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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)

God’s Blueprint

Rufaro Mission church completed 1953

(Opening Day of the Rufaro Mission church, built by my Dad, Willard Wilson)

Genesis 6:14-16 (NKJV) “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.
You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.”

Noah will always be a sterling example of total obedience to God’s commands, when he followed God’s instructions in building the ark.
Have you ever found yourself in the situation where the work that God has called you to do, is something you would never have become involved in by YOUR choice?
This is the situation Noah finds himself in.
There are lessons to be learned from his example.

My Dad could relate to Noah’s daunting task that God lay before him.
When I was about 5 years old, we moved from the mission station where I was born, to Rufaro (the name means “joyful”) mission station.
The mission house was in terrible disrepair. Before we could sleep our first night in the house Dad and Mom had to clear out a whole nest of bats that were living in the rafters of the house!
There were no luxuries of modern life, but not once did we, as a family, consider that we were suffering or under privileged!
Quite the opposite; each day brought its own challenges which my parents had to wrestle with; but for me, it brought so many places to explore and develop my love for life in the African bush, with all the creepy crawlies that were my daily companions!

The mission station needed a church building that would be big enough to hold the crowds that would attend our annual district conferences plus other special large gatherings.
Dad contacted a team of Master builders in the town of Fort Victoria, which was about 45 miles away. He explained that he wanted to build a church made from cement blocks in a semi-triangle shape with specific dimensions to hold a large crowd; but he did not want the rafters to be resting on any pillars in the center of the building, as he wanted the congregation, who would be sitting on roughly hewn backless benches or on the cement floor, to be able to see the platform without pillars barring their view. There would be no ceiling, just the open rafters and the roof would be galvanized iron sheets.

Once the builders heard the description and size of what Dad wanted to build, they told him that there was no possible way to hold the weight of the rafters without load bearing pillars.
Dad returned to the mission, frustrated but determined to find a solution even though the “experts” told him it was impossible.
That night, when we had family prayer time, we took the problem to the Lord and Dad asked God to help him find an answer.

In the middle of the night Dad woke up as though someone had tapped him on the shoulder, immediately he began to visualize how the rafters could be bolted together to a large steel plate.
Dad felt strongly that the Lord was giving him the blueprint!
He quickly jumped out of bed, lit a hurricane lantern, (we had no electricity), went into the office and began to feverishly write down the dimensions, length of rafters, size and thickness of the steel plate etc. as the figures came to his mind.
The next morning he drove back to Fort Victoria, met with the builders and showed them his diagrams. The men were stunned; in all their combined years of building experience they had never seen anything like this. After much head scratching the “experts” agreed that Dad’s blueprint, which God had given him in the night, would actually work!
Dad returned to the mission station and with help from African volunteers, he built that church. The building was completed over 60 years ago! Glyn and I have preached many sermons under those rafters and the church is still being used today for the preaching of the Gospel!

Noah found himself in a similar predicament but in accordance to the divine command he obeyed and crossed every “t” and dotted every “I”.
Think about it – Noah was commissioned by God to build a large ship, the likes of which had never been heard of before! How easy it would have been for him to tell God that he and his sons were not shipbuilders by any stretch of the imagination! Added to that they would need a very large body of water to launch a vessel of that magnitude and there was no such body of water where Noah was to build the Ark!
Yet, Noah did not raise the slightest objection and went to work immediately. Implicitly, he obey God’s blueprint and built the Ark to divine specifications.
The whole time he and his sons were building the Ark, people living in that area must have scoffed and laughed at him until he became the object of cruel jokes and taunts.
But Noah, kept working and obeying the command of the Lord.

Genesis 6:22 (NKJV) “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.”

What lesson can we learn from Noah’s example?
The answer is that God’s commands are His enabling’s!
When God asks a task of us, He always will provide the strength, knowledge and ability to complete it!
Do you struggle with the task before you that God has lead you into? Do not fear or become discouraged!
Remember Noah, remember my Dad, Willard Wilson and countless other soldiers of the Cross that have stepped out in faith trusting God to provide Divine guidance and provision!
Yes, God’s promise of knowledge and provision is still in the Book!
1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NKJV) “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. “

EARTHLY SUFFERING, ETERNAL GLORY

Ellen Patana & children 2-1982

(Ellen Patana & three children with me)

Yesterday we all awoke to the tragic news of a mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. Many, I am sure, were glued to the images and sounds that the media seemed to run 24/7.
For me personally, the first “Breaking News Alert” that Glyn and I saw was more than I emotionally could handle. The sounds of the never ending machine gun fire instantly took me back to vivid and very painful memories of our experience as targeted missionaries during the terrorist war in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and then the subsequent violence and bombings we endured while we were serving God in Durban, South Africa.
I experienced “instant memory flash-backs” and all the horror, visions of carnage to so many innocent lives, gripped my mind and emotions, with devastatingly accurate recall.
Glyn and I turned off the television and fled to the comforting promises in God’s Word and then interceding in prayer together for our nation!

