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Zimbabwe 2016

Menlo Church

Days 10-12: Safaris and “See you Laters”

dscn2735This marks the final post for our Zimbabwe mission trip as we took time to process what we had experienced thus far and prepared ourselves for the journey home.

After  taking a day to do a bit of souvenir shopping and catch up on emails from home, we set out to the village of Chegutu, the place where our kids were from.  As we hopped out of the van, we were greeted by a multitude of smiling faces, many of whom we had seen the week before.  The children were gathered for an assembly at Pastor Erasmus’ school.  Our team had the privilege of seeing the children recite various poems and verses they had memorized as well as give performances of various songs and dances they rehearsed. Our group sat back and marveled at how well each child did.  Soon, it was our turn to sing.  We hoped to give a taste of camp for the kids that weren’t able to join us in the week.  Many of the kids joined us at the front to belt out some of their favorites!imag0454

After the gathering, we then took a tour of the local village, and got to see some of the homes. I was moved by seeing the conditions of this town.  These children’s lives look very different than my own growing up, and I am thanking that they have loving, Godly leaders locally that seek to give every one of these kids whatever they need to succeed.  A highlight for many in our group was seeing David’s home.  He gave a tour of his home and we spotted all of the crafts he created during our week with him. I’m so thankful to have been able to meet David and to be able to see a glimpse of his life!

After our tour, we said our “see you laters” and took a few pictures to commemorate the moment. It will be hard to leave them all behind!

Our final portion of the trip was at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge, were we spent our remaining days reflecting on our experience and focusing on what ways God may be working on us.  It is important for us to not let our experience fizzle out once we return home. In addition to this reflection time, we took advantage of the many activities the facility offered.  This included a sunset safari tour, a horseback riding adventure, and an elephant encounter! We also took moments to hang out with the resident giraffe, Jasmine, who frequently roamed on the main lodge grounds and dined on the trees and the feed provided by the lodge.

At the airport, we were surprised to see ALL of the local leaders for one last ‘See you Later’ before boarding our flight back home.  We are very thankful to see such amazing people leading in God’s great work.  They have been amazing to work with and know that they all have big things ahead of them.

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We just wanted to say thank you for all of your prayers and support throughout our trip. We certainly have needed them and have felt them continuously.  Going into all of this, I didn’t know what to expect. I was anxious to see what will come of the trip. I now know that Zimbabwe is in the hands of many leaders that God has appointed: Leaders that have learned over the years the God is in control no matter what circumstances may bring. I pray that those leaders continue God’s great work and that God blesses everyone we had the pleasure to meet. I pray that God will look out for the children that still have many needs ahead of them.  I pray for changes in the country at large that affect the lives of all of its residents. Finally, I pray for all of the team members, that God would continue to work in us and reveal to us his plan to use our experiences for his good.

I will certainly miss everyone, and I look forward to the time we meet them again.

-O’Neal

 

Day 9

Our second Sunday gave us the opportunity to sleep in a little which was very helpful as we were all rather tired physically and emotionally!  During our team devotional under the msasa trees, O’Neal shared God’s word from Habakkuk, the minor prophet who was complaining to God about injustice. It was a chance to share our questions and sadness about the injustice in Zimbabwe and the suffering of many, especially the children.  Hanna wondered why she was born into safety and privilege while the children at camp found themselves in such hard circumstances.

The welcome we received at Highfield Nazarene Church was wonderfully warm and we entered into their worship with great joy. Even the smallest Shona children seem to learn to worship with their bodies at a very early age as evidenced by the church treasurer’s 3 year old daughter dancing with gusto and skill in front of us, copying her older sister in the youth praise team. Bill, the guest preacher, brought the Word to us from Acts 11. Many verbalized their appreciation of his excellent points about making godly decisions.

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After lunch in town, we headed to the last Hands of Hope home we would visit this time. The small house was in a “high density” suburb of Harare called Glenora. Highfield Nazarene led by Pastor Mutatu, is the supporting church and pays all the running costs including food, utilities and school fees for the children. The two youngest children (approximately one and four years old) are siblings who were abandoned by their mother at a local hospital. The oldest boy, 17 yr old Servius, is studying to be a car mechanic at a college which rents space at his church.  The main care-giver or “Aunty” is an amazing woman whose heart for children is clearly from God!  We had fun doing some crafts with the children and finished our visit with a time of encouragement and prayer. Geraldin shared from Jeremiah 29:11 that God has plans for us of a future filled with hope, something so vital for the children to know and remember.

