Monthly Archives: October 2013

Motherhood African Style



My grandmother's rocking chair.

My grandmother’s rocking chair.

I have an heirloom rocking chair passed on to me from my Grandmother, Myrtle Wilson. I cherish this chair; it is very simple, not fancy but holds a volume of family history. This chair, almost 100 years old, has rocked so many babies in my extended family, on the Wilson farm in Mars Hill, Maine. My Dad, Willard Wilson was rocked in it along with his other siblings, (Bill, Aubrey, Norma and Clarabelle) – so many memories wrapped up in one chair!

Last week I kept our six month old grandson overnight; while rocking him in this chair I realized that I was carrying on a precious family tradition. This old rocker represents a time and era long past, yet what it represented is deeply ingrained in my own DNA. Families pass on values, character traits and unique traditions from one generation to the next. This got me thinking about the African mothers that I observed as a child and then ministered to as an adult missionary. It amazes me today in our modern society, with information at our fingertips on the internet, how many conflicting ideas the modern American mother gets bombarded with. You would think that with the advancement of medical knowledge in our modern society, it would be an advantage; yet Third World mothers experience far less stress in their child rearing than modern mothers, despite all the expert knowledge they are given!

As a missionary one of my profound joys was to work closely with the African women in our District churches. I had already grown up among them on our mission stations, so I was well familiar with their customs and tribal traditions. I cherished the hours spent with these mothers and young women. They were cheerful despite their primitive living conditions and were so open to learning. When I preached a Women’s Conference I would give one afternoon to teaching practical childcare classes, instructing them in simple ways to ensure their babies stayed healthy. I also pressed home the need for them to take their babies to the nearest clinics to be checked and receive their inoculations. We constantly battled the inherit mistrust of the “white man’s muti (medicine)” but slowly as we built a bond and trust, mothers would go to the government clinics. Measles could wipe out a whole village of children, who had not been inoculated. It was imperative that I lead the women by my example with our own children; ensuring that they would accept me as an “Mbuya (Grandmother) figure”, whose words could be trusted. So I worked hard at building a relationship with these women.

The African family unit is a “Matriarchal” family with the senior women or wives basically running the daily life. The woman worked the gardens, drew the water, washed the clothes, ground the maize to flour and cooked the meals. In the tribal villages the men, basically by western standards got a free ride, other than coming up with the “dowry” to buy their wives. Once western civilization reached Southern Rhodesia and towns and cities emerged, many of the men left their wife or wives in the village managing the fields, sheep, goats and cattle while they went to the towns to work. They only returned to their families, when they had vacation time, or there was a death in the family.

African mother - an example of attachment parenting.

African mother – an example of attachment parenting.

African mothers follow the practice Westerners call “Attachment parenting”. From the time a baby is born he or she never leaves the mother’s side unless a grandmother is caring for the baby. The mother carries the baby on her back during the day while she goes about her activities. She will go work in the maize fields or gardens with the baby contently snuggled on her back. Most villages did not have running water so mothers would walk, sometimes several miles to the nearest river. Here they would wash the clothes, bathe and draw pots of drinking water, which they balanced on their heads all the while their baby stayed on their back. When the baby needing feeding she would stop and sit in the shade while the baby nursed and Mom got a bit of a rest from her labors! At night the mother would sleep on a grass woven mat, with the baby snugly tucked beside her.

Grandmothers play a very important and vital role in the family dynamics. They guide the younger mothers in tribal traditions, herbal remedies, and the like.  They also act as a surrogate mother when the mother needed help. Generally speaking African babies are very contented happy babies, unless they were sick or the families were suffering from starvation due to no rains and no crops being reaped. They thrived under the “Attachment parenting” model.

Here in the modern western world there is much debate about parenting styles and some psychologist dismiss “Attachment parenting” as not being healthy for children. Yet I find it interesting that for generations it has worked successfully in the primitive third world countries. The babies are nurtured, loved and cared for by their mother or grandmother and never placed in the care of hired strangers!

