Stubborn

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Christmas was very different for us this year.  We had a small artificial tree covered in ornaments we’d brought with us and new ones that Lia and Naomi made.  We hung our stockings on the fireplace mantle, but didn’t use them.  We had gone to the market in Harare to shop for each other, but knowing that we were leaving the country on Boxing Day meant we only bought small gifts.  We had to wake the girls up to come down to open presents around 8 a.m. and then that only took about 2 minutes.  But you know what? It was cool.  The gifts given had real thought behind them because we only gave one to each person.

dscn9912Lia’s gift to me was a key chain wrapped in newspaper from the market. It’s a wooden carving of Africa with a buffalo.  I don’t usually like key chains, they take up too much room in my pocket, so I was curious as to why she chose it.  When I asked her why she gave me this particular key chain Lia said, “Because you’re stubborn.”  Uh, okay.  I asked her to explain more.  She said, “It’s a bull and you can be stubborn.  Like you’re stubborn about living here in Africa.  It’s a good thing! I mean it in a good way! You are fighting so hard to do what God has asked you to do in Africa.  I think it’s a good thing and the key chain made me think of you.”  Lia doesn’t say much, sometimes I really have to spend time with her and work at getting her to talk about stuff, but when she does it is amazing and so worth it.
We are back in Canada again and I confess that sometimes it feels like we’re going backwards. I have to remind myself that it’s just another bend in the path.  When we told one of our new friends in South Africa that we had to return to Canada she said that it made her think of Joseph and Mary after Jesus’ birth and how they were told to go to Egypt until it was safe to return to Israel.  Pretty appropriate I thought.  I also thought of Abram.  God called him to pack up and go to a foreign land and he did.  It wasn’t an easy trip, he made a few detours on his path, but he did it.

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I could list off any number of examples of people who had to make detours or backtrack on their paths.  The important thing for me to remember is that they learned along the way.  They persevered. They grew in character. They were ‘stubborn.’  I want to be stubborn.  I want to work my hardest to get back to where I’m called to serve.  It may seem like foolishness to some and that’s okay.  I’m doing it anyway.

Lia and Nae Tell It Like It Is

I was hoping that my next blog post wouldn’t be as long as the last few, but it’s about Lia and Naomi, and I Iove to talk about my girls.  I’m so proud of them and am constantly amazed at how well they handle life here in Africa.  People say that kids are more adaptable than grown-ups, but they also say that it is very difficult for a teenager to move to a different town and school.  We’ve moved to a different continent, and Lia and Nae are doing awesome.

I sat down with the girls and interviewed them using questions that a few people wanted them to answer.  They answered candidly, so take that into account while reading, and please don’t be offended.

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 How have you seen the Lord work through you or someone else?

Lia: Ian is the first person I think of when I think of God working through someone.  Like just before we left and he went to that woman’s house to pray for her and she was healed.  I wasn’t there, but hearing about that, it was really cool.  And Debs with the teenage girls, just praying with them, talking with them, just being their friend.

How has Africa changed your view of the world?

Lia: Living in Canada for all my life, until 2014, having a house, albeit a little house, I thought it was normal to have our own house, run to the grocery store whenever we want, and just have anything and everything that we could need a five minute drive away, but then coming here.  I wouldn’t say reality hit me, but being at Eden and seeing how people live there, and when we’re in Doma and just driving by and seeing the small villages, we see how not everybody lives as luxuriously as we do.  It really hit me.  Reading it in books and seeing it on the internet, how people live, you see just little snippets, but I’ve seen and been to villages and talked with people who live out in the boonies, and kind of comparing them to people who live in the cities.  That’s kind of changed my perspective of the world.

Nae: That’s kind of exactly what I was thinking.  Like, it’s different everywhere.  You can get things and do things in North America that you can’t get or do in Africa.

Lia: But it’s also true vice versa.  You can do things in Africa that you can’t do back home.  I went diving with crocodiles.  You can’t do that back home.  We go out to the boonies and just drive around and look for elephants.

Nae: And get stuck in mud.

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What’s the attitude of the people who don’t have all of these things?

Lia: They’re happy.

Nae: They don’t need those things.  Nobody really needs all those things.

Lia: We’re just so used to having all those things that we feel like we need them.  Things are unnecessary.  It’s a luxury to have them and we shouldn’t depend on them.

Nae: And we should know how to improvise.

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How has being in Africa changed your view of God?

