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Integrity Challenged

AFRICAN hut

A typical hut in an African Village

Our house in Hartley, Rhodesia was a hive of activity as Glyn prepared to take a trip to the very remote village of Sahai in the Gokwe Tribal Trust land. It was late September 1970, the dry season still had its grip on the parched land; but it was the best time to travel to this remote area, as roads to it were nonexistent. I would not be accompanying him on this trip as it was going to be a rough journey nd I was expecting our first son.

Earlier in the month at our Quarterly conference an elder who ministered in the Gokwe area came to Glyn saying that the villagers in Sahai had expressed to him that a missionary had never visited their village. They asked if the “Mfundisi” (missionary) would come, visit and teach them about his God. During the meeting Glyn shared with the African ministers present, his plans to visit this unreached village. Immediately three ministers indicated they wanted to accompany him. Pastor Chigabadzira, Pastor Mpokatera and Pastor Chakanuka would travel with Glyn along with Richard Llongwe who lived with us and helped us where ever he could.

The Daihatsu truck was loaded to the max with everything the men would need for the journey as there would not be any convenience stores or petrol (gas) stations once they left the small town of Gokwe Center. The road deteriorated fast and eventually was nothing but a dusty, bone rattling, bush track. At one point they came to a dry river bed that was very sandy and it would be easy for the truck to become stuck. So they lightened the load by all the men getting out except for Glyn; then he gingerly drove across the river bed picking his way between deep sand and river washed rocks.

After they crossed the river they encountered groups of people walking; women with babies on their backs and loads on their heads and men carrying bundles of blankets. They stopped and asked where the people were going and discovered that the word had spread that the white Mfundisi was going to visit Sahai and teach about his God!

Finally after a very long exhausting day the village came into view. Mud huts with thatched roofs were dotted in a haphazard fashion across the landscape. The trees consisted of scrub bush, what little grass was left was dry and brown. Scrawny dogs started barking setting up the alarm that visitors had arrived. Glyn subsequently discovered that this village had only ever been visited by a white man forty years before; when a District Commissioner had visited. So anyone younger than 40 to 45 years old did not even know what a white man looked like! The children that had been playing in the dirt outside the huts ran in terror when Glyn got out of the truck. He must have seemed like a ghost to them.

It wasn’t very long and Chief Nenynka along with his counsel of elders arrived to welcome the “Mfundisi” and the three African Pastors. Once the customary greetings were completed the Chief explained that two huts had been prepared for the guests. One hut would accommodate the three African Pastors and the other was for Glyn to sleep in. Richard would make his bed on the back of the truck to protect their supplies.
The smell of the evening fires filled the air as the villagers prepared their evening meal. Great anticipation filled the air, as the Chief had declared that the whole village would gather that evening and listen to the Mfundisi tell them about his God.

As dusk began to fall a large bonfire was started in an open area; a few chairs were put out for the Chief, his councilmen and the visitors. The rest of the villagers brought grass mats and sat on the ground. Richard lit a hurricane lantern and brought it to Glyn so he would have a semblance of light to read the scriptures. All eyes were riveted on him as he began to unfold the simple truth of the Gospel message.

At one point while Glyn was preaching a scorpion ran out of the shadows, attracted by the flickering of the fire. Without hesitation it plunged straight into the fire. The villagers were so mesmerized by Glyn’s explanation about Jesus who loved them enough to die for them, that they did not stir when the scorpion rushed to its sudden death. These villagers were accustomed to bondage and fear of their heathen Gods; now to be told that they could worship a God who forgives and loves them unconditionally was hard to comprehend.
The night was growing late so Pastor Mpokatera announced that they should all go to their huts and think deeply what they heard; the discussion would continue in the morning.

Glyn was bone weary and was more than ready to crawl into his sleeping bag in the hut. Richard had kindly put the hurricane lantern on a bare table in the mud hut for Glyn. Before settling down for the night Glyn decided to make sure Richard was comfortable. As he stepped outside he noticed an African woman sitting on the ground beside the door of his hut. He greeted her and asked what she wanted but she simply dropped her head and remained quiet. Thinking she did not understand him, he asked Richard why she was there. Richard smiled and simple said, “Mfundisi it is this people’s custom to supply an important visitor with a woman for the night, to provide for his needs!” The reality of the situation dawned on Glyn; he was walking a fine line of offending the Chief by not accepting this “so-called honor” yet on the other hand he was not about to compromise his convictions and his relationship with the Lord; let alone his red-headed wife!

He walked over to the hut where the three African Pastors were sleeping; the four men discussed the best way to handle the situation. Pastor Mpokatera was the most fluent in the dialect, he would go tell the woman her services were not needed. Then he would go to the Chief’s hut and explain to him as diplomatically as possible that the Mfundisi appreciated Chief Nenynka honor; but this was not part of the Mfundisi’s custom and he needed to follow the ways of his own people and his God. Thankfully the Chief graciously understood and the matter was closed!

The next morning a great meeting was held, the truth of the Gospel was shared and many indicated they wanted to follow Jesus and his teachings, turning away from their heathen gods. The visit to this remote village had borne fruit and a new church in that village was birthed.

There is a lesson each one of us can take from this experience Glyn had. As children of God who love and serve Him, the one thing we need to guard and protect with all our strength is our integrity. If we lose our integrity by giving into temptation we will become like that scorpion, burned by the flame of selfish desires.

King David was known as the “a man after God’s own heart” but because of selfish choices he was denied the privilege of building the temple. He paid a high consequence for indulging himself in his own desires.
My challenge to my readers today is the time has come that those who love and serve God to stand tall and not be ashamed to be accounted as a righteous individual in a debased and immoral generation!

