Saturday, December 13, 2008

Focusing on Mark Absolom: Bournemouth to Kezi!

Stephen Manhanga (leader of Crossroads Community Church, Kezi, Zimbabwe) and I had the privilege of staying with Mark and Lesley Absolom in Poole, U.K in July this year. We were very excited to hear that Mark and his daughter Lydia were part of a team from Alder Road Baptist Church (soon to be Gateway Church, Poole) that was coming to Zimbabwe. The trip was initiated by Matthew Hosier, leader of Alder Road Baptist Church. Mark preached at Crossroads Community Church on Sunday 30th November and I then had the opportunity of chatting one on one with him and Lydia.

M.M: Tell me about your family?
M.A: I come from Poole and I’m married to Lesley. We have 4 daughters: Rebecca 19years, Hannah and Sarah are both 16years old and Lydia is 13. Our dog Lady is 4 years old.

M.M: How best would you describe your family life?
M.A: It’s like a rollercoaster ride. There is lots of excitement and happiness. It’s crazy and has challenges.

Mark and his amazing family

M.M: What work do you do in Poole?
M.A: I’m a nurse looking after old people. I work nights.

M.M: What made you decide to come to Zimbabwe?
M.A: I met the Manhanga’s in July his year and was excited and stirred by what they had to share about the dam and Ebenezer. We went away on a church weekend and Matt instigated the trip. Like all good men, I listened to my wife who said I should go. I then went to Matt and said I’d like to travel to Zimbabwe.

M.M: Wise move Mark. What were your first impressions?
M.A: I came with an expectation of seeing extreme poverty because of the media in the U.K. My perception is not what the media says. People are happy and joyful amidst the difficulties. There is an attitude of hope and happiness. People are content.

M.M: Was this your first time preaching in an African rural context?
M.A: No. I have preached in Uganda.

M.M: How would you describe your preach at Crossroads Community Church?
M.A: There is a sense of great hunger to hear the word of God.

M.M: Yes. I agree! You were part and parcel of the clearing of Crossroads Community Church stand. How best would you describe that experience?
M.A: After working in the fields with Mbusiso (an apprentice at Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre), I saw his passion and work ethic and learnt something from him. I was tired from the heat but encouraged to do my all. Seeing others working so hard was an inspiration. We did our bit in extending God’s Kingdom.
Mark and Lydia helping Mbusiso (an Ebenezer apprentice) prune his tomatoes
M.M: What do you think of the scenic views around Ebenezer?
M.A: It is a different comprehension of God’s handiwork. The starts, clouds and the bushes that go on and on…. It is beautifully strange together with the ruggedness of the landscape.

M.M: What words of encouragement would you give the apprentices?
M.A: Always try and remain focused on the dreams and aspirations that God has given them. Keep God at the centre of all they do, always be able to LAUGH and JOKE and in all circumstances to give thanks. NEVER lose vision. Hold on to it tightly.

M.M: Fantastic words of encouragement Mark. Thank you. Be blessed as you continue your Zimbabwe adventure.
The beautiful Absolom “girls”, including Lady – the dog.

Interviewed by Molly Manhanga

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Church Planting. God's Idea!

Left: Stephen Manhanga preaching at Crossroads Community Church.

