October 22, 2012

New pastor from Africa mixes determination, love

By Paul Koenig pkoenig@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

RANDOLPH -- The Rev. Tsitsi Nakoma Moyo sat at a table in her office, looking down at her Dunkin' Donuts coffee while she slid the cup between her hands.

click image to enlarge

The Rev, Tsitsi Nakoma Moyo is the new reverend at Randolph United Methodist Church and at the East Pittston United Methodist Church.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

She talked about her family, her faith, feminism and sweet potatoes, but mostly about her journey to two small Maine churches by way of Massachusetts and Zimbabwe.

Moyo, 47, her black hair cut short with only a couple of spirals of gray at her temples, said her life is a miracle. But not in the sappy, every-life-is-a-miracle way that's probably penned on the inside of a Hallmark card somewhere.

"A miracle has to happen for me to survive," she said.

Moyo has been the pastor at Randolph United Methodist Church and East Pittston United Methodist Church since July and previously served at two churches in Massachusetts.

Moyo grew up with nine siblings -- eight brothers and one sister -- and her mother and father in Zimbabwe. Her father was a polygamist and had about 25 children, she guessed. Her household, like the rest of Zimbabwe, she said, heavily favored males over females in every facet of life other than child rearing.

Moyo vividly remembers an instance as a 10-year-old that drove home her place in society in comparison to her brothers'.

She and her mother grew sweet potatoes in their garden, she said. While Moyo labored, planting and caring for the crops, her brothers played. When the sweet potatoes were ready for harvest, Moyo and her mother dug them up and brought them in the house. But when it was time to enjoy the vegetables of their labor, her mother told her to pick the largest sweet potatoes for her brothers to eat.

"It just hit me like, it doesn't matter how much I'll work. It doesn't matter how much I'll contribute to the family," Moyo said. "I'm still not good enough to get the larger piece."

Moyo said she still thinks back to this incident as an example of how she would never be considered as important as a male in Zimbabwe.

"There are just small, little things that happen in your childhood and stick with you, and they either destroy you or encourage you," she said.

Moyo said it took her years to realize why her mother raised her that way. "I used to think she trained me to be passive, but I don't think she trained me to be passive," Moyo said. "She trained me to be strong. She trained me to survive."

"If I would argue, I could be beaten, and she didn't want her daughter to be beaten," she added.

Getting an education

Moyo dropped out of school after the seventh grade at the age of 14, not by choice, but because her father didn't think she needed any more education as a female. She said her father believed that educated women either don't get married or are rude and "insubordinate" to their husbands. She married her now ex-husband at the age of 16.

By the time she was 24 years old, they had four daughters. Moyo said they had the children close together because she was pressured to have a son instead of another girl. But she prayed it wouldn't happen.

"If I have a boy, how are my daughters going to be treated in the family?" she asked herself. "I didn't want them growing up to be second-class in their own home. I experienced that in my family, and I didn't want them to experience that. I guess God answered my prayers. I never had a boy."

Moyo said she didn't want her daughters to be denied the same education that her father denied her. "I swore by God that my kids would not go through what I went through," she said.

(Continued on page 2)

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