Meet Boaz. He is a 14 year old orphan in Zimbabwe. I will soon tell you his story, but for now, plesae study his photos. Study him. Think of him. Feel something from him. And tell me what you see, or what you think you see. Mostly, know that I love him.
I am home safe and happily reunited with my biggest fans. My laptop is broken and so I cannot really post an adequate update until it is fixed...but just wanted to report I am safely home.
I did receive and read every email and every blog comment. Thank you all so much. I look forward to sharing more very soon when I can add photos and video.
Happy Thanksgiving (to the Americans)..... remember that you have so much to be thankful for, i.e. socks, clean water, toys, freedom to speak & worship & vote & work & learn, washing machines, air conditioning, garbage pickup, electric or gas heat, cars, walls, roofs and doors.
Right this very minute, I am sitting in an internet cafe in the town of Victoria Falls. I am still in Zimbabwe, but on the border of Zambia. The bus trip was better than I expected. It was air conditioned, AMEN. I got very sick in the first 30 minutes and thought I would vomit all the way. Sorry....just being honest. I prayed. It passed. As simple as that may sound, it was a miracle to me. The 12 hour trip was just a lot of the same scenery over and over. People, towns, trees, and baboons. I also so one family of little monkeys. I wasn't miserable.
The closer we got to Victoria Falls, the funkier the trees. There are some massive trees here. The trunks are about as wide as 7 adults standing side by side.
My last days in Harare were very good. Tearful. Wonderful. Solid. I got to see Felix one more time. I stained some bookshelves in the room that we were redoing. Today is the reveal. I am not there. It's fine. I left the project of selecting the final 8 boys with the missions coordinator. She knows them all personally. They will receive their surprise tonight. Suzanne will then email me all the info for me to pass on to the sponsors. There are only 4 sponsors for these final 8 boys. My generous friends. I love you.
I made a plea to the missions coordinator that I really wanted to return to the Zimre Park Rose of Sharon home so that I could see the teens one more time. It was hard to organize, but it worked out. As much as I loved our party on Saturday, my heart just really wants to know them better. On the outside, they are beautiful, joyful, happy and so full of the love for Christ. This is all amazing and a blessing.....but I wanted to hear their stories. When I think of them, I just want to know them like friends.
I showed up. They all greeted me with happiness to see me. I love their hugs. They are very strong hugs. When I visited with them previously at their school (before the party day) I shared some of my story with them. On Tuesday in the privacy of their home, I asked if any of them would share. And I made myself available to answer any questions about my life. 3 precious orphans volunteered their story. They stood one by one, in front of their entire orphanage family, and told me their plight. First was Boaz. My special one. Second was Keldon. Keldon is 19 years old. He has to leave the home forever, in December. December 18. Finally was my sweet Sarah Tendai.
I will share their stories with you when I get home. I cannot do it justice here in a noisy internet cafe where the Shona language is loud. Their details rocked me. Wrecked me. Maybe even messed me up. But their hope, the joy they have found, the King that they love........ its like a massive dose of comfort, overflowing in my soul.
I'll leave you with my journey today. I woke up early and had coffee in the rest camp in an open air restaurant, topped by a thatched roof. I walked toward the falls. I knew it would be a 10+ minute walk. I am a little intimidated here entirely by myself. The locals harrass me for money. They want me to buy the items they have stolen. I do honestly believe that God sent me an angel. His name is Evar Innocent. For whatever reason, he protected me and walked me to the falls where I entered the park on my own. He didn't ask me for anything. I spent about 2 hours inside the park. The roaring sound of the waterfalls overwhelmed me. Before I could even see them, I was in tears. I took photos, which I am sure will simply not do justice. It is truly majestic and amazing. I will upload photos and video when I get home.
I left the park and as I somewhat expected even 2 hours later, Evar Innocent was waiting for me. He actually helped me find this internet cafe. The tourism police made him leave me alone twice. They told me he is a liar and a thief. I told them he is not. He hid behind a building and when I walked past, he joined me again. When I leave this internet cafe, I am sure he will find me again. Don't worry, I'm not taking him to lunch, and the security at the rest camp will not allow him in. When he brought me here, I gave him $3 for helping me. Evar Innocent, my own personal tour guide.
I am hungry now. It is lunch time here and I haven't had breakfast. Soon I will eat and then I will rest. Tomorrow is my journey home.
