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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 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.”

Divine Intervention

2A

(Our family in Durban, South Africa 1982)

DIVINE INTERVENTION

Psalm 46:10 (NKJV) Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
Isaiah 30:15 (NKJV) In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”

There are times in our lives when inward stillness before God is absolutely necessary to allow Him to work on our behalf.
I remember with clarity this very lesson, one very scary night, when we were missionaries running the Missions Bible College, in the coastal city of Durban, South Africa. A totally unexpected event unfolded, which had the potential of changing my entire life.

We held day classes in our Bible College but also had evening classes in surrounding communities that were within driving distance of our home base. Due to the political unrest in the area, it was not wise for me to teach any of the night classes – Glyn taught all those classes by himself.

One evening while he was gone to teach our extension class in the small town of Tongaat, situated up the coast from Durban; I decided to turn on the government controlled radio, to listen to the evening news. The news reporter announced that in one of the bedroom communities, whose residents were predominately Asian Indians, was aflame with rioters from a raiding group of an African tribe who despised the Asian Indians.
The raiders were torching homes, overturning cars and setting them on fire with the occupants still inside. By the time this terrible attack was brought under control hundreds of homes had been burnt to the ground, with a large loss of innocent lives.
I sat riveted to the news report as I knew Glyn would be dropping off 3 students in this very community!

It seemed every part of my being throbbed with anxiety; the urge for immediate vigorous action raced with an overpowering sense of urgency through every fiber of my being.
Yet circumstances were such that I could do nothing!
We had no cell phones, plus the humble church building in the coastal town of Tongaat where Glyn was teaching, had no phone.

I called our local police station asking for help only to be told that there was nothing that could be done as the rioting was out of control!
We were totally out of communication with each other and there was no one, other than the Lord, I could turn to.
Our children, Russel & Donna-Mae were old enough to comprehend the severity of the situation.
We held hands and the three of us pleaded with the Lord to keep His Hand of protection on my beloved husband and their father; then all we could do was be still and quiet before the Lord.

For a little while it seemed as if I would fly to pieces from the inward turmoil that was tearing through my being, but I was trying to be “strong” for the sake of the children, so did not share my anxiety with them.
Suddenly a still small voice whispered in the depths of my soul, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
These words filled my anxious heart and flooded through my being like the balm of a spring shower.

Peaceful stillness enveloped me, my troubled spirit became filled with quietness while I waited; trusting God with this situation beyond my control, knowing that in my helplessness He would meet our need.
So, while trusting in His promise, I rested in Him.

It was a lesson I would not soon forget; for I learned that my “strength” was to “sit still”. It was a living stillness born out of trust.
Remember quiet tension is not trust! It is simply compressed anxiety!

Finally our long wait was over when the children and I heard the sound of the car turning into our drive. We raced out into the humid night and threw our arms around a very surprised and confused man! Once in the house we recounted to Glyn what had transpired and peppered him with questions how he escaped the rioters.
He told us that the students he normally would have dropped off in the community where the trouble was, told him after class that they were going to visit a friend. This left Glyn alone and on a “whim” decided to take the much longer coastal road home, as it was a beautiful evening with a full moon. He felt that the drive along the ocean edge would be a refreshing way to end a long hot day.

This is when reality set in and we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Lord had prompted Glyn to take the longer coastal road home, thus missing the carnage that would have befallen him if he had driven his usual route. Our hearts soared with joy & thankfulness at the goodness of God to our family that memorable night.
Yes, there are times for action but also there are also times for remaining still before God, allowing Him to work His Divine answer to our life situations!

 

My Father’s Legacy

Dad's old loose leaf Bible

My Dad, Willard Wilson’s old Bible.