I was thinking about church planting, as my husband Stephen and I have just planted a church 4 months ago in Kezi, Zimbabwe, when I came across an article on Church Planting and felt very encouraged. Many articles have been written on Church planting but this particular one inspired me immensely. Part of the article says…..
“In the book of Acts we see many different people, for a variety of reasons, using their different gifts to plant churches.
A Variety of Reasons: Amazingly, God seems to use a variety of reasons for people to move to plant churches. In Acts 11:9 we see that the believers, who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen, were used to plant a church in Antioch. In Acts 13:1 – 3 we see the church leaders in Antioch praying, and strategically sending out Paul and Barnabas to plant churches. Acts 16:6 – 10 shows Paul going to Macedonia as a result of a vision. We should not feel that Acts 13 and 16 was more ‘spiritual’ than Acts 11 – God will use many reasons, such as job moves, education, retirement, illness etc. as well as prophetic words and dreams to get us on the move.
A Variety of Gifts: Should only Apostles start churches? Again in Acts we see that churches were often started with people with different types of gifts. In Samaria, we see the church started by Phillip the healing evangelist, preaching about Christ and healing many people. In Philippi, Lydia used her gift of hospitality to host the new church plant. Antioch was planted by a group of unnamed people who shared the Gospel. In Corinth, Paul stayed with Aquila and Priscilla who used their gift of tent making to provide for them. In Achaia, Apollos used his teaching gift to encourage the new church plant. There is a need for a church to build upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.
A Variety of Methods: In Jerusalem we see Peter speaking to a vast crowd, like one of the open air meetings Wesley and Whitfield spoke at. In Samaria, mighty miracles were used to get a crowd such as the Jeffries brothers saw in the 20’s and 30’s. In Athens and Corinth, Paul reasoned in the synagogue. In Philippi, Paul went down to the river where a few God-fearers gathered to pray. In Malta, Paul was shipwrecked and while giving a helping hand was bitten by a snake – and lived! In Antioch, people were just sharing the gospel with whoever they met. There seems to be no set way which God uses to gather a group of people to form a church, and we should be open to Him using a variety of methods which will give us the opportunity to be involved.”

Left: A recent service in progress.....
Amazing. From prophetic words spoken at River of Life Eastlea church, Harare, Zimbabwe to more prophetic words spoken at the annual Brighton conference held in Brighton, U.K, in July 2007, here we are in Kezi, Matabeleland South, Zimbabwe, having planted a church called Crossroads Community Church. God is a God of diversity and creativity.
Written by Molly Manhanga

Friday, December 5, 2008

.......//Molly Talks To Matt//........

Matt with his daughter Georgie and George, a staff member at Ebenezer looking at the rabbits.
Matt Hosier is the Leader of Alder Road Baptist Church (soon to be called Gateway Church) in Poole, U.K. I had the privilege of catching up with him when he visited Crossroads Community Church in Kezi, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe as well as Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre which is also based in Kezi, Bulawayo.

M.M: Tell us something about your background Matt…
M.H: I was born in Southampton. We moved around a lot in the south of England because of my dads work. After school, I worked in Africa for about a year: 3 months in Swaziland and about 9 months in Cape Town. I then went to university in New Castle in North East England – close to Scotland. The longest I’ve lived in one place for was in Siddcup. I lived there for 13 years.

M.M: You’re married to your lovely wife Grace and have four beautiful daughters. How best would you describe your family life?
M.H: FUN! Busy, noisy, full of emotion – lots of laughing, crying, affection and arguing.

M.M: A normal, healthy family life. How long have you been leading a church?
M.H: 8 years. In Siddcup, I went from volunteer, to youth pastor, then elder before becoming the lead elder.

M.M: Awsome. When did you move to Poole?
M.H: I moved in January this year. I had a general sense that my time at Siddcup had come to a close. I went to preach in Poole. When Grace and I walked into the meeting, we felt that this is where God wanted us.

M.M: When you hear the words “churches being in relationship”, what do you understand by it?
M.H: Recognizing and gladly submitting to Apostolic authority. Recognizing that men have gifts and they do things with common goals, purpose and aspirations. It only works when we submit to those in authority.

M.M: When was your first encounter with Zimbabweans?
M.H: Grace and I met P.J and Ashleigh Smyth (Leaders of God First Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. P.J and Ashleigh founded River of Life Church in Harare, Zimbabwe before leaving for South Africa) at a conference in 2003 and we came to Harare, Zimbabwe in 2004 where we also met Mbonisi and Taps (Elders at River of Life church in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe)

M.M: Do you see any hope for the church in Zimbabwe?
M.H: Yes. Psalm 10. As God changes individuals, churches are built resulting in towns and communities being transformed. Where the Kingdom advances, there is hope for the church.

M.M: What emphasis should be placed on the poor?
M.H: A strong biblical emphasis. In the U.K everyone has stuff and few people are poor materially. There is spiritual poverty which goes hand in hand with material poverty. The church has a vital role to see poverty overcome. Churches in the U.K can minister to the needs of communities and help in other parts of the world where material poverty is more obvious. It is a challenge in the West to think less of self and more of others.