As I went about my daily routines with my emotions still very raw, I began to focus on God’s faithfulness to us and His children even while enduring traumatic, unthinkable events.
His whispers of love and emotional calmness began to fill my mind and heart. Instead of visions of terror the Lord reminded me of memories of His faithfulness to us and the precious people we ministered to in Rhodesia and South Africa

My thoughts carried me back to an African family in Rhodesia, who came to know the Lord under our ministry. This couple paid a high price for their faith.
John and Ellen Patana were part of the congregation in the church in Hartley, Rhodesia. They served the Lord with every fiber of their being.
John’s family lived in a remote village the southern part of Rhodesia. His family followed their heathen gods and were exceedingly unhappy when the word finally arrived that their son and his wife were followers of this “strange God”; that they had heard about from the missionaries who looked like “white ghosts”.
The family disassociated themselves from the couple with dire warnings that their heathen gods would punish them harshly for leaving the tribal ways and tribal gods.

A beautiful baby girl was born to the Patana family. She was the joy of their hearts and then the unthinkable happened.
We received word they had rushed to a near-by clinic as the baby was gravely ill with gastro-enteritis. Sadly by the time they arrived it was too late for medical help; their “gift from God” stopped breathing. After the funeral the couple travelled to the tribal village to carry the news of the baby’s passing. The heathen relatives did not take kindly to the news.

The village witchdoctor was called to “search out the spirit” that caused the bay’s death.
The heathen ceremony turned sinister when the witchdoctor proclaimed the baby’s death was caused by the parents’ betrayal of tribal ways in following a strange God.
He pronounced a curse saying that they would never give birth to a living child until they returned to the ways and customs of the tribe and publicly reject this foreign God.

John and Ellen stood firm, not wavering for one moment in their faith. They told the gathered villagers that they would not renounce their faith in God.
This resulted in the parents banishing the couple from ever returning home to their tribal lands; they would treat them as though they were dead.

They returned to the town of Hartley; we sat with them and wept with them for the deep heart-ache they were carrying.
Though the tears were flowing at the loss of their baby girl and being cast out from the family tribe; they declared their determination to serve God with all their hearts.
We told them that in God’s time He would give them another child even though the witchdoctor had placed a curse on their heads. Gently assuring them that the God they now served was far more powerful than a thousand witchdoctor’s curses.

Several months passed when I heard a knock on our door. There stood Ellen with a huge smile on her face and the exciting news that they were expecting another baby – God had heard their prayers – the witchdoctor’s curse was defeated! By the time we retired as missionaries to Rhodesia, God had not only blessed this couple with one living child but three! You see this couple had caught a glimpse of the glory that a-waits God’s children in eternity.

Romans 8:18 (NKJV) “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

The Apostle Paul penned these words to a persecuted young church! He was encouraging them to not give up.
Many of Paul’s friends suffered because they were Christians. Some lost their jobs; others were beaten; many were killed.
In light of the dangers involved, some were questioning whether Christianity was worth it. At least it would be easier to be “silent Christians”, outwardly following the crowd to avoid persecution.
Paul assured them that everything they were going through was worth it, when eternity became their reality. He promised that their present suffering would be more than compensated by the rewards that awaited them in heaven.

In light of an eternity in heaven, this life is only a blip on the screen.

If only we could fully understand how magnificent heaven will be!

No tears! No pain! No suffering! No more gut wrenching good-byes!

When we reach our eternal home, we will realize that everything the Bible said was true.

Everything God promised will be ours.

Then we will know that living the Christian life was well worth the effort.

My dear friends, if you are going through a difficult time right now, keep in mind that this life is only temporary.
Nothing you might be suffering now can compare to the reward you will receive for having patiently endured. One day, you will enjoy eternity with God, and eternity will be more wonderful than anything you could imagine.

