.......Focusing on Mark Absolom.....

Stephen Manhanga (leader of Crossroads Community Church, Kezi, Zimbabwe) and I had the privilege of staying with Mark and Lesley Absolom in Poole, U.K in July this year. We were very excited to hear that Mark and his daughter Lydia were part of a team from Alder Road Baptist Church (soon to be Gateway Church, Poole) that was coming to Zimbabwe. The trip was initiated by Matthew Hosier, leader of Alder Road Baptist Church. Mark preached at Crossroads Community Church on Sunday 30th November and I then had the opportunity of chatting one on one with him and Lydia.
M.M: Tell me about your family?
M.A: I come from Poole and I’m married to Lesley. We have 4 daughters: Rebecca 19years, Hannah and Sarah are both 16years old and Lydia is 13. Our dog Lady is 4 years old.

M.M: How best would you describe your family life?
M.A: It’s like a rollercoaster ride. There is lots of excitement and happiness. It’s crazy and has challenges.

Mark and his amazing family

M.M: What work do you do in Poole?
M.A: I’m a nurse looking after old people. I work nights.

M.M: What made you decide to come to Zimbabwe?
M.A: I met the Manhanga’s in July his year and was excited and stirred by what they had to share about the dam and Ebenezer. We went away on a church weekend and Matt instigated the trip. Like all good men, I listened to my wife who said I should go. I then went to Matt and said I’d like to travel to Zimbabwe.

M.M: Wise move Mark. What were your first impressions?
M.A: I came with an expectation of seeing extreme poverty because of the media in the U.K. My perception is not what the media says. People are happy and joyful amidst the difficulties. There is an attitude of hope and happiness. People are content.

M.M: Was this your first time preaching in an African rural context?
M.A: No. I have preached in Uganda.

M.M: How would you describe your preach at Crossroads Community Church?
M.A: There is a sense of great hunger to hear the word of God.

M.M: Yes. I agree! You were part and parcel of the clearing of Crossroads Community Church stand. How best would you describe that experience?
M.A: After working in the fields with Mbusiso (an apprentice at Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre), I saw his passion and work ethic and learnt something from him. I was tired from the heat but encouraged to do my all. Seeing others working so hard was an inspiration. We did our bit in extending God’s Kingdom.

Mark and Lydia helping Mbusiso (an Ebenezer apprentice) prune his tomatoes

M.M: What do you think of the scenic views around Ebenezer?
M.A: It is a different comprehension of God’s handiwork. The starts, clouds and the bushes that go on and on…. It is beautifully strange together with the ruggedness of the landscape.

M.M: What words of encouragement would you give the apprentices?
M.A: Always try and remain focused on the dreams and aspirations that God has given them. Keep God at the centre of all they do, always be able to LAUGH and JOKE and in all circumstances to give thanks. NEVER lose vision. Hold on to it tightly.

M.M: Fantastic words of encouragement Mark. Thank you. Be blessed as you continue your Zimbabwe adventure.

The beautiful Absolom “girls”, including Lady – the dog.

Interviewed by Molly Manhanga

.........From Poole, U.K to Kezi, Zimbabwe..........

It’s just great when special friends visit across continents and that’s what it was like when Matt Hosier and team from Poole, U.K, visited us in Kezi, Zimbabwe. They spent a few days with us in rural Zimbabwe and we are hoping they enjoyed themselves and drew closer to God. This is a snapshot of their days with us……..

Wednesday 26th November: We drove back to Kezi in the cool of the day and went via the Matopos Game Park. It was wonderful seeing some wildlife like rhino, sable, warthog, baboons, monkeys and so on. A great start to see the wondrous beauty of life in Zimbabwe. We arrived at Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre when it was dark. There is no electricity at Ebenezer, so the visitors ate their dinner in partial light. Going by the taste of the food, it seemed quite enjoyable. We then made a huge circle around a fire and had a Cell meeting. We prayed, sang songs, danced and celebrated God’s presence with us. Matt shared about the beauty of God’s creation focusing on the stars which made everyone think of Abraham. We then took the exhausted team to Pumula – a farm house that they were staying in for the time they were with us. Pumula means REST. On arrival at the house, we were greeted by a variety of bugs which were drawn to the lights in the house. Our gracious visitors took it all in their stride.

