Monthly Archives: February 2014

A Rhodesian Sunrise – Hope For Tomorrow

Sunrise at Mana Pools, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)

Sunrise at Mana Pools, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)

A RHODESIAN SUNRISE – HOPE FOR TOMORROW 

Sometimes it seems as though deep heart-aches come in clusters. You are just coming up for air from a traumatic event that sucked the wind out of you when you get hit by another. The never to be forgotten day in Gatooma, Rhodesia, as the sun was starting to rise, our second son was born. Unexpected tragedy struck and Gary Anthony did not live long enough to even see his first sunrise. We were filled with deep heart-ache that was too intense to put into comprehensible words. It took me several weeks to physically recover but a lot longer for both Glyn and I to emotionally recover.

Initially I longed to retreat to the warm embrace of the unspoiled regions of the bush. This was the place where I spent my formative years and I knew what a healing balm it could offer. I longed to sit silently beside a river bank and drink in the scene of God’s amazing creatures mingling together at the water’s edge. I wanted to be where none of the empty trappings of civilization could tarnish the beauty of God’s amazing creation. I knew the healing balm that would come as I watched groups of elephant families silently arriving at the river’s edge. The mothers of the herd gently prodding their timid babies to enjoy the pleasure of playing in the water; yet at the same time; totally vigilant of any danger that might be lurking. These gentle giants along with Springbok herds prancing on their spindly legs would be serenaded by the whimsical calls of a variety of bird songs. If only I could retreat to this oasis of serene beauty to ease the intense pain of the emotional desert I was walking in!

Sadly it could not be so; we had ministry duties that needed our attention, so we did the only thing we knew to do and that was to channel our raw emotions into the mission work God called us to. During our times of solitude we tried to make sense of what had happened.

Seven months later our stay in the town of Hartley was coming to an end. We were going to continue to be the District Directors for the area we had been working in but we were re-locating to Salisbury (Harare) to also assist as instructors in the Mission Bible School, which my parents Willard and Florence Wilson had founded and built.

Moving day arrived; the morning sunrise ushered in a dry and hot day but there was no time for slacking. Dad arrived with the big mission truck and loading began in earnest. Dad’s truck and our Daihatsu truck were loaded in short order, as a group of African men from our Hartley congregation came to help.  Warm good-byes were said knowing that we would be making weekend trips into the various areas of our District; this sweetened the parting as it was not a final farewell.

We slowly drove through the main street in Hartley leaving many poignant memories behind but anticipating new adventures as we entered another chapter in our lives in our beloved Rhodesia.

At the time of this move to Salisbury I was not well at all. For several weeks prior, excruciating pain in my abdomen would double me over but we did not know the cause of the pain. So as soon as we got ourselves unloaded in the rental house at Cotswold Hills housing development in Salisbury, I searched out a specialist by the name of Dr. Stewart. He diagnosed that I appeared to be having a miscarriage which was stunning news considering I did not know we had another baby on the way. He admitted me to St. Anne’s Hospital where I underwent a routine procedure to prevent complications from the miscarriage.

Another blow to our emotions………. We could not help but ask God why these deep heart-aches were seemingly stalking our footsteps. Little did we know that the latest trauma had only just begun! About a week after being released from St. Anne’s Hospital, while giving our young son Russel, his evening bath, I was hit with blinding pain to the point that Glyn had to half carry me to our bed. The pain was so intense it felt as though the very life was being sucked out of me. Glyn called Dr. Stewart who ordered pain pills but by 11:00 PM it was apparent that without medical intervention I might not live to see the rising of the morning sun. Glyn carried me to the car and rushed me to St. Anne’s Hospital emergency room. Dr. Stewart arrived and quickly assessed that something was very wrong as I barely had a blood pressure reading. He scheduled me for exploratory surgery and discovered the source of the trouble. His original diagnosis of a miscarriage was incorrect. I was suffering from an Ectopic pregnancy which had ruptured and I was bleeding out.

