Tuesday, October 23, 2007


You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. —Eph. 4:22-24

In the context of our conversation yesterday, my husband asked me a question that really started me thinking. He asked, “Who is the most spiritual person you know?”

After some deliberation, I offered two names. Then he told me who he considered the most spiritual. To be honest, at first I was a bit taken back with his choice.

You see, my husband and I were using different criteria to answer the question. My response was based on two people who, by their language and demeanor, communicate a deep spirituality. Whether or not their lives truly measure up—and they really seem to—is another matter and one only our perfect and grace-giving God can judge. Despite the direction of our conversation, I really don’t want to try to discern that.

But my husband’s answer was based on who he knows that most exhibits transformation.

I was still thinking about that conversation as I got ready for work this morning. And as I put my plate in the dishwasher after the great dinner my husband made tonight. No, I didn’t continue to ponder who, indeed, is the most spiritual person I know. Those kinds of questions are really rather dangerous if dwelled on too long, leading to all sorts of judgments and comparisons and other foolishness.

What really stirred my thoughts and chastised my heart was the fact that I didn’t link transformation to spirituality. Maybe I would have gotten there eventually, but the point is that I didn’t get there immediately.

And me, with all my talk about transformation.

I love that my husband quite confidently and simply boiled spirituality down to a transformed life. There’s something to be argued about that. I mean, what’s the difference if I read all the right books or know how to pray good prayers or can teach publically or visit orphan feeding centers or manage to win people to Christ if I’m not putting off my old self and becoming like Jesus?

How much more spiritual can you be than to become like God in true righteousness and holiness?

Using that criteria alone, I pray that someday I’ll be able to answer my husband’s question: “Who’s the most spiritual person you know?” with one short, truthful answer and in absolute humility: “Me.”

Monday, October 15, 2007

WalMart Did Me In

I ran into WalMart last night on my way to meet with the SW Life Group that has adopted us and felt bowled over by the carnival atmosphere. My footstep slowed as the lights and music and color and food, food, food crowded 'round me. A vision of empty store shelves in a shop lit only by daylight from the window at a gas station with no fuel slammed my mind and stole my breath. I took a cart and headed down the aisle fighting back tears.

It's not that I felt guilty for our abundance; I felt compassion and powerlessness in light of the enormous poverty I've recently witnessed.

I had only a few things to purchase, but didn't think I'd make it. How strange would it be to see a middle-aged woman sobbing in the salad dressing aisle? I swiped at the tears threatening my cheeks, allowed my mind to linger only a moment on the faces in the hut where fifty-five of us crowded in to sing Shona praise, swallowed the lump in my throat, took care of business, and fled the store, forgetting one of the four things I intended to buy. I let a few tears escape on my way to the Bible study then wept at home later when I told Bob about it.

I know it'll be like that. When I'm in Zimbabwe I mostly function as the situation demands. Once home, I deal with the emotions of the experience. Often at all the wrong times and when I least expect it.

I see this morning that my one missing post written on Wednesday from Imire Game Park arrived at last. If it wasn't emailed directly to you, it's located between "Our hearts are full" and "We are SO in Africa." Ironically, it's titled "Better Late Than Never."

Pray for me today if you read this early: I've been awake since 2 am and finally gave up and got out of bed at 4:45. It's off to school in a little over an hour now, and I don't want to be a bear or a zombie for my students. It will likely take divine intervention.

Pray mostly for Zimbabwe and her people. I take great comfort in knowing that God is already at work intervening--I see it in the many Christians and other organizations stepping in to feed and clothe the people and treat the sick. I see it in the faith expressed by Zimbabwean men and women who have little more than faith to live on. I see it in the smile of an orphan who's treated with compassion by an old woman dishing up sadza.

Yes, WalMart did me in, but God binds me up. His compassion is far greater than mine and he comforts and intercedes in a way I am powerless to do. I rest in his faithfulness.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

On The Way Home

I know it's Sunday and I'm home now, but I wanted to share with you the blog post I began in a little spiral notebook on the way home Friday. I was delighted that we flew from Zimbabwe during the daytime--so often on overseas flights one travels at night when you can't see anything. Loving geography as I do, I kept my nose plastered to the window during most of our ten-hour flight from Harare to London. I can't tell you how short those ten hours seemed!

