Sunday, September 13, 2009

Homemade kites and Ice Cube Love

Jasper recently reminded me that October is almost here, the month we all dread the most… it is so hot!! But I am refusing to think of October and I am instead enjoying the breeze the blows throughout the ghetto in September.

As the days get hotter, the winds are most welcomed. With each season there are special things to look forward to. One of my favorite parts of the windy times (August and September) are the homemade kites that so many kids are seen with.

A couple of sticks, a torn plastic bag and some string are turned into high flying kites that kids all over Mkhosana can be seen running with. Every time I see one of these kids with their kites I think back to the colorful kites of my youth. My rainbow bright, cabbage patch kid or Barbie kite made me so happy… but I doubt that my smile could even compare to the one on the faces of the little kids I see with their “Spar” (The name of the local grocery store) plastic bag kite.

Their smile is contagious and every time I see their kite flying through the air I get a giant grin on my face. When they offer to let me fly it, somehow I can’t get it off the ground….so I am left to enjoy on the sidelines but oh how I enjoy!!
A few days ago I heard some banging outside my bedroom window. This is not unusual as my house is the playground for all of the kids to play games that are not allowed at their house (ie, the ones that break windows or squash gardens) so I looked out to see what was going on. Tisang and Precocious were banging a frozen water bottle on the ground to break the ice so they could eat it. I got so excited and called them in the house and gave them a heart shaped ice cube from my freezer. We are practicing English, so I asked, “Tisang, what shape is that ice cube?” She looked at me with pride in her eyes, knowing that she understood the question and knew the answer. She quickly replied, “Love!”

Homemade kites and ice cube love are just 2 of the many blessings found in the ghetto during the month of September!! The journey and the adventure continue as we get closer to October, when the weather channel will tell us the sun is “scorching” and we will miss the kites, and the wind that they danced on!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gigi and Joni's Labor Day Adventure!

Gigi and Joni’s Labor Day adventure!

This Labor Day weekend will be one that I will not soon forget! I went to church on Sunday and received a Word that was in season and desperately needed by my thirsty heart. Pastor Farai preached a message entitled “What do you see?” Oh how I needed to be reminded of who my God really is.

He really does provide exactly what we need when we need it, but when I am in the middle of the need, it is so easy for me to forget that! I needed a girlfriend, and God sent me a sister! After church I went to linger around the front and greet Pastor Farai and Pastor Jo and hold their new beautiful twins, who I of course am now volunteered to baby sit J An American was visiting and was being introduced to the pastors. Joni, a 39 year old single woman from San Francisco and I connected immediately. We spent the whole day together! I just happened to have my bathing suit on under my dress (just like going to church in Orange County) and we spent the day at her hotel laying out by the pool working on our tans and fellowshipping and sharing stories. We then went to dinner and kept taking and talked all night until we passed out in her hotel room after midnight!

God answered my prayer and sent me a friend, but as usual He went above and beyond! He sent me a sister, and gave me a Labor Day holiday at the Victoria Falls Hotel!!!!!! God, and Sista Joni blessed me beyond measure…she even left me with a smashbox mascara—(can we say LUXURY item) and Hillsong’s Faith+Hope+Love DVD!

When her bus pulled away, my heart was sad… I would have loved to spend more time with her. I felt so refreshed and so reminded of God’s amazing love. But I knew she had to go, she is off on her own adventure in California and I of course, have to get back to mine here in Zimbabwe!

Obviously, my favorite part of the hotel was taking a very hot bubble bath!! Thank you Sista Joni!!!

(I'll post pics of us hanging out as soon as I get them!!)

Lessons on the road to Lusaka!

August 27, 2009

I spent this weekend in Zambia, taking care of business with my car. In June I was in an accident and we had to take the car to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia for work on the body. Although the car has quite a bit of body damage, it actually looks worse than it is now, because the mechanic in Livingstone removed all the parts in the front to do the engine work and so the car looks funny because it is missing a lot of the body.