The Apostle Paul teaches this principle in Romans 1:16-17 (NKJV)
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

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Sunrise at Mana by Ross Sayers PhotographyWhile reading in the Book of Daniel I was struck by Daniel’s total commitment to God even though he knew it could well result in his death in a horrific manner. It got me thinking about the church of today and the climate of total moral decline in our own nation.

I asked myself the question; “Am I willing to stand up and be counted for righteousness sake in this day and age where wickedness abounds? Would I dare to be like Daniel even if it meant extreme persecution?”

This is truly a soul-searching question.

Jesus already demonstrated the answer to this question in that beloved verse in John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

If my loving Lord could die for my sin then then surely the least I can do is be willing to resist the moral decay that is spreading through our land like an insidious cancer!

Let me share with you the thrilling testimony of an African Pastor, who “dared to be a Daniel”. His name was Joel Chuma. He was one of the early preachers who worked with my parents back in the 1940’s. We were living at Gobatema Mission at the time. One day Pastor Chuma came to the mission compound and shared with Dad that he really felt the leading of the Lord to travel to Mozambique, East Africa, to preach the gospel and plant some churches. Dad counseled him that the Gospel was not well received in this area and many Christians were being severely persecuted. Dad was not trying to dissuade Joel from going but he felt he needed to be aware that it could well cost him his life. Joel understood but felt strongly that this was God’s leading, so after a time of prayer he left with Dad’s blessing upon his venture.

Many months passed and no word was received from Joel. My parents began to despair that they would ever see this precious friend again. Then one day as the sun began to wane and the aroma of evening meals being prepared mingled with the smoke from the wood cooking fires, a strange but familiar figure slowly walked into the mission compound. He was emaciated but dressed in a beautifully fitted and obviously new suit. Dad studied his face for a moment and then recognized a familiar smile; it was Pastor Joel Chuma! Mom had our evening meal ready so Dad brought him in to the old mission house; an extra plate was set and while we ate together Joel told us his miraculous experience……………..

After a long arduous journey by train and then walking many days through inhospitable bush he finally arrived in a remote village. Initially the villagers welcomed him as a visitor in their midst and daily he began sharing about Jesus and His sacrifice for these people. After three weeks, the witchdoctor stirred up enough animosity toward Joel that the villagers turned against him and told him to leave. This scenario was repeated several times in different villages until one day some government “officials” arrived and arrested Joel. He was taken to a town and without the benefit of legal advice or even being seen by a judge; was summarily thrown into what he described as a dungeon. I appeared to be a large “hole” that had been dug out of the side of a hill; there were no windows, no light, no bed, no blankets; just a muddy dank floor and a pole. The pole had been staked to the floor with chains attached to it. These chains were tightly secured to Joel’s legs. There was a heavy wooden door, which was bolted and the only light he had was what little sunlight managed to filter through some of the warped boards. Once a day, a little hatch in the door was opened by his captors and a small bucket, with what he could only describe as food that would be thrown to the pigs and a small jug of water, would be pushed through for him. Joel said he had no idea how many days or weeks he lay in this black hole of torture. When he tried to sleep cockroaches and rats would scurry across his body and chew on his bare feet. The stench of the airless hole was suffocating and was only made worse when it rained and water seeped in on the dank dirt floor. The chains on his legs chaffed at his skin until they began to cut deep into his flesh. Excruciating pain from the now festering wounds in his chained legs became his daily companion and he began to prepare himself to die alone; with no way to let his family or his missionaries know what had happened to him. Joel said he would sing songs of praise, quote verse after verse of scripture and cry out to God for strength to ease the bleak solitude he was enduring.

Then one day there was the sound of the heavy door bolt being pulled, the door creaked opened and a man wearing “street clothes” entered. Wordlessly he bent down in the gloom and gently removed the shackles that had torn into Joel’s legs. A strong hand helped him to his feet and silently led him out into the brilliant sunshine. It took Joel’s eyes a few minutes to adjust to the bright sunlight and then he searched the eyes of the stranger trying to find a clue about what was going to happen next. The stranger bent down touched the festering flesh on his legs and Joel said that instantly the pain was gone and all that was left of the deep flesh wounds, were healed-over scars. Then the stranger turned, picked up a package, and finally spoke. He told Joel that the people of this place had rejected the preaching of the Gospel and Joel was to return to his missionaries in Southern Rhodesia as they needed help and there were many people who were willing to hear the Gospel. With that the stranger took Joel’s hand, placed some money, a train ticket and the package in it; that would carry him back to Gobatema Mission. Joel said that his tortured mind was having trouble comprehending the events that had just unfolded, he was staring in shocked silence at the money and the ticket in his hand when finally, he regained his composure and looked up to ask the man his name and thank him, BUT THE STRANGER WHO HAD FREED HIM WAS GONE!

Joel discovered that the package contained a set of clothing including the suit and shoes, all of which fit him perfectly. As quickly as he could he made his way to the nearest train station boarded the train that carried him back to the small town of Gwanda and then he walked the 40 miles through the bush to the Mission compound.

Tears of joy flowed that evening as my parents rejoiced with Joel in his deliverance. He showed my parents the deep holes in his legs that the chains had caused; he would carry those scars for the rest of his days. They became a visual testimony to all who saw them of God’s protective care to those who would “dare to be a Daniel” for the cause of the Gospel.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Sunrise at Mana by Ross Sayers Photography (Used with permission)

Lessons From His Yoke

 

LESSONS FROM HIS YOKE

In the early years of my childhood in Rhodesia, it was a common sight to see a span of oxen joined together by a yoke, pulling a wagon, or ploughing a field to prepare it for planting. Those were the days before farm machinery became the norm in Africa. The pioneers that traversed many mountains, rivers and thick bush used oxen, mules and if they were fortunate enough horses, to bring civilization to the interior of Africa.
On the Mission Station where I was born oxen were used for a variety of tasks including pulling the Mission truck across the Tuli river bed once flood waters had receded and hauling water in 50 gallon drums four miles from the river each day, as that was our only water source.

