Tag Archives: African Memories

A Rhodesian Sunrise – Hope for Tomorrow

Our son Russel greeting his baby sister, Donna-Mae for the first time.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 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.

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!”

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Shadows Tinged in Scarlet

Shadows tinged in Scarlet by Rick Orrell
(Used with permission)

SHADOWS TINGED IN SCARLET

There is a gentleman in the church we attend, who has a God-given gift when it comes to photography. He also happens to be our Pastor’s son, so I know he comes from “good stock”!
Recently Rick sent me one of his pictures with a little get well note attached. The picture was stunning! It was so striking in its contrast and beauty that the more I studied it the more I could see the pristine touch of the Master Artist’s Hand! Immediately the title of this Nugget came to mind; I was looking at shadows tinged in scarlet which was a perfect example of my own journey with God.

Shadows are a part of the natural landscape that we see each day. Some are caused by clouds drifting past and blocking the sun’s rays. Others are created by a leafy tree, or mountainside that the sun has not yet risen above. Yes, shadows are part of our daily lives but they are transient and as this picture so beautifully depicts; shadows can become tinged with the penetrating scarlet rays of sunlight.
There is such a spiritual lesson that can be gleaned from this beautiful picture.

We all have seasons in our lives when we are called upon to walk through deep shadows. These are the times when our hearts are crushed, wounded and suffering deep pain.
Examples of these times can be:
The loss of a loved one.
The diagnosis of a terminal illness.
The betrayal by a trusted friend.
Devastating personal bad choices that led us down a destructive path.
These few examples are merely the tip of the iceberg of the multitude of shadows we deal with in our life’s journey.

Yet when you study the picture you will see HOPE in the form of shafts of scarlet sunlight tinging even the darkest shadows!
In our walk with God we have felt the warmth and strength of His eternal love during our darkest hours giving us hope to endure.

I remember keenly the day in Africa, while we were missionaries; that Glyn brought me home from the hospital, after he totally alone, had laid to rest, our newborn son.
There are no words that can fully express the grief and pain Glyn and I were experiencing.
I was laying on the sofa in a weakened condition from complications during the delivery, feeling the intense void of my empty arms. Tears flowed freely from our broken hearts as we endeavored to “understand” this dark shadow we were having to walk through.
Glyn had placed a record of gospel music on our old battered record player, when the humble home of two devastated missionaries was filled with the words of the song: “…..then I heard footsteps walking in the shadows and a Hand reaching out to tell me He was there….”
As we allowed the truth of that song to seep into our broken beings, we began to feel the healing warmth of God’s care and understanding.
Our deep shadow of sorrow no longer was unbearable because it was tinged in scarlet hope and assurance from the Master’s Hand!

God’s loving care will breech and penetrate even the darkest shadows of our lives!
We can cling to these shafts of “scarlet hope” that God uses to intercept the devastating situations that come our way, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will bring us through victorious!
I simply can’t close this Nugget without quoting that well known and uplifting Psalm 23!

Psalm 23:1-6 (NKJV) “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

Lessons From His Yoke

 

LESSONS FROM HIS YOKE

In the early years of my childhood in Rhodesia, it was a common sight to see a span of oxen joined together by a yoke, pulling a wagon, or ploughing a field to prepare it for planting. Those were the days before farm machinery became the norm in Africa. The pioneers that traversed many mountains, rivers and thick bush used oxen, mules and if they were fortunate enough horses, to bring civilization to the interior of Africa.
On the Mission Station where I was born oxen were used for a variety of tasks including pulling the Mission truck across the Tuli river bed once flood waters had receded and hauling water in 50 gallon drums four miles from the river each day, as that was our only water source.

The task of training a span of oxen to walk together in the yoke required a fair amount of skill.
A well trained strong ox would head the team and then an untrained ox would share the yoke with the trained leader. At first the untrained ox would resist the yolk but the lead ox was strong and quickly subdued his errant partner and before long the two walked in harmony.
For me it was a common sight to see a farmer walking behind a plough cutting deep furrows in the virgin soil, being pulled by several oxen walking in unison in their yokes.

