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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)

A CANDLE, A SHOE AND A SNAKE

Mission Jeep of many parts-used 1953-1955 parts(Glyn. Henry and Dad, Willard Wilson beside the old Mission Jeep)

Psalm 91 was a reality more than once in our years in Africa.
This Nugget is a memory from the period in Rhodesia when Glyn and I were doing missionary work alongside my parents, Willard & Florence Wilson.

We as a family, my Dad, mother, younger sister Carolyn, younger brother Henry, Glyn and I, loaded up our trucks and made the long journey to Gobatema mission station, in the Tuli Tribal Trust Lands. For the men to do some much needed repairs to the ancient Mission Jeep, and to check on the mission school.

This was the mission station where I was born and was deep in the bush, totally isolated from civilization, it was extremely primitive with no electricity or running water in the ram-shackled mission houses.
Leopards would regularly prowl the compound in the night hours; snakes and an assortment of tropical creepy crawlies, plus 120 degree heat, were our constant companions!
Twenty seven years later the living conditions at the mission station was still the same as it was in my formative years!

After a very dusty, spine rattling journey we finally arrived at dusk and settled in one of the less dilapidated mission houses for the night.
Carolyn and I were sleeping in a room that served as a bedroom/office. Dad and Mom had the main bedroom; Glyn and Henry were sleeping on low camp cots in the living room.

I was disturbed in the night, so lit the candle by my bed only to find a snake curled up by my slippers. I woke my sister and ask her to help me kill the snake.
I was concerned that it would crawl into the sleeping bags where Glyn and Henry were sleeping; as their camp cots were just a few inches off the cement floor.
Carolyn took one look at the snake, pulled her blankets tighter around her and promptly became my “cheer-leader”. She had no intentions of getting mixed up in this fight!!

So I gingerly stepped out of bed grabbed the only thing I could reach, which turned out to be my shoe and as hard as I could, I pounded the unsuspecting snake on the head.
Then in a moment of brilliant “feminine logic”, I pounded the other end of the now writhing snake in case I had mistaken its tail for its head!
Glyn and Henry were awakened by the noise and asked if we were killing mosquitoes; I informed them that I was killing a snake!
Much laughter ensued to my announcement and our two “knights in shining armor” rolled over and went back to sleep!

The next morning the guys told Mom about our “imagined” night visitor; she came running into the room asking what I did with the snake. Rubbing sleep from my eyes I pointed under the desk where I had “stashed” my trophy until morning light; but on closer inspection the snake was gone!
After much teasing and tormenting over breakfast we came to the conclusion that in the night one of the large numerous geckos, that ran freely on the rafters, (the house had no ceilings just rough rafters), had found the dead snake and hauled it away for a midnight snack.

As humorous as this event was, it was one of the many examples in our lives of the verses of Psalm 91 in action! For me, Psalm 91:13-14 was a reality that night.

Psalm 91:13-14 (NKJV) “You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.”

So my friends, in this day of terrible evil THERE IS A PLACE OF SAFETY for the child of God.
Do not allow fear to rule in your hearts during these difficult times.
According to Hebrews 10, we have an open invitation to run into the presence of our Lord and dwell in the secret place under His wings at the mercy seat.
This is where God meets with us, where His glory is revealed to us, where He gives us guidance and shows us His will. His shadow is a strong protection!

Rest in this knowledge, as He has promised us a place of safety, security and peace in any situation that impacts our lives!
Today hold onto this promise that the Lord gave us:

John 14:27 (NKJV) Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

 

 

A DOWRY FOR A CHURCH

(Church in Tuli Tribal Trust Land, village)

The early missionaries to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) faced circumstances that this modern generation can’t even begin to relate to. One of the reasons I am committed to writing these Nuggets of how God manifested His power and love to the primitive tribes that my parents, Willard and Florence Wilson and then Glyn and I ministered to; is to record the “ Acts of God” in these early days of spreading the Gospel.

Once again the mission compound was a hive of activity. The old mission truck was being loaded up with an assortment of camping gear, medical supplies, water supplies, food supplies and even grain bags of ground corn meal to give to the villagers. Dad and Mom were taking a trip to a remote village in the bush. Several families in that village had travelled on foot through the bush to come to some services that had been held in our “brush arbor” church that we had at Gobatema Mission. They returned to their village full of joy; sharing the news with the rest of the villagers about this “new God” that had a heart full of love. He was not like their heathen gods who held them captive with fear.
The result was that the Chief sent a messenger asking the “white missionary” to visit the village and tell him about this “strange God”.

