Wednesday 2 July 2014

Yippee, farewell to Zim??

Arriving at X and Potias in the church truck
Yes our final blog from Zim! We arrive home three weeks yesterday.. so we are busy sorting out and saying our goodbyes. That is the yucky bit! We have made such lovely friends here but hopefully we can bless some of them by leaving them some of our possessions. Last Saturday the guys who work on the church site wanted to thank us and organised a braai at X and Portias house. They brought their wives and young children and it was a great time.

Dumi, Lewis and Zenzo singing
Lewis got the guitar out and together with Dumi and Zenzo, yodelled a song or two while we waited for food. Lewis is the zany looking yokel on the truck, Zenzo is with his wife at the front and Dumi is holding all the kids in the truck. His wife Rose is next to him and Portia is standing next to her with X behind.
Dumi, Lewis and Zenzo have yet to get their CD released!!
The food was yummy although we often yearn for some young lamb from the farm as the cows out here are mighty tough. You sometimes wonder if its really zebra!

 Last Sunday we visited the City church congregation. They have called it Hope Church  which is more suitable for the city. Thembalezizwe means hope of the nations so it is  closely linked. It now appears Dave is preaching there this Sunday so another visit is imminent!

The beginning of the meeting in the newly renovated venue

Many, many thanks to all the people who support the ECD school so wonderfully. We were able to give the new little ones a tracksuit each for this cold weather and they were so thrilled. The parents came to say thank you too. They look absolutely beautiful in them, as you can see.
The young ones are making very good progress and absolutely love coming to school. They are always there, unless ill and arrive really early.
Beautiful smiles from beautiful children
And a wave goodbye!
                                                                       Yes,  Zero hour is zooming in on us and Zimbabwe will soon be a memory of yesterday... Yet we know we will soon be yearning to return and will as soon as we can, to continue to support all we have done in the past years.

So its goodye from him and goodbye from me! AND GOODBYE ZIMBABWE.....

Friday 6 June 2014

Winning post Xpected soon!

What a wonderful letter W is but having investigated X and not known the meaning of any of the words I found I will be taking some liberties with it. Fortunately Xolani (X) to his friends will probably feature xtremely  frequently in this our penultimate blog!! So far this winter the weather has been xceptionally kind but the weathermen are forecasting temperatures as low as 4 degrees at night for the next few days. This means frost here! a disaster for Xs tomato crop! This week,  the daytime temperatures have been wonderfully warm at about 24 degrees. Tomorrow we xpect 15 degrees. Out with the winter woollies, I fear! The only consolation is that perhaps the cold will put an end to the worrying plague of rats infesting Bulawayo at the moment. X lost all his broccoli crop and some of the cabbages to them.Some of our school equipment has also been damaged.  Some of the children have also come to school in T shirts that have been chewed. What a waste!

After church,members picked broccoli leaves to take home.
On a slightly whacky note the whole of Bulawayo has been on alert recently due to reports of a wild lion being at large in the city. There were sightings on Facebook, pawprints photographed, roaring heard etc, etc... None of which was ever confirmed, though I suspect it was the one from Hwange, which  Dave drove to close to and was consequently told off by the ranger, come to get his revenge but wisely made an xit before being xterminated.

Dumi building the walls of the new chicken shed.
It is xciting to see the new chicken house beginning to take shape. unfirtunately we will be home before the chicken cages and birds arrive but X will manage the project well, we are sure. it is so good to see what a blessing the site at 1BD is to the community. As crops come to an end and the quality is not good enough for the supermarkets, the locals buy at reduced prices or, as happened last Sunday people from the church can take for free. Nothing is wasted then.

Of course we are xtremely xcited about coming home in less than 7 weeks.. But it is hard to xpress how we really feel about our time here or xplain what it has been like to those who havent xperienced Africa. It has been emotionally xhausting, sometimes, rewarding, other times disappointing! But we are so grateful for the xcellent love, support and acceptance xhibited by the Church here and at home, something we will never forget!


Monday 5 May 2014

Two for the price of one (letters that is)

Part of the Easter decor set up by Millie
As usual this blog is later than I had hoped! Unfortunately I am unable to offer any valid excuses and have unlimited admiration for the Whitby's who manage unerringly to write every day of their life in Astania!Also,  Unlike  them,  we are now counting down rather than up and are now in the 70s. (days that is until we come home). Like them, however we can understand many of their frustrations and difficulties in living in a completely different country and culture but, hopefully we have learnt a lot over the past two and a half years!