Let me encourage you not to become disheartened by the problems you face right now. God has things for you to learn and to do for Him. Remain faithful to Him today; your reward in heaven will be beyond comparison to anything you have experienced on this earth!

I leave you today with this encouraging promise from God’s Word.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NKJV) “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”

 

 

IMMUTIBLE BULWARK

St-Helena-Image-courtesy-of-the-Governors-Cup

( Mount St. Helena )

Going back through old family photo albums I came across some pictures taken aboard a Freighter ship that our family sailed on when I was around 12 years of age. Our family was returning back to Africa after a year of “furlough” in the States and in those days the voyage lasted a full 21 days!
The pictures revived memories stored in the deep recesses of my memory banks!

I remember being surrounded by rolling ocean waves from horizon to horizon. There was no land in sight, day after day we watched for dolphins, sea turtles, whales and flying fish.
Some days the sea was smooth as glass and then a wind would spring up and soon the vessel was rolling as the waves crashed against its sides. We were at the mercy of the forces of nature!

One morning about halfway into the voyage, we stepped out on deck and there in the far distance loomed a dark object.
We watched in anticipation, speculating what it could be; it had to be something large for us to see it from the distance that separated it and the ship. Curiosity couldn’t be contained so we asked the First Officer what we were seeing – it was an isolated ROCK standing alone in the vast ocean.
It was St. Helena Island!
It rose from the ocean depths like a lighthouse beacon on a stormy night.
The closer we sailed the more intriguing the island was.
Initially it appeared stark, uninhabited and it had an air of total bleakness. Craggy cliffs came into view reverberating with the sound of the pounding surf on its rocky shores.
St. Helena Island in all of her bleakness and isolation had proved one thing; it could stand the tests of time.
Ocean storms, hurricanes, buffeting winds howling and battering her rocky buttresses did nothing to move her.

Most historical accounts state that she was discovered on May 21, 1502 by a Spanish navigator named Joao Da Nova. St. Helena is one of the most isolated islands in the southern Atlantic. As the ship navigated closer, our initial assessment changed; we began to see vegetation clinging to the towering cliffs and we saw clusters of houses showing that there was a small population living there. Seeing this mighty, isolated, volcanic Island standing strong and tall in the midst of the ocean was a sight that was burned into my impressionable young mind.
This stark and towering rock island had stood, unmoved, since the beginning of time.
It was an amazing sight, not to be forgotten.

The Gospel of John speaks of the fact that God had no “beginning” as mankind does.

John 1:1-4 (NKJV) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

He is the ONLY true God!
No act of man brought Him into being, so nothing can destroy His life!

Let me ask you…..does God fear an earthquake? Does He shake in terror at the violent winds of a tornado? CERTAINLY NOT!

The GOD THAT WE SERVE sleeps through storms and calms the contrary winds with the words: “Peace be still”!
Diseases like cancer do not trouble him and the silence of the cemetery holds no horror for Him.

The GOD THAT WE SERVE was here before any of these things came; He will be here after they are gone and this old world is destroyed.

The GOD THAT WE SERVE is an Immutable Bulwark to His children.
We can turn to friends and counselors for comfort in our storms but our God is the only One who can SILENCE the storm.
Family and friends will hold our hand at our deathbed, but our God has already defeated the grave………so death holds no fear for us!
Philosophers can debate the meaning of life but the GOD WE SERVE IS LIFE ITSELF and His life is light to His children!
Our God is an Immutable Bulwark that never changes during these days of uncertainty; take shelter in His strength today!

God Who Specializes in the Impossible

Blizzard in New York City

Blizzard in New York City

Mark 10:27 (NKJV) “But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”

In mid-1961 my parents returned to the States from Rhodesia, for a furlough. It coincided with my entering Holmes Bible Theological Seminary, in Greenville South Carolina. Trying to adjust to the cultural shock that I experienced is hard to even put into words. The last time we had visited the States as a family I was only eleven years old and was sent to live with my grandparents in a rough cabin with no running water or electricity, in the tiny village of Hatfield Point in New Brunswick, Canada. Now I was a young woman taking my first steps in preparing myself to follow the call of God on my life. The only culture I truly was comfortable in was life in Rhodesia, Africa and it was a far cry from the American culture I was thrust into!