I most anticipated flying over the Sahara Desert and it didn't disappoint. Every glance out my window revealed a different Sahara--a sort of topographical schizophrenia. There were great sand storms, dust rising for miles above the earth. I saw mountains, plateaus, massive black rocks, and curious white pockmarks. There were a multitude of designs in the sand, like a child's finger drawings: straight furrows like plowed fields, round bubble clouds, diamond-shaped ridges that reminded me of the pattern on my grandmother's worn couch, and lunar-style surfaces.

From my vantage point I could see ancient riverbeds as brown, cracked, and dry as the heels of a Zimbabwean bushwoman. Apricot mists of dust hanging low over barren valleys. A stray wisp of cloud. A road, needle thin and orange, notable only because of its inflexibility. Dunes the shape of continents and the size of small countries, vast carmel canyons and dramatic cliffs, deceptively smooth peach-colored expanses like frozen lakes in a Michigan winter. Brown fingers clawing toward the western horizon. Giant chicken scratches from a land beyond the beanstalk. Papaya-colored waves on a stormy sea of sand, the veins on an old woman's hands, broccoli floweretts of stone.

The seatbelt light came on with a ding as a blanket of taupe clouds muted the landscape below to a boring putty. Before long, the clouds thinned and the seatbelt light popped off. I'm quite certain I spied a plateau the shape of a stegasaurus--the jolly kind, round and friendly like an illustration from a toddler's book.

At last we popped out over a sheet metal gulf on our way to the Tunisian coastline. A large frighter below looked no bigger than the smallest Battleship gamepiece.

Within minutes we were back over land again, a patchwork of browns crisscrossed by etch-a-sketch roads. At long last, cities and villages became visible. We flew over dotted fields and terraced farms. Milk chocolate terrain gave way to a startling dark chocolate canyon. A green lake nestled among rugged hills, its tributaries wandering off to become lost in the valleys, its surface turning white as frosting in the changing sunlight as we passed by.

And then we were over the sandy beaches of the African coast, the Mediterranean waters close to shore a vivid blue-green. October is typically a stormy time in the Mediterranean, and though the clouds were thin, turbulence forced us to 40,000 feet.

Soon we reached the island of Sardinia, water filling in the gaps of its fringed coastline. It's a rugged land, dark as potting soil, smoothing out to a gentle northern coast.

We crossed the European border at Nice on the French Riviera, its beach barely discernable though I know it to be rocky from the afternoon I spent lounging there twenty-six years ago this month, I believe. I've not had a glimpse of France since my semester in Italy with Harding University.

Like a blanket tossed in a heap on the floor, the French Alps mounded below us. I spotted a rainbow among the thin clouds and a mountain peak pushing through the mist. A smaller airplane left its jet trail as it crossed our path far below.

Eventually, jagged treeless peaks rose high above green river valleys, their rocky crags packed with last winter's snow. Finally, low thick clouds hugged the earth like a mantle and only occassionally did a mountain top peek its head out.

The clouds refused to part so that I could see Grenoble, Lyon, Macon, Auxerre, Vaux-le-Vicomte, or even Paris and the English Channel as the onflight map indicated. I couldn't even view London until we dove through the cloud cover just before landing.

Five hours at Heathrow--including a three-hour flight delay--allowed us to reacclimate to Western culture as we enjoyed Starbucks drinks, piped-in contemporary music, a purchased USA Today newspaper, Dr. Pepper for Adrian and Brian, and pizza at an Italian restaurant near our gate.

We were gratefully, brilliantly, amazingly, definitely on our way home.


Brian and I arrived home safely yesterday afternoon; Jerry and Adrian caught an earlier flight out of Boston. The Leveretts are due in today. I've slept a lot, trying to be rested for work this week, and have shared many stories with my husband and son. Our little rental seems so luxurious; our simple Sunday lunch so rich and elaborate.

