Thursday, September 30, 2010

Throwback Thursday!

I often get emails/ facebook messages from people who read this blog asking about how I came to live in Zimbabwe, or what it was like when I first moved here. This blog was started long after I moved here for a couple of reasons:
1. I didn’t really think the stories were interesting enough that people would want to read them and
2. The internet access in Vic Falls, where I was living at the time was atrocious and the effort it would take to post a blog would have driven me mad with frustration!

As some of you know, I made a commitment to a very special new friend, that I would write one chapter a month this year, so that at the end of the year I will have what might possibly be, my first book. As I am doing that (sometimes more faithfully and more skilled than other times) I am being reminded of some of the stories from when life in Zimbabwe was so new to me.

I am going to start posting one of these “old” stories every Thursday! I hope you enjoy them!

November 2005

(My first Zimbabwean experience:: On a two week short-term mission trip with ROCK of Africa to Victoria Falls, Gwaayi River and Livingstone)

I didn’t want to come to Zimbabwe. I don’t honestly understand how I got here, but I know that I don’t like it. I know that it is hot, dusty and I am sweaty.
Today my heart has changed. If I am honest, this place, Zimbabwe meant nothing to me. I knew nothing of its people, its history or its landmarks.

The first few days here, have been frustrating. I know that I am missing the big picture. I know that God is trying to show me something and I am missing it. I am standing in the midst of children in poverty stricken villages who are hungry and I am feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t know how powerful my selfishness was until now.

Today I met some boys who live on the street. They could draw sympathy from even the most uncompassionate heart, standing in a parking lot- dirty, smelling like a mixture of dust, sweat and gross beer. They are young. One of the first things I noticed is that most of them are barefoot.

For some reason my heart resonates this deep feeling of understanding, as if I have known them before, as if I am like them. I have never looked like them. I have never smelled like them. But after talking to them for a bit, I know that I have felt like them.

It might surprise people to hear that a girl obsessed with shoes would relate to a group of barefoot boys, but I did.

They each tell stories of abandonment or betrayal. Some have been abandoned because their parents have died; others have parents who left the country to work elsewhere. Some feel betrayed because their parents divorced and remarried and they don’t fit anywhere. One of them has a blind parent who sends him to the street to beg. I know that some of their stories are lies, some are true. But one thing I believe is that each of them, regardless of whether it is true or not, feels unloved.

I know that feeling. I have felt it since I was 8 years old. Since my parents divorced and left me and my little brother with my grandparents in 1987. Whether it was true or not was irrelevant, for more than 15 years my wounded heart carried a banner that said, “I am unloved”. And it made the world a much less beautiful place. This feeling caused me to run away, just like many of these boys. I sometimes physically ran away, but I often emotionally ran away- hiding in alcohol, drugs, sex or later shopping and food.
I sat with these boys for quite a while. I bought them a meal of sadza (the staple diet of the people in Zimbabwe- really it is a lump of corn meal) and beef with vegetables and listened to them. We might have looked like an odd bunch, me and these boys. But what people couldn’t see and wouldn’t know is the truth that stopped me dead in my tracks the first time I laid eyes on this group of street kids:

I am just like them.

What they look like on the outside is what I feel like on the inside.
They wear the truth of their abandonment on the outside in the form of dirt covered pee stained clothes. I wear the truth of my abandonment on the inside in the form of mismanaged emotions and the need for excess and control.
We are all the same, me and these boys, and my heart will forever be changed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September 26th... were you praying?

South Africa is looking to you, Zimbabwe to show Africa how to manage race relations.

That is what Angus said, when he spoke Saturday night to a group of about 4,000 (mostly white) Zimbabweans.

This event kicked off Operation Trumpet Call which is a call to the churches to unite together for the transformation of the country. It is obvious to anyone who spends even a short amount of time in Zimbabwe, with either white or black Zimbabweans, that racial tension must be dealt with before the nation can be transformed, unity is necessary. Operation Trumpet Call rolled out its vision on Sunday morning after asking all of the churches in Harare to cancel their services and meet together at the Civic Centre. They announced that Zim is facing record food shortages this year and that in order to feed the nation, we are going to have to find a way to come up with the 1,000,000 tons of maize that we are estimated to lack. Scott Marques, the visionary behind

OTC said that we only have 3 options:

1. Beg (Once again taking aid from organizations and nations that have created donor dependence in Zimbabwe for decades now.)