Lia: He’s real.  Back in North America I never felt Him or heard Him.  Like in middle school I didn’t really have anything to do with God.  The boy I liked went to church and that was one of the only reasons I enjoyed going, and hanging out with the youth, but it felt like we didn’t talk about God nearly as much as we do here.  We had fun, but it didn’t feel like that time was devoted to God.  But here, God is real.  I’ve felt Him.  I’ve heard Him.  I’ve seen Him work through other people.  Spiritual stuff is more real here.  Like when someone says the devil is attacking them.  At first I thought that was weird and freaky, but now it’s like yeah, ok.  And like at the baptism when that guy was baptized and starting shaking and screaming.  That was real.

Lia, if you had to bake one thing and eat it for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?

Lia: Banana bread, because it is really really good.  And you can change it.  You can put apples in it.  You can put chocolate chips in it.  It’s just really really good.

Nae, if you had to draw or read one kind of literature every day, what would it be and why?

Nae: Warrior cats because it’s fun and I just like it a lot.

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What do you miss most about Canada?

Nae: People.  And person.  Like Tara.  And family.

Lia: I miss St. Stephen.  Like walking around, just meeting up with friends.

Nae: Like walking around in a place that isn’t roasting hot.

Lia: Yeah, I miss the woods.  Being able to be cold.  I really really miss October.  I miss wearing big sweaters and the color of the leaves.  Autumn.  But recently I’ve missed the idea of being in high school.  Mom, you loved high school.  Dad, you hated it.  But I’m also glad I’m not there because of people who do drugs, sleep around and are a bad influence.

How does being in another culture, sometimes being uncomfortable, relate to the life of Jesus, or does it?

Lia: It does relate, but more when we go back home.  Like here it’s really spiritual, but back home it isn’t.

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How can we be praying for you?

Lia: School.  Definitely school.  Struggle with school.  Always struggled with school.  Don’t really enjoy it.  Sitting alone in a cubicle.

What kind of animal would you like to be and why?

Lia: A monkey.  Or a wild African dog.  They are beautiful.

Nae: I’d want to be a little monkey so I could climb and be flexible.

How have you changed since being in Africa?

Lia: Definitely spiritually, like I said earlier.  I’ve made good relationships with people, like with Debs and Ian, and people at Eden.  Older people.  I’m definitely more open to other cultures.  I’d see stuff on movies that other cultures were doing and I’d think that was really weird, but now it’s just normal.  That’s just what people do.

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What do you love most about Africa? Like day to day life.

Nae: Probably also people.  Like Eden people.  Debs, Rory and Judes, the Frys.

Lia: The adventure.  Catching lizards.

Nae: Like sometimes you don’t have the things you need to do the things you’re doing.  Like if you’re cooking something and you don’t have something you need and they don’t have it then you have to improvise.  I don’t like it sometimes.

Lia: Different activities that you’re able to do here that you wouldn’t be able to do there.  Just being able to go for a walk and it turns into an adventure.  I like the relationships and connections the Shona people have with each other.  We live at an orphanage, but everybody relates themselves to each other.  Like they call each other ‘Auntie’, or ‘this is my brother and sister’, or ‘this is my father’ and really it’s your father’s second brother twice removed.

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How does school differ between the two places?

Nae: The curriculum is totally different.  It’s totally independent.

Lia: You teach yourself.  You don’t have to depend on someone else to teach it to you and if you don’t get it you have to study and study.  The teacher isn’t going to give you the answer.  You have to know the stuff.  You have to have 80% or above to pass.

Nae: And you have to do it.  You have to get the answer the right way, not just any way you want.

Lia: Uniforms.

Nae: Uniforms.  You can’t just wear whatever you want.

Lia: It’s not nearly as social as public school.

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What would you want to tell your friends back home?

Lia: It’s way more exciting here.  They need to come to Africa.  It’s eye-opening here.  It would be so cool if Mr. Legge brought the school kids here to Africa.  That would be pretty cool.  Those kids, if they break a phone, their parents would just buy them a new one.  That doesn’t happen here.  I mean, if I took them to the flea market, I think that would hopefully change them.

What has become normal for you guys? Like when you first arrived and you thought you could never get used to this or that?

Nae: The generator’s going to be turned off.  Nothing is going to be on anymore.  Can’t use anything.

Lia: Yep, generators.

Nae: Generators, no electricity.  No hot water.

Lia: No hot water.  Having to go over to someone else’s house in order to bathe.  Every single time. Unless you want a freezing cold one.  Riding in the back of a truck.

