This week I had a disturbing phone call from a Dutch Missionary. She was part of a group of seven international mission workers who had been burdened for Zimbabwe.
Early in the year, I had been invited to speak at a Discipleship Training School. Later, a group of seven missionaries who were burdened for Zimbabwe came to Livingstone House to receive Gospel literature in the Shona and Ndebele languages for Zimbabwe, and a briefing on the situation there.
Their plan had been to go and minister in Zimbabwe for three months. In fact, they were barely there a couple of days. Within the first day they were robbed by three men on a dusty road. A car from behind was flashing its lights and they pulled to the side and stopped, thinking they wanted to pass.
“Three men got out, told us they were police, that they would shoot us because this was Zimbabwe, that they had followed us from the Border because we could be demonizing the country and we needed to get out of the car. We refused, then they said we needed to show our i.d., meanwhile they refused to show theirs. When we began to reverse away, they put their hand through the driver’s window and grabbed our car keys out of the ignition. Then they smashed the driver’s arm down on the window when she tried to get them back. They opened our doors and began searching our bags. They grabbed our bags and ran back to their car and began driving away. We were fairly shook up.” The thieves had stolen money, cameras, handbags, keys, cell phones, even diaries and Bibles.
The missionaries were then unable torestart their mission VW combi (mini-van) because the vehicle keys with immobilizer had been handed over.
Later a passer-by was able to phone the pastor to whom they were en-route. This pastor phoned the police. Their experience with the police was described as “even worse” than the criminals that had robbed them. “It was a big mistake to have phoned the police” concluded the mission worker. “They came and interrogated us every day. They said that we were very suspicious. They did not believe that we were tourists. As missionary work is illegal in Zimbabwe, we realised that we had to flee before we were arrested. We had to abandon the vehicle as the immobilizer could not be replicated by the local locksmith. We lost everything. It was horrible.”
Another member of the mission team wrote: “Well, that night two sets of police took our statements and we went back to the pastor’s place to shelter. I was quite ill. We tried to fix the combi, but a lot of things began unraveling. The repairmen were part of the crime syndicate. And the police were in on the deal. The police kept coming back and taking more statements. We couldn’t stay with that much police pressure. The police told the pastor that someone in the community had accused us of working against the government. The police sent orders to bring in an old man from the church for questioning. Apparently they’ve tortured him in the past. They’ve also harassed the church in the past before. The police told the member of parliament for that area that he was sending top-level agents (CIO) to question the old man. I couldn’t believe how quickly the situation escalated, but I understand that the elections are in January and Mugabe is a mad dictator trying desperately to hold onto power as he starves the country to death. I’ve never seen corruption go so high and be so organised. They threatened to arrest people who helped us.
“Please pray for the people we left behind in Zimbabwe. Pray also for the pastors and their church which is going through questioning. Then there were white and black Zimbabweans who helped us and protected us, pray that the police never find out who they are and will not arrest the ones they threatened. And in the end, please pray for the situation in Zimbabwe, the politics poisons the whole country. It is ridiculous that a country which looks greener during their drought than Australia when it rains, is starving to death due to politics and a destroyed economy.”
Please pray for the traumatised team and for the people in Zimbabwe who have to endure this kind of lawlessness and thuggery on a daily basis.