The team was happy to make it back to Habitation in time to climb the balancing rocks (the highest point of the property) to watch the gorgeous African sunset as a huge red ball sinking below the horizon.  After dinner and a good game of Hearts we sank into bed, so grateful for another day to thank and praise God for his goodness and love. Like Habakkuk, even though we don’t understand why the injustice and suffering continue here we “will rejoice in the Lord!” (Hab 3:18)

Tomorrow, Monday, we will meet with Dave Rousseau, the interim executive director of Hands of Hope to learn more about the ministry. It will also be our shopping day and our last day of Internet access before flying home so the next 4 days will be posted on our return. Tuesday, we will drive to Chegutu to visit our camp children in their village prior to beginning our 2 days of debrief time.

We thank you for your continued prayers and following our blog!

– Christine

Day 8

Today was a hard day for all of us as we had to say goodbye to the leaders and many of the kids we had the privilege of meeting this week.  We began the morning eating breakfast waiting for the kids to finish their breakfast after packing their things.  Once everyone was done with their meal, we spent some time taking pictures as a group outside.  This was a bittersweet time for us as we all had fun taking the pictures, yet we knew that this would be the last time we would see most of the local leaders we worked with. The local leaders would not join us on our camp outing as they were headed home after a long week. We will miss them all!DSCN2622

After pictures, we and the kids packed into the vans and headed to the Lion and Cheetah Park for a field trip (p.s.  There were NO cheetahs at the park).  The Lion and Cheetah Park was a highlight for me as we drove into the park on various trails with many animals walking around us.  The first section contained all of the lions in which we were told there were 17 of them.  As soon as someone found the first lion, we all rushed toward the windows with our cameras!  Soon after, we wandered into the second area where the park kept all of the other animals (They don’t want the lions to hunt them) including zebra, warthogs, wildebeest, monkeys, impalas and other animals I didn’t recognize.  In this section, we were allowed to leave our vehicles to take pictures.  One highlight was a small rocky section with ancient cave paintings.  It was a joy to experience this with all of the kids!

Later on, we all gathered to eat lunch in the company of some other animals in the park including giraffes, monkeys, a Galapagos tortoise, nile crocodiles and hyenas. We all cherished this time with the children as this would be the final chance to spent time with the kids before parting ways.  By the mid-afternoon, we had tearful goodbyes as the kids headed back to their town of Chegutu.  I personally had a very heavy heart as I didn’t expect to connect with them as much as I did.

We spent the remaining time of the day visiting another home.  This time, we got to meet Pastor Peter and the children under his care.  Peter is an amazing person who spends his time planting churches in many countries while taking care of many children in his home.  We got the opportunity to hear Peter’s amazing life story about how God called him to a life of service despite a rocky childhood.  I must admit, I was very inspired by his story of God’s protection and direction in his life.

I am so thankful to be able to meet so many people passionate about the huge needs around them and I am so happy that each one of these leaders has decided to answer God’s call for their lives.  I hope and pray they will be provided will all of the provisions they need to continue their good work.

-O’Neal

Day 7

Dear all,

I am writing after our final full day of camp with the kids. Our theme of the day today was power (i.e. how God gives us power through the Holy Spirit). The Bible story today was The Great Commission and Jesus’s ascension to heaven. O’Neal deserves a huge round of applause for being the Bible Story drama/skit director. It has been a joy to watch him work with the fabulous local team to make these stories come to life for the kids.

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We had a fantastic water balloon fight with the kids this morning, team building games this afternoon, and amazing closing ceremonies this evening: complete with music, a fashion show, skits, gifts, birthday cake, and a talent show. It was a long night and we were all very tired, but I don’t think anyone wanted it to end.  DSCN2542

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I’m so glad that I get to write about our grand finale day of camp because I am going to use it as an excuse to write some reflections about the all of camp. I am just overjoyed with how God knit everything together this week. So often I want to control outcomes through preparation and contingency planning, but His plan is so much greater. I felt a deep sense of purpose and weight this week, knowing what a highlight of the year camp is for these kids. They are so eager to learn songs and scripture. They soak up every game and every skit. With that sense of purpose, came some responsibility and pressure to perform well. It took some constant reminders from God that He is in control and He has a plan, for that weight to be lifted off me so that I could be present in the moment and enjoy our time with the kids. I thought maybe because it was my second year here with the kids that some of the wonder and joy of the experience would be dampened, but no. Singing and dancing with these children is still up there in the top three best things I have done in my life, no question.

Fourteen children received Jesus into their hearts for the first time this week. It has been a wonderful collaborative effort between our two teams, and it is clear that God has been the author of it all.

