Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Driving Adventures in Zimbabwe!

I have been so excited about partnering with my childhood church (Woodside Bible Church) as they launched their interactive internet campus.  To be able to host an online campus with worship, teaching, prayer and fellowship from Zimbabwe, where we have notoriously bad electricity and internet issues has been a miracle.  Today we had our official African launch at 2pm, 8am for those of you in Michigan. 

If you have ever had to work in Africa you may have heard the statement, “TIA” short for “This Is Africa”, meaning “whatever can go wrong, certainly will.”  We proved that once again to be true!

I have been borrowing a car from Nyasha for the past few months and today when I was picking up Charity who was serving as “Prayer Host” online today the car stopped moving…in the middle of a construction site, COMPLETELY blocking the ENTIRE road that was being worked on!  Eventually we were able to push it out of the way, and Nyasha saved the day! He not only picked us up so that we made it online in time, but coordinating transport for our entire team who was being trained AND getting his car towed to the mechanics.  I am so grateful for the way he can calmly take care of a chaotic situation!
We were able to push the car to the side so at least the trucks could get by! 

Which was exactly what Pastor Doug was preaching about today, from James 1:19/20 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” Today we saw our team work together in a difficult situation with incredible grace, living out their faith in action!  I am proud to work with such incredible examples of the Christian religion. 

I am often heard saying, “My work in Africa is not at all glamorous” and what I mean by that is the day to day work that I am found doing is often hard: unpolished and unpredictable.  Today was a perfect example of that… I was showered and dressed for a successful meeting with social welfare and by the time I made it to our online campus I was sweaty, puffy and dirty because I was stranded pushing a car down a red dust road in 90+ degree weather! 

What I love is that not one of us lost our temper or shouted at anyone –even when the construction workers were completely irritated with how I managed to delay their work-and didn't mind telling me!  We totally proved that although our work is not glamorous, it is important.  704 people from 3 countries logged in to check out our service.  As we add our Africa touches to the service, I have no doubts that more and more people will be moved by the prayer and worship of the African people!   

To God be the Glory!

 Read on if you would like to read my letter requesting support for my new car:

Hello Friends,

I am writing to you with an urgent request.

Many of you know that I gave my car to Pastor Chris’s wife Rhoda and have not had a car since I returned to Zimbabwe at the beginning of this year. Nyasha has been so kind to allow me to use a car of his that we knew was having problems and wasn’t going to last long.  Today as I was on my way to pick up Charity for the launch of our African branch of Woodside’s Online Campus, the car refused to move forward when I shifted from reverse to drive…leaving me blocking a construction site J Life here is always an adventure!  (If you would like to read the whole story please see my blog!) The mechanic has towed the car to the shop and determined that among other things, the transmission needs to be replaced and that it is time for me to buy a car!

I knew that the time was coming, and I have been pricing cars and looking to see what was available.  As you might know, I live very frugally here so I will no doubt negotiate as much as possible!

I am desperately in need of the funds to purchase a vehicle.  Without a vehicle, my ability to reach many of the families I work with and the children’s homes I counsel in would be dramatically limited. My schedule is quite strenuous and many of the places I work are not easily accessible by public transportation. 

If you would like to help me purchase a vehicle, you can make a tax deductible donation through ROCK of Africa.  You can do this in one of two ways: visit and click on “Give Now Online” which will take you to paypal.  You can enter your donation amount and credit card information.  If you would rather not make an online donation, but would like to use a check or credit card,  please contact Debi Elliott at and she will walk you through the donation process!

I appreciate all of your love and support over the years!
With Love from Zimbabwe,
Regina Jones

P.S. If you would like to help in some other way, we are in need of several types of in kind donations: Smart phones that can be used in Africa (AT&T or T-mobile) because this way our volunteers can access email without a computer.  We need two laptops to use with our new Internet campus, they do not have to be new—the only requirement is that we can access a wireless signal!  You can also help make our Christmas parties for local families and orphans possible, just email me for more information!

