Monthly Archives: March 2013

A TRAIN, A TOWER & TREASURED TANNIE

A TOWER AND A TREASURED TANNIE (Aunt)

 Many children growing up in rural and remote areas in Rhodesia spent a good portion of their schooling attending government run Boarding Schools.  This was the case for my elder brother, sister and me. Thankfully I did not have to spend as many years in Boarding school as my elder siblings did. By the time I reached school age, (1950), we had moved from the remote Gobatema Mission, to Rufaro Mission which was near the village of Chatsworth. The closest school for us to attend was in a town called Umvuma. If my memory serves me right, Umvuma was about 40 miles from the Mission. When the school year started Rhodesia Railways would send a school train from Fort Victoria through to Salisbury, picking up children heading to Boarding School and dropping them off at their respective destinations.

I was a feisty 6 year-old about to experience my very first separation from my parents, thankfully my nervousness was tempered by the fact that my elder sister was also attending the same school. After a tearful good-bye to our parents at the station, Sue began to prepare me for what I should expect. I wasn’t too happy to find out that I would not be in the same dormitory as she was but she calmed my fears by assuring me that I would see her at meals and recess etc.

My induction seemed to go from bad to worse when my sister told me that I had to remember how to make my bed with the mitered corners as she had been showing me at home. She warned me that if the dorm Prefect was not satisfied, my bed would be stripped plus I would have to go to the Matron for punishment. This usually meant several sharp smacks on the back of the leg with a ruler and a stern warning!

Needless to say Sue accomplished one thing with her “information over-load”, as by the time the train pulled into the station at Umvuma, I was ready to run as fast as my trembling legs could carry me, back to the welcoming safety of the mission station. Then the feisty red-headed temperament rose to the surface; I was not going to let tales of unpleasant encounters with a stern matron intimidate me! With a toss of my unruly red curls, I jammed my new school hat on my head and climbed down onto the station platform. My adventure had begun!

We were met at the station by a school bus with an African school driver. It was a short ride to the school and the imposing dormitory building that would soon become my home for many months of the year, quickly loomed into view! My sister was allowed to accompany me to the dormitory room I would be assigned to.  Two long rows of beds with a wooden chest at the foot of each bed stood in perfect order. The room was a symbol of the rigid, unwelcoming, discipline that a group of 5 and 6 year old children were about to become acquainted with! It did not taken me long to see that the only way I could possibly make my bed was to stand on my foot locker as I was too short for the high hospital type beds. I determined I would lick this “bed making” challenge and that I did………..with the help of my trusty locker that I pushed around the bed and made it.

The first night was a tough one! When the school bell sounded for “lights-out” and our dorm Prefect checked that we were all in bed; the long dormitory room became silent except for muffled crying of many very scared and homesick little girls! I lay listening to the sounds around me; it was a hot night, so all the windows were open and the sounds of the African night mingled with the heart-breaking sobs from my new found friends. I drew comfort from calls of the night animals as I was familiar with them, they represented a world I was well acquainted with and loved.

It wasn’t long and the school instructors and prefects had whipped us “newbies” into the daily routine of boarding school life. We learned quickly who we could trust not to tattle on us and who we made sure did not learn of some of our pranks! It was the survival of the fittest and sharpest!!

Sundays were always a day to look forward to; a picnic lunch was packed for each child, we were loaded onto busses and taken to a landmark Kopje which had a 40 foot Chimney rising like a beacon that could be seen for miles. It was constructed by Falcon Mine in 1913, then the largest gold, copper and silver mine in the country. Now it stood a relic of an industrial era that long had been abandoned. We would picnic in the shadow of the towering Chimney that was in various stages of decay. Then we were allowed to play among the rubble and ruins until the shrill whistle sounded indicating it was time to line up at our busses.

