Monthly Archives: April 2017

Pioneer Faith

Rufaro Mission 1949

(Photo – Rufaro Mission house in 1949)

During the last years of my mother, Florence Wilson’s life, she recorded many of the experiences that our family dealt with in the early years as a missionary family in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Africa. This week I received a “treasured gift” from my eldest sister Suzanne Coetzee. She sent me copies of mother’s hand-written notes that had been transcribed into a typed document. Many of the accounts that she recorded I have already shared in some of my “Nuggets”.

As I poured over her memories, life as a child in Rhodesia became alive in my own heart.  Reading my mother’s own words was such a moving experience and I felt like a window into my own early upbringing had been cracked open bringing profound joy to my soul. I want to share with my readers my mother’s account as our family moved from the very isolated Mission station called Gobatema to what would become my second home on Rufaro Mission.

In 1949, the General Superintendent of the church came up from Johannesburg, South Africa for a visit to Gobatema Mission. While there he told my parents that their Headquarters in South Africa had bought an old farm with farm buildings on it, located in the low-veld area of Southern Rhodesia. He went on to say that as the work at Gobatema was well establish and had several trained missionaries on staff, he felt that my parents were the ones who should go head up this new Mission Station. This place was a full day’s hard journey from Gobatema Mission.

My parents decided to visit the place before making a final decision.

The name of the derelict farm was “Rufaro” which in the Shona language means “joyful” Mother records that upon arriving there they found that the place was “anything but joyful”!

The old house was so dilapidated that the windows were falling out and the bats were flying in and out at will. The floors were dried mud except for one bedroom, that had the broken remnants of cracked cement flooring that heaved up and down when it was walked on. The doors were hanging askew on their hinges. In other words, the apology for a house was unlivable especially for a family with two young girls. My sister Suzanne was 7 years old and I was 5 years old. Our eldest brother, Lawrence would remain at Boarding School in Bulawayo.

The next reality check came when my parents asked where the toilet facilities were. The family was told to take a path outside the kitchen door and wend our way up the rocky hill, where we would find it.  So, the family gingery picked our way up the very rocky path, keeping a sharp eye on each place we stepped because this was a snake’s paradise!  To our horror, we saw a door-less hut with a box over a big gaping hole and another big hole to catch the overflow. Very hygienic, l must say!

Mother decided to cook something to eat as we saw an old wood stove tucked into a huge big chimney in the so called “kitchen”. After much coaxing, plus a lot of prayer and elbow grease, mother got the semblance of a stove going. Leaning into the black hole of the chimney opening, that the stove stood in, was an exercise in futility. Black smoke belched into my mother’s face, filling the kitchen and choking us all. The meal was a total disaster. Right then mother declared that if the family moved to Rufaro then the good wood stove that she cooked on at Gobatema was coming with us!  The Full Gospel church in Mars Hill, Maine had provided enough money to buy a beautiful stove for mother to cook on and she wasn’t about to part with it.

While there was still sufficient light our little family left the depressing house, to explore what lay outside the house. We walked among the beautiful Eucalyptus trees and the cedars that towered alongside the house. Then we walked through a large orchard of fragrant Lemon, Orange and Tangerine trees.

The peace of the place descended on us. What a contrast in beauty to the surroundings of Gobatema Mission, which was barren except for some Mahogany trees and scrub bush. Gobatema house was built on the top of a hill which was nothing but rocks and it was virtually impossible to grow a plant of any kind. So being among so many trees was a touch of Eden to us.

My parents felt a stirring in their hearts that despite its inhospitable living conditions, there was immense potential to make the place become something good and live up to its name Rufaro, meaning “joyful”. The need for teaching and guidance was very evident and they felt strongly that God was leading them there to do a work for Him.

The farm bordered on an African Tribal Trust Land of 54,000 acres. It would be a mission field right on our doorstep!

The family returned Gobatema with a great vision for the new open door. There was much consternation among the missionaries, when Dad announced that we were moving.

Moving to what?

A Derelict house and a rundown farm?

My parents did not look at the present state of things but to the future, to what it could be.

We loaded up the 5-ton Mission truck with our few bits and pieces plus my mother’s most prized possession, the beautiful wood stove!  After a long tedious journey in the big truck, we arrived at dusk, weary and hungry. Having no electricity, we all pitched in to hurriedly unload the necessary things before night settled upon us. There is no twilight in Africa.

