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Snapshot of the Zimbabwe Harare Mission — Zimbabwe has 16 official languages; English is mainly spoken in urban areas and is used as a common language, though Shona and Ndebele are also widely spoken. Zimbabwe has Africa’s highest literacy rate, with over 90% of adults being literate. About 85% of the population is Christian, with the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Seventh-Day Adventist churches being the most popular. Ancestral worship is also common, and many Zimbabweans mix traditional religious practices with Christian beliefs.
The Shona ethnic group has a large influence on Zimbabwe’s rich culture. Sculptures, carvings, pottery, and basketry are among the more popular traditional art forms; many sculptures are carved from a variety of rocks, which are plentiful throughout the country. Zimbabwe has a mix of folk and pop music forms, with the musical instrument mbira being used in many musical styles. Sungura is a popular style of music. Soccer is the most popular sport in Zimbabwe, though cricket and rugby also have some popularity due to its heritage (the British colonized the nation). Also of note, the Boy Scouts Association of Zimbabwe has existed in the country for over 100 years, although Church members do not practice Scouting as a Church-sponsored activity.
Zimbabwe’s staple foods include sadza (paste) and bota (porridge), which are made from ground cornmeal. Sadza is generally served for lunch or dinner with vegetables, beans, and meat, while bota is considered more of a breakfast food. Special occasions and family gatherings are often marked by the barbecuing of a goat or cow. Peanuts, rice, pasta, and potatoes are also commonly used in meals.
In Zimbabwe, towns and cities are often quite spread out. The ground is very dry—though during the rainy season it is green. Nearly everyone has their own garden to grow food. Most homes are built out of cinder blocks with an aluminum roof, making established buildings with a foundation rare, except for in the city. Most missionary areas will have water and electricity, and most will have hot water, but it still depends on the area. A family usually consists of parents and anywhere from 3-6 children, but this can changes because people move often—multiple times in a week. Missionary work involves much contacting (going up to anyone in the street and meet them or talk to them); keeping up with the church members is another important task missionaries perform.
The majority of the members in Zimbabwe are converts; the ones who are in leadership positions tend to be more financially established. The members are generally poor, maybe one person in the ward or branch has a vehicle. Church is conducted in English although people mingle in Shona. There are not many complete families and usually there are a lot of children that migrate from different homes.
There are not very many endowed members, typically only the leadership. The closest temple is in South Africa, which requires a multiple-day journey to attend. There is a meetinghouse for the members to go, but usually it is not a chapel, just a home. Missionaries should plan on giving a lot of talks because the members can be very inconsistent. Overall, however, church consistently happens and the branch leadership is responsible. The people there love missionaries in general, they will call you “man of God” and respect you for that. Caucasian missionaries are eagerly welcomed; people generally like and respect Caucasians.
The meal you will eat every single day is sadza, it looks like mashed potatoes and is made from crushed maiz or corn. You eat it with your hands and with pumpkin leaves. Chicken is another common ingredient. Eating meals with members is very common. You can also buy food from street sellers or on p-days when you go into town you can go to a few restaurants. People don’t usually keep milk for longer than a few days because they don’t refrigerate it.
Everyone walks or rides a mini bus, which only costs a few cents. Mini buses are the only form of public transportation in Zimbabwe. Depending on the area, missionaries will have bikes or a car (especially if you are a leadership position requiring a lot of travel).
Overall the area is pretty safe. In Harare, it is prudent to take precautions as you would in any city area, especially near government buildings, due to some civil unrest.
Before you eat, the person feeding you will come with a bucket and a pitcher of water and they will wait for you to put your hands out, and they will wash your hands. The people there also have a unique handshake that is very easy to learn.
Minibuses are typically called combey, (pronounced COM-BEE).
One long sleeve shirt, and then take short sleeve shirts. A sweater for the cold season, and umbrella in the rainy season would be necessary.
It is pretty safe to mail things to and from Zimbabwe, but it takes at least three weeks for something to ship from America to the mission home, and then the missionary generally won’t receive them until Zone Conference. A GPS system is useless because most of the streets are just dirt. People use each other for directions.
65 Enterprise Rd
Straight from the Zimbabwe Harare Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“Higher-quality items. Everything fell apart and did not last long. If you searched hard you could find things to make a decent meal at home. Cheese was far too expensive. Clothes or other items were a “no go” because they do not last long. Everything is just cheap, low- quality.”
*What did you eat the most of?
“Sadza (African item) and vegetables. We would make random home-cooked meals at home.”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“Mapani Worms or Caterpillars.”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“How kind and welcoming the people are. Even if they do not know you if you come to their home they will give you there food and if you ask they will give you what little they have.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Zimbabwe Harare Mission?
“Learn and love the culture and the people while being obedient to the rules.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“How to live the mission rules.”
**Did you serve in the Zimbabwe Harare Mission? If so, we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.**