I loved going on these camping trips into the bush. It was a great adventure into the wild unknown! We never knew what we would find around the next bush or dry riverbed we were bouncing through. This was prime leopard country, lion country, snakes paradise, plus a whole assortment of antelope and the usual variety of creepy-crawlies! Each hour we travelled brought a new set of challenges; flat tire #2; getting stuck trying to negotiate a rocky gully and exciting encounters with wild animals.
We finally arrived at the village as the sun was starting to drop below the horizon, sending streaks of crimson hues racing across the sky.
The traditional ceremonial greetings would have to wait as we were fast losing light and needed to set up camp before total darkness engulfed us. The African helpers we brought along, got busy making a campfire and constructing a makeshift “kitchen” from rickety poles cut from near-by trees, with a tarpaulin stretch across them.
We would sleep on the back of the big truck for our protection from wild animals and a fire would be kept going all night to deter any curious, leopards, lions or hyenas from coming into camp.
Each individual had their assigned task which they focused on.

Finally the frantic activity ceased, camp was set up. The warmth from the dancing flames of our campfire and the soft yellow light from the “hurricane lanterns” brought a sense of security and an air of tired relaxation began to settle in as the sounds and smells of the evening meal being prepared, wafted across the night air.

Suddenly a faint flickering light pierced the darkness, slowly coming closer to our camp. We had visitors! A delegation of the village elders had arrived to greet us. They squatted on their haunches in a semi-circle in total silence, until Dad greeted them in their dialect.
I sat fascinated at the scene unfolding before me; lengthy cordial greetings were exchanged; finally the purpose of their visit was revealed.
The Chief requested the presence of the “white missionary” the next morning when the sun was just above the trees; so that he could explain to the gathered villagers about the missionary’s God.
Dad knew this was only just the beginning of a long dialogue that could last well over a week.

We had come well equipped for the long haul, so we settled down for the night. I snuggled on my camping mattress, listening intently to the sounds of the African bush permeating the darkness of the African night. The drifting smoke from the camp fire mingled with the calls of night animals enveloped me like a warm blanket. These night sounds held no terror for me as I loved the bush and no matter how primitive our camping conditions might be; this was home! I drifted off to sleep to the calls of a troop of Bush babies and the gentle musical hooting of an owl in a nearby tree.

The next morning after breakfast, we gathered at the appointed meeting place and the discussions began in earnest. Dad shared the simple truths of the Gospel in terms these primitive people could understand; he was well aware that we were the first “white-skins” most of the people had ever seen. It was imperative we win their trust, if they were to believe the message we were carrying.
Several days passed with the villagers gathering to “hear more” of the missionary’s words.

While the adults were hanging onto the words that Dad and Mom were sharing, the African children were totally intrigued with me! Not only did I have white skin but my hair was the color of “red hot embers”. Each morning, I would sit on a stool while Mom brushed my unruly curls and then braided my hair and without fail there would be a crowd of giggling children watching!

Finally the time arrived for us return to the Mission Station and Dad knew that he did not want to leave without a promise from the Chief, that he would grant us a piece of ground to build a small church on, for the new congregation to worship in. One of our mission-trained deacons was going to remain in the village and continue to minister to the villagers.
Dad requested a formal audience with the Chief and his advisors and presented his desire to build a church. The chief’s response took the wind out of Dad’s sails! He said he would be happy to allow a church to be built in his village PROVIDED Dad agreed to sell ME as a “child-bride” for his young son. He sweetened his offer by saying that he was willing to pay 350 head of cattle as the “Labola” (dowry) for me because of my FIERY RED HAIR. This represented a huge bride price……. An offer that normally would never be rejected………….now what was Dad to do?

Dad realized he was treading on ground where even angels fear to tread. If he rejected the chief’s offer out of hand it could result in hostilities that would fracture what little trust we had built with the Chief and villagers. On the other hand he was not about leave his five-year old red-head to be kept as a “child-bride’!
He sat silent for a while, asking God to give him the words of wisdom to answer the Chief’s offer. Then using a parable style picture that the Chief could relate to; Dad explained our western “customs of marriage versus the tribal customs” showing clearly that he would anger “our elders” if he agreed to the Chief’s offer.
God was in his reply as the Chief fully understood what Dad was attempting to explain. He bowed in respect to Dad’s desire to not betray the “white missionary’s” custom. The tension was immediately broken, smiles were breaking out on the faces of the listeners, hands were shaken and the Chief gave his official nod for a church building to be built and our deacon to hold church services.

