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Zimbabwe Mission Trip 2001

June 11 - July 3, 2001

by Pat Hastings IV

My summer mission trip to Zimbabwe was very challenging and rewarding.  It was a great blessing of God that he allowed our team to speak to approximately 12,000 children while we were there.  Near the end of this report I’ve included a letter that our team leader received from the Awana missionary whom we worked with in Zimbabwe.  I am humbled to have had even a small part in the incredible things that God is doing there.

Zimbabwe Today

In area Zimbabwe is about the size of Montana and the population is about 12½  million.  Since nearly 99% of the people there are black, 13 Americans—particularly in some of the areas we were in—attracted a lot of attention.  The capital city of Harare is where I stayed the entire time I was in Zimbabwe.  The most notable geographic feature of Zimbabwe is Victoria Falls which was discovered by the missionary David Livingston in 1855.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it since it’s in another part of the country, though I did see the solar eclipse that just happened to occur on June 21 during our time there.

I’ve been asked several questions about the climate.  “Was it too hot?”  “Did it rain every day?”  Actually, because Zimbabwe is south of the equator the seasons are the reverse of the way they are in North America.  That means while we’re experiencing summer here it was winter over there.  Daytime highs were in the 70’s and the temperature dropped into the 40’s at night, so overall the weather was really nice.  It was also their dry season so there was no rain and almost no humidity which meant—this is something I’m very thankful for—almost no bugs.  I did stay with some reptiles and rodents but I won’t go into that story!

Zimbabwe is classified as a third world country although it has many western influences because of its former ties with the United Kingdom.  Within the past year the economy has suffered and there has been severe inflation.  Each day thousands of people walk up to ten miles or even more to and from work because the bus fare alone would consume half of their monthly salary.  Because people are searching for answers to their problems in life, it does seem that makes them more receptive to the gospel.  Several pastors told me they are experiencing growth like never before in their churches.

My trip was through Awana’s MIT program.  “MIT” stands for Missionary-In-Training.  The goal of MIT is both to share the gospel and to give the teens involved a flavor of what life is like for a missionary on the field.  My team had one adult couple and eleven teens ages 16-18.  We first met in Chicago at Awana headquarters for a couple of days before we began our trip so we could get to know each other, make travel preparations, and receive some final preparatory training.

London Detour

"Because Zimbabwe is south of the equator the seasons are the reverse of the way they are in North America."

Before I tell you about what I did in Zimbabwe I’ll first tell a little about getting there.  There’s a saying that half the fun on a trip is just getting there and for this trip that was definitely true!  Our team was supposed to change airports in London from Heathrow to Gatwick, and because of the long layover we thought we could see some of the city.  Well, we did see some of the city, but we made some miscalculations on time because our luggage was not automatically forwarded to the next airline and so we missed our flight to Zimbabwe.  You’re probably thinking, “Why did you do something so dumb?” and it was, but I think that was a turning point on the trip and God used our mistake in incredible ways.  Once we found ourselves stranded, we contacted a former Awana missionary who lived near London and he and several of his church members very kindly came to get us and took us into their homes…at 2:00 am!

"We missed our flight to Zimbabwe..."

We were in England for 3½ days because there aren’t many flights to Zimbabwe.  God used that time to prepare us for what we would be doing in Zimbabwe.  We were able to run a small Awana club in a suburb of London which gave us a chance to critique our work, and we participated in a Sunday morning worship service by singing as a group and two of us gave our testimonies, plus our group leader, Mr. Arlyn Nies, preached the sermon.  Since we were stranded in England anyway, while we waited we visited Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.  I think the most important thing that happened while in England was the way the team came together.  I could have never imagined the team coming together the way it did.  Incredibly, as far as I know, during the entire trip there was never a case of conflict between anyone on the team, and I know that was only possible with God.

Africa At Last!

At last the day arrived that the next Air Zimbabwe flight left for Harare, and despite the surge in travelers to southern Africa for the upcoming total solar eclipse later in the week, we did manage to get on that plane.  There are over 100 Awana clubs in Zimbabwe, which is the fifth largest number of Awana clubs for any country in the world.  The Awana missionary wanted us to help introduce Awana to a lot more kids.  The main ministry the team did while in Zimbabwe was in elementary schools.  Religious training is a required part of every child’s schooling.  There has been a renewed interest in religious training in particular because of the AIDS virus and the dire need for morality in society.  Zimbabwe has the second highest rate of AIDS infection in the world. Approximately one in every four adults is infected with AIDS and around 20% of the children have lost at least one parent because of it.  In fact, because of this the average life expectancy has dropped over the past decade from 60-plus years to less than 38 and is still falling.  The people of Zimbabwe have an urgent need to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, and to know Him now.