A dear friend of Pastor Chris, a man named James came down to drive the car to Lusaka, and I went with him. The journey was not easy—the important ones, I suppose, never are. The car has no windows on the passenger side and a plastic windshield that only covers parts of the empty space left by the one that is missing. There is about 100km (62 miles) of detour from Livingstone going toward Lusaka where the road is being resurfaced. The detour takes you into the bush on gravel roads in horrible conditions. People avoid this trip at all costs! We did this trip in half a car with no glass J By the time we made it back onto the main road we were covered in dust and very tired!

James felt bad that I was riding in the car in such a condition, but I told him “it’s all part of the adventure” and told him some stories of my time in Africa so far. He laughed and along the way would look at me and say, “it’s an adventure!” I try to make it a habit to never ask someone to do something that I would not be willing to do myself and this is one of those moments. We laughed almost the entire trip and I can say that whether the Pajero is in beautiful condition or lacking body parts, I have learned to be content! (Although I definitely prefer it to have windows!!)

I know we must have looked funny because every town or village we drove through people would look at us in the car and laugh, some of the more compassionate hearts would offer condolences. We had a minor breakdown and had to stop in a small town for repair—3 hours later we were back on the road, with a dilemma. We were driving a car with no headlights, and it was going to be dark before we reached Lusaka. We decided we would try to make it to Monze, a bigger town along the way with some lodges. About 45 km from Monze the sun had set and we were taking our chances driving knowing that our sight was limited. About 40km from Monze we could see nothing and no one could see us. We were in trouble. James was driving as slowly and safely as possible, but we had to admit that something had to be done.

I suggested that we get out of the car and flag someone down to help. The first car that past us almost ran James over, and didn’t stop to help. The second car stopped and drove very slowly to Monze, where he was also going to be sleeping and let us follow closely behind. When we arrived in Monze he took us to a lodge where he was going to be staying and I went in to check for availability. When I came out the good Samaritan said, “I know you, I have been to your house.” I didn’t believe this because it would be generous to say that 5 Zambians have been to my home in Vic Falls, what would the chances of one of those five finding me in the middle of the bush on a road I have never driven on before. But, God is so good and so sovereign, it was true. The man, Mambo Phiri had driven a bus for us with a team of volunteers in July 2007 and when we took them to the airport in Vic Falls we went together and stopped at my house to pick up a few things. He looked at the repairs I was doing and made suggestions. He had been stopped at a police roadblock and was going to be fined for something silly and I made jokes with the police in Ndebele and he was let off with a warning. We laughed at the memories and were awed by how good our God is, for sending along a friend to help in a time of need

I love this pic from outside our lodge the thatch
has "the real African story" carved into it. James
parked right in front of it last night when we couldn't
read it... this is what it looked like this morning as we left!

James and I spent the night in Monze and headed off uneventfully to Lusaka the next day. The car is now at a mechanic who will have it repaired relatively inexpensively and back on the road in about a month! I joined the M’kandawire’s at the Presbyterian church’s women’s conference in Lusaka and had the rare pleasure of seeing Pastor Chris and 2 of his brothers officiating a service together. It was a joy.

My favorite part of the service was when 3 of the church choirs were invited to sing. I was confused as to why they were singing separately if they were singing the same song, but I am so glad that they did. The first group sang, they were small about 10 woman and they sang beautifully in perfect harmony. I doubted that I would enjoy the next 2 any more than I had enjoyed that one, it was lovely. But then I was astonished, each choir got more and more impressive, bigger and a fuller sound. What impressed me the most about the last 2 groups were their conductors. Both women, were conducting small choirs (about 30-50 woman) in the middle of the bush, with wind blowing red dust everywhere and they, with their bright white uniforms stood in front of their women and gracefully moved their arms directing the voices with precision and concentration, as if they were conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. I sat amazed, with tears in my eyes, not from the dust in my contacts but from the lesson I saw in these 2 women. They very beautifully demonstrated what it looks like to use your full potential: your time, talents and treasures to build the kingdom. The size of their choir, nor the condition of their “performance hall” did not diminish the quality of their service. My heart was in awe of these women and their act of worship, they truly knew Who they were performing for: they truly know their Lord.

I couldn’t help but leave that place with a question in my heart: Am I fulfilling my role in the Kingdom with such passion and esteem? When people look at me, do they know who I am serving?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nyasha's Arms of Mercy

Every day I get a beautiful reminder of the blessings that come with the kind of life I get to enjoy.

