Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving is, in my opinion one of the best days of the whole year. There is a reason why flights are booked and trains are full and roads are crowded… it is because one day out of the year we pause to say thank you. And one of the things we are usually most thankful for is a place that feels like home. Where we can eat too much, talk smack about our football team (The Lions) and just be ourselves. 

Today, with a turkey in the oven and green bean casserole tempting my taste-buds I am celebrating my 8th Thanksgiving in Zimbabwe.

 I am an American, I grew up in Detroit where my family still lives and I spent every Thanksgiving of the first 25 years of my life sitting around a crowded house in Michigan with my family- eating too much, playing games and cheering on a football team that disappointed us almost every week of football season, but somehow managed to make us smile on Thanksgiving day. 

Then one year, I took a flight from my home in Southern California to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to participate in a short term mission trip with ROCK of Africa Missions. I was missing Thanksgiving at home for the first time. I guess I didn’t know what to expect from 2 weeks in Africa… I thought I would see poverty, AIDS and sadness—and I did. But that isn’t all that I saw. I saw smiling faces happy just to have someone new in their village. I saw families trying to make it through another day. I heard laughter and singing and that most amazing quite peacefulness that if you aren’t listening for you will miss it-the sound of people who know they are blessed. 

It was Thanksgiving that changed my life. While my family at home was sitting around for the first time without me, laughing and eating and celebrating our blessings, I was running around Victoria Falls trying to host a party in a town I knew nothing about. We were a team of 8 American friends and we hosted a party for a group of boys that lived and worked on the street. It was the most amazing night. We had food and music and laughter and gratitude and love and no one left that night the same. 

We got on a plane and headed back home. And when I got there my heart hurt at what I saw. I saw my home, my things, my life and what a few weeks before seemed so little and inadequate now seemed extraordinary and wasteful. I opened my Bible and I saw a little pink post-it note with my handwriting on it, that I didn’t remember. It said “One pair of my shoes can educate this village for a year.” And it was the truth. And it hurt. And it broke me. 

I sold those shoes, and I went back to Zimbabwe a few months later. Knowing in my heart that the plans I had made for myself were good and I experienced a job I loved, a home beyond my expectations and a community I adored… but that those plans no longer satisfied the deep longing of my heart. Psalm 37:4 is a verse that I clung to immediately after I became a believer of Jesus… it says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will grant you the desires of your heart.” I did and He did… but the truth is I was selling my heart short. With every shoe and every moment of happiness I reviled in the fact that my God was granting me the desires of my heart, and it wasn’t until a few years later when I was poor and living in a family’s kitchen in a ghetto in Zimbabwe that I realized the truth. That my heart lies to me… it sometimes makes me think that comfort and possessions and predictability and success are what it desires when in reality my heart desires an adventure I couldn’t dream up. My heart desires to be loved and to love fully, my heart desires to make a difference, even if it’s only in the life of one person. 

I have now lived in Zimbabwe for almost 7 years. Today I celebrate my 8th Thanksgiving far from home and it doesn’t get easier. I am homesick and I will cry all day today, because the truth is, my heart’s desire cost me something—it cost me everything I ever wanted. And although my days are filled with more blessings than I could hope for—on some days part of me wishes I could go back… to the days before that post-it note was written in my Bible. Back to the days when my hair was shinny and my shoes were gorgeous and I could hop in my car and drive to see my friends or get on a plane and see my grandma just because I wanted to.

I am grateful to God for rocking my world and showing me that my way might be good but his is infinitely better. 

8 Thanksgivings ago I was given a choice and I don’t regret it. But I won’t lie and say it is easy. On the days that hurt I often listen to a clip I recorded during that first trip. I sat around one of the poorest villages I have ever witnessed, and a group of little kids sang a song to me. The song they chose was an old hymn and it went like this… 

“When upon life’s billows you are tempt and tossed, 
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, 
Count your many blessings, name them one by one, 
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done. 
Count your blessings, name them one by one, 
Count your blessings, see what God has done! 
Count your blessings, name them one by one, 
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” 

Today I sit around with an adopted family, mismatched people who just happen to love me even though I confuse them and I count my blessings. I have many and I know you do to.  And when I stop to recognize them it does surprise me what God has done. If you only knew what I was like before Jesus got a hold of me... you would know that this flawed woman who sits here now is nothing short of a miracle.  I hope that as you sit with your full tables and happy hearts that you remember that we are all blessed, not because we deserve it but because God has allowed it. 

Happy Thanksgiving,
With Love From Zimbabwe,


PS. Grandma, If I could fly home every time I wanted to I would have a LOT of frequent flier miles... I love and miss you and wish God could let me be in two places at once!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Answered Prayers and Accomplished Goals

An interesting question was asked by someone I follow on Twitter this week.... He said that he is starting work later in the day than normal this week and his goal is to make it to the gym each morning.  He posted "What is your goal this week?"