The result of this visit was that the Chief, his family and most of the villagers accepted the teachings of the Word of God and a thriving church flourished in that place of darkness.
I am reminded of the Lord’s words to Peter:

Matthew 16:18-19 (NKJV) And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

It is amazing what unlikely events or things God will use to accomplish His plans for the life of His children! In Dad’s case, God used his feisty re-headed daughter to accomplish His Divine plan for the remote African village.
Let me encourage your hearts today. Never under-estimate what God can do in your life and what lengths He will go to, in answer to your prayers!

God’s Way of Escape -Part 2

Rhodesian hutch
Family Rhodesian Hutch
On Monday this week I posted our experience of laying Glyn’s Dad, Idris Davies, to his eternal rest in Zimbabwe. Today’s Nugget is the second part to that experience.
Through-out this heart-breaking time we experienced “God’s fingerprints” on everything we went through. His promises are so very true:
Psalm 5:11-12 (NKJV) “But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You. For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield.”

Following the funeral we met with the government official who was assigned to deal with Dad Davies Estate. We needed to make arrangements for all the legal paperwork, including the disposal of the contents of Dad’s home.
What a shock awaited us when we sat down with the official, firstly because he actually happened to be a close friend of ours from our teenage years in Rhodesia.
Secondly we were shaken to the core by the stunning news he shared with us.
Malcolm told us that the Zimbabwean government required him to “seal” the house from ANY family members and only he was allowed to enter the house and take inventory of its contents.
Once he completed his inventory, then government officials would hold a public auction and sell off the entire contents of the home, keeping the money in the corrupt government’s coffers!
None of this made any sense to us, as the house was filled with many family keepsakes that would mean nothing to a stranger; such as family pictures etc. Added to that there were legal documents, birth certificates, marriage certificate, death certificates etc. that Glyn really needed, as the surviving eldest son.
Exhaustion and grief had already invaded our emotions and now it seemed the hand of a cruel corrupt government was dealing us the final blow. Tears began to flow as the reality of the harsh facts began to register in our already numbed emotions.