I live in a high density neighborhood with LOTS of children. Some of them do not know me and they still refer to me as “Makhiwa” (white person) but so many of them know me and so as I walk through the dusty roads of Mkhosana I hear, “Regina! Regina!”

No matter how many times I come out of my front door every day, there is a beautiful little girl named Nyasha who greets me. She is young, probably 3 years old, and when I left Zimbabwe last year she didn’t really ever speak to me. This year, however, every time I walk out my front door she runs to me and shouts, “Regina! Regina! I’m fine!” I love that she tells me she is fine before I even say to her, “Good morning, Nyasha, how are you?” She always jumps and throws her arms around me.

Obviously, I love these encounters, but recently I met another Nyasha and learned that the name means ‘compassion’ or ‘mercy’. So every morning I feel the arms of compassion and the arms of mercy wrapped around me as I start my day. What a reminder of how good God really is.

Despite the cold showers in winter, I am a blessed woman!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Finally an update!

Friends of Refuge,
What an exciting return to Zimbabwe!  I am sorry that I have not yet begun blogging about being home, but I commit to updating as frequently as time and internet access will allow!
My first couple of months back in Africa have been very busy!  Although there have been challenges and struggles, the blessings are far more numerous and important.
I want to share with you a personal story that is very dear to my heart.  You may know that last year I began spending more time in Harare due to immigration issues, and so much good has come of that.  I have built relationships with many of the local orphanages, and we are trying through various methods to improve the conditions for the children living in them.  Wherever possible, I come in to counsel the staff and the children in these homes.  It has been unbelievable to see the heart of the directors opening to counseling and the changes that are coming about.
I want to share with you the story of Ruth.  Ruth lives in an orphanage in Harare and has not been healthy her entire life.  She is 7 now, but when I met her she was 5.  She broke my heart.  She was weak and small with a huge tummy.  So weak that she could barely lift her own arms; she couldn't pick up anything.  She has one of the worst attachment disorders I have ever witnessed in Zimbabwe.  Many of the orphaned children we meet have attachment disorders, because they haven't had the physical and emotional support needed to develop a healthy ability to connect with people.  Children often either withdraw completely and do not connect to the people they spend their daily life with or over-attach and have an unhealthy emotional connection to people they have known for just a few minutes.  Ruth was withdrawn.  She would allow you to hold her not because she enjoyed it, but because the energy it would take to wiggle away was more than she had to exert.  So, she would just accept her place in your arms.
A couple of people have committed to spending great amounts of time connecting with little Ruth.  Over the past 2 years that I have spent time with her, we have been battling her inability to connect.  For instance, when I first got back to Zimbabwe and went to visit her, I would try to read her a book.  She would engage and point at things she knew for about 30 seconds and then just get up and wander away to play by herself.  She didn't want to play with the other kids she lives with, the mommies that take care of her, or me.  I have spent countless hours with her on a daily basis for over a month, plus all of the work we have been doing for the past 2 years.  Today, I am proud to say if Ruth sees someone she knows coming into the gate at her house, she will get up and run to greet them.  She will look them in the eyes, hug them, sit on their lap, and talk to them - she will engage.  I was in a meeting with the director of the home Ruth lives in and the woman said, "What has happened with Ruth is nothing short of a miracle. We have been able to get her body healthy, but today she is beginning to have a life worth living."  Ruth is 7, and we are finally entering into conversations about preparing her for school.  A friend of mine went to visit Ruth and he called to said, "You won’t believe it; I witnessed Ruth praying today!"
A life worth living.  That is what this is about, isn't it?  Knowing that the impact we can make is about more than just keeping someone alive, but giving them a reason to live.  I know that God has given me a heart of compassion for the people of Zimbabwe - the children in particular, and He has blessed me with an education, skills and giftings that are allowing me to help make a difference here.  I am grateful everyday for the life I have been given - a life worth living.
Please continue to pray for the work of ROCK of Africa and our project Refuge. Specifically you can pray for:
* People to continue to meet Jesus.
* The health, spiritual growth and provisions of the children and families we work with.
* God to continue to move people's hearts to volunteer with ROCK of Africa and Refuge.  And for the people who do volunteer with us to be protected and blessed.
* Continued favor with the community and political leaders.
* Continued funding of the work we are called to.
* For our eyes, ears and hearts to be opened to the needs around us that we are called to meet.
* For us to continually seek God first, and that our goal is always to advance His kingdom.
The needs in Zimbabwe remain enormous, both in town and in the rural areas.  No church or organization can meet them on their own.  We continue to partner with churches, community projects, and organizations that are building the Kingdom.  We need your help.  If you would like to help us continue to work with the children and families of Zimbabwe, you can do so by sending a check (with Refuge in the memo) to:
ROCK of Africa Missions
PO Box 5000
Costa Mesa CA 92628
Or by visiting and clicking on the "give now"
link.  Please write Refuge in the memo box!
Your donation is tax deductible and will be used to make an impact in the lives of the people of Zimbabwe!
With love,
Regina Jones