The task of training a span of oxen to walk together in the yoke required a fair amount of skill.
A well trained strong ox would head the team and then an untrained ox would share the yoke with the trained leader. At first the untrained ox would resist the yolk but the lead ox was strong and quickly subdued his errant partner and before long the two walked in harmony.
For me it was a common sight to see a farmer walking behind a plough cutting deep furrows in the virgin soil, being pulled by several oxen walking in unison in their yokes.

Working with a span of oxen was not without its dangers though.
One morning at Rufaro Mission we heard a voice calling in Shona: “Mfundisi please help me, please help me.”
Glyn and I stepped out onto the porch and could hardly believe what our eyes were seeing. Stumbling towards the house was one of the African men who we had nicknamed, “Shumba”. He was holding up his right arm at the elbow and a dirty rag soaked in blood was haphazardly wrapped around his hand. I ran for the kitchen to grab some clean kitchen towels while Glyn sat Shumba down and began to listen to what had happened.
He told Glyn that he was ploughing his field to get ready to plant maize, (white kernel corn), he had his strong lead ox in the yoke, along with a totally untrained ox. The untrained ox was being particularly contrary and the chains from the plough disc to the oxen’s yoke became tangled. Shumba stopped the oxen and reached down to untangle the chains, when the untrained ox bolted, instantly the chain whipped around the four fingers on Shumba’s right hand, dragging it across the sharp blade of the plough disc. In a matter of seconds Shumba’s four fingers were sliced clear through to the bone, just leaving bare stubs. As fast as we could, we removed the dirty rag, cleaned the wound as best as possible and then tightly wrapped his damaged hand with clean towels.
Glyn then raced the suffering man to the nearest clinic which was over 40 miles away, to receive emergency care.

Anyone who has worked using a span of oxen will tell you that it is exhausting work and needed someone with nerves of steel plus be constantly aware of the oxen’s mood; as even the best trained oxen can be unpredictable. Just one moment of Shumba letting down his guard down, cost him the four fingers on his right hand.

There is a spiritual lesson that we can learn from the yolk used in years gone by.
While teaching a crowd of people Jesus uses the yoke to drive home a truth by a common illustration of something everyone listening, would completely understand.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV) “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus spent a good portion of his life as a ‘working man’. Brought up as the son of a carpenter, He spent many years laboring in his earthly father’s carpenter shop, before starting the ministry for which He had come to fulfill. He probably fashioned yokes as a part of His trade. Over those years, his hands would have no doubt been cut and calloused and his back would have ached. Like anyone involved with physical labor, he would most certainly have known what it was like to be weary at the end of the day.

But, Jesus recognized that there is another weariness that is far more destructive, whatever our task in life is. It is the weariness of soul and spirit; a weariness we feel when life’s pressures and problems relentlessly crowd in and there seems to be no relief from the onslaught that life heaps upon us.
These verses in Matthew that Jesus spoke were referring to this type of weariness.
It would seem that Jesus made an amazingly kind, yet astonishingly simple promise when He said to the listening crowd: “come to me and I’ll lift from your back this load that you have been carrying all by yourself.”
Can you imagine the joy that was flooding the hearts of these life weary listeners! This teacher was going to give them a cure from the cares of life!

Then Jesus says something strange and probably confusing: for not only does He promise to lift their burden from their backs, but He then invites them to pick up His burden instead!
I can just imagine the incredulous response in the hearts of the people!
Seriously Jesus? You just told us to shed our burden and your promise of rest is to pick up your yoke?

I am so thankful that Jesus did not stop there…………… look what He goes on to say: ‘Take my yoke upon you and LEARN from me.’
Jesus was PAINTING A PICTURE of how animals were trained in those days. One new to the job would be harnessed alongside one that had been doing it for years and ‘knew the ropes’. In this way, the new arrival would learn how to do things so much more quickly and easily.

Jesus is encouraging his listeners that this is what He wanted to do for them and the exciting news is that this also includes you and me.
Hear Him saying to us today: “Come alongside me, walk with me, and let me show you how to do things; for as you do, the burden will seem so much lighter.”
YES, He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak

Isaiah 40:29 (NKJV) He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.

My friends I encourage you to tap into His promise of His indomitable strength today!

Oxen hauling our days water from the Tuli River in 1944

 

 

God Is With Us

Russel & Tuffy in Durban, South Africa

GOD IS WITH US!
In the journey of your life, do you sometimes have, moments, hours, days and maybe even weeks when you feel that God has turned His back on you? I am certain the question rings true for many reading this Nugget!
There have been times in my own walk with God that I wondered if my usefulness to God and His Kingdom was no longer needed!

I remember a period in our son’s growth that he must have been going through what child psychologists call, “Separation Anxiety”.
We had endured the horrific carnage of the terrorist war in Rhodesia and we were now living in Durban, South Africa, running our Missions Bible College.
Sadly right around the time of our arrival in South Africa, the political climate took a turn for the worse. We endured bombings of supermarkets, tribal rioting including burning hundreds of homes of opposing tribal groups. As missionaries we were caught in the cross-fire because many of the places we ministered in were hot-beds waiting to erupt. This fact was not lost on our son, who remembered only too well the events that we as a family had lived through in Rhodesia.