Suzanne and I pitched in carrying smaller things that we could manage.  Suddenly the air was pierced by a shriek coming from mother, as she was going up the steps with an armful of things, a snake slithered across in front of her into the long uncut grass.

What a welcome!

The Africans would say that it was a “good omen” for it meant that one of our ancestors had welcomed us to our new home!  Mother’s encounter with the snake shook her up a bit and she comment to Dad: “Is this what I must-expect in this unkempt place? What about our children playing among the trees and through the grass?”  Dad re-assured her that those fears were just the whisperings of the enemy. God had sent us there and He would look after us, no matter what hardships we as a family had to endure.

Mother already knew the condition of the dilapidated stove, so she had prepared a meal that could be eaten cold. We off loaded a small tea wagon and a little oil burning camp stove which was fine for making tea. In the light of a candle we ate our meagre first meal sitting on grass mats placed on the dirt floor.  This new chapter in the life of our family would prove to be a great challenge to our faith and trust in God!

First order of business was to make a suitable place for us to sleep on our first night. Before we even set up our few bits of furniture, the African Teacher that we brought with us, insisted that she first clean the floors. Quickly she ran to the pasture and got a pan of fresh cow manure. Watering it down until she could make a paste out of it, she began to smear it on the floors like wax, after having covered all the floors with the manure paste, she let it dry. Then she swept out the residue. With a big smile, she announced to the family that the floors were now clean! Together we gave thanks to God for bringing us safely to our new home and even gave thanks for the “clean” floors!

It was decided that Suzanne and I would sleep out on the open veranda (porch) until a suitable bedroom could be prepared for us.  There was no money available to make repairs to the house, so our makeshift bedroom, the veranda, became our sleeping quarters for some time and when it rained mother covered us with raincoats!

We two girls were having the adventure of our lives!

The old farm did have a herd of cattle that gave a pint or two of milk each, so Dad decided to save the cream and sell it to get money to repair the house. It proved to be a success and eventually the house began to take on a fresh look as Dad lay cement floors and repaired windows and leaks.

There were old sacking bags draped over the rafters to act like a ceiling and they were rotten causing dust, dirt, along with scorpions and insects to fall through the holes.  It was quickly decided to pull all those rotten sackcloth bags down. The first night after accomplishing this task, mother felt something run across her chest. It was a scorpion. It stung her on her arm before she could kill it. God’s protection was true, as other than a bit of pain mother was not harmed. Obviously by tearing down the sacking we had disturbed a nest of scorpions!

In due course the house was becoming quite livable.

We still did not have a bathroom or toilet. So, Dad built a small toilet, outside the house, near the kitchen. Then he placed a large tank on its roof, built a septic tank and finally installed a flush-able toilet. This was luxury indeed!  No more climbing the hill or being on the alert for snakes, and we had running water too. Mind you, the water had to be carried from the well in a bucket and up a ladder to the roof and poured into the tank but it was a vast improvement from the door-less shack on the side of the rocky hill!

God had proved Himself so faith during these tough times of adjustment but my parents’ faith was strong. They believe that He would continue to work miracles as they poured their hearts into the lives of the people God had called them to minister to.

They “modeled” their faith to us children in such a way, that to this day, their sacrificial examples are imprinted deep within my character.

Do you wonder now why my heart belongs to Africa? Especially after you read the idyllic childhood I had where God’s love and provision reigned supreme in our home.

My heart is full as I look back over the years and am truly humbled that God called me and my husband, Glyn, to follow in the footsteps that our Godly parents walk before us!

The scripture is so true: Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)  “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

 

A Trilogy of Triumph

Ele imitating each other by Michael North Imagery

(Elephant family by Michael North Imagery – used with permission)

A TRILOGY OF TRIUMPH

Our lives are regulated by times and dates. Before the proliferation of electronic gadgets many people carried a small “date minder” with them to write down appointments, dates to remember, birth dates, wedding dates, anniversary dates, dates projects are due, vacation dates plus a whole host of other dates.  Some dates come and go and its events are never thought about again, other dates are etched into our memory down to the most infinitesimal detail never to be forgotten.

My husband and I have many dates we can recall but there is one that stands out like a defining landmark in our lives……..the date is April 20th.

