Down to the River to Pray

As I’ve learned from former missionaries in the classroom and now from personal experience, you never know what a day will hold on the mission field. On Saturday, August 14th, we were set and ready to go to the youth rally in Bulawayo. However, our plans quickly changed when we were told a man needed a ride 80 kilometers to the Hayhill village to baptize two men.

After we push-started the van, our group, Bruce Vimba and another local preacher piled in for the hour ride. With time, the roads disintegrated into nothing, until we were travelling with two ruts as our guide. We finally arrived and found three mud huts in the clearing.

We all gathered into the meeting place, the center of the three buildings. Again, women sat on the floor on one side and men on the other.

Bruce introduced us and translated for Shak as he gave an on-the-spot devotional to the villagers. Ten people stood and responded to the message. I may not have known the words to the songs they sang, but I could feel the excitement and conviction in their voices and actions.

So…we loaded up and headed to the river. When we travelled as far as we could by van, we started on foot. I smiled to myself as we walked through the dried-up riverbed, following a group of women with babies on their backs. “Now THIS is more like it,” I thought. “This is what I expect when I think about Africa.” I also could not help but sing this song in my head:

“As I went down to the river to pray, studying about that good ole way, and who shall wear the starry crown, Good Lord, show me the way…”

We walked through the riverbed and then on a path through tall reeds and bush grass. When everyone finally reached the water, we began singing. Ten people were immersed into Christ. Some were school-age children, some were young adults. It was plain to see that Brother Austin Vimba, Bruce Vimba and other local preachers had spent a lot of time teaching at the Hayhill village.

We never expected to drive that far or to fellowship with our brothers and sisters at Hayhill that day. We never expected to witness ten baptisms in the riverbed either. And I never expected how much I could be blessed and encouraged by that day.


Last year while our team was in Cape Town, South Africa, Dorian pulled me over to the side and asked me what I really wanted to do. He asked me if I wanted to work with youth or with children. I told him that I enjoyed working with youth and would love to be given the opportunity to do so.

While in Bulawayo this August, we participated in the nationwide youth rally. As I wrote earlier, approximately 1,000 students attended from all over Zimbabwe. I was graciously given the opportunity to speak to 500 teenage girls…all at one time. To say the least, I was a little bit nervous.  As I prepared my lesson the night before, Dorian sat down, smiled and said, “Well, this is it. This is what you wanted.”

God has such a way of stretching our comfort zones by giving us exactly what we ask for. I cannot complain or be nervous, right? After all, I have been praying for these very opportunities. I just did not realize just how…big the opportunities might be.

Even though it is exactly what I wanted, I was experiencing a Moses moment, a moment of, “Oh, that’s great, but can’t you send someone else? I’m not good enough for this.”

All of a sudden, my “Here am I; send me,” turned into, “I’m out to lunch; send someone else.”

This response is so typically human. We want the big things; we want to be a part of something greater than ourselves. However, when the big opportunities arise, we get scared. We flake out.

But is that not the reason God uses people who are no good? People who are broken, people who just don’t seem to get it? Because when we are weak, He is strong. When we are scared, He is brave. When we think we can’t do it, He puts us in that very position. He is important, not me. He is powerful, not me. He is able, not me. So when I do something big, I know it’s not me who does it, but the Spirit living inside me.

Now, THAT is BIG. And that is Who and what we belong to. He is BIG. And He loves giving us the big opportunities. Be ready.

Welcome to Africa

Lots of people have preconceptions about Africa. Some people think the weather is hot and dry all year around. Some people think tigers hang out with the lions and elephants.  Some even think every soul in Africa is a bushman surviving in the heart of the desert. However, not all preconceptions are totally illegitimate.

We experienced our first power outage in South Africa in the summer of 2009. Blake was in the middle of a lesson at our first Y.E.S. rally in Port Elizabeth when the power went out. After a few minutes, the infamous and loved Colin “Dick” Van Dyke strolled by and whispered in Blake’s ear, “Welcome to Africa.”

However, our first experience with power outages does not even begin to compare with our second…and third, fourth, fifth, etc.

In Zimbabwe we experienced load shedding, or rolling blackouts, every single day. If we had electricity in the morning, we did not have it at night. If we had power at night, we most likely woke up without it. This fact by itself made me appreciate and realize just how much I take common conveniences for granted.

In the states, we do not even think about it. We wake up with the understanding of a hot shower with clean water. We flip a switch and expect instant light.  Because I was conditioned to receive such treatment, we experienced several “rude awakenings.”

However, I soon found that what I called inconveniences was actually normal everyday life. Christians just a few miles away at the nation-wide youth lectureship were dealing with power outage in a much bigger way.  This year, Christian young people from all over Zimbabwe gathered in Bulawayo for the four-day youth rally.

This youth rally was no small task. Over a thousand young people attended, needing accommodations, food and an assembly hall. Months of planning were poured into this great event. And then the lights went out…continually.

I was humbled and amazed at the resourcefulness of the youth in Bulawayo. A car battery kept the sound system alive. They cheered when the electricity came on and brought out the blankets when it did not.  They worked endlessly, cooking thousands of meals in a pot over a fire.  If that is not service, then I do not know what is.

It is easy for me to make excuses when things do not go my way. It is easy for me to bury my head in my hands and give up. But these Christians did not make any excuses. They did not even complain. They just kept working, kept serving. Welcome to Africa.