In Zimbabwe, buses serve as vital means of communication as well as transportation.
“We have to go to the main bus station and persuade bus drivers who service rural areas to act as couriers for information from the bishop’s office, superintendent’s office and local church office,” said Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa of the Zimbabwe Area. “The driver will have to shout when they reach the bus stop for the local pastor or family members to come and claim the letter. This is how we communicate on a regular basis with our rural churches.”
When the conference communications center opens in Harare, Zimbabwe, later this year, fewer messages will have to go by bus. The Mississippi Conference will fund the communications center and provide equipment, training and one year’s salary support for a communications director for Zimbabwe through its “Chabadza Covenant” with the Zimbabwe Area.
“Nothing can supersede communication in spreading the gospel,” Nhiwatiwa said. “Here in Zimbabwe new vistas are opening before us. The sky is the limit.”
The conference communicator will manage the center, which will be open six days a week up to 12 hours per day to provide access to print and electronic resources for church leaders and members of the community. The center will also broadcast Christian programming on ham radio. While few in Zimbabwe have access to television or Internet, many own radios.
Churches can support the project through the 2006 Annual Conference Chabadza mission offering. “Chabadza” is a Shona word meaning helping someone already at work. The offering will be collected Sunday evening, June 11, at the opening worship service of the Mississippi Annual Conference. Bishop Nhiwatiwa will preach. The offering will also support other ministries of the Zimbabwe Area and students and programs at Africa University.
The Zimbabwe communications center is one of 14 United Methodist Communications plans to establish in Africa through the Central Conference Communications Initiative. The 2004 General Conference adopted the initiative, directing UMCom to work to improve communication systems and resources for church members in Africa, Europe and Asia.