HARARE, Zimbabwe (BP)–As we walked on the pothole and boulder-ridden red-dirt pathway, my prayerwalking partners from the United States and I voiced requests for the Father to open the way for evangelism in a densely populated village outside Zimbabwe’s capital.
A few months earlier, a Zimbabwean pastor’s wife and I had begun a sewing class for the purpose of sharing the Bible and teaching a skill. Word was getting around that a “murungu,” a white person, was telling people about God and his Son.
I wasn’t expecting the touch on my shoulder or a quick answer to our prayer.
“Amai [mother], please come with me. Mrs. Muzonza asks that you come to her place. She has heard that you are telling the truth,” beckoned a young woman.
For nearly an hour, I shared about creation, the fall of man, God’s tremendous love and his Son, Jesus, with the middle-aged woman who had summoned me. Without hesitation, she became a child of God that day.
Over the next year, she led the way in supporting our sewing class and the new Baptist church by inviting people to come. Many of the villagers believed in the Lord as a result.
A year and a half later, Mrs. Muzonza died. Her husband had infected her with the HIV virus before deserting her.
It was not only Mrs. Muzonza. It was Snodia and Stanley. And it was a dear friend of ours and his daughter who wasted away as well. Twenty-four women died in my class in less than two years — about one-third of the class. We heard mourning wails constantly in our neighborhood during funerals of many others who died around us.
“God, why are so many dying and I can’t seem to do anything about it?” I asked. It seemed as though everyone I knew was touched by this disease firsthand or within the family.
A young woman called me from the clinic where she had just had a baby girl, her second daughter. I collected her with that naked, undersized baby. With extreme difficulty, I forced myself not to cry as I wrapped that precious infant in my own teenage son’s baby blanket from years past. A few months earlier, this mother learned she was HIV positive. She also had accepted Christ.
“Amai, will I give my child the virus if I nurse her?” she asked with tears in her eyes.
“Yes,” I said quietly.
I’ve seen the living skeletons, the makeshift graveyards where scores of bodies are laid to rest two feet apart, and the orphans who are left. I’ve heard the wails and shovels digging incessantly like a bad dream. I’ve smelled the sickly odor of death as a man breathed his last before my eyes. I’ve touched the withered and weak hands of the dying.
If it were not for God’s peace in knowing that these accepted the Lord Jesus, I would have been in the depths of despair.
In frustration, however, my questions are these: Where are the many laborers, including volunteers, to help us bring in this harvest? Are westerners too afraid of AIDS to care that a whole region in Africa is dying, many of whom are innocent? Will all hear the gospel before leaving this earth due to a miserable and humiliating disease?
All I can pray is that God will raise up courageous believers to take the gospel to the downcast and dying in southern Africa before it is too late. For that, my hope soars.
Kim Davis and her husband, D. Ray, have been missionaries to southern Africa since 1992. Recently they moved to Richmond, Va., where Kim assists D. Ray as the Richmond associate for southern Africa for the International Mission Board. She can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected].