Miracle in Mbizingwe

In 1982 a handful of Zimbabwean and South African couples sold their suburban homes, pooled their proceeds and purchased an under-developed 6,500 acre farm on the outskirts of Bulawayo. They named it ‘The New Adams Farm’ and formed the Community of Reconciliation. Their dream was to see white and black Zimbabweans living together in perfect harmony, ending racial tension, violence, and hurt. The community grew, with many from the communities around benefitting from their love and gen

The group from Mbizingwe with Pierre de Jagger.
The group from Mbizingwe with Pierre de Jagger.

On night in 1986, a group of people who saw themselves as liberators of black people from their white oppressors killed the 16 white men, women and children with an axe, forcing some of the members of the black community to watch. While Glynis, the 14-year-old daughter of one of the founding members was being led off to be killed, she asked her father, “How should I pray?” He responded, “Pray for these men as they are now the ones that need our prayers”. One by one they were killed; and while each of them remained silent, they could be seen uttering prayers under their breaths for their killers. The community who had been ‘liberated’ wept; these were their friends, their family. Those who committed the massacre were never brought to justice.

Pierre de Jagger is a South African working and living on a farm in the Matopo Hills area. Many people told him that he was crazy to farm there as the farming conditions are not good. Pierre asked Brian Oldrieve, the founder of Foundations for Farming, “am I crazy for wanting to farm here, can it be done?” Brian answered him “anytime you want to ask the question can I farm here, look at nature – if God is farming there then so can we”.

So Pierre set up home and started to teach Foundations for Farming’s conservation agriculture principles to the communities around him. The first group of people that he taught told him that for the past nine years they had failed completely to reap a harvest. Their main reason for these failures was poor and erratic rainfall. Pierre taught them Foundations for Farming, a method that conserves both soil and water. One of the principles is to start small, be faithful with the small and then grow from there. He encouraged the farmers to do a 10x10metre plot using the Foundations methods. When he returned at the end of the season to see how they were getting on the community was excited. For the first time in their lives they saw maize plants taller than themselves.

The following year, Pierre trained 150 people from the village. He did not have enough money to give inputs to all, so he selected the best 50, and gave them inputs to plant a 50m x 50m plot using Foundations for Farming methods. The previous year, the 150 farmers from the village had harvested a combined yield of 3-5 tonnes of maize. With just the 50 farmers in the second year, the village harvest was 75 tonnes of maize – a whopping 2,400% increase! And this was from only 50X50m plots, not the full extent of land available to them. One of the most common complaints when teaching Foundations for Farming is that the method is too much work with all the digging. But this fallacy was exposed when one of the 50 farmers said “I used to plough 2.5ha with oxen and get 50kg. Now I dig holes in a 50x50m plot and I get 1,500kg’. Ploughing with oxen is too much work for the yield you get from it! Not to mention the cost.”

Following this success, Pierre received an invitation from the village of Mbizingwe, where the Community of Reconciliation had been murdered back in 1986. Many people warned Pierre against going to Mbizingwe. The village had been ostracised. No NGOs worked there. He prayed long and hard and finally in 2009 he felt God saying it was now time to go.

He led with a message of repentance and told how God had sent him, a man brought up as a racist Afrikaner, to help them as a sign of His love, grace and power to help people change their ways. He shared how God had changed his heart towards black Africans and now had given his life to helping those in poverty. He suggested they start by changing the way they steward the land. He was very nervous about sharing such a challenging message as a white man.

On the last day of the training, an old man came and took the plate from the woman who was serving and served Pierre lunch himself. He was told later that this man was one of those who had taken part in the massacre. His action signified to the community that he accepted Pierre and his message and teaching. It meant a lot to those watching, although no one said a word.

More than any other village he has trained, the people of Mbizingwe have surprised Pierre.

Most villages have become totally dependent on external assistance. Not so with this group. They knew what they needed, but they had absolutely no expectation that he would do it for them. The organised themselves with remarkable efficiency and independence.

The community donated part of their harvest to de Jagger’s orphanage.
The community donated part of their harvest to de Jagger’s orphanage.

This community that has been feared and hated for so long is moving out of isolation and poverty. The hope is that Mbizingwe will become a ‘light on a hill’ to the surrounding communities. God is in the process of redeeming the community and using what is despised in this world to bring about transformation.

And the prayers of those murdered did not go unheard. Bob Scott wrote a book on the tragedy. In it he says “One of the greatest gifts one person can give to another is ‘true esteem’. Our actions speak much louder than our words. Africa is looking for a new kind of white man, one who will give more than he takes. The ones who lived on the New Adams and Olive Tree Farms were like that; they made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their brothers – regardless of race”. – See Bob Scott’s book ‘Saving Zimbabwe’ here http://savingzimbabwe.com/.

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