Thursday 27th November: After breakfast, the team went for a tour of Ebenezer. They looked at the rabbits, the tomato plants, the dorms, the buildings in progress and so on. The tour was led by Stephen Manhanga and George Mlilo.
George explaining to Mark and Steve about the rabbits at Ebenezer
It was awesome when the team had the opportunity to meet a local delegation that was visiting Ebenezer at the same time. This delegation included local community heads, the councilor and local development committee members that we are building relationship with. After tea, the team sat in on an enjoyable spiritual lesson led by Stephen Manhanga. Of particular interest was the story of Joseph which is very inspirational and encouraging. A combined lunch between the visiting team, the local authorities and Ebenezer team was excellent. The combined luncheon spurred the local authorities to comment on the genuine Christian unity that is among us. What a testimony!
After lunch, the team was paired up with a few apprentices and went to work in their fields. There were no complaints despite the hot sun blazing down. Matt & Georgie Hosier were teamed up with Msizi Mwale, Steve & Rowena Cox went up with Mqondisi Moyo and Mark & Lydia Absolom were paired up with Mbusiso Ndlovu. It was interesting seeing the team scouting, pruning or planting tomatoes or weeding in the apprentice fields.
The young ladies: Georgie, Rowena and Lydia were “rescued” from manual labour to attend a birthday bash – ‘girls’ only. Everything was prepared by the female apprentices and it was delightful. God was at the centre and really fun filled. After the party, the ladies went canoeing and were joined later by the men. Quite an eventful day!

Friday 28th November: A highlight of Kezi is seeing the beauty of Gods creation and what better time than at the start of the day. Sunrise devotions were a “sweet” time with God. Cool, fresh, morning air overlooking a mountainous, scenic view. A song written by Isaac Watts in 1719 brings the experience to life:
1st stanza only, Give to our God immortal praise;
Mercy and truth are all His ways:
Wonders of grace to God belong,
Repeat His mercies in your song.
The visit to the community followed next and was quite enlightening. We stopped at Mr. Thebe’s house. Mr. Thebe is one of the community leaders. He wasn’t at home but he and his wife were busy with their cattle. We walked to where he was and received a great welcome from him and his wife.
Team chatting to Mr. Thebe
We went to his home to see the baby ostriches they were rearing. Our next stop was at Nduna Primary School – one of the local primary schools in the area. Despite the obvious material lack, seeing the smiling faces of the children and their desire to learn is so inspiring. Our final stop was at Crossroads Community Church where Steve explained that we are hoping to clear the land, build a church and a community centre.
After tea, Steve Cox did an excellent presentation on Trees and Matt Hosier encouraged and motivated us from the word of God. As part of his “encouragement”/presentation, Matt used a two and a half meter snake that the apprentices had killed earlier on that day to illustrate a point and as part of his teaching aid. Brave man!

Matt with a snake wrapped around his neck. Mmmm!

The afternoon was free and as Matt went to Bulawayo, the rest of the team stayed on to help with Saturday 29th November historic day for Crossroads Community Church. Be inspired to read ‘All Hands on Deck’.

Sunday 30th November: Mark Absolom preached at Crossroads Community Church and did brilliantly. He spoke about hospitality which is very close to his and his wife Lesley’s heart. The children enjoyed having Lydia around and were bowled over by the little presents that she gave them. A sheer pleasure and total delight. What a blessing they were!

Mark and Lydia Absolom enjoying a moment before Mark’s preach.

By Molly Manhanga


Tomatoes on the agenda!!!!

