The Day I Became a Millionaire!
The second day of my trip to Zambia and Zimbabwe I became a millionaire! I was walking the littered streets of Vic Falls, the border town next to the exquisite Victoria Falls, when I noticed a scrap on the ground that looked like money! It was all crumpled and dirty and smelly, but sure enough, it was a 500 million dollar bill!! I’m rich! Not quite. Someone had wisely used this worthless bill as toilet paper!
Claims to Shame:
Zimbabwe‘s education system, once one of the best in Africa, has disintegrated over the past year. Towards the end of 2007, 85% of children were still at school but by the end of last year it fell to 20% and is now expected to fall much lower. Thirty thousand teachers dropped out of the system in 2008.
Dozens of young professional Zimbabwean women slip across the country’s border to work for a few days or weeks as prostitutes. In Zambia they sell their bodies, and lives, for $2 USD.
The rate of HIV in border towns like this is 48%. In the rest of the country it is 30%.
The unemployment rate is 80%.
A cholera epidemic has killed nearly 3,000 people, with 40,000 sick as untreated sewage flows into water supplies.
Estimated 50% of doctors and nurses have quit or left the country. Most state-of-the-art hospitals are closed.
In February, the price of a loaf of bread in the country was less than 200,000 Zimbabwe dollars. In August, that same loaf of bread cost 1.6 trillion Zimbabwe dollars.
Inflation has surged from the rate of 2.2 million percent recorded in May, in August at 11.2 million percent, in November the rate of inflation is 230 million percent. Now annual inflation rate tops 6.5 quindecillion novemdecillion percent – 65 followed by 107 zeros. Prices double every 24.7 hours. The currency is basically cheap toilet paper.
Zimbabwe introduced a $100 billion note in August 2008. January 2009 they issued the world’s first 100 trillion dollar note.
Summary: Zimbabwe is crumpling under the oppressive weight of despotism. Pray for the downfall of this terrible leader.
So I went to Zimbabwe to see for myself. I met with a pastor and some leaders of a large church in Vic Falls. They were ashamed to tell me that they are unable now to even feed their widows and orphans. In better times they developed a feeding program from their own collections as a church – now they struggle. Yet the orphans increase with an almost unbelievable HIV rate of 48%. They would love to start feeding them again – can we help? So I am working out a plan to help them from a distance. Oh, I wish I lived there. Or perhaps we could fund a business that would help support some of the widows and orphans? Yes, we will work it out. Is there anyone who can say no to such a request? Is there anyone who will go and start up such a project?
Later that day we talked with Bright, a street kid. He looks street-wise – cool shades, nice clothes, good English, yet he is soft spoken – not dramatizing his tragic story, sounding matter of fact as he tells how his dad died when he was very young, then his mom moved from the village to this tourist town to find work. Soon she died as well. “So was there no one to take care of you?” “No.” – that’s all there is to it – moved away from their relatives, mom dies, the nine-year old is on the street to fend for himself. He and the other street kids fought off the baboons to get the scraps from the restaurants. That was when times were better, and tourists would come. Now kids are moving back to the villages – looking for somewhere to find food to survive for another day. “So can we pray with you?” “Sure” – and we pray and give him some of our South African currency. What can one do?
Zimbabwe has been on my heart for a year now. I read the news about it daily and pray for an opportunity to take the gospel of love and hope into this place sinking into despair. Pray that we may be able to take a team there this summer and bring hope for a few.