I sure do miss my boys at home, and I desperately miss the kids in Zim. I just truly thank God for putting this mission on my heart, for providing funds through all the ones who have helped me get here, and for all the sponsors who are helping the kids. I am so deeply grateful, and I continue to be humbled by all of it.
The days since my first blog post have been full. Full of wonder, brokenness, pain, joy and much of God's majesty. I'm not sure how to describe it here in an internet cafe, in the center of Harare, surrounded by people. There is a lot of noise in my mind.
Felix is a 15 year old boy who lives in the St. Joseph home for boys. He goes to school. Our missionary volunteers are working on making over a room in the home so have been there several days painting. My job has been to sand and paint some benches. Felix spent one day helping me. I cannot begin to describe how sweet and gracious the teenagers are here. No one is spoiled. No one has an air of arrogance. Felix and I talked about everything from movies, music, life in America, Jesus, etc. I finally got up the nerve to ask Felix about his family....how long he has been orphaned. He was given up when he was one year old because his mom and dad had a fight and got a divorce. He has an older brother whom he can reach by phone. His mother is alive, as is his father. He knows where his father is but his father won't tell him anything he asks. 2 weeks ago he learned that his mom is nearby and wants to see him. I asked Felix if he would like to see his mom. Felix replied, "I would love to. Oh I would really love it. I would love for her to say something sweet to me so that I can forgive her."
Victor is another boy from the same home as above. We went by a few days ago to help the boys study and do homework. They are preparing for their exams. Let me just say praise God they are in school. Last year, there was no schooling. Can I also just shout Amen that God led me to the only boy not studying math?! Hallaluia! Seriously, we were meant for each other. Victor had the assignment to compare and contrast 2 poems. They were both about love, but very abstractly. I read the poems and nearly sank in that they were so confusing. I nodded my head and silently prayed, "Please God don't let me have come here for nothing today! I want to help him. I want to help Victor. I don't want to be useless." I opened my eyes and we began to unpack the poems. They really began to come alive on the page. I'm nearly crying now. I got to dig deep down in the well that I have in me and share some of my own love and pain experiences to help Victor understand the poetry. All I can really say is that is was amazing. God did show up. Victor and I connected. Thankfully, Victor has a family in the rural areas. He doesn't get to see them much, but he has them. He loves them. They love him. It is poetry.
A note about camp sponsorships: I still have to organize 8 more sponsorships. They will be for the St. Joesphs boys home, so not all of the kids have been identified yet. Please pray about this. I am stressing. I need it to come together by Tuesday so I can fulfill my promises.
The greatest joy of my heart:
Earlier this week I got to go to the school that his been started this year for the teens who I fell in love with last year. The teens that really rocked my world, and permanently reshaped my heart. The home where Sarah Tendai lives, the one who sent me the letter. They are all in school now, and because of the work God is doing in their community, the school has expanded to include the local rural community kids too. I cannot tell you how much these kids want school, love school, and appreciate school. It is no wonder that they are so incredibly smart. They are brilliant really. Really. So....I got to grab hugs and kisses from so many of them. We planned a "Christmas Party" for yesterday, Saturday....just for the orphans in the home. And we partied like you have never seen. Yes, we had food and even delicious desserts. We prayed about 5 or 6 times. The kids sang and danced for us. They even honored me personally....yes they all remember me from last year. Ask me if my heart and head swelled up......massive! They had a boom box. One of the boys....I admit, perhaps my favorite...his name is Boaz. Boaz could be a superstar. He is gorgeous, smart, funny, always smiling, talented. He's a major MESS! I love him. He made me dance. Let's just say they might have been a little surprised that this white girl had some moves. I'll admit. I got down. I G.O.T. D.O.W.N. Happiest time for me. We were there for several hours. I think I hugged them all over and over. Precious grabbed me many times with her arms fully embracing me. She told me she loved me in her sweet Shona accent and she told me she thinks of me like her mother. And yes I got to spend time with sweet Sarah Tendai. There just are not words to describe my heart for these kids. They are between 13 - 18. There are 15 of them. I'm just at a loss for words, but no shortage of heart beats. I'm in love. That is all there is to it. I must come back. I must.
I revealed the surprise that they all will go to camp. I thought the roof would cave in. 3 of them cannot go because they will be taking national exams. But they understand. The other 12 + 4 of the community kids will go. I paired them each with a sponsor and told a little bit about each. Julie Harrell....you get my funny Boaz. He is special. I let God control who would be whos sponsor. The rest I'll have to follow up with when I get home.