As I sat in my grandmother’s rocking chair that evening; rocking my own infant grandson mulling these thoughts over, I came to the conclusion that God is an “Attachment parent”!  Just as I held my grandson close to my heart, singing softly to him; so the Lord holds His children close to His heart and carries them when they are weak, need comfort and direction.

I love the picture that Isaiah and Joshua paints of the Lord’s loving care for you and me.

Isaiah 40:11 (NKJV) He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.

Joshua 1:5 (NKJV) No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 

What a picture of a loving God! We have nothing to fear in these turbulent times for we are sheltered safe in the arms of our God!

I want to close this Nugget with the words of a solo that I have sung so many times:


I feel the touch of hands so kind and tender.

They’re leading me in the paths that I must trod.

I’ll have no fear for Jesus walks beside me

For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.

So let the storm clouds rage high,

The dark clouds rise,

They don’t bother me;

For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.

He walks with me,

And naught of earth shall harm me,

For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.


Plumtree – A Hidden Oasis

Family on a farm in Plumtree, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe

Family on a farm in Plumtree, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe


Life in Southern Rhodesia for the pioneer settlers and missionaries during the country’s formative Colonial years was not for the faint of heart. To my American readers it could be compared to the harsh living conditions of the covered wagon pioneers who opened up the western part of America. The glaring difference though was Southern Rhodesian pioneers not only dealt with extreme primitive living conditions but also dealt with a plethora of dangerous wild African animals, plus poisonous snakes, scorpions and spiders to name a few. Malaria carrying mosquitoes took its toll on the lives of the young and the old alike, along with cholera and typhoid. Yet the call of Africa was vibrant and their willingness to overcome these adversities burned brightly as they embraced the mysterious beauty of this uncivilized yet unspoiled land. I was born into one of these pioneer missionary families, my parents Willard and Florence Wilson, who came from Mars Hill, Maine arrived at Gobatema Mission in the late 1930’s. I have shared in previous “Nuggets” on my Blog about my early years on this very remote Mission in the Gwanda area. Rufaro Mission, between Fort Victoria and Umvuma was home to me next. Finally my parents relocated to Salisbury in the early 1950’s where we had the luxury of running water and electricity! Despite the convenience of the more modern comforts I sorely missed the bush and the wildness of living on Mission stations. The “call of the wild” still tugs on my heart to this day.

To most Rhodesians the small border town of “Plumtree” would not normally be described as an “Oasis” yet to our family it was. This little town was better known as the last railway stop in Rhodesia for passenger trains travelling to South Africa. For our family, Plumtree had a different significance. Among its residence was a special farming family who took us under their wings;  a trip to Viv. and Joy Marie’s farm was a delight never to be forgotten. I was too young to remember the first time my parents became friends with the Marie family but as I grew older it seemed they were simply part of our extended family. So often our visits to the farm were God ordained; there were times when a preplanned visit coincided with a delay in our monthly support from the States. Mail back in those days was not very dependable. We were running low on money for our daily provision, but after a visit to the Marie farm we would return to the Mission loaded down with fresh produce, plenty of fresh meat, a full tank of petrol (gas) with spare cans filled to the brim. They had big hearts and shared with us so willingly. God had given our family a gift in these special friends!

It was always an exciting day when Dad would announce that we were taking a trip to Plumtree to spend a few days with “Uncle Viv and Aunt Joy”!

There was a long driveway leading up to the farm house which stood with regal elegance looking down on neat rows of tall lush maze fields and green pastures with herds of contented cattle grazing peacefully.  The farm house had a covered veranda that ran most of the way around the sprawling home. It was a paradise for us children to play imaginary games; many pleasant hours were spent on that veranda with my siblings and our friend’s children. Aunt Joy was the ultimate hostess, heaping our plates with delicious meals consisting of their own grown vegetables and raised beef. Then she would top off the meal with a delicious melk-tart (a type of custard pie) or Koeksusters (similar to Funnel cakes covered in heavy syrup) or some other traditional decadent dessert.