In Zimbabwe these days, one can hardly find bread or milk or sugar or salt or cokes or matches or fuel. Grocery shelves are largely empty. The electricity is off perhaps more than it's on. If you're lucky enough to have a borehole, then you only need to boil your water. If, as in Harare, you're forced to use untreated city water, then you must freeze, boil, and freeze the water again in hopes of killing all the microbes that pollute it. That's if the water's running at all. And you're fortunate if you don't live in the neighborhoods where raw sewage floods the streets.

I spoke with a young Zimbabwean man who dreams of coming to America where he can live a comfortable life. I admitted to him that he would likely be able to do so, but warned him of the spiritual poverty that plagues our culture. At least in Zimbabwe, people are drawing near to God, for He is their only hope. Here, we hope in many lesser things.

So, as much as I'm delighted to be home--where I can love on my family and use a real toilet that I fully expect will flush and open a refrigerator filled with anything I want and ride in a car that doesn't rattle my teeth--I'm returning with a sharpened focus on what's most important: Jesus, and the hope he gives. Jesus, and the relationship he offers. Jesus, and the love and compassion he models. Jesus, and the tranformation he works in us.

For without him, we're all in poverty.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Finishing up

It's nearly two weeks now since we left home and we're eager to return, but I won't say it'll be easy to leave Zimbabwe. I'm not sure it's possible to take you're whole heart home with you once you've been here. We must be at the airport by daybreak tomorrow--which is quite early here--to catch our 7:30 flight to London. Jerry, Adrian, Brian and I will continue on to Boston from there while the Leveretts stay overnight. The four of us will arrive late in Boston and must stay less than 12 hours before our flights to Dallas and home. Fortunately, we have hotel rooms booked. The Leveretts will fly to Chicago on Saturday, stay the night, and then home on Sunday.
Today we drove about an hour to Marewa and then another 20-30 minutes down a dirt road to Rapenga school where a church and several area schools met us. The children sang and recited Bible verses. The older women requested their pictures taken and the younger asked us to help them get to America. The area around Marewa actually seemed to be slightly better off than many areas where we've travelled, though that is by far a relative term. Southwest church in Amarillo has several new World Bible School students in this area, and a former WBS student is evangelizing there. His name is Peter Marumba, and he lives with the village head. He introduced us to his girlfriend whom he'd like to marry, but he doesn't have the bride price and hasn't yet persuaded us to donate it to him, though he has tried. We did purchase a bicycle for him with funds given to Brian by friends from Southwest; he was very excited to receive it today. We made it very clear that we only had an hour to spend in Marewa, but the introductions and messages and mingling ran long and then Peter took us to the home of a family who'd prepared rice and chicken for us. The mother and one of the adult daughters knelt on the floor and poured water over our hands into a basis to rinse them before dishing up our plates. We were very fortunate to have spoons to eat with. The family had a pen with turkeys and washbins full of chicks which are hard to come by these days. We are on Africa time, of course, so it was no surprise that our one hour in Marewa stretched to four. And that was with the itinerary Peter made for us quite unfinished!
Upon our return to Harare, Washington took us to the market where the guys and I purchased some souveniers. We spent nearly $25 million Zim--every $100,000 note we had on us. :) The exchange rate has changed since last week, so that is not even $50 worth, but we made some craftsmen very, very happy.
I'm sorry to say that we brought Brian to Zimbabwe and he took a turn for the worse--literally. But his driving improved once he got us out of the middle of the intersection and back on the correct side of the road. Actually, Brian and Jerry did a fantastic job of driving us down single lane roads, dirt roads, oxcart paths, and around (and occassionally through) large potholes. Paula says Jerry has earned his PhD here--he's now a certified pot-hole dodger.
Soon we're taking the Mhlangas to dinner and will meet Alvaro Dos Santos's brother, Chris, as well has his son, Phillip, there. We're looking forward to seeing Phillip whom the Leveretts and I have known for some time now. The Mhlanga's have no water today, but fortunately they've stored some up; nevertheless, I'm really rooting for a shower before heading to the airport in the morning. I rented a shower at Heathrow in London on the way, but our layover will be short tomorrow. Adrian received his dufflebag only yesterday, but he's looking forward to wearing clean clothes home. We're looking forward to him doing so, too!
It's doubtful I'll be able to write before Boston at least, so I will give you all my love and ask you to continue praying for us. Our souls are good.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Our hearts are full