Monday, October 17, 2011

a father's love

I spent this weekend with a group of recovering alcoholics from Southern Africa in a beautiful area of Zimbabwe.  It was just what I needed... 3 days without cell phone service and lots of sunshine and great conversation.

The highlight for me was visiting this little stone chapel, on a cliff overlooking Lake Mutikiwiri.  I was told that I must see it.  When I got there, it took my breath away.  It was a VERY small chapel and the story on the door explained that a daughter had asked her dad to build her a little place to get married in.  He did, and before her wedding day she was killed in an accident.  He finished the little chapel as a memorial of love to his baby girl.

It was so special just to sit in this lovely place and be reminded of what a father's love really means.  For me, I thought of how much God loves me as a father.  As I sat in this chapel overlooking the lake I thought of all of the things God has given me, for no other reason than to show me His love.

A few minutes later a group of Indian men who came from Durban for the convention came into the chapel.  Most of them are Hindu and a couple are atheist.   We talked about the chapel and joked that I should get married there to cut down the guest list and dramatically save money!  Then they got serious and asked me to pray for them.  I was a bit nervous and they said, "Just pray how you normally do, we want you to." So I did.  I closed by saying "In the name of Jesus" and when I looked up these men had big smiles on their faces. 

I reciprocated and asked if they would pray for me and I was met with silence.  One bold man said, "We don't know how to pray, we only know the AA prayers." So we held hands and said the Lord's Prayer and the Serenity Prayer.

It was such a special moment, but I walked away feeling sad.  I am eternally grateful for my relationship with God.  To be able to come to God as my father and speak to Him about anything that is on my heart is a privilege.  It is my desire for everyone I come into contact with to be able to have such relationship with God as well.  The rest of the weekend, every time someone would walk past me when I was in conversation with one of these men, they would stop them and say, "This woman prayed for us" as if it were a precious gift they had been given.

I am so grateful for the reminder that God has given me so many special gifts as a father, but most importantly He gave me himself... and that relationship is by far the most precious gift I have ever received.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lessons from my life as a 31 year old (Part two)

1.     6. Worshiping in the dark is still worship

I have had some really dark days in my year as a 31 year old.  Difficult days in which love hurt… days in which babies died and good seem to lose out to evil.  Days that hurt deeply and left me wondering where God was.  I am glad that God gives me the opportunity to question because in those moments of doubt He often teaches me something magnificent about His character.  

Throughout these difficult days, I have never stopped trusting Him.  I could still recognize His greatness and I still had a desire to follow Him.  I learned from a very wise woman to, choose the risk of love even in the midst of the worst devastation.  I have learned that when I chose the risk of love, I have never once been disappointed. 

On these days, an album by Chris Tomlin has helped me give words to express my feelings. 
Some of the lyrics that have come from my lips as tears poured from my eyes and my heart worshiped are these:

I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge you are my strength
As I pour out my heart these things I remember,
You are faithful God, forever
Let faith arise, Let faith arise
Open my eyes, open my eyes
Where you go I’ll go. Where you stay I’ll stay
When you move I’ll move. I will follow You.
Who You love I’ll love. How You serve, I’ll serve.
With this life I lose I will follow You.

Our God is greater. Our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other.
Our God is healer. Awesome in Power.
Our God, Our God.
And if our God is for us then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us then what could stand against us?
And if our God is for us then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us then what could stand against us?

I think Rick Warren’s wisdom sums up this lesson for me.  He said, “When you feel abandoned by God yet continue to trust Him, you worship Him in the deepest way.”

2.       7. Difficult does not mean impossible & Possible does not mean easy

“Because a thing seems difficult for you do not think it is impossible” Marcus Aurelius

During my last few days as a 31 year old, I received an email from a friend who said, “Life in Africa is hard… I am amazed that you have lived here for so long now…” I began thinking over my time here and how life in Zimbabwe has been difficult for me.  There have so many moments where I wanted to give up, walk away and return to my “real life”.  But throughout this last year especially, I have learned that difficult is not the same as impossible.  I have found that with God, things that would have been impossible for me, have instead just been difficult.  

