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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.”

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 Ranger & an Elephant

Elephant at Mana by Marlon du Toit

(Photo by Marlon du Toit – used with permission.)

Anyone that has followed my Nuggets or seen many of my posts and pictures on Face Book can quickly see that I have a long standing love affair with African elephants. Apart from the obvious fact that I was born in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), I lived in an era when the country had not yet been tainted by the trappings of the modern world.
I grew up knowing what it was to see these magnificent animals plus many other African animals, in their natural pristine wild setting. As a teenager and subsequent years I read everything I could get my hands on about the character, personality and habits of Elephants; the more I studied them the more I fell in love with them. It goes without saying that these are unique and highly intelligent animals that continually amaze the naturalists that study them.

This Nugget was passed onto me from a friend, who served in the security forces in Rhodesia. I am sharing it because it is a prime example of the nature and intelligence of African elephants.
The setting of this experience took place when the terrorist war in Rhodesia was ratcheting up; heinous and brutal attacks on innocent farmers, villagers, children and missionaries were being perpetrated by bands of roving terrorists.
As missionaries we had been targeted on several occasions. They were even returning to their own villages and killing their own families. It was a time of carnage, heart-ache and tension for our beloved country. The setting for this account takes place in a wilderness sanctuary called Mana Pools.
To any Rhodesian, this place will evoke warm memories of camping or staying in a lodge with so many species of wild-life moving freely in the bush, within sight of the camps. Mana Pools is well known for its elephant population.
Due to the ever increasing problem with poaching, there was a good Game Ranger contingency that patrolled the Mana Pools area daily. Many patrolled on foot and others patrolled with Land Rovers. One of the Game Rangers; who for the purpose of this account I will call “Boet” (to protect the identity of the family), was assigned the perimeter patrol.
He daily did his forays into the deep bush in his trusty bush scarred Land Rover. He carried a radio for communications with base camp, a high powered rifle and the obligatory canvas water bag; that hung on the front of the vehicle providing a source of cool water.
One day he was in a more remote part of the Reserve and he stopped under the shade of an Acacia tree to eat his sandwiches. The serenity of his resting place was disrupted by the entrance of a rather agitated young bull elephant. It would seem he had parked in this particular spot the elephant used for his afternoon siesta!
Boet gently released the clutch and moved a short distance away where he could observe the elephant in relative safety. He appeared alone; probably a young bull that had been kicked out of the herd as he was getting too big and it was time for him to be separated by the matriarch elephant from the babies. Once he moved the elephant relaxed and stood contentedly; while keeping a wary eye on the human intruder. Finally Boet drove off to finish his rounds and headed back to base camp.

Day after day this scenario was repeated! Boet would park under the tree and within a few minutes, his new found friend would arrive letting him know he needed to move!
Over time the elephant became relaxed and comfortable with this strange smelling machine and its human occupant! So Boet decided to try an experiment and slowly got out of the Land Rover and simply stood still beside it. The first couple of times the elephant became agitated but slowly he relaxed and would stand resting under the shade of the tree with what now was his human companion. Weeks passed and Boet gradually built a trust with the elephant, to the point of tossing him dog biscuits which he downed with relish.
Even though Boet had developed a comfortable relationship with the elephant, he did not try touching him as he did not want him becoming too trusting of humans, for fear he would easily become a poacher’s victim.

One morning he was asked to check an area that was not on his normal patrol route, as there had been some reports of a possible poacher camp. Boet headed out bumping along as he followed the animal trails. He reached the area in question and his keen “bush sense” told him something was wrong. The calls of birds, chirping of crickets…..all normal sounds of the African bush had fallen silent and there was an uneasy air prevailing strong enough to give Boet the goose-bumps.
His eyes scanned the tangled bushes then without warning, all hell broke loose. Boet had actually driven into a camp of a band of terrorists and not poachers, as he was expecting.
Four men came out of the undergrowth with their AK 47 assault rifles blazing; Boet was out gunned and outnumbered! As he tumbled from the Land Rover crawling on his belly to hide behind it, he frantically radioed base camp for help, and then began to fire back knowing that it was highly unlikely help could arrive before these four men took him out. If he was going down he was going to go down with a fight! Bullets were flying and hitting the Land Rover, Boet took a hit in the leg but was determined not to give up when suddenly silence reigned.

