Crossing Borders into Zimbabwe
The border crossing into Zimbabwe was unexpectedly organized. In the que, Abrie made his usual jokes and we met Christians who invited us to come visit them if we’re ever in Zambia again.
Before we went through to Zimbabwe we had to dip our shoes in very filthy water which will “supposedly” prevent sicknesses from spreading. Then they wanted to look through some of our bags, so Abrie just grabbed the closest bags, sending Daniel and I with it to the search-through station. I was given Tobie’s bag, as the official was looking through, he gave me very strange looks about all the male clothes and supplies in my bag.
Seeing God’s Glory in the Victoria Falls
It was not long before we arrived at the Victoria Falls. As you walk towards them, you hear the rushing of tons of water falling down. The sight was incredible, it’s quite addictive to look at the water falling. It doesn’t only fall down, there’s also thousands of drops swirling up all the time. We enjoyed some coffee, eggs and rice cakes with the most amazing view. We met a gardener who sweeps with a broom made from big green leaves, his name was Forget and he proudly proclaimed that he is a born again Christian. It would be hard to not believe, when you’re surrounded with so much of God’s amazing power and breath-taking beauty in creation around you all day. We continued to walk along the falls through a lush green forest. At one of the stopping points, I was so focused on the falls that I did not realize I was off the path, until my whole shoe was already sinking down ankle deep into mud.
At the last point, when you look back over all of the falls, it’s a beautiful view with Lala palm trees across the streams. There was a double band rainbow in the gorge, a small fairy-like mountain with a small green tree and a starling flying in and out of it. Smokey mist was all around and it looked like magic to me. It’s probably wrong but I was wondering how Heaven could be better than this. How glorious is the work of our God and how wonderful is it to praise Him!
Visiting Zimbabwe’s Old Age Homes
Our host in a city of Zimbabwe was very helpful. Philippians 4, Matthew 5, the Lord’s Prayer and Matthew 6; especially verses 19-21 & 33-34 was a great encouragement in the old age homes.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:33-34
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
Our time here at the old age home, turned out to be some of the most blessed times of the mission. Talking and sharing the Gospel and encouraging the people from person to person was great. A lot of the old age home inhabitants were Jehovah’s Witnesses and we received many prayer requests.
God’s Guidance Through Prayer
One morning during our prayer meetings before the mission, Abrie gave us stories of people to pray for. I want to read W’s story for you:
“After Independence (1980) this couple and their son bought an undeveloped ranch in the south of Zimbabwe. In order to do this, the farm had to first be offered to government for resettlement. The government issued a ‘Certificate of No Interest’ which meant that it was not required for this purpose. The family then developed the farm: cattle ranching, a safari operation, and an extensive orange (18 000 trees) and mango (5000 trees) orchard.
In 2002 a group of approximately 50 invaders came to the ranch, cut the telephone lines and held the family hostage for six weeks, threatening them with knob-kerries and machetes. Only their guard dogs prevented the invaders from entering the homestead while the rest of the ranch was looted of everything moveable. The family managed to contact the Farmers’ Union Chairman who reported the matter to the police. When the police arrived the family was accused of making a false report and they left without offering any assistance. When their farm manager (whose wife, was three month pregnant, had been slapped and kicked), reported that he overheard the invaders talking about killing the family they made a decision to escape with their bare essentials. Only ten days later when they got back to the ranch, they discovered that, after their dogs had been rescued by an intrepid SPCA woman, everything had been vandalised and looted. They lost everything.
The ranch was appropriated by the local Member of Parliament, after he had kicked off the initial invaders.
Today the couple live in a retirement complex and depend on Bulawayo Help Network, SOAP, and whatever their family can afford, to subsist. They still suffer from the trauma of what happened to them, as was evident when they were interviewed, as does their family. Their grandson was 14 when they lost the farm and never went back to school; as his father could not afford it.
Addendum: Mrs W is now widowed and living in a small bedsit in a retirement complex under the same conditions.”
Our host in Zimbabwe, works for a charity that offers support to the elderly people impacted by the economic hardships. Goods and proceeds collected, are distributed to selected people in their private homes and to the retirement homes.
Our host took our team of three, Tobie, Talita and myself, to different old age homes and asked if we could come for visits over the next few days. We were warmly welcomed by everyone. At the first Old Age Home we were split up for specific visits, our host said: “There is a miss W that needs a visit”. I recognised her surname from the prayer letter and was eager to meet her.
We arrived at her gate, just as she was walking in with 2 big buckets of water. She was a tiny old lady with a love for her flower garden. Our host introduced me and she kindly invited me in. We sat in her small living/bedroom and drank some guava juice. She showed me photos of her children and grandchildren. She then told her story. It was different to hear it from her directly: How they bought a farm with nothing on it, how hard they worked to build it up. How their farm was doing well and they were receiving the fruits from their labour, then the government took it away with force. They had nothing left except for a small pension her husband received from S.A. He passed away a few years ago and since then she doesn’t even get that little money anymore. She misses him a lot.
When I asked how she is handling it and how she’s doing spiritually, this was her reply: “Sometimes I get bitter. But it doesn’t help. You can work your whole life long for something and still have nothing left. I can’t understand God’s plans.”