Malcolm lovingly comforted us and told us to wipe our tears, as he had made “certain arrangements” with a farmer in Sinoia who was an elder in Dad Davies congregation.
He instructed us that he would “turn his back for three days”, to enable us to go into Dad’s home and retrieve documents and a few items that would fit in the trunk of our car. He warned us to be cautious what we took though, to prevent causing suspicion by the Zimbabwean officials at the Beit Bridge border crossing, when we crossed back into South Africa.
We already knew that these officials were ruthless and as corrupt as the government they were a part of. It was nothing for them to single out an innocent family returning home to South Africa and subject this family to hours are having everything in their vehicle pulled out and examined and then fine them heavily, on some “illicit trumped up charges”!
So we knew we would be skating on very thin ice when we crossed the border back into South Africa.
We picked up our two children from a friend’s home and headed to Sinoia and the farm of the church elder. When we arrived, Boet (name changed for the family’s protection), and his wife greeted us with open arms, as though we were longtime friends.
After getting us settled in the rooms we would sleep in, we had a refreshing cup of tea before heading to the sad task at hand, waiting for us in Dad’s home.
Boet suggested we leave the two children back on the farm, so they would not have to witness the heart wrenching experience that Glyn and I were about to be involved with.
He and his wife were the epitome of compassion doing everything they could think of to ease our pain. Word had spread among the farm workers of the reason for our visit and quickly several arrived at the farm house asking to take the two children out to see the lambs, calves and even horseback riding, to help demonstrate their concern and care for us. This proved to be a very wise move as the children had a wonderful time embraced by the loving care of the African workers.
Arriving at Dad’s home and stepping into the silent living room literally sucked the air out of me. I sat on the sofa that had a crocheted afghan lying over the back. I had crocheted it as a gift for my mother-in-law several years earlier. Everywhere we looked were tender memories of precious happy times we had spent together as a family. By now Glyn and I could not staunch the flow of tears at the great loss we were dealing with. Boet comforted us with his presence and then helped us re-focus on the task at hand. Glyn went into Dad’s office and began to collect all the legal documents he could find along with family Bibles, including Dad’s personal Bible with sermon notes between the pages. This was a treasure not to be lost!
While Glyn was sorting in the office, Boet walked with me from room to room to see if there were any personal items that we could carry in the limited space in our car.
I was not aware that in my numbed emotional state, I kept walking back to the dining room and running my hand over a tea wagon that had been hand-made in Britain and given to my In-laws as a wedding present. So it actually was an antique that held many memories.
Another item I kept going back to was a Rhodesian Oak Dining Room hutch that had belonged to my parents and then was given to Glyn’s parents, so it had been in both families’ history.
I kept saying over and over that I could not believe we were losing these family “treasures”.
The whole time Boet was a stalwart of compassion and help. Taking care of what to do with the two dogs and the faithful African couple who had been caring for Dad since Mom had passed away. Once we had finished all we could do we headed back to the farm. Boet suggested that we rest while his wife was preparing supper, which we welcomed as our exhaustion was now more than we could bear.
While we were resting Boet, quickly rounded up a group of his farm workers and big farm truck and returned to the house. They loaded the tea wagon and the hutch along with a large wooden crate filled with power tools that Glyn had given his Dad and secretly brought them back to the farm, unbeknown to us. During our visit with them he never let us know about his secret return to Dad’s house.
The out-pouring of love that Boet and his wife showered on us was a balm to our raw emotions.
After resting on the farm for one more day, we headed back to South Africa to resume our missionary duties; closing the door of that chapter of our lives, never hearing again what happened to the contents of Dad’s home. The corrupt government not only seized the contents of the family home but also froze all the funds and small inheritance Dad had left in his will. The small inheritance would be paid out over a period of 12 years and with the devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar the money we received, did not even amount to “chunk change” many individuals carry in their pockets!
Our last journey through our beloved Rhodesia was a hard one. We kept passing familiar landmarks, African villages where we had ministered, places where we had stopped and had picnics with our children under the majestic Baobab trees. It seemed that tender memories a-waited us around every bend in the road! The sights and sounds of the African bush was seared deeply into our hearts, never to be forgotten.
As we approached the border crossing, we set our “hearts as a flint” determined to focus on the new ministry in Durban, South Africa that God had placed us in! No looking back but looking ahead on the path God was leading us!
Several months later we received a phone call from Swift Transport Company informing us they had a delivery to make. We had absolutely no idea what it was, so waited impatiently for the truck to arrive. Imagine our stunned amazement when we discovered the delivery was the dining room hutch and crate of tools! Hardly able to contain our excitement, we gently removed the packing from the hutch; only to find another surprise waiting for us. Inside the hutch was the disassembled tea wagon!
How could this be?
We saw on the shipping label the items had come from an unknown person living near Johannesburg, so we put in a phone call to try and unravel the mystery. The gentleman that answered explained that he and his wife had been members of the congregation that Dad Davies served and they had just immigrated to South Africa. They had to get permission from the Zimbabwean government for every item of furniture they took with them and they were not allowed DUPLICATES. When Boet knew they were leaving he asked if they had any of the items that he had taken from Dad’s house. They didn’t; so Boet asked them to transport these items with their furniture and then gave them the money to ship them to us in Durban! So all was not lost! God had been faithful to His promises!
Both our friend, Malcolm and the Rhodesian farmer risked their own lives out of a heart of compassion for us, who had become innocent victims of a very corrupt government.
They demonstrated the heart found in true Rhodesians and were a living testimony of the heart of the Lord.
Each time I dust the treasured tea wagon and the hutch my heart is filled with gratitude and I whisper a prayer that God would bless Malcom, Boet and his wife, for their acts of true compassion.
Tea wagon

Family hand-made British tea cart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Way of Escape – Part 1

(Warren Hills Cementary, Zimbabwe – the final resting place of Dad Davies & our son, Gary Anthony)

This past week-end we had our Missions Convention at the church we attend – Battlefield Assembly of God. Our hearts were deeply stirred and Glyn and I were both filled with a longing to return to our beloved Africa, the land where we poured out our lives to bring the Good News of God’s love to those who had never heard the Gospel message.

Some might question why in my writings I speak of a country, towns and cities whose names no longer exist. The answer is simple, my friends; I was born, grew up, married and bore our children in Rhodesia NOT Zimbabwe. My feet did not walk the dusty paths of the new names given to places well-loved and known to me by different names. So for the sake of accuracy and being faithful to the events of that era, I do not use the modern names of my homeland and the land of our calling.
The rugged wild beauty of the Rhodesian bush, along with its rocky granite kopjies and daunting escarpments are beyond compare. The distinctive sounds along with the unique scents of the bush had a way of seeping into one’s very being. Those of us who have been blessed to live in Rhodesia will never erase its images from our minds and hearts. A certain sound, a particular scent will instantly bring back a rush of nostalgic memories, so tangible that it would seem they could be touched and embraced all over again!