2. Steal (Seems unlikely)

3. Plant (Individuals must make up what the commercial farmers are not producing)

OTC is asking each Christian home to plant 25 meters x 25 meters of maize in the manor Foundations for Farming teaches. Obviously not every family will have the space but if some do more and some do less we will average out with a surplus of maize to feed our people and our animals! Zimbabwe will not NEED maize donations this year!

On Sunday morning, Angus Buchan joined forces with Zimbabwe’s church leaders to encourage Christians to do what they can to make a difference. However, for me the true “trumpet call” was when Angus stood on stage Saturday night and spoke to a much smaller group of people. The stage was in Chisipete a suburb of Harare and the audience was mostly white. As an observer I would say that many of the people there, would not be found at the Sunday morning meeting the next day, nor would they normally be found in a church.

Angus started by saying “I am a foreigner, I was not born in Zimbabwe, but I am here because I love you.” Tears poured from my eyes as my heart deeply related with the words that caused this older man’s voice to crack as he spoke.
He spoke of love, which he called the greatest of all forces. He spoke of the love that Jesus has for all of us, and the love that he personally has for Jesus- which motivates him to come to Zimbabwe now. He told a story of the night that Jesus took a towel and washed the feet of His disciples. He said that Jesus chose to wash the feet of these friends, even though He knew that Thomas would doubt him, that Peter would deny knowing him- three times and that Judas would betray Him and hand him over to the ones that would crucify Him. Even knowing all of that, Jesus still chose to humble himself before His friends and wash their feet.

Angus called us to forgive. He said that he knew that many people have been hurt, black and white alike. He said that many have lost farms, loved ones and cherished possessions. He related that to the story of Job who in the Bible, lost everything. That many have been betrayed, mistreated and oppressed. He recognized the sin of this nation and he said like Job’s friends, he came to us- the nation-of
Zimbabwe to weep and mourn with us in our time of greatest loss.

But then he got on his knees and He prayed with us, asking for forgiveness where we have been wrong; wrong to God and to each other. And He asked us to pray as well. He asked us to unite, to put aside our prejudices and hardened hearts and to forgive one another- to walk in love with one another.

And then He said, tomorrow (Sunday Sept 26, 2010- the international day of prayer for zim) that many people around the world were going to be praying for the people of Zimbabwe. And he said that the people of South Africa who have their own racial problems were looking to Zimbabwe, to the Christians of Zimbabwe, to lead the way. To mark out a path, showing others how to overcome the injustice and hate in the world.

I know that Zimbabwe has faced massive difficulties. I know that people have been killed or beaten in wars for this land; people have been killed or beaten as land has been taken from white farmers. People have been oppressed and mistreated; others have been retaliated on in violent ways. This country has been separated by hate, pride and greed for far too long. I believe that if the church will step up, this nation CAN unite together to overcome the circumstances we have caused for ourselves by hate, pride and greed and we WILL find a way to forgiveness and unity.

The transformation of the agriculture in Zimbabwe that Operation Trumpet Call is asking us to be a part of, is only possible if we unite: black, white, Indian or Asian and put aside our differences and our bitterness and work toward a common goal: the feeding of our people.

Please continue to pray with the people of Zimbabwe for this nation. As one pastor said as we departed on Sunday, “This is not over, this is just the beginning”. My prayer is that each Christian home in Zimbabwe is preparing their plot of land, getting ready for November 25, when we are told by FfF to plant, and preparing their hearts to forgive, for we cannot accomplish such a massive task as producing 1,000,000 tons of maize, with the heavy load of bitterness weighing us down.

My heart is grateful that I am blessed to be in Zimbabwe as such a time as this. I hope the world is watching as this nation united together to display what can happen when people allow God to heal their hearts!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Big things are happening in Zimbabwe

This is such a fun time to be in Zimbabwe. Joyce Meyer visiting Harare with amazing worship from Hillsong and a phenomenal group of pastors from the States really WAS the start of something great!

This weekend Angus Buchan (the real life farmer from the movie 'Faith Like Potatoes') will be here to speak on Saturday night. He is then taking part in Operation Trumpet Call which is an event that hopes to unite the church to transform the nation (especially in regards to agriculture which is a hot topic as always in Zimbabwe!) For more information please see

"The condition for a miracle is difficulty, however the condition for a great miracle is not difficulty, but impossibility" Angus Buchan ~Faith Like Potatoes

I believe that we are in a miraculous time for this nation!

