“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.” – Dr Martin Luther King.
In Zimbabwe, where the long reign of Robert Mugabe has sapped the life from a generation of men, women and children, a new cohort of young people is holding a light to the future. And it comes from one of their society’s oldest and most stable institutions – the church.
“Christ is our hope,” a young man named Moses boldly declares. “We’re not there yet, but we know that our tomorrow will be better than our today.”
The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe is grounding its young people in a robust faith that is both personally transforming and takes seriously the social and economic concerns at the heart of the nation.
The average Zimbabwean can still not expect to live much past their 54th birthday. Unemployment runs at 80 per cent. And thousands of young people are living alone or with extended family as the result of a vicious HIV/AIDS epidemic.
In partnership with the Uniting Church in Australia through UnitingWorld, the Methodist Church is training young people to share the gospel, learn how to resolve conflict, protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and develop employment skills. They act from a deep resonance with the story of Christ – calling people to transformed lives of justice, peace and practical engagement with society.
Tapiwa Simba Malarukwa, a young man from the Harare District, is embracing leadership opportunities offered by the church.
“Being part of the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe has given me an identity,” Tapiwa said.
“I’ve grown up to know who I am and what my purpose is in life. When your family belongs to God, you are here to do God’s business.”
That ‘business’ includes attending training courses that will enable Tapiwa and his friends to better understand the gospel of Christ and act from a conviction that faith has implications for every aspect of life.
“This training is not only about practical information but about keeping God at the front (of our lives). Yes, we have problems but we can’t just sit back and say we are suffering, the world is collapsing. We can do something. We are the generation – we can make a difference,” Tapiwa said.
This year the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe aims to train 900 young men and women throughout every region of the country.
“It’s daunting to go back to our communities,” 24-year-old Gilbert Zireva acknowledges.
“But we have been taught: instead of cursing the darkness, why not light a candle? As leaders we go back to light as many candles as we can, despite the challenges.”
By Cath Taylor
UnitingWorld is looking for individuals and congregations to provide financial support for young people to continue their leadership training. To find out more about the part Uniting Churches in Australia are playing in this ministry, go to www.unitingworld.org.au.