Today, Wednesday, we drove up and down hills, past goats and cows along the roadside, around curves that gave gorgeous views of mountains and craggy valleys to Dorowa to visit the church there and Assan, our native missionary. Assan and his wife also run a feeding center in the front yard of the home he built himself. He even made the bricks, digging the dirt from an anthill and mixing it with water to bake in a homemade kiln. Last year when we were there he'd completed the walls, but had no roof and only thorn branches at the windows to protect the structure from intruders. Today it was finished--a diminuitive small three-room home for a family of seven now that he's raising his brother's children who lost their parents to AIDS. He'd plastered the inside walls and the outside were plastered and painted a light pink. The children sleep on a reed mat on the concrete floor and a live hen nests in a bowl on the floor in the corner.
I say the feeding center is in the front "yard," but it's nothing more than dirt. They feed many children there and have constructed a canopy of small tree trunks or limbs for support and scraps of tarps overhead. It provides a welcome bit of shade as there is not one tree. The vat of sadza--a large barrel or drum--was so deep, and the mixture so thick, that it had to be stirred by men using four-inch diameter, five-feet long tree branches stripped of their bark. The children ate only sadza and beans. We were served rice, chicken and goat meat, but I was much too hot to be hungry for more than a little rice. Assan and the men have dug a well by hand on the property. They've reached water at 29 meters, but need to go to 50 for better quality, so we left some money for them to buy dynamite to blast the rest. They will need concrete to line it so that it does not collapse, though that is a commodity hard to come by as it's being bartered for grain.
We drove back to Wedza and past Imire on our way to Marondera where we met Kennedy at his home. He was able to provide us with more diesel for the Land Rover--we were nearly through the second tank that's been added to the vehicle. Fuel is very difficult to obtain in Zimbabwe, but Kennedy owns busses and was able to assist. We had a great visit with Kennedy who helped us get soccer balls as gifts for Wedza area schools and the police who made a request we can't afford to refuse if we want their continued friendship. He also obtained five bicycles for us to provide for three local preachers and two others who are dear to our hearts. We also met and visited with Clyde, the preacher in Marondera who has gone through SEMP training in the USA, for those of you familiar with the material Brian, Doyle, Bob and I have edited and re-written and elaborated on (with permission, of course) to become the "Line of Departure" seminar. Kennedy bought us cokes, which is almost as difficult to come by as fuel, so we felt very refreshed and pampered before heading on to Harare.
Alice and Washington were on their way to their Wednesday small group meeting when they saw us driving into town, so they followed us home and made sure we knew where to find the dinner she'd left for us. We're relaxing now and so glad to be back in the comfort of the Mhlanga's gracious hospitality.
We are so weary, but our hearts are full. I wish everyone could visit this place, even those who have no interest in it whatsoever, for it only takes a moment to love these people, to appreciate the beauty of this land, and to feel your heart break for the great needs that define this place and time. I'm convinced that our hearts must learn to break so that God can show us the extent of his great love, mercy, compassion, and comfort.
We continue to miss you all and are looking forward to returning this coming weekend, Lord willing. Thank you for your prayers and for taking care of our families!