What had happened? Why had the terrorists not finished him off?
The shriek of an enraged elephant gave him his answer.
Out of nowhere the elephant that Boet had developed a friendship with, came charging through the bush and straight for the terrorists who dropped their weapons and fled for their lives!
Boet was shaking so hard with his brush with death that it took a few minutes to regain his composure. He pulled off his belt and made a tourniquet to staunch the bleeding, then propped himself up against the land rover hoping the ranger team would arrive soon as he could not defend himself if the terrorists came back.
Then the elephant did a strange thing; instead of continuing to chase the fleeing men, he came back and silently stood right beside the disabled vehicle and his injured human friend. He made no attempt to leave; just standing guard until a Patrol of Rangers arrived. Then silently, the elephant melted into the bush as though he knew his duty to Boet was done.

Why had the elephant come when he did as this was not their normal meeting place?
How did he know his kind human friend was in trouble and badly needed help?
I have no answers to these questions but it shows the amazing level of intelligence of these magnificent animals and the result of a trust that had been forged between the Ranger and a wild elephant. Amazingly Boet never ever encountered his wild friend again.

One thing I have learned in my journey with God is that many times God will meet our immediate need from the most unlikely sources!
He has promised His trusting children Divine protection! An example of this promise is:

Psalm 91:11 (NKJV) “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”

That hot day in the Mana Pools wilderness, God sent an “angel” in the form of an elephant to save Boet from being killed by evil men!

This gives me courage to face my tomorrows no matter how foreboding they appear, for I have a Divine friend who is walking beside me and who is greater than any enemy, or evil plan, that would harm me!
Yes, in today’s world, the “out-look” may be bleak; but I assure you the “up-look” is bright!

Let me close with God’s promise to Joshua of old, which still stands true today.

Joshua 1:9 (NKJV) “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

Dusty Trails Along the River Bank

Elies on the move by Michael North Imagery

Photographer – Michael North Imagery (Used with permission)

Africa is such a land of contrasts. From barren dry deserts to rain forests; from rich farming land to rugged mountain ranges and rocky canyons; from mighty river courses, like the Zambezi, carving their way through the land to little unnamed streams.
From scrub bush and the grassy plains to untamed areas that soon will be the last refuge for wild animals to roam wild and free.
From modern cities teeming with people to remote primitive villages with its residents living exactly as their ancestors did, hundreds of years before them.

This vast land of contrasts embraces it all with such uniqueness that once you have breathed its air, soaked in the warmth of its sun or walked its trails; you are forever changed. For those of us who have been privileged to live and experience Africa; we carry its sights and sounds with us no matter where we wander and hold its memories close to our hearts.

Many of my readers know that my childhood years were spent growing up on Mission Stations and travelling with my parents to remote villages in the bush; where we spent many idyllic weeks in primitive camping.
This developed a love in me for the bush-veld and a huge appreciation for the wild life we encountered. To the trained eye and ear, the unspoiled bush is alive with the purest life and sounds that have not been touched by the trappings of modern civilization.
These are the memories that have stayed with me through the years. I have spent many hours walking the winding dusty trails created by the feet of countless wild game; the animals that have walked these paths, each leave their own messages to the observant eye!

Elephants are great trail blazers, creating paths through dense bush which eventually will lead the follower to a water source. Elephants have an amazing “internal compass” to search out water even in the driest of seasons. The matriarch will lead the herd of hot and thirsty elephants, sometimes for days in the dry seasons, to a water source with pin-point accuracy. She will do this year after year. This in turn opens a trail for other wild game to follow in their own search for the life giving water of these remote rivers and pools.

