God is not Mocked

Donna-Mae @ 3 months

(Our “miracle” baby girl)

One of the biggest challenges as missionaries in Rhodesia, Africa was combating the ingrained ancestral belief of heathen gods and heathen practices. Second only to the power wielded by the village Chief was the resident witchdoctor. He, or in some cases she, held the villagers in a vice-grip claw of fear and dread. So many of the heathen rituals concocted and practiced by them, were steeped in superstition and brooding darkness. Their charms, amulets, blood sacrifices, all represented a deeply imbedded belief system of constantly needing to appease the many evil spirits they worshipped, yet never succeeding.
Frequently when heathen villagers understood the one and only True God and turned away from their heather practices to follow the Lord; the witchdoctors became incensed with us missionaries and our lay preachers. It was not long before we became aware of something insidious raising its ugly head among our African congregations. The village witchdoctor had been replaced by “self-proclaimed prophets” who were nothing but charlatans preying on the deeply ingrained fear of mystical proclamations. They were nothing but false Pentecostal witchdoctors wreaking havoc among the new believers and sowing seeds of confusion and discord.
This resulted in us having to take a firm stand against these individuals both through Biblical preaching, teaching and when necessary publicly disciplining them. Naturally we became as unpopular with them as we were with the village witchdoctors, as we were diluting their power in the local church. Several of these men “prophesied” to the people that it was time the missionary was taught a lesson and they would prove that their power was greater than the missionary’s God!

When the time came to hold our next quarterly District conference, the word of the “challenge” the “prophets” had made, had spread like wild fire through our District.
Our African Pastors along with lay pastors, their families and many members from the 150 congregations that fell under our care, arrived by a variety of ways of transportation. Some walked miles, others on bicycles; many on rickety busses and a few with vehicles. They set up camp in the church yard, each family with a little camp-fire where they would cook and sleep.
On the Saturday of the conference Glyn would hold a business meeting with the Pastors, elders and deacons, to take care of District business in the humble church building. I gathered the rest of the crowd outside, all seated on the dry dusty soil, while I preached the Word. At this particular Conference I was expecting our third child and this probably would be the last trip the doctor would allow me to take before the baby arrived. The people were excited about the arrival of this baby as we had tragically lost our second baby the day he was born and they believed that God was blessing us again. I did not attend the evening preaching service as I was weary and Glyn felt I should rest and gain strength for our big final communion service on Sunday.
We had noticed on Saturday that there seemed to be a brooding attitude of tension festering under the surface; like a bubbling cauldron ready to spew its venomous contents upon the congregation.
During the worship time that evening a “self-proclaimed prophet”; that Glyn had dealt with on numerous occasions; rose to his feet with a defiant challenge to Glyn’s leadership and a proclamation against me. He told the stunned congregation that God had revealed to him that I was “with child”! May I say that this obviously was not a divine revelation, as all you had to do was look at me to see that very soon a baby was to be born!
He then went on to say that the baby I was carrying was dying and unless I went to a particular place of “his choosing” for three days of prayer I would deliver a dead child. When he was finished, it was as though a bolt of lightning had paralyzed the congregation; the silence was tangible and the faces registered abject terror.
Glyn broke the silence by instructing the man to sit down and then told the stunned congregation that God would prove He was more powerful than this false prophet’s curse. He added that we were not going to follow his instructions but we were going to trust God.
He instructed them not to fear but to wait and see God’s power revealed when a healthy baby was born!

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

This situation was living proof of a promise in God’s Word:

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

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

 

A Rose for a Stone

(My rose taken by Terry Griffin

(My antique Eleanor Roosevelt Rose taken by Terry Griffin)

A ROSE FOR A STONE

On Sunday May 7th. Glyn discovered he was bleeding from his kidneys. Little did we know that this would launch us on an emotional and physical roller coaster ride that nightmares are made of!
I was recovering from my second surgery to my hands, so had very little strength and was restricted to only very light household duties.
Each new day dawned with one unexpected complication after another! There seem to be absolutely “no light at the end of the very dark tunnel” that we were stumbling through!
The kindness of neighbors, our Pastor Richard Orrell, friends living here in Springfield and our children Bruce & Donna-Mae Washburn, all came “alongside” and steadied us when we felt we could not take another step. Added to that we were lifted in prayer by dozens of friends and family, literally across the entire globe! The gates of Heaven were shaken by intercession of God’s children on our behalf!