A trilogy of miraculous events over a period of years in our lives; has happened on this date. Let me pick up the thread of these amazing God-ordered events beginning with the birth of our second son, Gary Anthony at the Gatooma Hospital in Rhodesia. (Zimbabwe)

Gary did not live to see his first sunrise and Glyn had the heart wrenching task of burying our infant son all alone.  Then a series of medical errors left us with the diagnosis that we would never be able to have any more children.  Even though this was a huge heart-ache we knew that Lord had our future steps in His Hands and we were content to trust Him.  We focused on our calling as missionaries and poured ourselves into the lives of the African people that God had placed us among. Five years passed; then during a routine checkup my doctor told me that he had some amazing news for me. I was six weeks pregnant and did not even know it!

Our beautiful daughter, God’s gift to us, was born on April 20, 1971 at the Lady Chancellor Maternity Home in Salisbury (Harare) Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).  Our cup of joy was running over and we knew God had intervened and over-ruled the medical mistakes.

Seventeen years passed and April 20, 1993 arrived but instead of celebrating her birthday, Donna-Mae sat with her Dad and many church members of our congregation in the hospital surgery waiting room in Lowville, New York waiting for news about me. Before long the surgeon broke the news to them that I had Cancer and would undergo a Radical Mastectomy the next morning. Not exactly a birthday that any seventeen-year-old wants to have to remember. The prognosis for my length of life, even with treatment was poor. Once again Glyn and I turned to God knowing that “my times” were in His hands.  God was the only One who would make the final decision, whether I would out live the medical prognosis or not. So, I was determined to live each day as a “gift of life” from God.  Friends that was 24 years ago today and God is still giving me breath!

Another twenty years passed and on April 20, 2013; I stood in the delivery room filled with wonder and feeling as though my heart would burst, as I shared with Bruce and our daughter, Donna-Mae, give birth to their third child, also another miraculous gift from God!

As I stood in the delivery room cradling this precious new life in my arms, drinking in the perfect face of our little Owen; the empty void in my heart, that I had carried since our son Gary Anthony had slipped away, was once again filled. I felt like Naomi of old, must have felt when she held Obed in her empty arms and those around declared to her: “….. may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age;……” Ruth 4:15 (NKJV) Our little “buddy” certainly has been a restorer of our old age.

A trilogy of events on April 20th stretched over 37 years; each one standing as a landmark of a miracle of life from God’s abundant mercy to us!

For the child of God, the path that we walk is illuminated by His Divine love which pierces the shadows that continually press in around us. His shining love shepherds our footsteps even in the darkest of hours.  Listen to His promise to us in the words of the Psalmist:

Psalm 32:7-8 (NKJV) “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”

What have we to fear? We can walk with confidence in the journey of life as God will lead us. The Lord will surround us with “songs of deliverance” during our deepest times of testing. His very personal interest and care for His children is reflected in the fact that “He guides us with His Eye….”

HE IS NOT AN INATTENTIVE GOD!

I draw intense comfort from this image as it means that God is intricately involved and focused on every facet of my life; NEVER letting me out of His sight!

Yes, these “dates of triumph” are glorious memorial stones reminding us that no matter what our tomorrows hold, we have nothing to fear for our God WILL ensure His best plan for our lives.

 

 

Trusting God’s Leading

Luke-5_10-1024x576

TRUSTING GOD’S LEADING

Luke 5:1-6 (NKJV)  “So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”  And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.”

For a few minutes, I would like you to put yourself in the disciple’s shoes and Peter’s shoes.

Imagine you have literally toiled all night out of the rough waters of Lake Gennesaret attempting to catch a large amount of fish so sell at the fish market. Yet no matter how hard you plied your greatest skill; or moving your fishing vessel; your nets still came up empty. The early rays of morning light began to pierce the night skies. Exhausted, frustrated and discouraged you head back to shore to wash your nets, knowing that there would be no profit from your long night’s labor.

About the time, you have pulled the heavy nets from your boat and set to work washing them, along comes Jesus and He borrows your boat and puts it out in the waters near the shore in-order to avoid the crush of people waiting to hear Him teach.  Once Jesus has finished teaching he turns to you and asks you to do something that is unthinkable to your exhausted body and mind.

How would you responded to the Lord’s command to re-launch your boat into the deep water and catch a boat-load of fish, considering the frustrating unsuccessful night you had just experienced?

I know what I would probably say!

My answer would be something like this; “You have to be kidding me Lord! The shoals of fish have avoided my net all night long and do you think for one minute anything would have changed? Obviously, Lord, this is not a fruitful time to fish!”

