Saturday, September 29, 2007


I received a forwarded report from a Zimbabwean man just yesterday, corresponding on behalf of a preaching school. He writes, in part:

“We are grateful for the Lord’s grace that showers our lives as we are going through difficult times in this country. Our beautiful country is going through turbulent economic difficulties with people failing to get enough to eat. However, this does not discourage us to continue preaching and teaching the message of Jesus Christ . . .

“During the past three and half years, our school took a deliberate shift towards producing as much food as we can for our own consumption . . . we now have six head of cattle and we are already using the ox as draught power in our rented field . . . . During the last agricultural season, we managed to produce two tonnes of maize (corn). . . . During the first half of this year, we had 500 [laying hens] producing an average of 450 eggs every day. These were slaughtered in July after reaching the end of their laying period. Unfortunately, we have not been able to replace these layers because of the unavailability of chicks. . . . Our vegetable garden that was thriving during the first half of the year is now under moisture stress because of the unavailability of water. As we are writing this report, we have not had any running water in our [taps] during the first two weeks of September. Fortunately, most of our greens are under drip irrigation; therefore, the beds retain moisture for at least a week. We are now ferrying water from other sources to sustain this project.

“The economic situation in Zimbabwe is difficult to comprehend because fundamentals have been twisted. In July 2007, the government decided to control the rate of inflation by slashing the price of all goods resulting in producers failing to produce at the government given prices. This tinkering resulted in acute shortage of nearly all products and services. Literally most of our shops are empty even clothing stores. Queues are a common sight. [We have] managed to source nearly all our basic groceries from South Africa and Botswana . . . . These days one will be considered a connected person if found drinking a soft drink like coke or having bread for breakfast. Please pray for our country because only a divine intervention will save us from this economic quagmire.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but never, in my wildest imagination, would I consider a Coke or bread for breakfast a symbol of my success.

Our team of six—we’ve added one to our group just this week—is about to embark on a journey that pales in comparison to that which the gracious, dignified people of Zimbabwe are living each day. Sure, in this oppressed nation there are plenty of thieves, violent men, corrupt leaders, and people who stir up strife, but the men and women I know are resourceful, strong, hopeful, and generous even in their poverty.

And knowing them makes me feel very well-connected.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Zimbabwe '07 minus Nine

Well, in nine days I begin the journey back to Zimbabwe. What different emotions I'm experiencing this year! Last year I was traveling to a foreign country to meet strangers. This year, I'm on my way to a beloved land to visit precious friends.
To be sure, our small group will meet many new souls and make friends out of more strangers, but today joy has replaced uncertainty, affection has replaced apprehension.
I certainly know better how to pack! My suitcase will be filled with even less of my own belongings and more things to leave behind for a people who go without so many necessities and luxuries. I'll be taking donated art supplies for young Joseph who stole my heart last year with his artist's passion (see "All the Same" posted about Sep. 23, 2006). I'll take more practical shoes this year. And shoes for children. I found a pair of old eyeglasses in a drawer when we moved that I can give away. I'll stock up on allergy medication, toilet paper, and granola bars. I've already been to the benevolence center at the Southwest church to pick out long, polyester dresses to wear and then share. Dear Paula taught me that trick; keeps us from wasting space with our own clothing.
To be honest, part of me dreads this trip. I'm exhausted. I have too many other things to do. The journey is challenging and there are so many inconveniences. I don't want to go without my husband, but though we'd planned to go together this time and take our youngest son, our recently changed circumstances prevent this. I don't want to leave my students with a substitute for two weeks. The orphans, the starving, the sick, the oppressed all leave me emotionally weary.
But my heart is another matter. My heart is ready, my passion for the purpose of our journey is at its peak. I can't wait to hug Alice and Chipo and Kuda and Si. To meet Pamela's sister who has corresponded with me since Pamela's death (see "God Blesses Zimbabwe . . . ," Sep. 17, 2006; "Pamela Farayi Mutambirwa's story," June 4, 2007; "Grief & Glory," July 31, 2007). I can't wait to grasp the rough and dusty hands of those sweet children who've lost so much. To take their pictures with my digital camera and laugh with them when they see their faces on the screen. To visit the schools and churches. To discuss challenging truths with church leaders and their spouses. To sing with believers under the shade of a fig tree. To hear goats bleeting as they pass through the schoolyard. And, yes, even to eat sadza with my fingers from a plate that's probably never been properly washed.
On second thought, my journey back to Zimbabwe doesn't begin in nine days. It began the moment I came to love its gracious, beautiful people.
You can keep up with Paula, Lynn, Brian, Jerry, and myself by visiting this blog while we're away. I'll post as often as time and Internet access allow. You may also contact me to request that my blog be sent directly to you via email. At any time, you can email blogposts to friends from the blog site by clicking on the small envelope icon at the end of a post.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Squeeze Me, Lord

His purpose is not the development of a person—His purpose is to make a person exactly like Himself, and the Son of God is characterized by self-expenditure.—Oswald Chambers

So I’m reading these words from My Utmost for His Highest this morning, and I’m struck by the sentences I underlined a year ago. They impressed me then, and no less today.

In the past few years I’ve really been torn between the desire to fully express who I am and fully express who God is in me. I believe He gives us all things: our talents, our holy desires, our passions.

But Chambers is right: . . . it is not what we gain (my thoughts: success, outlets for our creativity, satisfaction in being fully ourselves) but what He pours through us that really counts.

So I’m going to keep pursuing the dreams I believe He's given me—staying “fully alive”—but I’m going to remember: God’s purpose is not simply to make us beautiful, plump grapes, but to make us grapes so that He may squeeze the sweetness out of us.

For His purpose. His glory. Amen.