Working with a span of oxen was not without its dangers though.
One morning at Rufaro Mission we heard a voice calling in Shona: “Mfundisi please help me, please help me.”
Glyn and I stepped out onto the porch and could hardly believe what our eyes were seeing. Stumbling towards the house was one of the African men who we had nicknamed, “Shumba”. He was holding up his right arm at the elbow and a dirty rag soaked in blood was haphazardly wrapped around his hand. I ran for the kitchen to grab some clean kitchen towels while Glyn sat Shumba down and began to listen to what had happened.
He told Glyn that he was ploughing his field to get ready to plant maize, (white kernel corn), he had his strong lead ox in the yoke, along with a totally untrained ox. The untrained ox was being particularly contrary and the chains from the plough disc to the oxen’s yoke became tangled. Shumba stopped the oxen and reached down to untangle the chains, when the untrained ox bolted, instantly the chain whipped around the four fingers on Shumba’s right hand, dragging it across the sharp blade of the plough disc. In a matter of seconds Shumba’s four fingers were sliced clear through to the bone, just leaving bare stubs. As fast as we could, we removed the dirty rag, cleaned the wound as best as possible and then tightly wrapped his damaged hand with clean towels.
Glyn then raced the suffering man to the nearest clinic which was over 40 miles away, to receive emergency care.

Anyone who has worked using a span of oxen will tell you that it is exhausting work and needed someone with nerves of steel plus be constantly aware of the oxen’s mood; as even the best trained oxen can be unpredictable. Just one moment of Shumba letting down his guard down, cost him the four fingers on his right hand.

There is a spiritual lesson that we can learn from the yolk used in years gone by.
While teaching a crowd of people Jesus uses the yoke to drive home a truth by a common illustration of something everyone listening, would completely understand.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV) “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus spent a good portion of his life as a ‘working man’. Brought up as the son of a carpenter, He spent many years laboring in his earthly father’s carpenter shop, before starting the ministry for which He had come to fulfill. He probably fashioned yokes as a part of His trade. Over those years, his hands would have no doubt been cut and calloused and his back would have ached. Like anyone involved with physical labor, he would most certainly have known what it was like to be weary at the end of the day.

But, Jesus recognized that there is another weariness that is far more destructive, whatever our task in life is. It is the weariness of soul and spirit; a weariness we feel when life’s pressures and problems relentlessly crowd in and there seems to be no relief from the onslaught that life heaps upon us.
These verses in Matthew that Jesus spoke were referring to this type of weariness.
It would seem that Jesus made an amazingly kind, yet astonishingly simple promise when He said to the listening crowd: “come to me and I’ll lift from your back this load that you have been carrying all by yourself.”
Can you imagine the joy that was flooding the hearts of these life weary listeners! This teacher was going to give them a cure from the cares of life!

Then Jesus says something strange and probably confusing: for not only does He promise to lift their burden from their backs, but He then invites them to pick up His burden instead!
I can just imagine the incredulous response in the hearts of the people!
Seriously Jesus? You just told us to shed our burden and your promise of rest is to pick up your yoke?

I am so thankful that Jesus did not stop there…………… look what He goes on to say: ‘Take my yoke upon you and LEARN from me.’
Jesus was PAINTING A PICTURE of how animals were trained in those days. One new to the job would be harnessed alongside one that had been doing it for years and ‘knew the ropes’. In this way, the new arrival would learn how to do things so much more quickly and easily.

Jesus is encouraging his listeners that this is what He wanted to do for them and the exciting news is that this also includes you and me.
Hear Him saying to us today: “Come alongside me, walk with me, and let me show you how to do things; for as you do, the burden will seem so much lighter.”
YES, He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak

Isaiah 40:29 (NKJV) He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.

My friends I encourage you to tap into His promise of His indomitable strength today!

Oxen hauling our days water from the Tuli River in 1944

 

 

God Is With Us

Russel & Tuffy in Durban, South Africa

GOD IS WITH US!
In the journey of your life, do you sometimes have, moments, hours, days and maybe even weeks when you feel that God has turned His back on you? I am certain the question rings true for many reading this Nugget!
There have been times in my own walk with God that I wondered if my usefulness to God and His Kingdom was no longer needed!

