By the Rev. J. Elbert Williams
From Jan. 31 to Feb. 9, I had the wonderful opportunity to journey to South Africa and Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe, for the third time. I openly admit that I am a repeat offender and enjoyed every minute of it.
The overnight stay in Harare at the International Hotel was delightful with a forest/jungle view out of the hotel’s 11th-floor window. Before leaving for Africa University, we were able to interact with Harry K. Thomas Jr., the United States’ Ambassador to Zimbabwe, who came to the hotel to welcome and greet us.
This group of 21 people included clergy and laity from our denomination and members of Charity Missionary Baptist Church and its pastor, the Rev. Nelson Rivers III, former NAACP leader and civil rights activist. The group then moved to the campus of Africa University in Zimbabwe. We had a wonderful stay at a newly built facility on campus. We were able to visit the Old Mutare Hospital and its physician, Dr. Manyeza. We also spent time with the children in the orphanage, many of whom have gone on to attend and graduate from Africa University. I had the grand opportunity to meet Pierre Omaoljelia, who is a freshman and the first recipient of the Magnolia R. Williams Endowment Scholarship. The money was given to Africa University in 2014 as part of my late mother’s estate. It was a joyful and spirited moment for me to meet, shake hands and hug the first recipient of that award.
We were also privileged to spend the first Sunday in Black History Month 2018 worshipping at the Rusape Inner City Circuit of The United Methodist Church. The superintendent, the Rev. Diane Matikiti, greeted us there. Bishop Jonathan Holston delivered the morning message. The church is about 14 years old with 760 congregants. These members are very dedicated to fulfilling their obligations concerning church-related activities. Throughout the service, I noticed about 50 to 75 youth were in attendance during the morning worship service.
After service, we ventured near Botswana to see Victoria Falls, one of the seven wonders of the world. It is said to be 10 times larger than Niagara Falls. It is without a doubt the most beautiful waterfall I have ever witnessed. We spent two nights at Victoria Falls and feasted like royalty.
After leaving there, we flew to Johannesburg, South Africa. We had the classic experience of visiting the original home of the late South African President Nelson Mandela. Mandela’s home has been referred to as a matchbox house by many throughout the years. Some of the other highlights of the trip included visiting the Apartheid Museum and the home of Bishop Desmond Tutu. We had the opportunity to go on three safaris, two on land and one on the Zambezi River. We also engaged in some local shopping, which was a bonus gift.