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When Kathy Gann, of Belle Plaine, and six other adults took a plane on March 11 and embarked on a trip to a remote part of the world, they had no idea the world would be changed when they returned.


Gann and the others set out on a United Methodist mission trip to Zimbabwe. After a brief stay at the country’s capital city, Harare, went to the village of Arnoldine where there was no running water, little electricity and no towers to get cell phone coverage.


It was only after a week when they returned to Harare, had WiFi and retrieved messages from people back home, asking if they were OK.


“That’s when we heard about the virus,” Gann said.


A former pastor, Gann preached the sermon at the church, which had 1,000 members, the most people she had ever spoken in front of. An interpreter translated her words to the congregation in their native Shona language.


“They are the most joyful, loving people I’ve ever seen,” Gann said. “But when they sing, boy, they sing loud.”


While in Arnoldine, Gann stayed in the home of a widow named Susan. Her home “was like a small bedroom,” Gann said. “That one room was her home.”


Gann was invited to the primary school and secondary school in the town. The principal translated her words to the students.


“I was constructing a relationship with the kids about school, about Kansas,” Gann said. “It was a different kind of missionary work with the kids.”


Gann, who has been teaching for 20 years, brought a couple of suitcases filled with school supplies for the kids. She gave out 2,000 pencils, protractors, compasses, colored pencils, markers, crayons and paper.


There were also pictures Gann’s students back home had drawn, which she gave to the children in Arnoldine who, in turn, drew pictures for the kids from Kansas.


Gann took over 900 pictures in Zimbabwe. All the children wanted to get their pictures taken. Some of the kids had never had a picture of themselves taken before. Gann gave them prints of the pictures.


She is sad that there is no school for the remainder of this year, “no closure,” she said. When the stay-at-home order is lifted and churches reopen, Gann would like to speak to them about her experience in Zimbabwe.


“I want people to know what’s out there and about experiences you can have,” she said.