from The Andovertownsman

Members of Faith Lutheran Church in the American town of Andover, MA  came to build two outdoor huts on church grounds last weekend as a representation of the church’s mission to help residents of an African village.

“A to Z” is the name of the project. “A” is for Andover while “Z” is for Zimbabwe. Church member Ramson Gambiza of Methuen grew up in Rwehanga, Zimbabwe, a village with about 500 residents. His late father was the village minister.

“Since 2004, Faith Lutheran has engaged in a social ministry supporting the village,” said Pastor Marsha Heydenreich.

Ramson Gambiza, right, leader of the A to Z project which helps his hometown village Rwehanga, Zimbabwe, stands with Pastor Marsha Heydenreich outside of the Faith Lutheran in Andover, MA (photo by Brianna Healy).

The church gets an “A” for keeping the connection alive. A church picnic to raise money for the program is planned for Sunday, June 12.

“I am truly amazed and very thankful for the support Faith Lutheran continues to give to my village through A to Z Ministries,” Gambiza wrote in an email. “Because of Faith Lutheran’s support, I feel I have been able to give back to those less fortunate than I have been, and it is a wonderful feeling.”

He said he has changed as a person because of A to Z: “Seeing Faith (Lutheran) support a place so far away has reinforced my belief that people are basically good and are willing to make a positive difference in this world when given a chance to do so.”

Heydenreich will visit the village for the first time this winter. She will join Gambiza, who visits frequently. Most of his family, including his mother and sisters, still live there.

Two years ago, Faith Lutheran bought an electric-powered grinding mill for the village. Women previously walked half a day to get to the nearest grinding mill.

“Villagers were starving…We raised $10,000 to buy and deliver a grinding mill that is used to pound corn into flour,” Heydenreich said.

Gambiza writes the “Zimbabwe Update” for the church, and calls the sound of the mill grinding “one of the sweetest sounds” he’s ever heard.

The church also has bought bicycles for the village pastor and his wife, who travel from village to village.

This year, village orphans are being helped by Faith Lutheran. Clothing and a $15 school fee are being paid by members of the Andover church. Most of the children have lost both parents to AIDS.

More than 250 people currently worship at the Andover church every Sunday, Heydenreich said. Founded in 1965, she said “invite, equip and send” are the three pillars of the church’s mission statement.

“We are one of the largest and fastest growing Lutheran churches in New England,” she added.

If you want to contribute to “A to Z,” send donations to Faith Lutheran Church, 360 South Main St., Andover.