Peter answered the Lord’s command in a similar fashion EXCEPT for his declaration of trust when he said; “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless, at Your word I will let down the net.” (Luke 5:5)

The result of Peter’s declaration of faith and trust in the Lord command, was that they caught so many fish their nets were full to breaking point.

What a lesson for us to learn from this passage in Luke chapter 5!

The real test of our faith comes when nothing we’ve tried has worked, and God tells us to do something that stretches our faith to its limit. At that point, we have two choices: Give in to our doubts, or say with Peter, “Because You say so, I will.”

This account in the scriptures teaches us God works in three ways:

Firstly, God uses the common to do the uncommon.

Jesus commanded them to trust Him in their workplace where nothing special had happened; but then the miraculous happened and this changed their lives.  So too we need to look for God in our daily routine, and don’t be surprised when He surprises us.

Secondly God moves us out from the security of the shallow to the risks of the deep.

By this I mean that the great catches and the great storms are BOTH in the same sea. If we want one, we must contend with the other. No risk, no reward.

Thirdly God involves us in one lesson in-order to teach us another.

Christ’s plan for these men was to involve them in an even greater miracle: fishing for souls.

Today during these last days of time God is calling us to step out in faith and trust to “fish for the souls” of hurting mankind.

This can only BEGIN though, when we say as Peter did, “Lord, because You say so, I will.”

An Easter Miracle

African village- Joiin's wife

( Elfas finding his wife in the village)

AN EASTER MIRACLE

Isaiah 30:21 which says: “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.”

The classroom was silent except for the scratching of the chalk on the chalk-board. I was teaching my Pauline Epistle class at our Bible School in Salisbury, Rhodesia (Harare, Zimbabwe), and my students were intent on getting study notes to prepare themselves for an up-coming test. Only ten minutes were left before we broke for lunch and everyone was making the most of those fleeting minutes.

We closed the class in a word of prayer and students began to drift outside chatting among themselves.

Glyn’s class on Old Testament studies also concluded and soon the long veranda was filled with the voices of our students comparing notes and friendly discussions of lessons learnt that day.

My Dad, Willard Wilson, arrived with the day’s mail and instantly the students crowded around him like bees to a hive. Understand – this was at the height of the horrific terrorist war the country was enduring. Many of the students were married men and their wives and children were back in the family villages in the tribal home lands, so mail delivery was their life line to their families. Those fortunate enough to receive a letter from home, wasted no time in opening the envelope and savoring the contents of news from a loved one. The noisy chatter quickly turned to silence as the readers were taken to the sounds, sights and smells of “home” through the power of the written word.

The stillness of the moment was broken by the apprehensive voice of Elfas Maseki (name changed to protect family); which instantly grabbed everyone’s attention. The news from home was not good.

The letter was from his father telling him that a band of terrorist had come to their village and had taken by force some young boys and a few women.  His father had written that his wife, Matakala was among the women taken, leaving their young 3 year old son with them.

The first thing we did once this devastating news had sunk in, was to gather around Elfas and call out to God to somehow work a miracle on behalf of Matakala. Then students began to collect money out of their limited finances for a bus ticket to take Elfas to his home village, which was in the Tuli Tribal Trust Lands. As soon as his suitcase was packed Dad drove him to the bus station and helped him purchase a ticket that would take him home. It would be every bit of an exhausting two to three day journey.

Several weeks past with no word from Elfas, then late one afternoon as classes were getting done for the day we heard a voice calling in the Bible School courtyard. It was Elfas with a smile that spoke volumes.  Much handshaking and hugging followed then we gathered around to hear his story.

The bus did not go all the way to his village, so it meant walking a bush path to reach his home. Even though he was exhausted he set out on foot determined to make it to the village before dark. He said his heart was crying for his wife and he prayed every step he took that God would help him find her. Finally Elfas could see the smoke from the cooking fires of his village. He picked up his pace anxious to see his parents and young son.

As he broke through the bush clearing he could see his home and a woman bending over a cooking pot. He said he was sure his eyes were deceiving him as the woman looked like Matakala. He broke into a run calling her name, the moment she looked up from her cooking; he knew that his eyes were telling him the truth. Once the excitement of his arrival had settled, Elfas and Matakala sat by the evening fire so she could tell him the grueling events she had endured.

