Back Row: Barry, Verva, Diane, Audrey, Barb, Cathy, Alex
Front Row: Jessica, Emma, Emma, Robin
Saturday, May 5 Update
When you travel to the other side of the world, there are a lot of different ways to get there. Different airlines, different routes, different stopovers. Our route involved a long stopover in Paris. After leaving Toronto 2 hours late due to high winds, we were left with 11 hours in Paris, and we made the most of it. My weather app had been predicting that Paris would be “23 degrees, sunny, and delightful” and the day did not disappoint!
Most of our time was spent at the Eiffel Tower. We spent more time there than expected, due to the very large crowds, but team members who were in Paris for the first time said that it was totally worth it. Surprisingly, the Eiffel Tower complex has free WiFi, so some members contacted home from the observation deck at the top of the tower! We managed a quick walk-by of Notre Dame Cathedral as well, before returning to the airport in lots of time for the next leg of our journey.
Some of us have a desire to just get to Zimbabwe (we still have 3 more legs to go!), but if you have to spend time somewhere, Paris in the spring isn’t a bad way to go. As usual, God is good.
Sunday, May 6, 2018
When I was younger, and our family would come home from a late evening of visiting friends, my Mom would wake us by saying “kids, we’re home!” Those words echoed in my head as we pulled into our accommodations here in Harare today. We were FINALLY home! After spending close to 40 hours in transit, pretty much anything that didn’t start with the letters “air” would have looked good, but this was a special feeling for those of us who have been here before. It didn’t help that we had a bit of a hiccup at the Harare airport - only 12 of our 22 suitcases had arrived with us! That information does NOT sit well when you are extremely jet-lagged, and right now, 4 of us don’t have any clean clothes to change into. It is our (optimistic) belief that the luggage got left behind when we transferred to a much smaller plane in Kenya, and it will arrive on the corresponding flight tomorrow. Please keep this in your prayers!
Our home here in Harare has a few differences from our Canadian homes - the electricity isn’t always on, connecting to the internet is a challenge, and we have only 1 shower (with a limited hot water supply) to use between 11 of us. But those things don’t make a home. Starting tomorrow, we get to reconnect with sponsor children and “adopted” daughters. We get to laugh with house moms, and talk with school kids. We get to learn from the nurses and teach the VBS. For the next two weeks, we are blessed to be able to walk beside the many wonderful people at the Village of Hope, and share in their daily lives. So, for the next two weeks, we are home!
God is good. (... and pray for our luggage!)
Friday, May 4, 2018
Anyone who has travelled knows the stress of the last few days before departure - one final shopping trip, a last appointment, re-packing (again!). Well our group had one additional stress - on Tuesday we found out that our airline would be on strike today! Emails and phone calls to travel agents, and direct calls to Air France ensued. All the messages were the same ... we would have to wait and see if the flight was cancelled or not. There was nothing to do but wait, and leave it in God’s hands ...
And God is good! The flight was not cancelled and we are currently waiting for our plane to board. It’s not actually AT the gate yet, and the ground crew is almost being blown away by the wind (they just announced a 40 minute delay due to the weather), but we have faith that this trip will go ahead.
As I said, God is good ...
Mission Zimbabwe 2018 Team
This year’s team of eleven will begin preparation on January 21st. They will spend the following 4 months meeting, planning and preparing, leading up to their trip to the Village of Hope from approximately May 4th to May 21st.
You will be hearing more news about the team (the 12th MZ team) and about ways you can support the team in the months to come.
Please pray for our team that they will develop a unity of spirit and service and that the young team members who are students will be blessed with the needed finances.
Monday, May 7, 2018
Let’s start with the good news - all of our luggage arrived today! There was a lot of paperwork involved, and a few nervous moments as they asked to open and inspect 7 of the bags - but we all emerged from the airport with ALL of our items. Praise God!