Two surgeries have passed since that Sunday six weeks ago and Glyn is still passing stones! Yesterday he passed stone #10!! I am beginning to think he is growing the “Rock of Gibraltar” in his left kidney!
I was starting to wonder if it was not time to ask for a “second opinion”; then the Lord reminded me that He knew exactly what we were going through and His “opinion” and “solution” was the only one that really matters!
The Lord reminded me that if we will but believe His Word, during these seasons of driving rains of trial, we would see the Hand of God molding us and growing spiritual roses of such fragrance and beauty in our lives!
Without these times of bitter trials where our darkened path seems filled with jagged stones we would never grow these roses of beauty, to minister God’s grace to others suffering deep trials.

Indeed, we all are lashed by the harsh storms of life.
Don’t focus on the storm but focus on the fragrant roses God is growing in our lives!
Yes, we are pained by the time of testing. But remember, God sees the sweet rose of faith which is springing up in our lives under those very trials.

This verse of scripture brings such hope:
“For God hath made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Gen. 41:52.)

Yesterday, a dear friend Terry Griffin, took me to pick up some groceries and when we returned I was showing her one of my treasured rose bushes. The fragrance is so sweet and it blooms through-out the summer storms that we have here in the Ozarks.
God used this very rose to remind me to not falter in the storms of life and birthed this Nugget in my heart!

 

A Mother’s Day Tribute to a Pioneer Mother

Gobatema-Mom giving medical care toAfrican baby -1947

(My mother, Florence Wilson, treating a baby with burns at Gobatema Mission, S. Rhodesia, Africa 1939)

The heritage a family passes on from one generation to another is not to be taken lightly. The investment that we pour into our children as parents and grandparents has life long lasting effects on the generation that follows. We do make a difference in the lives of our extended family whether we realize it or not.  Only once an individual looks back, do they see the fingerprints of their parents and grandparents that molded their character. I consider that I have the richest heritage anyone could ask for and I am so deeply thankful for the values and life lessons my parents instilled in me from a small child.

My parents, Willard and Florence Wilson left Mars Hill, Maine in 1939 with their one-year-old son, Lawrence, to sail to Africa in answer to God’s calling to serve as missionaries in Southern Rhodesia, (now Zimbabwe). They sailed from St. John, New Brunswick, Canada arriving in Cape Town, South Africa in May 1939. Then they had an arduous 1,500 mile journey inland, to reach Gobatema Mission in Southern Rhodesia.

It must have been a torturous journey negotiating dirt roads, crossing low level bridges or dry river beds plus, protecting themselves and their infant son from wild animals when they stopped to rest at night.  Added to the challenges of the primitive conditions they were traveling under, they also were dealing with a massive climate adjustment.  When they sailed from the harbor in St. John’s it was 35 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. The deeper they journey inland to Southern Rhodesia the more they became aware of the stifling tropical heat. I can only imagine what it must have been like for my young mother trying to be strong, brave and committed to stand at the side of her husband while caring for a year-old baby in a totally strange land; where they could not even speak the language of the local people!

It took determination and grit born out of a pioneer upbringing in Houlton, Maine along with a passion to carry the good news of the Gospel to unreached tribes that kept my mother focused on her goal.

My parents finally arrived at the very small town of Gwanda. They were met by my Dad’s elder brother, Bill Wilson, who would lead them to the very isolated and remote Mission. Once they left Gwanda and headed into the bush what vestige of civilization there was, quickly disappeared. Not even a road lay before them; just a bush track. The last leg of the long journey was negotiating the semi dry Tuli River which had no bridge or even a cement causeway. Gobatema Mission was built on a kopjie (rocky hill) which was about 4 miles from the Tuli River as the crow flies. This was a very arid part of Southern Rhodesian low-veld, with scrub bush, rocky outcrops and was a haven for snakes and leopards along with a variety of assorted wild game.

Reflecting on what must have been going to through my mother’s mind and heart when they finally arrived at a derelict Mission compound; is a very poignant memory for me. Mud huts and a couple of apologies for badly neglected brick houses stood forlornly as a welcome to their tired eyes and travel worn bodies. There was no electricity, no running water, no indoor plumbing, not even a phone line to connect them to the outside world. All water had to be hauled up from the Tuli River in 50 gallon rusty drums, by a span of oxen pulling the drums on a wooden skid. The reality of the fact that when the Tuli River was flooded there would be several months that they would be totally cut off from civilization, food supplies along with basic necessities, did not escape my mother’s thinking process! She had to cook the family meals in the terrible heat over a battered wood stove that probably was “older than dirt”! There was no turning back; this was the place they had chosen to spread the gospel to the unreached tribes.