When we first arrived in Durban, South Africa we lived in the home of a missionary family who had returned to the States for a furlough. It was a double story home with the Master bedroom on the main floor and two bedrooms and a study upstairs. Glyn and I slept downstairs and Russel and Donna-Mae upstairs.
It took us several weeks before it became evident that night after night, our son would slip out of bed, grab a blanket and sit at the bottom of the stairs, close to our bedroom. In the morning I would find him curled up, sound asleep on the bottom stair. It broke this mother’s heart that our son had been so emotionally traumatized just because he was a “missionary’s kid”!
No matter how much we assured him that we ALWAYS would be there during those dark frightening nights, he just couldn’t FEEL THAT ASSURANCE.
You see his memories of nights of terror in Rhodesia were engraved so deeply in his sub-conscious that he needed more than promised platitudes! He desperately needed the PHYSICAL security of knowing that his Dad and Mom, who were his trusted protectors were close by, thus explaining why he would sleep on the hard floor outside our bedroom door!
We tried everything thing we could think of to allay his genuine fear but nothing seemed to help. While praying over this troubling situation I believe God supplied the answer, in the most unexpected way.

Not only were we caring for our missionary friends’ home but we also were keeping their Pug dog, called Tuffy. Both our children adored the dog, who fast would “dog” their every footstep and they became inseparable pals. Tuffy had been trained to sleep in his basket in the kitchen at night, so we continued this practice.
One evening as I was tucking the children into bed, “Tuffy” had followed me up the stairs, while we were saying our evening prayers, Tuffy took the opportunity to squirm his way under Russel’s blankets with just his flat nose sticking out!
The reality of God’s visual answer to our prayers flashed like a shooting star in my heart!
From that night on, Tuffy would snuggle as close to Russel in his bed as was physically possible and it was the last night that a frightened missionary’s son’s deeply entrenched fears, were conquered!

Donna-Mae & Russel with Tuffy in Durban, South Africa

In the journey of life too often, we as children of God, have the same experience as we had with our son. We wonder if God is “with us” in our difficult situations! The good news is that GOD IS WITH US – He promised “never to leave us or forsake us.”
Look with me at Joseph’s experience:

“The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” Genesis 39:2 (NKJV)

 

We often pray for God to be with us and others, but what do we mean?
God is everywhere, isn’t He?
So this begs the questions…………. How could He NOT be with us?
The Bible says God was with Joseph. This is especially significant, considering Joseph’s situation……think about it for a moment.

His father assumed he was dead.
His brothers had sold him into slavery.
His mother was dead.
He had no friends.
He was in prison on a false charge.

WOW! Could his circumstances get any worse?
Joseph must have felt awfully alone………. Where could he turn?
The answer to that question is found in the fact that through the “eye of faith”, Joseph discovered that even when everyone else abandoned him, GOD REMAINED BY HIS SIDE.
God made his presence with Joseph obvious through what he did in Joseph’s life.
Now not by any stretch of the imagination did Joseph have an easy life, but God blessed him nonetheless. Think about it…..

When Joseph was a slave, God made him chief slave.
When Joseph was a prisoner, he became the assistant to the jailer.
When there seemed little reason to have confidence, God gave Joseph courage.
When he had the opportunity to wreck revenge on his brothers who had betrayed him, God gave him deep compassion and forgiveness.

God’s presence doesn’t mean that you and I won’t experience hard times.
It DOES mean that no matter what we are going through, WE will know that He is with us, just as Joseph knew he wasn’t alone.
God’s presence will give us peace when everything is going wrong. His love will be obvious to us even when it seems no one else cares. God’s wisdom will guide us to make the right choices in the confusion of life.
The Bible says Joseph prospered because God was with him. In other words, God’s presence made a VISIBLE difference in Joseph’s life.
Let me assure you my friends………..God’s presence will make an obvious difference in your life as well. No matter how tough your circumstances, you can have confidence, because you’re not alone.
GOD IS WITH YOU!

 

No Regrets

Bags of maize meal -Gobatema 1939

My Dad, Willard Wilson & brother at Gobatema Mission, S. Rhodesia Africa

NO REGRETS

Last week I posted a nugget describing a memory from my childhood living on a remote and extremely primitive Mission Station in the bush of Southern Rhodesia, Africa. This nugget elicited a few comments from friends wondering how my parents ever adjusted to the unrelenting heat and total lack of civilization, having grown up in the civilized world and adjusted to the harsh bitter winters of northern Maine.
This set me thinking and I sat for several hours going through black and white photos of what life was like when Dad and Mom arrived in Africa in 1939, to serve as Pioneer missionaries. Then I went back to some of my mother’s early writings that I have, describing what they faced on a daily basis.

I began to muse about the quantum leap they took when they left the comfort of the family farm in Mars Hill, Maine (USA), boarded the ship and set sail for Africa. Two young missionaries with an infant son, barely a year old. They set their faces to an unknown land in response to the “call of God”.
They had no visions of grandeur, no pre-conceptions of a life of luxury; just two humble hearts with a passion burning in their souls to touch the un-reached tribes in Africa with the good news of the Gospel.
Follow me as I answer the questions some of you asked and reflect with me what it was like in those years of being Pioneer missionaries……………

Imagine what a struggle it must have been for my young parents arriving from the frigid climate of Northern Maine, enduring a month long rough ocean journey on a freighter. After arriving in Cape Town South Africa, they rested, got their bearings and geared up to make that torturous weeks long journey of 1,300 miles from the southernmost tip of South Africa to the unreached parts of Southern Rhodesia.
It would prove to be a journey that would test the mettle of even the strongest explorer!
The entire trip was travelled over uncared for dirt roads and eventually bush trails.