The Bible says that “With God all things are possible”  I have learned this to be true, however I’ve also had to accept that this doesn’t mean “With God all things are easy and painless.”

3.       8. It all works together

In my old house in Vic Falls, I had an office and when I would learn a valuable lesson or hear something that I needed to remember I would write it down and stick it to the wall.  I had a wall full of little lessons I wanted to carry with me.  When I moved I pulled many of them down and kept them with me in an envelope.  In my room in Highfields, I did the same thing… around my desk were little notes stuck everywhere on the way. 
Recently I have begun working on a project that feels like the BIG ONE.  The thing that all the other things were leading up to.  I know from past experience that God absolutely does use all things together for good and so as I started laying out my thoughts about how to get started on this project, I started thinking back to the lessons I have learned to prepare me for this work.  

I thought about Munya and Bothwell, little boys who stole my heart on the streets of Vic Falls. I thought about their families.  I thought about all of the families I counseled, who have taught me so much. I thought of blind Mr. Who and what his life and struggles showed me.  I thought of ghettoes and villages I have spent years in and the opportunity I have had to learn the ins and outs of the culture, the challenges and the joys of life in Zimbabwe.  I thought of abandoned babies and orphanages and child headed families.  

I didn’t know where to start so I pulled out that old envelope and all those old scraps of paper and I stuck them all around.  One by one they led me to the answers I had been looking for—or in some cases the right questions to ask, and my thoughts came together.  Some of those scraps of paper have been sent around the world by some of you, others are thoughts you sent me in text messages or emails. Some are things that wise old Zimbabwean women have taught me as we sat around a fire cooking or bent over tubs washing clothes.   

One thing I know, not one lesson has been learned in vain and certainly all things work together.

4.       9. Remember the details
I grew up in a church that is fabulous.  My grandma still attends this church weekly, as do some very special friends of mine and it is a joy to church there when I am in Michigan.  The church is big, and I left there a long time ago—when I was 17.  I did not know the pastor personally, but I sent him an email because I wanted to thank him for his life’s work… to thank him for providing a place for me to learn some of the fundamental truths that have led me to where I am today.  I had the pleasure of having several meetings with him as I was back and forth to Michigan this year.  

In one meeting my heart broke and I wept telling him one of the stories that changed my life here -the story of baby Edward’s death.  

Edward was an abandoned baby that I spent months holding, loving and feeding until one week when he got a fever.  Edward lived his entire life in a hospital and yet he died because of lack of medical care.  When I walked in to check on him one morning I was told that he was dead from an infection, rage filled me.  When Nyasha and I had left a few hours before that, we had been told that the doctor was coming—as we had been told for a couple of days.

Months later I wept retelling the story because of a painful truth- Edward died because no one cared enough to take care of him. He didn’t die because of lack of medical treatment.  He died because no one loved him enough to ensure access to the things he needed. 

I told Pastor Doug this story and many others as he asked about my work and my life in Zimbabwe.
Weeks later Pastor Doug brought me in front of the congregation to say good-bye as I was heading back to Zimbabwe.  He recounted the story I told him and as he said “baby Edward” my heart jumped.  He remembered his name.  The nurses who cared for him forgot him name within days, and yet this man who never met him remembered. 

I learned a lesson when Pastor Doug remembered the details of this baby's short life… it is often in the little details that we show how much we care for the least of these. 

 A week or so ago I was visiting an orphanage that I often spend time at, and as I arrived there were a group of people there playing with the kids.  They were doing a good thing: playing, cleaning, ironing and giving the overworked mommies a break.  As I greeted each child by name one of the visitors said, “That’s a lot names to remember.” Yes, it is, but when I see the eyes of a child light up when I say his or her name I am taught that it is worth it to remember the detail

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lessons from my life as a 31 year old (Part one)

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I will be welcoming in my life as a 32 year old… Although there are some gray hairs growing in and a few more wrinkles, I don’t really see how 32 looks much different than 31, but as I thought about what I learned this past year I thought I would share some of those lessons here:

1.       1. God loves me. And you. The most. But Equally.
We all long to be treasured.  I long to be treasured. I am treasured. I am God’s favorite possession—I learned that this year, but so are you.  Every single one of us can stand and say that we are the most important thing to God.  It has been pretty life changing for me to allow that reality to wash over me.  Once I began to feel treasured, and to see how much He truly treasures each of us, I no longer needed to be the MOST special… I became far more comfortable sharing that spot with you too!