The day the terrorist arrived at their village they forced everyone to come out of their huts; to show their intent they grabbed two of the elders and beat them with their AK47 rifles until the two men were begging for mercy. They told the now terrified villagers that if anyone tried stop them they would shoot them without question.

Then they began to separate certain of the bigger boys from the group and then picked a few of the woman, of which she was one.  They demanded the villagers bring them bags of mealie meal (cornmeal), gourds filled with water and some vegetables. Once all the items were gathered the woman were loaded up with the supplies and the men forced their terrified captives to march away from the village, at gun point.  They led them into the deep bush finally stopping near a large group of granite boulders where the men had hidden more supplies and weapons. They were cruel beating anyone who was slow or complained and constantly taunting them with death.  They walked for hours into the night and finally were allowed to stop, eat a little and try to sleep on the stony ground. Before morning light, they were forced to start marching again.  By now the group of captives had no idea where they were but one thing was clear; they were being taken to a camp in a neighboring country where the boys would be taught to become insurgents and the women used as mules to carry supplies along with being molested by the men. The second night in the bush the men began to grab the woman and molest them.  Matakala said when she was grabbed she cried and told the man dragging her to his sleeping mat that she was pregnant.

Immediately everything changed – the man began beating her, shouting to his comrades that this woman was no good and before she knew what had happened, they had forced her to walk away from the camp even though it was dark!

The darkness of the night enveloped Matakala like a heavy cloak. She kept stumbling over rocks and branches but kept going to get as far away from her brutal captors, as she could. Finally, she had to stop and rest as exhaustion was taking its toll. She prayed that God would protect her from wild animals as that area was leopard country.

The warm rays of the morning sun caressing her face woke Matakala. She had survived the night but her quandary now was which way should she walk to find her village? She knelt and prayed asking God to lead her on the path she should go. She said she remembered the scripture verse in Isaiah 30:21 which says: “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.”

So she determined to trust God to lead her in the right direction. She found some berries to eat and soon heard the trickling of a small stream. Quickly she quenched her burning thirst and filled one of the water gourds that she had slipped into her belongings when she was thrown out of the camp.

Matakala told her husband that every time she came to a division in the path she would stop, pray and ask God to show her. The moment she felt a sense of peace that she was on the right path she would keep walking. It took her two days and two nights before she began to recognize the bush around her village. God had led her home!

The years of the conflict in Rhodesia took its toll on many precious lives which left us all reeling; but miraculous accounts of God’s protection like Matakala’s, gave us all a hope to cling to.

So too my friends whatever heart-ache you are carrying or whatever fear stalks your nighttime hours, you can depend on the promises of God’s Word to guide your footsteps and bring you through even when it seems all hope is lost.

God WILL make a way, when there seems to be no way, if we will but trust Him!

 

Two Cups, A Witch-doctor & a Leopard

 

AFRICAN hut

The witch-doctors hut.

My parent’s days of serving as missionaries at the remote Gobatema Mission were soon ending. Lloyd & Vera Sharpe along with Byron and Marion Hodgeman had been on the mission long enough to know the ropes of running the place. Plus, there were three unmarried missionary ladies who worked and taught in the Mission school, so it was well staffed.  It soon would be time for the “Wilson family” to move on to a new assignment to Rufaro Mission; which had fallen into great disrepair and badly needed a resident missionary to get it up and running again. This would move us out of the Gwanda area, and the isolation of being deep in the bush beyond the Tuli River, which frequently cut us off from civilization. It also meant we would be leaving the Mandabele tribe whom we had come to love and new adjustments were facing the family as we would be working among the Mashona tribe which spoke a different tribal language. Substantial changes were facing us but until the water of the Tuli River receded we would be going nowhere! It was running too high and swiftly over the concrete causeway to make it safe for crossing.

Nancy & Norma on the causeway over Tuli River - 1947

Tuli River causeway – Southern Rhodesia 1947 (Myself & Nancy Sharpe)

Dad decided that while we waited for the Tuli River to recede, the family needed to make a trip to a village some distance in the bush from the Mission. He wanted to check on the small congregation of believers and the deacon and his family before we left the area. This village had a very powerful resident witch-doctor who continually tried to intimidate the infant congregation with spells and dire predictions of doom.  It was a daily battle for the congregation plus the deacon’s family to stand strong. The witch-doctor was confident he would win this battle against the “white man’s God”.