Please remember to pray for the other 8 that need to be identified. I am worried about this coming together.
Power outages are frequent. I've had exactly 2 painfully cold showers. The food has been wonderful. My sleep is not so good. I really only have 2 days left here in Harare. 2 days that I want to matter. I want to see Boaz and the gang again. I'm praying about this.
On Wednesday, I will be on a 12 hour bus trip to Victoria Falls. Please pray for this. I will be uncomfortable, hot, squished in and I don't want to get robbed. I will spend Thursday all day at the Falls which I expect to bring me to my knees and to tears. I will start my journey home on Friday. I will arrive on Saturday. I hate flying. I'm being a crybaby. I hate it.
Today was church....and it was very good. It is a wonderful community chruch that focus on life groups, just like Cross Point. Today the message was about the purpose of the life/community groups. To fellowship, to live in the WORD, to be filled with the SPIRIT and to ALWAYS be on MISSION. Girls of mine....I think we have some work to do to be on Mission. I think we must start filling our empty seats. Please be praying about this.
Jesus is here. These people are so beautiful. The ones who know Jesus worship Him so openly. It is so freeing, so amazing, so perfect. The 2 week life I have here is perfect, despite the troubles. I miss my kids and Joe.
Dear Asher and Shawn....thank you for sharing your mommy for the mission of Christ. He loves you. I love you. And thank you Joe for letting me run away. I'm know I'm a bit of a wild one at times. Thank you for never trying to change that about me.
I really cannot believe I am back in Zimbabwe. It blows my mind.
Let me just try and get the ugly stuff out of the way first. My flights were so long and painful. Moreso this year than last, because last year I had an aisle seat and this year I was in the hell knows as cruched inbetween sleeping people, so I couldn't even move around. I admit I came to tears more than once. Yes, I hated it. I was supposed to have aisle seats. Not sure how that went awry. But the good news is I made it with luggage intact. Blessed news....much different from last year.
I had not one moment of sleep on the planes. So I was awake in all nearly 40 hours. When I awoke on my first day, my eyes were puffy and swollen shut. Monster much? I was even horrified of myself. By now it is much better, but still not looking exactly like myself.
On to the heart of the matter. The zim babies. Here is what hurts......my favorite orphanage from last year.....the one with all the dirty little children who never have baths and who wear torn clothes, and cook their own meals over an open flame in an iron pot......they are the same. I was really hoping to see some improvement. Too long of a story....but the family in charge of this orphanage may not be of high moral standards. While they lap it up in their swanky house with new leather sofas and large TV's, the children suffer. They have even refused free medical care for the children. The HIV positive children are not getting treatment. It just royally sucks. It sucks hard core. It f'ing sucks. And to top it off, I will probably never go back. The group that lives here permanently have been asked not to return. We went yesterday just hoping we wouldn't get thrown out. We took Christmas presents and fruit....they let us stay. I was only able to take about 20 photos before I was told i could not take photos. To say that my heart breaks for them is an understatement. I suppose the donations that come in are used for other purposes. The kids are not being loved.
I took in and gave out as many hugs and kisses as I possibly could. I got to see Farri, my favorite little boy from last year. He has not even grown an inch. I think he has Aids. He looks unwell. I would not be surprised if he isn't alive much longer. He didn't remember me. That hurt. But hey....it isn't about me.
Some of the children have grown like weeds. I got to see a little girl who I met last year. Her name is Trinity. She has grown massive amounts. She is stunning. Absolutely breath taking. I'll upload photos when I get home. She is also untreated for HIV. Her face, her eyes, her smile.....no words can describe. She speaks a little English. We talked briefly....but mostly we just hugged. I bet that sweet girl really misses having a momma.
Today we spent the morning painting at a boys home that I also got to visit last year. Most of them were away in school....so i only got to see 3 or 4. I'll see them all though fairly soon. These boys are some of the camp candidates, and I'll get to select some for camp soon. I am so very excited about this. I wish I could tell you everything....but there is too much.
Later today we are going to play with little children from the Denai home. I also met them last year, just for one brief afternoon. They are all toddlers and should be very fun.