I immediately stopped and put everything down and asked myself, what is ONE goal I can set for myself this week that has nothing to do with my current to-do list.

The first thing that popped into my head was that I wanted to do something to help someone that is a complete stranger to me.  So I picked up my phone and replied to his tweet and said, "My goal is to do something to help someone who is currently a stranger to me!"

I then took a few moments to just sit quietly and I asked God to make a way for me to accomplish this goal.  To put a complete stranger in my path that I can help... and not just help like "walk an old granny across the street" kind of help.  I asked boldly for someone to come into contact with me that needed help in a way that clearly I was CREATED to help them with.

Tuesday went by and nothing obvious happened. I went to an AA meeting and met some people, only a few of which were strangers to me, but I didn't help anyone in any way that I could see at least.

Wednesday morning I went to the grocery store. It was the first time in ages that I wasn't annoyed at this task, mainly because I went early in the morning on a week day and the shop was empty!  As I was in the queue at the till, a young man greeted me. He said "Auntie Regina, how are you?" I have no idea who he is, but I said hello and told him I was well and made some small talk until it was my turn to check out.  I paid and then walked to Nyasha's car and loaded my groceries in.

As I was getting ready to drive away, I stopped to load airtime in my phone.  As I did, there was a knock on the window.  This same young man was there and I rolled down the window and he said, "Auntie Regina, if someone wants to stay away from drugs, how do they do that?" and I said what my very first sponsor would have said to me when I was 19 years old and wanted an easy answer, I said "Well I guess they would just stay away from drugs.  It's simple but it's not easy-it's very hard." Then he said, "Well I need help, I just got out of rehab and I need to learn what to do." So I gave him my phone number and said that I've been there, I've learned what he needs to learn and that if he would call me I would introduce him to some guys that have learned how to stay clean to."

By the time I drove those three minutes back to my place, I had thought of what those early times were like. They were horrible.  I had to give up everything I ever loved, I had to reconstruct my whole life in order to stay sober. It was not easy, but it certainly was simple: STAY AWAY from people that use, STAY AWAY from people who sell, STAY AWAY from parties and bars, STAY AWAY from anyone who isn't helping you grow healthier.  I have learned that the only way for a TRUE addict to stay away from what they are addicted to is to STAY NEAR to God.

God answered my prayers that day...and I think he might have answered another persons prayers as well.  Hopefully I will be able to help this young man practice what he learned in rehab...

With Love From Zimbabwe,


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Michael W Smith came to Zimbabwe, FINALLY. There had been rumors that he was coming and plans for him to come before... but he never made it.  I think, it was worth the wait!

Nyasha and I were able to attend the concert with our friend and pastor, Lovejoy and his wife.  We had the opportunity to sit in the front row and that was an amazing blessing as Michael W Smith is Nyasha's favorite.  I kept saying that I didn't think I would know many of the songs... but I knew almost all of them.  His worship is like the soundtrack to my faith journey in a lot of ways and it was a lovely lovely night.

Even when we were waiting in the forever long queque to get in, we were having fun.  I was able to see and catch up with so many people that I have been missing!  What a reminder of how full my life really is here.

My heart had been quite sad and lonely as often happens when I return from the States.  I miss my family and my friend and the country that will always be mine. This helped tremendously... I forgot how much I love to worship along side of this man. Nyasha challenges me, and always helps me to see how God is working in my life for HIS glory <3 br="br">

As I left the worship concert Sunday evening I felt so much more prepared to face the crazy changes that are about to take place in my life!!

Please keep Nyasha, Ruthie and myself in your prayers!

With Love From Zimbabwe,


Monday, August 20, 2012

A new friend recently messaged me to say that he had read my blogs, from the beginning all the way through to the most recent one, which I have to say, is not very recent. Around the same time I started clearing out some old pictures from my cell phone, which has been with me in Zimbabwe for the past 3 or more years. Together these rather unrelated events caused me to stop and reminisce about the “good old days” of my life here in Africa.

Those of you who know me well already know this, adjusting to life in Harare (the capital) of Zimbabwe, has not been easy for me. The years I spent in Mkhosana (a ghetto near Victoria Falls) and the rural areas surrounding it are treasured memories. Sometimes I ache for the days when I walked long, red dirt roads just to see which children God would bring me to.

My life is different now, things are a bit more scheduled and organized and I often have to “clean myself up” for meetings with people who are important in the world of humanitarian aid. My degrees and my “unusual” experiences of living with poorer people of Zimbabwe allow me to help people develop programs that hopefully will prove more helpful to the people who need it.

I have made a commitment to make a life here in Zim, and it is a beautiful place with beautiful people, however that doesn’t mean it is easy.

