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Zimbabwe pastor: ‘I have traveled far, and so has the church’


Zimbabwe pastor: ‘I have traveled far, and so has the church'

In Zimbabwe 40 years ago, a bicycle was the only way to travel from one United Methodist congregation to another. The Rev. Jairos Mafondokoto and his fellow graduates each received a bicycle when they completed studies at United Theological College, Harare.

"The annual conference gave each pastor a bicycle, and we had to pay for it in installments," he said. "Years later, we were given motorbikes, which we also had to pay for."

His first appointment was to the Zimunya Circuit and was comprised of 12 stations – now referred to as local churches.

"The furthest distance I traveled on that bicycle was from Munyarari to Rimiti and Himalaya stations, about 28 kilometers (17.36 miles). At times, I walked or used buses, depending on my mission," Mafondokoto said.

"I would leave home on Tuesday in order to start my visitations on Wednesday. Thursdays were a day for home visits and station administration duties." He reserved Fridays for various meetings.

Sunday was for preaching and church committees. He rested on Monday before setting out for the next station. Mafondokoto usually spent three weeks away from his family, relying on the congregations to provide accommodations.

The Rev. Kelvin Mwandira also faced many challenges during his early years in ministry.

"I was one of the first pastors of Bulawayo West Circuit, and when I arrived with my family, we discovered there was no parsonage," Mwandira recalled.

After the family lived in two classrooms for a year, the church leased a four-room house with an outdoor toilet.

"We were not paid salaries," Mafondokoto said. "Quarterly conferences were convened every three months where the 12 stations under my charge would gather and contribute finances to a common pool. The budget was written on a blackboard, and the first item on the list was my tuso (compensation)."

Today, The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe is thriving.

"We have witnessed tremendous growth," Mafondokoto said. "Pastors today have fixed salaries and fixed paydays. Circuits have good accommodation and new motor vehicles for pastors to use.

"I have traveled far, and so has the church."

Eveline Chikwanah is a communicator for the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference.