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Spiritual Building at the “House of Stone”

Spiritual Building at the “House of Stone”

Spiritual Building at the “House of Stone”

The name of this African country means “House of Stone.” It is a country that is well-known for Victoria Falls and for diverse wildlife. Yet, it has the largest ancient man-made buildings south of the Sahara. A granite plateau cuts across its center. The temperate climate on that plateau produces a fertile, lush landscape. This is Zimbabwe, home to some 12 million people.

WHY the name House of Stone? In 1867 hunter and explorer Adam Renders came across large stone structures spread over 1,800 acres [720 ha]. He had been traveling in the African veld, where homes were generally made of mud, poles, and grass thatch. He then came upon the stone ruins of a vast city, now called the Great Zimbabwe.

These ruins are located just south of the area now known as Masvingo. Some of the walls are over 30 feet [9 m] high, granite stones laid upon one another without mortar. Within the ruins, there is an unusual conical tower rising some 35 feet [11 m] from a base that measures 20 feet [6 m] in diameter. The exact purpose of this edifice remains unknown. The ruins date back to the eighth century C.E., but there is evidence that the site was occupied hundreds of years before that.

In 1980 the country then known as Rhodesia became independent from Britain and was renamed Zimbabwe. Its inhabitants include two major ethnic groups​—the Shona, who make up the larger part of the population, and the Ndebele. The people are hospitable, as has often been noted by Jehovah’s Witnesses in their evangelizing work from house to house. Sometimes even before the identity of a visitor is known, his knock at the door will prompt an invitation to “Come in” and “Please sit down.” Most Zimbabweans have deep respect for the Bible and will often insist that during Scriptural discussions, their children sit and listen.

Offering an Upbuilding Message of Comfort

“AIDS” and “drought” are words frequently used in the media when Zimbabwe is discussed. The spread of AIDS has had a serious effect on the population and the economy of lands of sub-Saharan Africa. Here, hospital admissions are often HIV related. The disease has ruined family life for many.

To help people in Zimbabwe, Jehovah’s Witnesses are busy declaring that the best way of life is one guided by God’s standards set out in the Bible. For instance, God’s Word teaches that the divine gift of sexual intimacy should be enjoyed only within the marriage, that homosexuality is unacceptable to God, and that blood transfusions and the use of recreational drugs are prohibited by Jehovah’s law. (Acts 15:28, 29; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 7:2-5; 2 Corinthians 7:1) The Witnesses also disseminate a message of well-founded hope, stressing that in the near future, God’s Kingdom will remove all sickness.​—Isaiah 33:24.

Providing Relief Aid

Drought has taken its toll on Zimbabwe over the past decade. Wild animals have collapsed from hunger and dehydration. Cattle have died by the hundreds of thousands. Fires have ravaged acres of timber forests. Many children and elderly ones have died of malnutrition. Even the waters of the mighty Zambezi River declined to levels that threatened the operation of hydroelectric power plants.

In response to such devastation, Jehovah’s Witnesses set up eight relief committees in various parts of the country. Traveling overseers visited congregations to evaluate the actual needs. This information was relayed to the appropriate relief committee. One traveling overseer reported: “Over the past five years, we have distributed more than a thousand tons of maize, ten tons of dried fish, and an equal quantity of sugar beans. Our spiritual brothers processed two tons of mufushwa [dried vegetables]. We also distributed large quantities of donated clothing as well as needed funds.” Another traveling overseer observed: “When I reflect on the difficulties we have experienced in obtaining the permits required by Zimbabwe and South Africa to bring in these supplies and on the ever-present shortage of fuel necessary to transport this desperately needed relief, I can only conclude that our success is further evidence of Jesus’ assurance that our heavenly Father knows that we need all these things.”​—Matthew 6:32.

How do traveling overseers themselves cope when working in drought-stricken areas? Some carry food for themselves and the families they stay with. One of them reported that some Christian sisters were debating whether they should stop preaching for the day so that they could join the queue for anticipated government aid. They decided to trust in Jehovah by focusing on the preaching activity and seeing how things worked out. No government relief arrived that day.

A Christian meeting was scheduled for the next day, and these sisters again had to make a decision. Would they attend the meeting, or would they go to wait for the arrival of relief aid? Setting the right priorities, they attended the meeting at the Kingdom Hall. (Matthew 6:33) While singing the final song, they heard a truck approach. Relief had arrived right there, through their spiritual brothers on the relief committee! The sheer joy and gratitude of the faithful Witnesses attending that meeting was overwhelming.