Today was our first day on the grounds of Village of Hope. School doesn’t start until tomorrow, so there was a chance to give everyone a tour of the facilities and introduce us to the key people involved. For our rookie members, it was a chance to put reality to the many pictures they had seen, and the stories they had heard. The new church building, the medical clinic, the school buildings and homes all came to life for them. They were welcomed with open arms, quickly entering into chats with the house moms and being invited to play games with the children. Today was about forming relationships that we can build on for the next two weeks, and everyone was successful in that regard.
Team members who had been here before followed the same schedule, but we seemed to see the Village through a different lens - how much things have changed and grown in the 12 years that we have been partnering with this community! Babies we knew are now starting preschool, playful young boys are now leaders at the secondary school, once empty classrooms will soon be filled to capacity, and building and maintenance projects throughout the community have been completed and stood the test of time. We were a part of all this! And we don’t say this from a place of pride, but from a sense of joy that God has allowed us to be a part of this growth. Lives are being changed and there is hope for the future in Zimbabwe.
As usual, God is good.
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
If yesterday was about getting our feet wet by learning about the Village of Hope, today we dove in headfirst! After morning group devotions, we mostly scattered to the various projects which we will be assisting with during our stay. Let me attempt to summarize ...
Alex and Nixon (a worker from the VOH) went shopping for plumbing supplies for the orphan homes. This involved four different hardware stores because most items were out of stock in multiple stores.
Emma and Emma May assisted Nurse Adeline. It was immunization day, so there were crying babies everywhere. Both girls commented on differences compared to a Canadian immunization process, as well as what they learned about babies’ weights and general health in Zimbabwe.
Cathy and Jess met with the Headmaster to come up with a plan for helping out in the Primary English classrooms.
Diane learned that a Career Skills Seminar she had planned to present on Saturday, would now occur on Wednesday and Thursday! In a typical Zimbabwe God moment, it turns out the the secondary school is hosting a Career Day on Friday. Diane’s information will help these students get a leg up on finding education opportunities and work in a country that has about 90% unemployment.
Audrey, Verva, Barb and Robin (plus others at various times!) started to prepare two of the orphan houses to receive new interior paint. Washing down all of the 10 foot walls in a very large house, with only one 8 foot ladder, turned into a bit of a logistical nightmare, but the walls are ready and we hope to begin painting tomorrow.
Barry met, and planned, and talked, and reconnected, and .... did all of the things that Barry does.
In the afternoon, it was all hands on deck, as everyone helped Jess and Cathy lead a very successful VBS. Thanks to their excellent planning, things went very well. It was a good start to prepare us for what will probably be a MUCH larger group tomorrow.
It was a very busy day, and the start of what will be the “new normal” for us over the coming days. But it was also a very exciting day! While yesterday was about making connections, today was about starting to contribute. The management here is so open and welcoming, giving us access to the various aspects of the Village. No department is off limits to us, allowing us to use whatever talents God has given us where they are best suited. This level of trust is a testament to the teams that have gone before us, establishing a lasting partnership with the VOH. Praise God for such wonderful relationships! And may we be able to build on this relationship in our time here.
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Today we were privileged to attend the secondary school assembly (and just let me say, Canadian students could learn a lot from these guys about discipline and respect!). The theme of the message for the students was to focus their academic efforts, especially as some of them will be writing state exams at the end of this term. The teacher who delivered the devotion said that the best way to do this was for students to set a goal - have a vision of where they wanted to be, and do everything in their power to make that vision a reality. This struck a chord with so many of our team members!
Barry pointed out that when he and Alex were members of the first team to visit VOH in 2007, they really had no idea what they were doing. They came to help erect a school building, but little else was known about the community and what it could become. It wasn’t until a stopover in England on the way home that the team sat down and wrote out their vision for future involvements with VOH. Potential was noted, dreams were discussed and a commitment was made. And now, years later, God has blessed this vision to produce so much more fruit than they ever though possible. And he’s not done! The growth and faith of this community continues to astound us, and we are humbled to be partners in this vision. God is good!
