Zimbabwe faced years of seemingly unending national emergencies. It once exported food, and then was no longer able to feed its own people, even with international aid. Rewarding war veterans with formerly white-owned farmland destroyed a once-rich agricultural sector. Hyperinflation was so bad that Zimbabwe’s own currency was rendered worthless, and people only used money from other nations. Millions left the country to seek a better life elsewhere, including many leaders in education, business, healthcare, and the church. Poverty grips millions who remain. The passing of Robert Mugabe and his succession by President Mnangagwa has brought some stability and hope for future growth. Pray for God to restore this once-prosperous land and to use His people to bring relief to the decades of suffering.
The exodus of literally countless millions from Zimbabwe to neighbouring African nations and beyond. This "brain drain" includes much of academia, the business community, opposition politicians and spiritual leaders. Their emigration, even temporary, is a serious loss to Zimbabwe. Pray for the swift and safe return and reconciliation of these people to help rebuild a nation on its knees. Pray for strength of community among the Zimbabwean Church in diaspora, currently dissipated, and for unity befitting their role in reconstruction.
As the Church has grown, so have the challenges. Pray for:
- The relationship with the government. The Church must be a prophetic voice engaged in the politico-economic life of the nation. Any such engagement has brought heavy-handed reprisals from the government including the intimidation and harassment of pastors and the destruction of certain church buildings. Some denominations have compromised their testimony by blindly endorsing Mugabe; others have spoken against government policies and suffered for it. The Zimbabwe Christian Alliance and the Save Zimbabwe Campaign are examples of churches engaging in the political process to catalyze change.
- Social action. With much of the country in decay, it is increasingly falling to churches to feed the hungry, care for orphans, protect the vulnerable and heal the sick. With assistance from ministries based in South Africa and around the globe, Zimbabwe's churches are doing this, but they could benefit from further mobilization, training and, of course, financial resources.
- Theological training and education - crucial as the church grows but threatened by widespread instability and want. There are at least 23 Bible colleges and seminaries, but the real growth is in modular training and TEE. Positions for study exist here and in broader university religious study programmes as well, but funding in the present economic environment is scarce to non-existent. Pray for effective teaching and discipling of those called to serve the Lord.
- Spiritual unity. Divisions and splits still occur, especially within Apostolic and charismatic groups. The gap separating evangelicals, mainliners and African Independent Churches (AICs) makes collaborative efforts difficult at a time when a unified mission of the Church is greatly needed. The Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe links over 121 denominations and 20 organizations, and Fambidzano/EFZIM links AICs for fellowship and theological instruction. The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC), National Pastors' Conference and Ministers Fraternal all hold influence and therefore opportunity.
- The purity of the Church is often compromised by traditional African practices that are incompatible with the gospel, often by outright witchcraft and occult activities. The growth of AICs is commendable for cultural relevance but not at the expense of theological orthodoxy. Pray for churches to find truly Zimbabwean expressions of biblical faith rooted firmly in God's Word.
Scripture distribution. The Bible Society continues to print and distribute Scripture in these difficult times when demand is great. Significant developments include modern translations of the Bible in Ndebele and Shona as well as translations in Ndau (by SIM/UBS), including an audio version in Shona.
Audio-visual tools are extremely valuable. Good News Media and GRN combined to produce gospel materials in 65 languages and dialects. CAVA (Christian Audio Visual Action) produces literature and audio-video which focus on evangelism and discipleship to peoples with primarily oral traditions. They remain the only major publisher of literature in Shona.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.