I am also then free to live out my purpose—because being loved by God leaves me motivated.  Having a purpose –serving God-brings me joy. 

George Bernard Shaw said, “This is true joy in life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” 

My true joy doesn’t just come from being loved and treasured.  My true joy comes from doing something with the motivation brought about by the catalyst of love.
  2. Love can hurt or it can heal. 
I have fallen in love with a song from a movie I saw with my Aunt Laura and cousin Amanda. These two women are so very special to me.  But for a long time I had little to no contact with either of them. When my parents divorced my relationship with my mom’s family fell apart.  The loss of love between my parents had a ripple effect that I still don’t understand.  This song says “You can be hurt by love or healed by the same….timing is everything

Love is a powerful thing.  The words to this song ring true for me because I have walked through several periods of my life where love has hurt SO badly.  I am walking through one now.   

Mother Teresa said, “I have found the paradox that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” I believe her.  I believe that when you love someone enough to withstand the difficult times that hurt, you eventually get to a place where the love heals the hurt.  The hurt that love can bring is real.  So is the healing. 

3.        3. Sometimes our past hurts can prevent us from receiving what we want most.

I was recently having a conversation with Nyasha about the love we received from our parents and I was sharing stories about my grandpa.  As I told the stories I could feel how real his love was for me.  But I can also remember as a little girl, feeling differently.  I desperately wanted to be loved, to feel the love of a father and mine was not really around.  When my grandparents would do something to show their love for me (basically every day) I didn’t feel lavished in love.  I felt they were loving me and caring for us out of some obligation they felt.  I was so hurt by the hole my parents left that I couldn’t receive what was being offered to me—even when it was the thing I wanted the most.

Today as God continues to heal the pain from my past hurts, I can feel loved just by sharing a memory.  I wonder how often I have missed the love God has been showing me because of a hurt I am carrying. 

4.       4. Forgiveness costs.
I don’t often watch Oprah, but I caught a show one day when I was in the States and Oprah was telling a girl, “Forgiveness is letting go of what could have been.” I will never forget how my heart opened that day.  Accepting what is. Letting go of what could have been.  Loving someone for who they are, not what you want them to be. That is real love.  It is hard. It is costly.

When I teach my parenting class, I have to teach about marriage as well. I am not married (yet) so I rely on the wisdom of those who are.  An author that I respect says this, “Forgiveness is a decision to give up your perceived or actual right to get even with or hold in debt, someone who has wronged you.” (From fighting for your marriage) It is a decision to sacrifice, it is just as costly as forgetting a financial debt when someone owes you money.  They both cost. 

I read this and think it is beautiful.  It was written by a woman who was publically humiliated when she learned that he husband (a pastor) was having an affair.  “Love is powerful enough to erase a person’s sins.  Love is forgiveness.”

This year I have learned that forgiveness is costly, and yet it brings with is something priceless: peace and freedom and REAL, TRANSFORMING LOVE.

5.       5. We are all Shunamite women
There is a small story about a woman in 2 Kings Chapter 4.  This woman was kind and generous to the prophet Elisah.  He wanted to bless her and found that she didn’t have a son.  So he told her “Next year you will hold your son.” Her response was strange to me.  She said, “Do not lie to me.” I imagine this as her looking at him with immense sadness, saying “I didn’t ask you to go there- why bring up the most painful thing, that deep desire that I have hidden in my heart from everyone, please don’t bring that up- don’t go there. 
I think I am a Shunamite woman, I think we all are.  I believe we all have deep desires- some of which have not been filled yet.  I think we probably all have something we desire that is so precious to us that we hide it, ignore it, try to detach from it so that we don’t have to feel the pain.  The people closest to us might know not to go there in conversation, or they may not even be privileged to know of that deepest longing.  But we know it’s there: things like career success, restored relationships, marriage, babies--big life things.  We can’t hide from it, we will notice things that remind us that we are missing out.  This woman probably saw babies everywhere she went and it probably hurt.  She may have finally hidden that desire so deep in her heart so she could try to move on.  And then here comes Elisha putting it out in the open, bringing it to the surface and giving her encouragement to hope again.  But she did hope and she got her son. 