M.M: Will the poor be with us always or is it idealistic or utopic to think that EVERYONE one day will be able to look after themselves?
M.H: The poor will always be with us. Injustice results in poverty and because of men’s hearts, injustice will be with us.

M.M: What do you think of Ebenezer?
M.H: Ebenezer is a beautiful spot. It is inspiring in what it’s trying to do – touching the whole person spiritually and physically.

 Matt working with Msizi Mwale: one of the apprentices

M.M: How best would you describe your visit to the community?
M.H: Short, brief. It was good to see people outside Ebenezer trying to make life work for them despite the material poverty. It is challenging.

M.M: Any final thoughts on life in rural Zimbabwe?
M.H: What you are doing at Ebenezer is the only way out of the cycle of injustice and poverty. We need to be basic, love your wife and so on. Farming God’s Way is to model a way of breaking poverty, injustice, spiritual injustice and move to something better. I’m hoping too that this visit will be a life transforming experience for our daughters. I hope they will think differently about money, God and church. Thank you for having us.

M.M: Thank you too Matt. Be blessed as you continue to serve the folk in Bulawayo.

Matt and team walking in the Mabhulawuni community in Kezi

By Molly Manhanga

........From Poole, U.K. to Kezi, Zimbabwe...........

It’s just great when special friends visit across continents and that’s what it was like when Matt Hosier and team from Poole, U.K, visited us in Kezi, Zimbabwe. They spent a few days with us in rural Zimbabwe and we are hoping they enjoyed themselves and drew closer to God. This is a snapshot of their days with us……..

Wednesday 26th November: We drove back to Kezi in the cool of the day and went via the Matopos Game Park. It was wonderful seeing some wildlife like rhino, sable, warthog, baboons, monkeys and so on. A great start to see the wondrous beauty of life in Zimbabwe. We arrived at Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre when it was dark. There is no electricity at Ebenezer, so the visitors ate their dinner in partial light. Going by the taste of the food, it seemed quite enjoyable. We then made a huge circle around a fire and had a Cell meeting. We prayed, sang songs, danced and celebrated God’s presence with us. Matt shared about the beauty of God’s creation focusing on the stars which made everyone think of Abraham. We then took the exhausted team to Pumula – a farm house that they were staying in for the time they were with us. Pumula means REST. On arrival at the house, we were greeted by a variety of bugs which were drawn to the lights in the house. Our gracious visitors took it all in their stride.

Thursday 27th November: After breakfast, the team went for a tour of Ebenezer. They looked at the rabbits, the tomato plants, the dorms, the buildings in progress and so on. The tour was led by Stephen Manhanga and George Mlilo.

 George explaining to Mark and Steve about the rabbits at Ebenezer
It was awesome when the team had the opportunity to meet a local delegation that was visiting Ebenezer at the same time. This delegation included local community heads, the councilor and local development committee members that we are building relationship with. After tea, the team sat in on an enjoyable spiritual lesson led by Stephen Manhanga. Of particular interest was the story of Joseph which is very inspirational and encouraging. A combined lunch between the visiting team, the local authorities and Ebenezer team was excellent. The combined luncheon spurred the local authorities to comment on the genuine Christian unity that is among us. What a testimony!

After lunch, the team was paired up with a few apprentices and went to work in their fields. There were no complaints despite the hot sun blazing down. Matt & Georgie Hosier were teamed up with Msizi Mwale, Steve & Rowena Cox went up with Mqondisi Moyo and Mark & Lydia Absolom were paired up with Mbusiso Ndlovu. It was interesting seeing the team scouting, pruning or planting tomatoes or weeding in the apprentice fields.

The young ladies: Georgie, Rowena and Lydia were “rescued” from manual labour to attend a birthday bash – ‘girls’ only. Everything was prepared by the female apprentices and it was delightful. God was at the centre and really fun filled. After the party, the ladies went canoeing and were joined later by the men. Quite an eventful day!