Remember, my young mother was travelling with precious cargo – my eldest brother, Lawrence, who had his first birthday while they were on the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.
Daily they endured oppressive heat, which in itself must have been a shock to their systems, as when they set sail the temperature was 30 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit!
They experienced encounters with wild animals, venomous snakes, and hostile tribes, plus endured being bitten by an assortment of unknown bugs and fending off tropical illnesses!
Frankly, the hardships of the trek inland is really hard to put in comprehendible words that my readers can relate to!

There was no “quick stops” to get supplies on that long trek………..
There was no safe water to drink, everything had to be boiled………..
There were no disposable diapers for their baby, so stops had to be made by running streams to wash the cloth diapers and baby clothing by hand……………
There were no comfortable Motels in which to lay to lay their weary heads at the end of a long day of travel………
There was malaria, dysentery and other tropical diseases to be wary of…………..
There were snakes, scorpions and dangerous wild animals to watch out for as they edged their way deeper into the African bush………..
Then added to all this there was the adjustment of cooking meals over a fire on the ground with stones placed to hold the pots, not to mention having to adjust to the foods that the indigenous people ate.
Plus trying to communicate with people whose language they did not understand!

I wonder if at any point in what seemed to be that brutal journey from South Africa to Southern Rhodesia; my parents might have had “second thoughts”. As, they could not possibly have mentally been prepared for the hardships they were dealing with.
Yet turning back was never an option!
How can I say this with such assurance? Because, once I was born, I witnessed with my own eyes that they were totally committed to the task that God had called them to, no matter the hardships they faced.

Now walk with me and feel the excitement rising in my parent’s hearts as they forged the Tuli River, which separated them from the last meager form of civilization, which was the first “out post” called Gwanda.
The Tuli River had no bridge or concrete causeway, so could only be crossed during the dry season. Once the wagons and battered old truck gingerly negotiated their way across the rocky river bed they slowly made their way up the ascending four mile bush track to their new home – Gobatema Mission.

Mission workers came running to welcome the new missionaries, many hands willingly helped unload the boxes, trunks and supplies, and then my parents stepped into their new home, which was a battered old house that was in various stages of disrepair.
An antiquated wood stove, that had seen better days, was the only sign of “civilization” in the dilapidated house. The cement floors were bare and cracked, plus the walls had cracks so deep that you could look through them to the outside and they had not seen paint in years.
The bedrooms were no better but my parents set to work; sweeping out the hanging cobwebs and accumulated dirt from the floor and assembling makeshift beds for their first night. Then with the assistance of one of the resident missionaries wives; Mom wrestled some semblance of life into the old wood stove to cook their first meal, while Dad was lighting Hurricane lanterns for light.
The Mission had no running water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and no phone contact to the outside world and the nearest point to get water was the torturous 4 mile track back down to the Tuli River! It could hardly be considered to possess even the bare necessities for comfort!
Yet, mother told me that both she and Dad felt jubilant joy and gratitude that God had brought them safely to their destination. No pity party was going to be held in that humble home that night! No regrets, no turning back!

Dad, Mom and Lawrence at GobatemaDad, Mom and my brother Lawrence at Gobatema Mission 1939

The years slipped by and the little family of three grew to five. My sister Suzanne was born in 1941 and then my parents were blessed with a fiery red-headed daughter (me) in 1944. Mother had her hands full but she took it all in stride. I remember her telling tales of trying to keep Suzanne in a home-made play pen with no floor in it. She would put the play pen on a grass mat in the shade of a tree while she was busy holding the morning clinic. Next thing she sees Suzanne, who now was walking, slip her legs between the slates of the play pen, stand up and off she went play pen in tow!

I presented new challenges for mother. I had the strong will that went along with my red-hair, plus as I grew, I was totally fearless in exploring my world. She caught me one day trying to “scare” a deadly Cobra out of its hole with a stick! I collected bugs and an assortment of creepy crawlies and would happily race to wherever mother was to show her my latest trophy! Mother despaired that I would ever turn out to be a “proper lady” – I definitely was a child of the bush.

Once my brother Lawrence and my sister Suzanne were school age they had to be sent to the city of Bulawayo to attend Boarding School. Bulawayo was about a 100 mile drive from the Mission. I can only imagine the wrench it must have been to my parent’s hearts to leave their precious young children at a Boarding School, knowing it would be months before they would see them again. Yet they never wavered in their calling or complained about the hardships of life.
Once my elder siblings went to boarding school I became my Dad’s shadow or would go with mother on the long walks through the bush to visit villages in the surrounding area. These were my formative years – I only knew life on a remote primitive Mission Station in the bush of Africa and it was marvelous!
I would not trade the lessons I learned for anything this world could offer!
Our lives growing up were filled with laughter, excitement, many challenges, but most of all our parents were role models to us of finding good in the most difficult situations and radiating the love of God in all that they did.
What a heritage they passed onto us children!

Just as my parents had a huge learning curve to adjust to life in Africa, I on the other hand grew up and served along with my husband in Africa for years and now have had a “reverse” learning curve to life in America!
My heart will always beat to an African drum and I assure you if I was 20 years younger, my feet would be walking the African trails without looking back.
I can say without fear of contradiction that a day does not go by that I do not long to feel the embrace of our “African children” and blaze a trail for God in the land of my calling!

