As an individuals driven by faith and compassion, you must have an understanding of the profound impact that missions can have on communities worldwide, such as those that Mission Partners For Christ plans to serve this summer. 

Zimbabwe, often referred to as the “Jewel of Africa,” is a nation brimming with potential, challenges, and opportunities. For aspiring missionaries like you, it’s crucial to gain a deep understanding of this unique land, its people, and its culture. It is through learning about the unique charactieristics of this beautiful nation that all of us, who are planning to minister to unreached and underserved Zimbabwe communities can better foster opportunities to share the gospel and help to facilitate relationships between these communities and our local missionary partners. 

In the following paragraphs, we’ll delve into the top 5 things you need to know about Zimbabwe to embark on your missionary journey with knowledge, respect, and a heart full of hope. 

1. Zimbabwe Has A Long And Rich History

Artifacts dating as far back as The Stone Age have been discovered in Zimbabwe, which means that the nation has been around for a very long time.

scandal and accusationit is thought that the San, who still survive mostly in the Kalahari desert of Botswana, are the last descendants of these original inhabitants of southern and central Africa. They were driven into the desert by Bantu-speaking groups during the long migrations from the north in the course of which the Bantu-speaking peoples populated much of Africa from Lake Chad to present-day South Africa. The first Bantu are thought to have reached Zimbabwe between the 5th and 10th centuries CE. Zimbabwe is home to many stone ruins, including those known as Great Zimbabwe (designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986). Some ruins date from about the 9th century, although the most elaboratebelong to a period after the 15th century and are of Bantu origin.

Source: Brittanica

Over the centuries that followed, colonizing powers such as Portugal and Britain would invade the land in search of precious metals, like gold. So much wealth was found in the land that former Tanzanian president Julius Mwalimu Nyerere dubbed the nation of Zimbabwe to be, “The Jewel of Africa.”

In 1857, Robert Moffat (father-in-law to David Livingstone) met with Mzilikazi, chief of the Ndebel tribe – an offshoot of he Zulu nation, which opened the door to the establishment of the missions organization, “London Missionary Society.”

Zimbabwe became an independent nation on April 18, 1980 under the leadership of President Canaan Banana, who stepped down after years of misconduct and arrests linked to accusations of homosexuality. President Robert Mugabe served multiple terms from 1987-2017. While President Mugabe’s tenure as the leader of the Zimbabwe people was initially seen as progress, over time his authoritarian leadership style has led to many complaints from citizens of human rights abuses. The current president of Zimbabwe is Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe in 2017. 

You can learn more about Zimbabwe’s history from a letter that President Mugabe wrote for Brittanica in 1981, “Struggling for Nationhood: The Birth of Zimbabwe.”

2. Zimbabwe Has Struggled Economically For Decades

Due to multiple factors such as drought, high inflation rates, and involvement in the civil war of the Democratic Republic of Congo (and the resulting withdrawal of outside economic aid), and more, Zimbabwe has struggled to keep their local economy afloat.

Inflation was rampant: the official government estimate reached nearly 8,000 percent in September 2007 (other, nongovernment estimates were up to several times that figure) before the government’s Central Statistic Office stated that they were unable to continue calculating inflation rates, because of a lack of data; the basic consumer goods needed for the calculations could no longer be found in shops throughout the country. In early 2008, after government calculations had resumed, the official estimate had risen to more than 100,000 percent; by the end of the summer, it had surpassed 10 million percent. Economic problems also included an extremely high rate of unemployment, estimated at some four-fifths of the population and among the highest in the world. Employment did not guarantee financial security though, as the wages earned by those who were employed were unable to keep pace with inflation.

Source: Brittanica

Understandably, as the Zimbabwe economy began to falter, the impact to those who call the country home was severe. Rates of unemployment began to skyrocket, and people became uneasy:

Discontent with the struggling economy and the government led to an unprecedented level of public demonstrations against Mugabe’s administration beginning in 2016.

Source: Britannica

Health became a grave concern for many also. 

The average life expectancy averages around 60 years old, and the deteriorating health care system leaves many people without accessible healthcare:

The top three health threats facing the people of Zimbabwe are HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria.  These diseases contribute significantly to maternal and childhood illness and deaths.  Declining economic conditions and rising costs of living have eroded a health system once known regionally for its well-educated, robust workforce and ability to provide advanced medical care.  USAID supports programs to reduce preventable deaths and lessen the disease burden, especially among women and children under five. 

Source: USAID

A 2021 Al Jazeera article noted that, even for the wealthiest citizens, healthcare can be out of reach causing them to spend enormous amounts of money seeking healthcare elswhere in the world. 

3. The Religious Landscape of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s religious landscape is incredibly diverse. The majority of Zimbabweans adhere to Christianity, with various traditions such as Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and various Protestant branches. Additionally, there is a significant population that practices indigenous religions, connecting deeply with ancestral spirits and nature. Islam and other minority faiths also have a presence in this religious tapestry.

Here is a quick breakdown of the various faith of Zimbabwe:

  • Protestantism: 69.2%
  • Catholicism: 8%
  • Other Christian Traditions: 6.9%
  • Traditional Faiths: 4.5%
  • Islam: 0.7%
  • Other Faiths: 0.5%
  • No Religion: 10.2%

    Source: Wikipedia

The wonderful thing about Christianity being so baked into the Zimbabwe culture is that when Mission Partners For Christ visits Zimbabwe in July 2024, there will already be some understandiing of the gospel we’ll be bringing (even though we’ll be working with unreached communities)! God has been working for a long time to prepare the unreached communities of Zimbabwe to be open to the gospel message, and we’re so excited that God chose to call us to be the ones who get to go!

4. Missions and Partner Collaboration in Zimbabwe Are Central Parts of Her History

Success stories of missionary work in Zimbabwe abound, illustrating the profound impact that partnerships and collaboration can have on communities. Missionaries, in cooperation with local organizations and communities, have been able to address pressing issues such as poverty, healthcare access, and education. These endeavors have led to transformative changes in the lives of Zimbabwean individuals and families, fostering hope, empowerment, and a sense of solidarity.

We’ve already mentioned Robert Moffat earlier in this blog post, but have you ever heard of Charles Daniel Helm and his wife Elizabeth? Together, they served in Matabeleland (now known as Bulawayo, Zimbabwe) for 40 years, starting in 1875. They were so well respected that Charles became an interpreter and an advisor to King Lobengula. You can learn more about their story here

Missions are still needed in Zimbabwe to ensure that gospel continues to be shared and spread and to work alongside existing organizations that are working to empower Zimbabweans to thrive.

Collaborating with local communities and organizations is not merely an option but a fundamental necessity for effective missionary work in Zimbabwe. The local knowledge and cultural understanding that these partnerships provide are invaluable.  Such collaborations also foster trust and mutual respect, key elements for building long-lasting relationships and making a positive impact on the lives of those they seek to serve.

For our medical mission trip this summer, we will be working alongside our missionary partner, FICA (Faith In Community Aiders). FICA’s goal is to come alongside underserved community and make healthcare and education accessible longterm, which sets the community up to thrive and to succeed in their local economic growth. 

Zimbabwe stands as a captivating and culturally rich nation, offering both challenges and opportunities for missionaries eager to make a difference.

As you prepare for your missionary journey, remember that Zimbabwe’s people and communities hold the keys to transformative change. By fostering partnerships, respecting local traditions, and approaching this mission trip with humility and empathy, you can contribute to the betterment of lives and the strengthening of bonds. 

Not signed up to join us in Zimbabwe? You can learn more and apply here!