"As far as I know, during the entire trip there was never a case of conflict between anyone on the team, and I know that was only possible with God."

Each day our team would go to a different school.  The school staff would usually combine several classes together for us to do our presentation.  Sometimes the kids would pack into a classroom—one time there were 200 children in a room with only 40 desks—but usually we were outside.  Our presentation would generally last between 30 to 45 minutes depending on how much time we were given by the school staff.  In the presentation we did puppet skits, sang songs, gave a gospel message and then led the kids in the salvation prayer.  Each day we did our presentation as many times as necessary to cover the entire school, which could mean repeating it as many as 8 times to a total of over 1000 kids.  The most kids we ever addressed together during a single school assembly was 1600 children.  There was no amplification so it was a challenge to talk to so many people at once.

During the trip we had only minor problems with the language barrier.  The official language in Zimbabwe is English.  However, the first language of most people we were around is Shona.  Both languages are taught in school so by third grade most children can communicate in English.  With younger children the Awana missionary acted as an interpreter for us.  On Fridays and Saturdays we visited the Awana clubs at churches.  There was a wide-ranging variation in the facilities where we worked.  The first club had a large sanctuary, a sound system, and a permanent game circle.  At the second club we went to, the sanctuary was a tent behind a member’s house and–incredibly–the game circle was set up in the street.  When a car needed to pass by, the games temporarily halted to let the car through!

"The most kids we ever addressed together during a single school assembly was 1600 children."

In all we visited and worked in 6 different Awana club meetings.  Unlike at the schools, at the Awana clubs we were able to talk either individually or in small groups with children that were interested in knowing Christ as their personal savior and let them ask questions and share the gospel on a more personal basis.  On Sundays we visited churches, usually singing a few songs and giving a couple of testimonies.  In the churches the Christians sang very enthusiastically, often accompanied by the cadence of the traditional African drums you might think are only a stereotype.  It was a beautiful thing to see.

What Made It All Worthwhile

"When a car needed to pass by, the games temporarily halted to let the car through!"

Although it was impossible to keep count, during the two weeks in Zimbabwe we shared the gospel with around 12,000 children, based on the number of children in the various schools and Awana clubs that we visited.  Everywhere we went we received a very enthusiastic response.  When we drove away from some of the schools dozens of kids would line the street to wave goodbye.  Only God knows how many of the children actually accepted Christ but I believe many children came to know him through our ministry.

In all, the trip lasted three weeks.  Those were the three busiest weeks of my life and I know I was only able to do it through God.  The one thing I learned most from this trip is that God has a plan and God is in control of that plan.  A verse that states that concept is Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Certainly that doesn’t mean everything will be pleasant or easy, but it does mean God uses our shortcomings and mistakes for His glory.  I knew that before the trip, yet it’s one thing to know it because someone says so whereas now I know it because I saw it and experienced it, and I have seen the incredible results of what can happen. 

"When we drove away from some of the schools dozens of kids would line the street to wave goodbye."

Here is a letter our team received from the Awana missionary in Zimbabwe several weeks after our trip:

Greeting from Zimbabwe in Jesus’ name. I hope this letter will find you in good health and fit for the ministry.


Thank you so much for coming to Zimbabwe with the MIT group. You coming to Zimbabwe was so profitable we have already seen the fruits. In most schools we have gone, I have received some letters from children asking how they can come to Jesus. This is really challenging even to hear commanders saying they have had many children coming to Jesus after hearing about Awana and after coming to Awana.


In most of the clubs around the city, children from schools have started flooding into Awana clubs. Praise the Lord for He is good!


We can see a lot of work ahead of us. More churches are calling for Awana for they have heard about Awana through schools. We hope you would come back again and minister to us.


God bless you.


In Christ,

Edward Chitzanga


I want to thank all of those who supported me--everyone who contributed for me to go and everyone who prayed.  Prayer is a very powerful weapon.  When considering the prayer support behind each team member there were literally hundreds of people praying for us and the results showed.  Every person that prayed for us was without a doubt a vital part of our team.  I ask that you please continue praying for missionaries, praying for missions both here and abroad, and do what you can to be a part of Christ’s mission work in the world.

"In most of the clubs around the city, children from schools have started flooding into Awana clubs. Praise the Lord for He is good!"
– Awana missionary in Zimbabwe

Read trip report of Zimbabwe 2001 team member Jon Hager


Last Updated: September 5, 2001

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