I remember a period in our son’s growth that he must have been going through what child psychologists call, “Separation Anxiety”.
We had endured the horrific carnage of the terrorist war in Rhodesia and we were now living in Durban, South Africa, running our Missions Bible College.
Sadly right around the time of our arrival in South Africa, the political climate took a turn for the worse. We endured bombings of supermarkets, tribal rioting including burning hundreds of homes of opposing tribal groups. As missionaries we were caught in the cross-fire because many of the places we ministered in were hot-beds waiting to erupt. This fact was not lost on our son, who remembered only too well the events that we as a family had lived through in Rhodesia.

When we first arrived in Durban, South Africa we lived in the home of a missionary family who had returned to the States for a furlough. It was a double story home with the Master bedroom on the main floor and two bedrooms and a study upstairs. Glyn and I slept downstairs and Russel and Donna-Mae upstairs.
It took us several weeks before it became evident that night after night, our son would slip out of bed, grab a blanket and sit at the bottom of the stairs, close to our bedroom. In the morning I would find him curled up, sound asleep on the bottom stair. It broke this mother’s heart that our son had been so emotionally traumatized just because he was a “missionary’s kid”!
No matter how much we assured him that we ALWAYS would be there during those dark frightening nights, he just couldn’t FEEL THAT ASSURANCE.
You see his memories of nights of terror in Rhodesia were engraved so deeply in his sub-conscious that he needed more than promised platitudes! He desperately needed the PHYSICAL security of knowing that his Dad and Mom, who were his trusted protectors were close by, thus explaining why he would sleep on the hard floor outside our bedroom door!
We tried everything thing we could think of to allay his genuine fear but nothing seemed to help. While praying over this troubling situation I believe God supplied the answer, in the most unexpected way.

Not only were we caring for our missionary friends’ home but we also were keeping their Pug dog, called Tuffy. Both our children adored the dog, who fast would “dog” their every footstep and they became inseparable pals. Tuffy had been trained to sleep in his basket in the kitchen at night, so we continued this practice.
One evening as I was tucking the children into bed, “Tuffy” had followed me up the stairs, while we were saying our evening prayers, Tuffy took the opportunity to squirm his way under Russel’s blankets with just his flat nose sticking out!
The reality of God’s visual answer to our prayers flashed like a shooting star in my heart!
From that night on, Tuffy would snuggle as close to Russel in his bed as was physically possible and it was the last night that a frightened missionary’s son’s deeply entrenched fears, were conquered!

Donna-Mae & Russel with Tuffy in Durban, South Africa

In the journey of life too often, we as children of God, have the same experience as we had with our son. We wonder if God is “with us” in our difficult situations! The good news is that GOD IS WITH US – He promised “never to leave us or forsake us.”
Look with me at Joseph’s experience:

“The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” Genesis 39:2 (NKJV)

 

We often pray for God to be with us and others, but what do we mean?
God is everywhere, isn’t He?
So this begs the questions…………. How could He NOT be with us?
The Bible says God was with Joseph. This is especially significant, considering Joseph’s situation……think about it for a moment.

His father assumed he was dead.
His brothers had sold him into slavery.
His mother was dead.
He had no friends.
He was in prison on a false charge.

WOW! Could his circumstances get any worse?
Joseph must have felt awfully alone………. Where could he turn?
The answer to that question is found in the fact that through the “eye of faith”, Joseph discovered that even when everyone else abandoned him, GOD REMAINED BY HIS SIDE.
God made his presence with Joseph obvious through what he did in Joseph’s life.
Now not by any stretch of the imagination did Joseph have an easy life, but God blessed him nonetheless. Think about it…..

When Joseph was a slave, God made him chief slave.
When Joseph was a prisoner, he became the assistant to the jailer.
When there seemed little reason to have confidence, God gave Joseph courage.
When he had the opportunity to wreck revenge on his brothers who had betrayed him, God gave him deep compassion and forgiveness.