A full house at 1 BD at Easter.
The churches here are doing well and we had an utterly amazing time at Easter when all three congregations came together for a "camp" at 1BD. The church vehicle really came into its own, valiantly driven by Diva, transporting people from Mazwi and Hamara. On the Saturday morning Mike and Taurai both preached amazingly,unlocking the real meaning of the cross. The catering team then did a great job by feeding 250 people with a veritable feast of sausages, rice and veggies all cooked over a fire! In the afternoon there were games for all the family. Talent  unfolded in a variety of races and games. Several people were upended in the sack races and good manners vanished when each congregation was challenged to undertake "chair ball"!! Its untrue to  say it was vicious, but very few survived...Ugly indeed!
Diva setting the standard in the sprint race
The last session of the day was led by Dave and it was a powerful time of the Holy Spirit meeting people and setting them free.

One of the sack races gets underway
The day ended with supper and a film for those sleeping at the building. We had three girls with their babies and two men from Mazwi staying with us. Two spoke very good English and we had a great time getting to know them. The three girls insisted on sharing a room with their children. There is only one double bed in the room so we are not sure how they managed but they are used to sharing and there was  an unprecedented amount of giggling going on. Especially when they tried the shower!(the first time for two of them!) They said it was like hot rain but didn't ask for an umbrella!
On Easter Sunday Taps preached and again it was a great time with our versatile worship team doing a great job.
The worship team taking a lead
The whole weekend served as a valuable occasion to establish a deeper sense of  unity amongst the three congregations and  was a great opportunity for people to serve.

X leading the guys in a song and dance. Obi, Zenzo's son loved it!
May 1st is Workers Day and a public holiday in Zim, so we felt it appropriate to ask all of Dave's workers and their families to our house for a braai.Obviously the men are well known to us but we had never met one or two of the wives. They felt very uneasy at first but soon relaxed and started to have fun. A guitar appeared and the men were urged (they didn't take much urging) to entertain us with some singing. The variety of dancing (especially from Dave) was unusual to say the least!

Then it was the ladies turn..Shyness vanished as we outdid them with our moves!! I'm fairly sure that both of these days will rank amongst some of the most unforgettable of our time in Zim.

Friday 4 April 2014

Two tremendous weeks!

Tears flowed when we dropped Graham and Beth at the airport, but we've had a terrific time with them over the last two weeks. We talked non stop and tried to fit in as much as possible.                                                                          Here Graham and Beth are travelling in style in the back of the truck to visit Hamara Farm where
Thembalezizwe has a five grade school.
Grahams tell-tale red nose after a few days of this testified to the fact that not all the days were cloudy and they saw plenty of sun..... Beth really enjoyed her time at E.C.D. and was a great help. On her last day the children sang theirThursday song...... "Thursday is our special day, special day,special day Thursday is our special day, its Aunty Beths special day! (sung to the tune of London Bridge is falling down). She had to sit in the middle of the circle while the children talked about why they liked her. Apparently she plays nicely, laughs a lot and doesnt hit others!! We are very grateful for Graham and Belindas parenting skills!!
We had a really lovely time when we went to visit Pastor Peter a friend of Tope the leader of Jubilee Church, Enfield and a great friend of Grahams. Peter pastors a large church and also runs a family centre. He and his wife, Georgina laid on an tantalizing spread  for us at their home in Bulawayo. What a lovely couple!

Tendai and baby Nesia
Taurai and Tendai have been blessed with a beautiful baby girl called Nesia (miracle!) born on Thursday the 27th. So far, Makanaka (2) is very taken with his little sister but he also he often totters into school and sits down with the children and is no trouble at all!

Graham preaching at Hamra with Simanga translating
The first Sunday Graham was here we had a joint meeting with all three congregations. A real time of celebration and it was great to all be together. The next time the churches will all be together will be for our Easter Camp! Each congregation will have its own meeting on Good Friday and then all get together on Saturday for seminars and sport activities. People from out of town will then "camp" overnight. Men in the childrens shelter and ladies/ kids in the church building! Should be fun!!! We, of course, will return to our warm bed.