MY FATHER’S LEGACY

Several weeks ago my younger sister in England, Carolyn Harvey, surprised me with a gift that can only be considered “totally priceless”.
Glyn and I had spent the morning cancelling some of the “frills” that our society here in America take for granted. Our budget continues to shrink so we were taking steps to scale back and remove some the “trappings” of modern life.
On our way back home I was lost in thought with a sense of sadness, thinking that we had poured our lives out to spread the Gospel and now were reduced to “pinching pennies”!
As we turned into our driveway I noticed a package laying on our front step. I knew we were not expecting any deliveries so quickly scooped it up to see who the sender was. Imagine my amazement when I saw it had come from my younger sister.
I thought that maybe she had sent me some good British tea but the package seemed too heavy.

Like a child on Christmas morning, I could not get the tightly taped package open quickly enough! With anticipation mounting, I gently removed the bubble wrap that my mysterious gift was wrapped in.
What happened next is very hard to express in words!

The realization that I was standing in my dining room holding my Dad’s old “loose leaf” Bible in my hands, literally sucked the breath out of me. I had no idea that this Bible had survived the upheaval of our lives in Africa as a family.
I stared in stunned amazement at what I was holding in my hands and kept saying repeatedly to Glyn; “I am holding Dad’s Bible that he preached from in Africa, in my hands”!

With trembling fingers I, I opened the sacred book, starting to leaf through the pages.
I was not prepared for the flood of emotions that began to wash over me. An avalanche of memories began to fill my being.
You see, this was not just one of Dad’s many Bibles, as he had many, but this one was unique because it was a loose leaf Bible. Dad had filled it with sermons and accounts of God’s provision, written in His own hand! As a child and teenager I had heard him preach many of these very sermons.

Now understand, my nature is a very practical one and mystical events usually get put on the “back burner” in my spiritual walk. Yet, as I hugged the Bible close to my heart I felt as though I could feel the throb of my Dad’s heart and the very essence of his love for me.

From a small child Dad was my hero. Growing up on Mission stations in the bush of Africa, I was his constant shadow. He was well aware that his feisty red-headed daughter, had a driving will power that, if harnessed correctly, could be used by God. This resulted in a close connection between my father and me. I inherited a lot of his character and he “understood” me so completely.

Dad, and mother, I might add; were living models of pouring out their lives, without regard of the extreme primitive living, dangers from wildlife, being targets of hate from heathen leaders or hardships experienced living in a primitive country. To them these were just “bumps in the road, as their sole focus was to carry the Gospel to unreached tribes.

Once I was able to Skype my sister I asked her what had prompted her to part with such a family treasure, especially seeing I was unaware she had managed to salvage it. Her response moved me deeply. She told me that one morning, she was sorting out some boxes she had stored, when she came across Dad’s Bible. Instantly a strong sense permeated her being and she felt a prompting to, “send me Dad’s Bible, as she felt I needed it this point in my life”!
She was totally unaware of our activities the day the Bible arrived. Carolyn said she just felt strongly that God wanted to use Dad’s Bible to let me know that He, God, would take care of us!

Please do not misunderstand me – I am NOT endorsing the worship of sacred places or objects!
To me this Bible represents the Godly legacy and heritage my Dad imprinted on me from a child!
He lived by the teachings of the Word of God to the letter, never flinching even in the face of ridicule or danger.

Each time I sit and soak in Dad’s handwritten thoughts I am reminded of Joshua instructions to the children of Israel when they crossed the Jordan.

Joshua 4:4-7 (NKJV) “Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”

Dad’s Bible is like a “memorial stone” to me. It challenges me to leave my own “memorial stones” as encouragement to those who come after me.
I have been given a rich spiritual legacy and my prayer is that my life will reflect this Legacy to our children and those who cross my path.

 

 

 

 

 

Protection from Helicopters

My beautiful picture

(Rhodesian Air Force Alouette Helicopters –September 1976)

Hot Springs Resort……… I am sure for most Rhodesians, this is a place of many sweet memories! Camping under the stars, or in tents, or in caravans (campers) or if you had the money to spend, staying in the Hotel Chalets. No matter what your accommodations were, one thing you could count on; the mosquitoes were as big as horseflies and as hungry as vampire bats, the searing low veld heat was relentless, evening meals cooked over the open fire tasted better than anything you could buy at a 5 star restaurant. But the most delightful memory was soaking in the hot sulfur water in the pool until your legs turned to rubber, then wobbling your way back to camp and sleeping like a baby. So much laughter, new friends made, sunburned limbs and noses, all created in a rural rustic get-away hidden in the middle of the Rhodesian low veld! As a child, my family visited Hot Springs, as a holiday place of choice. Glyn and I spend an idyllic honeymoon staying in the Hotel accommodations and then we returned on several occasions, for camping trips, with our children.