Twice a month on Saturday afternoon we would all be marched into the dining hall to watch a movie. Having grown up on a mission station I had never seen a movie until this time. My young vivid imagination found most of the movies they showed to be frightening and unsettling.  My sister and I used to sit together and whenever a scary scene was being shown I would bury my head in her lap! My total discomfort with these Saturday events came to a head when they showed a movie called “The Red Slippers”. The plot was about a young girl who wore beautiful red slippers to dance in. Then a “villain” was worked into the plot and a chase ensued, culminating in the girl trying to flee across a set of railway tracks in the face of an on-coming train. At this juncture I had my head in my sister’s lap and was sobbing in abject terror.  The movie actually had a happy ending but I never saw it as one of the prefects removed both my sister and I from the room. As “punishment” for my not being appreciative of the movie day, both Sue and I were told that in future, on movie days, we would have to report to the Matron who was the school cook and she would give us manual labor to do! I did not win any “high-fives” from my sister for bringing that punishment on her head, but I figured scrubbing a floor or washing pots was far better than being scared witless by Hollywood’s version of entertainment!

When the Saturday rolled around for movie time, Sue and I reported to the cottage that the Kitchen Matron lived in. We knew her by name; Mrs. Meyer-Hoffer but that was about all we knew about her, so we had no idea what fate a-waited us.  Timidly we knock on the door and “our keeper” opened it with a big welcoming smile and hug for both of us.  We stood unsure of what to do or say as this was not the reception we were given to expect! Mrs. Meyer-Hoffer was a gentle grandmotherly lady that radiated a warmth and love to these two frightened missionary’s kids! We spent a delightful three hours with her baking cookies together and munching them down, with a glass of cold milk while she regaled us with fascinating stories. We repeated this wonderful interlude in a rigid environment, every Saturday a movie was shown, until the end of the school year. Mrs. Meyer-Hoffer became our special “Tannie”  (Aunt) who we came to love and treasure.

Yes………………God had smiled on two missionary girls and provided us with love and comfort just when we needed it the most!

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CHECKMATE!

CHECKMATE!

One of the biggest challenges as missionaries in Rhodesia, Africa was combating the ingrained ancestral belief of heathen gods and heathen practices. Second only to the power wielded by the village Chief was the resident witchdoctor. He, or in some cases she, held the villagers in a vice-grip claw of fear and dread. So many of the heathen rituals concocted and practiced by them, were steep in superstition and brooding darkness. Their charms, amulets, blood sacrifices, all represented a deeply imbedded belief system of constantly needing to appease the many evil spirits they worshipped, yet never succeeding.

Frequently when heathen villagers came to the understanding of the one and only True God and turned away from their heather practices to follow the Lord; the witchdoctors became incensed with us missionaries and our lay preachers. It was not long before we became aware of something insidious raising its ugly head among our African congregations. The village witchdoctor had been replaced by “self-proclaimed prophets” who were nothing but charlatans preying on the deeply ingrained fear of mystical proclamations. They were nothing but false Pentecostal witchdoctors wreaking havoc among the new believers and sowing seeds of confusion and discord.

This resulted in us having to take a firm stand against these individuals both through Biblical preaching, teaching and when necessary publicly disciplining them. Naturally we became as unpopular with them as we were with the village witchdoctors, as we were diluting their power in the local church. Several of these men “prophesied” to the people that it was time the missionary was taught a lesson and they would prove that their power was greater than the missionary’s God!

It was time for us to hold our quarterly District conference, which on this particular occasion, we held in the local church of the small town of Gatooma. Our African Pastors along with lay pastors, their families and many members from the 150 congregations that fell under our care, arrived by a variety of ways of transportation. Some walked miles, others on bicycles; many on rickety busses and a few with vehicles. They set up camp in the church yard, each family with a little camp-fire where they would cook and sleep.

On the Saturday of the conference Glyn would hold a business meeting with the Pastors, elders and deacons, to take care of District business. I gathered the rest of the crowd outside, all seated on the dry dusty soil, while I preached the Word. At this particular Conference I was expecting our third child and this probably would be the last trip the doctor would allow me to take before the baby arrived. The people were excited about the arrival of this baby as we had tragically lost our second baby the day he was born and they believed that God was blessing us again.  I did not attend the evening preaching service as I was weary and Glyn felt I should rest and gain strength for our big final communion service on Sunday.

We had noticed on Saturday that there seemed to be a brooding attitude of tension festering under the surface; like a bubbling cauldron ready to spew its venomous contents upon the congregation.