THEN, next week I am even more excited because Nicole C Mullen is coming for a worship concert! I have loved her music for quite a while! She is most famous, I think for a song called "My Redeemer" however, my favorite song of hers is called "Music of my Heart"

The lyrics to the song are:

I'm not ashamed to tell the whole world, oh
Without you, I'm nothing at all
That I have strings in need of mending
I'm out of tune in certain parts
So strum the chords of mercy
Restore my soul completely
Lay your hand upon me
And this instrument will breathe

'Cause you're the music of my heart
(Yeah yeah yeah yeah)
The melody within my soul
(Yeah yeah yeah yeah)
The song that holds me in the dark
(Yeah yeah yeah yeah)
The fire that warms me when I'm cold
(Yeah yeah yeah yeah)
The symphony that calms my fear
(Yeah yeah yeah yeah)
The lyric that I long to hear
(Yeah yeah yeah yeah)
The masterpiece, the work of art
Complete before I start
The music of my heart

Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

Creator of all that is lovely, oh
Write a tune upon my heart
And when you finish will you play me
Like a beautiful guitar?
Strum the chords of mercy
Restore my soul completely
Breathe life into me
And this instrument will sing

[Repeat Chorus]

Of my heart
I'm captivated
Of my heart
My soul's elated
Of my heart
Every single line's full of love divine
Write me like a valentine

[Repeat Chorus]

Yeah, the music of my heart
Of my heart
The music of my heart
Of my heart
The music of my heart

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sometimes Music Says it Best...

For anyone who has ever been in a relationship, you will probably relate.
I have a friend who is hurting deeply right now, and I think this song will help her....I thought I would share it here, in case it can help you too!

I was blessed to be able to hear Sara sing live in February and have been singing along with her music on itunes ever since!

Sara Groves "It's Me"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lessons from a (Coach) handbag

As most of you know, I am a shopaholic… a reformed – or at least reforming shopaholic, but one none-the-less! I am a follower of Jesus and currently serving as a volunteer missionary in Zimbabwe. I will tell you this, there is no surer way to kick a shopping addiction than to move to Zimbabwe! For many of the past four and a half years that I have been here, we have had to leave the country even to buy groceries! But, I haven’t changed completely and when I visit friends and family in the States, it is a challenge to not become overwhelmed with the lovely things to behold at every shop I walk past!

On my last trip home to the States (at the beginning of 2010), I saw a handbag in a department store that I fell in love with. It was a Coach bag, but not just any COACH bag, it was gorgeous. My (2nd hand, no brand) purse had been stolen in Zimbabwe in June of 2009 and I was desperately in the market for a bag, any bag would do, when I stumbled across the bag that would change my life. (Now, I know I sound dramatic, but stay with me—this bag has indeed changed my life!)
I didn’t buy the bag. I wanted to buy the bag, but remember I have been living with no salary for years…come on people; I wasn’t going to be able to afford a coach bag. My grandma (as usual) was right, “a missionary in Zimbabwe does not need that bag”. BUT, this missionary to Zimbabwe, WANTED that bag. Badly. Like, so badly that I considered giving up this life, getting a job and buying the bag. But I quickly realized I was never going to be able to justify giving up my current lifestyle over a purse—that was pushing it, even for me.

A month after seeing the bag, I had gotten over it and realized as I prepared to go back to Zimbabwe, that I didn’t really need the bag. (But I still wanted it). I have to raise all of the money that I spend living and working in Zimbabwe. My friends and family, (mainly you great people who are reading this) make this possible by donating generously to ROCK of Africa, who sends me here. I was having a garage sale to raise some of the money I needed to return and when I took all of the items that didn’t sell to the local Goodwill, my mouth dropped open on the last of multiple trips. By then I had made friends with all of the men who were helping me unload the car and they knew that I was getting ready to return to Zimbabwe. My mouth dropped open in shock, when I was getting ready to leave because I saw my bag, that beautiful, special, I-just-gotta-have-it Coach bag-sitting in one of the Goodwill trucks. I quickly asked, “Is that someone’s bag or is it a donation?” My new friend said, “It’s a donation.” My heart got so excited! “When will it make it into the store, I just have to buy that bag!” This man will probably never know that his next few words would mean so much, “Here, it’s yours.”
This bag changed my life, not because it was a great bag (which it was) but because of the lessons I have learned from that beautiful-just for me- Coach bag… and here is what I have learned.

Lesson #1: God really does care about the desires of my heart.

