I’m typing these words from the front patio of our “family cottage” here at Mongena Game Lodge near Pretoria, South Africa. The thatch roof effectively shielding me from the blazing African sun, the gentle breeze keeping me cool. Charlotte is inside napping while the big kids watch a movie, all four snuggled together on our fluffy king-sized bed. Dave is beside me, quietly reading. Every so often, I glance up from the screen to watch a momma and baby zebra slowly trot past or a herd of Nyala leap through the brush. If I close my eyes, I can hear only the rhythm of my own breath, coupled with the whistles and peaceful melodies of dozens of bird species nestled in the trees surrounding our cottage.
The contrast of this moment with the ones I have experienced over the past week is not lost on me. This serene, surreal setting feels other-worldly, not unlike a Hollywood movie set. All the while, the hardships, suffering, and extreme poverty I’ve witnessed still loom closely at the forefront of my consciousness.
I’ve yet to fully process my time in Zimbabwe and even our visit to the poverty-stricken townships here in South Africa.
For whatever reason, my brain is wired to process through the written word. So, I apologize in advance for the lack of tidiness and eloquence in this post. I’m just writing and processing as I go. I feel such an urge to get these moments, these memories, these stories, recorded. I know the stories will continue to roll around in my mind and heart in the days and months and years to come. For now, I thought I would simply share a few of the moments that struck me most profoundly while in Zimbabwe…
Pastor John and his wife, Orpah, exude love. I can’t recall ever meeting a more God-fearing, joyful-despite-circumstance, and humble husband and wife team. They are truly living in the center of God’s will and call on their lives. Their smiles, warm embraces and genuine compassion are contagious. Staying in their home and feeling like a part of their extended family was an honor and a privilege.
The children living at Musha WeVana Children’s Home, served by Pastor John and his church, Family Life Fellowship, are absolutely, positively precious. The needs there are great, yet the community of people caring for these 80 orphaned children make up for lack of resources in selfless and generous love. I was so impressed by the way the kids are so beautifully integrated into the community there in Marondera. What stood out to me most were the bright eyes of the children. Eyes holding life and hope and laughter.
I was able to meet, laugh with and be throughly entertained by our family’s sponsored child at Musha, a little boy named Blessing. His name could not be more appropriate for the impact he has had on my own life. He is hilarious and ornery and made all of us girls laugh so hard! I know my boys would get a kick out of his hysterical personality.
I spent the better part of a day listening to each child share his or her dreams with me as I recorded video footage to be shown to new sponsors and at our City Sessions shows. DREAMS! Big, beautiful dreams! I heard from future pilots and teachers and doctors and nurses and a lawyer and a judge and a psychologist and, a boy who absolutely captured my heart, a future pastor. These children are not without hope, they have bright goals for their futures – this is such a huge testament to the good work being done in this place.
We visited the children on the afternoon before the start of a new year of school and were able to help distribute new school uniforms, shoes and backpacks (all covered by child sponsorship fees)! I was on backpack distribution duty and I LOVED watching the children beam as they received their brand-new backpack. One little boy hugged and kissed it all over. 🙂 We listened as the caregivers explained the impact of these school uniforms – not only are they required for school attendance, but they allow the children of Musha to fit in with the other kids at school, rather than standing out as an “orphan.” *I know how hard we have worked with our own daughter to overcome her previous identity of orphan – the stigma, shame and lies of the enemy are deeply rooted in these children. Fitting in with “regular” kids from the community is HUGE and so, so beautiful.
We had the awesome privilege of attending church at Family Praise Fellowship on Sunday. I can say without reservation that it was the most powerful, pure and holy worship I have ever experienced. Members of the congregation prayed and sang as the Spirit led. At one point, Dr. Ferrerai (I’m 99% sure I’m spelling that incorrectly, so sorry, Dr. Ferrerai) recounted hardships they have endured as a community and as a nation, then he turned it all into praise. The community praised God for their blessings despite their hardships and sufferings, singing “Blessed be the Name of the Lord” in harmonious response.
We had the opportunity to meet for a long lunch, hosted by Pastor John and Orpah in their home, with the members of the Musha WeVana leadership committee. Each person in that room exudes love and kindness toward the children at Musha. They sincerely spend their days pouring themselves out on behalf of these kids.
I left with such a strong sense of hope and purpose and determination. I know God brought Dave to this place over a year ago for a purpose. And, I know He did the same for me. We also have big dreams for these children. We have renewed enthusiasm to go home and work hard, advocating for these precious ones. I honestly don’t know all that God has in store for our family in connection with this beautiful land and these beautiful, warm-hearted people, yet I know there is something in the works. He went before us many years ago preparing us for this work. Our connection to this country and these children runs deep… starting originally with our first child sponsored at Musha through Help One Now about 7 years ago. Seeds have been planted in our hearts along the way, tethering us to this continent in profound and deep ways.
*If you would like to join the tribe supporting this incredible work in Zimbabwe, you can become a child sponsor for one of the 80 children living at Musha WeVana Children’s home. Help One Now’s model for child sponsorship is innovative, in that every child is sponsored 5 times in order to ensure their life-changing, 24/7 care, education, food, clothing and medical needs are consistently met, and to support their local leaders and allow them to improve the living situations for all of the children in their care. Learn more about child sponsorship HERE.
Currently, there are 302 open sponsorships in this community. You guys, if we could even cover a third of these sponsorships, we could fund so many immediate needs at the home!! Needs including vocational training for the older children, a social worker to be hired, after-school tutoring to help the children who are struggling in the large government operated schools, a vehicle to be used for reunification (#1 goal for any abandoned child!) and family visits with reunified children. The vehicle could also be used to drive the children to and from school – as they currently walk. We saw the need firsthand when the children attended church on Sunday during a rainstorm. They were soaking wet, yet continued to worship alongside us.
I’ve seen the impact of our donations here and I’ve also seen the potential. The leaders of this community are good stewards of the funds given and the money directly impacts these children. Please, please pray about joining Help One Now and Pastor John in this work. I can assure you, although it feels as though our meager offering of $40/month feels insignificant, it is NOT. It is powerful and life-changing for these children!
Dave and I are fully committed to the work Help One Now is doing around the globe. We originally decided to partner with this team because of the integrity of the leaders here. As we’ve learned more and more about the organization, visited communities around the world, and seen the impact of their work, we are absolutely confident we made the right decision. God began a work in us through Feed Their Tummies and He has expanded our heart and our vision through the partnership with Help One Now. While the feeding program in Congo continues, we know God is asking us to come alongside Pastor John in Zimbabwe and resource him and his team to be able to do the life-changing work of empowerment for these children. We would love for you to join us!
***Please let me know if you choose a Musha WeVana child to sponsor, I have videos and photos and a little surprise I would like to send your way!!!