Shortly after arriving in the States my Dad was asked to become the short term, Interim President of Long Island Bible Institute for several months, while a permanent President was selected.
The day arrived for the long journey from Long Island, New York to Greenville, South Carolina, for me to enroll as a freshman. Just as soon as my parents helped me get my room assignment, unload my luggage, they quickly said their good-byes, with promises of sending me a bus ticket for our Christmas break and then they were gone; before I had hardly caught my breath. I was on my own and it was “make or break” as far as I was concerned.

It did not take long to get into the rhythm of College life and before I knew it, I received a letter from my parents with a Greyhound Bus ticket to travel to Long Island for Christmas.
My room-mates were very protective of their “African missionary kid” so they filled my head full of “things to avoid when travelling alone” on the Greyhound Bus.
This would be my first experience taking a long trip on my own and they felt it their “Christian duty” to educate me in the ways of the world! The night before classes closed my two room-mates went over their “check list” with me and then dropped a bombshell. They asked me if I knew about “white slavery” in New York City! I had no idea what they were talking about and reminded them I had grown up under an “African rock”!
Before the night was over they had given me a blow by blow description of what happens when young women are taken into white slavery. By the time I boarded the bus, I was thoroughly convinced I was far safer living on a primitive Mission in the wilds of Africa than I was here in “civilized” America!

It was going to be a long overnight journey; I boarded at 5:00 PM and would not arrive at the Bus depot in New York City until noon the next day, where Dad would be waiting for me. I got myself settled in my seat just behind the driver and watched with interest the hive of activity outside the bus. A movement beside me caught my attention and I found a young, tired looking soldier starting to occupy the seat beside me.
Now what!!! My mind was whirling with questions. I thought that if I was too friendly I might give him the wrong signals but if I didn’t talk at all I would seem uncaring and rude! My room-mates had not told me that I might have a strange man sitting beside me!
Looking back now, I chuckle at my total innocence; and how easily, well-meaning room-mates, had actually unwittingly added to my anxiety level.
Thankfully the soldier greeted me politely, made some small talk and then explained he had just come off of a rigorous training stint and was starved for sleep. Once I heard that I relaxed a bit figuring he would be harmless as long as he stayed asleep!
The Greyhound Bus soon was on the highway and the hum of the wheels had a lulling effect on most of the passengers. Darkness fell, passengers pulled out blankets and pillows and settled down to try and get some sleep before the next stop. The soldier was sound asleep and his head kept falling onto my shoulder, so I took my pillow and wedged it between my shoulder and his head – at least he would sleep comfortably!
Eventually the bus driver roused us over the intercom, announcing we were coming to our first stop and recommended we all get off, stretch our legs and get something to eat. He also told us that we were going to be driving into a serious winter snow storm which would probably delay our arrival in New York by a few hours. I was not about to move from my seat; it had become my security place, but the young soldier insisted I get off and stretch my legs. He must have sensed I was scared to death and totally out of my element, so he assured me that he would stay with me inside the bus depot. Once inside he insisted on buying me a sandwich and warm bowl of soup.

Back on the bus we all trooped, like a bunch of sheep and settled down for the next leg of the journey. Rapidly the road conditions began to deteriorate and it was not long before we were driving into the teeth of a major blizzard. The bus was crawling, cars were sliding off the road; I seriously wondered if we were going to end up stuck in a snow bank.
The further we went the worse the driving conditions became, the bus driver’s disposition grew grumpier by the minute and passengers started grumbling in impatience. At this rate we were not going to be just a couple hours late but we would be fortunate if we made it at all!
The long night turned into a torturous battle with the elements and the anxiety level among the passengers rose with each spin of the wheels. The tension in the bus was tangible, frustration turned to genuine fear for our safety.

This was before the “cell phone” era, so I had no way of notifying my Dad that we were going to be VERY late arriving in New York City. As the morning light tried to make a dent through the driving snow we resigned ourselves to many more hours of slipping and sliding at a snail’s pace. Finally the lights of New York City became a welcoming glow on the now, dark horizon of nightfall. We were already 10 hours over-due!
The city was grid locked by the storm; actually it was impossible to see the high rise buildings just a block away because of the ferocity of the storm. The Greyhound Bus was scheduled to stop first at the main Port Authority and then as soon as passengers for this depot had disembarked it was to go to a second Bus depot which was the one where my Dad was meeting me.
There were no parking bays for the bus to unload its passengers; the place was in an uproar. With a curse that would make a sailor blush, the driver slid to a stop and shouted over the intercom that EVERYONE had to get off at this depot. Chaos erupted as people were grabbing for their bags, complaining bitterly to the driver and generally taking out their frustrations on anyone within earshot.