Nae: Walking.  I mean, not having a vehicle so you’re having to walk everywhere.  You’d have to walk a kilometre if you had to go get milk or eggs or a chicken.  The fact that we had to go to Agape (the Eden farm) to get milk, eggs or chicken, not a store.

Lia:  You have to be really careful with your cash because there isn’t any in Zimbabwe right now.  Beggars.  Just people in the street.  We didn’t have people getting down on their knees begging  for a dollar in St. Stephen.  Or people harassing you to buy their stuff.

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What unusual foods have you tried and really liked or disliked?

Nae: Mopani worms because they are just really gross.

Lia: Kapenta.  It’s very small dried fish.

Nae: Warthog.  That was so good.

Lia: Crocodile tail.  If it was the only thing around to eat I’d be fine with it, but don’t care to eat it again.

 

So there you have it, from the mouth of babes, or at least our girls.

Thankful for…

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The only reason that I know it’s Thanksgiving in Canada this weekend is because of all the posts on Facebook.  Apparently the pilgrims didn’t make it to Africa, thus no family get-togethers with a feast of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, pumpkin pie…I’m drooling on my keyboard.

I get up early every day in order to have time alone before the day starts and I spend that time reading my Bible, praying and drinking instant coffee. The first thing I do is thank God that I am in Africa for another day.  I’m thankful that I get to be here.  It has been a long path to Eden and I am so thankful that God asked us to come and that we said ‘Yes.’  It is so awesome that God gets us all involved in what he wants to do here on earth.  He wants all of us to bring his love to people, to do our part, whatever it is. I’m thankful that he chose me to work with the Shona people in Zimbabwe.  He knows just how flawed I am.  He knows what state my heart is in from one moment to the next.  He knows what I’ve done and what I’m going to do, and he still wants me to be part of his kingdom, doing stuff for him.  He knows the mistakes I’ve made, all that I’ve said or thought, the hurtful and stupid things I’ve done, the offense I have caused and he still wants me to be part of his kingdom work.  I can’t express just how thankful I am for that.

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I’m thankful for the schooling that Lia and Naomi are getting, that they are really learning their material and also for the life education they are getting from living in rural Africa.  I can’t say how thankful I am for Carole.  I am so thankful that she loves me in spite of me and has been so amazing throughout our almost 20 years of marriage.  Her faith and trust in God helps keep me steady.  I’m thankful for the house I have to live in and for the generator that gives us light and keeps our food from spoiling and for those who donated it to us.  I’m thankful that the generator has a pull start now that the starter has broken again.  I’m thankful that I don’t have to walk to get water and that the water doesn’t make me sick.  I’m thankful that there is always someone around to help when someone yells ‘nyoka!’ (snake)  I’m thankful for bed nets and braiis in the bush.  I could go on and on.

Community is very important to Carole and me.  It isn’t easy to live in community but I think we all need to.  Community is in the very blood and bones of Shona people, especially out in the rural areas.  They live and share together, cook and eat together, work and worship together, sing and grieve together.  Sometimes I will tell visitors to Eden to try not to look at what the Shona people don’t have, rather try to see them for who they are.  It is natural for us to feel sorry for them when we see ‘how little’ they have.  No flat screen tvs in every room, they usually only have one or two rooms for a family of 8.  They don’t have microwave ovens and huge refrigerators, they cook over an open fire in a little thatch mud hut.  They don’t have cars and pickup trucks, they have banged up old bicycles that usually don’t have brakes.  They don’t have unlimited internet, they usually have run out of airtime on their cell phones.  But they know each other.  They help each other.  They pray for each other.  They know their neighbors.  They care for each other’s children.  I am thankful that they have shown me how important community is.

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Today I am thankful for all my family and friends.  We are so far away and have to communicate through technology, but I am thankful that we can at least do that.  I am thankful for all the people that pray for us every day and support us.  We would not survive here without your prayers and support.  Our time here has been the most wonderful and the most stressful time of my life.  We couldn’t do it without you.  Thank you.

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This morning I was thinking about Thanksgiving dinners and then I thought about a meal I had with my good friend Wilfred Mashayamombe, the master thatcher at Eden.  I invited myself to his house for supper, intending to bring a chicken, but he insisted that I not bring anything.  We ate the most delicious roadrunner chicken ever, they only eat meat twice a month, and sadza and relish of course.  His wife Alice is a great cook, remember that she cooks over an open fire every day.  Wilfred and I sat in his house, eating at his table and we shared life together.  We had chicken grease dripping from our fingers, because Shona people don’t use utensils to eat with, and I burned my fingers on the hot sadza, and we talked and laughed together.  I am thankful for the friend I have in Wilfred, and others at Eden and it will be awesome to be back there with them soon.