I loved to go with Aunt Joy in the farm jeep when she would take a drive to the farm laborers homes to check on the families. They had quite a number of African families living and working on the farm and treated them with care and kindness. These were very loyal workers who looked to the Marie’s as their benevolent benefactors and would fight to the death to protect the family. I would walk from dwelling to dwelling, drinking in the sights and sounds of the workers homes. I loved the smell of the wood cooking fires, the roasting mealies, the pots of sadza along with a vegetable relish! This was a comfortable environment to me – I was at home among these people.

There was a sense of peace and serenity on the farm as its well running daily rhythms were lived out. In the evenings we would sit on the verandah watching the crimson setting sun while listening the joyful singing of the workers as they sat cooking their evening meals. Tranquility at its best.

When it came time to leave and return to the Mission station they always made sure they loaded us down with fresh meat and vegetables and bid us a warm farewell with lots of hugs and kisses on the cheeks! We would leave feeling refreshed, re-charged and hearts overflowing with gratitude for the love they so willingly showered on us.

Among her many farmer’s wifely duties, Aunt Joy also bred British Bulldogs. The dogs were family pets and came and went in the house at will. I loved it when they happened to have a litter of puppies to play with, which happened more than once on our visits. There is one visit I will never forget. We had spent three days on the

Susie our British Bulldog puppy

Susie our British Bulldog puppy

farm and it was time to leave. We were all loaded up and about to leave when Aunt Joy suddenly appeared by the window where I was seated. She reached in and dropped a 6 week old Bulldog puppy on my lap and told me that she was mine and her name was Susie! My parents had already given their approval for the surprise gift and our trip home was a memorable one with lots of “puppy kisses” and laughter coming from the back seat of the car.

The scene I have painted could be repeated over and over again through-out Rhodesia, as it was a very prosperous farming country. The Rhodesian farmers contributed in a large part to the country becoming prosperous to the point it was even able to send maize to help feed some of the poverty stricken neighboring nations.

Sadly today that era is gone and to think about it breaks my heart.

The beautiful fertile farms lay in ruins, many farmers and their farm helpers were brutally murdered, or beaten, their homes burned to the ground and run off the land. Corruption among political leaders is rife while the people of Rhodesia now called Zimbabwe suffer terrible injustices; starvation and epidemic disease is rampant.

I have to believe that there is still hope for my beloved homeland. God can rise up honest leaders to guide this nation through the maze of political change in this war torn country. I know that as missionaries, both my parents work and subsequently my husband’s and my work, was not wasted and in vain. Lives were touched for eternity; the sacrificial labor of those famers, citizen entrepreneurs and missionaries alike has not gone unnoticed by God! There will come a day of reckoning and the wrongs will be made right. My friends, never tire of doing what is right as you never know whose life you will impact or how an act of kindness will make a difference.

Let me challenge you not to become weary “in well doing” and lose heart, but remain strong and true to the teachings of the scriptures.



A Chance Encounter?

Chuck Flewelling Photography (used with permission)

Chuck Flewelling Photography (used with permission)


Earlier this week Glyn and I had a couple of hours free so we decided to take our Golden-doodle dog and go for a walk in a beautiful park a few miles away. This park is well appointed with prize winning rose gardens, flowerbeds of every kind, lovely shaded trees to picnic under, a pond with a variety of wild ducks and a resident flock of Canadian geese. Added to this beauty are walking trails and biking trails. Our fall colors are just starting to make their appearance with a few trees sporting their brilliant leaves before they take on their drab winter attire. We walk in this particular park as often as we can; along with dozens of other nature enthusiasts.

Driving to the park Glyn and I had been talking about the deep heart-ache he carries as result of losing his job as a Hospice Chaplain; all because of the unfounded decision of a vindictive individual. We had made the comment to each other that it would seem that our days of “ministry” have come to a close. Once we arrived at the park we slipped the leash on Flossie, brushing away our conversation of a few minutes before, determined to enjoy the beauties of God’s creation and the warm fall sunshine.

Flossie loves going for walks and generally attracts attention, especially from children, as she is very fluffy with a constant happy wag of her long tail. Adults and children alike are amazed at her silky soft curly hair and her loving nature, so she often is a catalyst for interesting conversations with complete strangers.

