Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Things I've Learned

We leave Africa tomorrow morning, Thursday. I won't arrive home for some 40+ hours; the Leveretts not until Saturday since they're flying to Dallas before driving back to Amarillo.

So, on this eve before our departure, I'm reflecting back on the many things I've learned in the past few weeks. Here are a few:

1. Yahweh Sabboath--The Lord goes before us
2. There are no heaters or air conditioners in most Zimbabwean and South African homes
3. The people of Zimbabwe are beautiful
4. I can actually go to sleep in a spider-infested bed . . . but not until I'm past exhausted
5. The laugh of a starving orphan is one of the sweetest sounds in the world
6. Orange Fanta is my friend in a dry and weary land, but incomparably so compared to Jesus
7. Lynn Leverett thinks God has made only one mistake: warthogs
8. I had many friends in this part of the world that I simply hadn't met yet
9. The seeds from Zimbabwe's indigenous popping masasa trees sting like the dickens when they hit you
10. I cannot pronounce Mhlanga (Washington & Alice's surname) correctly, no matter how hard I try
11. I can use a pit toilet proficiently
12. I don't like pit toilets
13. You can get more people in a truck than you think
14. There are perfect songs, and then there are PERFECT songs (thanks, Saint Doyle) :)
15. I love Indian cuisine, but will always pass up the squid when they're pointing at me
16. There's a calm little outdoor cafe on the mountainside overlooking the ocean, Cape Town, and the mountains beyond
17. Missionary grandmothers are some of the bravest and most sacrificial women in the world
18. Hope is an anchor for the soul and prayer is the chain that keeps it connected
19. When they talk about taxi wars in Cape Town--that is, between competing taxi companies--they mean the actual shooting kind
20. I've been in Africa long enough that when I read a headline that says "10 Nasty Money Habits," I think it says "10 Nasty Monkey Habits"
21. Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world

Can't wait to get home, see my family and other loved ones, and process all of the wonderful, heartbreaking, soul reviving experiences God's given me.

Love, Caron

Monday, September 25, 2006

Play Day

Praise the Lord, we had our first day off in 16 grueling days! This morning we and the Swartzes started off at the Century City Mall--an over-the-top shopping and dining venue that rivals Barra Brassa in Rio de Janeiro, if I'm remembering the name of the largest mall in South America correctly. Breakfasted there before driving to False Bay, home to large numbers of Great White sharks. Didn't see any of those, but we did see African penguins at the Boulders and whales and surfers enjoying the blue-green waters.

Though the morning started off rainy, we enjoyed a good bit of sunshine today, as well as some moody clouds and mist throughout. We drove to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. The cape was first spotted by the Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Dias in 1488 and named the Cape of Storms. Headed directly out to Cape Point--the symbolic convergence of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, though in truth, they merge farther southeast. Lots of baboons along the roadside as well as ostriches and some sort of antelope which we thought were blazebok, but after some reading, I'm not so sure. Hardly makes any difference to you, does it?

Lynn and I rode the Flying Dutchman Funicular up to the lighthouse, snapping photos and watching another whale before joining the others at Two Oceans Restaurant for hake and chips, which, for those of us who speak plain English, is a type of fish and fries. Excellent late lunch.

Back down the mountain to wind along the ocean road past windsurfers and the seaside village of Kommetjie (pronounced comma-key), up and over Chapman's Peak as the sun sank low on the western horizon, around Hout Bay where the houses hug the shoreline, past a series of mountain peaks called the Twelve Apostles, along Victoria Drive to ritzy-glitzy Camps Bay, and finally to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront--a "shopping and entertainment complex within a working harbour." Shared tea and coffee and scones and a mound of chocolate cake at the Mugg & Bean, a popular South African coffee house/restaurant.

They say this is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I must confess, they've got a good thing going. Stunning scenery all day.

Didn't get home until 9:30 and now it's almost midnight so I must sign off. Trying to email my family, but am having trouble sending from hotmail and the Swartzes have taken their email password to bed. Don't give up on me.

Love you all. Eager to be home. Really.

