We all have encountered difficult circumstances that we thought we were never going to be able to overcome. I have the pleasure of writing about a phenomenal woman, a philanthropist of note, a teacher of the word, a trailblazer, and the founder of an inter-denominational ministry called Cedars of Lebanon. This is her story:
My name is Tecla Chipo Dhliwayo (nee Mavindidze). l did my primary school in Shamva where my mother was a teacher. She is a single mother who raised my three siblings and l.
After completing my A level, l went to Hillside Teachers College in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where l trained as a secondary school teacher. I later attained a B.A Degree in English and Communication Studies. I got ministerial training with Global School Of Ministry (GSOM) and am an ordained pastor with the Zimbabwe Christian Ministers Association (ZCMA). I got married in 1996 and we have been blessed with three children.
The inception of Cedars of Lebanon is quite a long journey filled with many ups and downs.
ln 2007 when our economy spiraled downwards, my husband found a job in Botswana, and we all moved there. Our church denomination in Botswana did not hold ladies’ meetings like we did back in Zimbabwe. So a lady from our church suggested that, as Zimbabwean women, we should start fellowshipping in our homes.
When we started the fellowship, we were just four ladies, but in no time, the group had grown so much that we could not fit into small lounges any longer.
The meetings consisted of Zimbabwean women from different denominations. The Lord raised within us a mentor, Mrs. Musungah, who taught us the Word of God. We would meet for Bible study and prayers.
In 2012 when I returned to Zimbabwe with my family, l created a WhatsApp group to add my sisters whom l had left in Botswana and surely missed. I called the group Daughters of Zion, the name the mentor had given us back in Botswana. The word was shared daily on the platform, we had prayers, and prayer requests were addressed as well.
As we continued to do the Lord’s work, a storm arose in the church where l was fellowshipping. Someone lied about the group and there were accusations that l was trying to usurp the pastor’s wife’s authority by leading a women’s group. A lot was said to taint my image and l was instructed by the church leadership to close the group.
After prayerfully considering it, l told them that l was not going to close the group but to remove the ladies in the group from our assembly – a move that was seen as rebellious. lt was during this difficult time that l attended a ladies’ meeting in which the preacher preached on Psalm 92:12:
“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”Psalm 92:12
After the sermon, she spoke prophetically to me while praying for me that the work l was doing was the Lord’s, and He would give me divine helpers. Later that day, l was instructed to change the name of the group from “Daughters Of Zion” to “Cedars Of Lebanon.” The Lord has been faithful. He has given me a wonderful team that l work with. Over the years some have left, and others keep coming in. May His Name be glorified!
At the moment we have five Cedars of Lebanon platforms on WhatsApp groups consisting of women from various denominations and various nationalities too. We share the word, pray, and meet as needed.
Over the years, we have had some very powerful meetings including the Bitterness Must Go Conference, Night, Single Cedars Pyjama Party, Ruth and Naomi Day (for ladies and their in-laws) and Rainbow Picnics where the Lord taught us to listen through the “I hear you” sessions which have since become part of our weekly routine.
Every project we have ever undertaken as Cedars Of Lebanon has been by the direct inspiration and leading of the Holy Spirit.
Our first assignment was in 2019 at the Mount Zion Prayer Mountain where, during a visit for prayer, l was led to clean the toilets. During that time, l was led to pray for the owner of the place that she would get divine helpers. After that, the Lord started raising people, including a lady who brought in a lawn mower. As Cedars Of Lebanon, we got an instruction to buy pavers for a driveway. The road that led to the prayer mountain got muddy during the rainy season and people’s cars would get stuck. By His grace, we managed to buy pavers for the driveway which was named Lebanon Path after us.
When Cyclone Idai hit Chimanimani in 2019, we were led to do a Buy-a-pantie campaign. After buying thousands of panties, we were instructed not to drop them off at Presbyterian Church, which was the drop-off centre, but to take them to Chimanimani ourselves. The task seemed so insurmountable because of travel restrictions that were in place. However, we saw the hand of the Lord in that not only were we able to travel there, but we were also able to distribute to the women whom we found gathered already!
A Dream Realized
In 2021, one lady in our group sent money to the leadership to help those within the group struggling with school fees. After helping two mothers within the group, we discovered that there was a lady in Murehwa, a member of our group, who is very passionate about taking care of disadvantaged children in her community. She helped from her meager means. She had not responded to the call on the group for those who needed help because at that time her phone was not working.
We visited her home just to find out more about her and discovered her passion for helping children. She bemoaned the fact that she had no place to put the children that she so wanted to help. It was during this conversation while sitting in her little one-roomed house that the Holy Spirit instructed us to build her a house so that she would properly care for the children.
By His grace, a seven-roomed house was built and fully furnished in two-and-a-half months by a group of 18 sisters.
She now houses 10 kids and we help with the children’s school fees and uniforms and occasionally buy clothes and food.
Serving the Unseen
Our third assignment was in 2020. The Lord had instructed us that it was time to do prison ministry. We did not want to just copy what others were doing but get our own instructions from God. So we bought pads as a way of gaining access to the place. When we got to the prison and were prayerfully listening, the Lord gave us two instructions. The first one was to renovate a dilapidated building meant for a chicken project. By His grace, we renovated the building and bought five batches of broiler and layer chickens to kick-start the poultry project.
The second assignment was to help two Congolese inmates who were incarcerated for not having proper documentation and were awaiting deportation to the Democratic Republic of Congo but there were no funds. One had five kids, including a seven-month-old baby whom she had given birth to in prison, and the other had two children. By His grace, we facilitated their safe return to DRC by buying air tickets for the nine of them. We gave the lady with the five kids a huge send-off. We bought clothes and luggage for her and the kids, gave her money for a fresh start, and rolled out a red carpet for her on the day she got out of prison.
A Wrong Turn onto the Right Path
On the 13th of November 2021, the Holy Spirit told me that our next assignment would be a maternity ward. We had no idea where it was going to be built, so we just prayed for guidance. The instruction then came at a time when we were thinking of taking a break but clearly, God had other plans.
As we were on a trip to the Great Zimbabwe Monument, little did we know that a “wrong turn” during this trip would lead us to our current project, which is the Nemamwa Maternity Ward. We have since roofed, plastered in and out, and funds for paint and tiling are currently being raised.
If there is one thing I know it’s that each time God gives us an assignment, He will always provide for it. All we can do is trust in Him and as long as we are willing and obedient, He will make Cedars of Lebanon unstoppable in carrying out His work.