Hannah Wheeler on This is What Christianity Looks Like in Zimbabwe

A small ladies ensemble worship in the Ndebele language; singing “Siyabonga, Jesu” at a church service in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. | Photo: Emma Lown

I often find myself scrolling through pictures from last month. My heart is filled with joy as I look at the fellowshipping groups, the sporadic worship and the genuine moments, yet I feel a longing. There are some experiences in life you never forget. Although I only spent one week in Zimbabwe, seven days have never impacted me in the way Africa has. My heart for God has been positively altered by the Christian lives in Zimbabwe.

Last month The Tide global radio ministry, a nonprofit organization currently using radio broadcasting and conferences to reach the nations with the Gospel, blessed me with the task of documenting our time in Zimbabwe through journaling. Going to Africa, I knew I had responsibilities to the organization, but Zimbabwe very quickly shifted how I viewed the order of priorities.

As a college student in the United States, I am guilty of falling into a busy routine; when I am given a task I focus fully on what is required. The task-oriented life often results in relationships only being convenient when they fit into the schedule. By contrast, while The Tide ministry hosted a conference during our time in Africa, the Zimbabwean pastors and leaders had scheduled “tea times” throughout each day for the sole purpose of fellowship.

Fellowship naturally flows from the Christians in Zimbabwe in a way I have never seen, and they desperately seek all people to participate in their time together. Each “tea time” we would be sought out and reminded of the time set apart to be with one another. Fellowship is not an afterthought, it is a priority above most else, and the Zimbabwean culture reflects God’s original plan for fellowship. My task-oriented mind travelled with me to Zimbabwe, but the Christians there taught me to leave such a mind behind.

While in Zimbabwe, The Tide team and I were able to attend a local church in Bulawayo. During the service, hands grasped a variety of aged song books—books that were personally owned by each, the pages appeared to have been carefully studied, and the harmonized congregation proved the study of their worship. “Siyabonga, Jesu! Siyabonga, Jesu! Siyabonga, Jesu!” These Ndebele (the native language) lyrics echo in my head as I remember their praise. “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!”

Exiting church on Sunday morning was not synonymous to leaving the state of worship; all throughout the week, singing was the filler of silence. From seminars to “tea time,” there was singing. From free time to meals, there was singing. If there was extra time, there was singing. Ceaseless worship to God flooded my ears every day, and it changed me.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Hannah Wheeler