:) Caron

Sunday, September 24, 2006


This morning we worshiped with a house church in the Delft area of Cape Town. Delft is largely populated by "coloreds"--those of mixed heritage. Mark Swartz, our host, told us that many of them find their roots in Malaysia and Java; their ancestors were brought to Africa as slaves. Delft is a very poor section of the city. The homes are no bigger than most sheds and are made of corrugated tin or cinderblock or asbestos, which is cheap and readily available here.
The church met at Richard and Sharmain's home; 14 of us with two beautiful little girls. The purity and simplicity of this gathering touched my heart. Lynn spoke on hope. A rich discussion followed, based on the depth of their poverty and the abundance of God's faithfulness. Richard is an Indian cuisine vendor; his new trailer is situated at a busy intersection and he hopes to once again support his family--his previous trailer burned to the ground. This man is a beautiful picture of what incarnational and missional ministry is like--he sees his business as a door to sharing the gospel, and he is building relationships with the doctors at the clinic he's parked in front of, with the librarians across the street, with the people who come and go on a daily basis.
This afternoon we went to the Vineyard, the inner city outreach begun by the Swartz and Kendall-Ball families. They began a soup kitchen and other services with the simple goal of loving people like Jesus does. Several of those people have begun a spiritual search and have asked for worship services to be held on Sundays. What sweet fellowship. Several searchers were there. Twenty-five-year-old Graham, who fought tears through much of our time together. Victor, who is trying to overcome his addictions. Samil, who has been disowned by his family for exploring Christianity. We all spoke together long after the service ended.
We drove to the ocean afterward. I scooped up plenty of beautiful seashells for my international collection. Lynn went for the smooth and colorful rocks. Snapped a digital photo of the Leveretts near the water's edge. "Hmm," I said to myself. "That's a great wave in the background." Then suddenly it dawned on me. "Watch out," I cried. We ran, but too late to escape the water swirling around our ankles. Of course, I was barefoot as I always am on the sand, but Lynn and Paula's shoes are still drying. :)
Please pray--I think I have a sinus infection as a result of the allergies stirred up by the continual dust and smoke in Zimbabwe. I'm on an antibiotic, but not finding much relief yet. I don't feel bad, really, just cannot breath or hear as my head is entirely stopped up. Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing--we drove past some kind of feed yard this evening and I was the only one who didn't suffer through it!
Thought I should explain something I wrote awhile back about "thumbs up." In Zimbabwe, the sign of the opposition party is a wave. Pretty ingenious, since you can always claim you were "just waving." But since some local elections were coming up around the Wedza area, we were cautioned against our continuous waving to everyone we passed--we're Amarilloans, after all. Instead, we were to give a thumbs up sign, though we hardly ever remembered. Washington told us that one time the president's wife accidently waved to a crowd instead of offering the ruling party's raised fist as her husband did. Newspaper headlines over the picture of the two of them the next day said, "MIXED SIGNALS." :)
To living missionally, Caron

All the same

Now that we're in South Africa, I can access the Internet and actually visit my own blog. What a delight to read your comments. There were so many times we have especially felt your prayers on our behalf as God has opened doors, protected us, changed people's hearts, and strengthened us in our weaknesses. Keep praying!

I see that some of my posts never made it out of Zimbabwe. There were a couple of days at least when all email/Internet servers were shut down because Zimbabwe had not paid their bills. There were also some days in which we simply didn't have access to an online computer. And then there's always a chance I wrote something that innocently triggered the strict government filters and prevented my emails going through. They do that there, and tap phone lines. No telling.

In Zvishavane, Lynn spoke to some 300 high school students who warmly received his message before he spent the morning with the leaders of several area congregations. Paula, Alice, and I had time with the preachers' young wives. I'll tell you, at the core we are all the same.

Afterward, they served us lunch--sadza, kale, and capenta, which are, in essence, minnows. A whole pile of them on our plates, full-bodied with their siteless eyes. I have to confess I bit off the body and left the heads and could not finish my plateful, but they are always willing to finish off what you leave. They were going to seat us inside around a small table in a small room while they ate outside by their cooking fire. I asked the ladies if we could sit outside with them. They were confused, because this is how they honor guests. "You don't want to eat here?" they asked.

"We want to eat with you," I replied.

They shrugged. "Okay."

So they proceeded to move everything outside--the table, low chairs, our dishes--and then they ate on the ground around the corner from us! Must have thought we were crazy.

After two days in Zvishavane, we made the 6-hour drive to Mutare to stay with Campion Mugweni and his family. Thanksgiving must come on September 20th in Zimbabwe, for after Wednesday service with some 450 people of the Sakubva church and rousing worship led by 82-year-old Freddie, Campion's wife treated us and several others to a grand feast. Two sons of one of the elders are composers, and in English they harmonized a beautiful song they'd written so that cried. At the core we are all the same.

On Thursday we divided up and talked about abstinence and faith with the young men and women at the Commercial College--an outreach of the financially destitute, but spiritually rich, Sakubva church. Wonderful interactions there, and as I said in a later post, 8 or 9 young men and women were baptized afterward.

