The Hilltop Center for Children

Bill and Maria Humbane invited me and a couple other friends to dinner Saturday evening. On the way, Bill took us through Maria’s remarkable Center for Children on the grounds of Hilltop Church. Maria began this volunteer project thirteen years ago. She began with ten orphan children who lived in dire poverty in a high-density Mutare suburb. Her plan was to give them supplemental meals and tutoring after school. It was remarkably successful. Today, she and her secretary supervise 80 children who are selected by a church committee that chooses the most needy children in the area to attend the center, now housed in a block building on the church grounds built for this purpose. One of the original children is graduating from Africa University this year, and a few others have graduated from a Skills Training Center in Mutare. All of this is funded by donations from supporters of the project.

Dr. Bill Humbane speaks six languages fluently and teaches language skills at Africa University today. However, he and I have another link that goes back over fifty years. After Dad was elected bishop of the African Central Conference in 1956, Bill was his first secretary and chauffeur, working with him for nearly ten years. Born and raised in Mozambique, Bill had the distinction of attending Hartzell High School on the Old Mutare Mission. It was primarily because he spoke fluent Portuguese, French, and English, as well as three African languages, that Dad recruited him as his secretary directly out of high school. Later, Bill and Maria went to the USA where they went to Taylor University and then on to graduate school.

At dinner Saturday evening, I heard stories about Bill’s joyous and trying experiences with Dad that I’d never heard before. When Dad was expelled from Rhodesia, Bill was also under surveillance because of being his secretary. In fact, he was arrested and shipped to prison in Mozambique where he was beaten for three weeks in the attempt to extract information from him about his activities with Dad. Eventually, Bill and Maria and their three small children made it to Zambia where Dad was in exile. It was from Zambia that Dad sent them to the USA as his last Safari for Learning scholars. What a story, and what an evening to hear about it all!