Monthly Archives: July 2013

Embracing The Unfamiliar Paths

Dirt track with Mana Pools elephant

Dirt track with Mana Pools elephant

EMBRACING THE UNFAMILIAR PATHS 

“Along unfamiliar paths I will guide them.” Isa 42:16 NIV 

I have often admired those individuals who have the ability to be totally spontaneous in making choices or instant decisions. An example of this is; those individuals who go on vacation to places “unknown and unplanned”. They will set out and follow wherever whim may take them, not even knowing where they will sleep on their journey of discovery! I on the other-hand am far more cautious when it comes to negotiating “unfamiliar paths”! When we go on vacation, I have the route highlighted on the map, reservations booked for places to stay, long lists written of last minute things to do, LONG BEFORE the anticipated event is to take place. It is a family joke that whenever “Norma/Mom/Ouma” is going to travel she has her suitcases packed and ready, at least a week before the trip is to take place!

It would seem that God must have had a sense of humor when He molded my character, as my life as a missionary’s child, then a missionary myself has been FILLED with following His calling on “unfamiliar paths” and dealing with constant change! You would think that by this stage of my life I would have learned how to deal with the unfamiliar paths on which life has led me, but they still do not come easy to me!

On May 15th. this year Glyn and I had our world turned upside down, totally without warning when he lost his job. Since that day which shall forever be imprinted on my mind and heart we have had a daily journey of the fulfillment of Isaiah 42:16. God has been leading us step by step along an “unfamiliar path”! Reflecting back on that very gut wrenching day that was filled with fear and uncertainty of what our future held has caused me to consider what attitude we should take when facing the “unknown” and inevitable changes that are a part of life.

Several thoughts came to mind: 

1. Change forces us out of our comfort zone.

We all have a “comfort zone” that we protect and try to maintain. Stepping onto an unknown path takes the “familiar” and turns it into the discomfort of the unfamiliar. While this can turn our world upside down, it also gives us the opportunity to face and confront our greatest fears which steal our joy, peace, and confidence.

2. Change can be our friend or foe.

The power to embrace or reject the unfamiliar paths depends on how we deal with them. Running away from change in the unfamiliar paths turns it into an enemy. Embracing and learning from it, makes it one of our greatest allies.

I came across this quote recently which succinctly expresses this thought: “Change is always hardest for the man who’s in a rut for he has scaled down his living to that which he can handle comfortably, and welcomes no change or challenge that would lift him up.” (C. Neil Strait)

When we are facing the unknown, instead of automatically going into resistance mode, which often is my gut reflex, we need to do what Proverbs 4:25-26 instructs us to do:

 “Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you.  Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.”   

3. Change used correctly brings growth.

Approaching the “unknown path” with an open heart and mind will bring lasting benefits.

Questions such as:

What is God trying to teach me?

How can I become stronger and wiser?

What opportunities does this new path hold?

Finding the answers to these types of questions will result in a faith building growth.

You see….One change makes way for the next, giving you the opportunity to grow.

Let me remind you of one consistent thing:  in life every time we think we are ready to graduate from the school of experience, somebody thinks up a new course!! Life is an EVER LEARNING school!

If we can learn when to stand firm and when to bend, then we will grow the change that unfamiliar paths take us on, will hold no fear.

If we would but learn these lessons then we don’t have to fear what lies ahead. Remember, God never closes a door without opening another one, but you must be willing to walk through it. Hold on to the promise in His Word today!

Isaiah 42:16 (NKJV) “I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them.”

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Calls of the African Night

Bush-Baby

Bush-Baby

CALLS OF THE AFRICAN NIGHT 

There are a great variety of calls and sounds when the shadows of night settle over the African bush.  The constant chirping of crickets or the call of the night owl can in a split second be silenced by the snarl of a leopard, roar of a lion or the high-pitched “laughter” of a pack of hyenas. These are the night predators that stalk silently under the cover of darkness but when they do give voice to their presence the inhabitants of the bush take note and become silent! These are the masters of the night and their calls signal total vigilance on the part of the rest of the night callers.