Apprentices collecting their tomato seedlings

During the month of November, the apprentices planted approximately 45,000 tomato seedlings in their plots. Each apprentice received approximately 2000 tomato seedlings. Two of the apprentices, Brilliant Khoza and Mxwayisi Dube shared the challenges they have faced with this crop. This is what they had to say……

Mxwayisi Dube and Brilliant Khoza

……..When we received this season’s transplants, the quality was quite high. We transplanted the seedlings but a week later, the water ran out due to an electrical fault which affected the water being pumped to Ebenezer. To solve this problem, we used a 38 horse power diesel engine which worked for some time. When the electrical problem was rectified, we switched back to the electric pump. Unfortunately, someone decided to burn the pump but God was gracious to us as the rainy season began and we have received good rains so far. The pump has since been repaired.
Harvested tomatoes being stored

Our tomato crop has been affected by boll worm and we’ve sprayed Methomex 900 SP which decreased the breeding rate of the worm. Other diseases that have affected our crop is red spider mite, leaf roll, rust which affects the leaves, leaf spot and stem rot. We have some chemicals available for us to use but we look forward to a greater variety of chemicals.

It was wonderful when the rains started because we didn’t have to worry too much about water shortages. The rains however have affected the quality of our crop. The tomatoes plants grew rapidly but cracks formed on the fruit. At the moment, we are harvesting 50kg of tomatoes per week per apprentice. The tomatoes go for screening, weighing and grading. Our tomatoes are averaging a “B” grade and anything lower than that gets sold to Pumula( a farm house near Ebenezer that has ostriches) as ostrich food.

Despite all the problems we have faced, we are hoping for a bumper harvest.

Ready to get sold! It’s a tomato story!!!
By Molly Manhanga

"All Hands On Deck"......

U.K team with Steve Manhanga at the Crossroads Community Church stand before it was cleared. Left to right: Dave Smith, Lydia Absolom, Steve Cox, Mark Absolom, Stephen Manhanga, Georgie Hosier, Rowena Cox, Matt Hosier and Naomi Smith

“All hands on deck” is part of a prophetic word given by Sam Poe from Seattle, Washington in the United States of America at our annual Mega Vision conference held in September 2008. This prophetic word has become a reality to us at Crossroads Community Centre.

On Saturday 29th November 2008, people from Mguza church in Bulawayo, River of Life church in Bulawayo, New Life church in Kezi, Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre in Kezi, Crossroads Community church in Kezi, visitors from Alder Road Baptist Church in Poole, United Kingdom and community members from Kezi, gathered at 9:00am to clear Crossroads stan

Clearing of the bushes by one of the groups

Before getting down to some hard work, everyone praised God for His goodness and faithfulness, sang songs of celebration to honour God and Stephen Manhanga – leader of Crossroads Community Church encouraged and motivated people with a scripture from Nehemiah 4:1 – 6. Verse 6 was really emphasized and it states: So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, FOR THE PEOPLE HAD A MIND TO WORK.

“Little Hands” included, make light work! Georgie Hosier.

Clearing thorn bushes and trees for 3 hours was not an easy task but everyone present “had a mind to work.” Xolani Ndlovu, from Crossroads Community Church, divided everyone and the tools into 4 groups and gave each group a section of land to clear. With vigour and energy, everyone got stuck right into it. The sense of unity and purpose was immanent. Braving the hot sun, everyone worked hard. Blisters and cuts is the evidence of the hard work being done.

Water and juice served by the young ladies: Georgie Hosier, Rowena Cox and Lydia Absolom, was a welcome refresher. At 12 noon, Stephen Manhanga thanked everyone for coming and prayed before we called it a day. The Ebenezer male singers graced the event with song and dance. Overall, it was an amazing morning and much work was done.

“All hands on deck” as the tree falls down. Men at work!

Some comments from 3 apprentices about Saturdays event:
Dazza Maphosa
: I think it is good when people come together and work as a team. I enjoyed working with people from the community and with the visitors from England. I believe Crossroads will not only benefit people from Ebenezer but also the community at large.

Mbekezeli Moyo: It was a good thing to work together with many people especially the people from the community. I enjoyed myself because we were getting to know each other. There were people from England, the Ebenezer staff, the apprentices and people from the community. It was very good. Thank you!