During the worship time that evening a self-proclaimed prophet that Glyn had dealt with on numerous occasions, rose to his feet with a defiant challenge to Glyn’s leadership and a proclamation against me. He told the stunned congregation that God had revealed to him that I was “with child”! May I say that this obviously was not a divine revelation, as all you had to do was look at me to see that soon a baby was to be born! He then went on to say that the baby I was carrying was dying and unless I went to a particular place of “his choosing” for three days of prayer I would deliver a dead child. When he said that it was as though a bolt of lightning had paralyzed the congregation; the silence was tangible and the faces registered abject terror. Glyn broke the silence by instructing the man to sit down and then told the stunned congregation that God would prove He was more powerful than this false prophet’s curse. He added that we were not going to follow his instructions but we were going to trust God. He instructed them not to fear but to wait and see God’s power revealed when a healthy baby was born!

When it was time for the next quarterly District conference the crowd had grown in size as the people wanted to see with their own eyes who was stronger; the God of the missionary or the curse of the prophet. Our daughter was barely three weeks old at the time; on the final service of the conference, we brought our “little miracle” with us and I sat on the platform beside Glyn with our baby daughter in a carry-cot beside me.  Just before it was time to serve communion Glyn called for the “prophet” to stand up, then he turned and gently picked up our sleeping baby and held her up for all to see. He did not have to lecture, ridicule or rebuke as the healthy living child in his arms, was all the proof that was needed to strip this charlatan of his power over the people.

CHECKMATE – God has shown Himself, all powerful in this situation. This was living proof of a promise in God’s Word:

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

No matter what our situation might be or the heart-ache we might carry; the foundation of our faith must be the UNSHAKEABLE belief that God will see us through since He knows how to CHECKMATE and thwart every evil design that the the enemy of our soul would plot against us!

MIDNIGHT HOUR

Midnight Hour

Midnight Hour

 

MIDNIGHT HOUR 

Acts 16:25 “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”

 

It is no secret to those who know me that I love Southern Gospel music. One of the musical artists whose music I have come to appreciate, is Ivan Parker. There is one song in particular that moves me deeply every time I hear him sing it; the song is …………………. “The Midnight Cry”. The words are so powerful, they remind us about the soon return of the Lord to take His children home and the songwriter uses the “midnight hour” to paint the picture. Midnight is often thought of as a dark, isolated, heartrending time. The word lends itself to the illusion of gloom and a pervading sense of deep heart-ache.

We all have MIDNIGHT experiences in our lives. Difficult times that we do not soon forget, nor do we wish to revisit! We all know about midnight hour, don’t we?

You see midnight is not just the time on the clock. It is that hour when we don’t know what move to make next. It is when our family walks away from us. Midnight is when our job lets us go and we are too young to retire and too old to get other employment. That’s midnightMidnight is when the doctor says; “Medically, I’ve done all that I can do.” Midnight is when our best friends turn their backs on us when we needed them the most. Midnight is not usually spoken of as a time exuberant joy yet we see according to Acts 16:25 it was at the midnight hour when Paul and Silas raised their voices to God in prayer and songs of praise.

Paul and Silas didn’t complain……they prayed and sung praises to the Lord!

In my sanctified imagination, maybe their conversation with the Lord might have gone something like this…………..

“Lord, we’re here because we did what you told us to do. We preached and souls were saved. Now Lord we’re not asking you to get us out. We just wanted to talk to you!   You see Lord; it brings great consolation to us when we talk to you and sing songs of praise.”

Place of refuge

Place of refuge

I can hear them singing; “Let the light from the lighthouse shine on me…… do Lord; Oh do Lord; Oh do remember me…..?”

Suddenly one of the angels receives a message from the Lord. “Gabriel, get me four angels and stand one on each corner of the earth and when all of you get there I want you to shake the earth until the mountains tremble.”  The angels shook the earth according to the Lord’s command.

The earth shook the jail.

The jail shook the hinges.

The shackles fell off and Paul and Silas walked free.

It was the midnight hour and God was there in response to Paul and Silas’s declarations of trust! 

You see that’s what prayer will do. Prayer moves the Hand of God. Prayer will shake situations and circumstances that are beyond our control.