Thursday, May 10, 2018
If you pay attention to world news, there is a lot of negativity out there - anger, hatred, suffering, pain. But in our discussions tonight, most of us talked about the JOY we have experienced here at VOH.
The joy of a house mother seeing fresh new paint brightening up the interior walls of her home.
The joy of a VOH worker as Alex taught him new plumbing skills.
The joy Barry experienced reconnecting with students at the secondary school.
The joy of a young student being asked to help Barb take pictures of the sponsor children.
The joy on children's faces as they return to VBS, and we actually remember some of their names!
In some ways, we are doing such simple things - and yet they mean so much to the people involved. One of our morning devotions talked about the “ripple effect”. When you drop a stone into a pond, the ripples radiate out until we can’t see them anymore. A small action has a very big effect. We have no idea what effect our actions here will have on the people at VOH ... or how our relationships with them will affect us in the future. But we do know that today, the joy they showed us was all we needed to make the day complete.
Friday, May 11, 2018
Tonight, as we discussed nearing the end of our first week here, we realized that so much of what we have been doing is also laying the groundwork for some great things next week. Here’s a peek at the week ahead:
VBS - All of Cathy and Jess’ pre-planning ensured that kids had a great time this week, and we anticipate large crowds next week as well (they all want to come back tomorrow!). All hands on deck!
Plumbing - Patient teaching by Alex has ensured that Nixon and Teetche are gaining confidence in their skills, and more repairs are being accomplished each day. Only 5 more houses to go!
Painting - Mothers Regina and Aquiline can’t contain their excitement every time they walk in the door of their home. “It’s SO beautiful and bright!” We hope to finish all of the walls tomorrow. Unfortunately, that means we have to tackle the 10 foot ceilings next week ...
Teaching - Diane, Jess and Robin have all spent time in the classrooms, and constantly comment on the differences between here and in Canada. Next week, Audrey, Emma May and Cathy all look forward to teaching in Zimbabwe as well.
Relationships with the men - Alex and Barry have really connected with the workers at VOH, and are looking forward to leading a men’s Bible Study tomorrow morning. Pray for open hearts and honest discussions.
Relationships with the youth - Our four young ladies have done a terrific job of connecting with the young people at VOH (think hair braiding, dancing and learning how to juggle). Tomorrow our girls will host the younger teen girls from the homes at a “girls afternoon”. I think ice cream and chocolate are the only things on the menu.
Relationships with the house moms - These women are amazing! On Monday we are inviting all of them to our house for the morning. It’s a chance for them to get away from the kids, and do a surprise activity while they are here - you will hear more about that next week.
Shalom - Tomorrow, Barb FINALLY gets to reconnect with Shalom, her “adopted” daughter from VOH. Barb is normally pretty quiet, but today she is already beaming and bouncing in anticipation of the meeting. I can’t even imagine how excited she will be tomorrow!
We pray that a firm foundation has been laid this week, which we can build on next week.
Saturday, May 12, 2018
Today we finished painting our second (and last!) house. As Robin pointed out, what we have completed here is so obvious - we can SEE the impact that we have had during our time here. But there is so much that we have done that requires FAITH that it will have an impact.
Barry and Alex must have faith that the lesson presented to the men’s Bible Study this morning was the message that they needed to hear, and that it will create discussion and growth in the future.
Our VBS crew must have faith that the Bible stories we share with the children will remain with them in the days and years to come, and will help to encourage them in their daily lives.
And all of us must have faith that the relationships we have created will have a positive effect on those involved, and will work to strengthen our partners here at VOH.
Despite all of the daily struggles faced in Zimbabwe, the people at VOH have amazing FAITH that God will provide what they need and for them, the SIGHT of us partnering here with them is proof that God is faithful. God is good!
Sunday, May 13, 2018
Sunday in Zimbabwe means church and visiting with friends. Our day started with just over 3 hours of church - partly because Mother’s Day added in some extra events, but mostly because that’s just the way it is in Zimbabwe . The singing at church was amazing - it started with the women’s praise team, then two teenage boys did a rap tribute to their moms, and then the full teenage girls choir blew us away! They put their heart and soul into each song, and truly take every opportunity to bring praises to God.