I was at a loss what to do. The driver was pulling passengers’ bags out and dumping them in the deep snow; I went over and began to plead with him to help me. I explained that I did not know where the second Bus Depot was and had no idea how to get there as I was a stranger to the city.
He turned and cursed at me, informing me I was on my own and that was that! He said I could try a subway train but I wasn’t getting help from him. I took exception to his use of foul language, so sharply responded that I did not even know what a subway was, as I had grown up in Africa and we did not have such things in my homeland!
By now my exchange with the driver was overheard by some of the passengers. A lady passenger stepped up, got in the driver’s face and in a strong New Yorker accent asked him what kind of man he was, to be treating a young lady seeking help, in such a course manner. A hot verbal exchange ensued until the driver stormed off and disappeared into the jostling mob, trying to crowd into the depot.

I was shaking with cold and terror. I was lost in a concrete jungle and had no way of contacting my parents. I could hear the words of my room-mates, like a screeching siren in my head, warning about “white slavery” and figured I was a prime target!!
The lady turned, grabbed my hand and said, “Come with me, I am going to help you!” Hanging tightly onto my trembling hand we slipped and slid through deep snow drifts into what was a dark alley. Now I was thoroughly convinced I was being captured into “white slavery”!
My rescuer told me not to be afraid; I felt as though she was reading my very thoughts! She explained to me that she lived in the city and she knew a shortcut between the skyscrapers where she could find a Taxi Cab. True to her word, we stepped out from the alley to a street lined with Yellow Cabs. She opened the door of the closest cab pushed me in first then got in beside me; instructing the Cab driver to take us to the 20th Street Bus Depot. It was slow going as the streets were clogged with snow drifts and abandoned cars but finally we arrived on the street where the 20th Street Bus Depot was. It was mobbed just like the Port Authority; the crowd was pushing, shoving and yelling as they tried to squeeze into the building. The Cab driver turned and informed us that this was as far as he was going. Instantly my rescuer told the driver he needed to be ashamed of himself; treating the daughter of a missionary couple with no regard for my safety. She told him to take me into the bus depot and stay with me until he found my Dad. The driver protested that no New York cabby leaves his Cab unprotected as he would be asking to get robbed.
The lady assured him that he could trust her and she would be waiting in his cab when he returned. Amazingly he responded, jumped out the cab, told me to hang onto his hand and not let go, otherwise I would get swallowed up by the angry mob. Somehow he pushed his way through the crowd until we were inside the building. The line at the ticket counter was endless; the crowd was packed in so tightly that a lady fainted in front of us and couldn’t even crumple to the floor. The cab driver ignored the jabs and curses of the people as he forced his way to the front of the line. To this day I don’t know what he told the clerk behind the counter but immediately the loudspeaker in the building began to page “Reverend Wilson to come immediately to the ticket counter”.
I scanned the faces of the crowd to no avail, just as I was about to give up hope, I saw the top of a balding head that I knew only too well. In a matter of minutes the nightmare was over; I was engulfed in my father’s strong arms. Dad asked the Cab driver if he could pay him but he shook his head, smiled and said that he had an “angel in disguise” waiting in his cab and with that he melted into the crowd.

Dad had waited over 12 hours, checking each bus that arrived, to no avail; finally he realized that it would take a miracle of God putting the right people in the right places, to help him find me. He asked God for that miracle and God came through in the form of a compassionate lady and a trusting New York Cab driver.

Never be afraid to ask God for the “impossible” even when your situation looks completely beyond help, as God is true to His Word.
He has promised never to leave His children or forsake them.
Our God is a God who specializes in the impossible!

 

Touching the Face of God

Chimanimani-Mountains

(Chimanimani Mountains – Zimbabwe, Africa)

TOUCHING THE FACE OF GOD

The Eastern Highlands that separate Rhodesia, (Zimbabwe), from Mozambique are appropriately named for their mountainous terrain. The two countries are separated by range after range of majestic mountains. The highest being the great Chimanimani Mountains soaring to the lofty height of 8000 feet above sea level. These “giants” of God’s carvings in the earth, afford the most spectacular views to those who choose to ascend their resplendent heights.
Nestled in one of the valleys of the Eastern Highlands is the border town of Umtali, (Mutare). Umtali was founded in 1897 as a fort, about 5 miles from the border with Mozambique, and is just 180 miles from the Mozambican port of Beira; thus earning Umtali the title of “Zimbabwe’s Gateway to the Sea”.