From there we went to the Tsvingwe feeding center in nearby Penhalonga. I spent most of my time alongside the preacher's wife, gracious Chipo, whose name means "gift" or "talent." She showed me her 20 hens she keeps in one of the small rooms off the meeting room, translated for me, and graciously answered my many questions. Tsvingwe feeds 150 children 6 days a week. As is the custom, when I greeted an older man there, I asked, "How are you?" which I admit seems a silly formality considering their obvious condition. He spoke rough English, and responded, "I'm fine. How are you?" Once I'd replied, he corrected himself. "No, we are not fine." He motioned to the children swarming the yard. "We are hungry. We have no jobs. Our young people finish school, but there are no jobs. We are not fine, and we cannot say we are."

Soon 11-year-old Joseph approached me and spoke through Chipo. He impressed me with his artist's passion and his boldness, for most of the children were timid around us. I believe it was his passion that emboldened him, in fact. "I'm an artist," he said in Shona. "I need paper and pencils." Oh, the earnestness in his eyes. I couldn't provide the money or promises unless I wanted to cause great division among the children, so I asked Chipo to write down his name and his request. Then I asked Joseph to draw a picture in my notebook so that I could show my artist friends. "I can draw anything you see," he assured me. He took the paper and pen and sketched one of the men eating sadza on a nearby bench. A very good rendition, I might add. I'm hoping some of you artists out there will want to help him. We can send funds to Campion so that he can purchase what the boy needs.

These people--every single one of them--are real, and we are all the same at the core. God forgive us when we forget that.

Time to leave to meet with a house church here in Cape Town. May God bless your time in worship and fellowship with the saints wherever you are.

Love, Caron

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In Cape Town

I met a chief yesterday. I traveled to Chivero Mission with Lynn and Washington and others who caught a ride--the lack of available fuel means everyone shares their vehicles with anyone going their direction. I was uncertain whether or not I should go as I was tired and needed to prepare my thoughts for a women's group I was scheduled to speak to in Harare at 5:30 pm. But Washington assured me we'd leave at 10 am and be back by 1 pm. I should have known he was on Africa time. We didn't leave until after noon because we had to search for fuel. And, of course, we had to go through the polite formalities with everyone we met on our errands in the Chivero area. And then, while driving through the crude grouping of four or five run down buildings that make up the village center of Chivero, we heard a whistle through our open windows--the only air conditioning there is. We stopped, and a man ran to our vehicle to tell us the chief wanted to see us.
Now, Washington knows the chief. The man's late wife was a godly Christian woman. Chief Chivero, as he's named, simply wanted to greet us and palm a little money off Washington for a village function, which, of course, Washington paid. Chivero seemed a gracious man in his dapper straw hat and purple satin shirt. I inquired of Washington if I might ask to take the chief's picture--it wouldn't have been appropriate for me to ask directly. But, alas, the man declined because he was not wearing his chief's medallion and other "chiefly" garb. Washington told me that Chivero--who is chief over 50 lesser chiefs--has expressed an interest in Christianity, but has protested, saying, "If I become chief of the church of Christ, I will have to become chief over all the other churches." I asked Washington if he told Chivero we already have a Chief. ;-)
By the way, I was delivered to the ladies' meeting at 5:30, dust-covered and windblown, without a Bible, unable to gather my thoughts on the way to Harare while crammed between the doorframe and a man and woman who rode back to the city with us. But I prayed, and the Lord provided the words for our meeting. I will not forget Africa time from now on.
Well, on to Cape Town. We arrived about 3 pm today, local time, and ate dinner at Mustards Grill with the a number of missionary families--the Dicksons, Swartzes, Hydes, and Kendall-Balls. We're staying in the Swartz's modest but very comfortable home. Unfortunately for Paula, who is a light sleeper, the Swartz's neighbors are also good hosts--their techno music and strobe lights are making a good backyard party for their many guests.
The flight into Cape Town gave beautiful views of rugged brown mountains, the South African coastline, domineering Table Mountain, and green, green, green unlike what we saw in Zimbabwe. The breeze is soft from ocean saltwater. The drive from the airport on wide highways took us past an odd mix of new homes, malls, and shanty towns. Obviously the people here are as resourceful as the Zimbabweans--we passed an old pickup frame set on thick tires being pulled by a horse. That's what you call horse power!
We're very exhausted. We left the Mhlanga's home early this morning with not nearly enough sleep after the wearying (but awesome) ten days we've had. We love you all!
With much joy, Caron

Friday, September 22, 2006

Back in Harare

Just a quick note to update you that we are in Harare. We'll be here until early tomorrow morning when we fly to Cape Town via Jo'burg. I have only a moment to write, as Lynn, Washington, and I are headed to Chivero Mission to visit orphans and see the new work the church at Avondale and others are starting.

We are well, and glad to be done with the rough travel we've experienced over the past week. But how sweet was the reward at the end of those dusty roads.

Must mention that 8 or 9 students were baptized yesterday from the Commercial College. We also enjoyed watching the distribution of mealy-meal (sadza) to the widows and needy at the Sakubva church. The women danced and ululated to express their joy at receiving this gift from the Southwest church. Some of them really put on a show for us--there was much laughing and hooting to go along.