Not only do these bush trails lead to the cool refreshing wilderness waters but they provide a place of refuge from the heat of the day in the shade of trees, which have their roots tapped into the life giving water. The trees along the banks of the rivers in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe produce deep shade regardless of the arid conditions in the surrounding area.
I have watched in fascination as silently a herd of elephants will wend their way along the dusty, well-trodden trails to seek the deep shade of these trees during the heat of the day. Mothers will stand guard while the babies of the herd, nurse or sleep in total safety in this place of refuge.
It is a scene etched in my memory that brings back a deep appreciation for the rich heritage I experienced and a reminder of the many lessons I learned. The passage of time may change the environment around me but nothing can rob me of the call of the African bush and its “life lessons” it gave me! Those days that now seem so distant, helped to mold who I am and actually helped to deepen my personal walk with God. In the rugged wildness of the Rhodesian bush I was able to see the Hand of the Creator which only increased my love and devotion for Him!

The Prophet Jeremiah speaks of the individual who is like these trees growing along the river banks.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NKJV) “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

The prophet Jeremiah was declaring the promise that as we allow our spiritual “roots” to grow deep into the “water of the Word” we will not faint or wither in the harsh heat of life’s trials.

Even the Psalmist David recognized the key to weathering the heat of the battles of life.

Psalm 46:1-4 (NKJV) “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.”

GOD IS OUR REFUGE – “He HIDES us” from the attack of the enemy of our souls.
I have watched as the mother elephants will pull the young calves against them in the middle of the herd at the first sign of danger. So too when the enemy of our soul attacks, he cannot penetrate the impregnable defense that God surrounds his trusting child with.

GOD IS OUR STRENGTH – “He HELPS us”.
The elephant herd will become a force to reckon with if a predator gets too close to their babies.
If these wild “gentle giants” will defend their young which such coordinated ferocity, how much more will God come speedily to the cry of even His weakest child?

There are times in our lives that we need a REFUGE to run to. When the storms are merciless and the battle raging; we sometimes find our strength to fight on waning; it is then we have a place to run to……..our God is our refuge!
This does not mean that we stay hidden though; God is our refuge so that He can HELP us.
This is not just a place of “escape” for the child of God but a place of “rejuvenation”.

When life bombards us with events that overwhelm us, we seek God’s place of refuge where we will receive strength, courage and wisdom which empowers us to return to the thick of the battle with fresh resolve!
With God as our refuge we have nothing to fear in these troubled times. When we are firmly planted in the Word of God and surrounded by His impregnable love, we will be able to withstand the fiercest winds of adversity. Our confidence and strength lies in the creator of the Universe to keep us safe, despite the heat of adversity!

Learn the lessons from the trails in the African bush!
No matter what you are facing today, focus on the promise that God is your REFUGE and STRENGTH and He will help you weather your storms and times of testing!
Let me close with the beautiful words of this inspiring hymn:

TIL THE STORM PASSES BY, (songwriter THOMAS MOSIE LISTER)

In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face
While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place
‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry
Keep me safe till the storm passes by

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me safe till the storm passes by

Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try
For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by”
But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies

When the long night has ended and the storms come no more
Let me stand in Thy presence on the bright peaceful shore
In that land where the tempest, never comes, Lord, may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me safe till the storm passes by

A SUPRISE, A SAILOR AND A SPARROW

 

Family on furlough 1956

(Our family when we returned to the States on furlough in 1956)

