In 2017, a pivotal moment took place in the hearts of Josh and Rachel Tonhorai as they embarked on an outreach to Peru as staff members with Christ for the City International. Little did they know that this trip would become the genesis of a transformative idea. It was amidst the orphanages and nursing homes in Peru that Josh envisioned a new base for Christ for the City International in his home country of Zimbabwe.

“There is a lot of need in Zimbabwe, and I thought Zimbabwe could use a base,” he reflected. “They could do what they were doing in Peru, there.”

After discussing his vision with Chip Anderson, the President & CEO of Christ for the City International, Josh reached out to his high school friend Mubaiwa Mangwende, inviting him to spearhead and establish the Zimbabwe base.  

Fast forward to 2018, and the flame of hope ignited in Zimbabwe with the establishment of CFCI’s base, led by missionaries Mubaiwa and Grace Mangwende. Their dedication to hospital ministry marked the beginning of a remarkable journey, expanding into orphanages and prison outreach. However, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to extinguish the flame they had kindled. 

“It felt like the base was almost dying,” Mubaiwa reflected. “Covid really affected us to the point where we thought we would shut down. Every ministry came to a standstill.”

Amid the adversity, the global support from Christ for the City International and the introduction of devotions from CFCI’s President & CEO, Chip Anderson, to all bases became a lifeline.

“Those devotions kept me going; they kept the base alive,” Mubaiwa emphasized. “I never stopped doing those devotions.” 

In 2022, a gradual revival began for Zimbabwe, with help from the CFCI Transformation Fund. This funding played a central role in furnishing essential resources for the hospital and prison ministries. With these newfound resources, the base not only rekindled dormant ministries but also fortified its outreach efforts, empowering volunteers to effectively address the community’s needs. The infusion of support facilitated the rebuilding of connections and relationships, symbolizing a rejuvenated start. 

A turning point came through the connection with two key people, Don and Kaluba Tarukwana. They are longtime friends of Mubaiwa and were already serving the Lord locally through family ministry including premarital counseling and kids’ bible classes. They joined CFCI as missionaries and brought a renewed sense of purpose to the base. 

“We caught the heart of CFCI,” Don said. “It’s a privilege to be a part of a ministry, to help it grow and push it forward.” 

The transformative moment, however, occurred in April 2022 when Mubaiwa attended a CFCI board meeting in Costa Rica. Jake Hjemvick, Chief Operating Officer, recognized that Mubaiwa would gain clarity about God’s calling in Zimbabwe by personally witnessing the ministry work in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is one of CFCI’s oldest and furthest developed bases in the world, and this firsthand experience aimed to inspire Mubaiwa as he moved forward in realizing his vision for the Zimbabwe base. 

“We knew the time in Costa Rica would be important for Mubaiwa to develop relationships not only with our workers from the central office,” Jake said. “But also, with other missionaries and base directors who are working towards the same mission as him.” 

Costa Rica became a classroom for Mubaiwa, where he not only absorbed the essence of CFCI culture but also honed his leadership skills. One crucial lesson he carried back to Zimbabwe was the art of effective leadership, particularly in finding, training, and coaching individuals to become impactful missionaries. 

“That trip impacted me greatly,” Mubaiwa recalled. “I learned how to run and grow a base and I really grew up as a director.”

This experience brought newfound clarity and revelation to Mubaiwa, and the lessons learned in Costa Rica provided the missing pieces, empowering him to guide others in their missionary journey. 

One profound shift in perspective occurred when Mubaiwa recognized that, contrary to common perceptions, missionaries were not exclusively foreigners. In fact, during his time in Costa Rica, he observed that 90% of the CFCI missionaries were locals. This revelation shattered the misconception that effective missionaries had to come from outside the community. 

“I hadn’t fully grasped the depth of what it meant to be a missionary myself,” he admitted.

Mubaiwa realized that he, along with others, could be impactful missionaries right in their own city, without the need to go elsewhere. This insight became a catalyst for a renewed sense of purpose and a commitment to serving their local community with the same fervor and dedication as missionaries in distant lands.

“Being a missionary in your own country to your actual neighbors is so much easier and exciting,” Kaluba said. “You understand the culture, it’s easy to access different communities, and locals readily accept you because there are existing relationships.”

After returning from Costa Rica, another local couple, Godfrey Chigumbura and Precious Marangwanda, joined CFCI Zimbabwe as missionaries. They work with and evangelize to college students in their city.

“Serving God faithfully, right where you are is revolutionary,” Mubaiwa said. “Some people are actually not being as effective because they are still waiting to be where they think they are supposed to be to exercise their missionary work.”

Carrying the flame of their renewed passion into 2023, which had nearly been snuffed out in 2020, now blazes with unparalleled intensity. The challenges faced during the previous years, compounded by the impact of the pandemic, seemed to have only fueled their determination. In a remarkable display of commitment, the Zimbabwean team, now fired up with a sense of purpose, sent a short-term mission team of eight individuals to Costa Rica.

“Just as Jesus sent out the 12 two by two, we encourage our bases to do the same,” Anderson said. “Imagine our surprise and amazement that Mubaiwa, as the director of a new base in Africa, was able to recruit a team of eight Zimbabweans to go to Latin America.”

What made this endeavor even more extraordinary was that 90% of the team managed to independently fundraise the required finances for the trip. The fundraising efforts, though challenging, demonstrated the resilience and collective spirit that propelled them towards realizing their vision of making a difference beyond their borders.

Looking ahead to 2024, the Zimbabwe base of Christ for the City International is gearing up for a dynamic year of growth and collaboration. With their renewed spirit and the success of the short-term mission to Costa Rica in 2023, the team is now eagerly anticipating the arrival of teams from around the world who are keen to contribute to their mission.

“To see this base grow and flourish and hear the wide variety of ministries they have is amazing,” Rachel Tonhorai said. “They are a self-sufficient base where they are doing ministry and recruiting local volunteers and getting their community involved to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”

Plans are in motion to welcome and receive teams that seek to serve in the Zimbabwe base, by bringing the message of the Gospel and actions of hope to their community. The groundwork laid in previous years, coupled with the valuable lessons learned, positions the Zimbabwe base to open its doors to those who share the vision of serving Jesus by serving communities.

Mubaiwa envisions a future where community transformation is not just a dream but a tangible reality. His words echo with a profound understanding of the challenges faced by the local community, acknowledging the intense struggles that its residents endure.

“We have so many challenges within our community. People are really, really struggling,” Mubaiwa said.

Mubaiwa envisions a collaborative effort where local churches play a central role in bringing about and influencing positive change. At the core of this ambitious vision lies the concept of a transformation center. Mubaiwa’s dream is to establish a haven where young people can congregate, not only to receive the gospel but also to partake in essential training sessions and teachings that spark transformative growth in their lives.

The commitment of CFCI Zimbabwe to this transformative journey is evident in Mubaiwa’s words and the collective heart of the team. Their dream of a transformation center is more than a blueprint; it’s a manifestation of their unwavering dedication to instigate positive change for the kingdom and equip their community with the tools necessary for a brighter and more hopeful future.