We hosted two special guests for lunch. Marjorie (an older woman) and Prosper (a male college student) provided lively conversation, and a unique perspective into Zimbabwe and its people. Both have such a strong commitment to their country, and great hope for positive growth in its future.
And then it was time for shopping. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but many of the mothers at home can expect an authentic gift from Africa for Mother’s Day this year!
So in terms of this Sunday being a day of rest, we didn’t really achieve that goal. But it just seems that there is so much that we want to see and do, and so little time to accomplish all of those things. Fortunately, we are blessed to be staying in a comfortable house, the electricity has been fairly cooperative, and we are enjoying relatively good health. So now it’s off for a good night’s sleep as we prepare for Week 2 ...
Monday, May 14, 2018
Yes, I know that Mother’s Day was on Sunday! But this morning was dedicated to honoring the Mothers and Aunties at VOH, so it felt like Mother’s Day all over again. These ladies devote their days to the orphans in their care - cleaning and cooking, but also teaching them how to show love, respect, and support to the “siblings” in their home as well as the many other people that they encounter at VOH. So we decided to take care of THEM for the morning. Basically, we brought the 13 ladies, plus Pastor Jani, to our home and put on a “Paint Night“ experience for them. We provided child care for the two toddlers and three rounds of Canadian style snacks, finishing it off with chocolate cake. The ladies were able to relax and focus on painting their signs - for ALL of them, this was the first time they had ever done artwork! And they loved it - being able to select their own colors, as well as the message that would appear on the sign.
While the paint dried on the signs we were able to bless them with tangible gifts, made possible through the generous donations of several different supporters back home. As soon as the women realized that the envelopes we gave them contained cash, they stood up and began singing a praise song. This was followed by prayers, and many tears of joy. The economy in Zimbabwe is in a very difficult situation, so for the women’s work to be recognized in such a fashion meant so much to each one of them. Even the administrators from VOH admitted that they wished they could do more to recognize their work, so we felt blessed to be able to honour them in this way today.
Thank you to all the people who have contributed to this day! Please continue to pray for these incredible women of faith as they carry out their daily tasks at VOH.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
For the last two nights, we have had the privilege of eating supper in the orphan homes with the children and house mothers. Splitting into groups of two or three, we spread ourselves out among the homes for a very filling meal and two hours of visiting. Activities varied - UNO, coloring, story time, singing, reciting Bible verses, sharing pictures from home - but there was one constant. We were visiting FAMILIES. Although the children are not related by birth, these house moms have done a fabulous job of creating a strong sense of family and home. Older siblings showed patience when the younger ones were sharing stories, younger ones looked up to the older ones for guidance on how to speak English properly and how to behave, and all of the children did their part to serve and clean up after the meal. Like any family, they are not all perfect - but they are thriving in a place where they know that they are loved.
All of the children in these homes are sponsored through Child Care Plus. To all of the sponsors out there, know that your support is making all of these “families” possible. Some of your sponsored children live outside of the VOH, and in that case, your support ensures that they attend a school where teachers value them and encourage them to achieve their best. Your sponsorship is changing their lives! Thank you for your continued support - it means everything to these children.
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Lions & Giraffes & Zebra's. Oh My!!
And many other amazing animals too!
While our main task during our time here in Zimbabwe seems quite simple (form relationships with the people at VOH, and encourage them in their daily walk), it can also be quite draining at times. Everyone needs a day of rest, and as you may have read, we didn’t really get that on Sunday. And if you need a chance to rest and recharge, spending some time among God’s amazing creation is a pretty great way to do it.
So this morning, we drove two hours out of the city to visit Imire Game Park. The drive alone provided us with a wonderful chance to see more of this country, finally getting outside of the city of Harare. After a refreshing tea break, we climbed aboard the safari vehicle, complete with blankets! Yes, it seems that our region is experiencing a cold snap, including rain, so the blankets were a welcome way to keep the chill off as we drove through the 4,500 hectare park. And it was totally worth it! Seeing such a wide range of animals - the grandeur of an elephant, the speed of an antelope, the humour of a giraffe (ever watch one try to eat something off of the ground?), the power of a lion - all served to remind us of how amazing our God is to be able to create such diverse and unique animals.