Perhaps you’ve have a child that’s gone astray, just start talking to the Lord. Prayer will shake that child until their feet turn homeward.  Prayer will shake situations in your home. Prayer will shake the unstable foundation of your job. Prayer will shake your circumstances until God brings the victory!

 

TWO POTS, TWO CHOICES

2 Corinthians 4:8 & 9

2 Corinthians 4:8 & 9

TWO POTS, TWO CHOICES

Last year towards the end of November I discovered what appeared to be two suspicious “lumps” in my remaining breast. Now having ALREADY gone through the emotional roller coaster ride of a breast cancer diagnosis and THE subsequent mastectomy and treatment, I felt as though I was back on that “anxiety ridden treadmill” all over again”.  My first thought was……… “Surely this is not happening again!”

Over the week of Christmas and coinciding with the news of the passing of my brother in South Africa; I underwent three different diagnostic tests.

How much more heat-ache could I bare? Yes, I needed an anchor for my soul………………………!

The tests results all came back showing nothing of concern according to the radiologists that read them. The relief of these findings was very short lived because the lumps were still very much there!

I needed an anchor to cling to……………….!

Many would say: “Well you have your answer! What are you concerned about? The tests show there is nothing to worry about?”

Experience on the other hand was screaming in my head; you see, I can catalogue a very LONG list of wrong diagnosis and medical errors I have experienced over the years; which easily should have ended my life several times BUT for the grace and intervention of God.

Do you see my dilemma………..? Who do I believe……….? The results of the diagnostic tests………? The calm assurance of my physician that all was well……..?

Do I heed these voices of reason or THAT VOICE of experience which was shattering my sense of peace because THE LUMPS WERE STILL EVIDENT!

I needed an anchor to cling to………………. then I found it!  The Lord reminded me of the scripture verse that He gave me the day I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Breast Cancer nearly 20 years ago.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV) “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

This scripture verse became my visual anchor for me to cling to, when I met with my physician to discuss what; if anything; should be done about these “lumps”. My physician felt that best course of action was to wait and see”. Not exactly the news I wanted to hear, as every fiber in my being was screaming to have the lumps cut out SOONER THAN LATER!

I left his office wondering if I should have pushed harder or should heed his advice and wait and see! I shivered from the biting cold as I opened my car door and it seemed as if the tentacles of the frigid wind began to tighten around my heart. I sat still in the car for a few minutes, trying to calm my reeling emotions and then the words of Proverbs 3:5-6  flooded my mind and heart again and the realization that ALL OF MY TOMORROWS HAVE TO PASS THROUGH GOD FIRST rushed in and filled me with His peace!!

As I was driving back home and mulling the events of the past couple of hours I realized that I had two choices…….

Two pots.

Two pots.

The first choice:

I could take my fears and anxiety and dump them in the “pot of worry”, turn up the fire under the pot and then….stew on it……stir up its destructive dregs……feed off of its toxic content and end up without peace and in total defeat!

The second choice:

Take my dilemma and anxiety; place it in the “pot of prayer”, stir in a healthy handful of trust in God, add a handful of gratitude and praise, feed my soul on the nourishment of His Word and end up with an immoveable faith in the God who holds my tomorrows!

Dear friends, I don’t know about you but I chose the “pot of prayer” to see me through these complex circumstances of my life.

God is a loving Father who cares for His children and we can with confidence face our tomorrows knowing that He will do what best for us.

May I be so daring as to ask you, my readers; “Which “pot” are you going to feed from today?”

A CONTRAST IN TERMS

Photo by Ann Warner Wildlife Photography(used with permission)

Photo by Ann Warner Wildlife Photography
(used with permission)

A CONTRAST IN TERMS

In my journey through life I have discovered that acts of faith on my part don’t normally spring from calm, methodical calculations.  Many times my faith is the outflow of fear!  I know this appears to be a total contradiction of terms.  How could faith and fear ever join hands and produce something positive?They seem to be at the opposite ends of the spectrum; yet I assure you that a little bit of fear can result in right choices and positive outcomes. Let me explain my statement this way……………………

You don’t play a game of chicken when facing a charging elephant! Having been charged by a number African elephants; I assure you our fear of their awe-inspiring strength quickly resulted in a sensible choice of beating a hasty retreat!