Love,

Katie

Day 6

IMG_5806The theme for this day was about how Jesus loves us, with our daily theme verse being from 1 John 3:16 “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us”. O’Neal produced a very elaborate skit about the crucifixion of Jesus which illustrated the sacrificial love Jesus had for us by dying on the cross.

Maxwell then made another appearance in the puppet theater, talking about how his teacher had gone back into the cave to rescue one of the students who had been caught in a rock slide and ended up getting a broken arm out of it. This was an example of sacrificing one’s own safety for another out of love.

During our group time, we discussed the sacrifice Jesus made for us and why. We then offered those who weren’t yet Jesus followers to make a commitment, and we had 4 kids in our group make decisions to follow Jesus! Praise God!

The rest of the morning was again filled with games and crafts.

I want to back up to Wednesday when we had an event that was very special for me. For the last couple of years, we’ve conducted sessions for the older boys and girls to go over topics related to sexuality and becoming men and women. The reason this is important is that many of these kids don’t have anyone speaking to them about these topics, especially the boys who don’t have dads in their lives. This year, the theme was challenging the guys to join the newly-created “Chegutu Heroes Club”. Membership has 4 requirements: good moral character, knowing how to love others, knowing who you are (in God), and knowing what your mission is. I encouraged the boys to find another friend to team up with since it works better to do this with someone else who can hold them accountable and also encourage them. Afterward, we had them write any questions they had about sexuality and relationships with women, and EVERY boy wrote something. We spent the next 30 minutes answering their questions. It was a GREAT session!

The girls had a similar session hosted by Christine and Virginia, Gari’s wife.

The local leaders here are awesome. There are eight of them, and as we would do our preparations for the next day’s crafts, we would be listening to them sing wonderful acapella harmonies as they rehearsed their songs!

 

Thanks for checking in!

– Curt

Day 5

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Today, we also enjoyed seeing Maxwell learn about how God gives us direction in our lives and how we can trust Him in all our ways. We played games with the children and also made some lamps out of clear cups and colored paper. Inside the children will all get a little glow stick to light up the colored paper and be able to walk with it to their rooms at night, which will be really fun to watch.

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One of the special highlights for me yesterday was when we went to our small groups with the children. Since the first day in our groups we have been trying to make relationships with the kids and let them get to know us and us get to know them. They have been fairly quiet in that sense, but yesterday when O’Neal talked a little bit about a time when he had to make an important decision, three children started opening up about their stories and how they have struggled. It was a very touching moment and after we all prayed together.

Each day seems as though I get more and more attached to them, and I know it will be a very hard goodbye. The children are wonderful and very happy despite the conditions and experiences they have all had to endure. Each day in our small groups with them we have been praying and also just teaching them that prayer is powerful. I find myself not being able to do anything other than just wanting to pour out love to the kids. There was a child that is 14 years old, and after the games, as we walked back to the camp to go get ready for dinner, he walked with me holding my hand and asked me to please never forget him. It broke my heart, and I don’t think I could ever forget any of these children. Later, as I sat around watching all the kids play, I was with three little girls, All of a sudden, I had about 25 children all surrounding me! They wanted me to teach them Spanish and they are so quick to learn. We were having so much fun laughing and enjoying each others company. They were trying to teach me Shana, but I was not nearly as good as them.IMG_5793

This is an amazing experience. To see how even though we encounter troubles and we can encounter different kinds of troubles, God is always in control and uses every situation so that we can be closer to Him and so we can glorify His name.

These are amazing children, and I just ask that you pray for everyone of them-so that God is always taking care of them and helps them grow into even more amazing human beings.

Love, Geraldin

Day 4

Today during our VBS time, our theme was courage. Our Bible story was about Jesus and Peter walking on water. The very creative drama featured the Sea of Galilee with a blue tarp, a cardboard boat, and a great cast of characters depicting the disciples.DSCN2338DSCN2339

Our puppet show, featuring “Maxwell” the entertaining monkey, showed him needing courage to be able to enter a cave. Eventually, his “classmate” encouraged him with prayer that Jesus would be with Maxwell, so things would be OK for him.

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We have split our camp into four teams, each picking a team cheer in which we worked on. Each team has a color that in most cases helped with the mascot name. Christine and I, along with Stewart (a local leader), have the youngest kids 8-10yr olds. These kids are surprisingly attentive and seem to capture the memory verse each day rapidly. I think their minds are trained for memorization!