 

I hope you all enjoy your Thanksgiving feasts today and tomorrow.  Know that we love and are thankful for all of you.

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.

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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.

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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.

Worth it

Have you ever had a moment when you realized that whatever it is that you’ve been going through, it is all worth it? How many times have you asked yourself if it’s worth the frustration, the loneliness, the money, the pain, the work to be doing what you’re doing? I don’t know what it is for you, we are all on our own journeys.  For me, it’s living in Zimbabwe, and the struggle to be allowed to stay here.  It ain’t easy.  I knew it wouldn’t be, but some days I just want to go back to bed.

We are living at Eden Children’s Village and have started Buwe Innovative Solutions Pvt. Ltd., or Buwe Construction as I like to call it, and are planning on being here long term. This isn’t easy in Zimbabwe right now, but it seems like the business has come together. Now we are working on our immigration process, applying to be business investors which will give us a 2 year renewable visa.  We can’t wait to get that approved.  The stress of living month to month is brutal.  Having that paper in our passports will be such a relief, I will dance my way out of the immigration office!

The day to day here has become normal for all of us.  Carole goes to the clinic to do paperwork or assess patients, or gets a call to run to the local government clinic to help deliver a baby.  Lia and Nae go to the Eden school with the rest of the Eden kids.  I work on whatever project I have on the go, or meet with the builders and oversee all the projects we are working on.  Some days are pretty frustrating.  Oh for a Home Depot around the corner!

There are lots of things I could write about our life here that would surprise you or seem strange, but we hardly notice anymore.  No electricity without running our generator (thank you Union St. Baptist!), no hot water (lots of bucket baths), language and cultural barriers, no cash available, sporadic cell service, bugs (lots and lots of bugs), one grocery store run a month (meal plans are a must), snakes (the nasty kind), all of this is normal to us now.  The funny thing is that it is worth it to be here.  Who needs electricity 24-7? It’s so hot here most of the time that a cold shower feels great and I appreciate hot showers at a friend’s house way more than I ever would’ve before.  I’m slowly learning the language, very slowly.  Credit cards are accepted at a few of the big grocery stores and thankfully at the hardware store too.  Bugs you can squash.  Snakes too for that matter, you just need a long stick.

Those days when I get frustrated with stuff I find that when I hop on my bicycle, a borrowed one, and go down the path to the farm and start meeting people the frustration evaporates.  I love the Shona people here in Doma! Sometimes I have to stop doing what I’m doing, get out of the house,  and be with people to remember that it is not about me and what I think is important at the moment.  It’s about others and being Jesus to them, as much as this very rough, screwed up guy can be.

Last week I was working on orphan home #8 over at the village.  Misheck, Cloud and I were cutting eucalyptus logs with a crosscut saw to support the floor beams for the stairs we are putting in, and a boy about 10 years old came to watch. (I asked him his name but it was not an easy one for this Canadian tongue and I can’t remember it.) I told him to grab the end of the saw and try it.  He did.  Then he didn’t want to let go.  He had the biggest smile on his face, he was glowing.  There he was, a young boy, being asked to work with the men.  What boy wouldn’t want that? He stayed with us for the rest of the afternoon.  At one point I was up on a ladder measuring something and I looked down to see him sweeping the floor.  I couldn’t believe it.  I have yet to see a Shona man pick up a broom and sweep without being told.

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The next day I was working alone and this boy came running when he saw me at the house.  This time he had about 10 other boys with him.  I told them to sweep the wood scraps out the door and to take them over to the kitchen hut to burn or that they could make stuff with them first.  There was a mad rush for chunks of wood and whatever bent nails they could find.  They used scrap metal and rocks for hammers, and soon they were making stools, boxes and one boy made a lectern.  He brought it into the house and started singing and clapping his hands until some of the others pitched in and then he started preaching.  When I was a boy I would’ve made a sword or a gun.

The following day I brought out the power sander, sanded one board then handed it to the closest boy.  He was shocked, but quickly started sanding the next board.  Then it was handed to another boy to do another board and on it went.  One boy saw me using the square to draw a cut line and the next thing I knew he was the official square boy and he marked all the cuts, with the help of about 4 other kids.  I showed another boy how to use the caulking gun to apply glue and he became the official caulking gun boy.  It was so fun! I couldn’t move without stepping on someone’s bare feet with my steel toed shoes.