Photo by Ann Warner Wildlife Photography(used with permission)

Photo by Ann Warner Wildlife Photography
(used with permission)

Nor do you stand making faces and taunting a snarling lion that is preparing to launch its body of muscle, sinew, razor sharp claws and savage teeth, at you……………….no……… fear of being mauled to death will cause you to make the prudent decision not to tackle this master killing machine, with your bare hands!

Cheetah Family

Cheetah Family

Nor would you trust your speed against a cheetah on the hunt! No prizes for guessing who would lose that race!

The point I am trying to make is; there are instances in our lives where a little measure of fear can be used as a ladder to grasp the hand of faith! When the boss calls you in and tells you your job is done, fear will stalk your footsteps if you will let it, or you can use it to turn your focus on the Lord and have faith that He will provide.  I could list numerous “life scenarios” at this juncture; where you can turn fear into faith but it will be more beneficial if you fill in the blanks for your own situation.

Look at some example of old……………….. It wasn’t calm logic that caused Moses to raise his rod on the banks of the Red Sea; it was his fear of the approaching army pounding towards them; which he turned into faith that God would part the waters!

It wasn’t medical calculations that caused Namaan to dip seven times in the muddy Jordan waters but the fear of dying from leprosy caused him to choose faith in Elisha’s God.

It wasn’t a composed committee that prayed in a small room in Jerusalem for Peter’s release from prison………no it was a fearful, desperate band of “backed-into-a corner” of believers doing what they only knew to do………call on God for help! To the naked eye this band of believers would appear powerless but actually through faith they never were stronger!

At the beginning of every act of faith, there often is a seed of fear! 

Let us not forget this promise from God’s Word:  Matthew 17:20 (NKJV)

“So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

A HURRICANE, A LIFE-VEST AND A PILOT

Setting sail for Africa on 11-11-1969

Setting sail for Africa on 11-11-1969

A HURRICANE, A LIFE-VEST AND A PILOT 

Summer was waning, fall was just around the corner; the countdown had begun for the day we would board the ship in Brooklyn Harbor, New York to return to Africa. Our theological studies were complete; we had spent the summer travelling mostly in the North Eastern States raising our support as missionaries; now it was time to set sail for the land of our birth as well as our calling! Glyn and I could hardly wait to plant our feet again on the beloved soil of Africa; WE WERE GOING HOME!

Finally November 11, 1969 arrived. Friends who lived in New Jersey kindly drove us to the docks where the “African Sun” was berthed and being loaded to set sail. This was not a cruise ship but a cargo freighter that traversed the ocean between the States and Cape Town, South Africa. It only had well fitted cabins for 12 passengers, as its primary function was a cargo carrier; this very fact though was why many missionaries would use this form of transport to go overseas; as you were allowed to ship a large amount of equipment and supplies without paying exorbitant shipping costs. After many hugs from our friends, we boarded the ship, found our stateroom and settled in for the long 21 day journey! The ship was scheduled to set sail shortly after mid-night, so we spent the evening exploring the ship and meeting our fellow travelers. At our first sumptuous meal that evening, we met the Captain and officers of the vessel. We would be dining with them for all of our meals. It did not take us long to become acquainted with fellow passengers as there was only 12 of us!

African Sun -sailed, 11-11-1969

African Sun -sailed, 11-11-1969

There would be no sleep until the ship set sail as excitement was coursing through our being. Glyn and I stood at the rail on the upper deck as the ship’s engines began to throb to life; then a tugboat gently guided us out of the Harbor. The lights of Manhattan seemed to light the path to the open sea; our ship aptly named, The African Queen, slowly drifted passed the Statue of Liberty, standing in all her dignity with her flame brightly shining. This was our final salute of farewell from the shores of American soil.   We stood on the deck, arms around each other and watched the Statue of Liberty slowly disappear into the mists of the night hour.