“Christmas Pass” is the mountain pass that leads into the city from the west. The pass was named by some of the colonial pioneers who camped at the pass on Christmas Day, 1890.
Umtali is where my husband, Glyn grew up.
I was familiar with this area but came to know its magical beauty more intimately once Glyn and I started courting.

There is something about climbing a mountain that is soul stirring, challenging and totally invigorating. The higher you climb, the harder the challenge becomes but the rewards of those higher altitudes far out-weigh the physical pain the climber endures.
For the adventurous climber who endeavored to climb the Chimanimani Mountains, a variety of surreal landscapes awaited them.
Imagine with me what you or I would experience if we were one of these climbers.

When we enter the valley foothills, we see little except the immediate vegetation: the mountain itself appears to be but one-half as high as it really is. Our limited vision is unable to comprehend its soaring height.
Confined in the valley, we discover the glorious splash of color from the indigenous Msasa trees and the refreshing song of the brooks, as they descend into the stream at the foot of the mountain.

Climbing the first rising knoll, we find the valley lengthens and widens beneath our feet. Go higher, and we see the country for four or five miles around, filling us with delight with the ever widening scene. As we keep climbing higher the rocky outcrops present an exhausting challenge that makes us tempted to stop; but the landscape enlarges with such pristine beauty, that it urges us on ever higher.
We must push on until at last we reach the summit, where the ultimate visual reward awaits us.
From the summit we have a clear view of indescribable beauty laying to the east, the west, the north, and the south, unfolding before us.
We can see the veld (bush), spreading its scrub thorn trees in Mozambique from one direction; from another direction we see a waterfall tumbling over craggy rocks into a valley filled with blooming Masasa trees in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe); and yet from another direction we see the smoke drifting on the wind from the village huts along the river’s edge!
From the vantage point of the summit of the Chimanimani Mountains we can literally see two different countries – Mozambique and Zimbabwe! Added to that we are so high that we can reach out and touch the puffy clouds floating by!
YES! The scene from the summit is far greater than we could have ever imagined!

There are lessons from a mountain climber’s perspective that can be applied to our Christian walk.
Our journey and walk with the Lord is somewhat like climbing the Chimanimani Mountains.
When we first become acquainted with the Lord, we have a very little understanding of His Nature.
Then we push higher up the mountain of life discovering that prayer and reading the Word, open the eyes of our soul to more of His Divine nature. The beauty of “His essence” fills our vision and causes our love for Him to grow.
But we must push on in our daily walk until we reach the summit.
We will negotiate deep precipices, jagged rocks that bring pain, exhaustion will become our daily companion. Also we will feel the sting of the taunting scorn of many who say we can’t finish strong…… but we must push on!

Once we reach the summit high above the mists of the plains and the vapors drifting up from the valleys, we begin to see both earthly and heavenly vistas in truer light and our perspective is changed for eternity!
Here we discover the heights and depths of the love of Christ which passes all knowledge!
Yes, from the summit we can “touch the face of God”!

The Apostle Paul, grown old, sitting grey-haired, shivering in a Roman dungeon, could say with greater emphasis than he ever had when he exclaims:

Philippians 3:13-14 (NKJV) “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Weary pilgrim, take a leaf from Paul’s writings; each experience has enhanced your climbing skills and determination.
Each trial has been like ascending another height on the mountain of this life.
To the Apostle Paul his impending death seemed like gaining the summit of the mountain, from which he could see the whole of the faithfulness and the love of God, to whom he had committed his soul.

Are you weary? Keep pressing on!
Are you discouraged? Keep pressing on.
Are you filled with fear about the future? Keep pressing on!
Are you suffering & facing a terminal diagnosis? Kept pressing on!
Are you shattered by betrayal? Keep pressing on!
The list is never ending but by now my readers should understand the heart of this Nugget!

My weary pilgrim companions, PRESS ON, soon we shall reach the summit, the mists that have clouded our vision and the trials that have stalked our steps, will flee away and we will reach out and touch the face of God in eternal adoration, never to leave His glorious Presence again!

 

 

Surrounded by Angels

African girl cooking

(Makeshift campsite at Women’s Conference)

Psalm 34:7 (NKJV) “The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”

While waiting for news about how my sister, Suzanne Coetzee, is doing, my best therapy is to write another one of our memories of our years in Africa. These memories have a calming effect during my times of anxiety.

