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November 19, 2012

Zimbabwe: The Golden Years

TEAM Home Office staffer Tom Jackson takes a look back at his time spent serving in Zimbabwe.

  • Harare

    Tom and Lois worked with young people in the high density suburbs of the capital city of Harare.

  • Family

    The Jackson family during their time in Harare. Tom and Lois served in Zimbabwe for 29 years.

Lois and I served with TEAM in Zimbabwe from December 1976 to January 2006. From February 2006 to the present, I have been working here at the Wheaton office. I was born and grew up in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, the son of TEAM missionary parents, Russ and Marge Jackson.

During my senior year of high school, I did my studies by correspondence with the University of Nebraska while living with my parents at the Chironga Mission Station in northeast Zimbabwe, near Mt. Darwin. God used a number of things that year to build into my heart a deep love for the Shona people and a deep desire to serve God in Zimbabwe. In 1970, I left Zimbabwe to attend Northeastern Bible College in Essex Fells, NJ, so that I could train for mission ministry. That is where I met my wife Lois.

Lois grew up on Long Island, NY. Her parents were committed Christians and often hosted visiting missionary families. So when Lois’ desire to serve God in children’s ministry led her to apply for training at Northeastern and the two of us met, it was not a difficult decision to agree to “follow” me back to Zimbabwe.

Lois and I describe our years in Zimbabwe as our "Golden Years". We thrived in the various opportunities God gave us there. These included: working with young people in the high density suburbs of the capital city Harare, pastoring several congregations, helping to establish new churches, caring for missionary children, working with white farmers in northeastern Zimbabwe, and just being a part of an amazing “band of brothers” that made up TEAM’s Zimbabwe/Mozambique ministry area. I did the bookkeeping for the mission for many years, helping to train several local folk to manage TEAM Zimbabwe/Mozambique’s books.

Lois and I can tell of many times when God amazingly provided. One was when my guitar and sound system was stolen during a week-long youth crusade in Mbare, a high-density community in Harare. Reports were made to the police complete with pictures of the missing equipment. Months later, I remembered that there was a second-hand music store in the area that sometimes sold guitars. I decided to check it out just in case my guitar was there, and sure enough it was – beautifully displayed along with 10 or so other instruments. I asked the shop owner if I could have a closer look and after thanking the man, I went straight to the police and reported my findings; I had my beautiful Gibson guitar back. There was just one "problem"; a church in the States had raised funds and bought a new guitar to replace the stolen one. I now had two guitars. But not for long; my good friend, also a guitarist, was in an accident where his lovely Martin guitar had been destroyed. This friend was only too glad to purchase my Gibson – a fine replacement for his much loved Martin guitar. Well, now I had another “problem"; I had money that I didn’t think rightfully belonged to me. Another friend of mine and a fellow musician, Jerry Mungadzi, was travelling to the States for further studies. I gave Jerry the money which he used to buy a brand a new 12-string guitar. So, from one stolen guitar came three! Not too long afterward, a friend who owned an electrical repair shop called to say he had our missing sound system in his shop for repair. So we got that back also! God can do incredible things! Oh, and one more thing, one of our young people had been the one to open the store room and let the thieves in to steal the instruments. He confessed to his part in the crime and asked for forgiveness. So it was also a chance for a life to be restored!

Another story of grace and provision is the story of Masimba, a young man who came to our church in Harare one day accompanied by a little boy. Masimba hung around after the service wanting to talk to me about the music which he had really enjoyed. I could see just to look at Masimba that he was not well. I visited Masimba in his home and found out that he was dying of AIDS. During the months that followed, I would often visit Masimba, always with guitar in hand, so that I could sing and play for him. Masimba died not too many months after he and I had first met, and Masimba’s family asked me to share at his graveside service. I wrote a song for the occasion – a play on Masimba’s name which means “You are well” or “You are strong.”

The song is in Shona “Masimba Wasimba Zvino”; "Masimba You Are Well Now", and it goes like this:
Masimba, you are well now.
You are in Savior’s hands.
Masimba, you are happy now.
Though you have left us here in this place.

Please rest well, Please be glad
Because, Masimba, you have a Savior.

Beloved, do not be troubled
He is in the Savior’s hands.
Beloved, do not weep
Though he has left us here in this place.

Please rest well, Please be glad
Because, beloved, we have a Savior.

Masimba, one day I will follow
I too was bought with the blood of Christ.
Masimba, please watch for me
I want to be there with you in the Kingdom of God.

Please rest well, Please be glad
Because Masimba we have a Savior.

Beloved, do not weep
Beloved, do not be troubled.

Years went by, during which time Lois and I were assigned to other ministries and eventually to the home office in Wheaton. In September 2007, we were asked to return to Zimbabwe to help the field shift their accounting to Wheaton. We attended the church there that we had had a part in initiating and where we had met Masimba. A young man named Paul was leading the worship time and I thought, as I listened and enjoyed the time of worship, “Wow – that guy is so gifted. And he is leading the worship exactly like I would if I was doing it. He’s choosing the songs I would choose and just the way he is leading the people into worship – my heart is resonating with it.” After the service, Paul introduced himself to me and Lois. He told us how, as a young boy, he had accompanied his older brother (who was dying of AIDS) to our service. Paul remembered being taught by Lois in the Sunday School and that he had watched and listened to the music and the worship. Paul is now a pastor using his musical talent in service for God in South Africa.

There are many things we miss about Zimbabwe. The biggest thing is our friends – the people of Zimbabwe and our missionary co-workers. We miss being a direct part of what God is doing there – for we loved our work and would not have chosen to leave. We also miss the bush, the Zambezi valley, the farm dams full of bass and bream, and the holidays to the south coast in South Africa! We are happy here in the USA, but our hearts often fly back across the miles and tears need to be held back for sure!

If I had the chance to say something to a new young missionary I would first say, “If I were you and had my life ahead of me, I would do exactly what you are doing. I would want to invest my life in mission ministry.” Then I would say, “Make alert, informed, deliberate choices. Decisions you make early in your ministry will have a huge impact on the future of your work.” But that’s another story!

-Written by Tom and Lois Jackson, TEAM home office staff
-Family photograph provided by the family