Friday 28th November: A highlight of Kezi is seeing the beauty of Gods creation and what better time than at the start of the day. Sunrise devotions were a “sweet” time with God. Cool, fresh, morning air overlooking a mountainous, scenic view. A song written by Isaac Watts in 1719 brings the experience to life:
1st stanza only,
Give to our God immortal praise;
Mercy and truth are all His ways:
Wonders of grace to God belong,
Repeat His mercies in your song.

The visit to the community followed next and was quite enlightening. We stopped at Mr. Thebe’s house. Mr. Thebe is one of the community leaders. He wasn’t at home but he and his wife were busy with their cattle. We walked to where he was and received a great welcome from him and his wife.

Team chatting to Mr. Thebe

We went to his home to see the baby ostriches they were rearing. Our next stop was at Nduna Primary School – one of the local primary schools in the area. Despite the obvious material lack, seeing the smiling faces of the children and their desire to learn is so inspiring. Our final stop was at Crossroads Community Church where Steve explained that we are hoping to clear the land, build a church and a community centre.

After tea, Steve Cox did an excellent presentation on Trees and Matt Hosier encouraged and motivated us from the word of God. As part of his “encouragement”/presentation, Matt used a two and a half meter snake that the apprentices had killed earlier on that day to illustrate a point and as part of his teaching aid. Brave man!
Matt with a snake wrapped around his neck. Mmmm!

The afternoon was free and as Matt went to Bulawayo, the rest of the team stayed on to help with Saturday 29th November historic day for Crossroads Community Church. Be inspired to read ‘All Hands on Deck’.

Sunday 30th November: Mark Absolom preached at Crossroads Community Church and did brilliantly. He spoke about hospitality which is very close to his and his wife Lesley’s heart. The children enjoyed having Lydia around and were bowled over by the little presents that she gave them. A sheer pleasure and total delight. What a blessing they were!

Right: Mark and Lydia Absolom enjoying a moment before Mark’s preach.

Written by Molly Manhanga

..........The Heart Of Worship........

Drawing Closer To God Through Worship
27 people from Crossroads Community Church (C.C.C) and River of Life Church in Bulawayo (Rol Byo) attended a workshop organized by Stephen Manhanga - C.C.C and Mpi Ndebele - Rol Byo. The workshop was held at Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre.

Stephen Manhanga and Mpi Ndebele

Mpi facilitated the meeting which was very interactive and participatory.

Worship is a lifestyle and God is looking for a people of true worship - that will worship him in spirit and truth. We were encouraged to live a life pleasing to God. Once we understand the size of Christ’s sacrifice, it will change our expression of worship.

What do worshippers look like?

What worshippers look like….
v Born again: 2 Corin 5:17
v Alive to God
v Creative
v Expression shows God’s creativity
v Renewed mind
v Being transformed brings growth

v Hungry for God
v The more we know, the more we worship
v Passionate
v It’s contagious
v Peaceable – live at peace with others
v Attractive. Good for building relationship
v Servant heart/Humble

v Called to serve
v Skillful
v Honours God

v Knowing and believing God – Faith
v Takes away the pressure

Group picture of Worship Leaders

WORSHIP: (Summary)

v God focused. Psalm 95
v It’s a gathering and focuses on God, His worth, what He has done for us.

8 of the Ebenezer apprentices that attend Crossroads Community Church participated in this workshop and really enjoyed themselves.
The ‘worshipping’ team ended the session by having a friendly volleyball match. River of Life Bulawayo won both the matches that were played before the games were stopped due to rain.

Volleyball is ‘THE GAME’ played at Ebenezer

Written by Molly Manhanga

.........All Hands on Deck..........

U.K team with Steve Manhanga at the Crossroads Community Church stand before it was cleared. Left to right: Dave Smith, Lydia Absolom, Steve Cox, Mark Absolom, Stephen Manhanga, Georgie Hosier, Rowena Cox, Matt Hosier and Naomi Smith
“All hands on deck” is part of a prophetic word given by Sam Poe from Seattle, Washington in the United States of America at our annual Mega Vision conference held in September 2008. This prophetic word has become a reality to us at Crossroads Community Centre.