Growing up on a Mission station in the bush, the sounds of the African night were for the most part comforting to me. These were familiar sounds that held no terror and as I grew older I was able to recognize what animal, bird or insect was part of the night-time choir. Some were soft and alluring others louder rising to a sharp crescendo before suddenly becoming silent. The night calls are unique and distinct, never to be forgotten and remembered with longing memories to return to the “calls of the wild”.

When I was about six years of age my parents relocated to a different Mission Station that was not as isolated as Gobatema Mission was.  Even though Rufaro Mission was located closer to villages & towns it still had a prolific collection of wildlife. My poor parents could hardly believe their eyes when they finally arrived

Rufaro Mission 1949

Rufaro Mission 1949

at the Mission compound after a long arduous journey over unforgiving dirt roads. The Mission house was in such a state of disrepair that it was hard to imagine it could even be habitable. When they opened the creaky kitchen door that was hanging loosely on its hinges, a dozen or more bats began to flap around the rafters from which they had been hanging. There were no ceilings, just rafters covered with a galvanized tin roof which leaked like a sieve when there was a tropical down-pour!

The first order of business was to rid the house of the bats and then mother tackled attempting to clean two rooms to use as our bedrooms for our initial night. Much work faced my parents in the days ahead to make the house livable but initially it would have to be just “camped” in. There was no running water and no electricity. Once darkness settled in, Dad would light our paraffin (kerosene) lanterns, one in each room. Once my sister and I were tucked into our makeshift beds the lanterns were extinguished and the African night wrapped around us like a cocoon; the moon and stars were the only source of light until the first crimson rays of dawn streaked the morning sky.

Exhausted from the day’s journey and events the family settled down for the night. Sleep came quickly after a few whispered giggles from my sister and I about all the exciting new places we would have to explore in the days to come. I have no idea how long we had slept before we were instantly jerked awake by the sounds of shrill screaming and what seemed like a troop of baboons doing cartwheels on the tin roof. Both my sister and I hit the floor running, trying to find the way to Dad and Mom’s bedroom in the darkness of this strange and now foreboding house!  Almost immediately we became aware of the flickering light of a candle and Mom came out of their bedroom to guide her two shaking urchins back to bed. She assured us that the screeching and noise that we could hear on the roof was nothing but a couple of harmless Bush-babies. These are small marsupials, with a bushy tail and huge big eyes. They are nocturnal animals, have an amazing ability to jump extreme distances and as we had just discovered can be VERY VOCAL! Over breakfast the next morning Dad was teasing us girls about our scary first night in our new home. Now that the sun was shining brightly, our fears were erased and I was alive with anticipation to explore my new surroundings. I now had a new animal call to add to my knowledge of the sounds of the “calls of the wild”!

The world today is full of “voices” demanding our attention or trying to intimidate and cause fear. The voices that would intimidate crash in upon us like the waves of an angry sea but our confidence rests in the Voice of our Heavenly Father Who has the power to still the roaring sea. God will fill His believing child with HIS PEACE. Not a random, nebulous earthly peace BUT HIS DIVINE PEACE. This tranquility that flows from the heart of God can be yours and mine – His Peace is His gift to us!

Think about it……..Before any enemy can reach you he has to circumvent God’s protection and provision for His trusting children. We are overshadowed with his supernatural peace – drink deeply today and let nothing of this world cause you to fear, FOR THE GOD OF UNIVERSE HOLDS US IN HIS HAND.

Stand on His promise in Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Remember when Abraham walked through the land of Canaan, he pitched his tents, but built his altars. Today we are “camping” in Canaan’s land but our focus is on eternity. “We are not home yet children, keep your eyes upon the Saviour”, the author and finisher of our faith.