Tomorrow afternoon I get to go to the Zimre Park school and Saturday I get to spend most of the days with the teenagers that I love so much. I am planning to video some of them discovering that they will all get to go to camp. My prayer is that it is the most spectacular reacting ever, and that I can post it when I get home. 3 of them got to go to camp in August, and ever since then, they have ALL been praying to go. To think that all of these beautiful sponsors and myself get to be a part of God's plan in answering their prayers. No reason for me to have shaved my legs today....for the goosebumps just grew hair on my legs about 1/4 inch. Ahhhh...so worth it.
My accomodations are completely different than last year, which is both good and bad. The good is that I have my own bathroom. Heaven in Africa. The bad is that I am a little secluded from the other family...and the "guides" no longer stay with us....so there is no late night talks about life, love, and saving all the children in Africa. I'm pretty much on my own. Thank God for the 12 songs I downloaded onto my iPhone.
Speaking of my playlist.....I noticed something very peculiar and wonder what God has up His sleeve, robe, whatever... None of the songs that I downloaded are Christian songs. I came to Zim without one praise song. Everything I downloaded is either about love, loss or pain. Mostly loss and pain. Ok.....aside from that one Justin Timberlake song and the other Beyonce booty shaker, but the rest are totally deep and painful. Makes me cry a lot at night. Makes me feel deep. Makes me miss Jesus.
So, I'm reading in my Bible a lot. Studying Jeremiah at the moment. My friend Cindy sent me off with daily devotionals, which I am also reading everyday.
The last thing that I can think to tell you is really quite important. Zimbabwe is in a much better economic state than when i visited last year. Last year, their currency was worthless and everyone was struggling everywhere. There was no food in the grocery stores and most of the businesses were just shut down. There was no commerce at all. People were just hanging out on the side of the roads begging. They were hanging out in some places by the thousands, other places by the hundreds. NOW - Zim is legally trading in US dollars. Wow. Now all the stores are stocked and life really seems normal. This is a very wonderful thing. It is also a very fragile thing....in that the US dollar could be voided on any day. But people overall seem much better off.
Be praying for the children. Most of them are so poor that they cannot go to school because they (a) cannot afford school fees (b) cannot afford uniforms. Many of the children run around begging for school fees and uniforms. Isn't that something?
I feel like I'm in another world. Well, I am. I am in Zim.
So, when God called out to Abram (Abraham) to tell him that he needed to leave his home and go to a land that God would reveal to him, oh.....whenver.... Abraham said "Here I Am". And moreso, Abraham obeyed. He continued to obey when God tested him regarding the sacrifice of Abrahams only son. Thankfully, Abrahams faith and obedience determined that the sacrifice wouldn't be necessary. When God called out to Abraham, he replied "Here I Am". Faith and obedience.
Faith and obedience.
Faith and obedience.
Faith, obedience, and a lot of nerve.
I am no Abraham. Afterall, God did not call me to just go to the airport and wait until He reveals which plane I am to board. And while my journey will take a long 2 days, it will not take 40 years as it did for Abraham. And God hasn't called me to sacrifice my children on an altar, but He has asked me to break away from them to fill up the lives of other children. And He has asked me to offer my children back to Him for service to Him.
This is one of my "Here I Am" moments. I'll be honest, there is nothing in my world more thrilling and rewarding than to be obedient when Jesus calls. I wish it were a daily strength of mine. It is not. I don't always know where God is leading me. Sometimes I feel very confused and at a crossroads, not knowing which way to go. Other times, I dread going. Following Jesus isn't a simple journey. It isn't all happiness and riches. It isn't safe. It isn't free of illness. It isn't void of devastation, trauma, hurt, loss, and tragedy. It is challenging, radical and unknown. It is the adventure of a lifetime. And I believe in the final destination as much as I believe I am sitting in a chair and typing on a laptop, right now.
I am no Abraham. I am not the father of many nations. I am Melissa. Raised in a broken home, an only child, estranged from some. I spent years and years making horrible decision after horrible decision. I've abused myself in many ways. I have sinned repeatedly. The day I threw in the towel and gave my heart to Christ was the first day of my new life. It was the best day of my life. He managed to spiff me up a little bit, clean out some of the funk, rid me of the disease of myself, and pave me a new road. It's a bumpy road and it has some steep climbs. But I know where it is ultimately going. I'm on the road to my land of milk and honey, and for me, it goes through Africa.
