By Anne Silcher, Mains'l California director and participant in 2019 Africa mission trip
From the moment you take the first step on to the tarmac at the Bulawayo airport and draw your breath, you can already smell something different about the air in Africa. For me, it is like coming home. As we think about our ninth mission trip to Zimbabwe, and preparing for our 10-year anniversary trip, I find the word connection continues to stay in the forefront of my mind — connection to the place, people, and the entire journey.
As we prepared for the mission trip, we spoke about the work we’d do, the people we’d engage with and the things we’d encounter. But in reality, nothing can prepare you for the connection you will make with this incredible place. As I look at the cumulative years that we have been going to Zimbabwe, the connection continues to deepen year after year. We prepared for projects like restoring fences, building with bricks, cleaning, and repairing windows, and what emerged from these projects is a broader community connection.
This year, we seemed to truly sense the impact that we’ve had in the areas in which we work year after year. We visited a school again this year, where half of the group worked last year making bricks. It was incredible coming back together — I found it overwhelming how many people were there to work. Everyone had something to contribute! Some were sweeping, collecting rock, bringing food, cooking for all of the workers, and clearing the land for the next project. We use the cliche that it takes a village — this experience was living proof!
For those that have been on the mission trip in past years, it’s easy to remember the first few years supporting the old age home, and I am sure many of you have been told stories. The living conditions at the time were difficult; it was hard to believe that the home met acceptable living standards, with the amount of cockroaches and hornets. But, over the years, as we’ve continued to connect to the people that live in Dete and together we work side-by-side, we are seeing some remarkable improvements. The old age home is kept clean — and more importantly, the people who live there are happy. They’re engaging in their community far more than in the past, and it’s so incredible to witness.
Each member of our team this year has so many stories to share from our journey together. Perhaps what stands out the most to me is the progress we’ve seen in each other. That results in a stronger community between us, where we can support each other in reaching our respective and collective hopes and dreams. We — all of us — are connected.
Despite the challenges faced by the people of Zimbabwe, they continue to persevere through all of it. Their remarkable reliance and connection to the land, the people and the hope manifesting around them is what continues see them through these challenges. As the ten year anniversary of the start of our Africa mission trip is right around the corner, I can’t imagine what new lessons are yet to be learned, and how the connections will deepen even more.