Today we were scheduled to spend time with a local Kingdom Hall in the town of Ruwa. This was very exciting because you get to spend one on one time with individuals- which is a nice variation of always being in a group on a tour (“We’re walking… we’re walking.”) Sometimes a little one-on-one is all you need!
Our big bus pulled up the street and what a crowd awaited us! Three congregations came out to wave and welcome us!
They put all of their obligations on hold to host us. And what hosts they were! After a warm welcome and hugs and introductions, we were invited to have refreshments. And how elegant! Not a paper plate in sight… I think everyone pitched in some of their own, personal glass and dinnerware. Clearly my reputation of being a klutz and breaking china on a regular basis had not proceeded me.
After a few cups of tea and some forbidden glutinous delishiousness, we assembled in the Kingdom Hall. Next, we were to be paired up with a local to share in our ministry work. We would be given a street and we have an invite to give to each of the homes for the very special 3-day convention that brought us to Zimbabwe in the first place! The street was close, so we strolled our 20-minute walk in about 30 minutes, talking and laughing along the way.
It was summer break for the schools so a lot of children were on the street playing and walking with one another. And I noticed right away the little children whipping their heads around to look at us and then whispering with one another with a curious, confused look on their face, looking back at us again and then running off. I asked my partner, Doreen, a local, what exactly they were thinking.
She said “Oh, I’ll tell you. They are running home to their parents to report the news of the day! Mom, there are WHITE people in our neighborhood! Can you believe it?!” I laughed imagining the exchange. I guess we were a sight!
There was such a lovely sense of community in this neighborhood! When you came to the gate and knocked, everyone was pleased to have a visit and would sometimes bring you in to read a scripture to their children or elderly parents. Many people had already heard about our convention on the news and several had said they had already made plans to come! I really enjoy the ministry in my local area, but it was a real treat to experience a different community dynamic!
After about 90 minutes, we came back to the Kingdom Hall for lunch. And it was so delicious! Lots of barbecued meats and cool side salads, and my new favorite Zimbabwe soda: Sparletta! It was a cherry-plum flavor, but very light tasting and not syrupy at all. John and I both had 2!
After lunch we enjoyed some experiences from the morning, and a few experiences from the local area in general. One of the favorite things I learned involved the building of that Kingdom Hall. Prior to the 90s there was no place to meet, so they held their meetings under a tree! They called it the Kingdom Tree! Ha. So as the group began to grow in number, the South African branch (which oversees Zimbabwe) started making plans to assist the area in building their own meeting place. While likely the local congregation contributed funds to this project, much of it came by donations all over the world. And finally it was time to start building! While some of the specific projects had to be completed by licensed professionals (also volunteers who are Jehovah’s Witnesses), a lot of the work could be done by local volunteers. And here’s where it gets really good- the Brother explained that when the professionals came in, they also trained some of the locals in certain aspects of construction, so they now had a new professional skill they were able to use to support themselves secularly! In an effort to provide for themselves spiritually, they were blessed practically. It reminded me of the scripture in Matthew chapter 6, and verse 33.
And last, we were treated to a beautiful choir! They had been practicing for 9 months! It brought tears to the entire audience and to a few of the singers. This was particularly touching as we found the Zimbabweans to generally be a reserved, and stoic people.
Get out the tissues!
We had a long goodbye and walked towards our bus.
In an even more emotional turn of events, they followed us singing and waving. It seems to be they all got together ahead of time and decided what will make our delegates cry the most?
All of us were very moved by their hospitality and tearful send off.
Well we needed a nap after that! And it was a good thing since a few hours later we had an invitation to the “Evening Program” which is best described as a party with music and food, and experiences and interviews. And eating worms. Yes, worms.