- A Zimbabwean community had struggled for years to raise resources to complete a new sanctuary. A three-way partnership helped finish the project.
- The tripartite included a South Carolina United Methodist church, Zimbabwe’s Chitenderano Circuit and a group of former church members now mostly living in other countries.
- Chitenderano’s pastor-in-charge said they would like to convert the old sanctuary into an early childhood development center.
Showing connectionalism at its best, Union United Methodist Church in Irmo, South Carolina, joined hands with the community of Chitenderano Circuit and Home Is Best — a group of former church members mostly living in other countries — in constructing a new sanctuary.
Zimbabwe Area Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa dedicated the church on Sept. 24.
The tripartite developed a strong bond that led to the production of a spacious and fully furnished sanctuary, the bishop said. The group also contributed toward the purchase of a new circuit vehicle.
“The dedication was very good and enriching,” Nhiwatiwa said. “Learning how different people can come together and produce such a wonderful sanctuary is amazing. It is beautiful and majestic from all angles. The furniture is top-notch and inscripted in memory of loved ones. The involvement of the community was admirable.”
The Rev. Honesty Sithole, Chitenderano pastor-in-charge, leaps into the arms of the Rev. Lloyd Nyarota during a celebration of the church’s new sanctuary in Rusape, Zimbabwe, and the purchase of a new circuit vehicle. “I was filled with joy,” Sithole said. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.
The Rev. Honesty Sithole, Chitenderano pastor-in-charge, said, “Before the tripartite, the development journey was odious and challenging as resources were trickling in so slowly that it would take years to complete. The convergence of these three interested and hardworking parties has achieved a lot in all spheres in a very short space of time.
“It took a decade to reach gable-building stage,” he recalled, “and the coming of Union Church in July 2022 led to the completion of the project and dedication ahead of time, in September 2023.”
Sithole added that, resources permitting, the congregation would like to convert the old sanctuary into an early childhood development center “so that we catch them young.”
The Rev. Lloyd Nyarota, a Chitenderano resident working in Canada, supported the project from the beginning and linked Chitenderano and Union Church.
“It has been an inspiring journey from the beginning to the end,” he said. “The people of Chitenderano worked together as a community. Those of us in the diaspora and at home worked together to contribute toward the building of the church.
“Everyone contributed within their means, and every gift was valuable and celebrated with joy. It was a team effort. Though the process was slow at the beginning, it became effective, and quality was of significance.”
Zimbabwe Area Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa (front), the Rev. Stephen Magomo, Makoni Buhera district superintendent, and the Rev. Lloyd Nyarota enter the new Chitenderano Circuit sanctuary in Rusape, Zimbabwe. Nyarota, a Chitenderano resident working in Canada, connected members of the circuit and Union United Methodist Church in Irmo, South Carolina, who helped raise money to construct the new church. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.
In 2020, when the building was progressing toward the roof, the team realized that the project would take years to complete in the absence of other funding sources. Nyarota said that’s when he engaged friends from Union United Methodist Church.
Delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, a team from the South Carolina church finally made a maiden trip to Zimbabwe to Chitenderano Circuit in July 2022.
“A strong bond developed with the Chitenderano community while we worked side-by-side to lift the roof,” Nyarota said.
When Nhiwatiwa suggested a possible dedication date, the three parties were excited and motivated.
Robin Landers, a team leader for Union United Methodist, said she was encouraged by “the hope and perseverance of the amazing people of Chitenderano,” Nyarota and Union’s mission team.
She said that Union provided funds for roofing, tiling, painting and some furniture, and were joined by local and generous donors from around Zimbabwe. The congregation also purchased 20 of the 30 pews.
“On Sept. 17, we arrived in Chitenderano and we painted the inside and outside of the church,” Landers said. “Four days later, the task was finished.
“It is truly beautiful, when people who are thousands of miles apart work together for the glory of God. Our only goal is to help when asked, so that the partnership continues and God’s mandate to go and serve remains strong at Union UMC.”
Jim Miller (from left), Lora McKinney, Chris Lindler and Dana McAdams of Union United Methodist Church in Irmo, South Carolina, clap their hands during festivities at the new United Methodist Chitenderano Church sanctuary in Rusape, Zimbabwe. The team traveled from the U.S. for the dedication of the new church, which their congregation helped raise money to build. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.
Chris Elvis, Union team co-leader, said he learned a lot from the experience.
“I have learned that dreams can become possible when we all come together to pray, plan, organize and work hard. As our partnership grew, the people of Chitenderano began to believe and trust us, and our church was eager to see this project through.
“We hope and pray that we continue to build upon this relationship.”
Family members were given the opportunity to inscribe furniture with names of their late loved ones as a way of honoring and keeping alive their memory. The memorial furniture was an idea to motivate people to buy church furniture, Nyarota explained.
Esther Zana (nee Kuwana) honored her late parents, the Rev. Elisha and Thamary Kuwana, and a brother.
“I have done the altar in honor of my late father and the cross in honor of my mother, who died during the war of liberation struggle. The six chairs were in honor of Enoch Kuwana (1955-79), my brother, who went to war and did not come back.
“It was like reviving their presence in the context of their work, especially for my parents,” she said.
It also brought closure, as her parents’ graves were left underwater after construction of a nearby dam. “This gave us an opportunity to have a solid memory and a place where we can find a memorial for them,” she said.
“The new church brought us together as a UMC family in Chitenderano, from its inception. We made new friends and revived old friendships. The love of Christ was felt.”
The Chitenderano Men’s Choir performs during the dedication ceremony for United Methodist Chitenderano Church’s new sanctuary Sept. 24 in Rusape, Zimbabwe. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.
Next on the agenda is the purchase of furniture for the pastor’s office. A future wish is to build a new parsonage.
“When the roof was finished,” Nyarota said, “I found myself in tears of joy. It was just unbelievable. For me, the major challenge had been overcome, and God had surprisingly done it. This has been an inspiration and joy throughout this project.”
Another obstacle for the Chitenderano Circuit was finding a vehicle to do the ministry work. Union United Methodist presented a gift toward purchase of a church vehicle, matching funds the circuit had already raised.
“I was filled with joy,” Sithole said. “When I looked at the congregants, the atmosphere in the whole sanctuary was electrified, and congregants erupted into deafening celebrations. We had walked long distances together and saw the importance of having the vehicle. This was a dream come true.”
Edward Mukoyi, Chitenderano lay leader, said, “The laity is feeling great for harvesting their sweat in style. I appreciated all partners for support in their different capacities. The Chabadza concept (community members coming together to help those in need) was at play.
“Together, we produced the best sanctuary.”
ishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa (right) dedicates the new United Methodist Chitenderano Church sanctuary, which was built in partnership with Union United Methodist Church in South Carolina and Home Is Best, a group of former Chitenderano church members now living in other countries. Edward Mukoyi (left), Chitenderano lay leader, reads a plaque during the Sept. 24 dedication in Rusape, Zimbabwe. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.
Chingwe is a communicator for the Zimbabwe East Conference.