We had been walking for about ten minutes when three children came running up to us asking permission to pat our dog. Their mortified parents were trying to catch up with them and began to apologize for the children interrupting our walk. We laughed and told them that this was par for the course when we walk Flossie. Flossie sat lapping up the love and cuddling that she was receiving from the children. The parents then made the comment that the children were missing their pets as they were presently staying at the local Ronald MacDonald House while their son was in the Hospital. This information immediately opened a door of opportunity for us to reach out in compassion to the family. The parents hurt in their hearts began to bubble over like a pent up fountain that had found an escape route. Their son was struggling with a medically diagnosed disorder that was bringing a rift in their extended family and even scorn from the church they attended. They shared that they stopped attending church because they were being told their son “just needed deliverance”; these unkind comments had been like daggers to their souls. Instead of the Body of believers surrounding this couple with love and support they simply heaped condemnation on their heads. Glyn and I could see that their hurt ran deep and knew they needed some tangible comforting.  Without a second thought, we began to share with them totally oblivious that we were standing on a walking trail with other visitors walking continually past us. The spot we stood had become a sacred place for this couple to have an encounter with the “all accepting” love of God. Tears began to flow as Glyn shared that their son was not a stigma that needed to be hidden away and that God loved him as much as He loved their three healthy children. The husband kept saying, “God brought you people to the park today just for us”! Before we parted with no thought of who might see, we held hands, prayed with them then assured them that God had not abandoned them or their son. The couple headed back to visit their son and we continued our walk with grateful hearts.

Do you think for one minute that this was a chance encounter? ABSOLUTELY NOT! God’s timing was perfect right down to that path we chose to walk on.

Think about it; if we had been walking without our loveable fluffy Golden-doodle dog we might have passed this couple with a polite nod. God knew that Flossie would attract the children which in turn would bring the parents to “rescue” us from our uninvited little fans! God was intrinsically involved in each step that we took that afternoon.

God gave us the opportunity to minister to a hurting family but at the same time He was gently reminding Glyn and me that our “ministry years” are far from finished!

Let me challenge you in your daily walk. All around each one of us are hurting people, may we ever keep our eyes, ears and hands ready to reach out and share God’s love.

When Jesus walked this earth’s dusty paths He was constantly reaching out in compassion to those around Him. Peter in his Epistle also teaches this same principle:

1 Peter 3:8-9 (NKJV) Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;  not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.  


Credits: Photo by Chuck Flewelling Photography. Used with permission.



God of the Lowest Depths

Deuteronomy 33:27

Deuteronomy 33:27


Deuteronomy 33:26, 27 (NKJV) “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to help you, And in His excellency on the clouds. The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, And will say, ‘Destroy!’

Do you feel that you have reached the lowest depths in life and simply can’t go any lower?

Does it feel as though God has “washed His hands of you because you seem too be lost cause?”

Aaah…… friends! Do not despair, I have good news for you today!

The background to the scripture reading at the beginning of this Nugget was Moses addressing the nation of Israel for the last time. His death was imminent and he was attempting to give the often fickle people a hope to cling to.

Moses told them, “There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you…The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you” (vv. 26-27 ).

As we study God’s Word we discover that God did a lot of spectacular things for His people on mountaintops.

Here are some examples:

On Mount Moriah He met with Abraham and Isaac, revealing Himself as “Jehovah Jireh” which means “the Lord will provide.”

On Mount Horeb He spoke to Moses through a burning bush and changed the nation of Israel’s destiny. On Mount Sinai He gave the Ten Commandments.

On Mount Carmel He sent down fire from heaven, consuming the prophets of Baal and turning the hearts of His people back to Him.

The Children of Israel had become accustomed to God revealing His power on mountaintops.

Now we see that suddenly Moses made a shift in the middle of telling about this great God of high places. It is as though he was thinking, “I can’t leave these people with the thought that God is ONLY on top; that He is ONLY present when everything is going right.”  So he injection this word of encouragement, reminding the people that; “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” The Hebrew word for “underneath” means “bottom.”