Better Late Than Never

It's Wednesday morning, and I'm just now able to write of Tuesday because the lodge computer was having difficulties last night. It's another beautiful day . . . it seems each one is more precious than the previous, but that's because we continue to meet many amazing people.
Yesterday Brian, Jerry, Adrian, and I arose early to go with Edmore on a ride through the park. We were off just after sunrise around 5:30. Along the way we saw in the wild our giraffe friends from Monday, zebra, eland, sable, warthog, reedbuck, rhino, and elephants. We stopped for tea and shortbread that Edmore had brought with us before heading off to find the cape buffalo and the infamous Zoe. Zoe is Shona for elephant, and indeed they named this elephant "elephant" because they are trying to convince her she is truly an elephant and not one of the cape buffalo she's been living with for 34 years. She is the leader of the cape buffalo herd and has an heroic past which I think I must share later since this office is busy this morning, and I am graciously being allowed to intrude.
After the ride, we met Godwin and others in Wedza for the trip to Zana school where Adrian and Brian spoke to the students and the church that meets there. We visited with one of the teachers, a man named Witness, whom we met last year and with whom we've contracted for a Shona translation of World Bible School. Paula and I had a spontaneous interlude with the women. We asked them to share their stories with us of how God has answered their prayers and encouraged them to pray together when they meet and to continue to share their stories of God's faithfulness with one another.
From Zana we went back to Mukondwa school, to the new feeding center there. We snapped photos of the sweet children getting one of their three meals a week that the center provides. As this work is established and well-managed, the feedings may increase.
We drove to Wedza high school where we spent but a few minutes. Some students sang for us--what beautiful, soulful voices! Brian told a modern-day story about a father and son. When he concluded by saying this is the story of Jesus, the students made the connection immediately--even before Brian could make the analogies--and they broke into spontaneous applause!
We also returned to the hut church at Maruta. Fifty-five of us crowded into the hut we'd visited the day before--a structure perhaps 20 feet in diameter. It was very warm, but the fellowship was sweet. They gave us gifts of handmade pottery and needlework. And I'm pretty certain I managed to gracefully remove the roaches that crawled onto me. :)
At last we met with the Wedza church that meets in the home of a preacher named Farai. Farai is supported by the 29th & Yale church in Tulsa where I attended as a teenager. We had sweet fellowship there as well and after Adrian's message, many came asking for us to pray that God would heal them.
We came home weary and worn, but were refreshed by showers and a good meal. Though we took snacks along for our lunch, we gave most of it away, save for perhaps a miniature box of raisins or a small granola bar each. At Imire we met a group of four that are here from South Africa and London, including the director of an organization called ZimKids that also feeds orphans in the name of Jesus. I've visited their website before.
Must close and join the others for breakfast. This morning we leave Imire and head to Dorowa, Rusape, Marandara, and back to Harare. Please keep praying for us. We are grateful to God for his many mercies--we have been safe and well-treated at all times. Love you all!

Monday, October 08, 2007

We are SO in Africa

I've decided the electricity in the rural areas is only on from about 10 pm to 2 am each day. Praise God for generators. Because the email doesn't always go through promptly, I'll try to be clear about what day it is. This time I'm writing on Monday night.
Today has been a very full and heart-lifting day. We began at the Mukondwa Secondary School where Adrian, and then Brian, spoke briefly to the students. I asked the deputy headmaster first of all if he would invite his students to write to mine, and then if we might mingle with the young people for a while before they headed back to their classes. As always, the children loved to have their pictures taken and would laugh and cheer when we shook their hands. Someone interpreted for me as I invited questions from the boys about schools in America. Naturally, their greatest curiosity revolved around sports. When I told them Brian was a very good soccer player and that they should ask him to play with them, they reported they had no soccer ball. As it turned out, Jerry and Adrian had brought one for their school, so it was a delight to see that given to them.
We crossed the road to the primary school where Alvaro Dos Santos has just initiated a new feeding center only two weeks ago. We met some fifty orphans being fed there three days a week and were privileged to speak with them for several minutes. The school--glass missing or in jagged pieces in the windows, no desks, mottled blackboards barely readable--sits amid the vivid purple jacaranda trees on a hill above a valley, hazy blue mountains rising in the distance.
Next we drove to meet with a church in Maruta. After driving down an oxcart path, we parked and hiked about half a kilometer down a footpath through tall, brown grasses, past cows munching on the dry vegetation, through a gate in a bramble fence to a small grouping of huts. We were invited into the round hut which traditionally serves as the kitchen. It was neat and tidy, save the roaches skuttling up and down the walls and across the dung floor. The same painted material formed benches around the perimeter of the interior as well as a set of shelves on one section of the wall. Chipped and dented, but brightly colored plates and bowls lined the cabinet of sorts, and cooking utensils hung on nails nearby. Gourds and a homemade whisk broom were tucked into the smoke-blackened thatch roof. An old tarp, a woven reed mat, and a fraying crocheted blanket covered the floor surrounding the fire pit which was cold and clean-swept. There had been a communication problem about the time of our meeting, so we were two hours early, though word quickly spread that we'd arrived. People began to join us and the family that had provided the meeting place. They sang in Shona and Jerry spoke briefly, but we had other business to tend to, so we made arrangements to return tomorrow afternoon.
Later this afternoon we returned to Imire for appetizers at a viewing station and then a braai, with is an Afrikaans word for barbeque. Edmore piled us into the back of a pickup fitted with viewing seats and drove us out to see the newest member of the family: a baby black rhino born Sep. 20th (also Adrian's birthday, it turns out). Imire has run a black rhino breeding project for several years. Baby Tatendai (which means, "we are grateful") and his mother, DJ, were penned. On the way we saw eland and giraffes. Then we headed to the viewing platform near a lake where we saw hippos last year. There were no hippos this evening as the sun went down in a blaze of glory, but we did see several nyala and kudu as well as warthogs. We returned the lodge for a visit with Kennedy who has come to see us. The manager barbequed for us, and I must say wildebeast fillets are quite tender and tasty.
It's nearly ten pm now. Jerry, Brian, Adrian, and I will leave with Edmore at 5:30 am for a game ride where we hope to see many more of the park's animals as well as its famous elephant, Zoe, before we head back to Godwin's at 8:30. Goodnight loved ones! We miss you even as our hearts are full of pain for these hurting ones, joy at God's goodness, and awe at the amazing handiwork of our beloved Creator.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Very Good Day