God’s presence doesn’t mean that you and I won’t experience hard times.
It DOES mean that no matter what we are going through, WE will know that He is with us, just as Joseph knew he wasn’t alone.
God’s presence will give us peace when everything is going wrong. His love will be obvious to us even when it seems no one else cares. God’s wisdom will guide us to make the right choices in the confusion of life.
The Bible says Joseph prospered because God was with him. In other words, God’s presence made a VISIBLE difference in Joseph’s life.
Let me assure you my friends………..God’s presence will make an obvious difference in your life as well. No matter how tough your circumstances, you can have confidence, because you’re not alone.
GOD IS WITH YOU!

 

No Regrets

Bags of maize meal -Gobatema 1939

My Dad, Willard Wilson & brother at Gobatema Mission, S. Rhodesia Africa

NO REGRETS

Last week I posted a nugget describing a memory from my childhood living on a remote and extremely primitive Mission Station in the bush of Southern Rhodesia, Africa. This nugget elicited a few comments from friends wondering how my parents ever adjusted to the unrelenting heat and total lack of civilization, having grown up in the civilized world and adjusted to the harsh bitter winters of northern Maine.
This set me thinking and I sat for several hours going through black and white photos of what life was like when Dad and Mom arrived in Africa in 1939, to serve as Pioneer missionaries. Then I went back to some of my mother’s early writings that I have, describing what they faced on a daily basis.

I began to muse about the quantum leap they took when they left the comfort of the family farm in Mars Hill, Maine (USA), boarded the ship and set sail for Africa. Two young missionaries with an infant son, barely a year old. They set their faces to an unknown land in response to the “call of God”.
They had no visions of grandeur, no pre-conceptions of a life of luxury; just two humble hearts with a passion burning in their souls to touch the un-reached tribes in Africa with the good news of the Gospel.
Follow me as I answer the questions some of you asked and reflect with me what it was like in those years of being Pioneer missionaries……………

Imagine what a struggle it must have been for my young parents arriving from the frigid climate of Northern Maine, enduring a month long rough ocean journey on a freighter. After arriving in Cape Town South Africa, they rested, got their bearings and geared up to make that torturous weeks long journey of 1,300 miles from the southernmost tip of South Africa to the unreached parts of Southern Rhodesia.
It would prove to be a journey that would test the mettle of even the strongest explorer!
The entire trip was travelled over uncared for dirt roads and eventually bush trails.

Remember, my young mother was travelling with precious cargo – my eldest brother, Lawrence, who had his first birthday while they were on the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.
Daily they endured oppressive heat, which in itself must have been a shock to their systems, as when they set sail the temperature was 30 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit!
They experienced encounters with wild animals, venomous snakes, and hostile tribes, plus endured being bitten by an assortment of unknown bugs and fending off tropical illnesses!
Frankly, the hardships of the trek inland is really hard to put in comprehendible words that my readers can relate to!

There was no “quick stops” to get supplies on that long trek………..
There was no safe water to drink, everything had to be boiled………..
There were no disposable diapers for their baby, so stops had to be made by running streams to wash the cloth diapers and baby clothing by hand……………
There were no comfortable Motels in which to lay to lay their weary heads at the end of a long day of travel………
There was malaria, dysentery and other tropical diseases to be wary of…………..
There were snakes, scorpions and dangerous wild animals to watch out for as they edged their way deeper into the African bush………..
Then added to all this there was the adjustment of cooking meals over a fire on the ground with stones placed to hold the pots, not to mention having to adjust to the foods that the indigenous people ate.
Plus trying to communicate with people whose language they did not understand!

I wonder if at any point in what seemed to be that brutal journey from South Africa to Southern Rhodesia; my parents might have had “second thoughts”. As, they could not possibly have mentally been prepared for the hardships they were dealing with.
Yet turning back was never an option!
How can I say this with such assurance? Because, once I was born, I witnessed with my own eyes that they were totally committed to the task that God had called them to, no matter the hardships they faced.

