Kerry Wiens was born in Zimbabwe to Zimbabwean parents just before the beginning of the war for independence. She spent the first 6 years of her life in the small town of Que Que/ Kwe Kwe experiencing a simple African childhood filled with rich culture and community.
As a young child she witnessed the advent of the bush war and its impact on the country. Her family moved to Harare where she observed the violent and unstable years of the bush war and then early in her teens she experienced the glorious rise of the country to independence. Canada was to become her home at the age of 13 where she said goodbye to her Zimbabwe home and mourned the loss of her heritage.
Now almost 40 years later, her life has come full circle as she participates on the Africa Board of Directors for Body and Soul Fitness which gives her the opportunity to visit Zimbabwe regularly. On a recent board trip to Zimbabwe, Kerry reflected on the country of her birth and the impact that Body and Soul Fitness is having in the midst of a consistently degrading situation.
“I remember the petrol queues of the early 80’s in Zimbabwe,” muses Kerry. “The country was fledgling in its independence and there were fuel shortages. We used to park the cars in queues over night waiting for fuel to be available. Never in my dreams could I imagine that in 2019, I would be back in Zimbabwe witnessing a very similar situation!”
2019 has been the year of fuel queues for the country as supply of dollars dwindles, affecting the government’s ability to import fuel. Zimbabwe owes $200 million to foreign fuel suppliers. Kerry was sobered by the effect this fuel shortage has on the regular person in Zimbabwe. The time and effort it takes on a weekly basis just to fill the car with petrol takes a toll on all involved. “I observed first-hand the stress and uncertainty plaguing people as they wonder when they will find a petrol station with fuel available. An elderly man drove across town to a petrol station only to discover that the fuel had run out just before his arrival. At that point his fuel tank was on empty and now he could not find his way home. Stories like this are distressing,” says Kerry.
It is not only fuel shortages that Zimbabweans have to deal with at present. The country’s power grid is collapsing and now only provides 30% of the power necessary to run the country. The government can no longer afford electricity imported from South Africa and Mozambique, and so the electricity is turned off to most areas for 18 hours a day and often is only turned on after 10pm at night.
The most crippling situation in Zimbabwe has years of history behind it. You may remember the years of hyperinflation in the country, which culminated in the inflation crisis of 2008 and 2009. Zimbabwe finally adopted the US dollar to stabilize the economy. However, after years of corruption in the country, there is no US currency left. It is understood that politicians have stolen it all and placed it in off-shore accounts. In June, the government made the decision to move back to a local currency called the “zollar.” Once again, the country is ripe for hyperinflation and the currency conversion is causing havoc for businesses that don’t know which prices to charge. The ordinary person now has difficulty buying bread.
“It is in the midst of this chaos, and I don’t say chaos lightly,” says Kerry, “that a band of women are demonstrating incredible grace, grit and resilience to a country in desperate need of restoration. They are the women of Body and Soul Fitness Zimbabwe.” In times of crisis, recreational activities are often the first to get cut from the family budget. Austerity doesn’t tolerate “frills.” Body and Soul Zimbabwe has taken the exact opposite approach. It is in times of crisis that health and well-being through recreation is actually the lifeline that people need to keep going.
In 20 classes all over the country, women and men are meeting to strengthen not only their bodies but their minds, hearts and souls. It is a collaboration of incredible dedication because instructors have to get fuel for their cars, electricity to charge their ipods and speakers, and food, snacks and beverages to sustain them all in the broken infrastructure! The simplest of daily tasks are a challenge. However, something amazing is happening through these gathering fitness enthusiasts – they are reminding each other that all is not lost. There is still hope for Zimbabwe! They support and encourage each other. Each time they get knocked down, they stand back up and keep believing for a bright future.
Every few months, Body and Soul releases a new set of fitness routines with music carefully selected to reflect a theme. The current theme is ‘Unstoppable!’ and we cannot think of a more appropriate theme for such a time as this in Zimbabwe. Our world may fall apart and break in ways that impact us significantly. But as Christians, we carry the incredible hope that God’s mission is an unstoppable force for restoration and renewal. His power is at work even when we can’t see it. He is at work in Zimbabwe to prosper the country and not to harm it. He is bringing a hope and a future. Every Body and Soul person in Zimbabwe becomes an unstoppable reminder of hope. Week after week, day after day, while we exercise, we mouth the words, ‘Impossible things in your name they shall be done,’ (“Unstoppable God,” Elevation Worship). Exercise classes become prophetic movements spoken over a country in pain – and God hears. Impossible things will be accomplished in Zimbabwe.
“My personal experience in Zimbabwe on my June visit was one of beauty. I experienced patience and kindness even when everyday is filled with obstacles to overcome and major inconveniences that wipe out normal routines. I heard repeated from so many, ‘But we are still blessed!’ I beheld smiles that shone like the dawn and laughter that danced through the air. This is unstoppable faith, hope and love. Body and Soul Zimbabwe, you are all inspirations. May God’s grace and mercies be new for you every morning giving you what you need to weather this storm. Stay the course! You are Unstoppable!“