It is too easy to be overwhelmed by the statistics and not consider the agony. It is too easy to dismiss the headlines as something happening "far away." But today, men, women and children just like you are suffering and dying in Zimbabwe in a hopeless, hellish nightmare.
Not too many years ago, Zimbabwe was a flourishing nation and a net food exporter. In the capital of Harare, educated businessmen and businesswomen sent their children to private schools. The government was stable. Crime was low. People had hope. Zimbabwe's cities were similar in size and infrastructure to cities in Europe and America.
Today, however, Zimbabwe is falling into chaos. Its cities and towns are becoming strewn with refuse, violence is skyrocketing and schools and hospitals are abandoned. The military is feared by the local population which reports murders, abductions, and imprisonment for possessing foreign currency (BBCNews, December 10, 2008). Half-dead cholera victims wander the streets – victims of unsanitary drinking water, the result of an economic and an infrastructure breakdown.
Easily treatable when the inexpensive rehydration techniques are available, cholera afflicts its victims in a terrible manner. Once infected, a person loses massive amounts of fluid, at a rate of about a quart an hour, through uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea. An individual may quickly lose more than ten percent of total body weight. Quickly, muscle cramps, and an unquenchable thirst set in. Heart rates increase uncontrollably. (The US Department of Health and Human Services, "Cholera," March 27, 2008).
In Zimbabwe, the fortunate succumb quickly to shock and die, often within hours of the onset of severe symptoms. The less fortunate languish a little longer. As of December 11, the U.S. government estimates that more than 16,000 Zimbabweans are infected (Reuters). The count and the misery will climb.
It is too easy to discuss again Zimbabwe's current political corruption, to debate the benefits/damages of Zimbabwe's colonial history, to argue the production and economic benefit of commercial farming and the ensuing chaos. But these conversations don't help these cholera victims—or 56-year-old town elder, Chenai Mawuya.
Today (if Mr. Mawuya is still alive by the time you read this), he rises before dawn to scavenge in the forest for roots and fruit for his family's daily meal. He usually brings back more roots than fruit, because, as Mr. Mawuya says solemnly about the wild baboons who take the fruit before he and others can reach it, "We are both hunting in the forest; the fittest will survive."
Once a moderately prosperous village leader, he now hopes to stay strong enough to continue foraging, but he is very aware of the decreasing food supply – and of the cholera spreading all around (Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2008). And now that the famine has become more severe, many have begun eating meat from diseased animal carcasses. Consequently, anthrax is now spreading among the population, and both anthrax and cholera are moving into neighboring South Africa (The Mail & Guardian Online, December 1, 2008).
Zimbabwe's nightmare is a lesson for us. It is a lesson in compassion, and underscores the urgent need for Christ to return. This is why we pray earnestly that "Thy Kingdom come" (Luke 11:2). But, Zimbabwe is also a picture of our future. Disaster has overtaken Zimbabwe. Do we think we are immune?
The Four Horsemen of Revelation 6 will soon ride across the whole earth and the death, famine and disease will be catastrophic – but this will be only "the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:8).
Pray for Zimbabwe. Pray for Christ's glorious Kingdom to come soon. Pray that you fully turn to God before these events sweep the entire earth.