On Saturday 29th November 2008, people from Mguza church in Bulawayo, River of Life church in Bulawayo, New Life church in Kezi, Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre in Kezi, Crossroads Community church in Kezi, visitors from Alder Road Baptist Church in Poole, United Kingdom and community members from Kezi, gathered at 9:00am to clear Crossroads stand.

Clearing of the bushes by one of the groups
Before getting down to some hard work, everyone praised God for His goodness and faithfulness, sang songs of celebration to honour God and Stephen Manhanga – leader of Crossroads Community Church encouraged and motivated people with a scripture from Nehemiah 4:1 – 6. Verse 6 was really emphasized and it states: So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, FOR THE PEOPLE HAD A MIND TO WORK.

“Little Hands” included, make light work! Georgie Hosier.

Clearing thorn bushes and trees for 3 hours was not an easy task but everyone present “had a mind to work.” Xolani Ndlovu, from Crossroads Community Church, divided everyone and the tools into 4 groups and gave each group a section of land to clear. With vigour and energy, everyone got stuck right into it. The sense of unity and purpose was immanent. Braving the hot sun, everyone worked hard. Blisters and cuts is the evidence of the hard work being done.

Water and juice served by the young ladies: Georgie Hosier, Rowena Cox and Lydia Absolom, was a welcome refresher. At 12 noon, Stephen Manhanga thanked everyone for coming and prayed before we called it a day. The Ebenezer male singers graced the event with song and dance. Overall, it was an amazing morning and much work was done.

“All hands on deck” as the tree falls down. Men at work!
Some comments from 3 apprentices about Saturdays event:Dazza Maphosa: I think it is good when people come together and work as a team. I enjoyed working with people from the community and with the visitors from England. I believe Crossroads will not only benefit people from Ebenezer but also the community at large.

Mbekezeli Moyo: It was a good thing to work together with many people especially the people from the community. I enjoyed myself because we were getting to know each other. There were people from England, the Ebenezer staff, the apprentices and people from the community. It was very good. Thank you!

Mgini Sibindi: Saturday was the best day ever! Even though it was hrad work, I really enjoyed it. Mark Absolom was doing very exciting things…..he was carrying big trees and pulling them. I enjoyed the way Stephen Manhanga thanked everyone. I really appreciated the hard work put in by the people from England.

What a mighty God we serve. Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.
By Molly Manhanga

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Crossroads Community Church: The beginning stages


Crossroads Community Church is based in Kezi, Zimbabwe. We are a church plant out of River of Life church based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. We are a new church plant and about an hours drive South of Bulawayo – known as The City of Kings.

Stephen Manhanga: Leader of Crossroads Community Church

The leader of the church plant is Stephen Manhanga, who originally was an elder at River of Life Church Eastlea based in Harare, Zimbabwe. Stephen and I (Molly Manhanga) moved from Harare in August 2007 to plant the church. We started by building relationship with the people in the community, learning the local language, introducing ourselves to the local community leaders as well as working at Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre.

The name Crossroads is prophetic in that Stephen felt that when the community come face to face with Jesus at the cross, they’ll never be the same. They need to make a choice. The site for the building is at a crossroads that leads in 3 different directions: 2 to business centres – Natisa and Silozwe and the other road leads to Ebenezer.

A service at Crossroads Community Church

Although we are 4 months old, we have started Cell groups at Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre as well as at Shalom Camp site. These Cell groups are overseen by Xolani Ndlovu, one of the leaders at Crossroads, we are training our praise and worship leaders, we have a children’s ministry called Kidz Alive led by Molly Manhanga. She has 4 volunteers working with her. We also have a Youth group led by Stephen Manhanga. Our attendance on a Sunday has reached to 58 adults and 87 children. Praise God! We don’t have a building yet so we meet at Ebenezer. We are hoping to have our building up within the next year or two.

We had an awsome day of clearing the land at the Crossroads stand. Please be encouraged to read the article “All Hands on Deck” to find out more…..

This is exciting stuff as we impact the Kezi community for Christ.

Some children at Crossroads enjoying a time of games.
Written by Molly Manhanga