Have you ever wondered how many times God has protected you from danger or trouble that you were totally unaware of until it had passed?
I believe this happens to the trusting child of God more often than we realize.
There are times when the Lord allows the curtain of His Divine intervention to be pulled aside and His hand of protection is seen. When we reflect on these times of God’s deliverance it becomes a “memorial stone” that we can re-visit with the mind’s eye and strengthen our faith and trust in the Lord.

Looking back over the many paths Glyn and I have travelled in our journey with God, we have seen this scripture in Psalm 34:7 repeated over and over again. Let me share an example.

My mother, Florence Wilson and I were planning to preach a four day Women’s Conference in a Tribal village called Chiwesha, which was about 70 miles from where we lived.
The height of the terrorist war that was ravaging our beautiful country of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe; but we had not heard of any recent terrorist activity in the area where we planned to go.
With this knowledge in hand, we were determined go ahead with the Conference.

Now in African terms, 70 miles out in the bush means dirt roads, mud huts, and absolutely no modern conveniences such as running water, electricity or telephone service. By our modern standards it would be considered primitive living at best.

Dad, (Willard Wilson) and my hubby, Glyn, hitched the family camper up and after loading, food, water, supplies and all the other necessities for camping in the bush, we headed out.
The camper was very basic – 2 bunk beds, a table and a small gas stove.
We arrived, dusty and shaken from bouncing on the rutted bush roads, but excited to see the ladies arriving. Dad and Glyn set everything up for us, kissed us good-bye and said they would be back for us when the conference was over!
We were totally dependent on God for our protection during these dangerous times.

Near the village was an area that had some trees for shade but good open spaces for the woman to camp in. It was situated beside a granite rocky hill close to the simple & humble building that would serve for our services.
As the morning progressed we would see a cloud of dust in the distance and then we would hear joyful singing coming from a rickety diesel bus, churning its way over the dirt road and loaded to capacity with ladies ready for church!
This scene was repeated over and over until finally about 400 women with children had arrived.
The majority of the women had a baby riding on their back in a cloth “taurie”, and one or two toddlers hanging onto their skirt. As the women arrived they found a spot on the ground, rolled out their sleeping mat, blanket and few cooking utensils, then immediately found some stones and dry sticks and set little campfires going. This would be their “home” for the next four days! Sleeping outside on the ground, with their baby cradled in their arm and toddlers close beside.
It wasn’t long and our camper was completely surrounded by little camp fires and clusters of joyful women, chatting happily to one another.

At the night church services we preached by the light of a single “hurricane lantern”. During the day services (we preached 3 services a day plus our 5:00 AM prayer service), we were thankful for the light of the sun.
I loved the evenings after our night service. Mom and I would walk from camp fire to camp fire, visiting with the women, hugging toddlers and cuddling babies.
The night air was filled with the smell of the smoke from the campfires and the soft calls of the night sounds drifting from the African bush. It was a treasured time of “bonding” with those who God had entrusted to our care.
Then a gentle a song would begin and it spread across the dotted fires like the rolling of the in-coming tide. It wasn’t long that dozens of voices picked up the song, as the women worshipped the Lord who had saved them from a life of heathen worship and bondage.
It was such a beautiful anthem of praise! Mother and I would be lulled into an exhausted sleep carried on the wings of the melody filling the night air.

God met us in a unique way at this conference. Lives were touched, changed and challenged.
At the close of our last service a woman came up to Mom and I and asked that we would pray that God would remove a huge goiter that hung from her neck; it was the size of a melon and was draining the strength from her body.
We held hands and in simple faith asked God to be merciful and show his power.

Once the conference was over Dad and Glyn returned to pick us up and haul the camper back home. We were exhausted but so very thankful for God’s goodness and the lives that had been touched.
Upon arriving home, once everything was unloaded and put away, we were relaxing in our lounge and turned the radio on to listen to the news, just in time to hear a News Alert.
A group of terrorist armed to the teeth with weapons of every kind, had been tracked down by the security forces to the VERY place where we had been holding the conference.
The terrorists had been hiding in the rocky hill that we were camped beside, waiting for the right opportunity to strike. They were so close that they could hear the singing and even much of the preaching from God’s Word!

Why they did not attack us and wreck carnage among a group of unarmed women and children can only be answered by Psalm 34:7!
God surrounded us with His angels and delivered us from the hands of the terrorists.