A SUPRISE, A SAILOR AND A SPARROW 

It was mid-January 1956 – the Rhodesian summer heat still had not abated. Finding a shady spot to escape the rays of the burning sun was the last thing on my mind though. The anticipated day had finally dawned; our home was a hive of frantic activity as last minute preparations were being made. Suitcases stood lined up at the door like soldiers at attention waiting for their orders. Dad and Mom were making sure travel documents were in order; excitement was running rampant among my sister Suzanne, my brother Henry and me. It was all we could do to contain the pent up emotions of anticipation which we had kept bottled up for several weeks now. The minutes were counting down………finally……….we were about to take our very first plane trip! It was going to be a long “first plane” trip, as our family was flying back to America for our missionary furlough. It had been over seven years since our feet had touched American soil. My grandmother had hoped that we could arrive in time to celebrate Christmas with her, in the snowy winter wonderland of northern Maine. This was not possible though as we had to wait for the newest member of the “Wilson children” to make her appearance. Carolyn was born on December 15, so our return to the States had to be delayed until she was at least four weeks old! Our excitement about our pending trip was heightened by the fact that none of the “kin” in the States knew that our family had grown from four children to five! We would be arriving with A PRECIOUS “SURPRISE PACKAGE”!

 

Our flight from Salisbury (now called Harare) was on a small Douglas Dakota DC3 that had two propellers; it rattled and shook like a disintegrating cement mixer; which was rather disconcerting to this 11 year-old who had never flown before. I was convinced the plane was going to implode into a thousand pieces mid-air! We landed in Nairobi and boarded a “big plane”. This time it was a plane with four propellers…..we were moving up in the world! The family was spread across the aisle and I ended up being seated beside a sailor who quickly sensed a very scared child that needed re-assuring. It did not take the sailor very long to figure out that we were a missionary family returning to “civilization and US soil” after many years of primitive living in Rhodesia. It was a long overnight flight from Nairobi, Kenya to Boston, with several re-fueling stops on the way!

 

My “sailor friend” soon became my hero as he regaled me with amazing tales of exploits that fired up my imagination until sleep finally overcame me. It seemed like we were flying into a never ending night but finally the clouds below us began to become tinged with the scarlet colors of the morning sunrise. Peeking out the window I watched in awe as the sun began to paint glorious colors across the horizon, announcing the arrival of dawn and a new day. Then the crackle of the squawky intercom intruded upon my absorption of the beautiful scene unfolding before my eyes; it was the voice of the pilot announcing that we were starting our descent to land at Boston. He also announced that there had been a bad snowstorm and that the temperatures were in the single digits Fahrenheit! The family only had light jackets to wear as a mere 21 hours earlier, we were sweltering in 98 degree temperatures! Relatives that were meeting us at the airport had been instructed to bring winter coats for all of us, which they were holding in their waiting arms.

 

For some reason the only member of our family who did NOT even have a light jacket to wear, was me! All I had was a light sweater. The plane taxied to a stop quite a distance from the building, which meant a dash across the runway in the frigid whipping New England winter’s wind. When the sailor realized that I did not even have a jacket, he turned to my Dad and insisted that he put his winter uniform coat on me; assuring Dad that he was dressed warm enough and was accustomed to cold temperatures. Slipping his HUGE coat on me, my new found friend engulfed his large hand in mine; helped me negotiate the steep stairs from the plane to the ground. Then continuing to hold tightly to my small hand, we walked as fast as my legs could carry me, while he used his own body to shield me from the icy buffeting wind, until we reached the inviting warmth of the terminal building and the waiting arms of American “kin”!

 

He and I must have made quite a picture crossing that airport runway…..his coat with all of its military patches displayed with pride, completely enveloped my small body, reaching almost to the ground, while beside me walked a tall sailor in full military dress minus his coat, compassionately making sure his small charge would not freeze in the harsh wind.

 

What a picture this sailor made of a perfect example of how much God cares for you and me!

 

Jesus spoke of this very truth: Matthew 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

 

Did you ever wonder how God could possibly know every living person on the earth? It is pretty mind-boggling; there are billions of people in the world, and the Bible says that God knows everything there is to know about every one of us!

 

We might consider our lives insignificant in the global scheme of things, but Jesus would heartily disagree. In fact, in Mathew 10 Jesus made a point of showing the disciples just how intimately their Father knew them. He used the picture of tiny weak, sparrows, their life span so short, that no one even notices when it’s over…….but God does.

 

God is more than capable of loving each and every person he has created.

 

In case His disciples still didn’t understand His teaching, Jesus went on and explained that God even knows the number of hairs on our heads. The truth is…………. God knows us better than we know ourselves!