 Camping with Graham and Beth in Hwange with a lion prowling outside has decidedly put me off camping in tiny tents for good!! A very traumatic, terrifying experience, NOT to be repeated!! But thats another tale....

Thursday 6 March 2014

Surprising supply of snakes!!

Yes, I had a scary surprise one starlit evening when Dave was out! (No he wasn't down the pub. He wishes!!!) The dogs alerted me to a snake slithering through the garden. Nellie sneakily attacked it and smashed it around a bit. When I thought it was sufficiently smashed (all one and a half metres of it) I sprung on it with the long handled garden rake, spearing it several times! (Hope you are not too squeamish or eating your supper because it gets worse!) Little did I suspect that this snake would come in so handy..
Dave with the fish and snake and Nicky screaming!
When I staggered in from Kidz klub on Saturday, I was to discover some of it in the freezer! (thankfully stored in a plastic bag!) Dave had secured its demise by chopping it up when he got home and found Id been such a superstar! His sermon on Sunday was from Luke 11 and apparently he needed bread, a snake, eggs, fish and a scorpion. Eggs and fish I can do but I wasn't about to supply a scorpion! There was nothing in my contract about that so he had to be satisfied with a picture. You should have heard the screams when he surreptitiously produced the rapidly thawing and smelly snake from his box of tricks.
On a more salutary note - Security here has become more of a concern of late. There have been one or two stabbings of people out jogging near us and once a year the President releases some prisoners from jail. So... there has been a severe rise in armed robberies and violent crimes. Even the locals feel unsafe and wont walk out at night. We are also aware of many scams going on at the moment and we have to be wise as serpents to avoid being stung!
There has been a great deal of publicity lately about the corruption that pervades society here. I know it is everywhere but here it is sickeningly common and quite accepted as the norm!

The children brought grass from home for
Gods blanket before we planted the seeds
This maize is amazing!

picking the cobs
The school has been a busy place this week as we admitted 20 more children and
snack time at school has been very super as we have snatched, strippedsteamed, served and swallowed the maize we grew in our ECD garden. 
serving up the cooked mealies.
The new children are so sweet... Most have never seen so many toys. The older children have been very caring and helpful towards them too.

Yum, Yum!
Everyone looks so smart in their new T shirts. (including the teachers). Smart and Smiley is the only way to describe them all! They have settled into the school routine surprisingly well...... so far so good.  So its so long from me and goodbye from him. (you know who I mean... The someone, snoring serenely in the room next door)                                                                                       
and the back view

The new class with Ma Phiri...

Saturday 1 February 2014

Record rain recorded!

Running water at Hillside
After years of praying for rain the prayers have been answered at last! There has been more rainfall this summer than there has been for many, many years. The popular local reason being that the statue of Joshua Nkomo ( a man greatly revered in Matabeleland) has at last been reinstated in the middle of the city! The water levels in the dams are rising and there was 95 mm recorded just last night where we live. This is a real blessing to those who planted maize this year. The congregation at Mazwi (Used to be St Peters) have been very blessed as they have received free seed and have planted their plots, largely through the efforts of Graham and Sarah who lead the church there.  Of course there is a reverse side to the story too.....
Water at Hillside Dams
For the people who reside in the shacks and the poor houses near the church building ramrods of rain is a mixed blessing as the families then live in a sea of mud under leaky roofs, with no way to get clothes dry. These families take great pride in keeping their children clean and well turned out and in these conditions it is a real struggle. I really don't know how they do it! The reality too is that it is a breeding ground for sickness.
Also.... producing vegetables in these conditions is a reckless pastime! Cabbages have drowned, tomatoes are ravaged by disease and weeds are rampant! Working conditions on the church site are also reaching radically difficult proportions as it is heavy clay on the site so the men stomp about in wellies caked with about 6 inches of mud. Very tiring work, for little reward. They are  always cheerful and positive, though and there is a great team spirit among them.
Its amazing to me how quickly you miss the sun! Perhaps God is preparing us for our return to British weather but we hope the sun reappears soon.

