Farmstay with the Douglas Family | Chinhoyi

by - 8:16 PM

With the beautiful Douglas family on their farm in Chinhoyi :)

I had the immense privilege of staying on a 400-hectar farm-land in Chinhoyi (about one and a half hours north of Harare city) with the incredible Douglas family  Bruce and Sue, and their two adopted children David and Deborah. Ill never forget their open-hearted generosity and the words of truth that they have so graciously spoken into my life at this pivotal season in my faith journey. 

I have learnt so much from their life story and the persecution they faced from standing their ground in Zimbabwe through all the political, economical and racial turmoil, and at the same time trying to raise their kids  both their biological children Nathan and Tracy, as well as David and Deborah, the children they had fostered from the time they were mere babies and eventually were able to formally adopt about ten years later; through the tumultuous times of the farm invasions, when white farmers in Zimbabwe were threatened and many driven out of their homes and farm lands. The Douglass had to also deal with the racial discrimination and misunderstandings that resulted from their decision to foster and adopt two Zimbabwean orphans. It was also extra difficult in their case because one of the children was HIV-positive. So despite all their friends and many of their family or neighbours hating and ridiculing them for making these children their own, they decided against all opposition to continue with what they believed God was calling them to do. This amazing couple knew they needed to return to Zimbabwe no matter what. 

After Bruce's life had been threatened, they fled the country for a time and were forced to leave Dave and Deb in an orphanage. It was a horrific time for them all. But eventually they returned and by the grace of God, were able to choose and walk in the path of forgiveness with the black Zimbabwean war veteran who took their farm lands by force. The man had tried farming the land for seven years, but it was futile, because he had never worked in the farming business. He eventually asked the Douglass to return to build up their business again (Sues family were third generation farmers in Chinhoyi), although he would still maintain ownership of the farm and receive a large percentage of the Douglass profits. 

Nevertheless, it is simply amazing to hear their story of forgiveness and reconciliation, because it was no doubt such a difficult thing to choose  during the land grab, their house was completely looted, their lives were threatened and their whole livelihood was taken forcefully from them. How do you forgive people who have hurt your family and taken away what you love and treasure? I am just mind-blown by their tenacity, their faith in Jesus and their relentless love for the people of Zimbabwe  especially the rural villagers and the orphans of the community. 

Since their return to the farming business in Chinhoyi, they have also opened up a butchery shop and a small take-out place. Through their business, they have been able to reach out to countless black Zimbabweans who are struggling to survive and provide for their families. The Douglass testify to seeing all this as a God-given opportunity to minister to people whose needs run deeper than the mere physical. 

I truly felt that it was no coincidence that I had met them on December 6 when I was transiting on the plane from Johannesburg to Harare. (Read my previous post for that story!) When they gave me their number and invited me to stay with them at Chinhoyi at some point in my trip, I took that on board, but for the next two weeks got too busy to contact them. But finally when I did, it turned out to be the perfect timing to call them. They immediately offered to pick me from my missions teamhouse in Harare the very next day because they were heading to the city to drop their daughters family off at the airport! Talk about divine appointment, I believe this was definitely one of them. 

You know why? Now that I reflect on it, I truly believe these guys were an answered prayer, even before I had gone on the two weeks of ministry work with the street kids and the slum township  God knew the challenges I would face, He knew the prayers I would make in those two weeks, and He knew I needed to meet these guys and learn from their ministry and experience. Truly, the last two weeks have been challenging, as I saw the scale of deprivation and brokenness in the various families, villages, townships and communities I entered into. Many children and young people were orphaned or only had one parent who could not afford to provide for them or send them to school. The townships were simply lacking in basic infrastructure, and so many people were stuck in the poverty mentality  what Bruce called an orphan spirit. Many are content to take and get as much or as little as they can from aid organisations, but they are reluctant or unable to envision themselves taking initiative or responsibility to make the changes in their own communities. 

It'd really make me cry when I'd go back into my room at the end of the day and take all this in within my heart, mind and spirit. The poverty is not just a physical problem, or even a psychological one. It is a spiritual problem  the vicious cycle of want, abuse, lack of knowledge, and recurrent sins have wrecked havoc that is seemingly beyond repair. There is so much brokenness. The darkness is so great, you wonder if the light would or could shine for very long  if at all  in some of these shadowy crevices. So in my despair, I cried out to God. I still cry out to God. And I realize then with deeper conviction that what God is calling me to do  and every other person who desires to do something with their lives  is to reach the inward person; the person within the person.