Now walk with me and feel the excitement rising in my parent’s hearts as they forged the Tuli River, which separated them from the last meager form of civilization, which was the first “out post” called Gwanda.
The Tuli River had no bridge or concrete causeway, so could only be crossed during the dry season. Once the wagons and battered old truck gingerly negotiated their way across the rocky river bed they slowly made their way up the ascending four mile bush track to their new home – Gobatema Mission.

Mission workers came running to welcome the new missionaries, many hands willingly helped unload the boxes, trunks and supplies, and then my parents stepped into their new home, which was a battered old house that was in various stages of disrepair.
An antiquated wood stove, that had seen better days, was the only sign of “civilization” in the dilapidated house. The cement floors were bare and cracked, plus the walls had cracks so deep that you could look through them to the outside and they had not seen paint in years.
The bedrooms were no better but my parents set to work; sweeping out the hanging cobwebs and accumulated dirt from the floor and assembling makeshift beds for their first night. Then with the assistance of one of the resident missionaries wives; Mom wrestled some semblance of life into the old wood stove to cook their first meal, while Dad was lighting Hurricane lanterns for light.
The Mission had no running water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and no phone contact to the outside world and the nearest point to get water was the torturous 4 mile track back down to the Tuli River! It could hardly be considered to possess even the bare necessities for comfort!
Yet, mother told me that both she and Dad felt jubilant joy and gratitude that God had brought them safely to their destination. No pity party was going to be held in that humble home that night! No regrets, no turning back!

Dad, Mom and Lawrence at GobatemaDad, Mom and my brother Lawrence at Gobatema Mission 1939

The years slipped by and the little family of three grew to five. My sister Suzanne was born in 1941 and then my parents were blessed with a fiery red-headed daughter (me) in 1944. Mother had her hands full but she took it all in stride. I remember her telling tales of trying to keep Suzanne in a home-made play pen with no floor in it. She would put the play pen on a grass mat in the shade of a tree while she was busy holding the morning clinic. Next thing she sees Suzanne, who now was walking, slip her legs between the slates of the play pen, stand up and off she went play pen in tow!

I presented new challenges for mother. I had the strong will that went along with my red-hair, plus as I grew, I was totally fearless in exploring my world. She caught me one day trying to “scare” a deadly Cobra out of its hole with a stick! I collected bugs and an assortment of creepy crawlies and would happily race to wherever mother was to show her my latest trophy! Mother despaired that I would ever turn out to be a “proper lady” – I definitely was a child of the bush.

Once my brother Lawrence and my sister Suzanne were school age they had to be sent to the city of Bulawayo to attend Boarding School. Bulawayo was about a 100 mile drive from the Mission. I can only imagine the wrench it must have been to my parent’s hearts to leave their precious young children at a Boarding School, knowing it would be months before they would see them again. Yet they never wavered in their calling or complained about the hardships of life.
Once my elder siblings went to boarding school I became my Dad’s shadow or would go with mother on the long walks through the bush to visit villages in the surrounding area. These were my formative years – I only knew life on a remote primitive Mission Station in the bush of Africa and it was marvelous!
I would not trade the lessons I learned for anything this world could offer!
Our lives growing up were filled with laughter, excitement, many challenges, but most of all our parents were role models to us of finding good in the most difficult situations and radiating the love of God in all that they did.
What a heritage they passed onto us children!

Just as my parents had a huge learning curve to adjust to life in Africa, I on the other hand grew up and served along with my husband in Africa for years and now have had a “reverse” learning curve to life in America!
My heart will always beat to an African drum and I assure you if I was 20 years younger, my feet would be walking the African trails without looking back.
I can say without fear of contradiction that a day does not go by that I do not long to feel the embrace of our “African children” and blaze a trail for God in the land of my calling!

 

 

God of All Circumstances

Crossing the Tuli River in 1947

GOD OF ALL CIRCUMSTANCES

The rays of the early morning African sun beaming through the window began to dance with fingers of warmth on my sleepy face. I stretched, and snuggled deeper under my blankets and lay listening to the gentle cooing of the mourning Doves, combined with the high pitch whine of mosquitoes outside on the screen of the open window.
I could hear my mother wrestling with the pieces of wood as she loaded the fire box of the old wood stove; trying to get a good “draw” on the fire, so it would stop filling the kitchen with smoke! The wood stove was “older than dirt” and it was amazing my mother was even able to breathe life back into it.