 

 

God of All Circumstances

Crossing the Tuli River in 1947

GOD OF ALL CIRCUMSTANCES

The rays of the early morning African sun beaming through the window began to dance with fingers of warmth on my sleepy face. I stretched, and snuggled deeper under my blankets and lay listening to the gentle cooing of the mourning Doves, combined with the high pitch whine of mosquitoes outside on the screen of the open window.
I could hear my mother wrestling with the pieces of wood as she loaded the fire box of the old wood stove; trying to get a good “draw” on the fire, so it would stop filling the kitchen with smoke! The wood stove was “older than dirt” and it was amazing my mother was even able to breathe life back into it.

I lay there listening to the sounds of the stirrings of the early morning hour and wiggled my toes in delight……another day of adventure was waiting for me on the remote Gobatema Mission station.
Suddenly the peaceful morning sounds were shattered by the raucous braying of a donkey right outside my window, which vaulted me out of bed like a startled rabbit! It was the usual morning wakeup call – no more sleeping today!
Excitement raced through my small body……. what adventures were awaiting me?
Today Dad planned to load us up in the old mission truck and with the help of a lot of African workers and a span of oxen; we were going to attempt to cross the Tuli River, as supplies were dwindling.
We needed to go to the small town of Gwanda, which was 40 miles away with nothing but a bush track to drive on and a flooded river with no bridge to cross!
No small undertaking but a very necessary one as we needed to stock up on food and medical supplies. It would be an all-day adventure, which the “tom boy” in this little red-headed gal, loved!
Mom packed a picnic basket full of sandwiches, scones, home-made jam and the fixings to brew a pot of tea!

A “runner” had been sent down to check the level of the water in the river and returned with the news that he thought the oxen could pull the truck through without getting stuck or being washed away!
So, on a “wing and a prayer”, off we bounced; a merry and assorted bunch of adventurers. Our African helpers singing lustily as the rocky bush path seemed bent on shaking the very teeth out of our gums!

Once we arrived at the river bank all the air was let out of the tires to assist in the old truck in not getting mired in the mud and rocks on the bottom of the river. The oxen were hooked up to the front of the truck with several men guiding them into the river and the challenge was on! Man versus river……….who would win?
Slowly we inched across the river –water flooding into the engine and cab but finally the oxen pulled us out onto the opposite bank. Now the fun began in earnest – a camp fire was quickly lit, water put on to boil for tea and mother began to prepare the picnic that was fit for a king!
The men busied themselves drying out the motor, and then joined us for food. Then we rested in the shade of the trees to escape the blistering heat, while we waited for the electrical system on the truck to dry out.

Finally we were ready to drive the 40 miles of unforgiving bush track, to the village of Gwanda, load up with supplies, turn around and repeat the whole process of crossing the river all over again; but this time with a loaded truck!
It would be nightfall before a very weary, bedraggled, dusty bunch of “adventurers” finally arrived at the mission compound. By this time I usually was sound asleep in the back of the truck, curled up on a 50 pound bag of maize meal!
Yes, it had been quite a day in the life of this little missionary’s kid!
Even though the living conditions at the Mission Station were extremely primitive; the missionary families had to do what they could and NOT GIVE UP, even when it involved dangerous circumstances. You see their confidence was not in the arm of man but in God, who was a God of ALL circumstances and giving up was not ever considered an option!

The Apostle Paul is a wonderful example of someone who never gave up………………………..

Acts 14:19-20 (NKJV) “Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.
However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.”

Come walk with me in Paul’s footsteps……………………………
See Paul wince in anguish as rocks flew at him, one after another from every direction, lacerating his flesh until it was raw, covering his entire body with oozing wounds. His moans of agony were lost amid the din of the angry, shouting mob that surrounded him, taunting him as they hurled the sharpest stones they could find. There was no way to escape the pain, no hiding from the humiliation. Finally, Paul could stand no longer, and he crumpled to the ground. The angry mob, satisfied that they had killed the blasphemer, dropped their rocks and dragged Paul’s broken body out of the city.
Then the local disciples, including his friend Barnabas, who was his travelling companion, gingerly gathered around him, fearing the worst.

Don’t you think that a few questions might have crossed Paul’s mind at that moment? Maybe something like this………..
“Where were you guys when I was being tortured all alone?
Why did the Jews pick me and not Barnabas, as the brunt of their anger?”
I can just imagine Paul saying these things to his friends…………but he didn’t!
The situation was enough to tempt even the most DEVOUT Christian to get a little bitter; perhaps even call it quits…………but Paul didn’t!

What did Paul do next? He got up, wiped away the blood, and headed back into the city. Without even taking a sick day, he carried on with his missionary journey the very next day. The Bible tells us that when Paul and Barnabas reached Derbe they preached there and “won a large number of disciples.”

Just think what would have happened if Paul decided the task God had called him to complete was too hard and he gave up? Think of the scores of people who would not have heard the Gospel!
You and I might be facing adverse circumstances and HUGE challenges as we face this New Year, but let me encourage you –DON’T GIVE UP – God will be present and guide you in the midst of ALL that life throws at you!
Our God never gives up in being involved in our lives and there is no circumstance too great or hard that God will not see us through!

A Child is Born

(Seasons Greetings from our home to yours)

A CHILD IS BORN
Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The dusty road from Nazareth to Bethlehem was filled with weary travelers slowly making their way to their home town in response to the decree that had gone forth.

Luke 2:1-5 (NKJV) “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…..Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.”

Joseph must have tried his best to ease the discomfort that Mary was enduring, trying to protecting her from the rocky path and jostling crowds, for her time for the child that she was carrying, to be born, was imminent! The closer they drew to Bethlehem; Joseph’s thoughts were focused on quickly finding an Inn where Mary could finally rest and prepare for the birth of this special baby.