Mcgini Sibindi: Saturday was the best day ever! Even though it was hard work, I really enjoyed it. Mark Absolom was doing very exciting things…..he was carrying big trees and pulling them. I enjoyed the way Stephen Manhanga thanked everyone. I really appreciated the hard work put in by the people from England.

What a mighty God we serve. Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.

Written by Molly Manhanga


Molly talks to Matt.......

Matt with his daughter Georgie and George, a staff member at Ebenezer looking at the rabbits.
Matt Hosier is the Leader of Alder Road Baptist Church (soon to be called Gateway Church) in Poole, U.K. I had the privilege of catching up with him when he visited Crossroads Community Church in Kezi, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe as well as Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre which is also based in Kezi, Bulawayo.

M.M: Tell us something about your background Matt…
M.H: I was born in Southampton. We moved around a lot in the south of England because of my dads work. After school, I worked in Africa for about a year: 3 months in Swaziland and about 9 months in Cape Town. I then went to university in New Castle in North East England – close to Scotland. The longest I’ve lived in one place for was in Siddcup. I lived there for 13 years.

M.M: You’re married to your lovely wife Grace and have four beautiful daughters. How best would you describe your family life?
M.H: FUN! Busy, noisy, full of emotion – lots of laughing, crying, affection and arguing.

M.M: A normal, healthy family life. How long have you been leading a church?
M.H: 8 years. In Siddcup, I went from volunteer, to youth pastor, then elder before becoming the lead elder.

M.M: Awsome. When did you move to Poole?
M.H: I moved in January this year. I had a general sense that my time at Siddcup had come to a close. I went to preach in Poole. When Grace and I walked into the meeting, we felt that this is where God wanted us.

M.M: When you hear the words “churches being in relationship”, what do you understand by it?
M.H: Recognizing and gladly submitting to Apostolic authority. Recognizing that men have gifts and they do things with common goals, purpose and aspirations. It only works when we submit to those in authority.

M.M: When was your first encounter with Zimbabweans?
M.H: Grace and I met P.J and Ashleigh Smyth (Leaders of God First Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. P.J and Ashleigh founded River of Life Church in Harare, Zimbabwe before leaving for South Africa) at a conference in 2003 and we came to Harare, Zimbabwe in 2004 where we also met Mbonisi and Taps (Elders at River of Life Church in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe)

M.M: Do you see any hope for the church in Zimbabwe?
M.H: Yes. Psalm 10. As God changes individuals, churches are built resulting in towns and communities being transformed. Where the Kingdom advances, there is hope for the church.

M.M: What emphasis should be placed on the poor?
M.H: A strong biblical emphasis. In the U.K everyone has stuff and few people are poor materially. There is spiritual poverty which goes hand in hand with material poverty. The church has a vital role to see poverty overcome. Churches in the U.K can minister to the needs of communities and help in other parts of the world where material poverty is more obvious. It is a challenge in the West to think less of self and more of others.

M.M: Will the poor be with us always or is it idealistic or utopic to think that EVERYONE one day will be able to look after themselves?
M.H: The poor will always be with us. Injustice results in poverty and because of men’s hearts, injustice will be with us.

M.M: What do you think of Ebenezer?
M.H: Ebenezer is a beautiful spot. It is inspiring in what it’s trying to do – touching the whole person spiritually and physically.
Matt working with Msizi Mwale: one of the apprentices

M.M: How best would you describe your visit to the community?
M.H: Short, brief. It was good to see people outside Ebenezer trying to make life work for them despite the material poverty. It is challenging.

M.M: Any final thoughts on life in rural Zimbabwe?
M.H: What you are doing at Ebenezer is the only way out of the cycle of injustice and poverty. We need to be basic, love your wife and so on. Farming God’s Way is to model a way of breaking poverty, injustice, spiritual injustice and move to something better. I’m hoping too that this visit will be a life transforming experience for our daughters. I hope they will think differently about money, God and church. Thank you for having us.

M.M: Thank you too Matt. Be blessed as you continue to serve the folk in Bulawayo.