Met Alvaro's brother, Chris, last night. They joined us at W & A's home. Nice visit; he seems much like Alvaro.

Must go. Much love, Caron

Sunday, September 17, 2006

God Blesses Zimbabwe Through Southwest

Today we worshiped with four congregations in two different locations. At one time we met in a school, the other in a building that Southwest funded a few years ago. They have a precious custom--after their services, they exit the building to form a circle for a closing prayer, but they do it in a unique way. The first person out the door shakes the hand of the second person who comes to stand beside her. The third person shakes both hands before standing beside the other two, and so on it goes until every person has shaken the hand of every other person--man, woman, and child. When the process is completed, they have a circle and everyone has been greeted.

A beautiful young woman named Pamela told us a wonderful story. A few months ago she and her husband and children had been starving and homeless. They had very little to eat, and no mealy-meal, the staple of Zimbabwe also known as sadza. Pamela had lost several pounds. They decided to fast 1/2 of every day for a week. Really fast--praying instead of complaining or worrying. On the last day they had not one morsel of food to eat. Pamela knows the Scriptures well, and knew that if God could feed the birds of the air, he could feed her family. The next morning was Sunday. She arose, built a fire, and boiled water--all without any food, mind you.

Then someone came to her. "Go to the church," they said. "There is mealy-meal there."

Brothers and sisters, God provided that food through the Southwest church! He saved that family and answered their prayers long before they lost everything. And through your generosity we have also begun to help a few of the very many who need assistance. School tuition for a deaf-mute girl to board in Harare. Medicine for epileptics and asthmatics and a man with meningitis. Glasses for a legally blind brother and sister. A thatched roof for a widow who lost her home in a fire. There are many more needs and many people still to meet, but God-willing, we will continue to be faithful with the funds some of you have provided.

This afternoon, we were blessed with a much-needed time of refreshing. The Leveretts, Alice, and I were treated to a ride through the game park. Washington went in search of fuel for our vehicle. While on the ride through the park, we saw elephants, warthogs, hippos, giraffes, blazeboks, elands, sable, zebras, sesseby, waterbucks, enclosed lions and hyenaes (it is a populated area, after all) and black rhinos. Imire Game Park is a black rhino conservatory. Behind our thatched cottages (and outside the fence) we've seen a small herd of wildebeasts, ostriches, and sessebys on more than one occassion. Truly awesome.

I must close now. I don't know when I'll be able to write next--we'll be heading off to another location tomorrow. We may be unable to communicate, however I will do so if the Lord wills. Many blessings and much love. We miss you.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Lord is My Seatbelt

This morning, Saturday, we met with the Sanganai church on a wide rock under hillside trees. They warmly received Lynn's message before sharing their own needs and requests with us. Everywhere the people are hungry and suffering, but we see signs of hope as well. Many homes have gardens and guinea fowl or goats; the Leveretts tell me that was not so in 2003.

We went on to Gumbonzvanda--trust me, I can write these names but not pronounce them--where Lynn spoke again. The congregation asked us to eat a meal with them afterward in order to seal our friendship, so we sat for perhaps an hour and a half while the women killed and fried the chickens and cooked the sadza and kale for a tasty, although heavy-on-the-sadza meal. We three Americans were honored with forks. Everyone else ate with their fingers as is the custom.

Leaving that place, we took a winding, sandy shortcut through the brush to arrive at the Makwarimba church which meets at a school. There were well over 100 people crowded into a small classroom. This is a church the Leveretts visited three years ago; it's much bigger now, plus a small sister congregation was there to join us.

Though we hoped to be some encouragement to the brothers and sisters in this land, we have continually been refreshed by their perseverance and faith.

And now my note for the women: some of you will be curious to know just how things are here, really. It is much like camping, only better. Yes, there are bugs, a tremendous spider near the roof of my thatched cottage that I pretend is not there, and every now and then the electricity goes off. We've used the pit toilets a few times, snuck our hand sanitizer after greeting the brethren, and avoided certain water. But I've bathed every day, used the hairdryer (the curling iron gave up the ghost--the converter was too much for it), and enjoyed more food than I can eat. I have at all times felt safe, though to be sure, that is because of our great God. Yes, the Lord is my seatbelt, and though I must occassionally hold on to keep from bouncing into the front seat, I have not feared the cattle, goats, potholes, slow moving trucks, pedestrians, oncoming traffic, or ox-carts that hug our lane. Which is on the left side of the road, by the way. If there's more than one lane at all.

