoke to the beautiful country of Zimbabwe. The people are so gracious and Northside Community Church has welcomed us with open arms. Our first two days have gone by quickly mostly because of the fullness of our schedule. No nap times were scheduled.
Northside Community Church has a ministry to children with cancer called Kidzcan. Andrea, the director of Kidzcan, spoke passionately about "her" kids on the cancer ward telling us how over the last ten years they have brought significant changes to the way children and their families are supported during the diagnosis and treatment phases. We were privileged to spend several hours greeting families and children, playing with them in the play rooms, and listening to Andrea and her team talk about their ministry of compassion. A highlight for me took place today as I watched Akorkor graciously respond to medical questions, via a translator, from parents. For some of the parents this was the first time they had the opportunity to interact with a doctor without feeling embarrassed with their lack of knowledge. Akorkor beamed with love and peace, as she always does.
Thanks for your prayers. We'll send another update in a few days.
Thursday, September 29 update from Mark Hunt (these coordinate with attached photos for Sept. 29):
Click here to view photos in album.
- Akourkor answering questions. We meet with a parent support group of about sixteen people whose children are in the hospital with cancer (sometimes these people are aunts or uncles as the parents are not living). This is an educational time where they attempt to give information about cancer at a level parents can understand. The session was in Shona but at the end there were questions that were referred to Akouror as the only doctor who was there. The man on the stool is Maxwell, who works for Kidzcan and is translating the questions and answers.
- Parents meeting. This is a general picture of the meeting described above.
- Hospital playroom. Kidzcan has decorated a playroom for the kids with cancer. This is the room for cancer with Rob and Akourkor playing with a couple of the kids who were there.
- Images. Many of the kids come from rural areas and are very frightened by their experience. One effort to give them a place and affirm their worth is to have each child outline their hand and write their name on the handprint. The verse is the one Kidzcan uses as their theme verse.
Wednesday, September 28 update from Mark Hunt (see attached photos or click here to see album):
- Meeting with the KidsCan team. This is the group that is providing pediatric oncology support for the nation. We spent most of the morning with them in their weekly staff meeting and part of our team went to the hospital to interact with the kids and their mothers. We will be spending more time with them in the coming days.
- Over lunch we had a review of the morning with pastors on the Northside Church staff.
- Marian and I met with a micro-finance program run by Central Baptist Church. They teach principles of savings and then work with small groups to save money over the course of a year that can then be invested in businesses started by the group members. The idea is to build a sustainable program that can move people away from being destitute. This is the group with which we met. After four weeks of meeting they have saved $96--a remarkable sum given how little income they have. The others will be visiting this program next week.
Tuesday, September 27 update: The group made it there safely with all of their luggage. Thanks for your prayers!