Wednesday, August 30, 2006

2 Miracles

I love dancing in church. The singing here is incredible, and I can't but help getting into it. I feel like David - dancing and praising with all his might. Yesterday a woman came into my office and said, "I saw you dancing on the weekend. You're really good! I didn't think that white people could dance, but you sure can!" Miracle number 1: My bad dancing is interpreted as talent in Zimbabwe. Hallelujah!

Yesterday we met with some people to plan a training session. One of the gentlemen had been to Canada. "We were in Penticton. Do you know it?" It's a small place in B.C. It's also where my brother Joel was born. Miracle number 2: Hooking up with someone in Zimbabwe who has been to Penticton. God is good.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Prayer Requests

Recently, one of the Salvation Army majors here was in a car accident. He was driving along, and a young boy dashed out in front of his vehicle. He was hit, and died as soon as he reached the hospital. My friend was telling me that as soon as he was hit, this little 8 year old started praying, and that the last words from his mouth were "Lord, if I am going to die, I just pray that you would take me into your hands." Please pray for this boy's family - who are obviously devastated - and also for the major - who is quite traumatized. I was really blessed by the faith of this boy. I am so thankful that faith gives many people a peace as they are passing through this life to the next.

Please also pray for Lt. Col. Mhasvi. He works with us, and is a kind, humble man. He has been in the hospital for a week; seriously ill. He is waiting for surgery, but both surgeons are out of the country until Tuesday night. (It's so ridiculous to me that there are only 2 surgeons and that they're both away, but anyway...) His surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, and his daughter's wedding is on Saturday. Please pray for him and the family.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Weekend at the Bible Convention

We spent the weekend in Mazowe at the Territorial Bible Convention with fellow Canadian Commissioner Bond (she told us that in training college everyone just called her by her last name - "Bond" - don't you love that?) It was a good weekend. There were over 600 delegates. I got to sing in a trio and crack the high note in front of 600 people!! The singing and dancing was AWESOME! Praise & worship is such good exercise! The weekend also made me realize once again that we know so many good people here. There are so many women who just look out for me, and show me how things work. I am so grateful for our friends, and also just for so many people who show us kindness and grace every day. We ate lots of sadza.

I remembered my bucket this time, and that made bathing a lot easier! I shared one of the "special" bedrooms with a beautiful, gracious woman, and was grateful to have my own twin bed. By the time I got there, it was dark. I went to use the toilet, and there wasn't a light. So, I flushed and it overflowed. Yummy wet pjs to sleep in! Then in the morning, I stepped out of bed, and the whole floor was flooded. There was sewage everywhere! But you adapt and adjust...

On the way home, we dropped some ladies off at their corps, and there was this little kid who just kept staring at me. Eventually he got the courage to extend his hand. I shook it, and then he just kept staring at his own hand. Maybe he was worried that some of my colour had rubbed off on him!

Friday, August 25, 2006

African Haircuts & Tom Thumb

Yesterday I got my hair cut. I had walked into the "Family Hair Salon" on Tuesday and asked if it was possible for me to get my hair cut there. The receptionist looked me up and down and then asked all of the girls if anyone was willing to take me (white hair can be a bit tricky). Thankfully Denizer said yes, and told me to come back yesterday. Now, I wasn't getting any fancy braiding or extensions or even a weave - I just wanted a simple cut, and yet I was the talk of the place. Denizer tried tying up my hair in elastic bands, but it kept falling out, so someone was assigned just to hold my hair in place while Denizer cut. And there were lots of curious onlookers ("look - it's just like a wig!" "are you sure you're not cutting too much?" "her hair is sticking to my hands!") She did a good job, and it was an adventure.

Last night Confidence came over with a gift for me - a storybook of "Little Tom Thumb." She explained, "I know you like to read." It was so sweet!

And congrats to Kirsten and the "Holy Session" who are graduating today. Magona (well done)!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

It's a small world after all

Last week I found out that The Salvation Army here was receiving a guest from South Korea. It turned out to be Major Dong Jin Kim - an old family friend. I last saw Dong Jim when he came to Canada for 10 months to do part of his officer training. I hadn't seen him in 20 years, but he didn't seem to find it hard to pick me out of a crowd! It was great to catch up. We went horseback riding on Saturday (and got SO close to giraffes - it was awesome, but of course our camera batteries died at that exact moment!) He also took us out for Indian food (which was a nice treat because we'd never be able to afford it, and because it reminded us of our family back home). A Canadian and South Korean meet up in Zimbabwe for Indian food. It IS a small world after all.

There's a picture of us in our photo gallery. We've also just posted lots of new pictures - of John's trip to Chinhoyi, some of our friends from THQ, our trip to Zambia, John at music school, and our corps. So, have a look!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

First Bath & New Money

Oh, John - what a guy! I'm so in love with John! He always lets me have the first bath. We have to share bath water, but he always lets me have the hottest, cleanest water. Isn't that sweet? What a catch!

