Bulawayo, Zimbabwe This morning I had a serious conversation with several friends who care deeply for Zimbabwe. Each person in the group left a relatively comfortable life and intentionally moved to this country to help improve the lives of the people here. These friends are discouraged. They have become tired of dealing with obstacles at every turn. They told many stories that illustrate the reasons for their frustrations. For example, one man works to help some of the poorest people start micro-businesses.
This man shared story after story of how the businesses he is helping are encountering extraordinary problems. Like the farm that experienced widespread crop failure even after applying appropriate water and fertilizer. Finally, after eliminating every other possible problem, they tested the water that they use to irrigate. They discovered that the water in the well is salty. Generally, well water is clean, but in this case the water has a high salt content and most of the plants could not tolerate it.
This same man told another story about an emerging entrepreneur who was renting part of his home to students. This was a good strategy because it provided housing to the students and income for the entrepreneur. Unfortunately, the students ran out of money half way through the academic year which made the business unsustainable.
Another couple who sold their home and everything else in the United Kingdom to move here several years ago to establish businesses that would employ Zimbabweans have been informed that their residency visa will not be renewed. Even though they bought a house and are employing dozens of local people, they are no longer officially welcome here. This is heartbreaking for them and the people working in the businesses that they started at great personal cost.
After listening to these disappointing stories for an hour or so, I finally asked, “What is God doing in Zimbabwe? What can we learn from all this disappointment?”
The first response was from the man who is helping local entrepreneurs. He exclaimed, “This is a God-forsaken place!”
I was not content with that answer, but even as I asked more questions, I did not hear anything that convinced me that he was wrong. Could it be that God has removed his hand of blessing from Zimbabwe? I don’t believe so, but sometimes it certainly feels that way.