Serving in his homeland of Zimbabwe
At Hands at Work, our volunteers are called by God from all over the world to serve the most vulnerable in Africa. Each of us has a unique story of how we were transformed when we stepped out in faith and were obedient to His call. Farai tells his story of following Jesus in Zimbabwe, and how compassion for the poor and a desire to mobilise the local church has defined his life.
I grew up in a poor family as an only child. My life was very hard and I never finished high school. I had to work as a cattle herder in a village far away from my community for two years. As an adult I was able to begin attending pastoral school, when suddenly in 2008 (during the Zimbabwean economic hardship) I realised I needed to do more to care for my community of Honde Valley. I stood as a witness to children who were hungry, going to sleep with no food, and in need of loving parental care. My heart was pushed over the edge and I sat with my wife, Mildred, and we said, “Let’s do this.” Caring for these children was our calling. Many were eating only roots from the bush. Within one week we had 200 children who we fed rice to every Saturday with the support of our church. We met at our house under a tree.
When we started caring for children, I was a taxi driver. I had a Mozambican friend, Antonio, who was orphaned and who wanted to marry a girl from Zambia. He asked for my support – he needed my help to drive his future in-laws to Mozambique and help with logistics around the wedding. At the wedding I met Carlos, who was serving with Hands at Work. Carlos said he had heard I had been generous to Antonio and that I was a pastor from Zimbabwe. Later on Antonio called me and said Carlos wanted to meet with me. I went to meet him in Mozambique and he asked about the work I was doing with children in Zimbabwe. In December 2008 Carlos and Hands at Work leaders came to Zimbabwe. I met with them at a lodge and shared about the way we were caring for vulnerable children, but I had no idea they were interested in supporting me.
In early 2009 I had some communication with Carlos and he came to visit us in Honde Valley. By then our work was growing and we asked local leaders to give us a place for the children to meet. They gave us a small hall that was an old tea company compound and I brought Carlos to see it. As we entered the compound he said, “This is going to be a very good CBO.” I said, “What is a CBO?” Carlos explained it was a Community Based Organisation, and Hands at Work supported CBOs throughout Africa where local volunteers came together from their local churches to care for the most vulnerable children. Soon I was invited to South Africa to meet with Hands at Work leaders. They offered for me to work in the Zimbabwe Service Centre and I said I didn’t know what a Service Centre was! They explained it was a local office in Zimbabwe where a team would work together to support communities caring for vulnerable children.
I had always thought I could continue caring for children and be a taxi driver. But when I committed to Hands at Work in March 2009, I had to abandon everything. I was tempted not to – I was offered a very lucrative job to work in a diamond mine in Mutare. But Mildred said to me, “If you go to work full time, who is going to look after those children?” So I had to let it go. That moment confirmed that this was 100%, full time, my calling. God called me for sure.
In 2010 I went looking for other church leaders in Honde Valley. I found 5 and I shared with them the vision of Hands at Work. We started mentoring pastors and volunteers who stepped up to become Care Workers: men and women from the local church who brought parental care to vulnerable children. In September 2010 we began providing food security, basic health care, and access to free education for 25 children in Honde Valley. Well, our budget was for 25 but we wanted manna from heaven! We fed 50 children on that budget and visited them in their homes. Today we provide services for 150 children and visit almost 230 in their homes!
Hands at Work is very unique, so there are many challenges while encouraging the local church to embrace the vision. I talk about the Biblical mandate to care for the poor and people act like I am speaking another language! I have met people with hard hearts, but I have also seen pastors who visit the homes of traumatised children and sweep the floor. True understanding and transformation takes a long, long time of investing into others. We must sacrifice. This is our calling.
I understand that I am carrying a big cross. Mildred and I have three girls and two boys. I am laying my life on the ground for the betterment of all the children in Zimbabwe. But my brother Jesus went through the same trials so I could live like a free man. Hallelujah!
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