Friday, February 20, 2009

My grandma is here

My grandma flew out to California to see my last night.

She misses me so much. Although during my time in Zimbabwe, I rarely miss America, I miss people all the time. I miss Grandma every day, she is my mom. She raised me. To not be able to pick up the phone and call her when I want to is hard. When I think of how much she misses me, my heart breaks, so I try not to.

She is only going to be here for 4 days, but I am so excited! She is finally going to get to meet my friends, my team and my church!

I hope you all get to meet her!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's not about me?

I am learning to be less selfish. Not because I like learning these lessons, but I suppose God thought it was time.

Last week I decided to extend my time in the States a little longer. I decided to spend an extra 16 days here because 2 of my favorite Zimbabweans are getting on a plane and coming to America for the first time. I am going to be their tour guide. I was excited and pleased to be spending some extra time here.

As many of you know, this was the first year I was excited to come back to the States. Never before did I want to leave Zim, even when I had been arrested. But this has been a very hard year and I was ready to rest and be loved on.

Yesterday I spoke with Asher and her mom and they decided that she would like to be in California for a month, rather than 2 weeks. I had to make a decision whether or not I would stay with her or leave her here with other friends. I prayed quickly and knew that God was saying I will stay.

My heart broke. I already agreed to an extra 16 days... not another 12??? UGH!!! My PLANS! MY HOMESICK HEART? ME, ME, ME, ME, ME!!!

After I got off the phone I broke down into tears. As I talked to God about it I heard clearly. "How have you gotten so confused? You know that you being in Zimbabwe isn't about YOU being in Zimbabwe. It's about helping to raise up the next generation of Zimbabweans to fulfill MY purpose. It's about ME."

Ugh, I don't like being wrong and I don't like being humbled. I like learning lessons easily, like from a book.

At least for today I am happy to be a part of His plan in a nation that is so special, with people that are so amazing.

Today, it is not about me.

P.S. A few hours after this lesson I went to the gym for a meeting about Keegan, the Zimbabean runner that is here and he is doing so well. This kid is on target for a scholarship and to run for Zimbabwe in the next Olympics. I am humbled by his obedience and faithfulness even in difficult times, another kid that we will help so that he can help change Zimbabwe. Wow I am blessed!

P.P.S. Asher got her's official: THEY ARE COMING!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hope for Zimbabwe

*Five million people - almost half population - need food aid


*Unemployment of 90%

*About 3,400 people killed in cholera outbreak

This is how the BBC described the State of Zimbabwe today, in an article talking about the swearing in of our new Prime Minister.

That is hardly the whole story, but even if it were, it is missing anything that could point to hope or the truth. The hope is not found in Morgan Tsvangirai, and more than the hope for America is found in Obama!

The hope is found in Jesus, the Truth is Jesus. Is has manifested itself in a population of His people who are resilient. A people who are survivors, who are victors...some live and some die, but all are victorious!

Let's not forget to pray for this nation and for her people, but especially for her leaders. Today I pray that both of these men will allow God in, make space for our Lord to guide their thoughts, words and actions.

I long for the day when my feet touch Zimbabwean soil again, but today I trust that the cry of my heart makes a bigger difference than my presence ever could!