Three weeks later I was preaching in a near-by area and who should be at the meeting other than this precious lady. Her face radiated the joy of the Lord and the goiter was GONE! She told me that with the passing of each day the goiter began to shrink and by the end of a week it was totally gone!
To God be the glory, great things he has done!

Friends, mother and I are living proof that you can trust in God’s Word and His promises.
He will not fail you no matter what circumstances befall you!
Take courage and stand on Psalm 34:7 today!

Photo: Taken at the Women’s Conference

 

An Eye for Eternity

Birchenough Bridge 1966

Birchenough Bridge, Zimbabwe in 1966 Taken by Glyn Davies

AN EYE FOR ETERNITY

Yesterday our Pastor preached a heart stirring message that impacted me deeply. He challenged us to not allow our desire and focus of our heavenly home to be clouded by the “politically correct fodder” that is spreading like wild-fire, and the desire to amass worldly trappings, in this present life. It is so easy in this modern generation to get side-tracked, following the crowds who choose the “wide path” of ease and self-indulgence.
Musing over Pastor’s challenge last night I was reminded of an incident that brought this truth home to me in living color.

I had been outside pruning some of our bushes, even though it was a very hot and humid day. Now before those of you who know me well, start lecturing me, that I am not meant to be doing this type of work; just remember, I have a very independent streak and am not quite ready for a rocking chair!

Once the heat began to get to me, I came into the house to rest for a few minutes.
Turning on the ceiling fan, I stretched out in my recliner to “re-charge” my strength.
While laying there enjoying the cool air of the fan, I was transported in my “mind’s eye”, back to my childhood years.
I remembered with intense clarity Dad and Mom taking us children to the Hotel at Birchenough Bridge in the Sabi Valley. This was a very dry, hot and inhospitable part of the bush but it had one saving grace. The Sabi River ran through this arid area providing shade and water to the wild life and weary travelers.
This river was spanned by a beautiful single span bridge that for these early pioneer days in Rhodesia, was an engineering feat.
Sprawled on the banks leading up to the bridge was the Birchenough Hotel, which had been built to accommodate curious visitors who came to this very remote area, just to see the wonders of man’s ingenuity.

It just so happened that this area was part of Dad’s District, so we were very familiar with its pristine, primitive surroundings; and was always a highlight for us children when Dad would make at stop at the Hotel and Bridge.

The Birchenough Bridge Hotel was an oasis to escape from the oppressive heat of the day. It had a long veranda that ran around the building. The veranda was lined with ceiling fans and tables to accommodate guests seeking out respite from the relentless heat.
My thoughts carried me back to that moment in time.
I vividly remembered the soft whirl of the fans and the cacophony of sounds from African bush that surrounded us.
Dad and Mom would order tea and cucumber sandwiches and ice cold Cream soda for us children.
I remember seeing the waiters dressed in their crisply starched, white uniforms, walking softly on the concrete floor in their bare feet, delivering our treat of the day.
We would sit and sip our refreshments savoring its wonderful flavor and eat our cucumber sandwiches in total silence.
We were complelely absorbed by the beautiful trills of the song birds and the sounds from the bush; wafting gently to us on the cooling breeze. It seemed that we did not want to break the wonder of the moment with mundane conversation.
Suddenly I was flooded with a yearning to “go back home to that place and time,” as it represented a time of safety, security and peace. The yearning grew with such intensity that I had the sense that if anyone tried to prevent me from returning to “this place of peace and security” I would literally run them over.

This yearning set in motion a far stronger yearning in my heart. The Lord gently reminded me that this is exactly what heaven will be like and that we, as children of God, should have that same driving desire and intensity to make sure nothing stands in our way.
When it is time for us to enter our eternal rest, we will take that quantum step from mortality to immortality without hesitation and a shout of victory!
We, as children of God, need to be so focused on eternity that our vision is not “earth-bound” but “heaven-bound”.
We must not let anything stand in our way, even to the point that if something or someone does impede our eternal focus, we will “run them over”; just as an athlete circumvents the hurdles in the race!
I assure you my friends, Pastor’s morning message was a “tangible experience” for me and a lesson with such intensity, it will not be soon forgotten!
We, as children of God should, live continually with an “eye for eternity” in our focus!

Yes, Hebrews 12:1 & 2 is still in the Book!
Let nothing, absolutely nothing, stand in our way as we run this race that is set before us!

Hebrews 12:1-2 (KJV) “ Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”