This is a land of beautiful scenery, beautiful people, and a beautiful spirit. Every bit of it is fascinating to me--from the eucalyptus gum trees and flat-topped acacias, to the monkeys darting across the road, to the precious dark-eyed children outrunning our vehicle over rough terrain.

And now I'm very tired. Blessings to you. Thank you for your prayers. God is good.

Love and hugs, Caron

Friday, September 15, 2006


Today, Friday, we began at the Mukondwa Secondary School. Lynn spoke outside for the first of six times today to the students who were called not with a bell, but by a girl using a stick to hit a bucket hanging from a tree. Then he spoke to the church that meets there, and we were delighted to see they were using Bibles printed by Roger Dickson at African Christian Press in Cape Town.

We went on to Magamba School. The children, poor things, stood facing the sun as their headmaster instructed while Lynn preached and goats wandered through the school yard carrying on in their noisy way. Cows grazed nearby under an almost cloudless sky, and a dog knawed at his rangy hindquarters. The headmaster invited us in afterward and spoke these gracious words: "It is our custom not to host our guests outside. You must bring your shadow (your presence) inside so that we will know you and the memory of you will stay with us. We are a small school--only 320 students, 14 teachers, 6 student teachers. We are poor as you can see, but we are proud of our school. We want you to know that you are always welcome. We need your words of spiritual and moral encouragement--they are the hope of our people."

From there we drove many, many miles (1-1.5 hours) over dirt roads farther into the countryside than the Leverettts had previously travelled. Past huts and ox-plowed fields and stick fences and mountains and avacado and wild orange trees. We arrived late, finding the 4-month-old Chigondo church waiting for us under a tree. A flat metal post between two rocks served as our seat because we were guests; others sat in the dirt or on rocks. An elderly Christian man we had picked up to travel in the back of the pickup led the singing and spoke words of encouragement to the people before and after Lynn's message. A young man showed me a very good, almost life-size statue of himself that he'd carved and I snapped a photo of him beside it. Three women decided to place their hope in Christ, confessed him as Lord, and were entrusted to one of the brothers for baptism. To my sorrow, we could not stay to witness it--we had to go on to another church; they had to walk into the mountains to find a stream.

Our truck struggled down an ox-path to take us to the St. Clements church an hour or so away. When we finally arrived--very late--the women stood by their huts at the end of a narrow foot path through the grass, singing us in like angels welcoming us home to heaven. The men wanted them to come sit under the trees near our truck, but I couldn't wait to greet these sisters of mine. I felt so joyful that I scurried down the path, my arms opened wide. We greeted with hugs and laughter, like long-lost friends. I know the Spirit of God is among them and He delighted my soul in their company. Again Lynn spoke and the old man lifted our hearts--and their voices--in Shona praise. Three more came to express their faith and request baptism.

Too soon, we made our way back through the rugged creek-bed-of-a-road and on to the Maruta church. There are many widows there, and they pleaded for our help. Brother Godwin will collect all requests so that we can prayerfully discern where and how to spend our Lord's money. Two little girls sat near me while Lynn preached and could not seem to take their eyes from me--no shyness in them; they met my gaze measure for measure. Afterward I hugged them and spoke to them and asked to take our picture together. Another six girls hurried to our side to be included before the photo was taken.

So, this is what it's like, I said to God. Later, when I am not on a borrowed computer, I will take time to better express my heart. But this feeling I have is what it's like to meet a people who suffer greatly, who put their faith and hope in God, who will accept us gladly as their brothers and sisters in Christ, who yearn to know more of our Lord, who walk miles and miles to share the gospel or receive it. I thank the Father for showing me these things and for filling my heart to overflowing.

Continue your prayers. God has been with us in mighty ways that I will be able to share when I return home.

Love and thumbs up, Caron [it will make more sense later :)

Imire Game Park

I can hardly express how good and pure and fascinating this day has been. Good, because we have met many godly sacrificial people--in Rukweza, Dorowa, and Wedza. Pure, because we have seen the heart of God at work among his people and the orphans who are so sweet and vulnerable. Fascinating, because the African countryside is such a beautiful sight, dotted with thatched huts, mango, lemon, popo, and fig trees, and always the people walking with bundles on their heads or babies on their backs.

We began at Rukweza after a 2-3 hour drive. There is a church and a feeding center where a graceful and gracious young woman named Loveness oversees the 6-days of feeding each week. They fed 117 orphans today, plus a man in a wheelchair whom Alvaro taught to repair shoes. The children and women surrounded our vehicle when we arrived, each one shaking or touching our hands. I could not hide the tears behind my sunglasses, though I tried. After their lunch--we were given a plate of rice and sadza (a thick, flavorless porridge of cornmeal) and a small piece of chicken after all the children had eaten--the little ones sang for us and put on a short humorous play about the importance of education. Apparently, if we make failing grades, we will all end up dead on the side of the road! :)

After Rukweza, we went to Dorowa where I met Assan and his family. Assan began a church under a tree after he became a Christian about 6 years ago and has started a number of other churches since. Assan traveled with us to Wedza to stay with Godwin and his family for a few days.

