Against the backdrop of the general gloom in the country occasioned by acute poverty and economic meltdown and of course the covid-19 pandemic, there was an almost invisible silver lining, unnoticed by the country’s media, and perhaps would not have been considered news worthy by most of them had they been notified: a Christmas party for some of the most disadvantaged children in Chinhoyi, about a 100, but who would be a prototype of so many others across the country. The party was sponsored by a Zimbabwean UK based charity called Behold Your Mother (Jn 19:27) ( www.beholdyourmother.org), or generally known as Behold for short, whose brief, in part, is relief of poverty and education for young people, and whose Patron is the Bishop of Chinhoyi, Bishop Raymond Mupandasekwa CSsR, in purple at the rear end in the picture above.
The occasion started with holy Mass led by the Vicar General of the diocese, Rev Fr W Chenyika and the Secretary to the Bishop, Rev Fr Matambo. The Mass was very much geared to the children especially in the homily, largely in connection with preventative. measures against the covid-19 pandemic. The children themselves took an integral part in the Mass by way of readings, singing and dancing.
After the Mass the children were served with food and of such quality that watching remotely in the relative affluence of the diaspora, I found myself salivating! And what would have been a first for virtually all of them was being served with deserts after the main meal. A short video clip of the food serving apparently went viral on social media. After the meal there was singing and dancing, and the joy of the children was palpable. In between there were ad hoc interviews with some of the children and also a time for testimonies by some of them, whose life stories with challenges in the education and life in general was heart ravishing. What a delight in particular to see the Bishop of the diocese, Bishop Mupa informally mingling and talking to the children and informally listening to their stories and concerns. Mathew 19:14 spontaneously came to mind where Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” To imagine that this is the bishop arguably most vilified by powers that be of all the Catholic bishops for his public stance on behalf of the poor and marginalised, and sadly and ironically, echoed by sections within the Church, both clergy and laity. But this was an occasion at which he did not repeat his rallying calls, but rather walk the talk as it were, through a charity of which he is the Patron and its inspiration from the outset, and in spite of its relatively limited resources.
Detractors will most likely argue as to the value of treating the kids to one day in proverbial paradise and then let them return to their conditions of poverty. But that would be missing the point, especially of the psychological boost of being valued and loved, and its longer-term effect. As St Mother Teresa put it, there is something more damning than physical hunger, and that is the hunger for love. Even if the occasion was the end of the story, it would still be of an inestimable value in the longer term beyond what meets the eye. But I am reliably informed that the day, good in itself as it certainly was, will not be the end of the story as the Trustees have reportedly pledged to follow up the fate of the children and invest in them especially towards their education. But the detractors (they are always there!) would come in again and say what is some 100 children among so many many others across the country. On that, the chair of the Charity, Joseph Foroma, had pre-emptively said that what was on show with the poor children was only a microcosm of what is happening across the country. But a start has to be made in spite of the uncompromising odds vis-à-vis the requisite resources. Even if this is a drop in the ocean, but St Mother Teresa tells us the ocean is richer for the drop. But more than the proverbial drop, is the fact that, for a faith driven charity, our Lord will multiply the proverbial meagre fish and bread by way of their relatively meagre resources to feed the multitude. (Matthew 14:13-21).
As a Charity which is Marian (sic John 19:27), we let Mary have the last word about the poor children’s Christmas party in her hymn of praise, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46 – 56) that has resounded through the ages, in part: “ … and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things …”.