One of the children starting ECD in March
 outside her home.
I have realised afresh, recently, the challenges faced by many people here as I have been home visiting the children on the waiting list for ECD, with Samu and Maphiri, two of the teachers who are on training at the moment. We met a Mum who has 6 children but looked so young herself. When I asked Samu about her she told me she had her first child at aged 11, and this is not unusual amongst girls who have not been to school. Like many in these circumstances, she could not even write her name. This encounter served to reaffirm to me just how vital education is as a means of changing lives and giving people hope. Its hard not to react with rage at a system that discriminates against the poor who cannot afford to send their children to school! Not only are the parents required to provide uniform but also books, pens, chalks,floor polish, photocopy paper, levies, fees, teacher incentives, money for building funds... the list goes on! We just don't realise how blessed we are in the UK!

L to R Florah, Katie, Maita,(taps and Florahs oldest)
Nikki,Dolly, Noma
On a social note. We were very pleased to welcome Dolly back to Zim for a visit, after having been studying in Holland for just over a year. She attained a scholarship to study for an MA for 18 months. She was glad to get back to her husband and son for a few weeks and we had a farewell party for her just before she returned a couple of weeks ago. She will be back for good at the beginning of May. What a brave lady to go to a foreign country with all the cultural and weather differences and leave her family behind!Respect and empathy received from us !!!!
Me with Maita and Rutendo

Well, it is rumoured that another rumbustious storm is about to break. Rumbles are again rending the skies above the house. Soon rip roaring flashes will ravage the heavens and rock the foundations and "Raindrops keep falling on my head" because the roof leaks. At this point, there are two things to do... Open the door to a r-e-a-l-l-y radically terrified Izzy, so she can rush to hide under the table (great guard dog, that!) and then shut off the internet so that it doesnt blow up again.
Ready, steady..

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Quite difficult Q

Happy New Year!
To all our friends and readers. Thank you so much for your prayers, financial support and messages.
Don't quit quite yet!!
A quick catch up at the beginning of a New Year. Well Christmas was quite different from any other we have ever had. 
54 kids at Trenance enjoyed the party and food afterwards
We started to get quietly festive with the children's parties for Kidz Klub and Sunday school kids at both Hamara and Trenance the week before. For some, it was possibly the first party they had ever experienced. We played all the traditional games ( a few quibbles about who won, as normal, and that's just the adults!!) and then ended with food which is always a hit.

A queer Christmas morning was spent tidying up some of our vast garden and skyping our quality children and grandchildren. There were lots of questions from us, quizing them about who got what, did Danny get his two front teeth and the quantity of sweets Jess had managed to eat before 10am. ? No question, she is her father's daughter! It was lovely to see the family enjoying each other's company, but made us miss them even more!
At midday we went to spend the rest of the day with our lovely friends, Mark and Heather who produced a magnificent, quality lunch. No quibble it was the best meal I've had all year. Lamb with enormous quantities of veg.We quenched our thirst (it was a very hot day) by quaffing quantities of beer and wine and quietly quivered with mirth while watching highlights of Morecambe and Wise! A lovely time all round.
Dave's poses by the falls. Such a cool dude!

On Boxing Day, Dave and I managed to escape for a few days. He had been very busy up to Christmas delivering vegetables to the supermarkets and getting up very early. So off we went to Vic Falls. We found a very quiet place to stay and apart from visiting a crocodile farm we were able to just put our feet up and have quality time together.

Taurai, Dave and Diva showing their moves!!
Last night, New Years Eve was a night of prayer for the three congregations. It was a really great time of fun, fellowship, worship and of course prayer. Dave did a preach on Joshua which was very powerful and the Holy Spirit was very evident. By 4am I was ready for my quilt! It was nearer 5 by the time we had dropped everyone home and we got to bed for a couple of hours sleep.
So hope all this makes sense! We have been gardening again this morning but the weather is very wet. A quantity of quality rains have come on time this year which has been a real blessing to those who have planted maize. The only trouble is 1BD is now  a quagmire! We quip that poor Taurai and Tendai will soon start quacking! 
So its you who keeps us awake at night!!
To quote our quite quirky friend Caroline "Oh my word!!"Look who I met in the garden this morning. His ugliness made me feel quite queezy! We also had to kill another snake outside the back door last night which left me quaking and quivering but I was the one who chopped it in pieces using the hoe!! So now I'm the queen of snake killers!!

Well I must quit for now as there are a queue of other jobs to be done and I still have to add in the photos. Wishing you all, God's blessings in 2014 and a whole lot of fun.....