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This time, I am focusing on really working on my listening skills. This is partly because the accents of the locals are very strong and conversations in the dining hall are difficult because the acoustics are very poor. I want to make sure that I can hear every word of the stories they tell us! The local staff is just terrific, willing to do most anything very spontaneously, so I am very grateful for all of them.  I am looking forward for the rest of this week’s VBS and what God has in store.

Until next time, Bill

 

 

 

 

Day 3

Hello, everyone. I am Hanna from Japan so please excuse any mistakes in my English.  I am so happy that I spend time with amazing people in here.

Today we started bible school. In this week, we are going to tell children that “Jesus is the light of the world.”  Before we started the bible school, our missionary team and local team had a meeting. We will share our own testimony every day from each group. From our team, Geraldin shared her testimony, and from local team, Gari shared his story today. Also one of our teammates Bill talked about God.  After we finished meeting, children were divided to 4 teams by ages (Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green.)  I was assigned an older team with Curt and Abby.  After we separated with groups, we decided our team name with children. Our team color is blue and name is “Blue Birds!” It’s cool, right?

In the bible school, we have a theme each day. Today’s theme was “Jesus gives us hope.”
We sang one English song “Deep down in my heart” and one Shona song. Everyone enjoyed singing and dancing. I heard many children sang “Deep down in my heart “ while we played games or walked. They love it! Children learned about “Parable of the Hidden Treasure.” There was a guy who found a treasure from his field. He was so happy and wanted to buy the field to keep treasure so he sold everything what he had in order to get money for field. This story shows that our treasure is Jesus and we need him.
There was a puppet show. A main character Maxwell, who is a monkey, was afraid of going to the cave with his school trip because of many reasons, but his classmate suggested him to rely on God and he prayed for Max. Finally he finds hope!  After that, children separated by team and talked about God from skit and bible story.
Then we went to games and crafts. During craft time we made a heart with the picture of the world  being held by God’s hands and the children enjoyed coloring so much. The children also planted beans in cotton wool in a cup and   when the children see them growing they will be able to see how God gives us life.

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Children played three legged soccer (see picture!).  It was very difficult to have good steps with partners but they loved it! One more game was the potato sack race.

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Today’s dinner, we had Sadza which is a traditional food in Africa. It is made from corn. It was the first time for me to try it. Pastor taught me how to eat it by hand and I tried it! I thought Sadza is soft but it’s not. It was sticky and I love it!! I enjoyed eating Sadza by hand. During dinner time, I talked with pastor and local team members about Japan. It was a very good time. Everyone in here is so friendly and kind. They smile all the time and care of others a lot. When I am with them, I feel so happy!

Day 2

After good rest, Sunday morning was ushered in by the beautiful chorus of weaver birds in and round the nests in the trees outside our cottages. A hearty breakfast was followed by a time of group devotion thanking and praising God for his love, protection and provision. We know He is at work here in Zimbabwe and we have come to experience Him and be partner with our hosts who are ministering to some of the most needy in a country wracked by economic and political turmoil.

As mentioned, we attended our first church service at a local church plant in an “informal settlement” called Green Valley.  The poverty there is so great that residents even dug up sand from the land around the church to sell to be able to feed their families!  The faithful congregation of about 100 meets under a makeshift awning held up by poles to allow for a little shade.(see photo in Day 1) Thankfully a cool breeze made us very comfortable as we worshipped.  The church is pastored by our Hands of Hope host, Gari Masuka. The visiting preacher, Curt, brought a challenging word about the obstacles that get in the way of a deeper walk with Jesus which seemed to strike home. Even Zimbabweans are struggling with technology now as many have cell phones and go on Facebook when their sim cards have enough juice!

After lunch we had our first Internet stop at the office in town. The streets were unusually empty as we passed through, probably because of the presence of the extra riot police we saw. The previous week court-sanctioned protests about the government’s inability to improve the economy had been met with armed police resistance and tear gas.

Next we visited a Hands of Hope home in a “low density” (upper income”) suburb. The large home and beautifully tended garden was run by a couple acting as foster parents to six orphan girls. It was a treat to play with the girls and learn about their stories. Thank God for the church that partners with HoH to provide for the girls and cover the expenses of running the home.

Returning to Habitation of Hope (the property purchased by HoH) we were so excited to find that the 50 children who would be in our VBS had arrived from their village. After dinner we met the children briefly as well as the young local leaders who would be partnering with us for a wonderful week of camp together. We are in joyful anticipation of what God will be doing in and through us! Please pray that He will be glorified in all we do and that the love of Jesus will be clearly shown to the children!

Grateful beyond words, Christine

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