A Hitch-Hiking Chief

Paramount Chief - Rhodesia 1972

Paramount Chief – Rhodesia 1972

A HITCH – HIKING CHIEF

The wonderful thing about living in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) during the era when I was a child growing up and even during the time my husband and I served as missionaries was the innocent, uncomplicated way of life.  Sure, we did not have all the trappings of advance technologies that comes with this modern world; we had to learn to make do with the resources at hand as there was no internet, no overnight deliveries for parts for broken equipment , no mega shopping Malls or a plethora of automotive stores. But looking back we had something more precious; it was a gentler era when a “man’s handshake” was as good as his word, neighbor helped neighbor and even strangers were treated with courtesy. Sadly this changed drastically when political ideology from unscrupulous and greedy politicians tore this beautiful country apart and brought in an era by spreading a cancer of hatred and violence.  I experienced both of these eras; my most cherished memories are of the time when the country was still called Southern Rhodesia and then Rhodesia.

As young missionaries our first “home” was a rented house in the farming town of Hartley. Using this as our base we travelled out into our district that we were in charge of; which encompassed the majority of the Mashonaland Midlands.   Early in our days at Hartley we took in a family of brothers who were penniless and basically starving. The eldest went by the name of “Smart”, the middle brother, “Champion” and the youngest brother was named “Clever”! Between my parents and ourselves these three lads remained with us for years, even married and had children of their own. In 1972 Glyn was erecting the church building in the town of Sinioa, which was approximately an hour and a half drive, if he used the dirt cut across road, from our home. He had pre-arranged for a group of men from the Sinoia congregation to meet him at the church, so they could spend the day laying the brick walls. He loaded up the truck, took Champion with him and Clever stayed back at our house to run errands for me.

Glyn and Champion left early in the morning so they could maximize the cooler hours. Dust was flying behind the truck as they bounced over the corrugated ridges on the dirt road, jarring every bone in their bodies.  Not far into the journey they came upon an African man dressed in a suit and tie with a briefcase in his hand, who appeared to be hitch-hiking!  He made a striking picture with his neat attire standing tall with a dignified air, in the dust of this rough dirt bush road! Glyn pulled up greeting the stranger in the traditional way and then asked him where he was travelling to. In short he discovered that he was in need of a ride to Sinoia, so Glyn invited him to join them in the cab. Conversation began to flow; Glyn explained that he was a missionary on his way to spend the day laying bricks on our church building. The stranger instantly became interested asking many questions about our work among the Shona people, which Glyn found intriguing.  Finally the gentleman told Glyn that he was the Paramount Chief of the communal lands of the Chirau people and his name was Chief Chirau.  The irony of this whole encounter burst upon Glyn – THIS was the very Chief that he had been seeking an audience with to be given permission for us to visit the villagers in the Chirau tribal lands! The door of opportunity was opened when Chief Chirau wanted to know why we had not preached in his area of jurisdiction! By the time they reached Sinoia a friendship between these two men had been forged which resulted in many untouched villagers  being reached with the good news of the Gospel.

Was this a chance encounter?  I THINK NOT! I firmly believe God orchestrated this whole encounter. In order to win the Chief’s favor to get permission to minister among his people, Glyn needed to build a bond of trust. What better way for a mutual friendship to be forged than by showing an act of trust and kindness in the simple gesture of giving this stranger a ride?  God cut through all the red tape of seeking an audience with this important Chief and simply placed him on a dirt bush road seeking for a ride knowing that Glyn would be passing by!

I wonder how many “God ordained” opportunities we have missed because we kept going with our own plans and did not take time to stop and “listen”! We are so busy in this modern generation, in fact too busy. We are running on a treadmill of “man-made” goals which pulls our focus and dulls our hearing to the gentle whispers of God’s leading for our lives!

When Jesus walked the dusty paths of Israel He never ignored even the most insignificant opportunity to demonstrate His love for mankind.

He heard the call of Blind Bartimaeus, a simple touch of the Master’s Hand and Bartimaeus instantly had his sight restored.

Jesus felt the touch of the woman who grabbed the hem of his cloak even though the crowd was pressing in around Him. He stopped and answered her pleas for help.

He stood beside the Pool of Siloam and heard the groans of the abandoned paralytic who had suffered for 38 years waiting for a “helping hand” to put him in the water when it was stirred. Jesus became that helping hand and the man was instantly restored to full health.

Our Lord was never too busy “promoting His own agenda” to ignore the cry of the hurting and down-trodden.

