The Path

The path that has brought us to Eden Children’s Village has been a long one, with lots of potholes, bumps, switchbacks and the odd steaming pile of elephant poop.  A very long time ago a friend suggested I give up my dream for my life to God and see if he had something different for me.  I did that, admittedly begrudgingly, and of course God did have an alternate path for me.  I went from obsessing about rock climbing and starting my own gym, it was going to be awesome, to thinking about missionary work and how to even begin down that road.  Thus I ended up at St. Stephen’s University, thinking that all missionaries are supposed to have degrees from Christian schools.  I thought I was going to go to Russia or Eastern Europe, but apparently not.

After graduating and spending a year working and getting more and more frustrated with life, Carole and I packed our daughter and some bags and headed to South Korea to make bags of money, pay off student loans and hit the mission field.  We crashed and burned.  After a year we returned home, bought a house, had another daughter and continued to hound God, asking where on earth he wanted us to go.  We went to Mozambique, that wasn’t it.  I went to Nepal and Thailand.  Nope.  One day at church I was again asking God where he wanted us to go and he showed me.  I had my eyes closed and I saw a vivid picture of a big house on a hill and it was surrounded by fruit trees and gardens.  In the sky over it was the word ‘refuge.’  The sense I got was that this place was trying to be self-sustaining.  Then the picture changed and I was busy in a workshop, surrounded by kids.  They all knew my name and I knew theirs and they were being taken care of by older women.  This vision, or whatever you want to call it, was so crystal clear and impactful that I couldn’t talk about it for a year without crying. The intensity of it has never lessened.  That’s how I knew it was from God, not my imagination.

So great, I saw where we were supposed to go, but where on earth was it? Now the pain was even greater for me.  I knew God had a place for us, and that was wonderful, but didn’t know how to find it.  In 2008 Kevin and Susan Fry came to our church to talk to us about Eden Children’s Village and it caught my attention because it was the closest thing to the picture I’d gotten a few years earlier.  I didn’t do anything about it, though.  I guess I didn’t know what to do.  Then Kevin and Susan returned three years later and stayed at a friend’s cottage for a week.  We met them and Carole got talking with Susan about the herbal clinic at the orphanage because at that point Carole was halfway through her nursing program in preparation for going wherever we were going.  After speaking with Susan, Carole decided to go visit Eden Children’s Village and asked if I wanted to come along.

In July 2012 we arrived in the pitch black at Eden.  The power was out, so we couldn’t really see anything.  In the morning I went for a walk down to the dam and turned and looked back up the way I’d come and took a photo.  That’s when what I was seeing hit me.  There was the big house on the hill, surrounded by fruit trees and gardens.  I was shocked.  Really? The first morning there and I see this? Our six weeks there confirmed to both of us that this was where we were to be, so we went home, told everyone about our trip and that we were moving to Zimbabwe.  Carole finished her schooling, worked for a year and we paid off our credit cards, sold our house in record time, packed our bags and came to Eden.

jeffs-pictures-009

It has been the best and hardest time of my life.  I have never felt so fulfilled and so stressed out at the same time.  Both Carole and I feel at home here.  Lia and Naomi have settled in to life here wonderfully.  We live here month to month at the whim of the immigration department.  Every time we leave that office with another month visa extension we are elated.  We’ve been working on a plan to get a long term visa which can lead to permanent residency and it has come along well since returning this time.  Now we have another huge hurdle to jump at immigration.  We have about a week left before we have to go to immigration and prove to them that we have $100000 USD in assets to apply for a business investor visa.  If we can’t, we need to leave before our extension expires and they deport us.  Crazy, right? Isn’t that an exciting place to be?

Here’s what I know. God is good, no matter what.  I believe that with everything in me.  That’s the faith bit.  The trust part is taking the jump, believing he will catch me.  We talk about the ‘leap of faith,’ and it really is a leap.  For me, that’s where I want to live.  I want to live a life of trusting that God’s going to catch me when I jump, like my Dad always did.  The other thing I know is that no matter what happens next week, we are not finished at Eden.  God showed me two pictures that day in church and the second one hasn’t happened yet.  I believe it will if we keep moving down this wild path he’s laid out for us, potholes, bumps and all.  Nobody said it would be easy, Jesus said the opposite, but he promised it would be so worth it.  I believe him.