Love Builds Up

Acts of kindness to those outside the Christian congregation have opened up opportunities to give a fine witness. A traveling overseer in the Masvingo area, along with some local Witnesses, was engaged in the evangelizing work. He noticed a girl lying alongside the street. The Witnesses realized that she was very sick, as she could not speak properly and her voice was quivering. The girl’s name was Hamunyari, which in Shona means “Are You Not Ashamed?” The brothers learned that she had been abandoned by members of her church who were going to a religious service in the mountains. The Witnesses provided loving assistance to the girl, taking her to a nearby village.

In that village, some people knew who Hamunyari was, so they asked her relatives to come for her. Regarding the Witnesses, the villagers remarked: “This is the true religion. This is the love that Christians should show.” (John 13:35) Before leaving, the brothers gave Hamunyari the tract Would You Like to Know More About the Bible? *

The following week the traveling overseer served the congregation in the area where Hamunyari lived. He wanted to find out if she had arrived home safely. The whole family was very happy to see him and the local brothers. Her parents remarked: “You people practice the true religion. You saved the life of our daughter, who was left to die on the road.” They had asked members of her church: “Were you not ashamed, as the name Hamunyari implies, to leave her dying?” The Witnesses started a Bible discussion and left Bible-based literature with Hamunyari’s family, who invited the brothers to return and conduct a Bible study with them. Some family members who had been opposed to the Witnesses changed their view. One of them, Hamunyari’s brother-in-law, was a leader of a church in the area. He accepted a Bible study.

Building Houses of Worship

An inspired poet of long ago wrote: “O God, . . . my soul does thirst for you. . . . In a land dry and exhausted, where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) How true this has been of many people in Zimbabwe! Physically they endure drought, but spiritually they thirst for God and his goodness. You can see this from the results of the Christian ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When Zimbabwe became independent in 1980, about 10,000 Witnesses served in 476 congregations. Now, some 27 years later, the number of active Witnesses has tripled and the number of congregations has almost doubled.

Few of these congregations had their own places of worship. In January 2001, only 98 of the more than 800 congregations in Zimbabwe had a house of worship​—a Kingdom Hall—​in which to meet. Many of the congregations held their meetings under trees or in modest huts made of poles, walls plastered with mud and roofs thatched with grass.

As a result of generous donations and diligent volunteer work by their worldwide Christian brotherhood, the Witnesses in Zimbabwe have embarked on a program that enables more congregations to obtain modest but dignified Kingdom Halls. Many Witnesses from overseas who have building skills arranged their affairs to go to Zimbabwe and work along with local volunteers. One of the local Witnesses wrote: “We sincerely thank all the brothers and sisters from so many countries who have come to Zimbabwe to help build beautiful Kingdom Halls. And we thank all the rest of you for your contributions to the Kingdom Hall Fund that makes this work possible.”

In the eastern part of the country, the brothers met under a huge baobab tree for 50 years. When the Christian elders were told that a real house of worship was to be built, at least one of them could not hold back his tears. In a nearby congregation, a 91-year-old elder said: “I have been crying to Jehovah for so long for something like this to happen!”

Many comments are made about the speed with which these attractive buildings are constructed. One observer said: “You people are building during the day, but God must be building by night!” The unity and happiness of the workers is also noted. To date, over 350 new Kingdom Halls have been completed throughout the country. This allows for 534 congregations to meet in Kingdom Halls solidly constructed with bricks.

Vital spiritual building continues to take place in Zimbabwe. As we reflect on what has been accomplished, we are moved to credit Jehovah, the source of such blessings. Yes, “unless Jehovah himself builds the house, it is to no avail that its builders have worked hard on it.”​—Psalm 127:1.


^ par. 16 Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

[Maps on page 9]

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Great Zimbabwe

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Conical tower

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New Kingdom Hall, Concession Congregation

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Members of the Lyndale Congregation outside their new Kingdom Hall

[Picture Credit Lines on page 9]

Ruins with steps: ©Chris van der Merwe/​AAI Fotostock/​age fotostock; tower inset: ©Ingrid van den Berg/​AAI Fotostock/​age fotostock