What do Zululand, Zimbabwe and Zambia have in common?
• They are all in Southern Africa
• They all have zebra’s native to their fauna
• They share a history of English colonial rule
• They all have Sydney Anglican partnerships through Anglican Aid
I am just home from a field trip to the lands of Z. The Sydney Diocese is privileged to be in partnership with brothers and sisters in Christ in these countries of Southern Africa and region of South Africa as they serve their communities in great need.
True Peace in Zululand
I spent the first weekend with Bishop Dino Gabriel, the Italian born bishop of Zululand. Anglican Aid provides a number of bursaries each year to support the training of ordination candidates at an evangelical bible college in Pietermaritzburg.
On the Sunday we drove for about two hours from the Diocesan cathedral in Eshowe to an isolated rural village in Zululand called Isandlwana. Dino was confirming over 50 young adults and he invited me to preach. My sermon, with translation, lasted for about 25 minutes. The Zulu language service went for four and a half hours.
Over the lunch that followed I was informed that the village was the site of a very famous battle during the Anglo-Zulu wars of the late nineteenth century. On the slopes of a very distinctive mountain that stands, sentry-like, over the village, on an otherwise quiet Saturday afternoon, 1357 British soldiers and over a thousand Zulu warriors were slaughtered.
It seemed wonderfully incongruous that less than 150 years later there is a vibrant Zulu Anglican church where the Gospel is preached, the Bible is taught and where the great biblical truths enshrined in the creeds are affirmed. Such is the power of the Gospel to bring peace where once there was a senseless and terrible war.
True Peace in Zimbabwe
From Zululand I travelled to Bulawayo and Harare in Zimbabwe. I arrived in Bulawayo a week before the country’s elections, and Harare only two days before the ballot.
I was invited to Bulawayo to give the annual address at the Petra Christian School where Anglican Aid enjoys partnership with the school along with St Swithun’s Pymble and St Andrew’s Cathedral School in providing bursaries for students from disadvantaged rural and urban communities around Bulawayo. I had the opportunity to speak to the school community on several occasions over the course of four days, to see the school of over 1300 students in action and to appreciate its Christ-centred character. Anglican Aid’s project is called ‘Rock Solid Education’ and it is just that.
On the Sunday I was invited to preach at the local church where many of the school staff and families are members. I was blown away by two politicians, both members of the church, but of different political parties, who spoke and asked for prayer for each other and for fair and peaceful elections, and especially for peace in the days that followed the election day.
True Peace in Zambia
On the afternoon of the day of the Zimbabwean elections I flew to Zambia to visit the ‘Blessed to Bless’ education and economic development project that Anglican Aid is involved with in partnership with the East Lindfield parish. ‘Blessed to Bless’ supports the education of children at one school and is building a second school in what is known as the Copperbelt region of Zambia.
The totally inadequate road infrastructure is clogged with heavy vehicles associated with the copper mines that are sprouting up like gigantic ugly mushrooms all over the countryside. The mines are owned by outside interests of countries like India and China. As it always has been for African countries, Zambians are seeing very little of the wealth generated by the mining.
Zambia is predominantly ‘Christian’ and is the eleventh poorest nation in the world. Like many African countries HIV AIDS levels and child mortality levels remain alarmingly high. Like many African countries it will see very little of the benefits of its mineral wealth. Across the four days I was in Zambia I rarely saw a male as old sixty. I’m sure there were a few but i didn’t see them. Not surprising as the life expectancy of a Zambian is 37 - less for men. Being among the oldest sure makes you feel old.
But despite these problems and the ever present reality of a syncretistic and nominal Christianity, God’s people abound, seeking to live lives of obedience and sacrificial service to the Lord Jesus and his Word and seeking to bring the true peace of the Gospel of Grace to fellow Zambians. It was an honour to be in their homes, their schools, their streets, their neighbourhoods.
It may be the last letter in the alphabet and one of the rarest on a scrabble board but the Gospel is growing in the lands of Z and it was a joy to get a glimpse of God’s kingdom there.
Feature photo: Steve Slater