We reached the Imire game park at sundown yesterday. What a treat! We stay here while visiting the Wedza area because it is a safe place for us. There was no electricity when we arrived, but we were provided candles for our rooms. A generator lights the main lodge. We enjoyed dinner outside on a patio by candlelight with a fire in the pit. Edmore, one of our hosts, sat talking with Brian, Jerry, Adrian, and me at the fire pit long after the Leveretts retired for the evening. At last the generator was shut off, along with the outside lights, leaving us gasping at the star-filled sky. Edmore pointed out the Southern Cross constellation before we scooted off to our thatched-roof rondavels. I was delighted to find only one small spider in my bed this year, which I quickly had words with. Words, and an interlude with a WalMart fly-swatter I brought for that very purpose. :)
No electricity this morning either, but awoke to a fine day with wildebeasts just beyond the fence outside my window. We breakfasted by the pond before heading into Wedza to pick up Godwin, his wife Kuda, and several others meeting us there before going to meet the town authorities. Once that necessary task was complete, we drove on to Mukondwa school where we saw several old acquaintances. I was so glad to see Tendai, dear Pamela's husband, and to give him my condolences in person. Brian preached twice and some young women sang for us including a mother/daughter duet which was incredibly beautiful. We ate granola bars and crackers from home, leaving the church to enjoy their sadza together while we drove more than an hour into the bush to Chigondo. A baboon crossed the narrow dirt road ahead of us on our way.
We met that church last year, though this time they were meeting 2 km farther on under the trees outside a school. There were many, many AIDS orphans and widows in that place. The people asked us to provide food, school fees, and clothing for the children. That is a huge task that I'm unsure can be addressed. Adrian and I snapped several photos of the children, who laughed when they saw their faces on our cameras then waved their hands and asked us to do it again and again. The school headmaster had joined us, and so he took my school mailing address when I asked that his students write to mine. He said he would do so, so perhaps we may get a correspondence going. I was also happy to recognize a young man I'd photographed last year next to the nearly life-sized statue he'd carved of himself. He recognized me also, so we embraced as he told me he was still carving. We exchanged addresses.
The road to the school was so rough and rocky the last kilometer that Brian had to ferry Godwin's carload down in the Land Rover. Afterward, some of the men decided to walk back to Godwin's borrowed vehicle. I did likewise, and Isnot, who'd traveled with us from the game park, joined me along with another woman and three young girls walking our way. The girls were precious, and one of them held hands with me all the way back. When we arrived at the truck, I fished out a nutri-grain bar and split it between them to receive the sweetest bend of the knee and hugs in return.
Again, no electricity at Imire, though I'm typing on the office computer run by the generator. We just finished a good dinner that we were certainly hungry for. We're very tired, but looking forward to our rest and another day. We love and miss you all. Please keep praying for us. The requests for assistance and the greatness of the needs are overwhelming. We need wisdom, patience, and continued sensitivity, which is sometimes hard to maintain amid the numbing desperation. We remain healthy, though admittedly stiff from the bumpy, crowded ride today. Eleven of us in a six-seater today because we take on passengers as we can. It's after nine here, so I need to brave the very dark bathtub, where I hope to find hot water and no creepy crawlies. Love and hugs!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Seminar