And then we came home, refreshed and renewed, ready to embrace our last few days in Zimbabwe.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Today we travelled to Vimbainesu Children’s Home, a second orphanage which we support. It is located 1.5 hours outside of Harare, so we had another lovely drive through the countryside, especially once the sun came out after several days of rain.
As a rural orphanage, there are quite a few differences to VOH. There are two chicken coops which provide fresh eggs for the residents. We toured the cleanest piggery any of us had ever encountered, and heard about their struggles to find adequate feed to get the pigs to a market weight. And they continue to earn a small income from the maize mill - for 50 cents you can grind a 5 gallon pail of maize kernels into a powder called mealey meal, used to make their staple food source called sadsa.
The supervision structure is quite different here as well. Only 2 house mothers work to supervise the 45 children, who are aged 1 month to over 18 years. The children live in round houses designed to hold 3 or 4 kids each, and then they meet in a central small house for meals and a sitting area. Today was an outdoor lunch, so we were fascinated to watch the children line up in order of age (youngest to oldest) in order to receive their food.
But some things that happened today confirmed that children are the same the world over. Children under the age of 10 will always enjoy sidewalk chalk, coloring sheets, and any form of tag. The teenagers loved doing the career seminar and learning more about their skill sets and potential future plans. And toddlers everywhere love to be cuddled and held. All of us found a place to fit today, and even in such a short time, we made some connections with the children from Vimbainesu. These relationships will be strengthened on Saturday as the entire group is invited to VOH for a fun fair and music concert.
For those of us who have had a chance to watch Vimbainesu grow over the years, we are impressed by the changes and improvements that have been made. With seemingly more limited resources than VOH, a very dedicated management team is doing their utmost to provide the best possible situation and opportunities for the children in their care. Please keep this group in your prayers as well, as they work to provide a positive environment and proper guidance to so many young people.
Friday, May 18, 2018
Today was our last chance to spend time with many of the staff and students at VOH (since they will not be around on the weekend), so today was all about showing appreciation to various groups.
The day started with a full student assembly, with over 600 students creating a sea of green in their school uniforms. It was a treat to watch the younger ones enter the church auditorium - single file, silent, and hands held behind their backs! Even before we were all settled, the singing began, as one of the teachers led the group in songs they all knew. And then it was time for the actual presentations - three different choirs stunned us with their musicality and passion for their performance. It was humbling to know that this was all done to thank US for the things we have done at VOH.
At lunch time, the Canadians showed their appreciation for the VOH staff by preparing and serving a meal to the close to 100 people who help make VOH run smoothly on a daily basis. While Alex and Diane did an excellent job of cooking the sausage over a somewhat uncooperative fire, the highlight of the meal was dessert - vanilla ice cream and Canadian Maple Syrup!
After the meal, we moved to the small church where we showed them a video, prepared by Barb, which shows just how much the Village of Hope and it’s residents have grown over the years. Sometimes when we are in the middle of something we forget where we started. This video was a chance to show VOH staff just how much they have accomplished over the years. Lives have been transformed! And it is the hard work, dedication, and unity of the staff (from all departments!) that has made this possible. It is very clear to us that the staff here place the welfare of their residents and students above all else. Through faith, prayer, and unity of purpose, they have achieved remarkable things with sometimes limited resources. Praise God for their work! The meal we provided was only a small attempt for us to show just how much we respect the staff here, and how much we value the relationships we have formed with them over time. We pray that we will be able to continue partnering with this amazing group of people for many years to come.