For this Nugget I want to fast forward to many years later in our journey in Africa. Rhodesia and all of it memories had become a chapter in the history of a changing nation. It was now called Zimbabwe, all the familiar landmarks, towns and villages had new names; the year was 1984 and it was early May. Our years of serving in Rhodesia had come to a close and we had accepted a post to be missionary educators running a Bible College in Durban South Africa.
Glyn’s parents had remained in Rhodesia, living in Bulawayo. While there his mother passed away in May of 1982. After her death Dad Davies moved to the rural town of Sinoia where he served as the senior Pastor of a congregation.
Glyn and I were very familiar with this rural town as it had been part of our District and Glyn had built a church for our African congregation in that town.

Days flew by as we were busy with our leadership and teaching duties at Covenant Bible College, in Durban South Africa. Then early on the morning on May 6th. 1984, an urgent call came, that no-one want to hear; telling us that Dad Davies had passed away from complications after surgery.

Sadly we loaded our car, took the children out of school and set out for the long three day journey from Durban, South Africa to Harare, Zimbabwe (known to us as Salisbury). The deeper we drove in Zimbabwe the more shocked we were at how the country we remembered had changed. Signs of poverty seemed to be the norm; gone were the maize fields, in their place farmland lay desolate and uncared for. Farms that during our day raised large herds of cattle now lay in ruins with no signs of livestock of any kind. We were shaken and saddened by what we saw.

After the funeral service and burial at the Warren Hills Cemetery, we lingered saying our earthly farewell. You see, in that sacred place not only was it the final resting place of Glyn’s father but also of our infant son who was laid to rest there, in 1974. We did not sorrow though, as those without hope, as we drew comfort in the knowledge that in God’s eternal time we would be reunited as a family in heaven. Finally we made our way back to Harare, where we were staying with friends who lived in the suburb of Borrowdale.
Glyn knew the roads well and decided to take a shortcut that would take us down the road of what used to be Prime Minister, Ian Smith’s residence during the days when Rhodesia was our home. We came to the intersection that would turn onto the road we were seeking when suddenly we were confronted by military men armed to the teeth with AK47 rifles pointed at us.
We were confused, to our knowledge we had done nothing wrong, we had not run a red light or more to the point transgressed to the level that deserved a posse of zealous soldiers surrounding our car with rifles cocked and ready!

Our vehicle had South African plates so it was evident to our captors that we must be visitors, yet this did not seem to make any difference. The leader and spokesman of the group poked at Glyn’s window and indicated that he open it. He demanded to know where we were going. Glyn responded that we were visitors staying with friends in Borrowdale. The men chattered amongst themselves for a few minutes in the local dialect, Shona; knowing the language, we quickly discovered we were in grave danger. They were trying to decide whether to shoot us!
The soldiers were totally unaware that we understood Shona from our years of being missionaries in Rhodesia, they thought they had the upper hand!

I was so thankful that we had not taken our two children with us to the graveside service, as it was not looking good for our safety. Quietly I prayed asking the Lord to help us.
The leader marched back to the car with hostility oozing out of his swaggering steps. He demanded we explain why we were trying to drive down this particular road, as this road was closed to the public. It was now the road where President Mugabe’s palatial Mansion stood.
He told us their instructions were to “shoot on sight” if any uninvited individual drove down that road. Things were looking bleak and grim for us, tensions were rising, the men were flexing their muscles and we had no defense or way of escape. Would God hear our prayers and rescue us from our now aggressive captures?

Glyn remained was amazingly calm; he looked the leader in the eyes and swiftly stopped speaking in English and switched into the Shona dialect, telling the leader that we had travelled three days from South Africa to bury his father. He explained that we were just returning from the graveside and now were trying to reach the house of friends, so that we could sorrow with our children!
Instantly the soldiers’ demeanor dramatically changed, it was as though they had been punched in the stomach and all their bravado had melted away.
What had changed?
What had caused these soldiers to lower their rifles?
The answer was that Glyn had tapped into our knowledge of Africans their deep rooted custom of respecting the passing of an elder!
The leader attitude changed and he instructed us not to go down this road, directing us to turn around and take different route – God had heard our cries for help and prepared a way of escape!

As we drove a different route to the suburb of Borrowdale, thanking God for our miraculous escape from certain death. God reminded me of a precious scripture that we both hold in our hearts and stood upon, during our years as missionaries and right up to today!

Isaiah 54:17 (NKJV) No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the LORD.

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!