While waiting the long hours during the surgery, Glyn was facing the reality that he had already buried our infant son and now he was possibly facing losing his wife!

How could this possibly be happening?

Surely God had not forgotten us?

We were missionaries serving God with all our hearts and now this?

How could he continue without his wife at his side?

Questions bombarded his anxious mind and so he turned to the promises in God’s Word and drew strength as much as was possible considering he did not know the outcome.

Finally Dr. Stewart came into the waiting area and explained what had happened apologizing for his misdiagnosis. He said a lot of damage had been done because of the delay and sadly it was highly unlikely I would be able to ever bear children again but the good news was that unless there were unforeseen complications I was going to live. Twenty one days later Glyn had the joy of finally taking me home from the hospital.

Once my strength was back, I returned to teaching our African students in the Bible College which brought me great joy along with fulfilling my other duties in our district.

True there was a void in our hearts for the son we lost, compounded by the knowledge that we could not have more children; but we had to focus on the fact that God was in control of the events of our lives.

We held onto God’s promises especially Isaiah 61:1-3

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

Even though we did not understand the rocky valley we had been walking we knew that God could put our experiences to good use in the lives of those we ministered to. God never makes a mistake that much we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt. So we set our hearts to finding joy in the work we were doing as missionaries.

The following year (1975) during a routine annual check-up, our family doctor, Dr. Reuben Leavitt dropped a bombshell on me. He knew our family well as he actually had delivered Glyn’s younger brother and sister, plus he walked the hard road with us in our own loss. He sat behind his office desk with a little smile playing around his lips and said: “Well Norma I have an announcement to make. You and Glyn are going to become parents again!” I could not believe what I was hearing. How could this be? We had been told by a specialist that it was highly unlikely we could ever have more children. Dr. Leavitt stood up and came around to where I was sitting; trying to digest the news he had just given me and with a gentle hand on my shoulder he said: “Norma God has smiled on you and Glyn and I believe this child will prove to be a special gift in your lives.”

I walked out of his office in a daze of euphoria – God had seen our hearts and heard our prayers.

Russel & Donna-Mae - April 1976

Russel & Donna-Mae – April 1976

On April 20, 1976 as the morning sun began to spread its radiant glow across the Rhodesian sky, our daughter, Donna-Mae was born. This mother’s arms were full again! The glow of the sunrise was like God painting a letter across the African sky to Glyn and me; reminding us that there ALWAYS is hope for our tomorrows when we trust in Him. He had given us a “living gift” that we have cherished even to our old age and her life has blessed us beyond measure!

Don’t despair my friends if you are walking a dark valley. The sun will rise again and God will restore to you “beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning!”

Taming the Child of the Bush

Me & my siblings in school uniforms in Rhodesia 1950

Me & my siblings in school uniforms in Rhodesia 1950

TAMING THE CHILD OF THE BUSH

Writing these Nuggets and seeing life through the eyes of a missionary’s child, has been so fulfilling for me. As I have strolled down the dusty African paths through the many memories that are engraved in my heart; it has re-affirmed to me that a lot of my character and personality was forged in the fires of primitive life in the Pioneer days of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). My pre-school years were spent “living in the bush” at Gobatema Mission which was isolated from any forms of civilization. I have already shared several Nuggets of experiences from these formative years. By the time I was reaching school age (six years old) the family moved to Rufaro Mission. Though it was still very primitive in its living conditions, we at least had closer access to dirt roads and small towns, so we were not as isolated.

My days of glorious freedom, playing barefoot outside, from dawn until dusk, were soon coming to a close. Boarding school was fast approaching, looming like a heavy thunderstorm on the horizon of my young life. Rufaro Mission would be my last haven of being a child of the bush.