To hope again after disappointment is to risk being hurt again.

This year I have learned that I have something in common with this woman...I have a deep desire hidden away from the world.  What I am STILL trying to learn, is how to respond in faith the way she did. 

A few years later when her young son died in her arms, when she looked down and saw her dream that she had held after such a long of  wait fade away.  How would she respond? She placed him in bed and told no one. When her husband asked why she was going to see Elisha she simply said, “It will be well.” 

She didn’t scream and shout about how unfair life was that she waited so long for something, until she finally gave up hope and learned to live without a child, and then this man comes by promising her she will have one and she hoped again.  And NOW her child has been taken from her.  She could have went on and on about the injustice of the situation, but she didn’t.  She went to Elisha and when his servant asked how things are she said again, “It is well.” I think she was afraid that if she spoke of the situation she might explode.  Finally when she saw Elisha she let it out- she asked him “Did I ask you for a son? Didn’t I say to you, ‘Do not deceive me.”  She refused to leave without him and when he arrived home with her, she received a miracle and got her son back.  

What I am hoping to learn is that even when I see the thing I longed the most for die in my arms, to be able to say, “It will be well.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tino's New Name!

For those of you who have been following the stories from my work for a while, you will remember last year around this time I was brought to a local hospital to pray for a premature baby, and met a wonderful group of babies that changed my life.  The abandoned baby ward in this hospital was filled with the most precious babies I had ever met!

One of those babies was Tino.  I first met him when he was a couple of weeks old.  He always had a pained look on his face, as if he were stressed about something.  One day, a nurse shared with me the story of his life and it was heartbreaking… it almost seemed as if he knew the story as carried a burden.  Nyasha and I started going to the hospital every day to love on these little babies.  We held them, changed their nappies, bathed them, changed their clothes, fed them and most importantly prayed with them and taught them how to play! Eventually we were joined by some of the women from our parenting class and before you know it these babies were getting tons of attention and affection!  Our goal was to help find them homes so that they wouldn’t have to live in the hospital.

Tino was in the middle in terms of age of all the babies in the hospital, some were younger and some were older. It took months before we were able to get him to relax while he was held.  I can remember Nyasha being so disappointed some days when he would hold Tino for hours and get no response, they would have the same sad look on their faces and Nyasha would say, “I don’t get it all the other babies like it when I hold them… I must being doing something wrong, he just doesn’t like me”.  But we didn’t give up, after a while we made it our goal to make Tino smile. 

Finally one day, he did. 

Nyasha and I came into the ward to visit and a nurse said, “Tino smiled today—the others said it was gas, but I know he smiled.” Nyasha picked him up and there it was—a smile, he relaxed and they both smiled as Nyasha held him!

A few months later, several of the babies had been given homes in local orphanages and we were looking for adoptive homes for the rest when I got the news that a dear friend of mine who had two sons would be adopting Tino.  She brought him home before Christmas and named him Ephraim.

When I returned to Zimbabwe I bumped into them in the grocery store and if I hadn’t known that she had adopted him, I would never have recognized him! He was big and chubby, smiling and CUDDLING HIM MOMMY!!!  This was one of those moments that I will never, ever forget.

I was blessed to be able to spend Ephraim’s birthday with him.  He was joined at his party by children from 2 local orphanages and they filled up on sweets and chocolate cake shaped in an ‘E’.  Then they spent the afternoon running around and jumping in a bounce house!