I lay there listening to the sounds of the stirrings of the early morning hour and wiggled my toes in delight……another day of adventure was waiting for me on the remote Gobatema Mission station.
Suddenly the peaceful morning sounds were shattered by the raucous braying of a donkey right outside my window, which vaulted me out of bed like a startled rabbit! It was the usual morning wakeup call – no more sleeping today!
Excitement raced through my small body……. what adventures were awaiting me?
Today Dad planned to load us up in the old mission truck and with the help of a lot of African workers and a span of oxen; we were going to attempt to cross the Tuli River, as supplies were dwindling.
We needed to go to the small town of Gwanda, which was 40 miles away with nothing but a bush track to drive on and a flooded river with no bridge to cross!
No small undertaking but a very necessary one as we needed to stock up on food and medical supplies. It would be an all-day adventure, which the “tom boy” in this little red-headed gal, loved!
Mom packed a picnic basket full of sandwiches, scones, home-made jam and the fixings to brew a pot of tea!

A “runner” had been sent down to check the level of the water in the river and returned with the news that he thought the oxen could pull the truck through without getting stuck or being washed away!
So, on a “wing and a prayer”, off we bounced; a merry and assorted bunch of adventurers. Our African helpers singing lustily as the rocky bush path seemed bent on shaking the very teeth out of our gums!

Once we arrived at the river bank all the air was let out of the tires to assist in the old truck in not getting mired in the mud and rocks on the bottom of the river. The oxen were hooked up to the front of the truck with several men guiding them into the river and the challenge was on! Man versus river……….who would win?
Slowly we inched across the river –water flooding into the engine and cab but finally the oxen pulled us out onto the opposite bank. Now the fun began in earnest – a camp fire was quickly lit, water put on to boil for tea and mother began to prepare the picnic that was fit for a king!
The men busied themselves drying out the motor, and then joined us for food. Then we rested in the shade of the trees to escape the blistering heat, while we waited for the electrical system on the truck to dry out.

Finally we were ready to drive the 40 miles of unforgiving bush track, to the village of Gwanda, load up with supplies, turn around and repeat the whole process of crossing the river all over again; but this time with a loaded truck!
It would be nightfall before a very weary, bedraggled, dusty bunch of “adventurers” finally arrived at the mission compound. By this time I usually was sound asleep in the back of the truck, curled up on a 50 pound bag of maize meal!
Yes, it had been quite a day in the life of this little missionary’s kid!
Even though the living conditions at the Mission Station were extremely primitive; the missionary families had to do what they could and NOT GIVE UP, even when it involved dangerous circumstances. You see their confidence was not in the arm of man but in God, who was a God of ALL circumstances and giving up was not ever considered an option!

The Apostle Paul is a wonderful example of someone who never gave up………………………..

Acts 14:19-20 (NKJV) “Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.
However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.”

Come walk with me in Paul’s footsteps……………………………
See Paul wince in anguish as rocks flew at him, one after another from every direction, lacerating his flesh until it was raw, covering his entire body with oozing wounds. His moans of agony were lost amid the din of the angry, shouting mob that surrounded him, taunting him as they hurled the sharpest stones they could find. There was no way to escape the pain, no hiding from the humiliation. Finally, Paul could stand no longer, and he crumpled to the ground. The angry mob, satisfied that they had killed the blasphemer, dropped their rocks and dragged Paul’s broken body out of the city.
Then the local disciples, including his friend Barnabas, who was his travelling companion, gingerly gathered around him, fearing the worst.

Don’t you think that a few questions might have crossed Paul’s mind at that moment? Maybe something like this………..
“Where were you guys when I was being tortured all alone?
Why did the Jews pick me and not Barnabas, as the brunt of their anger?”
I can just imagine Paul saying these things to his friends…………but he didn’t!
The situation was enough to tempt even the most DEVOUT Christian to get a little bitter; perhaps even call it quits…………but Paul didn’t!

