UNITED States: The types of economic, environmental and health problems that afflict much of Africa apply thoroughly to Zimbabwe.
“It was unbelievable culture shock,” Peters Township resident Tony LaRosa said about his recent visit to the cash-strapped country. “It’s like the Third World of a Third World.”
And Zimbabweans are well aware of the circumstances.
“They know the government is doing a terrible job and taking their money, and inflation is through the roof,” LaRosa observed.
“But they have a positive outlook. They don’t think, ‘Oh, we’re in impoverished. We need help.’ It’s, ‘Oh, we’re going through a rough time. Things will get better.’”
The widespread sense of optimism was an eye-opener for the Grove City College freshman, who was part of the contingent on a weeklong trip organized by the Nyadire Connection, based at Christ United Methodist Church in Bethel Park. The nonprofit organisation seeks to support and sustain the Nyadire United Methodist Mission in northeastern Zimbabwe.
“We go there and we listen to their needs,” LaRosa explained. “We say, ‘We can help you, but we’re not going to do it for you.’ The people of Nyadire and the people of Zimbabwe want to do it on their own. They’re educated. They’re able.”
His father, Mark, went to Nyadire on the first mission trip in 2006. He made later visits accompanied by his two daughters, and it was Tony’s turn for the latest venture, which also included two Grove City officials, Mike Bright and Andrew Markley, as first-timers.
The visitors stayed in the guesthouse at the 4,300-acre mission, with two senior nurses from the mission’s hospital, Savie and Eveline, tending to many of their needs.
“They’re great. They love to joke,” Tony LaRosa said, noting that they also took care of business during his father’s previous trips.
“If you just spend half an hour talking with them about their lives, they respond to that, because to them, that’s us showing that we care,” he explained. “They love to talk, but they also switch to Shona, which is their native language, too often for us to understand. But they catch themselves.”
The 4,300-acre mission, which has grown substantially since the Nyadire Connection’s origins, also features a 1,200-student school system, 3,000-acre farm, teachers’ college and the largest nursing school in Zimbabwe.
At the mission’s Home of Hope Orphanage, LaRosa befriended one of the more than 25 children who live there.
“I bonded really well with this younger girl, whom I’d throw Frisbee with about every other day while we were there,” he said. “She loved joking around, loved playing pranks. Her name is Tatendi, which means ‘be thankful’ in Shona.”
That theme was reiterated in the church services he attended: “Be thankful. Just remember that if you trust in the Lord, things will change. Being optimistic changes the quality of life, no matter what the circumstances.”
For an overall theme to his Zimbabwe experience, LaRosa paraphrased an applicable quote:
“Missionaries are selfish, because they know that they’ll always receive more from the people than they’ll ever give the people.”
This article is taken from the Observer Reporter.