Why the Burlesons are Headed to Zimbabwe

The Auers will be hosting an info & dessert night for Ryan, Amanda, and Hope Burleson and their move to Zimbabwe on Thursday, February 24th.  Check out the Facebook event for details and/or to RSVP.

A little over two years ago, Amanda and I were burdened with a desire to give our lives in Africa, so we went to Zimbabwe.  We were there for nine weeks altogether.  Our first two weeks were spent with a team building a couple homes for orphans on a farm.  We stayed in tents with the fears of snakes slithering right in during the night.  We took showers by heating up water on the fire, went to the bathroom in outhouses, and regularly ate porridge in the morning and the Zimbabwean national staple (sudza) for lunch and in the evenings.  We worked alongside the nationals during the day, some from the capital city Harare, and some from the rural area surrounding the farm.  Those in the rural area had never met a white person in their life.  (And just so everyone knows, a white person to a Zimbabwean is anyone who is not African.)  They’d call you a Murungu.

After the first two weeks we’d built many relationships, learned some words in their mother tongue (Shona), and were falling in love with the Zimbabwean people.  They had so little and yet it seemed like they would give you their last meal.  The rest of our time we stayed in a few different homes and visited schools, orphanages, and feeding projects.  In Zimbabwe, they get their electric supply from Mozambique, and because they do not always pay their bills, it is normal right before dinner for your power to go out for the rest of the night.  Things like this made it a great adventure.  Our greatest cultural experience was staying in an orphanage for a week and staying with a pastor and his family for a week.  One week I preached at a church and the service started at 9am.  The next week I was preaching again and on the way to church the pastor’s car broke down.  We were already running late, or so it seemed.  I thought I probably would not preach but we ended up fixing the car and arrived two hours later.  Everyone was standing outside as if everyone understood it was not time to begin yet.  This completely threw us off.  Time does not operate the same way in Africa.  It is perfectly fine to miss your meeting if you are busy meeting with someone.  (I wish I had that excuse here sometimes.)

In Zimbabwe, there is 90% unemployment, 1/3 are infected with HIV/AIDS, 1.8 million orphans, and the average life expectancy for men is 37 and 34 for women.  Zimbabwe 20 years ago used to feed 10 other nations and be called the bread basket of Africa, but now is debatably the poorest country in the world.  When we were there, we were overwhelmed by both the need and the opportunity, and the way God has gifted us to influence.  Christ calls us to be bearers of His good news in the places where the enemy has set up camp and to bring hope and justice.  The leaders of churches in Zimbabwe have approached our team requesting their need for assistance, and saying they know they need to respond to the HIV/AIDS pandemic but do not know how.  We will specifically be going in response to Spirit of God and how He is moving in the churches in Zim.  In response, we will be equipping church leaders and churches with the power of the gospel, which we believe is the best preventative agent to deal with the root causes of HIV/AIDS.  We will also help equip them in bringing compassion to those affected, both those who are sick and the orphans.  We are also hoping to initiate some microfinance to tackle some of the unemployment that exists (which I mentioned is above 90%).  Ravi Zacharias said, “If the church rises to the challenge of HIV/AIDS, it will be the greatest apologetic the world has ever seen.”  We believe the church is the answer to the pandemic.  Jesus said the Kingdom is here, but many times we live as if this is not true.  We want to give our lives as a witness to the certainty of Christ’s Kingdom rule, even in the midst of the horrible catastrophes we face as we await His return.

Author: Ryan Burleson

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