Often we are so caught up with our projects, our aid work, and our charitable actions that we forget to reach out to someone and share with them the hope that is found in Jesus. This is truly my conviction. Yes, we need to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, fill the thirsty, fight for the oppressed, provide healthcare for the sick and wounded, offer counseling for the mentally distressed, and all these other things that we know we need to concern ourselves about  but, most of all, we need to do all this with the kingdom of God in mind and heart. It is found in Isaiah 58 and 61. Jesus came to set the captives free  you and me included. He came to restore the broken-hearted and the spiritually malnourished. He came to establish righteousness and justice. He is alive and working right now in the hearts of those who are hearing his voice and feeling his spirit touch the deepest part of our being. It is not an ambiguous voice, it is clear and loud  but it is precisely clear and loud because it is spoken all in a spirit whisper. It is a stark contrast to the noise and the brash voices of the world around us. It takes guts, patience and humility to listen. How can I even begin to describe it? It is the most wonderful thing!

God speaks to us in many ways  but the first thing we should turn to is His inspired word, the Bible. It is through this very thing that He can also illuminate our hardened hearts and stubborn minds through circumstances, people, songs and music, and through anything really. But Im discovering more and more that when I read Gods word and I choose to be still and silent to hear His voice, He speaks to me in my thoughts and in impressions that cannot be explained with words. But like I said, Jesus does not speak ambiguously. We are not left as orphans in the dark. We are sons and daughters of God in Christ Jesus. Because of His redemptive work on the cross, we can come to God in full confidence, knowing that we are washed clean and made whole. The worst sinner is the proud in heart  the one who doesn't acknowledge God and who refuses to admit his pride and lostness.  (Now were you offended by that? Perhaps you have that pride in you then. Just as I had, and I still do have when I am not careful to let God examine and purify my thoughts and intentions.) 

Anyhow, as I was saying earlier (haha I know, I tend to go on these d-and-m tangents) God really knew that I needed to meet Bruce and Sue. A few days ago, before I went to their place on the 22nd of December, I was out in a place called Gweru on a camping safari trip. When I was out there, living in the river tent, hearing the sounds of lions roaring and elephants bellowing in the near distance, I did not have any communication network on my phone. So I told God I would spend lots of time just taking in the surroundings, reflecting on my last two weeks in Zimbabwe, reading, journaling, praying and worshipping with my ukulele. As I did all that, I really felt that I wanted more of Gods spirit. I wanted to know Jesus in a deeper way. For a long time, I had known about him. Now I do know Him, his spirit living within me  but still, I want to go deeper. And truly, there is so much more! So that's it, isnt it? The whole Christian journey is to desire more of who Jesus is. That is what makes the Christ-ian (a follower of Christ) journey such an exciting, never-ending joy-and-challenge-filled one. 

I asked God to continue to lead me to people who would be able to guide me and speak into my life so that I could learn more about His word, His kingdom, His calling for me, His purpose, and His gifts through the Holy Spirit. It was a specific prayer, and I knew God would answer it. On one of the rainy days when I was sitting in my river tent, with my ukulele and Bible in hand, I felt compelled to read John 12 (it popped up in my mind). When I turned to it, I knew God was bringing this passage to my memory for a reason. It was the event where Mary (Lazarus and Martha's sister) broke the precious alabaster perfume jar at the feet of Jesus in an act of love and worship. Judas (who was later to betray Jesus) got irritated by the lavish display of devotion, and expressed his hypocritical indignation by saying something to the effect of, What a waste! That expensive jar of alabaster could have been sold for a years worth of wages and given to the poor! But guess what, Jesus rebuked him and said, What this woman has done for me will be preached all over the world. You will always have the poor with you, but not Me. 

As I asked God what this passage meant for me personally and for the next lap of my journey next year, I felt Him telling me that this coming year will be a year for me to spend getting to know Jesus in a deeper way. It will be a year of knowing Him and sitting at his feet by making that time  and it can only happen if I am willing to break my alabaster jar before Him and for His purpose. Its not about good works or giving away everything to the poor (although faith should manifest itself in fruitful works as such). It is about Jesus. It is about knowing Him so deeply  like a friend, a mentor, and of course, my personal Lord and Saviour. It is about being filled with His love, truth and spirit  so much so that I will naturally live out in boldness the life He is calling me to. It will not be a life of comfort or self-satisfaction, but it will be a life of adventure, challenges, sacrifice, obedience and true fulfilment. This is joy, hope, peace and overflowing love that can only come from God  the Giver of life! 

