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Zimbabwe Baptists voice gratitude for aid

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Baptists in Zimbabwe have written to express their “deep gratitude” for 578 boxes of food delivered just before Christmas to families struggling amid the country’s food crisis.

“Let me say, on behalf of all who benefited, how grateful we are for the love and interest and practical involvement of you brothers and sisters in Christ,” said a pastor in Harare* whose church was involved in the distribution, writing on behalf of the Baptist Union of Zimbabwe. “You have made our problems your own and in bearing our burden you have fulfilled the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).”

Boxes containing rice, oil, salt, powdered milk, candles, corned beef, tea, sugar, soap, matches, flour, washing powder and beans were purchased by Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist development and relief organization, at a cost of about $70 per box, with money Southern Baptists donated to their World Hunger Fund. They were delivered Dec. 19 by a small fleet of pickup trucks and automobiles assembled by about 30 congregations in the vicinity of Harare, the country’s capital.

Another 400 boxes are expected to be delivered in late January or early February, said Mark Hatfield, who leads Baptist Global Response work in sub-Saharan Africa. Those boxes will be delivered through churches in Bulwayo, the country’s second-largest city.

Baptist Global Response also had offered to purchase gasoline for the distribution effort, since fuel is scarce and costly in the country. But fuel for about half the vehicles was provided by the local congregations, evidencing their enthusiasm for the ministry effort, the pastor said.

“We were struck by the generosity of those who had not only made these funds available but were willing to enter into a partnership with us by entrusting us locally with the faithful stewardship of these resources,” the pastor wrote. “May the Lord, who is debtor to none, pour out His grace and favour upon you in copious measure and may you resemble his Son more and more.”

The boxes originally were scheduled to arrive Dec. 7 but were delayed 10 days because the border crossing with South Africa was overwhelmed with traffic moving north into Zimbabwe. Many trucks carrying food and other scarce commodities had to wait days for customs clearance.

The food supplies were allocated to churches in the vicinity of Harare according to needs in their communities, the size of each church and the extent of each congregation’s involvement in community ministries.

The makeshift fleet attacked the challenge with gusto, the pastor noted.

“It is hard to describe the enthusiasm with which the drivers and their ‘co-drivers’ entered into their duties,” he wrote. “Within just 2 hours, the whole consignment had been loaded into the vehicles. About 13 tons of food were moved by hand.

“At least half of the people who came to help were young people from the churches, teens who had recently left school and wanted to help.”

All the vehicles but one were able to deliver their loads safely to the intended churches.

“There was only one slight mishap on that day, and even that one was something of a blessing to certain people,” the pastor wrote. “We have a small Baptist Union group in a suburb called Mabvuku and a driver was dispatched with several boxes to that church.

“As the church meets in a home, however, he was unable to find an easily identifiable building. But his enquiries led him to another Baptist church, one attached to the Baptist Convention that was historically started by the IMB! I am sure Southern Baptists will be pleased that a Convention church was the grateful recipient of this unexpected boon!”

The next day a leader from the first church called to ask why they had not received the food boxes they were expecting, and church leaders in Harare were able to supply them with some food packs from another source and promised that boxes would be delivered to the church when the January shipment arrived.

The needs of many hungry families in Zimbabwe could not have been met without the concern of Southern Baptists, Hatfield said.

“Because Southern Baptists care about people in need, Baptist Global Response was able to assist the Baptist Union of Zimbabwe in demonstrating love and care for people struggling to survive the present economic crises in Zimbabwe,” he said. “Our desire is to continue that assistance during 2008, and that will be possible because Southern Baptists give generously to the World Hunger Fund.”
*Name withheld because of security concerns. Mark Kelly is a freelance writer based in Gallatin, Tenn. To give to hunger relief projects like this through the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, visit gobgr.org.

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  • Mark Kelly