Godwin has arranged for 11 or 14 or 15 churches (I can't remember which number I heard) to gather in their respective locations in the vicinity so that Lynn can preach to them over the next 3 days. I think Lynn will speak 5 or 6 times tomorrow.

We are now at the beautiful Imire Game Park near Wedza. Getting in was a small adventure because they thought we were to arrive this morning, so they had long since given up on us and closed the gates. The roads are pitch black in the countryside, we had no cell service, and had forgotten the phone number anyway. We honked ineffectively a few times, but the Lord knew our need and sent a young employee peddling along the road on a bicycle. He managed to get us in, and we soon found our cottages--African style thatched huts. We just finished a delicious dinner of Chakalaka soup (spicy!), sweet and sour chicken, and a delicious pudding with authentic rich cream. I was delighted when they said I could email from here. We will be here through Sunday night, Lord willing, so I hope to continue posting. I'm looking forward to seeing the park and it's animals in the daylight--and rather glad I couldn't see them in the dark!

I must tell you this brief story--not a tear-jerker, but one that made us laugh for some time. As we were driving to Wedza in the setting sun, many school children walking miles to their homes for the night, waving often to those who were glad to see a passing vehicle, one little boy turned and excitedly yelled something in Shona at the top of his lungs. Washington, Alice, and Assan laughed heartily.

"Could you understand him?" I asked.

Alice nodded.

"What did he say?"

She looked at Assan next to her then back at me. "White people!" :)

Much love, joy, and peace to you as we are experiencing it here, Caron

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Settling-in In Zimbabwe

God has been blessing us abundantly, answering so many prayers by making our travel easy. Our flight arrived 10 minutes early in Harare. We were the last flight into the airport last night, so there were only the passengers on our plane who needed visas and to go through customs. Our friend Justin had a long wait last February, but things moved quickly for us.

Because we were bringing many Bibles and World Bible School materials with us to give away, we were concerned about delays. I was waiting in line for my visa while Paula and Lynn were paying for their's, when a young airport employee approached me. "Are you Caron?" he asked, pointing to the WBS name badge Paula had made for me.

"Yes," I replied.

"And you are with World Bible School?"

"I am."

He smiled and pointed to his chest. "I am a member of World Bible School!"

I sent him to Paula, knowing she'd want to visit with him. By the time I got my visa, they had our bags, he'd waived us through customs, and Paula had 3 new WBS students--our baggage handlers! Praise God for answering our and your prayers in such a delightful manner.

Alice and Washington, our guides, are a wonderful couple. We slept comfortably in their sprawling, gated home. We bathed in very cool, very shallow baths, but our hair dryers worked, so Paula and I were happy. :) I even got to phone Bob and talk to Caleb, too. This morning we repacked for our trip throughout eastern Zimbabwe, registered at the embassy, and are now at the Avondale church of Christ and World Bible School offices.

We waited for W & A outside the embassy while they ran an errand. We sat across from a park, and I enjoyed snapping a few photos of the flowering vines and beautiful people. Since we've been at the church, the Leveretts have been reunited with a number of old friends--even as I am making new ones. Timothy--the young man many of us prayed for and helped travel to South Africa for heart surgery a few years ago--is here now, visiting with them. He is doing so well. His mother also stopped by, as has Si, a woman who helped start churches near Wedza. It is a good day.

Tomorrow we head to Wedza (Hwedza) via the Rukweza feeding center in Rusape. At least that's what Alice tells me. :) She knows everything.

I feel so blessed and am fascinated by everything, making lots of journal entries, and enjoying meeting the good people of this country.

Love you all! I will post as I can.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

In Johannesburg

Praise God we've completed the longest leg of our journey--the almost 18 hours from DC to Johannesburg, South Africa. We had a great flight. The Lord was kind to us as it turns out the flight was not full and we each had an empty seat beside us to allow us to lay down for some rest. We don't know yet if our luggage made it since it is checked all the way to Harare, but we have every reason to suspect it is at least here in South Africa with us.

We are at the home of Al & Donna Horn, African missionaries for nearly fifty years. Al is a native South African. They graciously picked us up from the airport and have provided lunch and lively conversation during our seven hour layover. We will return to the airport soon for our flight into Zimbabwe.

Our plane circled Dakar, Senegal for nearly 45 minutes last night before we could land to refuel. The problem? According to the pilot there were three: Dakar airport has no radar, there was a bit of a "traffic jam," and there was a "comedy of errors" on the ground. We were very thankful for your prayers! Another interesting note: in DC and in Dakar, the cabin of the airplane was "sprayed." Yes, sprayed with a strong smelling aerosol as required by the World Health Organization. Pesticides. No kidding.