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I told Carole at the end of the day that for all that we are going through, it is worth it. These boys need men to teach them how to be men.  They need men to spend time with them, showing them that they are important and loved.  In Shona culture they are treated like rubbish and I need to be showing them that they are treasure.  I am usually so busy looking after so many things that I don’t spend any time at the village with the kids.  This past week has been great, working with my crew of 10 year old boys. It dawned on me that this is the second part of the picture that God showed me years ago, and that all my family has gone through to get here to Eden has been worth it and we wouldn’t want to get off this wild ride for anything.

 

 

Catching up

We’ve been back here in Doma, Zimbabwe for about 9 weeks and it’s about time that I wrote another post.  I’m constantly thinking of things to say, but just never get around to it, so today is the day.  I have a feeling that it may be just a stream of consciousness thing, so I understand if you drop off part way through.

We were in Canada for 8 months and had a great time with friends and family and were able to speak a number of times at churches and various groups.  The time there also gave us the chance to gain some perspective and re-assess our lives here in Africa and ask ourselves what we’d want to do differently this time.  This was an important thing to do and we are feeling the difference now.  I think all four of us would say that we feel more invested here than we were before.  Lia has been spending more time with some of the Shona girls, hanging out and watching movies, getting to know each other better.  Carole has just received her certificate from the midwifery institute and is now full steam ahead with prenatal care and hopefully more and more deliveries.  (I’m praying about moving another container over to the clinic to build a maternity ward, Carole is rather hesitant so far.) She’s also teaching the clinic staff from Judy’s herbal medicine course books.  I’m doing less hands on work with the building team and focusing on planning and organizing projects, mentoring the supervisors and empowering the men to do their work to the best of their abilities.  We are making more effort to be active in the community, like going regularly to the Shona church rather than just the English service at the farm.

Life here is always interesting.  It’s funny what can become normal after being here for a while.  There are always people around the house, whether it’s the housekeeper, Mai Makufa, or the numerous gardeners for the three houses.  Or it’s one of the builders coming to ask a question or a tractor in the yard with a trailer full of water barrels for watering the gardens and flowers, or the night guard looking for the gate keys.  We live next to the main path from the road to the farm so there are always voices from people going back and forth, no matter the time of day.  You learn that privacy is something you cherish when you can get it.

For me, it’s the little things during the day that I just have to laugh about.  I want to use the circular saw, so first I have to go find it as it’s not where it’s supposed to be.  (Now I know how my Dad always felt about me leaving his tools here there and everywhere.)  I remember seeing it in a shipping container so I get the keys and go get it.  It’s an American saw so I need to use the American generator.  The gas line has been chewed by rats and the tank is empty.  So I have to scrounge around and find some tubing, which happily wasn’t too hard, then have to change the old gas line out with the new piece.  Thankfully there’s some petrol in a can, so that gets poured into the tank.  Now where is the extension cord? I ask around and am able to find it and now I can get started with cutting the two pieces of wood which takes a fraction of the time to do than all the preamble did.  This is a normal occurrence.  It’s also why I’m using handsaws a lot more than I ever have.  It’s also why all of my tools are locked in toolboxes in my house.  Someone once used my good chisel as a screwdriver and I blew a gasket and now everything is locked up.

We still don’t have hot water in our house so bucket baths or showers in other houses are the norm.  Soon the temperatures will be in the 40’s so maybe cold showers will feel okay.  Look on the bright side, eh? We only have electricity when our generator is running, so we run it for about 6 hours a day to keep our food from rotting in the fridge and to charge our electronics and have light at night.  We go through a lot of candles.

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Something I hadn’t planned on was exercise nights.  One of my buddies, Wilfred Mashayamombe, (I can finally say his last name now) wanted to work out with me so I found a Bowflex machine in storage that Ian used to use and have it set up on our veranda.  It looks like some archaic torture device and I have no real idea how to use it, but the four or five guys that come over three nights a week love it.  I lead the guys in a training circuit using mostly body weight exercises so they see that we don’t need fancy equipment.  So we run a route through the compound and do push ups, burpees and planks and other exercises, using cardboard boxes as mats.  It’s tiring after a day of work, more for them than me I’m sure, but it’s awesome.  We laugh at each other and ourselves when we collapse while planking and are forming relationships.  It is unheard of out here for a bunch of Shona guys to hang out with a murungu, (a white guy).  I get it, I understand the history of this country and the race divide, but I pray all the time the walls between us will come down.  This is exciting!

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into our lives here in Zim and I will make a much greater effort to keep the blog posts coming.