Woke at 4:45 this morning for a trip to the airport, hoping to catch our luggage as it came off the 5:30 am flight. No electricity, so I cleaned up by flashlight, though I heard roosters crowing shortly after 5.
Praise God, we got 4 of our 5 missing bags, including the one with seminar materials. Poor Adrian is still out his clothes, but he's thrilled to have fresh contacts and solution! Maybe his suitcase will be in on Sunday . . .
Seminar went great today. The messages are fresh and true and challenging, so while they seem to be generally accepted, they are creating a lot of great dialogue. Tomorrow Paula and I will have special time set aside with the women, though I've used our mealtimes under the trees to pursue conversations on the subject.
Some of you know of Kennedy who walked away from his faith some years back. Today he rededicated himself to the Lord with a lengthy confession to his peers in ministry leadership. There was great rejoicing.
We continued to meet up with many past acquaintences and friends today and enjoyed building upon those relationships. Likewise, we're making new friends, among them Zoling and Peter and (another) Pamela. We're all a bit worn out at this point, however.
It's time to repack for the Wedza area, sorting our gifts and deciding how otherwise to travel lightly. We will leave for that rural region and the Imire Game Park after the seminar ends around 1 pm tomorrow, which--knowing what Africa time means--we'll be lucky to get out of Harare by 4 pm. :)
Last year I was given great license by the Imire management to post messages from their office computer after hours. Hope they're as accomodating this year, or I may not be able to write until Wednesday.
As we were driving back to the Mhlanga's home tonight, I rode alone with Jerry, Brian, and Adrian so I took the opportunity to ask for their reactions to Africa on this, their first visits. Like me, they are struck by how much the people are the same as us with their hearts and concerns and even many habits. The guys are overwhelmed by compassion and the oddly simultaneous admiration of these resourceful, strong, and gracious people. Africa impacts and changes her visitors. You cannot lay a foot in this land without some shift in your perspective on people, wealth, blessings, and suffering.
And I think that's a good thing.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I Cried Good Tears Today

Today we scattered, Brian searching for fuel and running errands with Washington; Jerry, Lynn, and Adrian golfing with Chris DosSantos, Paula and I going to the World Bible School offices with Alice. There we met several who were arriving for the seminar. We three walked to a cafe to lunch with Si who will be coming on as Alice's assistant. I use the term "lunch" loosely: I had a scone and tea. The cafe had no jam for the scone which was actually only a biscuit dusted with flour. :)
A student minister at the Avondale church walked Paula and me to an outdoor market so we could buy chitenges--traditional hand painted fabric to wrap around our skirts and sit upon to protect them from the dust and dirt when we visit the rural areas beginning Saturday. We paid $5 million for the three pieces we bought. Washington says my husband will not let me come to Zimbabwe again if I'm going to spend money like that. Of course, that only amounted to about $15 US. The ladies selling them said if we purchased more than one, they'd make us a deal. In typical Paula fashion, she insisted we not barter, for whatever we paid would be helping those sweet women. I want to be Paula when I grow up.
The seminar began tonight with introductions all around--from those who came in from Dorowa, Mutare, Bulawayo (sp?), Murewa, and many other locations. Brian and Jerry spoke brief messages--only a taste of the sessions to come tomorrow and Saturday.
I cried as I sat there listening to Peter Madondo, whom I met last year, translating as passionately as Brian can speak. We praise God Peter was able to answer our request to translate, for he is sharp and quick and very accurate. I cried because the message of focusing only on Jesus is the message of hope for these people I have come to love with so much affection. I cried because Timothy and Dorcus and Campion were there. I cried because we were introduced to two very young men who were World Bible School students and are now pillars of their church and great evangelists.
Afterward we all shared a traditional meal, eating with our hands a plateful of sadza, greens, gravy, and a funny smelling piece of meat that was only explained to me as, "something inside the cow." Most of you will not be surprised to learn Brian skipped the greens.
Washington, Adrian, and I will venture to the airport around 5:30 tomorrow morning, hoping to find our luggage arriving on the morning flight from London. All of our seminar materials are in one of those suitcases. With God's blessing, we'll be at the church with them by the time the first session begins. And if not, then we'll trust that we don't need them first thing.
We love and miss you all. We continue to be in good health and spirits. Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Here and Healthy