Seeing the changes in Ephraim and Evans who was also at the party, made me remember all of the hours spent in the hospital with those little guys. There were stressful moments when the hospital had no water to make formula.  There were hilarious moments like when I picked up a little baby and their poopy diaper exploded all over me, of course when I had to teach a class in 30 minutes!! There were devastating moments like when Edward died from an infection and there were moments to celebrate like when Evans went to Village of Hope and at 9 months old learned to sit up.   

 I am happy to say that each of the children that we originally met from the abandoned baby unit has found a home.  Ephraim was adopted, several of the others including Evans and Kelsey were placed in orphanages and of course of little boy Edward has his home in Heaven.  Their stories are just a few examples of what the Bible means when it says, “He sets the lonely in families.”  God truly is a father to the fatherless and He allows us to each have a part in helping orphaned children find forever families.  What a blessing it is to share in the lives of these special little babies.   

There are so many more babies just like them that need a home…and so the work goes on.

Friday, May 6, 2011

My thoughts about packing::

When I was a little girl and my grandparents would pull out my little suitcase and tell me we were going somewhere fabulous- it was ALWAYS somewhere fabulous, I would immediately start to pack, EVERYTHING.

Even as a child I was an overpacker, if I was going somewhere for the day, I would stuff as many things into my little girl purse as possible and still feel nervous that I wouldn’t have what I needed when I got there.
In my early 20’s I accepted the fact that I would always be an over-packer.  If I was on a trip with a group, I would always have the most luggage.  It was ok, I was comfortable that way.

The first few times I packed for trips to Zimbabwe were a nightmare.  “3 suitcases of 70 pounds?? I will be gone a year!!!” Some of you were gracious enough to help me pack those bags. You witnessed my dilemma, what I wanted to take vs what was reasonable to take.  What supplies were needed vs how much shampoo I thought would get me through!

Every year when I travel to Zim after visiting the States, I cry when it’s time to pack.  I used to cry because I couldn't fit everything and I couldn’t imagine living without anything!

Today I am 31 and when I travel to Zimbabwe I get a luggage allowance of 2 bags of 50 pounds each thanks to high fuel prices!  I have more people to buy gifts for than ever and I know more projects and more of their needs than ever before.

I have to understand that I cannot fit everything into 100 pounds.

“He who would travel happily must travel light.” – Antoine de Saint ExupĂ©ry

Today I am packing to travel to Michigan for a week to visit my grandma and family. It is mother’s day and my grandma’s birthday and it has been ages since I have been able to look in the eyes of the women who raised me and tell them I love them on this day. I do not take their sacrifices for granted.

I am also packing my bags for Zimbabwe, with the hope that after this week with them I will be getting back to my work!

Yesterday the doctor wrote a letter releasing me back to work after all of my medical treatments I wanted to dance my way out of Nashville General Hospital!

But today I am faced with the reality of packing.  My tears today are not about putting stuff in a suitcase, I feel blessed to even have stuff and a case to put it in. I feel more blessed to have a journey. My tears are about the comings and the goings.  You see,  in order for me to go to Zimbabwe, I must leave the US.  That has always been the problem… leaving behind the people who make my life special.

When people ask me about what my daily life looks like in Zimbabwe, they get sad when I tell them about the work that I do, they often say, “That must be so hard”.  Yes it is, but what is harder is at the end of the day I come home to someone else’s family.  I celebrate the birthdays of the relatives of others.  I attend weddings of other people’s cousins.  I am so grateful to the people in Zimbabwe that have made me a part of their family.  There are too many to list.  No matter how much I love them, I am still missing my own family.

I am blessed to have so many families and so many places that make me feel at home.  The challenge comes in only being able to be in one place at a time… it means that I am always missing someone, somewhere.

Today is my last day in Nashville for a while.  For those special people who have made me at home here, who have made me a part of their family, I will be eternally grateful.  Nearly 3 months of medical care would been far more difficult without my best friend Natalie and her family and the dear people of Bluegrass Baptist Church.

My tears while packing today are not about shirts and shoes… even if it may look that way.  Today my tears are about you.  I will miss you.