Saturday, May 19, 2018
Today we set up a fun, carnival style event for the children of VOH and the surrounding community. Think ring toss, face painting, juggling, lawn darts, an inflatable obstacle course and more! Of course, candies were offered for the successful completion of an event, so the excitement level was quite high. Imagine the scene as over 250 children joined us for the morning! We were so blessed to have the older residents of VOH act as our assistants for each event. They found a way to create order out of the chaos - keeping the lines straight, ensuring that all kids got a chance to participate, and taking the youngest ones in hand to help them move through the various events. Watching these youth take on responsibility and leadership roles warmed our hearts - there is so much potential in these young adults! We also felt blessed to be able to help Hope Community Church reach out to the community through this event. Connections may have been made today which will bear fruit in the future - we leave that in God’s hands.
Today, we also had a chance to visit with the residents of Vimbainesu again, as the older children came down for the day as well - with 22 people arriving in one large mini van! For comparison purposes, we took a similar sized vehicle on Wednesday and felt cramped with our 14 passengers. Apparently we have a lot to learn about effective use of space. The youth clearly enjoyed a day away from home, and we enjoyed the chance to reconnect with them.
The afternoon finished with a concert presented by children from both orphanages. Once again, the girls from VOH stunned us with their singing performance, and the Vimbainesu youth used a dance routine to confirm the fact that African people have way more rhythm than most Canadians can ever hope to achieve. It was a wonderful afternoon of sharing and celebration.
But it was also a sad afternoon as we continued to say our goodbyes. Tomorrow is our last day here. We have made so many connections, and so many new friends! Tomorrow will be a difficult day ...
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Since most of what we bring from Canada is donations for VOH and Vimbainesu, we actually have very little to take home. And it is surprisingly hard to pack 22 mostly empty suitcases!
This morning was our final worship service at VOH. Once again, the music was inspiring and the message was solid. We even had the chance to share in Communion with our friends and partners. There are many moments in this trip that will remain with us for a long time to come. Saying our final goodbyes took a very long time.
For all of the Mission Zimbabwe partners in Canada, know that you are in the hearts and prayers of the people here in Zimbabwe. They do not know your names, they have not seen your faces, but they pray for you continually and thank God for the blessings you bring to their corner of Harare. Know that your continued support, through fundraising and prayer, does not go unnoticed. Those of us here on the ground feel honored to represent you, and wish that you all had the chance to meet these amazing people.
Monday, May 21, 2018 - Home with powerful memories!
After a Pentecost Sunday service at Hope Community Church where our team shared communion (a first) with these special people and after our team hosted a lunch (KFC+) for Richard and his family, Pastor Jani and her family, Mr. and Mrs. Kufa, Tete Jarare, Mrs Musasa and two of her boys and very importantly, Shalom, we said our heartfelt goodbyes. The kindness of these wonderful people did not end there as later as we continued packing, Pastor Jani returned and presented each team member with an African print made with her own hands!
Finally at 9:00 pm, Richard and Mr. Nduna plucked us from our temporary home at Ringway and drove us to Harare airport. Our 12:10 am flight left over an hour late which gave our team concern as we had a very tight connection to make in Nairobi in the morning. We quickly said goodbye to Audrey at Nairobi as she was staying in Kenya and we had to rush to make our flight to Amsterdam. Transferring flights in Nairobi is a nightmare! We had a daunting time getting through security but finally one Kenyan Airline person directed us to a faster moving line and we cleared security although getting Verva’s walking sticks past security caused a few moments of concern. We made it!
When we arrived in Amsterdam, our team said goodbye to Cathy as she was staying over in the Netherlands to visit friends. Then we were off on the last leg of our day of flights into Toronto. At Pearson a tired team shared goodbye hugs and looked forward to drives home except for Emma who has to get back to college for her placement tomorrow. God luck staying awake Emma!
All of us return with powerful memories and many “God moments” that stir our faith and remind us that God has blessed each of us through the relationships we experienced at the Village of Hope and Vimbainesu Children’s Home. We praise God for our good health and safety.
Thank you to all of you who have been praying for our team during these past two weeks. It seems appropriate that the last update is being sent from our first Tim Horton’s stop.