After two days and nights of travel we've made it safely to Zimbabwe, praise God! We left London last night, barrelling above France at 600 miles per hour. Then we cut across the tip of Sardinia, glanced off Tunisia, and plunged south through Lybia and the Sahara, straight down the middle of the continent.
Unfortunately, several pieces of our luggage are apparently stranded in London. Our only hope is that they arrive on the next flight into the country on Friday. I'm missing but one piece, and though I can certainly do without the few personal items it contains, I'm disappointed to think that the children's clothing I packed might not make it here. Poor Brian and Adrian who are missing all their luggage, including the handouts for the seminar this weekend. Please pray those bags arrive.
We rested today after our morning arrival though we're all ready for bed again. Met with the church in Harare tonight where Brian spoke and we got to see Assan and several others who've come from Dorowa. It is a great delight to be here again, to hug these precious people and rejoice in our common faith.
I find myself still fascinated by this place, by the women walking with tall baskets on their heads and babies tied to their backs. The purple jacaranda trees are in full bloom as are the myriad other brightly colored flowers and bushes. The white-frocked apostolics walk the roadside, their light clothing a blessing for them and us as we drive past on the dark, narrow streets.
Alice and I enjoyed a girl visit, riding to and from the church alone while the others piled into Alvaro's loaner--an ancient Land Rover--risking Brian's driving as he steered
British-style from the right side of the vehicle down the opposite side of the road. :) I admire Alice tremendously--her wit and intelligence, her compassion, and her godly gentleness.
Tomorrow we prepare for the seminar--doing what, I don't know. I'll just follow orders. Most likely preparing food and helping people settle in on borrowed mattresses. The seminar will be introduced in the evening and then we'll share a meal. The sessions will begin on Friday morning.
Everyone on the team is well and enjoying one another's company. Keep praying for us! We miss you.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Your Prayers

I got up early this morning; much too early for an 11:15 am flight, but I don't like to rush. We'll be flying from Amarillo to Dallas to Detroit to London to Harare, Zimbabwe. It'll take the better part of two days. The Leveretts left yesterday and will meet us in London after a day of rest from travel. Doctor's orders--Lynn had back surgery last spring.

Thank you for your many prayers. As I've asked many to do, please pray for the health and safety of the entire team: Paula & Lynn, Jerry, Adrian, Brian, and myself. Pray for our families. Pray for the Zimbabwean church leaders and their spouses who will travel to the capital city of Harare for the special seminar taught by Jerry and Brian, that transportation will flow smoothly for participants, and that the people's hearts will be receptive to the pure but challenging truths that will be shared. Pray for our wisdom, stamina, and Christ-likeness as we visit schools, churches, and feeding centers throughout rural areas, facing many heart-wrenching situations and trying to decide who most needs help in a country where everyone is desperate. Pray that the translators will understand and accurately communicate our words. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide our actions, words, and time. Pray that our presence will bless and encourage every person we encounter, from the officials who will monitor our activities to the smallest child with nothing but hunger in her belly.

If you're interested, Wikipedia, as usual, has a good article on Zimbabwe with both history and up-to-date information about the country. You can find it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zimbabwe or just Google "Zimbabwe." The Wikipedia link will be close to the top of the list.

Blessings, family, friends, students and parents! I'll post at every opportunity.