In September 1976 we headed for Hot Springs after an exhausting annual Conference that was held at Rufaro Mission. Shortly before this we had bought a second-hand Gypsy caravan. It was very basic – just a table, sleeping bunks and a few storage cupboards, but it kept us off the ground and it was dry in the heavy downpours. We had a canopy that we attached where I set up my “kitchen” with a table and a two burner Coleman gas stove, plus we would “braai” our meat over an open fire. 

 

On this particular visit our son was five years old and our daughter was just five months old. While shopping at O.K. Bazaars I had found an adorable yellow polka dot two piece swimming suit that was perfect for the baby. She still had “peach fuzz” for hair, so I concluded that putting her in a little two piece swimming suit would show she was a baby girl. One morning before it became too hot to be out in the baking sun, I was standing in the shallow end of the pool with the baby in my arms, just bouncing her little legs in the warm steamy water. A lady made her way across the pool to me and commented on what a “beautiful baby BOY” I had! REALLY lady, are you serious?  I chuckled and told her that actually the baby was a girl; thus the reason for the “itsy bitsy yellow polka dot bikini”!  Unfortunately my attempt at not so subtle humor was lost on the lady! 

 

Each day melted into the next as we enjoyed making memories with our children. One afternoon while we were seeking a good spot in the shade to escape the rays of the burning sun, a different sound intruded on the siesta hour of the campground. It was the distinct sound of the propellers of helicopters that became louder and louder until we realized that three Rhodesian Air Force Alouette helicopters were landing in an open space right in the campground.

This caused quite a stir amongst the campers; after all it is not every day that three helicopters with loaded gun turrets, land in your back yard! Naturally in a matter of minutes our brave soldiers in their bush camouflage were greeted by curious campers. Our son was in his glory as he was able to get up close to the machines of his dreams, while the soldiers showed friendly appreciation to their gawking admirers’. My beautiful picture

(Our son, Russel & cousin, Debbie enjoying the helicopters)

The leader of the group explained that they had received a tip that a group of terrorists were hiding somewhere in the bush very close to Hot Springs, so they felt their presence would be a deterrent for an ambush on the campers and guests in the Hotel.

I assure you we ALL were very grateful for our “protecting angels” who dropped out of the sky, especially as darkness began to creep in. The terrorist war was ramping up and Hot Springs would be such an easy “soft target” because of its fairly remote location in the bush.

 

The next day the helicopters took off and we later heard on the news that contact had been made and they had successfully routed the group of terrorists from their hiding place and captured them. We were so thankful to these brave young men who fought long and hard to protect the citizens of Rhodesia, both black and white! Many of them made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives while loyally serving their country.  

So many times during our years in Rhodesia we experienced God’s protection. Sometimes it was through human intervention, as was the case at Hot Springs, other times we could only believe that God miraculously intervened.

 

I wonder how many times you and I have avoided a catastrophic event without ever knowing it because God stepped in behind the scenes? I believe firmly that God has been and will continue to be involved in the events of our lives even when we don’t recognize His Presence.

This should give us a calm re-assurance in these turbulent times. If fear of what the future holds is stalking your every hour then take heart, God has promised His Presence and protection.

 

Draw strength my friends from the promises in Psalm 121 – allow the words of this Psalm to permeate your very being and throw your trust upon the One who has the power, to deliver each one of us.

 

Psalm 121:1-8 (NKJV) “I will lift up my eyes to the hills– From whence comes my help?  

My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade at your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.

The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in;

From this time forth, and even forevermore.”