Yes, this was to be home for my young mother and she was determined to turn it into place where love shone brightly in the midst of a harsh environment.  Somehow, she found the inner strength to produce delicious meals on a meager supply of food yet we never went hungry! Little touches of “home” could be seen in the ram-shackled mission house with handmade doilies on the rough wooden table and hand sewn curtains adding an air of domesticity.

Subsequent days were spent repairing the main mission house to make it safe from, snakes, scorpions and even the leopards that visited the compound in the dark of the night. My parents set about reaching out to the villages dotted in the bush; building trust by sharing salt, maze meal and also giving some medical help to the sick. Slowly the villagers began to venture up to the Mission compound to attend church under a tree.

Mom quickly organized a weekly meeting for women, teaching them child care, knitting, crocheting skills and home remedies along with sharing the love of God. The daily rhythm of life at the Mission began to give a sense of “belonging” and purpose for the privations the family experienced.

Another challenge mom faced was to be the “nurse” to all and sundry including the missionary staff. She delivered babies in dirty smoky huts under far from sterile conditions; but many times, her skill made the difference between life and death for the babies she helped to bring into the world.  The day one of the missionary men was badly mauled by a leopard, Mom stayed at his side through the night attending to his wounds until they were able to transport him to the Hospital in Bulawayo the next morning.

The next Wilson child to come along was my sister Suzanne.  Now Mom had two children to keep up with along with her busy schedule. Suzanne was a placid child and won the hearts of the African staff, so Mom was never bereft of willing helpers to keep an eye on the newest addition to the missionary family. Even though Suzanne was an easy-going baby when she was a toddler she became quite the escape artist when Mom would put her in her play pen.

Then the challenge to Mom’s true grit arrived when a feisty red-headed baby girl was born – according to the tales she told me I tested all her motherly skills!

Yes, I was that little red-headed girl who spent the longest time on this Mission and became either my Dad’s “shadow” or walked with Mom and African staff members on the long treks into the villages.

Once Lawrence and Suzanne were old enough for school they were sent to Bulawayo to a government Boarding school. I know this must have been a terrible wrench on my mother’s heart. This left me alone with my siblings away for months at a time, so the “mystery of the bush” became my world to explore and fall in love with. I know I taxed my Mom’s patience to the limit as I was fearless and curious which was a bad combination when living in the bush!  On more than one occasion she would catch me teasing a poisonous snake with a stick or trying to dig out a scorpion from its hiding place under a rock! These early years of my life seeing my parents pour their lives into African lives became the foundation in my own heart that grew into a love for the people of Rhodesia. Subsequently my husband and I followed in their footsteps as missionaries ourselves in Rhodesia.

Life was far from easy; added to that the family dealt with bouts of malaria, dysentery, scarlet fever and other tropical infections. Yet this did not deter my parents to keep forging ahead.

Mom’s dedication to the work God had called her to, burned deep in her heart and was not just “talk” but a living reality that radiated strongly within her. Both she and Dad were wonderful examples to my siblings and me. From a young age, they instilled in us the teachings of the Word and values that have stood with us down through the years.

Seven years passed before another sibling made his appearance. By this time, the family had transferred to Rufaro Mission which wasn’t in any better condition than Gobatema Mission. This did not daunt Mom and she took on her duties with a joyful heart.  Our brother Henry was born at this mission and was thoroughly doted on by Suzanne and me. Now Mom had four children to nurture and love while she faced the challenges of once again living under primitive conditions. Serving God was her greatest joy and she instilled that same love in the hearts of her children. Whatever living as a pioneer missionary in a third world country threw at her, she took in her stride with grace and determination.

God had one more surprise for Mom with the birth of my younger sister, Carolyn, five years later. She was the baby and by us older siblings’ opinion, she was spoiled thoroughly. Sibling rivalry was alive and well even in a missionary family. By now Dad had become the District Superintendent and we had moved to Salisbury. We thought we had died and gone to heaven! We had a home with electricity, indoor plumbing and black top roads to drive on!

Fifteen years ago, this week Mom slipped earth’s gravity in answer to a call from the Lord she loved and served. Her work on earth was done and it was time to move to her eternal home.

Both Dad and Mom took wings before I could make it to their sides to say my earthly good-byes but what a glorious reunion awaits me at the family gathering around the Throne of God.

I treasure my memories of my godly parents deep in my heart and during days of trial I can hear their voices cheering me on to finish strong.

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!