Matt and team walking in the Mabhulawuni community in Kezi



One on one with Tim Rae from World Vision.....

Tim having a discussion with his team from World Vision International

M.M: We really would LOVE to know more about you Tim so please tell us something about your background?
T.R: I am from Australia. I have lived in Zimbabwe since 1999. I enjoy being outdoors, play sporting, reading, listening to music and I love Italian food.

M.M: How long have you been working for World Vision International?
T.R: I joined World Vision Australia in 2003 as the Programme Officer for Zimbabwe and Kenya. I then joined World Vision International in 2006 and became the Programmes Team Leader for World Vision in Zimbabwe.

M.M: It is so good to have you and your team visiting Ebenezer. What are your links with Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre?
T.R: I first heard of Ebenezer through Renee Cunningham. What interested me most was that the center deliberately targeted young people between the ages of 18-25 and aimed to give them practical skills that would enable them to become self-sufficient. For World Vision we are often very child focused but have very little to offer young people.

M.M: Do you see this as a long term partnership?
T.R: I think the partnership between Ebenezer and World Vision has great potential. If the pilot project here in Kezi proves to be successful (which I am sure it will be) then I would like to think it could be replicated in other districts where World Vision operates within the next 3-5 years.

M.M: After being taken on a tour, were you surprised at what you saw on site?
T.R: I was pleasantly surprised at the scale of the training center. I could not believe that there was so much land under cultivation. It is really exciting to hear from Lance and the team all the plans Ebenezer has to expand in the future – my guys were really blown away by the vision the team has to develop a processing plant and a juicer to enable large scale production of canned vegetable and fruit products for the local and export markets.

M.M: What potential do you see with the apprentices in terms of their field crops and did the standard meet your expectation?
T.R: I am very impressed with the high yields that the apprentices are managing to achieve using the conservation farming (farming God’s way) techniques. Many people will tell you that keeping livestock is the only profitable livelihood in hot, dry places like Matobo District and Matabeleland South but the apprentices have shown that with limited amounts of water and by keeping the soil covered that you can produce good vegetable crops.

M.M: With this being your first visit to Ebenezer, and we hope to see you here often, do you see the Centre impacting young people’s lives as well as the surrounding community?
T.R: It is obvious to me that Ebenezer is already having a huge impact on the lives of the young people at the center. They seem full of confidence in themselves and they have a hope and a vision for their future that so many young people today in Zimbabwe seem to lack. My hope is that as they graduate from Ebenezer and move back into their community that they do not lose that passion and vision to be independent. I hope that they will be able to encourage other members of their community to practice conservation farming so that the community becomes more productive and food secure.

M.M: What words of encouragement do you have for the apprentices?
T.R: I think the apprentices can be very proud of what they have achieved. If they continue to apply themselves and persevere they have a bright future ahead of them.
Thank you so much and we look forward to your next visit.

A relaxing moment with Tim over lunch
interviewed by molly manhanga

Getting to know Andile Dube

Q: Give a brief outline of your background?
A: I come from Mapane which is about 30km from Ebenezer. We are 9 in my family including my mother and my father. I am the first born together with my twin sister. I am 20 years old.

Q: How did you hear about Ebenezer?
A:I heard about Ebenezer at a Ward meeting. A Ward meeting is where the community gathers together and we have different figures of authority that are present. At this meeting that I attended, the Councillor of our Ward made the announcement about Ebenezer. I filled in the application forms and attended the Selection Camp. I enjoyed it very much, especially the lessons, games and teamwork.

Q: What has been your greatest challenge since coming to Ebenezer?
A: The greatest challenge I had was getting to know other people. At that time, I was the only one who came from the Mapane area. I have learnt how to socialize and have since made many friends.

