When Fraser and Carol Adams (Scotland), Alex and Maureen Blair (Scotland), Felix Rohner, Pastor Harold, Rob Bristow, Paul and myself arrived at the church it was dark and rather chilly but we were excited for what was ahead of us. After Pastor Stuart led us in prayer we divided ourselves up between the 3 cars each pulling a trailer packed to the brim and headed north.
From the very outset, we felt that God was with us and we were covered with prayer. We had a problem with the electrical connection on one trailer. We sent out a prayer request to our cell group and when we stopped for breakfast just outside Polokwane, Felix decided to empty the boot and found an adapter with the spare tyre – problem solved!
We arrived at the border at about 12. Harold and Rob managed to persuade the officer that they were “Madala’s” and so needed to skip the queue and then with a bit of persuasion we were all able to join him! However, the Zimbabwe side was another story! 5 Visas were required which took rather a long time and then as we were paying the insurance etc., they decided to go to lunch and so had to wait for next shift to come on duty. We eventually cleared customs after 3pm and headed for Bulawayo. Just over the border we met Rob’s brother, a citrus farmer. He donated several pockets of oranges to hand out later on our trip. We were waived through all the police road blocks which was also an answer to prayer.
Unfortunately, due to the delay at the border, we travelled the last hour of our journey to Bulawayo in the dark. The road is very narrow and many cows, donkeys and goats roam freely so were very relieved when we arrived in Bulawayo without any incidents. We went straight to Bulawayo Baptist where we off-loaded the Holiday Club material as well as items for the Street Kids Ministry. After more than 14 hours we were very glad to finally arrive at our host’s homes (Jeff and Tammy Scorziell and Ron and Jan Mauldin), to enjoy a good meal and relax before the business of the next day
We were allowed to sleep in just a little bit and met at the church at 9am. Here we met up with Colleen and Devon, 2 young American ladies who are doing an amazing work with boys who live on the streets. Since HBC was last in Bulawayo one of the guys has been baptized and they have started their own church service. Colleen and Devon are now renting a house and have 2 boys living with them and another 4 will be joining them soon. Those who were in the service when Pastor Stuart prayed for us will remember that 2 dentists on hearing that their patients were coming out to SA donated tooth brushes and tooth paste. Well, you should have seen Colleen and Devon’s faces light up when they saw them. It was just what they were praying for!!
The next person we met was Bishop Mudende who is heading up the Tonga Bible translation. The bicycles that have been donated are used for the translators to travel long distances through rough terrain and wild animals to visit the villages and collect language information to make the translation meaningful to the people. There are 5 dialects and each has a team of 3 working on each translation. This will then be collated into 1 Tonga translation. This is where the laptops that the Scottish church donated comes into play. At the moment, they are working on a written translation of Mark. One of their converts had to have his legs amputated due to infection. He is now making a huge impact on the community and we donated a wheel chair to enable him to move around. They still need another 5 bicycles and 5 laptops. They are also praying for solar panels to give light as well as charge the laptops in the rural areas.
Next on the agenda was Isaiah baby home This was started by Maria in 2005, It was originally for abandoned babies and their plan was to find “forever homes” for all the children but recently due to the economic situation very few homes have been found and so the home now caters for babies and school going children and the likelihood of them being adopted is very slim and this brings along a lot of different challenges. They particularly find medical issues financially challenging. Amongst other things, we gave them boxes of vitamins which help protect the children from colds and flu. They depend on donations from local churches to survive.
We went back to Ron and Jan for a lovely lunch and were able to catch our breath before we were on the road again.
Our next stop was Sandra Jones Centre for girls in crisis. Most of these girls have been sexually abused and 5 of them have babies as a result of this abuse. Some stay a short time and others much longer depending on when they have healed from their crisis. Many of the girls have no or very little education and so a training centre was started to train the girls so that when they leave they will be able to fend for themselves. The skills they learn include rearing chickens, both for meat and egg production, sheep, rabbits, growing vegetables, cooking, sewing, hair dressing, and crafts. The girls welcomed us with a song item and we handed out Easter eggs and lollipops. Each girl also received a package of toiletries. The Centre is run by an Australian lady, Debbie who was best friends with Sandra Jones who started the Centre. Harold handed over a laminated copy of Katie Francis’s story of how her mom was re-ununited with the daughter she had given up for adoption. (Jacqui had been adopted by Sandra Jones). You can read the story in the latest BUZZZ. Harold then played the famous, or is it infamous, numbers game with the girls. Each girl is given a number which matches an envelope. In each envelope is anything from US$ 1 to US$4. If your envelope has one dollar you are safe but if it has $2 you need to recite a Bible verse. If it is $3 then you have to sing a song and $4 means you have to dress up in Harold’s stunning hat, scarf and sun glasses and pose for the camera! I think most of the girls are very relieved if they just get the $1 envelope but all enjoy encouraging their friends. The girls sang for us again before we went on a tour of the home and grounds.