The Bible says in Psalm 37:4 “Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I love this verse. I have learned so many lessons around this verse in the past few years. I have learned that when I find my joy and pleasure in the time I spend with Lord the desires of my heart begin to match His will for my life and then, pretty quickly, they start to materialize.

Even still, I often find myself thinking that God couldn’t possibly care about the silly little desires of my heart, like wanting a sunny day on the beach for my birthday or a coach purse that I saw in a shop… but He does. He cares about every aspect of my heart and when I opened that Coach bag for the first time and saw the card that said, “Thank you for purchasing Coach” my heart swelled with joy. Not because the bag was new, and free and beautiful, but because the miraculous way in which it made itself to me, was proof that God loves me enough to care about even my silly little unimportant desires. I am important to Him… just as I am.

Lesson #2: Jesus loves me.

From that day forward, I have called that amazing bag, my “Jesus loves me purse”.
People ask me why and I love telling them the story of how it became mine. People LOVE the story. Not because I tell it with such excitement, but I think deep down, when they hear the story, something resonates with them as well. Such a small thing as a purse has helped me to share the Gospel with people in several countries and in a non threatening way. It is my hope, that they walk away thinking of all the little things in their life that point to the truth that “God loved the world so much that He gave his only son” (John 3:16)

Lesson #3: From time to time, I need a reminder about how much I am loved.

There are some days that are just hard. Bad, grouchy, ugly days. I do not like those days. On those days my heart doesn’t naturally whistle the tune to the song I learned so long ago in Sunday School, “Jesus loves me this I know…” Because even though I do KNOW, I don’t always FEEL it. On those days I need a reminder. For me, my purse served as a reminder. On really bad days I could look at those gold rings, the chocolate leather and especially the hot pink squares and remember, “You love me so much that not only have you saved me from certain death, an insignificant life and a bleak eternity, but you also bless me on a regular basis with more than I need and want and hope for.” That purse from Jesus was a reminder of His love for me as bold and clear as a husband sending his wife roses to work for no reason at all. Or a teenager giving his girlfriend a mix CD of all the songs that remind him of her. We all need reminders that we are loved, out of the blue, very obvious, statements of love. My purse was that, clear and obvious enough for me to grasp even when things seemed to fall apart and confuse me.

Lesson #4: I have an enemy who does try to steal, kill and destroy. I must pay attention

This is the hard one. This weekend, I was sitting in my car after speaking at a youth event. I needed a break. I needed some quiet time. I needed to be alone. I parked my car in a church parking lot and I read, and I sat by myself in the quiet, not having to answer to anyone. It was amazing, for about 15 minutes. After that I saw a car park behind me. Then a big man got out of the car and walked past my window to the church door. He immediately turned around and went back to his car. I went back to my reading and my peace of mind.

A few minutes later my car was shaking. I saw in my mirror a man was by my tire. I thought he had fallen. I asked “Are you ok?” Then saw his HUGE knife. “What are you doing?” He said, “Oh sorry madam” and then ran to the car and they sped off… with my purse. My just-for-me-gift-from-God-beautiful Coach purse. And all my money, my driver’s license, house keys, Bible and all the other goodies a girl keeps in her favorite purse. And they left me all alone, with a flat tire.
As I was filling out the police report (4 hours later as that’s how long it takes to get a new tire on a Saturday afternoon in Harare), my heart kept hurting as I realized that I would never again look at that bag and be reminded of God’s love for me. And at that moment, I could have really used a reminder. That night as I was praying and thanking God for keeping me safe, in what could’ve been a very awful situation, I learned another lesson from my purse.

The Bible says, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). The two men that took my purse have no idea the story behind it. They know it was valuable and they know that they stole my money and my things, but they do not know what it means. But Satan does. He gets it. He hates me, because he hates my God. In a silly but very real way, that purse helped me do what I do here, which is to bring Glory to the God I serve. The enemy of my soul despises anything that brings Glory to God. That means me and anything that helps me remember who I serve. That means my purse. Sometimes I forget how real of a battle is going on around me. The enemy will steal anything from me, hoping to distract me from the love of God. He will destroy anything (my marriage, my family, my church) if it means I will forget who I serve. He will even try to kill me if that is what it takes, but no matter what happens to me I can still choose to stand firm and praise my God.

Lesson #5: If I let Him, God will take even the worst things that happen to me and make them seem alright, and maybe even good!

