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Munhu Munhu Pavanhu

By Ben Cohen | 03 Oct 2016

A Zimbabwean widow discovers the joy of the saying ‘munhu munhu pavanhu’ thanks to a Tearfund partner (and some goats).

A Zimbabwean widow discovers the joy of the saying ‘munhu munhu pavanhu*’ thanks to a Tearfund partner (and some goats).

*Yes, you will find out what it means – read on!

Of all that Patience Maoko endured, the isolation was among the very worst trials of all…

Patience lives in Coronation Village Zimbabwe, with her three children. In 2013 her husband died, leaving her without a breadwinner as well as a companion.

Some neighbours did their best to support Patience. However the whole village was short of food and they had to stop for their own survival.

Alone together

She resorted to going into the bush to pick wild fruit – competing with monkeys and baboons for food. Meanwhile her children dropped out of school as they were fainting in class from hunger. Their self-esteem plummeted. In spite of living in the middle of the village, Patience and her family felt truly alone.

‘When you don’t have anyone to tell your problems to, the only thing you can think of is letting yourself die,’ she explains. ‘But then I would look at my children and I would cry because I knew they would suffer even more if I died.’

Patience and family in field of new crops

Clockwise: The goat enclosure, Patience and Promise when ZOE first visited, the new smiling family in their field of crops

It was one year ago when Patience received a knock on the door from her local Methodist church. They were doing door-to-door evangelism, but when they saw the family’s physical and social needs they knew what to do. The church had been trained in supporting vulnerable families by Zimbabwe Orphans Through Extended Hands, or ZOE, a Tearfund-supported organisation.

‘I couldn’t remember when I last had a visitor at my house’ recalls Patience. ‘Someone who came just to see me, and who took time to listen to me! It was like a dream; I could not sleep that day, I even cried.’

You raise me up

A team from ZOE came to visit her shortly afterwards, helping the family to rise out of their hunger and crushing isolation at the same time. First they helped them with more food and some new clothes.

The children were able to go back to school and mix with other children, healthier and more confident. Her 11 year-old son Promise has even joined the school athletics team.

Meanwhile Patience has just finished building a goat-house for her new goats – another gift from ZOE. Not only does she have a livelihood because of the goats, she has status in her village. By simply owning a little livestock, she is viewed differently by her neighbours.

‘When I see the goats running around our home and the children running after them, sometimes tears of joy start running down my face.’
Patience Maoko

A new family

There is one more way that she was able to escape her isolation; she accepted an invitation to visit the local Methodist church – the church whose members had paid her the fateful visit.

‘My first day in church I thought no one would sit next to me, let alone greet me, because of my dirty clothes. But it was completely different to how I imagined. The pastor preached about the parable of the good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. I have experienced this myself through the volunteers who are always there for us.’

‘I am happy and my family is happy because of what God did for us through the church,’ she explains. ‘When I see the goats running around our home and the children running after them, sometimes tears of joy start running down my face.’

Indeed Patience is ready to pass on the blessings she has received to others. She has become a church volunteer, visiting other vulnerable families. 

‘I learnt about ‘munhu munhu pavanhu’ – it’s a phrase in the Xitsonga language that means “a person is a person among others.” I learnt not to separate myself from my community, regardless of what problems I may face.’ 

Patience and her family belong again; to God and to her village.

Pray for Patience and her family:

Would you like to hear more stories from ZOE? Why not take a look at Connected Church - Tearfund's way of linking churches in the UK with our overseas partners.

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Photo of Ben Cohen

Written by Ben Cohen

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