20160628_112146

Why am I here?

 

I woke up this morning with this question in my mind.  Not in some kind of deep, existential angst kind of way.  I am way too pragmatic minded for that sort of thinking, and I definitely would need more coffee before I boarded that train of thought.  Rather, why am I here in Africa, in Zimbabwe, at Eden Children’s Village? My being here didn’t just happen, it took years to get here and those of you who know my family know the story, I won’t get into that, maybe later if anyone wants to hear it.  The easy Sunday School answer is, yes, ‘Jesus,’ but now that I am here, why am I here? I mean, why me, why here, what difference am I making here? I know, right? Urg.

I think perhaps most of us would like answers to those questions.  Sometimes I find myself sitting in the house getting sort of anxious about things, worried about tomorrow, wondering what difference am I making and then I go outside, jump on my bike and take off down the trail to the farm.  As I dodge rocks and small children on the path all the anxieties melt away.  Each smiling kid who puts out their hand for me to high five, I’m going to totally bite it one day high fiving a kid, takes some of my worries away and in no time I’m reminded of why I am here.  I’m here to love the people in whatever ways I can.  I’m a jack of all trades, not a nurse or doctor, not a preacher, not a counselor, not a business man.  I muck about in all kinds of things, plumbing, carpentry, woodworking, welding and metal work, whatever the job requires.  How is this for the Kingdom?

What I am good at is working withDSCN8126 the men, the builders.  I have become good friends with one man in particular, Lameck Guveya, the foreman.  We talk together a lot about life and work.  Ian told me a few months ago that if it weren’t for me, Lameck would be away in an offshoot strange church that has some very weird doctrinal ideas and would likely have multiple wives by now.  And yet, when we left Zimbabwe last year and I told everyone that we’d be back, he believed me and told everyone that I was coming back, even when nobody else believed me.  He prayed that we’d come back and continues to fast and pray that we will be allowed to stay.   He leads the men at work and in a devotion time every morning.

A couple weeks ago when I was building the stairs at the new orphan house Lameck came into the house and got angry when he saw the boys there, ‘disturbing his jobsite,’ He yelled at them and chased them off.  I tried to stop him but he wouldn’t listen.  I was mad.  The next day he came into the house and saw there were no boys around and I told him that I was very angry with him.  He was shocked.  I told him I wanted to hit him with a hammer the day before I was so mad.  I told him about how the boys were helping me, that they were spending time with me and I wanted to hang out with them, that I was teaching them and loving their company, that they are why Eden Children’s Village exists.  It isn’t here to give him, or any of us, a job.  It is here to take in unwanted and unloved kids and give them love and security in the name of Jesus.  I told him that I understand that Shona culture is very patriarchal, that the Baba, the father, rarely if almost never, apologizes, but he had better go find Inguananyasha, I have no idea how to spell his name still, and tell him that he is sorry.  Lameck was out the door like a shot and ten minutes later I saw him walking back to the house with about a dozen kids around him, laughing and talking.  He came in, all smiles and apologized to me, telling me that he’d found the boy and told him he was sorry and invited him back to the jobsite to help build the stairs.

Lameck later told me that SIMG_8326hona men, 75% he said, will never apologize for anything.  They are always right, but he understands that that is not a good way to live.  That it is important to tell people you have made a mistake and that you’re sorry, even, or especially, to children.

Last week Lameck told me that one day the whole building crew was over at the orphanage finishing some concrete work and when tea time came he told the men that they would be playing football, soccer, with the kids.  The men were to leave their steel-toed gumboots on to slow them down, but be very careful not to step on any children’s toes.  He said they played for 20 minutes of their 30 minute break and the kids and the men loved it.  Lameck told me that he wanted the men to remember why they are at Eden.  They are here for the kids.  The kids are the most important people at Eden.

This morning as I think about the immigration conundrum that we are in, thinking about why I am here, I think about my friend Lameck.  He’s a great guy with a big heart for the children.  He and his wife have 3 children of their own and have taken in 5 Eden kids as well.  He buys treats out of his own money for the kids, buys extra food, he takes on extra jobs on weekends, to care for all the kids in his house.

Why am I here? Yes, Jesus.  But I’m here for the children at Eden, to make sure they have safe and secure housing, and I’m here for Lameck and for whoever else wants my help.  It is not about me.