The old mission truck was loaded with camping gear, along with water, food supplies and some bags of grain and sugar to give the villagers. Dad decided to take Pastor Paolus , one of our African ministers, with us, as he knew the deacon well. Word was sent informing the village chief to expect a visit from Mnangumeli (father/missionary) Wilson.

Early on the appointed morning, we headed out; it would be a day’s journey as the bush track was unforgiving making the going slow. Recent rains had cut deep ruts into the sun-baked soil making for a very bone shaking ride.  Finally, we saw the wisps of smoke in the distance coming from the cooking fires in the village. The afternoon sun was beginning to wane but before we could set up camp Dad needed to greet the Chief and his advisers The Chief had informed Dad and Paolus that the witch-doctor had announced to the villagers that he was going to make a very POWERFUL CURSE in the night that would kill the white missionary and his family; thus proving “his medicine” was more powerful than the “white missionary’s God.”  Dad assured the Chief that he had nothing to fear and the morning dawn would show that his words of assurance were true.

Once the tribal protocol was completed we got busy setting up camp on the outskirts of the village. As was our custom, Dad, Mom and I would sleep in the back of the truck. A large fire would serve as our kitchen as well as protection from curious animal predators. This was leopard country so we needed to be vigilant at night.

The deacon’s wife arrived with some vegetables from her garden plus she had something special to give Mom. Her husband had carved two mugs from wood which she presented to Mom, telling her that they wanted her and Dad to have something special to drink their tea from.  Dad and Mom were deeply moved by this gesture of love from a couple who shared out of their own poverty. What a beautiful lesson of sacrificial giving!

Word was sent to the group of believers to meet around our campfire after the evening meal, for a time of singing and preaching. The early evening hours were filled with harmonious singing around the crackling campfire. It was a scene I had experienced so many times in my young life but the wonder of it never grew old. The singing of the African believers infused my being until it flowed in my blood and throbbed with every beat of my heart. Oh, how I loved being the daughter of African soil and a child of the Bush-veld!

Slowly as the night hours lengthened people began to drift back to their huts and just a few were left sitting around the campfire with our family. The tranquility of that sacred evening was shattered by cackling and spine chilling shrieks coming from the witch-doctor’s hut. True to his word he was letting the villagers know that he was placing “very deadly medicine” on our family. Instantly the atmosphere in the village became tense, villagers huddled in their huts, shivering in fear.

What was going to happen to Mnangumeli Wilson and his family?

Barely had the raucous sounds coming from the witch-doctor’s hut subsided when the night air was filled with the sounds of a snarling leopard obviously making a kill very close to the village. The cattle in the cow kraal (corral) began to get restless as they sensed the leopard’s presence. Hyenas started their uncanny “laughter” in the distance as they were masters at sensing when a predator had made a kill. This convinced the fearful villagers even more that the Witch-doctor would be victorious, as they believed that he had the power to transform himself into ferocious animals, such as leopards or lions.

I cuddled up closer to Dad feeling the comfort of his strong arms and calm demeanor. Paolus turned to Dad and said: “Eeeh Mnangumeli, truly evil walks tonight!”  Dad responded by reminding Paolus that the God that we served and trusted was greater than any human curse or threat. Our God would become a shield against the evil forces that walked this night’s hours. This declaration seemed to bring peace to those sitting around the campfire, softly one of our mission staff workers began to sing in his mother tongue and once again the night chill was banished by the songs of faith in God’s powerful ability to protect His children.  It was time to climb into the back of the truck and get some sleep!

The early morning rays of sunlight brought with them a living example to every villager who had doubt in God’s ability to protect us. The Wilson family was alive and well and busy cooking breakfast over the bush campfire!  From that day on the little congregation of believers flourished and the witch-doctor lost his evil grip on the hearts of the people.

What happened to the two roughly hewed wooden cups?

DSC00707

Hand carved cups made for my parents in Gwanda, S. Rhodesia 1949

Mom varnished them and kept them as a memory of that night when God showed a group of villagers that He is “all powerful” and can be trusted against all evil. Some years before Mom passed away she gave me these two cups; each time I dust them I am flooded with the memory of a childhood visit to a remote village that embedded and strengthened a determination in me, to serve God with all my heart, my soul and my being until He calls me home to my eternal rest!

A Challenging Question

Rhodesia in our hearts

Rhodesia in our hearts!

During times of catastrophic and traumatic events the question is often asked; why do terrible things happen to good people…………….?