There has been an amazing man in my life since May 2009. His name is Nyasha. I love him. I have loved him for quite a while. I have prayed for him since the day I became a Christian. He is everything I have asked God for in a husband: He is a REAL- ON FIRE Christian. He understands, loves and respects my work. He wants to adopt babies. He listens to me and (although not as much as I would want) talks to me. He shares openly about his heart, his fears, his hopes. He works hard and is very smart. He is in Bible school. He is really, really good looking (I put this last so that you will think I’m less shallow than I am, haha)

I fell in love with Nyasha last June, at the Avondale police station in Harare. My car had just been broken in to and my laptop and basically everything was stolen. (It might sound like it, but this is very rare… I have had so few experiences with theft in Zimbabwe, but with the economy being so bad—I guess it happens). Nyasha and a few of my other friends went with me to fill out the police report. It was traumatic, I was sad. Nyasha took care of everything, all the questions all the details and in between questions from the police he sat next to me and prayed. He sent me text messages about God’s faithfulness. He calmed me down and stole my heart.

(This is relevant so please stay with me)

My life in Zimbabwe is hard. It’s harder than I ever wanted it to be. I live so differently than anything I ever imagined. I am an outsider everywhere I go now, even in the States. I miss my family, my friends, my dog, my career, the American lifestyle, shopping, being independent. If I allow myself to think of my life and what I miss, it is overwhelming. I can get depressed, angry or just feel sorry for myself so quickly.

Over the past 15 months since I fell in love with Nyasha life has beaten us up. Both of us. Nothing has been easy. Zimbabwe is a racially charged nation because of all of the hurts and injustices that have taken place here. Everyone has an opinion about the politics and somehow race=politics. Nyasha is black, I am white. That means life is hard. Nyasha is African, I am American. That means life is harder. My family is worried about me living in Zimbabwe, marrying someone here would mean more permanence than any American parent would want for their child. On top of that, life happens. Work is hard, finances are harder. Friendships are strained and relatives die. There are ups and downs and celebrations and sadness and throughout them all we have an enemy that hates us. We have both made mistakes and both hurt each other and through it all, we have had an enemy that enjoys stealing.

I have let the same enemy that stole my purse, steal my love. He didn’t come with a knife and slash my tires, but he came with words. Words that were strategically whispered into my ears when my heart was hurting, words that said, ‘he doesn’t love you like he says he does’ or ‘this will never work’ or ‘you know that no one will ever love you because of who you were’. Those kinds of words can sound so believable when life is ugly and hard and exhausting.
The enemy wants me to leave Zimbabwe. For those of you who have been on this journey with me, you know this to be true. Sometimes I consider it, but God always reminds me of what He has called me to.

I broke up with Nyasha recently. He is the best man I have ever known and I listened to the words of a thief that told me it wasn’t enough.
But the Bible promises me that no plan formed against me will prosper. That God will take the bad moments and make them good.

When the thieves stole my purse and left me with a flat tire, I called Nyasha. He loves me still and he came to my rescue… even though he had other things to do, important things, like cricket practice. 4 hours later we ended up where we began: at the Avondale police station making a report. I looked at the man sitting next to me, once again taking care of everything. He is not the same as the man I fell in love with a year ago. He is changed. He is stronger, he is older, he is wiser, he is funnier, he is more godly, he loves the Lord more and he is better to his family. He can now change a diaper and hold a baby and he refuses to stand for injustices in his nation. He chases his dreams and fights for the people he loves.
Sitting at the Avondale police station, I wanted to cry for what has been stolen from me. Not the purse that seemed to say, “Your God loves you so much that He will give you the silly desires of your heart.” But the man, whose presence in my life said, “Your God has been listening to every prayer that you have you ever said, every thought you have ever had and every tear you have ever cried. He loves you so much that He will not only give you a man that meets all of the criteria you have asked for, but one even better than that. He has granted you the desires of your heart that you didn’t even know were desires.” That is what I would have heard if I had not been listening to the lies whispered by the voice of the thief.

But God can make good out of bad. I am trusting that as God has changed my heart, and allowed me to see the truth again, that it will not be too late for me and the man I love. Please pray for us. I am not sure what the future holds for me and Mr. Nyasha Chari, but whatever it is, I know that God loves us both and He can be trusted. I know that God has a plan that meets the deepest desires of BOTH of our hearts.

And just as the purse on my arm was a reminder of God’s love, the absence of that purse will now serve as a reminder that if I am not mindful, the great gifts that God gives me will be stolen by the one who hates me. And a reminder that even in the ugly moments, God is bringing beauty from ashes, blessings from curses and good things from the bad.