Let me re-phrase this verse in the modern vernacular: “God’s arms are underneath you when you’re on the bottom.”!

Let me assure you……………No matter how deep the valley you have to walk, God’s presence is deeper.

It may feel like you are down today, but remember, you cannot go so low that He is not there. Underneath you are His everlasting arms.

The truth of this Nugget is: He’s not just the God of the top; He’s also the God of the bottom.  

Carry this promise from His Word in your heart today!

Cape Disappointment – A Rhodesian Tale

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, WA by Chuck Flewelling Photography

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, WA by Chuck Flewelling Photography


Several weeks have passed since I have been able to post a Nugget. An unexpected confinement to a hospital bed put a major crimp in my ability to think straight let alone write a Nugget! During the long hours of waiting for health to be restored I was reminded of a lesson I experienced in Rhodesia back in 1965.

Before I share my “tale” though I need to give my readers some background to the title of this Nugget – “Cape Disappointment”! I know this seems a strange title considering Rhodesia is a landlocked country but for those of you who know me well; I am creating a “word tapestry” using many different threads to tie this Nugget together!

On July 6, 1788 English fur trader, John Meares was searching for the mouth of the Columbia River off of the Washington coast; his journey culminated at a towering basalt column reaching a height of 700 feet. Upon reaching this imposing seafarers landmark he wrote the following notation in his ship log that so aptly reflected his chagrin. “We can now with safety assert, that no such river as that of the St. Roque (Columbia) exists, as laid down in the Spanish charts.” Then he wryly named the distinctive landmark, Cape Disappointment”. The irony in this piece of History is that John Meares had actually dropped anchor on the northern side of the entrance to the Columbia River. If he had just sailed past the striking basalt column he would have discovered that the mouth of the Columbia River was right behind the bluff! So close to the very place he was searching for; but because he gave up and turned away this majestic landmark stands as a monument to his lack of tenacity with the name that fittingly describes the fur trader’s actions! If only he had pushed on just a little bit further his quest would have been achieved!

I can guarantee that the majority of my friends reading this post have had experiences in their life that could be succinctly named “Cape Disappointment”. Let me share one of my own personal “Cape Disappointment” experiences.

I left Rhodesia in 1961 to return to the States to attend Holmes Theological Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina to prepare myself for missionary service. Upon graduation I headed back to Rhodesia and entered Salisbury Central Hospital School of Nursing. My dream and goal was to study and pass my Registered Nurse examinations. Then once I had accomplished this I had plans to become a fulltime missionary nurse, running a Mission Clinic at Rufaro Mission, where I had spent many of my childhood years, while my parents served as missionaries there.

Attached to the Hospital was a stark building that served as the training nurses’ dormitory. It had huge heavy medieval looking front doors that gave the place an unwelcome air.  We had individual bedrooms which were sparely furnished. There was a bare bed, a small table to serve as a desk, a free standing wardrobe and a single window. We ate our meals in a Community dining hall and there were the makings of a poorly lighted student lounge that had a few overstuffed couches and a couple of coffee tables that had seen better days. This was purely a girl’s domain; during this era male nurses were unheard of.

The dormitory was run by a stern Matron who could have passed for Cinderella’s wicked step-mother! Our night curfew was 9:00 PM and she was quite religious about locking those big doors not one second late. If one of us didn’t make it through those antiquated doors on time, we had to ring a very loud bell which brought Matron storming to the door with a tongue lashing that burnt our ears. Anyone arriving after 10:00 PM paid the price of being grounded for an extended period of time!