It is 3:23pm, cst, right now on a Wednesday in Nashville, TN. Today I had breakfast with a friend, took Asher to a park, took Shawn to the health department for his H1N1 nasal mist vaccine and returned home. Life as usual. Along the way, I’ve had many beverages, and 2 filling meals. I took a shower under a brushed nickel faucet with clean running water, and I got dressed in a grotesque 11x11 closet, after I walked my bare feet across lovely tile floors. I opened my trendy stainless steel refrigerator and gave my children the beverages of their choice, and sliced apples and cheese for their breakfast. Most importantly….I snuggled up with my Asher Tate in a soft oversized chair, overlooking a nice flower garden, and bundled under a warm blanket while we chatted about how much we love each other, and shared too many hugs to count. When Shawn awoke, he was greeted by ME at the top of the stairs with arms open wide and the parade of kisses that begins each morning, and almost never stops. Like I said, a usual day. A day with choices. A day with luxuries. A day with comforts. A day overflowing with a mommas’ love for her children.
I am really writing to just share with each of you that I leave in 3 days (on Saturday) to fly back to Zimbabwe. Many of you helped me go last year. Many of you are helping me to go this year. Many are praying for me. And even more, so many of you have generously sponsored some teenagers in Zimbabwe to go to a 1 week Christian camp this December….an event that should no doubt increase their hope & faith, and in turn, improve their lives. For those of you new to this news…..most of these kids are outgrowing their orphanage (age 18) and will be put on the streets. The week long Christian camp which is something they could NEVER afford, is intended to be a wonderful experience of growing in Christ and increasing their faith for survival. When I asked for some sponsorships, I could never have imagined the outpouring of support. I was initially thinking I might be able to get about 10 children sponsored, and instead, you have sponsored 20 children. Joe and I will be sponsoring additional kids, so this is a HUGE success and praise in God’s name. I am overjoyed and cannot wait to share this news with them. Thank you.
Thank you senders and sponsors. Thank you friends and family. Thank you friends and family of friends and family. Your faith in giving means so much. Even if you gave LAST year but were not able to give THIS year, I am still thanking you because THIS year has everything to do with LAST year, and I am still counting your gift as a blessing to me. I am touched and humbled. Whether you were the first domino or the last, your placement on this journey has been critical.
In 3 days I board an airplane for 2 days, where when I land, the paragraph of choices, luxuries and comforts all but fade away. But thankfully, the love and the snuggles are traveling with me. They may not be MY children, but truly in a way I feel like they are. When a little one has lost his parents to AIDS, any hug will do. And if I have pride about anything, I like to think that I have incredible hugs….and my purpose is to pass them out. Snuggle tight. Kiss those dirty little faces. Talk about life with struggling teenagers. Seriously y’all, this is my gift to give. I cannot wait. Your contributions, small and large, put me on a plane and deliver me straight into the orphanage homes of children who are starving for food and starving for love. YOU are to be celebrated and commended for your willingness to give. I cannot tell you how much I want and hope that each of you will be blessed by your giving and by your prayers. I mean that with all of my heart. Some people believe that traveling in missions is a waste of money. I see it differently, very differently. God says that we are to care for the poor, the orphans and the widows. Money certainly overcomes a lot of troubles, and it would be great if more would be done with our resources to fix the problems. But to date, there is still starvation, war, sickness, death, etc. And there is no amount of money that can stand in for a hug and a kiss. There is no amount of money that can substitute for a one on one conversation with someone who needs hope, or someone who wants to understand who God is and how we are to worship Him (real questions I got last year). A bag of food will feed their tummies (and they do need this) but 2 weeks of loving fellowship can heal a lifetime of hurt and fear. Trust me…..last year they healed me completely.
In Zimbabwe the average life expectance is 27.
I will blog while I am away, but only a couple of times as the internet café is not a daily stop. Please feel free to read about my experiences at www.untilthejasperwalls.blogspot.com
If you desire to email me while I am away (11/7 – 11/21)…please do so at my alternate email address: email@example.com (I cannot retrieve mail from my main account). I can receive text messages on my phone 615-497-4598 but there is a long delay (about a day I think).
I am committed to serving in Africa for the rest of my life. Annually or twice annually, God willing. Please consider future assistance.
May all the praise be to my king and may the glory be for God alone. I am just a traveling servant.
Please remember me in your prayers and please please pray for the children. My safety is not my goal. My service is. Their hearts are.