The swells of the open ocean began to make the ship roll; laughing at ourselves as we tried out our “sea-legs” we made our way to the cabin and turned in for the night. The next morning a totally different scene a-waited us; the gentle swells of the night before had turned into angry crashing waves, which crashed over the heaving bow of the ship and a shrieking wind  battered The African Sun………….yes we had sailed into a Hurricane!  Grabbing the railing in the hallway to steady ourselves, we made our way to the ship’s dining room.  All the tablecloths had been soaked with water to help prevent the cups and dishes from sliding onto the floor as the ship was rolling so badly. The Captain announced that we were in for a few rough days as we were feeling the effects of a hurricane; I assure you his announcement came as no surprise! He then came over to the table where Glyn and I were seated and suggested that I not try and go out on deck to watch the boisterous waves because the sustained winds were lashing the ship at speeds of over 100 miles an hour and I only weighed 95 pounds! He had no need for concern, as I was thoroughly sea-sick by this time and had no desire to take my life in my hands out on the deck!

Ocean Storm

Ocean Storm

The storm raged for three long torturous days and nights. There were times that the ship would roll so badly that it felt as though it was not going right itself again. Sailors were frantically lashing cargo in the hold that had begun shifting, which was causing the vessel to list even more.

While the crew had their hands full during the storm, Glyn and I had a more unique problem to deal with. Due to the ship listing so badly each time it rolled with the constant battering of the waves, I was having trouble not being tossed out of my bed! It was disconcerting to say the least and there was no rest to be had. Then Glyn came up with the idea to take one of the life vests, tie it across me and attach it to the bed frame; finally fitful sleep came in between times of praying that the ship would survive the storm! Seasickness was my nemesis during the height of the storm – frankly I felt that death would actually be a sweet relief! Those of my readers who have experienced severe seasickness can empathize with my sentiments!

We awoke on the fourth day, the shrieking wind and heavy seas had blown themselves out and the sea just had a gentle swell. The sun was shining brightly and all was well with the world…………but I was still horribly seasick!  The longer I laid on the bed in the cabin  the sicker I became………..this was going to prove to be a very LONG 21 day voyage for me.  The First Officer noticed I was missing from meals and asked Glyn if I was suffering with sea-sickness; when he found out that this was the case, he instructed Glyn to get me up, help me out on deck, sit me in a deck chair and tell me not to watch the rolling waves but caste my eyes out to sea. We complied with his suggestion and it worked……..seasickness was abated! You see while I lay on the bed inside the ship I was feeling every roll, every list and was literally being tossed by the waves. When I went up and out on deck, I was able to drink in the vibrant sea air and focus my eyes on the distant water before me.

There is a spiritual lesson in this experience; at the height of the storm, I felt like the disciples must have felt in the account of the storm on the Sea of Galilee………..“The boat was now in the middle of the sea, TOSSED by the waves.” Mt 14:24 NKJV

The Sea of Galilee was only about thirteen miles long and seven and a half miles wide. But when the wind sweeps down from the Golan Heights it can churn those waters into a blender for two or three days, and it could sink a fishing boat like the one the disciples were in. Note the words, “tossed by the waves.”…………. Is that where you are today?

Are you in the middle of a storm of financial insecurity and being tossed by relentless creditors?

Maybe you are In the middle of a storm of illness and being tossed by the ravages of pain?

Is your heart broken by a storm of unforeseen circumstances and you are being tossed by the uncertainty of what your tomorrows hold?

Could it be a storm of broken relationships and you are being tossed by regrets and guilt?

If you are struggling with the storms of life, listen to the words of the scripture:

“Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him…they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid’” Mathew 14: 25-27( NKJV).

You will never go where Jesus cannot reach you. Look over your shoulder…………. that’s Him following you. Look into the storm…………… that’s Him coming toward you. Today, open your eyes and recognize Him.

Whether storms come, we CAN NOT choose……. But what we focus on during a storm; we CAN choose. When you are staring into the face of LIFE’S STORMS, move your focus from the storm onto the MASTER of the storm who has the power to speak peace and still the turbulent waves of  your life!  Yes………. He can meet ALL your needs. So keep your eyes on Jesus and draw strength from Him TODAY!

