Saturday, September 15, 2018

Massacre of Innocents Plants Seeds of Hope and Faith

Tomorrow we leave for Malvern in the UK where on Monday a crowd of folk who have worked as missionaries in Zimbabwe will meet with leaders of the Elim Churches in that country. Present also at Elim's International Centre will be family members of the 9 Elim missionaries and 4 of their children who were killed in the Vumba in July 1978. This will be the first time that those bereaved family members will come together since the dreadful events of 40 years ago, and they deserve our prayers and support as their memories will be stirred.

When we worked in Mutare, the nearest city to the Vumba, we planted a congregation in a building that had been purchased at the time as the Elim Memorial Church. That church has since been renovated to a high standard and has become a real focus for the Elim Church's work in that area. At the time of our being there Elim had around a dozen churches in the country, together with schools and a hospital. Now there are over 65 congregations all over Zimbabwe and the work is thriving. Stephen Griffith's excellent book The Axe and the Tree tells the story of all that led up to the massacre of 40 years ago and the great suffering and faith of the national church and its leaders at that time. I recommend it.
Peter & Sandra McCann, Philip & Joy died in the Vumba

You may wonder what real relevance a memorial garden might have for today's generation of trainee pastors and missions workers. I did so too, but remember that one of my responsibilities was to keep an eye on the mass grave of those who died in the Vumba. Once a year, on the occasion of the graduation of the young men we were training as evangelists in what was known as Project Timothy, they would gather with me around the grave. I would explain to the young men that they were the fruit of the sacrifices these people had made, and then pray for them that, as they went out two by two into the community, they would remember the example of these friends of ours who paid the ultimate price. Each year it was common for tears to be shed and the impact upon the young evangelists was clear to be seen. So I pray that as young Bible students take time to wander in the memorial garden they will think about the example of those who have gone before them and perhaps come to a new understanding of, and a new commitment to, their own calling.

"They were stoned; they were sawn in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated— the world was not worthy of them...

These were all commended for their faith" (Hebrews 11:38-39)