Amazingly, the few days that I spent on the farm with the Douglass led me in exactly the direction that I was headed. I didn't know it, but God was setting me up through these guys. Every morning, despite the busyness of their schedule and work, Bruce and Sue would take time after breakfast to chat with me and we would pray and do a Bible study together. It was such a special time. For some reason, Bruce felt compelled to talk about the foundations of faith as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And surprise, surprise, these were the exact things I had been asking God to teach me about because I knew I needed to learn them on a deeper level at this point in my walk with God. See, I knew there was a reason I was coming to Zimbabwe! It was more than just for volunteer or missions work, travel and backpacking. I believe meeting this couple and their family was one of the things that I needed to encounter while in Zimbabwe  and God made it happen in the most miraculous of ways! 

Bruce also generously gave me a few books to guide me on these topics and help me plunge deeper into what God is calling me to. On my last morning at their place, Bruce and Sue wanted to pray for me and ask God to speak into my life for this season. So we stood up and they stood around me, they laid their hands on me and prayed for me. You know, the Bible says when two or three are gathered in My name, I will hear them. And God does. They spoke words of life into my life, as inspired by the Holy Spirit in those special moments. It was nothing emotional or drastic, it was simply God using these guys to encourage and guide me along the narrow path. Immediately after, I got my journal and wrote down the stuff they said and the things I believe God was also speaking to me. I know that I wont take the conventional path, I wont live for my own ambitions. I know that God is establishing and grounding my identity in Christ as I walk in faith. He is teaching me how to live as His daughter, His disciple. I know there's a reason that I had gone to Israel a few months before during the 50-day summer war. I know there's definitely a reason I finally made it to Africa at this time and landed up here. I know God is building a conviction and passion within me to use my love for music, writing and the arts to minister to people in dark places and draw them to the grace and knowledge of who Jesus is. I am not ashamed of it. It is life and hope  the best thing I have ever found, so why would I hesitate to share it with anyone I encounter along the way? 

I know that God will continue to lead me out into the fray, to step into difficult places and to walk a different path. But what I must do is uphold the word of truth, the light unto my path, everywhere that I walk. I must live by faith and not merely by sight. I must trust and obey, and not rely on my own abilities or understanding alone. I must worship fully and love all, as Jesus calls each of us to do. I must build my life on the solid rock, on the surest foundation, that is Jesus Christ himself. I must continue to acquire, with hard work and patience  and of course, no little measure of ingenuity  new and practical skills, so I can be more effective in blessing others wherever I go.
My focus is not on charity, it is on building the kingdom of God. It is not a kingdom of high walls and fortresses, opulent halls and the use of political prowess. It is an invisible kingdom that bears fruit in the people whose lives will be transformed from the inside out. It will uphold truth, righteousness and justice. It will be built on the rocks of prayer, worship and the study of Gods word. It will be a safe haven, a place where captives are released from their chains and bondage. It will bring forth peace-makers (note: not peace-keepers, there's a vast difference), missionaries, teachers, worshipers, entrepreneurs who will use their gifts for the benefit of others, and so many more.
I will not be intimidated by mere men. I will not be discouraged by circumstances, although there will be times when Ill be tempted to remain in such discouragement. But you know, often it is sadness and despair at the sorry state of our broken world that drives us to God, and once again, to hope in Jesus. It is not a futile hope, I assure you. There will be scoffers and mockers and doubters, but let me say it again: my faith is not a crutch; it is a pillar, a sure anchor for the soul! 

I will fight and make a stand. I will fail, but I will not give up the struggle. Yes, I will fall, but I will not stop getting up again. By the grace of God go I. I am weak, but it is precisely my weakness that allows for God's strength to show. 

I am so looking forward to the weeks and months ahead. It is an exciting time. Treacherous things are happening around the world  evil is growing stronger, the love of many is growing colder  but we hold fast to Christ and His promises. We do not sit back and relax, we do not hide in our holes like hermits; we will stand up and fight. We will fight for joy, for peace, for our own character to be forged, for the people who do not have what we have, for the kingdom that is unseen, for the truth that we have received. 

'For God did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind.' 2 Timothy 1:7

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