By Kudzai Chingwe
Aug. 14, 2020 | HARARE, Zimbabwe (UM News)
Equipped with new motorbikes, 10 rural pastors are conducting vital ministries — delivering messages of hope and even medication — during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bikes, donated by church partners and supporters, offer a safer option for clergy who otherwise would be walking long distances or using public transportation to reach members.
“(The pastors) can now safely do their errands where necessary with the assurance of safety through the use of these motorbikes, which they can personally sanitize,” said the Rev. Alan Masimba Gurupira, assistant to Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa.
“Praise be to God almighty for such a timely intervention.”
Simon Mafunda, Zimbabwe East Conference lay leader, said the motorbikes will help advance ministries in rural communities separated by rugged terrain.
“This donation came as a great relief and is well-timed as public transport has been banned by the government in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19, leaving many commuters stranded,” he said.
The Rev. Annamore Kahlari of Chikore United Methodist Church received a motorbike from the Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders in July and said she is thrilled with the gift.
“Visitations and attending to funerals are much easier and it takes (a) short time to reach the destination,” Kahlari said.
In the Makoni-Buhera District, there are 27 pastors, four with circuit vehicles and five with motorbikes, said Loveness Bandura, district lay leader.
“Most of the pastors endure a lot of hardships as they walk long distances to reach out to member churches or to get to the nearest bus stop,” Bandura said. “The provision of a motorbike is like killing two birds with one stone, because mobility has been enhanced and the fear of contracting coronavirus when traveling in pubic vehicles has been removed.”
Joe Kilpatrick, the president of Bikes and Bibles and a lifetime United Methodist in the North Georgia Conference, donated four new motorbikes.
They were distributed to the Masvingo and Mudzi Mutoko districts in the Zimbabwe West Conference and Marange and Makoni Buhera districts in the Zimbabwe East Conference.
The Rev. Paul Nyagomo, pastor in charge of four United Methodist churches in the Marange District, said he previously traveled between his charges by foot.
“I want to thank (Joe) Kilpatrick for the donation of a motorbike, which has enhanced my mobility,” he said.
Nyagomo recently helped Robert Takodza in Mutare City get medication to his 79-year-old wife, Agness, a member of Mutsago United Methodist Church.
Agness Takodza suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes.
“I had run out of my medication four days ago,” she said. “I did not know what to do. I was no longer myself. … Thank you, my Lord, for sending your angel with my medication.”
Nyagomo said he and Agness prayed together and when he left she was “on cloud nine.”
“Had it not been for the motorbike, I would not have managed to deliver the medication, which was desperately needed,” he said.
Mafunda said a connection with the Great Plains Episcopal Area led to the donation of another motorbike. He visited churches including Elsie United Methodist Church in Elsie, Nebraska, in May of 2018.
“The Sunday school children of Elsie United Methodist Church … were touched by the plight of the transport issues of rural pastors of Zimbabwe,” Mafunda said.
He said the children raised about $360 and he added some other funds to buy a motorbike that was donated to the Rev. Tadious Chikosi of Runyange United Methodist Church, Makoni Buhera District.
Chikosi thanked the children for helping him serve a circuit with four local churches that are15 kilometers (9.3 miles) apart. Before the donation, he walked the circuit.
“From the time I was privileged to have a motorbike, my mobility has been made stress-free. I can reach every angle, visiting the elderly, serving Holy Communion and attending to any needs in my charge,” he said. “During this era of COVID-19 pandemic, I am much safer because I always travel alone. … I can easily travel to the district offices for any meeting and get there on time.”
The Rev. Diana Matikiti, district superintendent of the Makoni Buhera District, thanked Bikes and Bibles and the Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders.
“My area is very big and, geographically, the terrain is uneven and unfavorable,” she said. “These donations of the motorbikes will go a long way in advancing my ministry in my district.”
Only nine of the 27 pastors in her district have motorized transportation, Matikiti said.
“This scenario is not healthy for the pastors and the district. … Some pastors wake up as early as 1 a.m. to get transport to the district office in Rusape.”
Four motorbikes were recently given to pastors in the Mutasa Nyanga District, said the Rev. Tafadzwa Musona, superintendent.
“All my pastors used to travel 20 kilometers on a single journey on foot to the nearest local church,” Musona said. “Today, it is now history. All my 29 pastors are mobile.”
The Rev. Shepherd Nyakatsapa, pastor of Nyarumvurwe United Methodist Church, said his area is mountainous and difficult for an automobile to access.
“This makes the motorbike a more appropriate mode of transport,” adding that it now is possible for him to do two Sunday services instead of just one.
“To all who managed to think about us, thank you,” he said. “Your thoughtfulness is a gift we will always treasure. Remember, the simplest things mean the most.”
Chingwe is a communicator for the Zimbabwe East Conference.