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.