Peter mentions this in his sermon in Acts:

Acts 10:36-38 (NKJV) “The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ–He is Lord of all- – that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”

If we are not careful our modern church can become so focused on their programs, media coverage, watered down preaching, that the pure essence of the Gospel will be lost for the sake of political correctness.

My prayer each new day that the Lord gives me is: “Lord let me be an instrument of love, mercy and compassion in your Hands to those who You place in my path!”

Be encouraged today! Remember even the smallest deed of kindness can make a world of difference in the life of a hurting heart!

Valiant For The Truth

Daniel 11:32

 

VALIANT FOR THE TRUTH

“The Lord is a man of war, Jehovah is his name.”

This thought came to me today as I was meditating on the Word and thinking about how the world seems to be spinning out of control yet the “church universal; the believers in the Body of Christ” seem to be sitting on their hands and not sounding the alarm against the forces of evil.

It is time for the church to shake off the cloak of indifference and remember that our Commander in Chief is a Righteous God Who does not compromise or negotiate with the evil in this generation. Those of us who enlist under His banner have a Commander who will train us for the conflict, and give us both vigor and valor.

Daniel lived during the most difficult of times for those who followed God, but it was promised that the people of God would come out in their best colors: they would be strong and stout to confront the powerful adversary.

“The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” Dan. 11:32

Oh, that we may know our God!

Know and sense His power!

Daily experience His faithfulness!

Immerse ourselves in His immutable love!

Those who do this will be ready to risk everything on His behalf. He is the One whose character excites our enthusiasm, and makes us willing to live and to die for Him.

Oh, that we may know our God by familiar fellowship with Him!

Those who do this, shall become like Him, and shall be prepared to stand up for truth and righteousness.

Yes! When we come fresh from beholding the face of God we will never fear the face of man. If we dwell with Him, we shall catch His vision; to us a world of enemies will be but as a mere drop in a bucket.

To those “who know their God”, a countless array of men or even of devils, will seem as little as the nations are to God, who He counts only as grasshoppers!

Oh, to be valiant for truth in this day of falsehood!

Trails Along the River Bank

Elephants resting-Photographer Liz Hart

Elephants resting-Photographer Liz Hart

TRAILS ALONG THE RIVER BANK

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 freely; from modern cities teeming with people to remote primitive villages with its residents living exactly as their ancestors did, 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 will 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.”

You see 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 trails. 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.

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. 

There are times in our lives that we need a REFUGE to run to. The storm is ferocious and the battle raging; our strength is waning so we find refuge in our God! 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 !

Firewood -A – Plenty!

Maine winter snow

Maine winter snow

FIREWOOD – A – PLENTY 

God has the most unique and amazing ways by which He provides for the needs of His children.  I have come to the conclusion that it is the “ultimate adventure” to trust God for our daily needs. So many times the answer to our prayers arrives from the most unexpected sources and even in a novel manner! I have a feeling that God has a “huge smile on His face” when He sends us provisions from the least expected source.

In the late 1980’s Glyn and I along with our two small children returned to the States, closing a chapter of our lives as missionaries both in Rhodesia, (Zimbabwe) and Durban, South Africa. The events of this Nugget took place after we returned from South Africa.