GUAVAS AND A CLOSE ENCOUNTER

Mom & Zillah at Rufaro Mission

Mom & Zillah at Rufaro Mission

GUAVAS AND A CLOSE ENCOUNTER

One of the most rewarding aspects about spending my childhood years living on a primitive Mission Station in Rhodesia, Africa was that it developed in me a deep love for nature and all of its great variety of “inhabitants” from the largest animals to the smallest creepy-crawlies!

I learned to admire them, respect them and protect them!

Many a care-free hour was spent exploring the bush and rocky outcrops and seeing what new creature I could find and observe. The wild pristine bush of Africa was my classroom and lessons learned in this unique environment have stayed with me to this very day! Many of my most vivid memories of these early years often involved close encounters with the creatures of the wild! Here is one that always brings a smile to my face when I recall it, even though it well could have had serious consequences!

What Rufaro Mission Station lacked in modern conveniences it made up for in flourishing gardens and fruit trees. We had a beautiful orchard that had a plethora of tropical fruit trees, fit for a king’s table! There were oranges, thick skinned lemons, tangerines, quinces, pomegranates, guavas, papayas and bananas.  It was wonderful to be able to walk out to the orchard behind the house and pick fresh fruit that was in season, to our heart’s content, except for one major caution. The mission home had been built at the base of a granite-rock “kopjie”, (rocky hill) which was a haven for snakes, scorpions and other small creatures of the bush. There was an abundance of these creatures! It was amazing the places they could slither or crawl to; every nook and cranny was fair game! For the variety of poisonous snakes that made the mission their home, the limbs of the trees in the orchard were one of their favorite haunts!  So “technically” the orchard was out of bounds to us children unless there was an adult with us!  I can’t promise though that this little “tom-boy” always obeyed that rule!

On this particular day, Dad needed to go into the village of Chatsworth to check for mail and take the cans of cream that had been separated from the morning’s milking; these needed to be put on the train to Fort Victoria. We sold our cream to be churned into butter which brought a little extra income for the running of the Mission Station. Mom decided she would go along and pick up a few things from the only village store. So Zillah, a young African girl and I hopped into the back of the truck with the milk cans. The truck had a sturdy canopy on it, so there was no danger of us falling out! As Dad started to pull away, Mom decided to run to the orchard and pick some ripe guavas for us to munch on while she and Dad took care of business.

Delicious guavas

Delicious guavas

Mom was still wearing her apron, so she found a guava tree that had some lovely ripe guavas and began to pick them and drop them into her apron. By now Zillah and I were hanging out of the tail-gate of the truck telling Mom where we could see the biggest and best ones to pick. I spied one fairly high up in the branches of the tree, which was a beauty, so I began to spur Mom on to reach high for it.  Mom extended her arm as far as she could; she noticed that beside the luscious  guava, hung another one that was still green.

As she curled her fingers around the ripe guava the “green one” came to life! It was not a green fruit

Green Mamba

Green Mamba

at all, but the head of a Green Mamba and her hand was a mere fraction away from its deadly fangs! Quick as a flash, the snake dropped to the ground right at Mom’s feet; she let out a yell, spontaneously separating her feet as there was not time to do anything more.  The Mamba seeing a way of escape thankfully slithered between her feet and into some deep brush!

From Zillah and my vantage point in the back of the truck, it was a comical scene that unfolded before our eyes. Upon reflection though; instead of us all having a good laugh at Mom’s close encounter; the episode could easily have turned deadly.

God had his Hand of protection covering Mom’s hand as she reach into the face of that snake! It is a visual lesson I have carried with my to this day. I never want to take for granted God’s Divine protection even in what would seem to be insignificant things in my life!

Too often we take for granted incidents that happen in our lives that have the potential to be disastrous; never recognizing the God STOOD BETWEEN us and the situation or poor choice we have made.

The following two scripture passages are like a cluster of fruit to me:
Isaiah 49:2 (NKJV) “……… In the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me, And made Me a polished shaft; In His quiver He has hidden Me.”

Psalm 33:20 (NKJV) “ ……Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.”

Trusting child of God, we have nothing to fear!  God is our shield!

He has us in the shadow of His Hand protecting us from the evil that walks the dark shadows. Never stray from the shadow of His Hand for in this place of safety we find peace, protetion, joy and sustaining grace for each new day!