The country of Zimbabwe has been struggling more so than ever over the past twelve years. The HIV/AIDS pandemic, economic instability, and political volatility have deeply affected the Zimbabwean people.
Unemployment is a staggering 90 to 95 percent. Much of the food has to be imported because of poor farm production. Infrastructure systems such as roads are badly in need of repair. In the city of Harare, some areas do not have running water, forcing residents to purchase water or draw from unsafe sources for their basic needs. Power outages happen on a daily basis in many neighborhoods. Because jobs are hard to come by, many people are in the “buy and sell” business where they purchase items, sometimes from across the border in Botswana or South Africa, and then try to re-sell those items on the streets for a meager profit. Using American dollars as currency after the Zimbabwean dollar collapsed means that people who previously lived on $50 a month now need at least $500 a month just to survive at the poverty level.
“In a way, the church has flourished and grown through these hardships,” said David Rousseau, a TEAM missionary who works in Harare. “People become more spiritually minded because of what they have gone through.” Unfortunately, the hard times have led some Christians away from the truth of the Scriptures to the “health, wealth, and prosperity” gospel, which promises that God will prosper you if you follow a certain set of rules. Some Christians will even go to their regular church service on a Sunday morning and then attend a prosperity service in the afternoon. One self-proclaimed prophet draws as many as 35,000 people to his prosperity messages held in a stadium.
The truth is found at Harare Theological College (HTC), an undergraduate Bible college. It served as a residential college for many years, where young students would study the scriptures and train as pastors. But economic hardships have made it difficult for people to attend school full-time, so in 2005, the college transitioned into offering evening classes.
The student population, average age 31, now mostly consists of people who are already working in ministry. They come to the college for leadership training and further equipping. One student, a 70-year-old elder at a local Presbyterian church, came to HTC to learn and grow as a spiritual leader in his church. Other students have come from as far away as Canada and Holland. The student from Holland eventually wanted to become a missionary in Africa, so he was able to start culture and language study while earning his degree at HTC.
The school is making a difference in Zimbabwe. “We have at least ten major Harare churches where one of our graduates is in a pastoring role,” said Rousseau. “Some graduates are even serving as missionaries in other countries.” Thanks to HTC, the truth of God’s word is providing hope to Zimbabwe, which has struggled for so long. “This is a great country. It has so much to offer,” said TEAM missionary Sue Rousseau. “The only solution to its many problems is the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.”
-Written by Lisa H. Renninger
-Photos provided by Sue Rousseau
For more information about HTC, visit http://www.htc.ac.zw/.