I have to admit the computer screen seems to be swaying. We're pretty worn out and have been moving for so long I have that roadtrip syndrom--I feel like I'm still moving. One more 2-hour flight to go!

We love you all. Hugs to our families. More later as we get email access.

God is hearing your prayers and surrounding us with your love and His!

En Route

Hey Guys, Caron has asked if I would post to her blog since she did not have internet access before she left.

Lynn and Paula arrived in Washington around mid-night on the 10th after visiting family in Abilene and Dallas. They rendezvoued with Caron at breakfast before heading to the airport.

The plane took off on time and was not very full according to Caron. She called me from the plane and was excited that the seat next to her was empty. I guess if I was flying for 20+ hours I would be excited about the seat being empty too. They should land in Johannesburg for re-fueling and a 7 hour layover before heading on to Zimbabwe. They should arrive around 9 P.M. local time in Harare. Please pray that they will get through customs fairly quickly. Last February Justin Nash was in line for 4 hours just to get his entry visa.

I'm not as good at blogging as Caron; she asked if I would share this information since she didn't have internet access before leaving to the airport yesterday. I'll try to keep the news flowing as I hear what's going on.

May God bless you, and your's.



Sunday, September 10, 2006


Well, I made it to DC safe and sound--except for two broken fingernails. That, I can handle. My luggage is HEAVY, filled as it is with World Bible School materials, Bibles, etc. Wrestling both pieces off the carousel and loading them onto a $3.00 cart no doubt provided comic relief for passersby. That $3.00 was worth every penny. Frankly, I thanked the Lord my baggage made it: Continental, Houston, and my suitcases have had issues. Remember that final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark--the one where the ark disappears in a cavernous warehouse? Kind of like that.

There's nothing but closed office buildings, trees, and a lone Burger King outside the hotel. Fortunately, I'm fine with a cheeseburger and fries. Now I'm just relaxing, waiting for the Leveretts, and already missing my family. Exciting, huh?

Keep those prayers going!

:) Caron

Saturday, September 09, 2006

This is It!

It's almost 11 pm. I have to be at the airport around 6 tomorrow morning, but since I don't know when my next opportunity to post will come along, I thought I'd better do so.

I'm a little keyed up, I think. Just cleaned the bathroom. :) It was either the search for my missing credit card that got me going--which I didn't find, by the way--or the first two episodes of Lost, Season 2 that I watched with my guys.

That said, I really do feel God's peace and presence and am eager to head off on this journey. Thank you for your continued prayers. The Father is responding.

Please pray for the Leveretts. One of their flights tomorrow has been cancelled, so they're going to be delayed getting into DC. While I arrive mid-afternoon, they won't get in until after 11 pm.

But all is well.

Many blessings, Caron

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Prayer Requests

Paula, Lynn, and I met with the shepherds of the Southwest church today at their request so that they could pray for our upcoming journey. What a blessing to be under the loving, supportive oversight of these passionate, godly, prayerful disciples.

I thought you might want to know some of the specific prayer requests that the Leveretts and I shared to help guide your prayers as well.

Paula asks that God ease her back pain during our travels and that the Lord be with Alice, our guide, who has high blood pressure. The trip will be very rigorous. She also asks that God will allow us to accomplish what we need to in our short time there and that we will trust him when unexpected things come up.

Lynn asks that we be granted wisdom in every situation so that we might meet the needs of the people and build up the body of Christ. It breaks his heart to have to walk away knowing people are still suffering.

I ask that I might not be undone by what I see, and that God will give me a holy gift to write the stories he would have me tell on behalf of the Zimbabwean people.

Please pray for our families, too. We are so thankful for their love. I am humbled and grateful that Bob and my children are so supportive of this endeavor. Praise God.

Mark and Flora Swartz, of Cape Town and the Vinyard inner city mission, were at Southwest today. We were blessed and excited to hear of that effective incarnational work. God is doing amazing things there. We enjoyed lunch with the Swartzes—I fell in love with Flora—and we look forward to staying with them in their home later this month, Lord willing.

The journey begins in one week.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Her Journey

I have to tell you about a friend of mine. One episode of her faith journey this summer has been directly related to my upcoming trip to Zimbabwe. It’s taught me a lot about her good and sincere heart, and even more about the sufficiency and abundance of our great God.

My friend—who’s given me permission to share her story—formerly sold real estate. She and her husband work hard in their own business now. Though the Lord has blessed them, like most of us, they have those things that come up on a regular basis that stretch their budget to the limit. From time to time she receives calls from people wanting to sell or buy homes. She refers them to another agent who provides her with a cut of the commission.