Q: What has been your greatest joy in being at Ebenezer?
A: My greatest joy has been the spiritual lessons with Stephen Manhanga. They have helped me grow in Christ. I also enjoy learning about the positives and negatives of farming through practical experience.
Apprentices collecting their tomato seedlings
Q: Who has been your role model?
A: I can’t think of anyone off hand that has been a role model to me.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years time:
A: In 5 years I will have a big farm in my home area that will be managed by my family. I will be teaching my family and the community how to Farm God’s Way as well sharing the information I have learnt at Ebenezer.
Andile preparing her planting stations for the tomato seedlings

May God bless you as you continue to be a light at Ebenezer and in your community.
by molly manhanga

Getting to know Honest Ndlovu

Q: Give a brief outline of your background?
A: I am affectionately known as Honest. I come from a family of 7. There are 6 girls and 1 boy. I am number 3 and I am 21 years old. I have a 2 year old son called Welshman. I come from the Mapane area which is 30km from Ebenezer. It takes me 4 hours to walk home .I live with my maternal grandparents.

Q: How did you hear about Ebenezer?
A: One of my teachers told me about Ebenezer. I filled in the application form and came for the Selection Camp. I really enjoyed myself especially the welcome, teachings and games. The welcome inspired me to come to Ebenezer.

Q: What has been your greatest challenge since coming to Ebenezer?
A: The greatest challenge has been stumping (taking the roots of trees out of the ground). It is much easier when we are working in team than to do it myself. I also work very hard in my field and I find it discouraging when the cows and bush buck eat my plants. I have since built a fence around my plot to protect my plants.

Q: What has been your greatest joy in being at Ebenezer?
A: My greatest joy has been the spiritual lessons with Stephen Manhanga. I enjoy listening to the word of God.

Q: Who has been your role model?
A: My role model is Stephen Manhanga. I enjoy the way he teaches and preaches the word of God.

Q: It is very admirable the way you apply yourself in your field and the way you conduct yourself. What is your motivation?
A: I want to glorify God in everything that I do and I want to improve my lifestyle.

Honest collecting tomato seedlings to plant in her plot
Q: Wonderful Honest. You are also very active in Crossroads Community Church with the Praise and Worship and Children’s Ministry. Do you enjoy church life?
A: It is good. I enjoy what I am doing and I hope to attract others in being active in Crossroads Community Church.

Q: You were selected to go to Mega Vision in Harare in September. Did you enjoy yourself?
A: It was very good and I felt equipped spiritually. I made lots of friends and I learnt to speak a little bit of Shona (One of the vernacular languages spoken in Zimbabwe)

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years time?
A: In 5 years I will be a successful business woman helping those in need and extending God’s Kingdom.
Amazing! May God bless you as you continue to be a light at Ebenezer and in your community.

Honest working in her field

By Molly Manhanga

Getting to know Pretty Moyo...

Q: Give a brief outline of your background?
A: We are 6 in my family and I am the second born. I live with my mother. My father died 6 years ago. I live in the Mabhulawuhi area which is approximately 5km from Ebenezer. It takes me 45 minutes to walk home. I have a beautiful daughter called Thembekile Nyathi. Thembekile means Honest.

Q: How did you hear about Ebenezer?
A: I was employed at a Camp Site near Ebenezer called Shalom when I heard about Ebenezer. I filled in the forms for the Selection Camp. I enjoyed it very much especially the games and the teachings.

Q: What has been your greatest challenge since coming to Ebenezer?
A: The greatest challenge has been the shortage of water but it is now better because I have a tap by my field which helps feed water to my drip kit. Another challenge was the animals coming to eat my plants. I felt discouraged but I managed to put a fence around my field.

Q: What has been your greatest joy in being at Ebenezer?
A: My greatest joy has been the spiritual lessons with Stephen Manhanga. I have grown spiritually. I also enjoy farming very much. I like seeing my plants grow and I love harvesting them.
Pretty’s tomato crop
Q: Who has been your role model?
A: Peter Cunningham has been my role model. He is a successful businessman and he helps the community. That is what I also want to do.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years time?
A: In 5 years time I want to have my own farm. I’ll be married and I’ll have another child. I also will own my own car.

May God bless you as you continue to be a light at Ebenezer and in your community.

Pretty getting ready to plant more tomato seedlings
Interview done by Molly Manhanga