Hyperinflation hits Zimbabwe, the church responds

By July 11, 2007

Zimbabwe (BP/MNN)–Zimbabwe's hyperinflation is spiraling
out of control. Independent economists suggest the economy will collapse by the
end of the year, bringing the country to a standstill.

Individuals living in the country say the economy is in a
meltdown. If you bought a loaf of bread for 50 cents last year, it now costs
around $1,125. Or more likely, you'd end up spending $2,750 at the unofficial
inflation rate found in most stores. Government and independent estimates are
completely different.

This African nation has the world's highest inflation rate,
even at the official estimate of 4,500 percent. Unofficially, independent
economists in Europe say inflation rates are as high as 11,000 percent and
rising. The U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, estimates the
inflation rate will rise to well over 1.5 million percent before December.

"People can't survive like this," says a Christian aid
worker. "Even people who have jobs have a hard time buying food. That is the
situation in Zimbabwe now. The churches must respond to this crisis."

According to the Southern Baptist International Mission
Board
, churches are now involved.

Ray Motsi, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Bulawayo,
says his church members really didn't have a choice in responding to the needs
of their fellow countrymen: the needs walked through the door one Sunday. It
happened two years ago, after Operation Clean up the Trash, when the government
demolished homes that were allegedly built illegally. Those left without a home
or a job were forced back to the villages with no way to support themselves.

"The community
literally walked into our church. We didn't go to them," Motsi says. "We never
planned to go to them, but God had other plans for us. He wanted His church to
become the oasis of life in a crisis. It's a task we are still learning."

Churches across Zimbabwe report hundreds of people coming to
them each week with needs ranging from school fees to medicine and food. The Christian
aid worker says at least 50 people show up on her doorstep every day. The
program she directs has the means to help only around 15 people per day. She
offers a clinic to help with basic medical needs, as well as a twice-a-week
feeding project. The program also helps widows taking care of orphans with rent
and basic food.

"By far, the greatest problem is meeting day-to-day needs
for the average Zimbabwean," the Christian aid worker says.

"The church has always been more concerned about salvation
and tithing, but are we limiting God when the church functions like that?"
Motsi asks. "God deals with the nations. He feeds the poor and heals the sick.
He wants the nation of Zimbabwe for His purpose and glory. God is redefining
the role of the church in Zimbabwe."

Cross and other pastors agree. Most churches have an
ever-expanding social ministry program, relying on God to meet their basic
needs every day. Cross says the church also must be an example to the rest of
the nation for not only meeting physical needs but how to "move on" with life.
His church is home to many from the two warring political parties in Zimbabwe.

"We have members of the two political parties in our church.
We try to show that the two parties can fellowship together," Cross says. "The
only hope for our nation is unity through Jesus Christ."

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