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This year, Bishop John Sherrington visited Zimbabwe with CAFOD and the impressions made by the visit form his reflection this Advent.

The Catholic community gathering in the parish of All Souls, Binga in Zimbabwe is very much in my mind this Christmas. I visited the parish as a guest of CAFOD and was able to see the way in which your donations to the Lent 2012 campaign for water were being used to provide boreholes, latrines and water pumps.

At the Makamba community garden a borehole was drilled, an area fenced off, and starter packs given to start vegetable production so that the community of forty-four members, of which only seven are men, could provide for its own needs as well as grow in confidence and better relationships. Women have grown in self-reliance. Income from the sale of these goods in the market has helped them to purchase kitchen utensils, clothes and blankets for the cold winter nights as well as provide some money for the education of their children. Food is essential so that those who are HIV+ and now have access to ARV’s can live well since the medication without food causes major problems. The women were proud of their work and delighted in showing us their purchases. As Muyoba, a widow, said, “As a result of the income from the Market Garden I was able to buy a plough for dollars. The garden has become my husband as I can support myself and my family. I can afford plates and cups. It has meant a complete change in my life. We can attend to the needs of our children – paying fees for school and being able to buy stationary. Twalumba (Thank you).”

The words of the prophet Isaiah come to mind, “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; and the lily shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees, Say to those who are of fearful heart, ‘be strong, fear not’” (Is 35:1-3). The Lord says, “Do not be afraid for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name, you are mine!” Christmas reminds me that through the gift of Jesus Christ we receive God’s merciful forgiveness and share our faith as brothers and sisters, members of One Body, called to love through prayer and service. May God give you his peace and joy this Christmas.