 

God doesn’t see us as a massive crowd; he sees and loves EACH of us INDIVIDUALLY. The disciples were about to go out into a hostile world. They would deal with dangerous, evil people. They would be mocked and threatened; they would even be face-to-face with demons. Jesus wanted to assure them that their heavenly Father was in control, that He loved each one of them, and that He was watching over them.

 

THIS PROMISE IS FOR YOU AND ME TODAY! Don’t ever assume you are just one of the crowd or that God isn’t intimately acquainted with your life.

 

We are precious to God…………. He knows everything about us………He loves us more than we can even begin to comprehend…………He will do whatever is best for us………… So we can trust him with our life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heaven Grows Sweeter by the Day.

African dawn at saltpans in Botswana

Baobab tree

HEAVEN GROWS SWEETER BY THE DAY

The following Nugget is a personal testimony of an experience I had and I feel prompted to share it today. For many of our peers it seems we are seeing dear friends and loved ones take the final step into the portals of Heaven. As strange as this might sound to my readers, for me personally, heaven grows sweeter by the day! Come sit with me as I share this experience.

On September 8, 2009 I underwent eye surgery that required an anesthetic. While under the anesthetic my brain stem reacted to the drugs that were being administered and the subsequent results were that I suffered multiple “mini strokes” over a period of 7 days plus the brain stem kept malfunctioning and sending negative electrical charges to all the nerve endings in my brain causing the most excruciating and debilitating pain in my head.
I was re-admitted to the hospital for emergency intervention and on the night I was most critical I was lying awake trying to focus on scripture verses that would strengthen my faith. I began to muse what leaving this world of pain and trouble and taking wings to my eternal home, was really going to be like. I drifted into a pain filled half sleep and the following account was a “dream” I experienced:

I suddenly became aware that I had left my bed and my pain wracked body was floating with absolute lightness. Wholeness and vitality rushed through my being with such force that I felt I could take wings and fly. I sensed a Divine Presence walking with me. I knew it was the Lord, as His comforting Presence totally enveloped me. I looked around and found I was standing in a beautiful valley surrounded by majestic mountains.
The valley was lush beyond human description! My eyes were experiencing a sensory overload from the beauty that lay before me.
The valley floor was covered with flowers of every color and description. It appeared that the Master Gardener had sprinkled flowers with gay abandon throughout the valley, yet all the colors and flowers were in total harmony.
The air was filled with the sounds of bird songs; once again their musical calls were in total harmony.

I was struck with the over-riding sense of total peace and tranquility that completely invaded every corner of the valley which began to permeate my very being.
There was nothing in that valley that spoke of strife, discord or the clamor that fills our earthly world.

The Lord took my hand and said, “Welcome home Norma, we have been waiting for you. Come walk with me as I have some people who are waiting for you.”
I became aware of a small group of individuals standing some distance from me and we began to walk towards them. Their bodies seemed to be translucent yet I began to clearly see their faces. Gone were the ravages of disease and age on their faces. Glowing health radiated from them.
Joy whelmed up within me like a bubbling brook as I realized I was looking at my mother, my father, my husband’s mother and father.
I began to run towards them and then noticed that in my mother’s arms was an infant. I let out a cry of joy as I realized that my mother was holding our infant son, Gary Anthony, who never lived long enough to see his first sunrise.
Our reunion was ecstatic and joyous! Mother placed Gary in my arms and I began to run my fingers through his curly hair, his face had lost the “waxy-like death pallor” that I remembered the moment he was drawing his last breath. His little cheeks were the picture of health; he too seemed to have a translucent body but I was very aware of feeling him in my arms.
The empty void of my aching arms for the infant son we lost 36 years ago was gone instantly and the mother’s heart in me was whole again.
The family kept asking me why I had taken so long to come and they told me that they had been waiting for me.