This summer her heart was pricked by what God was doing through Alvaro Dos Santos’s passion for feeding orphans and widows in Africa. In July she received my email asking for prayers concerning my trip and explaining that I was counting on God to raise the money if it was his timing and will that I go. She thought and prayed about what she could do to help, finally deciding that if she got another real estate referral, she’d devote that money to funding my journey.

It was an easy decision until she got a referral within the week. In fact, she informed me immediately so she “wouldn’t allow Satan” to change her mind. She estimated she might be paid four or five hundred dollars and asked me to pray the house would sell quickly.

Satan would indeed make it tough for her. The next day, she was in a car wreck. No injuries, but the deductible would be—you guessed it—five hundred dollars. She wrestled with her decision, hoping I’d understand if she had to use the money. I did understand, and gave her my blessing to do so. But the following day she called me: She would to be faithful to her promise to God and trust him in these circumstances.

The house was under contract by mid-August. The agent expected it to close Thursday, August 31st. The sellers were going to live with a relative for a while, taking their time to find the right new home.

This sister wrote yesterday to ask how much of the money I actually needed. To be honest, I struggled with what to say. I wanted her to experience God’s freedom in this matter. My travel expenses and immunizations were covered; God had provided sufficient funds. But there were other considerations greater than my own. So, I told her how the economy is so unsettled in Zimbabwe that our expenses in country have soared in keeping with the hyperinflation the citizens are experiencing there. That whatever gift she offered would be timely and not in excess of our needs. That it is important to the Leveretts and me that our visit does not create a financial or physical burden for any of the Zimbabwean Christians. Though most of them are destitute, they would give out of their poverty to provide for us, and we do not want that to be the case.

I told her that Paula asked me to bring in cash whatever money remains after my expenses have been reimbursed. That Paula said—and Justin Nash told me, too—we will be surrounded by people with incredible need, and that with God's discernment and wisdom, we will (He will) be able to provide medicine, treatment, or financial assistance to those who think there is no hope. That Justin told me how at every location, Alvaro picked out the person with the worst health problem—they were usually outcast because of it—honored them before the people, then paid for their medical care.

She replied, “Thank you for answering my question so perfectly. I will give you all that I get and I cannot wait to hear where God puts that money in Africa, whose lives it touches and how.”

A few hours later she phoned. She’d picked up the check, but it wasn’t what she had anticipated. It was more. Much more. A total of eighteen hundred dollars. God had not only sold the home in a matter of weeks, he’d helped the sellers find a new home they loved. God’s abundance and the joy in her voice made me tremble before our perfect and refining and faithful Heavenly Father.

I thank God for my friends—for all of you who teach me so much through your journeys of faith. Because of your faith, many of you have provided generously to me on behalf of the innocent ones in Zimbabwe. Because of your faith, others of you provide elsewhere. And because of your faith, you offer your prayers, the sweetest and most valuable gift of all.

I love you.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Hammock in My Backyard

My husband, a minister, takes Fridays off. He often stays busy meeting a bunch of firefighters and paramedics for breakfast at United, lunching with anyone who wants to talk, catching up on the things he likes to do. But today he joined me on the hammock for a little while.

I love my hammock, a mother's day gift a few years ago. I interrupted Bob's puttering and told him I'd be waiting there for him. Then I slipped outside, settled myself on the wide, gently rocking bed, and looked up into the clearest blue sky I'd seen in weeks. The air, soft from recent rains, felt like silk on my arms; the sun, like a warm hug. Bob came out, tipping the hammock as he situated himself. It takes talent getting two people on and off the thing. We talked for a few minutes. Then we dozed.

I hang out on the hammock a lot, but not nearly enough lately. My philosophy is that every home should have one, and that all of us should spend more time on them. I snuggle with my kids there, pray there, figure out storylines there, and take lots and lots of catnaps there. In fact, I love dashing to the hammock in search of God and his solace and finding it through prayer and ten minutes of weightless sleep.

I'm ashamed to admit I've been consumed with the Zimbabwe trip as if my Father doesn't have every detail under control. Yes, I've met with folks and worked on Line of Departure stuff and helped my boy with his homework and watched movies and read the Word and done laundry and run errands and written on my new novel, but my thoughts always go back to this upcoming journey. I've spent too many hours in the last few weeks wondering how I'll handle it all and whether I'm packing too much or not enough.

But today, on the hammock, I found freedom from Zimbabwe and everything else, my head cushioned by my husband's strong arm, tensions soothed by the sun, spirit lulled by the sound of trees rustling in the breeze, thinking about nothing. Just enjoying God's blessings. My friend Jerome calls it soulspace. Having space in our life for God to push past the clutter and into our hearts.

And he did.