Once we landed on American soil we headed to my parent’s home state of Northern Maine. After a couple of months of living on a farm with friends in Searsport, Maine, we became the Senior Pastors of a small country congregation in the town of South Paris, Maine. The church had rented a large, old two story “Cape Cod style” house. It had an antiquated convection heating system and I suspect the insulation in the walls was merely newspaper, by the amount of oil it took to heat the house! This was our first Northern Maine winter since returning from the heat of Africa and we just about froze to death! Our little congregation, were so loving and did the best they could, often bringing groceries or delicious home-made goodies for us to enjoy, knowing that we were not receiving a lucrative salary!  My brother, who lived in Lincoln, Maine at the time, had given us an old Homesteader airtight Wood stove to help us stay warm. There was a small amount of wood stored in the basement but it did not take long to exhaust that supply, as the frigid Maine winter storms buffeted the house day after day. One evening a driving blizzard set in, the wind was howling around the eaves like a pack of hungry wolves, the driving snow made for zero visibility, so we hunkered down for another long cold night. I was sitting at the table going over the church income and paying church bills. Our oil tank was nearly empty, our wood supply exhausted and now I was facing the harsh reality that there was not enough funds in the church budget to get the oil tank filled up! I looked up from my feeble attempts to “stretch” what seemed like the “widows mite” and announced to my husband that our little congregation would need a thousand dollars to get the church through the winter.    The words had barely left my lips when there was a pounding on our kitchen door. We could not imagine who would be out in this stormy night; especially seeing even the snow plows were having trouble keeping the roads open. Both Glyn and I went to see who the visitor was; we could not believe our eyes when we opened the door.  There stood a man from the town whom we barely knew, but it was his appearance that astounded us.  I know I am probably dating myself but there used to be a program about a man called “Grizzly Adams” who was a wilderness man that lived in grizzly bear territory. Larry looked like an episode taken from Grizzly Adams; his winter coat was hidden by a layer of frozen snow that had accumulated on it. Icicles were hanging from his snowy wool cap and his full beard was matted with snow and ice.  We quickly pulled him into the kitchen and offered him some hot chocolate to warm him up. Larry would not go further than our kitchen mat and being a man of few words he came to the point before his icy cloak of snow began to melt! He informed us that he felt a strong urge to bring us a trunkful of dry chopped firewood! Then immediately turned, disappeared into the driving snow, returning in a few minutes with an arm load of wood which he took down cellar, neatly stacking it against the wall. Silently he repeated this scenario until the trunk of his old car was empty. Then with a shake of our hands he once again disappeared into the teeth of the storm.

Glyn and I looked at each other in total amazement………….what had just happened? Had God sent Larry or had we just seen an angel?  We went down into the cellar and there stacked waiting to be used was the fruit of his generosity. Gratefully we loaded up our arms and lit the wood stove with a song of thanksgiving ringing in our hearts. It did not take long before we began to soak in the warmth of the heat radiating through the house.  Several days later just as we had loaded the last log of wood in the stove, there was a knock on the door and there stood Larry, this time with a load of wood already in his arms. He repeated the same scenario as before, silently bringing in load after load, stacking it neatly and then disappearing into the winter’s night. Not once did we call to ask for wood or let Larry know our supply was running out; he just appeared at our door at the right moment!  This miraculous scene was repeated for many weeks until the church finally had enough funds to have the parsonage oil tank filled and buy several cords of wood. As silently as Larry arrived; so too he silently stopped those night visits once our need was gone!

How did he know we were freezing?

Who sent Him right at the correct time when the supply was gone?”

What signal did he get to show him that he no longer needed to bring wood, a trunk load at a time?

My friends I can only come to one conclusion……….God sent Larry to provide for our need to keep us warm in the harsh winter!

I felt that we had experienced a miracle similar to one that we read about in 1 Kings 17:8-16.

In the middle of a devastating famine God sent the prophet Elijah to Zarephath, saying he’d meet a widow there who would feed him.

Why didn’t God send Elijah to a wealthy family? The answer is simple; they didn’t need a miracle, but the widow did!

When Elijah asked this woman for something to eat she told him that she had “only a handful of flour in a bin”. She had just enough for one more meal, then she and her son would die. What the widow did not realize was that this was about to become the best day of her life! She was about to step into miracle territory; once she stepped out in faith and believed the promise given to her by the prophet! “Elijah said to her, ‘Do not fear…make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me…For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up…until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth’” (I Kings 17: 13-14 NKJV).

The widow believed God through the word of the prophet! Day after day, without fail, she reached into the bin and found more flour. She discovered that when you obey God’s Word He will meet your every need. Sometimes we are afraid of letting go of what we have in case we won’t have enough for the long haul?  My friends………don’t be afraid!

We can never out-give God! Whatever you give to Him, He has promised to give back “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6:38).