Then the unthinkable happen……… by the time they arrived, dusty, aching and totally exhausted from the long tedious journey there was not a room to be found in any Inns. Anxiety rose in Joseph’s heart as his mind raced…… someone had to open their hearts to them this night! Frantically he searched from Inn to Inn until finally an Innkeeper offered the only place where he had space……….they could make their beds from the straw in the stable and rest for the night with the animals that were being sheltered there!

What must have been going through young Mary’s mind and heart? How could she do this……how can she deliver her first born child in the inhospitable muck of a rough stable? Alone, forgotten with only her carpenter husband and a smoky lantern in attendance! She drew her cloak closer around her as she sunk into the makeshift bed of straw that Joseph had hastily piled up for her, shivering in fear as the pains of childbirth soon bore down upon her………..then she remembered…………the words of that angelic visitor…………

Luke 1:30-35 (NKJV) Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Realization that the angel’s words were a fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah’s words, flooded Mary’s heart as her body contracted in pain in preparation for the birth of this “special child”.
She was not alone……….God was with her!
Soon her time to deliver was upon her and with a cry of joy; she wrapped her newborn son in bands of cloth and gently laid him in a feeding trough, filled with fresh straw.
Mary studied the face of her son; immediately her heart soared with indescribable rapture, for she was looking at the face of God in human flesh.
This tiny little one, so helpless and dependent on Mary’s loving care was the Lord of Lords; King of Kings come to earth in the form of man………!
Majesty in the midst of mundane…..
Holiness born in the filth of a crude stable ……….and yet……..a holy light fills this darkened place!
Mary reaches down and gently caresses the face of the infant-God, while her heart sings with rapturous exultation at the miracle of the Divine entrance into the lost and dying world!
Truly this was a HOLY NIGHT!

Glyn and I wish each of our family and friends scattered across the globe a truly blessed Christmas!

The Greatest Gift

Flamboyant Tree in Zimbabwe, Africa

THE GREATEST GIFT

Christmas will soon be upon us. People are frantically rushing to finish their last minute shopping, hunting for that unique gift for that special person in their life. Many are so consumed with the commercialization of finding “the perfect gift” that they miss the true meaning of the “greatest gift” to all mankind!
The “Babe of Bethlehem” is God’s gift to each one of us and He is the gift that keeps giving every day of the year and our lives!

You see, I believe we serve an extraordinary, “everyday God”, whose gift of His Son not only speaks to us through His Word but also through “natural events” that we so often take for granted!
God declares His love for us through a multitude of avenues in our “ordinary world”, making each day fill our hearts with the same joy that the scripture speaks about, when Christ was born.

Luke 2:8-14 (NKJV) “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Come follow me down the trails I have walked, where God has shown Himself to me and filled my heart with unspeakable joy and trust.

Standing close to the edge of the mighty Victoria Falls in the heart of Zimbabwe, feeling the thunderous power of the water rushing into the deep gorge, I could understand God’s almighty power being unleashed to protect me when I needed His help. Then as the spray from the cascading falls wets my face, I understood His gentle touch of caring that was softer than the falling morning dew.

Seeing a magnificent wild elephant mother guide her newborn baby to its feet with such amazing gentle dexterity, in spite of her overwhelming size; showed me that when I struggled in my walk with God, He knows just the right touch to provide me strength to stand and He will guide my faltering footsteps.

Sitting drinking in the early morning blush, deep in the bush of Zimbabwe, listening to the joyful songbirds give voice to the dawning of a new day, was an experience never to be forgotten. It filled me with understanding, that no matter where my path took me, God would fill my heart with His song; His joy would be my portion through all the days of my journey.
Seeing Him in the flaming Flamboyant trees or the rich purple blaze of glory on the Jacaranda Trees; I am reminded that the whole of nature declares the Glory of God.
Watching the splash of color from the wild flowers in the mountain meadow, wafting back and forth to the summer breezes, awakens the awareness of God’s presence enveloping me with His peace.

Standing by an open grave saying my earthly good-byes to my nearest and dearest loved ones, reminded me that even though my heart was breaking, God had promised we would be eternally reunited in a place that He has prepared for us with His own Hands!
Yes, I even saw God in the stark harshness of death’s grip!

Oh there are so many more examples I could remind you of, where we can see God gift.

Such as in a baby’s smile or first steps.
The look of love as a mother holds her newborn.
The unexpected hug from a friend….. just because….!
My friends open your eyes, look around you and I assure you that you will see God’s “greatest gift”, in your everyday life!
God is the creator of the Universe with its mighty galaxies, the brilliant Milky Way and more twinkling stars than we can count; yet He is right here in the thick of our everyday world and speaks to us through ordinary and familiar objects.
Some people seek for extraordinary signs; such as a weeping Madonna; a reincarnated grandparent; a feather floating out of nowhere and I could go on; but we do not need an “out of this world sign”; for God has already spoken to us through His Son and His fingerprints are all around us in the everyday events of our lives!
God is closer to you and me than we can ever imagine!

His greatest gift of His Son, will fill us with courage, joy, peace and hope as we walk the uncertain paths of our sojourn on this earth until the day dawns when He leads us to our eternal home.

The “Babe of Bethlehem”, God’s only begotten Son, is the “greatest gift” this world has ever known.