Suddenly I became aware that my earthly attachments were fading fast. I had absolutely no desire to return to this world filled with its pain and toil. It seemed as though my focus and vision had moved to an eternal focus instead of an earthly focus. I had absolutely no desire to leave this valley of total peace and tranquility. I turned to the Lord and asked him if I had to go back and He said, “My child you have come home, but you must return as I have more work for you”.

At that instant I became aware of my earthly surroundings, I heard myself whispering in my half sleep, “I’ve come home! I’ve come home!”
Then reality set in as the wracking pain tore through my head and I realized I was still in this earthly body and obviously had been dreaming.

Peace filled my soul though as I felt that God in His mercy had, for a few seconds, lifted the curtain and given me a glimpse of the glory that awaits the child of God.
The peace and tranquility of heaven transcends anything we can even begin to compare with here on earth. A child of God should never fear the dying process as, glory beyond our wildest imaginations; await us on the other shore.
I carry in my heart continually now, the comforting assurance that I can look forward to the day when I can “go rest high on that mountain, when my work on earth is done!”
Yes, “heaven grows sweeter by the day”!

Philippians 1:21-24 (NKJV) “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.”

 

Water of Life

Elies on the move by Michael North Imagery

Photographer – Michael North Imagery (Used with permission)

One of the amazing things about the African bush is the symphony of sounds that are carried on the warm breezes during the course of the day and the night. The bush is never truly silent. Each insect, bird or animal has a distinctive musical signature. To those who have had the privilege of spending extended periods of time in the bush, quickly learn to recognize the “music of the heart of Africa” and the can identify its source. The bird calls are prolific, each one with a unique call. Animals both large and small have vocalization among themselves which communicate a variety of emotions that they are experiencing; from fear to contentment.
Throughout the uninhabited bush there are areas where pools of water collect during the rainy season and slowly shrink, eventually drying up at the height of the dry season. These areas are known as “salt pans” and the animals instinctively know how to find them to quench their thirst. It is not uncommon to see a whole spectrum of wild life mingle together around a salt pan as they satiate their thirst.

We have sat in the dubious security of a vehicle or up in a man-made viewing platform near a salt pan for many a pleasant hour. Our presence is not hidden from the animals as they all have a keen sense of smell. As long as we are still and quiet all is well as we do not pose a threat to them. We would sit drinking in the picturesque scene unfolding before us, listening to the distinguishing vocalization of the animals as they intermingled at the water’s edge. In a tree close by the call of the Grey Lourie; more commonly known as the “Go-away bird”; sounded the alarm of our presence. This bird’s call sounds as though he or she is saying “go-away”; to the hearer it instantly symbolizes the wonders of the Rhodesian bush.
A small herd of Impala hesitantly stepped out from the shelter of the scraggy bush and walked carefully to the water’s edge; ever alert even while drinking. Next a mother Warthog with 5 noisy squealing piglets came scampering across the dry sandy approach to the water. Across the salt pan two giraffe made quite the comical site with their front legs spread wide so their long neck could reach the water. Lurking under the surface of the muddy water was a veracious killer; a crocodile, just waiting for an opportunity to grab an animal that was not vigilant. Life in the bush can be cruel, survival of the fittest was lived out daily; but this was very much part of the natural rhythms of life.

Something to the side of our position caught our attention which caused us to hold our breath. As silently as the falling of the morning dew, a herd of elephant had moved within a few yards of where we were seated. It was mind boggling that such large animals could approach us so quietly that we were totally unaware of their presence until they moved into our line of vision. No wonder we love to call them “gentle giants”! They made their way confidently to the salt pan, they feared no enemies. The young elephants entertained us with their antics splashing with gay abandon as they played in the cooling water. Mothers would corral their little ones which strayed too far with gentle rumblings and nudges with their trunks.

