Wednesday, January 21, 2009


One of my life goals is simplicity.

And George Herbert did it again in my QT: this poem just stood out (the last quatrain of "The Wreath.")

Give me simplicity, that I may live,
So live and like, that I may know Thy ways,
Know them and practise them: then shall I give
For this poor wreath, give Thee a crown of praise.

He just gets right to the heart of life. The poem starts off declaring that he wants to offer a wreath of praise to the Lord, and as he ponders the crooked windings of his life, he realizes that the detours are more like death and life should be a straight bee-line to the Lord. Simple, direct, no deceit. And he finishes with knowing and practising "Thy ways"--and the wreath becomes a crown.

Makes me realize how much more I have to learn about this complicated process of living. Simplicity still seems the avenue of choice.

Monday, January 19, 2009

the end of the trip

Well, it was a longer break than I expected, but here I am.

After five conference days of more food than we needed at each meal and many opportunities to reconnect with friends one-on-one, it was Saturday morning and time to retrace our trip back north.

The South African border was a breeze this time: leaving is much easier than getting in. The border official told us to "have a nice flight." The atmosphere changed radically on the Zim side of the border: the lines were listless. Many desks were empty and we were shuffled from line to line, regardless of the sign above the person's head. Once through we hit the road and we were stopped at even more police checks going north than we had been coming south. We didn't count, but I would guess around 20 police road blocks, just to check our vehicle import permit, driver's license, etc. They can get picky enough to match your engine numbers with the ones on you car papers, but we weren't subjected to such scrutiny. Why? They are hungry and they want something: nearly all asked what we had brought them from SA.

We spent the night near the border with friends, Les and Doreen, who willingly open their home to traveling missionaries. They were a blessing and their pool was refreshing after a hot day in the car.

Sunday we started home after daybreak. No trouble through the borders, no trouble in fact, until about 150 km from home: then we hit the MotherLode potholes. There were lots of potholes that day and we missed all but two of them. But those two in quick succession blew out our two right tires. See the photo in the post below. Fortunately we were within cell phone coverage (most of that road isn't)l and we called for help. Good friend Brian came out with son Philip and our son Luke with a second spare tire. Phil had already changed the first. Then continuing on home, another pothole did in a third tire. So began the long and tiresome attempt to find a place to fix one of the flat ones: all 3 rims were bent, however, We ended up going back to Q, getting another spare from our friend who lent the first one, and hauling it back out again.

I stayed in town with Bell and enjoyed dinner at Hilton's house while the guys went back out on their errand of mercy. Friends are indispensable in Africa--something Africans have known for a very long time. As I mentioned, the guys finally got home around midnight. It was strange, being within an hour and a half of home (at 3:30 p.m.) and then not getting home until late.

We were blessed to have cell phone coverage, friends willing to drive literally hundreds of kilometers, a neighbor who lent his car's tires, and plenty of water to drink on that hot and dusty road.

Much to be thankful for. Much indeed. And now we thank Him for rain because this land has been parched while we were gone. The little rice seedlings in our garden withered and dried up. We hope this is not reflective of the whole province. But the rain is blissful. Amen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

return through Zimbabwe

Sunday around midnight, after the weekend in the car, the last members of the family finally arrived home. Let me back up and tell you how we made it.

On the 4th we started the two day trip to South Africa through Zimbabwe, once the bread basket of southern Africa. Sounds like a painfully trite expression, but it is true. Seeing the current situation in Zim first-hand was painful. We used to go there to stock up on goodies we couldn't buy in Mozambique. One journalist described hundreds of dead donkeys (roadkill of the semi trucks shipping goods through to countries north of Zim), we only encountered three--and one cow. She also mentioned people begging along the roadside, we saw none. She warned of cholera victims with their IVs at the border crossing. We missed the melodrama. But Zimbabwe is on her knees nonetheless. Anything we wanted to purchase including the many taxes we pay at the border: (visa $45 per person, road tax $10, carbon tax $21. bridge tax $20, gov't "insurance" $30) all had to be paid in US dollars or SA rands. Zimbabwean money has no value and most shops will not accept them.

It was heart-breaking to see the normally jolly, extroverted Zimbabweans listless and exhausted from the toll of their brutal dictator. Believe me, the relief of entering into South Africa was palpable. Also noticeable was that we were charged no taxes and other trumped up fees to support a gov't in free fall. But we did wait several hours in the noonday sun (and have the burns to prove it) in the lengthy line of people eager to leave Zim behind. The line meandered out the immigration door, around the courtyard, through another leg of the building and out into the parking lot where we began the vigil.

Late Monday afternoon we arrived at where we would enjoy the four days of conference: a resort with warm baths. Aahh. But better than the pools was the fellowship with our Zimbabwean missionary friends who have been through many crises this past year.

More later. Must post this and get going on lunch. (Had an interruption I wasn't expecting.)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

a trip through Zimbabwe

Tomorrow we travel to our annual conference with our colleagues from Zimbabwe. Since the situation there is so dire, the conference will be held in South Africa. The oddities of African geography mean that the fastest way for us to get there is to drive into the eastern border of Zim, through the heart, and out the south. In normal times, this would be a piece of cake, and we would congratulate ourselves on avoiding impassable Mozambican roads.

The times are not normal. The infrastructure is crashing down in Zim, cholera is spreading, and desperate starving people are everywhere. This we get from the news on the internet. My heart is in my feet as I anticipate this trip. Check out personal accounts of the border crossing at Beitbridge for an idea of what is ahead.

It will be a two-day trip for us (one way) and we will be carrying our own drinking water and fuel to get through the country. I know the poverty is going to devastate me. (Isabel and I have taken measures to try and share Gods love--we'll tell you if it works.)

Please pray that we will not be fearful or unmindful of our blessings. We return, Lord willing, on the 12th. I look forward to sharing what I have seen and heard with you.

What a good time to rejoice in all we have to be thankful for.

Friday, January 2, 2009

here they say Boas Entradas

And I think it sounds like good entrances, but they mean Happy New Year. I wanted to post on new years, but our internet was down and only returned a few moments ago. So here is what I planned to write:

Rather than ramble or open another third world window on this new year’s day, I’d like to share a poem by George Herbert that Bell showed me this morning. What a fantastic prayer for 2009.
~(If you don’t have time to read it entirely, the first and final stanzas can stand alone and say it rather well.)

Thou that hast giv’n so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart.
See how Thy beggar works on Thee
By art.

He makes Thy gifts occasion more,
And says, If he in this be crost,
All Thou has giv’n him heretofore
Is lost.

But Thou didst reckon, when at first
Thy word our hearts and hands did crave,
What it would come to at the worst
To save.

Perpetual knockings at Thy door,
Tears sullying Thy transparent rooms,
Gift upon gift, much would have more.
And comes.

This notwithstanding, Thou wentst on,
And didst allow us all our noise:
Nay Thou hast made a sigh and groan
Thy joys.

Not that Thou hast not still above
Much better tunes, than groans can make;
But that these country-airs Thy love
Didst take.

Wherefore I cry, and cry again;
And in no quiet canst Thou be,
Till I a thankful heart obtain
Of Thee:

Not thankful, when it pleaseth me;
As if Thy blessings had spare days:
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.