Zimbabwe (MNN) — An hour long commute every day is what awaits Gregg and Donna Fort from their home in the city of Gweru, Zimbabwe as they minister to the Ndebele people. This is nothing in comparison to the four hours some of the Ndebele people walk to get to the church.
In this sub-Saharan country of Zimbabwe, just smaller than the state of Texas, the Forts are the only church-planting missionaries for the 12 million people residing there. Gregg and Donna Fort, associated with Southern Baptist International Mission Board (IMB), have been missionaries to Zimbabwe for several years, but the going has been far from easy.
While Zimbabwe's constitution provides for freedom of religion, the government continues to abuse religious freedom. According to the 2010 Report on International Freedom issued by the United States Department of State, the country of Zimbabwe has blocked church members from attending services, disrupted preaching held in outdoor premises, and arrested church leaders on false charges, just to name a few cases.
Besides religious persecution, Zimbabwe also struggles as a society. In 2009, there was an estimated 1.2 million people in Zimbabwe suffering from HIV/AIDS and 83,000 deaths yearly due to this dreadful disease. The unemployment rate is at a staggering 80 percent, making the purchasing of food difficult. IMB had partnered with another organization to deliver boxes containing 50 food staples each to Zimbabwean families. The mission reported that if the average man from that country had worked for a whole year and spent all of his earned money on food, he still could not have afforded those 50 food staples in one box.
All of these may seem like overwhelming difficulties, but Gregg and Donna Fort have persevered. For the first several years of their ministry, there were only two churches planted. It became discouraging, as well, because those two churches were not growing spiritually. But then, with persistence in prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, the Forts started to see growth in one of those churches.
In the last few years, three more churches have been planted, and the Forts are overjoyed to see young Christians growing in the Lord. The churches held a combined service, and 99 new believers came to Christ and were baptized.
Now, twice a month members from all five churches gather together for a time of fellowship and growth together in Christ. Donna currently leads the new believers' discipleship class, and Gregg and Pastor Ncube from Gweru conduct leadership training for church leaders. They are currently working on plans for planting a sixth church in the area.
IMB continually sends both humanitarian and volunteer relief to the country of Zimbabwe. The Forts are grateful for the donations through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering that have continued to allow them to live and minister in Zimbabwe.
While the spiritual climate of Zimbabwe may be dark, the field is fertile for planting, as the Fords have seen. By doing the work of Christ, those seeds have blossomed into the transformed lives of many Zimbabwean people.