Sadly, we are all too familiar with the plight of refugees fleeing difficult situations. News of people coming to Europe to seek a safer or better life has filled the headlines for some time now. Thousands of miles away in Zambia a tale of stark similarity is unfolding.
The economic decline, unrest and challenging political situation in Zimbabwe over recent decades has led to a large influx of migrants to neighbouring Zambia. Many have ended up in Mukonshi in the hope of building a better life there. Mukonshi is a remote rural area, a typical village with mud huts and burnt brick houses. Dry and dusty until the rain comes, Mukonshi suddenly turns into a lush green area with copious amounts of mud. Many tribes and backgrounds are now represented in Mukonshi from the incoming Shona and Ndebele to the Zambian tribes of Tonga and Bemba who have lived there for many years. Sadly, as we know, the perception that foreigners are coming to take jobs and resources is easily born and often fuels anger and distrust. The mix of people groups within Mukonshi led to a situation where people did not trust one another so kept themselves to themselves and did not really know one another. A strong ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality grew with each people group blaming the others when something went wrong. One lady said, “You couldn’t even borrow a tool from someone. They wouldn’t trust you to bring it back.” This sort of summed up the suspicion of everyday life in the area. In the words of another villager, “There was no community.”
Earlier this year a Dignity Impact Team made up of Gervas, Margaret and Josephine visited Mukonshi to run one of our training events there. According to Gervas, “People in Mukonshi showed a real interest in the programme. As they heard about the life of the early church community, they were inspired to change things where they lived.” One lady who has now become a strong advocate for the Life Group in the community said that she realised that, “Our understanding was wrong. No-one is sure where this lack of trust and selfishness has come from. We need to trust one another.”
A few months later, there are now 3 Life Groups meeting in the Mukonshi area with people from different parts of the community learning and working together. Where people were once very separate, there are signs of togetherness and community. As Gervas says, “Perhaps the most obvious sign of this is that you can now borrow a tool from someone.”
This story is just one of many examples of Life Groups inspiring transformed lives and communities…