Our last visit for the day was Mark and Dorcus Nicholson. 10 years ago, they fostered 2 boys and a girl and today they have 11 children including the original three. They are endeavouring to teach the children that they are no longer victims but victors. They want to improve the children’s lives just as they have themselves, having come from dire circumstances. They are teaching the children that life is a journey with relationships and God has a destination for each of them and wants them to reach their full potential. Dorcus became aware that there were children fainting at school due to hunger so she started a school feeding scheme and cooks a meal for 75 children every day. The children learn scriptures and recited Psalms 23 and 91 to us! Precious and Nhlanhla shared a testimony with us and then we had a party to celebrate Precious’s 18th birthday as well as one of the boys. Amongst other items, we gave them an electronic keyboard and guitar. Next time we visit we hope they will lead us in some songs of worship!
After a full day, we headed back to our hosts and enjoyed a lovely meal and time of fellowship before heading for bed to be ready for another busy day.
We were on the road by 6:30 Saturday morning headed for Harare. We were not so lucky this time around with the police road blocks and both Harold and Paul were stopped twice. Fortunately, we were able to comply with their requests and so avoided being fined. We stopped at a lovely hotel/conference centre on the way – probably the only decent stop on the route, where we sat in the gardens and enjoyed tea and scones and sunshine. We passed 3 overturned wrecks on the way and were very grateful when we arrived safely in Harare.
Our first stop was the HQ of Karanda Mission Hospital. (The hospital itself is about 3 hours’ drive from Harare.) It was started by Dr. Stephens in 1961 under the auspices of TEAM. There is a tremendous need for good health care that is not exorbitantly expensive. Many of their patients travel from Harare for treatment. At present, there are 4 doctors and 2 more are joining the team in November. They also have a nurses training school, as well as a primary school for the children of the staff. They rear goats which they give to the HIV positive moms who then feed their babies goats milk instead of breast feeding which could infect the babies. Although they have many health programs their main aim is to share the Gospel with their patients.
Next, it was Harare Central Baptist where we met the Rafiki (meaning Friend) Girls. This is a skills school for orphans aged 18-25. They do a 9-month course which starts with 3 months of general training as well as Bible School. Then they choose to train in one of the following, hotel and catering, nursery school teaching, nursing, beauty, design and sewing or interior design. Many of these girls have gone on to become successful. One young lady is now an air hostess. Another who did teaching is now putting herself through University doing a teaching degree. The girls welcomed us with a song and after handing toiletries and sweets to them Harold once again had fun playing the numbers game. Before we left each girl was given a Bible.
It was now time to be collected by our various hosts and to again enjoy a delicious meal and good fellowship.
Sunday morning, we attended Harare Central Baptist where Pastor Harold and Fraser shared with the congregation about our Mission of Mercy. We then travelled to Harare East Church which meets in a school. The service is usually held in Shona but the pastor kindly did a bit of interpretation for us. After the service, we handed over several Shona Bibles for the pastor to distribute and spent some time with the folk handing out sweets and fruit. Before we knew it was time to head back to Bulawayo. The lights on our trailer had stopped working and so we sent out a prayer request again that we not be stopped to test the lights as this could have resulted in a hefty fine. We were stopped and fined but for not having a reflective strip on the double cab!!!
We were very glad to get back to Bulawayo safely after a donkey decided to cross the road in front of us! It was dusk and we only saw him at the last minute. We thank God there was no oncoming traffic as we had to swerve to the other side of the road to miss him. We had a lovely meal all together with our hosts.
Monday morning saw us back on the road, breezing through all the police stops and arriving at the border about 11:30. Zimbabwe side was simple this time but we arrived just after a busload of a Zimbabweans entering SA and so stood for about 2 hours waiting to re-enter. As always Harold was prepared and off he went to get us fruit juice and chips from his secret store.
Last stop on the itinerary was Tshipise hot water springs. We enjoyed a couple of hours in the hot pools and then shared a good dinner together reflecting on the past 4 days. Felix gave our Scottish friends a lesson on the Southern Hemisphere stars and we marvelled how great a God we have who created all of them.
We arrived back at the church about 2:30pm after a wonderful and blessed 5 days travelling 2800km We were sad to say goodbye to our new friends but hope to one day see them again either here in Africa or in Bonny Scotland.
After hearing many report backs of the Mission of Mercy it was so good to actually experience it and see how God is working in these various ministries and the church in Zimbabwe.