God’s Word does not promise that believers will be immune to suffering or reap tragedy at the hands of evil; but God promises to provide His Presence, His strength, His peace and His grace when disaster strikes.

I do believe this is a question that thousands of weary and heart-broken people have asked multiple times. There is not a simple answer but let me offer you some thoughts to consider that might help the raw pain we all experience during these times of unthinkable testing.

As missionaries in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) we were deeply impacted by the inhuman acts the terrorists committed on their own people; including some of our African Pastors, as well as missionary peers, dedicated farmers and innocent motorists who happened to unwittingly drive into a terrorist ambush.

Let me share with you an experience that we personally were affected by back in 1972 when the terrorist war was escalating. I will not give the name of the individuals involved for the protection of family members who are still living in Zimbabwe.

An African Pastor in our District lived with his wife and three young sons in a bush village near the Bindura area. He was leading a small congregation in this village; their home was a simple mud hut with a thatch roof, as was all the huts in this rural village. One evening a group of terrorists infiltrated the village, rounded up the terrified villagers and marched them at gun point to this Pastor’s hut. Then they dragged the Pastor, his wife and three sons out in front of the villagers, announcing that they were going to show them what happens to people who assist the security forces in identifying terror suspects. They told the Pastor to go back in the hut and get his “shortwave radio” that they claimed he used to talk to the security forces, alerting them which villages terrorists were hiding in. He responded that all he had was a cassette recorder that the missionary had given him to listen to Bible teaching tapes; to prove his point; he went and brought the cassette recorder out handing it to the leader of the gang.

What took place next was beyond comprehension. The group of terrorists began to beat the Pastor with their rifle butts, kicking, punching until they had him beaten almost senseless. Then they broke both of his arms, both of his legs and ground his glasses into his eyes, totally blinding him. At this point he was hanging onto life by a thread; yet in this condition they made him roll into the hut and to the horror of his already traumatized family and fellow villagers, they set fire to the hut burning the Pastor alive. As if these evil men had not done enough carnage; they pulled burning pieces of wood from the hut, grabbed the three young sons and branded their legs so they would “never forget”.

When the news reached my parents, my husband and I, we knew something had to be done quickly, even though it was very dangerous to go into that village. Dad and Glyn took the mission truck and hurried to the village to rescue the Pastor’s wife and children. The one thing she told us that we will forever carry in our hearts; was that as her husband was dying in the burning hut, they could hear his cries asking God to forgive his tormentors.

Eventually we had the privilege of teaching two of these sons in our Mission Bible school; they still carry the scars of that terrible day on their legs; but instead of defeating them, the experience empowered them to follow in their father’s footsteps to preach the Gospel!

Evil did not win that battle! Two preachers of the Gospel were raised out of the ashes of the murdered Pastor’s sacrifice!

THIS WAS A GOOD MAN! So it begs the question………………..why did God allow this to happen?

Let me offer you some words of comfort and direction from of the Word of God.

When God created man, He placed within everyone the ability to have a free will.  We are not God’s “robots” that He “controls” but He has allowed us freedom of choice. Sometimes terrible things happen simply because we are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Jesus spoke about this fact in John 16:33 (NKJV) “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Jesus also reminded us that dreadful things can and do happen both to bad people as well as good people; as was the case of our African Pastor.

Matthew 5:45 (NKJV) “That you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

As long as we are on this earth we are going to have some deep valleys to walk through – it is part of life and the fallen condition of man BUT the Lord does not leave us without hope. Even during times of tragedy that make absolutely no sense at all; we have the sweet assurance of God’s EVER ABIDING PRESENCE IN THE EYE OF THESE STORMS.

The scripture is full of promises where He tells us that He will provide grace, strength, peace and hope for our tomorrows, even when tragedy strikes. This verse of scripture comes to mind that you might draw comfort from:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV) “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

I assure you my dear friends I don’t even pretend to have the answers to these challenging questions in life but I can say with total confidence, out of my own experiences of personal trauma and tragedy, that the Lord enveloped me with His presence, filled me with His peace and supplied me with the strength not to give up in my times of intense heart-ache! My faith and trust is in the eternal God; my weeping may endure for a night but I KNOW joy will come in the morning!!!

Let me encourage you, especially now where catastrophic events are unfolding around us. The morning WILL COME as we move our vision from an “earth-bound” vision to an “eternal vision”.  Yes, His love and mercy is endless so drink freely from His provision today!