by Fr. Michael Greene
27 Jan 2010
Long sleep last night, but I woke up well in time to make moderate preparation for the house Eucharist that had been requested of us. It was a mishmash of modern roman rite, 1979, South African prayer book, and the limitations of the space in the living room: Anglicanism at its best, perhaps…or maybe not. Anyway, we packed it all in together and left the city for the first time since our arrival. We drove 50 km to Chikwaka to St. John’s Church, the Convent of the Sisters of the Blessed Lady Mary, and the Shearly Cripps Children’s home. The church is pretty normal for this neck of the woods, although there has been a lot of persecution of late because of the unusually well-equipped high school across the street that Dr. Kunonga has his eye on (and his teeth sunk into) A gathering of Kunonga’s faithful clergy, now all avowed anti-Anglicans gathered there last week for a ‘retreat’ which consisted of a general of the Zimbabwe army giving the clergy instructions on how to use tear gas, how to break a wrist, how harassment of children is a good tool to drive even the most loyal supporter away. Thanks to that brilliant ministry, Kunonga’s clergy are all trained in Krav Maga. The road was slightly less full of potholes and craters than it was of children walking to and from school for the day, and small groups of thatched huts lined the roadside, which was beautiful and picturesque in many ways. Every single one of them wanted to have their picture taken, every single one of them wanted to chase the car, just so that they could catch our eye and wave to the strange visitors who broke the humdrum daily routine. In some ways, the children’s home was less dramatic than Tariro, because it’s well established, it’s remote, and it’s provided for in some scarce sense by the government and by local donations. 77 children live there. there is one overnight house mom, one cleaner, and four nuns, who do all the washing, teaching, gardening, praying, PR, and supervision of the school/house. There were throngs of children who recognized that meeting us was going to be the most exciting event or a month or two at least, and so we gained an entourage, curious, yes, but more eager to tell their story, to show where they lived, what was theirs, and ultimately how they got there. 60% are AIDS orphans, 10%, all under 10, live with HIV and AIDS. There is no shunning here, unlike the rest of Zimbabwe. Living with HIV means that the sisters will work with them to get the medicine they need, and the other children aren’t afraid to play with them, touch them, hug them. There was an overpowering smell here that I wondered about. It was acrid and unpleasant, and in the end, since I only really encountered it in the poorest of places where the plumbing was in the worst shape, I was forced to conclude that it was a decades old septic system that was no longer functioning, or perhaps, just raw sewage that had long since soaked into the ground. Overhauling the pluming would be a major undertaking, but helping it out a little bit would probably not be too daunting a task for a well-skilled team. More important than just coming in and ‘fixing’ things, which is what caused the colonialist mentality that in turn caused the current nightmare, is helping to build up a set of marketable skills among the children here so that there won’t be a ‘dead’ generation who inherit nothing and pass nothing along. We headed back, and managed to find an internet café that was working for the first time and so I loaded some things in and managed to put some pix up (I think). I got back to the Kelly’s in time to have a dip, a stretch and some laps in their pool, which was great. Then I got picked up by the ecclesiastical party for a trip to some friends of Nicolas’s for a dinner party. Rosie and Jane are a couple who live in the suburbs, and the party turned out to be thronged with cool, wonderful people. Both bishops, +Chad and +Julius were there, and then there was the hip, hipster, alternative crowd of Harare, most of it, more or less. Drinks, swimming in the pool, drinks, gabbing, drinks, Curry dinner, drinks drinks drinks. It turns out the Julius and I know each other quite well, as he spent Holy Week at Mirfield, and we did our first Walsingham pilgrimages together. He was a banker layman then, he was elected bishop three weeks after being ordained priest, just last year—weird but rather holy story of someone giving up the whole lot to go serve the poorest of the poor. Barnabas was thoroughly outrageous at dinner and more so afterward, fun and shocking. I was glad to get to know him a bit better. The evening ended with Daniel and I chatting quietly in the Kelly’s drawing room about life, the Church, and everything over some barely palatable wine. I was glad to get to know him better, too.