Nurses uniform in Rhodesia 1965

Nurses uniform in Rhodesia 1965

The day my parents dropped me off at the dormitory with all of my “worldly goods” in a small suitcase; I stepped into this barren room which was to be my “home away from home” and sucked my breath in. It looked, so cold, so sterile, so uninviting but then my mind’s eye looked ahead to my dream of ministering to the hurting at Rufaro Mission and the soft rays of the morning sun began to chase the gloom and apprehension away, bringing warmth and hope to my heart. It did not take very long to make my bed, put my few personal items away; now I had to wait to be summoned along with the other new recruits, to receive our crisp nurse’s uniform, cap & cape. Before this happened a knock broke the silence, the door flew open and there stood a bright eyed blond gal that was brimming with laughter and mischief! This was my neighbor, who also was a brand new recruit. She introduced herself and little did I know at that moment how much “education in the ways of the world” she would introduce me to! At this stage of my life I was a totally sheltered, innocent missionary kid! Our dorm rooms were on the ground floor so before our first week in residency had past, my scalawag friend had already learned how to escape bed check & then at a time of her choosing sneak back into the dorm through her open window! I never dared to try that stunt but we had many a giggle together after “lights out” on some escapade on our dorm floor!

Months past and the routine of mornings in the classroom and afternoons working in the different wings of the hospital became comfortable and challenging. The passing of each week and stepping higher in my education drew me ever closer to my calling and dream.

We worked in teams and were rotated in all areas of the hospital floors thus giving us experience in medical patents, surgical patients for both male & female patients thus exposing us to the full spectrum of nursing care we needed to learn.

I had been assigned to a men’s surgical wing and one of the patients was recovering from a shattered leg as a result of a motorcycle accident he had while heavily intoxicated. He was a nasty piece of work to say the least and none of the nurses really wanted to have his name on their list of patients to care for. On this particular afternoon I had drawn the “short straw” to bed bath him. I spent a good portion of my time trying to avoid his lecherous hands; thankfully my nursing friend who was far more worldly-wise than me had given me some tips how to handle these type of men. Once I was finished my duties and had him all tucked in he suddenly demanded that he had to sit on the commode. This required physically lifting him because of his injuries, so I called one of my team to assist me. Bear in mind that I was a mere 91 pounds in weight and even though there were two of us lifting him he far outweighed our combined physical capabilities. I felt a sharp pain in my back, brushed it off and finished my shift. The next morning I rolled over to get up for class and discovered I could hardly move and my one leg would not work.  I ended up in sickbay for two weeks flat on my back; then one morning I had a visit from Matron! Totally out of character for her, she actually was sympathetic and gently broke the news to me that my nursing career was over. My back had been weakened and if I continued working as a nurse I would continue injuring it.

I could not believe what I was hearing………surely this was all just a bad dream!

What would I do?   What about my calling and dream to run a clinic at Rufaro Mission? Had God made a mistake or slipped up?


Once the resident doctor felt my back was healed enough I was allowed to leave and return home. My first call when I got the devastating news was to a friend from church that was part of our Youth Group by the name of Glyn Davies. He and another young man had been asked by the Pastor’s wife to pick me up from the dormitory for church. The three of us became fast friends and soon were nicknamed the “Three Musketeers”.  Now that my whole world seemed to have fallen apart I turned to Glyn and Malcolm for comfort. At first I thought my dream to become a missionary went down the drain with the back injury but thankfully the Lord knew I had a tenacious nature and all He had to do was fan the coals of His calling on my life and soon a fire was burning brightly. Instead of giving up like the fur trader, John Meares, back in 1788 I determined to find a way AROUND MY CAPE OF DISAPPOINTMENT.

I decided that if I couldn’t be a missionary nurse then I would become a missionary preacher and teacher! The last thread in the tapestry I have been weaving in this Nugget was when love blossomed between Glyn and I. God entwined the two threads of our lives and created a tapestry for His glory as together we followed His calling to serve Him as missionaries in Rhodesia.

God turned my Cape Disappointment to Cape Rejoicing.

Many of my readers are dealing with experiences that seem like Cape Disappointment but let me encourage you. DON’T GIVE UP……………….PRESS ON!

Just around the corner you will find your “Cape Rejoicing” – God will turn your disappointments to joy, He will turn your tears to laughter – just press on past Cape Disappointment!

Credits: Picture of Cape Disappointment: by Chuck Flewelling PhotographyBackground on Cape Disappointment: History Link Essay File # 5621