Isaiah 9:6-8 (NKJV) “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”

 

 

Distant Drums

African-Village-Life-Aiye-oko

Village in Rhodesia

The stand of huge Eucalyptus trees that towered over the mission house began to stir as the morning wind gently wafted through the leaves; signaling to our resident troop of monkeys that morning had arrived. It was late October which meant the summer heat was upon us and hopefully soon some good rains would replenish the thirsty earth with its life giving moisture!
It was the weekend so there was no need to vault myself out of bed for the early morning drill to get ready for Dad to drive us to our one roomed school house, in the village of Chatsworth, Rhodesia.
Lazily I lay listening to the monkey troop’s noisy morning chatter; it was time for them to forage for food! Then a different sound drifted in on the wind; it was the throb of distant drums. It was not uncommon for us to hear the drums from some of the African villages that were dotted across the bush on the other side of the rocky granite kopjie (hill). The drums served as a form of primitive communication to the residents of the village as well as to near-by villages. A death; a wedding feast; a call for a tribal “indaba” (discussion); or an alarm of pending danger; all could be conveyed through the beating of the drums. Sometimes the sounds were joyful and sometimes they were muted and sinister. I slipped out of bed, giving my slippers a good shake before I slid my feet into them; as scorpions and some nasty spiders loved to use them as hiding places! The old mission house with its cracked walls and cement floors was a haven for these critters seeking a dark and cool place to escape the burning African sun! So part of our morning ritual was to always check slippers and shoes for uninvited critters that had the capacity of giving you a very painful bite or sting.
During breakfast Dad mentioned that the next day we were going to take the mission truck and head over the rough bush track to one of the villages to hold a church service. I loved going on these trips as there was always some unexpected excitement that the trip into the bush would spring on us. Life was by no means boring for this red-headed missionary’s child as it seemed each day brought a new adventure.
The next morning bright and early; we loaded up the truck with some bags of maize meal, bags of salt and bags of brown sugar to give to our African church elder and his family that lived in the village. As was my custom I rode in the back of the truck with some of our African helpers and joined in their happy singing as we bounced over the apology of a bush track. I loved the smell of the bush; it was distinct and unique. Some trees were still flowering giving off a beguiling fragrance that you never forget.

We finally arrived at the village and already a fairly good sized congregation was waiting for us. There was no church building so we gathered under the shade of a large Masasa tree that afforded us a measure of shade. Off in the distance on the perimeter of the village a single drum began to beat; it signaled to my parents that trouble was brewing. Our Elder explained that everyone was fearful as the witchdoctor had told the villagers that he was going to cast a bad spell on the missionaries and cause them to die, to prove his power was greater that their God. Dad chuckled and told Elder Petros that the witchdoctor was in for a surprise as God would prove Himself faithful to us that day!

The church service went without incident. The brave souls that had gathered lifted their voices in song and the harmony of their song came from their deep devotion to a God who was a God of love and not one to be feared. The hot summer breeze carried the heartfelt melodies into every corner of the village.
I never tired of listening to the Africans sing. They have a gift of beautiful harmony without the aid of any musical instruments. Just the pure blending of joyful voices that to this day is burned deep within the core of my being. Just typing these words for this Nugget floods me with a deep longing to hear those songs in the primitive bush again!

Once the service was over, Elder Petros invited us to sit in the shade of his hut and rest before our journey back to the mission compound. His wife was preparing us a cup of hot tea. While we visited he commented to Dad that nothing sinister had taken place for which he was thankful; Dad agreed with him but assured him that we had no fear for our trust was in God. We began to drink our tea when suddenly Dad, Mom, Petros and I were overcome with acute vertigo. Petros exclaimed in terror: “Mfundisi (teacher or missionary) we have been poisoned! Surely today we will die!” We all immediately poured out what tea was left in our cups. Dad had one of the villagers bring him a mangy village dog and asked for the milk that had been used in our tea to be brought to him. Gently he placed a drop of milk in the dog’s eye and immediately the pupil became dilated, confirming that a certain poisonous fruit had been squeezed into the milk container before it had been brought to Petros’s hut. The drop would not harm the dog but we were in serious danger depending on exactly how much of the poison we had ingested. By now the word had spread and a crowd of the villages had gathered; some terrified their missionary would die before their eyes and others mocking, saying the witchdoctor’s muti (medicine) was stronger than the missionary’s God. To bring a sense of calmness to the gathering crowd Dad stood up and announced that we were going to pray and ask God to stop the poison from harming us. He asked for any villager who believed God could do this to come and gather around us as we prayed. Slowly with timid steps one after another separated themselves from the mocking group and made their stand. Vocally the whole group raised their voices in earnest petition; asking God to protect their missionary family. Then all became silent with every eye in the gathered crowd riveted on our family. We stood up from our chairs and shouted as loud as we could: “God has heard our prayers, we are strong, and the effects of the poison are gone!” Instantly an ecstatic cry went up and the believers began so sing and dance to demonstrate their exultation of the faithfulness of God.

Today the nations of the world are hearing the throb of distant drums. They are not playing a song of freedom and joy but one of fear and war. These are dark days that we are living in BUT WE NEED NOT FEAR! We have the assurance from God’s Word that He will be our shield and protector during times of trouble.

“Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.” Prov. 3:25, 26

When wars and rumors of wars fill our hearing, the Lord tells those who trust in Him not to become alarmed and fearful. He has promised to defend the righteous.
God would have His children manifest courage not fear!
Since the scriptures teach us that the Lord Himself will suddenly come to our defense, we should not then be surprised at anything unexpected.

Serenity under the rush and roar of unexpected evil is a precious gift of divine love.

The Lord would have His children see that the desolation of the wicked is not a real calamity to the universe. Sin alone is evil; the punishment which follows it is as a preserving salt to keep society from putrefying.
So, today be encouraged with this promise; we who trust in the Lord, let us exhibit a quietness of spirit in the face of great adversity.
Satan and his minions are full of all subtlety; but those who walk with God shall not be taken in by their deceitful snares.
Go on………I challenge my readers today; let the Lord be your confidence and all fear be erased.

Proverbs 29:25 (NKJV) The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.