Driving from Harare to the Beit Bridge border post of Zimbabwe and South Africa, one passes through the buzzing little town of Chivhu. Nearby, a section of land has been allocated to a rather unusual community and two tenaciously determined men have great hopes for it. No they are not zealous property developers, they are two polio victims confined to wheelchairs.
Maxwell and Joseph are the remaining members of a group of about ten stoic paralytics who became a customary sight for many years on that well travelled road as they wheeled themselves along the tarmac, gesturing friendly hellos to truckers and travellers. Those who found it in their hearts would give, and somehow these wheelchair wavers managed to eke out a meagre living from their roadside greetings. However, one regular traveller did more than give a few coins. Sally Kuiper would stop with small gifts and take the time to talk to these men, praying with them and gradually getting to know them. As she listened to the stories, she learned how this one became paralyzed through a football match, and that one from a shooting accident, others from polio. Sadly, over the years, one by one the men died leaving only Maxwell and Joseph.
In a country where unemployment is endemic, a man in a wheelchair has little hope of earning a living. As hard times prevailed throughout the region, even the truckers ceased reaching into their pockets for spare change. Today, gathered around and about this little town is a community of roughly eighty disabled people – some blind, others deaf, dumb, or both, and many paralysed. Some have survived on the charity of relatives. Others, no longer able to pay rent, are living in the bush under makeshift homes of thatched grass and black plastic, as they dig for roots. However, that is about to change.
Thanks to the kindness of the local district Councillor, some land has been made available to these people where plots will be allocated according to individual needs, and families can build and have small fields in which to grow food. In rural Africa houses can be constructed from the surrounding environment and although rudimentary, these will at least be a start. In order to save rent, Joseph and Maxwell have already moved onto the land with their families, where they are currently living under very crude but temporary conditions.
Despite the challenge of travelling with dilapidated wheelchairs, Joseph and Maxwell recently boarded buses and made their way to Harare where Sally collected them and brought them to her home. After the luxury of long, hot baths and some decent food, they sat pouring out their hopes and aspirations for this project. Not willing to simply sit back and lick the wounds of life, these men are determined to pursue a better route. Maxwell’s face was resolute, “We have a choice Sally – we die like the others, or fight to survive. Ten years ago when you prayed with us under that tree on the side of the road, you said the season for our success would come, we just needed to wait patiently for God. Well now is our time.” Smiling through her tears, Sally nodded in agreement. Indeed, the time had come.
During their stay with her, Sally took them to Foundations for Farming (FfF), where they spent a morning with Duncan, one of the Grass Roots Trainers. Something very special happened as they began seeing the results of God’s farming methods. These men, whom the years had kicked and downtrodden, whose backs had been slammed against life’s wall, were deeply stirred. Duncan explained the simple principle of stewardship – how when a man faithfully stewards the gift of land, God in turn faithfully multiplies. Gazing at the healthy cobs of maize ready for harvesting whilst hearing the simple, do-able methods, their eyes filled with anticipation. As Maxwell and Joseph drank thirstily from the knowledge Duncan shared, Sally watched them literally begin to shine with hope. It was intensely moving.
It is not so much the words a man uses as the way in which he speaks that one sees the return of dignity glimmering on the horizon of his soul. As hope dawned, dreams rose from ashes and dared to become goals. An exuberant Maxwell and Joseph returned to Chivhu to set about gathering those they were able to contact in preparation for Sally’s trip out with Duncan, who would share knowledge and vision.
At this stage the land is scrub bush, barren and stony, but with faithfulness and good stewardship, God will multiply. Filled with this hope in their hearts, these two men have dreams of inspiring and building up the community. They realise not everyone will come on board, but it is their desire to lead by example and their belief that as the others begin to see results, they will want to follow. Maxwell is a strong yet humble man and this, combined with fair-mindedness and diplomacy, afford him the qualities necessary for good leadership. He and Joseph make an excellent team with the drive to ignite vision in the hearts of the others
God has supplied the land and the water; FfF in partnership with the I Was Hungry Campaign has the privilege of providing training and walking alongside this community for a year, plus there is a school close by for the children. This project has every potential to become a beacon of hope to the glory of God … and the time has come.
Help Maxwell & Joseph get started.
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