To my African readers being sent to Boarding School will be familiar to them, but I am sure the majority of my America readers have absolutely no concept what it is like! Young adult men and women join the Military and go to Boot Camp, that is understood; but American parents would not even contemplate sending an innocent six year-old away from home, to attend a boarding school that lasted for months on end. Especially knowing that these schools were run on the same level of a Boot Camp! Rhodesian children who lived on farms or in rural areas spent most of their school years attending government run boarding schools. Only the children that lived in towns near a school could have the luxury of being day students that got to go home each day and sleep in their own bed.

Mother had quite a job on her hands.

How was she ever going to tame her red-headed tomboy to be content to wear socks, shoes plus a school uniform?

How would she instill in me that my uniform had to be neat, tidy and clean and not look like I had been sliding down rocks by the end of the day?

Mother was a good seamstress so she made our uniforms on the “peddle driven” sewing machine. Our school blazers, hats and shoes had to be purchased though.

On reflection, American children, unless they attend a private school, have no concept what it is like to wear a school uniform! Such a contrast in cultures!

Personally I feel that even the wearing of uniforms was all part of building character and teaching lessons in discipline in the life of a growing child.

The day finally arrived when Dad would take us to the train station and put, my elder brother, my elder sister and me on the school train to be dropped off at Umvuma. I have recounted this experience in an earlier Nugget written some months ago. Those long weeks away from home were endured with the comforting vision of boarding the train to return home for long school holidays! Excitement in the dormitory rooms would mount as the days for our first term three week holiday drew closer. For us younger children there would be much giggling and whispering after “lights out” while the older students carried their anticipation with greater dignity.

Oh how I dreamed of all the things I would do when I returned to Rufaro Mission. It did not bother me that we did not have electricity, city plumbing or any of the amenities city life offered. Rufaro Mission held a treasure trove of adventures just waiting for me to explore and the days couldn’t go by fast enough for me to be free again.

Sock and shoes were off the moment Dad picked us up from the train station. The car windows were rolled down and I inhaled deeply the wonderful smell of the bush veld that rushed in around me! It was so good to be going home to my little piece of paradise!

Suzanne & me at Rufaro Mission, Rhodesia 1950

Suzanne & me at Rufaro Mission, Rhodesia 1950

As soon as we arrived, school uniforms were shed and I headed out to explore the Kopjie (rocky hill) and soak in the glorious warmth of freedom under the African sun. I loved to investigate each granite rock and boulder as it was exciting to see what I might find. Sometimes it was a blue headed lizard, which would run with amazing agility to get away from his intruder; or it might be a scorpion, its stinging tail lifted ready to strike; or a terrified rock rabbit, bounding away to find a safer spot for his afternoon siesta.

I wouldn’t trade these idyllic hours for anything – this was home – the love of the African bush was part of the very fiber of my being.

As the sun began to set I would sit silently on a boulder listening to the calls of the birds getting ready to nest for the night. I heard the clamoring troop of monkeys searching out the highest branches in the Eucalyptus trees for safety from night predators. In the distance I could hear the bark of a jackal, signaling to me that it was time to head for the old mission house. Soon darkness would fall and the African night would not be as gracious to the unwary as the daylight hours were.

When I stepped into the kitchen the aroma of our supper meal; simmering on the wood burning stove, drifted through the dimly lit house. Kerosene lanterns had been lit and hung from the rough wood rafters in strategic places in each room.

I could hear the chatter of my brother and sister regaling Dad and Mom with pranks they had got up to at the boarding school. Laughter filled the room and a sense of contentment washed over me.

Yes, it was good to be home again!

Missionary children do not have a choice in where they are born, nor do any children for that matter. The thing each individual has the power to do though is to choose contentment in the place where they are planted. Some people become very bitter if life deals them a hard hand but how much better to choose to be joyful and contented in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES of our life?

The Apostle Paul speaks of this contentment: Philippians 4:11-13 (NKJV)

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

You see the focus of our contentment is found in Christ. He is able to give us sustaining, joy, peace and contentment as we walk the paths of our lives. He will sustain us both in good times and in bad times and when He calls us to our eternal home we will experience the ULTIMATE CONTENTMENT and know that “it will be good to be home”!