I am back here now, after some time away in which I was able to rest (a little) vacation with family (a little) and help my grandma move out of our family home and into her new adventure in a new community.

I am making my rounds, getting in touch with the people I work with, the people I socialize with and learning what has changed while I have been away… things change so quickly!

For better or worse, I am home!

With Love From Zimbabwe,


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ok, so now that Chik-Fil-A "Appreciation Day is over" I would like to share a little of my heart about this.  I am a Christian, and I try to be the best follower of Jesus I can.  This does not mean you can guess how I vote, nor what I believe.  Many of my Christian friends look at me as a liberal.  Many of my liberal friends think I am too conservative.  I believe the Bible to be true.  I believe it is a higher law, meaning I attempt to follow what is expected of me in the Bible even if the laws of the land are more lenient.  I don't feel like I get a free pass just because something isn't illegal.

I am a Christian. I believe it when Jesus said that the GREATEST commandment is to love God and the second GREATEST commandment is to love everyone else as much as I love me.  I am not perfect. I screw that up every day, BUT the greatest thing about Christianity is that I am afforded grace to cover my EVERY mistake. 

I am a Christian.  I didn't eat at Chik-Fil-A yesterday.  I drove past one, and I could have. But I chose not to.  I am not boycotting Chik-Fil-A.  If I boycotted every corporation that said or did something I thought was ugly or immoral I would have to be naked, hungry and dirty pretty much all the time (I am a terrible gardener and a worse seamstress).  I didn't eat at Chik-Fil-A yesterday because I felt that my job as a Christian is to help people meet Jesus and love Him like I do.  I feel like the only way I can do that is to love... in a way that seeks out those who might not know him over those who already do.  That's the whole 99 for the 1 thing for those of you who are into the Bible.  I love my gay friends, as much any other friends. I am going to say something that will irritate some of my conservative Christian friends... I believe in equal rights on EVERY LEVEL.  I think everyone has the right to be married.  NO MATTER WHAT. Now, I said earlier that I follow a higher law.  There are laws in my countries (USA and Zimbabwe) that allow me to do things I think are immoral... so I try not to do those things, but I do not feel I have a right to say that MY MORALITY should dictate the choices of others.  I am a firm believer that if the law alone dictates my actions, it's not all that pleasing to God anyway... but if love for HIM dictates my choices then it pleases Him greatly.  For example, pre-marital sex is legal in the USA and in Zimbabwe, but I feel that it pleases God greatly that Nyasha and I have chosen NOT to have sex until we are married (He's not on FB or else he'd be blushing right now) If having pre-maritial sex were illegal and we made the same choice, it's not really anything special because even those who don't follow Jesus follow most laws.  Do you get my train of thought? Following a law doesn't make a Christian, following Jesus does... I think Christians should be more interested in helping people follow Jesus than creating/enforcing laws that will be broken anyway.

Ok that was a tangent, but here is my summary.
*I am Christian.
*I love "the gays" as my grandma would say.
*I also love the straights. I love the liberals and the conservatives... although sometimes it's hard to love either of them.  I love the blacks and the whites and the Asians and the Indians and the Latinos. 
* I believe Chik-Fil-A's owners have the right to believe whatever they want.  So does Jim Henson, JCPenny's Ben & Jerry's and anyone else who cares to share their beliefs.
*I believe people have the right to fund organizations that they like, even if i don't like those organizations.
* I believe life is too short to examine everything with a fine tooth comb which means sometimes i might spend money at a place that funds something I don't care about or that I don't like. Forgive me.
***I believe that Christianity is about love not hate... that means that even if I don't agree with you and your choices (pre-maritial sex or whatever else) your desires ( over eating) or choice in life partner (an abusive man) I feel like my best choice is to love you through it, not to make a blanket statement that will hurt you.
*I didn't eat at Chik-Fil-A yesterday, but I didn't judge those that did either. I know many people chose to do so without hate in their heart.  For those that felt judged while drinking your sweet tea, I hope you will use your Christian heart to forgive.

So I am a Christian. I believe we all have the right to say what we think, although sometimes I think it's beneficial not to.  I believe that everyone in the USA should have the same liberties, (it wasn't that long ago when my upcoming marriage to a black man would have been called illegal and immoral and he's the most moral and decent person I know) and I will continue to eat at Chik-Fil-A, although I made a conscience decision not to yesterday because it was such an emotional hotbed that I can't imagine how my gay friends could look at me eating that yummy chicken sandwich and see the love that is in my heart...and the love in my heart will always be the most important thing, maybe because I believed it when Jesus said it was a pretty great commandment, and I also believed it was the only way people would be able to identify me: not by my politics or tattoos, but by my love. 

John 13:34-35
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”