We read Matthew 6:19 and talked about earthly and Heavenly treasures. No matter what, God’s Grace is always sufficient. She concluded that even though she gets bitter it doesn’t help. God is in control, we can’t understand His plans and sometimes we shouldn’t try to. If He takes care of the flowers and the birds, how much more for His children. She said she’s looking forward to go to Heaven, where she believes her husband is also.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
We prayed together. When I greeted her she said God guided me there. It is wonderful to see His hand in our lives. We see His victory and Glory in the fact that miss W had not lost her faith. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Job 13:15
Encouraging others through Scripture and Prayers
Then Tobie, Talita and I went to a neighbouring Old Age Home. The “Majors” (nurses from the Salvation Army) told us that we must please visit everyone. If we only visit some, the rest will get jealous and sad. There were 32 people, so we aimed to each reach about 11 people.
As I walked out the first place I visited, I saw Tobie talking to three men. I was just thinking how great it was and that this way we will be able to visit everyone, when they called me over to join the conversation. We talked about the importance of God’s Word to be our guidance in life and asked if there’s any prayer requests.
One semi-blind Oom replied: “Yes, I need patience. The nurses here sometimes make me so mad. I have diabetes, so my blood sugar goes up very high, when I get too mad, I can go in a coma. So the nurses tell me that I must have patience. Then I tell them; ‘I’m not a doctor! I do not have patients!’ “ So we prayed.
Then I visited an uncle and read Matthews 6 to him. His vision was so bad, he was not able to read his Bible anymore. I was very touched when he said, with tears in his eyes “please pray that I will die with Christ in my heart”.
He asked me to please seriously talk with the Salvation Army leaders, to ban smoking from this old age House, he said “this must be a Holy Place, we have church and three prayer meetings a day, they should not be allowed to smoke here!”
One of the ladies I visited, said she really struggled to stop smoking “I know it’s bad for me and that my body is the temple of God, but it’s hard”, I prayed with her for strength to stop smoking. Tobie also visited a man who also asked for prayer to stop smoking.
Another lady suffers from diabetes and is also not able to read her Bible anymore. She gave me her Shona Bible and asked me to read; I read Philippians 4 to her, not being sure that my Shona pronunciation was right, but she was very grateful. It was sad to hear how many people in these homes can’t read their Bibles anymore, some of them said they have nurses who come and read for them, but a lot of them said there is no one who can read to them.
Art Session on the Mission
QM House has a beautiful flower garden. Our team joined their residents in the art class. O, said she organize the Art classes “just to keep their minds busy”. She told me how many of the elderly people’s children moved to different countries because of their circumstances in Zimbabwe. Some of the children just leave their elderly parents behind without looking back.
Talita sat next to Mrs C. Her children moved to Australia. She said “they do not send me their address, they do not call and I can’t send tem letters…”
Visiting a Jockey
After the Art session, I walked through the garden past a woman on a bench. She wore a T-shirt with Castle beer’s logo and was busy lighting up a cigarette. A bit unsure, I greeted her. She friendly greeted back and we started talking. Her name is Di and she told me about a place in Zimbabwe that we should visit. We went to her room so she could show me were, on the map, to find it.Next to her bin on the floor, was rows of neatly packed empty beer bottles... The rest of her room was full of photos of horses and animal statues and books. I did not see a Bible anywhere. We share the same love for animals, nature, books and even the same writers. She told that she has been horse riding since she was four and she’s been a jockey her entire life. They moved from England to Africa and also lost their farm.
Then the lunch bell rang and she left. I had not shared the Gospel yet and asked if I can sit with her. During lunch, the people talked about Zimbabwe and some of its beautiful places that’s not being maintained and conserved anymore. Overall they agreed that even when things go bad, those who believe in Christ can look forward to a better life to come. When dessert was finished, people got up and went back to their rooms.
Now I got scared that she would also leave, so I quickly asked if she reads her Bible. “Nooo, I’ve never been a very religious person.” she replied, even though all the things in nature that she appreciates so much, like horses, were made by our Creator.
We read the part in Job about horses, she loved it. Then we read the crucifixion from Matthew 27. She was eager to hear more. When asked if she has a Bible she replied “Yes but it’s stored somewhere, I don’t even know where?” She was thrilled with the Bible we gave her and said she would love to read it.
A Christian lady sat with us and afterwards and told how the jockey lady has been a difficult person since the day she came into the old age home, she’s only been there a few months and she gives the nurses trouble, by being disobedient and wanting to do her own thing, her own way, all the time. “She doesn’t listen to people, but today we saw how God can work. I will continue to share the Gospel with her.”
Rejoicing through Troubles and Trials
I had the privilege of visiting an elderly couple. Throughout the years, they had to move four times because the farms they worked on, were looted and taken away with force. For eight years, they lived in a castle (literally) together with their three children and then were forced out of it. Today there’s not much left. The invaders sledgehammered most of it, for no clear reason.
As a boereseun, the Oom grew up on a farm with ox wagons. He built a beautiful ox wagon by himself. It’s from a real “pattern” but 12 times smaller.
These people went through so many trials, they had to flee from their farms four times. All their life savings disappeared and their youngest son died last year.
Still the joy they had was incredible. They were laughing and making jokes all the time. They even gave me a beautiful old map of Zimbabwe. In everything they said, it was clear that they find their joy in the Lord, we read the Bible and prayed together.
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
Christ sympathizes with our weaknesses and in times of need, we must boldly pray to the Throne of Grace. Please pray for those who lost their farms and for those who are being persecuted in Zimbabwe. Pray that they will not lose hope, but look unto Christ. Pray for D and the charity who is working hard to help these people.
Alieske van’t Foort
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
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