Suddenly an eerie silence invaded the scene before us, not even the smallest bird was chirping. What had happened to change the tranquil scene that we were soaking in?
The animals showed their apprehension with every muscle ready for flight, except the elephants. The matriarch of the herd spun around with agility belying her bulk, letting out a powerful shriek while shaking her head. Instantly the herd closed ranks behind her putting the young ones in the center and out of harm’s way. The subject of her ire was the arrival of four lionesses either on the hunt or simply wanting a drink! Smaller animals took the opportunity to flee to the safety of the bush while the elephant Matriarch challenged the lionesses’ right to the salt pan. There was a few minutes of a stand-off but in this case “might was right” and the lions turned and sauntered back into the bush leaving the elephants the victors.
The haunting call of a fish eagle echoing across the valley reminded us that the sun was soon going to be setting; so reluctantly we headed back to “our world” carrying the sights and sounds of the unspoiled Rhodesian veld, at its best. We had a rich heritage that we carry in our hearts no matter where our feet take us!

The refreshment of the life giving waters of the salt pans in Rhodesia reminds me of the account in John 4 of the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus at the well. Now I am sure my readers are scratching their heads and thinking this a quantum leap on my part! Hold steady and follow my line of thinking!
In this passage of scripture we read the account of a Samaritan woman if questionable repute arriving at the well to draw water. To her chagrin she finds a Jewish man sitting at the well that breaks all cultural rules and asks her to draw some water for him to drink. This request from Jesus engages the woman in a conversation and this is where my picture of the Salt Pan comes into play!

You see thirsty animals had to make daily trips to the Salt Pan to drink from its quenching water. They needed that water so survive but it required returning daily.
So too, this Samaritan woman had to make daily trips to the well to draw water as its ability to quench her thirst was limited; it did not last forever.

Jesus explained this principal to the woman and then went on to give her an amazing promise:

John 4:13-14 (NKJV) Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

The animals visiting the Salt Pan would never have the opportunity that the woman of Samaria had offered to her. Jesus was going beyond satisfying the physical thirst and offering the woman an eternal spring that would quench her spiritual thirst and lead her to everlasting life!

Are you tired of the chaos of life and THIRSTY for peace and security? Then drink deeply from the spring that the Lord makes freely available to weary mankind. That divine spring leads to everlasting life and peace.

The Rewards of Trusting God

Balancing Rocks, Rhodesia(Iconic Balancing Rocks in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe taken by my hubby)

Romans 8:28 (NKJV) “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

This is probably one of the most quoted passage of scripture; I am sure at one time or another we have quoted it in our walk with God.
My question today is; “How does this verse of scripture uphold us, when troubles roll in like a raging river, ripping apart everything we hold dear?”

Consider this:
As believers in Jesus, we aren’t promised a bed of roses. But, we do have the assurance that God is working out all things for our good (Romans 8:28), even when the ride isn’t completely smooth. Sometimes, though, we hit a rocky stretch that just won’t let up.
What do we do then?

It’s easy to hold on to God’s promises initially. But even the best of us have days when our faith wavers just a wee bit, when that little speck of doubt flies in, when discouragement seems to weigh us down. Even the big hero of faith, Abraham, had his moments of shaky faith.
It’s in moments like these that we have two options: to think we’ve failed and condemn ourselves, or to hold on to God’s Word, get back up and be strong, while the dirt road appears never ending.

If there’s anything I’ve learnt from the hard times, it’s to not beat myself up over those days when I’m unsure of how things will turn out.
How can I say this? The answer is simple.
God doesn’t count those days of my wavering faith.
Instead God looks and remembers the times I trusted, endured, and came out victorious!

If God were to publish the story of our lives for all to read; it would read something like this…….
In His version of our story, we are mighty men and woman of faith!
He will count us with the heroes of faith like Abraham!
God doesn’t condemn us or count the number of times we wavered.
He doesn’t measure our faith against our moments of doubt.
He credits our faith as righteousness as He did with Abraham.

Genesis 15:6 (NKJV) (And he (Abraham) believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like seriously exciting news to me.
Think of all the times you’ve trusted God and believed Him to come through for you. That’s righteousness!
This gives me total assurance that during the unexplainable trials that overwhelm my life’s journey I can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God IS AND WILL work for my good!