Bread Basket Blessing

Ephesians 4:31-32

Ephesians 4:31-32

BREAD BASKET BLESSINGS 

Our annual conference at Rufaro Mission had come to a close, the last trainload of African believers had left and Glyn and I were finally able to load up and make the journey back to our home in Hartley. This particular conference had been quite a challenge for me as it had been my turn to cook the meals for the missionary families that had gathered but we also had a three month old baby – our first! I was cooking meals for around 20 people, on the old wood stove that my parents had brought to Rhodesia when I was but a child. It was amazing that it was still going strong; but also in the African heat it gave a whole new meaning to the saying; “If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”!

A few days after getting back to Hartley I had a very ill husband on my hands. He was running a high fever and was plastered with what appeared to be a bad dose of chicken-pox. I was concerned because of the high fever so I put a call into Dr. Johan Bower, the only doctor in the small town of Hartley. As soon as he finished his office hours he drove over to our house; (yes, back in the 1970’s a doctor still did house visits!!). Concern showed on his face after he had checked Glyn. He took me aside and gravely told me that he was afraid that my husband had contracted Small-pox! He said he needed to call Dr. Mossup, the Government Medical Officer in Gatooma and have him come and give a second opinion.  The next morning both doctors were back at our home trying to come to an agreement on exactly what diagnosis to come up with. Did he have Small-pox or Chicken-pox? Finally they came to the conclusion that he probably had a bad case of old fashioned “cow-pox” which he probably contracted from an infected individual at our annual conference we had just returned from. To err on the side of safety though, Dr. Mossup wanted us to be in total quarantine for at least two weeks! I could not even walk to the town for food supplies!  It would mean using very creative ideas for meals and praying our canned goods did not run out. Fortunately our milk was delivered to our kitchen doorstep in the early hours each morning, in glass milk bottles, so I knew wouldn’t run out of milk. Then mid-morning an African delivery man would arrive on a bicycle with a huge grass-woven basket filled with freshly baked bread of various sizes and varieties.   His name was “Sixpence”, he always had a big smile and something cheerful to say. In return, to show my appreciation for his faithful deliveries I would give him a large bundle of Chamolia  (Kale), from our garden to take home to his wife to cook with their evening meal. They loved to make a vegetable relish with it, to eat along with their sadza (maize stodgy porridge). He was always thankful for my simple gesture of friendship. If nothing else I knew we would have fresh bread and milk for the duration of the quarantine time!

The morning following Dr. Mossup’s decision, I heard the happy whistling of Sixpence coming down the lane behind the kitchen. I was waiting for him with a cool cup of water to quench his thirst and then looked into the large basket to select what bread I needed. Looking back now, I have to chuckle. The bread was not wrapped or bagged – just freshly baked loves sitting in a large grass-woven basket that had a woven lid. How many hands had already touched those loaves was an unknown question! I can just see the modern day Health Department Inspectors screaming foul! Amazingly enough this was the way of life during this era in Rhodesia and none of us died from plague!

Sixpence was chattering away asking how our baby was etc. so I told him how very ill Glyn was. Immediately his face clouded over with concern and he asked how I was going to buy fresh vegetables or meat if I could not leave the house. I assured him that God would take care of us and for him just to continue stopping by to see if I needed bread.

Two days later I heard the familiar whistle and knew Sixpence was on his bread delivery round. I opened the kitchen door to greet him, a beaming face awaited me and in his hands was a bag of assorted fresh vegetables and tied to the back of his bicycle was a rather vocal, cranky chicken!

Happily Sixpence explained that because I had been good to him when his children were hungry it was now his turn to make sure we did not go hungry! I was deeply touched and humbled by this unsolicited act of kindness – God had taken care of our need for fresh food by sending us Sixpence, who over time had built up a friendship of trust with us!

It never ceasing to amaze me the unique ways that God will use to care for the needs of His Children.

Never think a kindness we do will not be remember and it could well come back to bless us down the road when we least expect it!

The Bible teaches us this principle:

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NKJV) “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.”

In this tarnished and cynical generation in which we live; acts of kindness and generosity to one another have almost become obsolete.  I think it is time to start a wind blowing; showing kindness to those who we rub shoulders with each day!