What did Paul do next? He got up, wiped away the blood, and headed back into the city. Without even taking a sick day, he carried on with his missionary journey the very next day. The Bible tells us that when Paul and Barnabas reached Derbe they preached there and “won a large number of disciples.”

Just think what would have happened if Paul decided the task God had called him to complete was too hard and he gave up? Think of the scores of people who would not have heard the Gospel!
You and I might be facing adverse circumstances and HUGE challenges as we face this New Year, but let me encourage you –DON’T GIVE UP – God will be present and guide you in the midst of ALL that life throws at you!
Our God never gives up in being involved in our lives and there is no circumstance too great or hard that God will not see us through!

The Greatest Gift

Flamboyant Tree in Zimbabwe, Africa

THE GREATEST GIFT

Christmas will soon be upon us. People are frantically rushing to finish their last minute shopping, hunting for that unique gift for that special person in their life. Many are so consumed with the commercialization of finding “the perfect gift” that they miss the true meaning of the “greatest gift” to all mankind!
The “Babe of Bethlehem” is God’s gift to each one of us and He is the gift that keeps giving every day of the year and our lives!

You see, I believe we serve an extraordinary, “everyday God”, whose gift of His Son not only speaks to us through His Word but also through “natural events” that we so often take for granted!
God declares His love for us through a multitude of avenues in our “ordinary world”, making each day fill our hearts with the same joy that the scripture speaks about, when Christ was born.

Luke 2:8-14 (NKJV) “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Come follow me down the trails I have walked, where God has shown Himself to me and filled my heart with unspeakable joy and trust.

Standing close to the edge of the mighty Victoria Falls in the heart of Zimbabwe, feeling the thunderous power of the water rushing into the deep gorge, I could understand God’s almighty power being unleashed to protect me when I needed His help. Then as the spray from the cascading falls wets my face, I understood His gentle touch of caring that was softer than the falling morning dew.

Seeing a magnificent wild elephant mother guide her newborn baby to its feet with such amazing gentle dexterity, in spite of her overwhelming size; showed me that when I struggled in my walk with God, He knows just the right touch to provide me strength to stand and He will guide my faltering footsteps.

Sitting drinking in the early morning blush, deep in the bush of Zimbabwe, listening to the joyful songbirds give voice to the dawning of a new day, was an experience never to be forgotten. It filled me with understanding, that no matter where my path took me, God would fill my heart with His song; His joy would be my portion through all the days of my journey.
Seeing Him in the flaming Flamboyant trees or the rich purple blaze of glory on the Jacaranda Trees; I am reminded that the whole of nature declares the Glory of God.
Watching the splash of color from the wild flowers in the mountain meadow, wafting back and forth to the summer breezes, awakens the awareness of God’s presence enveloping me with His peace.

Standing by an open grave saying my earthly good-byes to my nearest and dearest loved ones, reminded me that even though my heart was breaking, God had promised we would be eternally reunited in a place that He has prepared for us with His own Hands!
Yes, I even saw God in the stark harshness of death’s grip!

Oh there are so many more examples I could remind you of, where we can see God gift.

Such as in a baby’s smile or first steps.
The look of love as a mother holds her newborn.
The unexpected hug from a friend….. just because….!
My friends open your eyes, look around you and I assure you that you will see God’s “greatest gift”, in your everyday life!
God is the creator of the Universe with its mighty galaxies, the brilliant Milky Way and more twinkling stars than we can count; yet He is right here in the thick of our everyday world and speaks to us through ordinary and familiar objects.
Some people seek for extraordinary signs; such as a weeping Madonna; a reincarnated grandparent; a feather floating out of nowhere and I could go on; but we do not need an “out of this world sign”; for God has already spoken to us through His Son and His fingerprints are all around us in the everyday events of our lives!
God is closer to you and me than we can ever imagine!

His greatest gift of His Son, will fill us with courage, joy, peace and hope as we walk the uncertain paths of our sojourn on this earth until the day dawns when He leads us to our eternal home.

The “Babe of Bethlehem”, God’s only begotten Son, is the “greatest gift” this world has ever known.

Isaiah 9:6-8 (NKJV) “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”