Tomorrow's the last day we can use the old "currency" (bearers' cheques). We got the new currency (with the 3 slashed zeros) a few weeks ago, and so we've had this mix of currency and prices, which has really confused people. And after tomorrow, the old stuff won't be worth anything. I worry for people who have been out of the country, or those in rural areas who may not have heard the news, or people who aren't near any banks, or people who are hopefully holding on to cash so that they might have some savings for their future. I know that one of our older neighbours still has coins from the currency before this last one - hoping that they'll make a comeback. She looked so sad when I told her it wasn't worth anything. What a fascinating place to learn about economics!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Johnny Who?

Today is a special day as Rochelle has given me permission to post on her blog. It's incredible how protective she is of this site. Each day I get down on my knees and plead, "Please, please, Rochelle, may I leave a note on your blog for my mom, dad, brother and my two friends?" But do you think she cares? Nope. So cruel. So inhumane. So domineering.

For those of you asking, "Who's this Johnny guy?", don't worry, Rochelle will be back soon. Besides, a bit of a break from the whole "world peace/love your neighbours/giraffes are people too" agenda never hurt anyone... I think.


Oh, no! Chikonohono

My recent trip to Chikonohono messed me up real good. I went to this small settlement on the outskirts of Chinhoyi with a group of young people from my corps. We went there to support the official opening of their corps and to participate in the weekend festivities. I don't think they see too many white people (murungus) in Chikonohono since everywhere I walked or drove, people stopped in their tracks to stare at me. At one point, a group of 30 kids ran up to me pointing and shouting, "Iwe, murungu!" They then proceeded to follow me around for the day. It's very strange being stared at constantly. But quite tiring over the course of many days. You always try to smile and be cheerful, but sometimes you just want to chill and hide from the peering eyes.

I was asked to give my testimony and surprised the congregation by speaking the first seven sentences in Shona. This isn't to say that my Shona has improved, but I'm certainly becoming more confident. And it helps that I don't mind making mistakes (ie looking foolish).

On the Sunday, most of our group became quite ill. Throughout the three services, they kept rushing out of the church to the toilets outside with diarrhea and to throw up. It was quite horrible for them as the "toilets" consisted of one hole in the ground for the men and one hole in the ground for the women. Out of our group of 27, only four of us didn't get sick. It turns out that Chikonohono has some serious issues with water contamination so whatever we ate or drank that weekend must have made the group ill.

Thankful to God for sparing me, I got into the bus for the journey home. After about 20 minutes on the road, the sickness hit me. And hit me hard. Every few minutes the bus had to stop so that I could rush into the bushes and suffer. (Never go anywhere in Zimbabwe without bringing toilet paper with you.) On my last "washroom" stop, I ran quite a distance from the bus and deep into the bushes. As I squatted in the tall grass, I heard some rustling nearby. "Oh, no," I thought, "please don't let that be a lion." What a horrible way to die. But thankfully, I made it back to the bus relatively unscathed. What a great bonding experience. It would have been sad not to share it with my friends.


Territorial School of Music and Gospel Arts

Last week I attended music and gospel arts camp. It was held at a boarding school (Mazowe High) that kept having power and water cuts. I can handle the power cuts, but I like to have water. And I'll never get used to washing from a bucket of water. Too Western, I guess.

The music and gospel arts camp was different than I expected. I was under the impression that I was helping out with the gospel arts stream and leading some creative writing and poetry workshops and teaching some media (photography, design, powerpoint, etc) electives. However, I ended up leading the A Band. I've learned to just go with the flow here in Zimbabwe. While I try to plan ahead, I'm always prepared for things to be completely different than expected. And that's usually the way it works out.

I also had to play a solo at the Wednesday concert. For someone who hasn't played in years, it was a bit too much, too soon. But people seemed to enjoy it. The vocal director even recorded me on his cell phone. I also led brass workshops in the morning before rehearsals. I'm glad I took the conducting elective many years ago at National Music Camp or I would have had no clue. My baton was a mechanical pencil, but you make do with what you have. Our major selection was To God Be the Glory... I think. The kids seemed to have fun, and I had my picture taken with them after the final concert with their certificates.

While up at the camp, I went running through the countryside in the mornings. About two or three kilometres from the school is a farm prison where inmates live and work shortly before being released. It looked more like a concentration camp. It had wire fencing surrounding corrugated iron shacks where the prisoners sleep. The corrugated iron walls and roofs mean that the shacks are freezing in winter and like ovens in the summer. The men were dressed in dirty, ripped clothing. It was quite humbling to pass by there each morning, but a good opportunity to pray more intentionally for prisoners in Zimbabwe.


Angels in the Streets  

Last night I led a prayer meeting at Warren Park Corps, which is on the outskirts of Harare. I only found out I was leading the meeting earlier in the afternoon when I received a message informing me that I would be picked up at the gate of my compound at 5:30 pm. Go with the flow... At 6:10 I gave up waiting at my gate and went home. After I had changed out of my work clothes a man arrived to pick me up. So I quickly changed back into my clothes and we raced there. It took us 20 minutes to make the 45 minute journey (it certainly helped me get into the spirit of prayer) and then arrived to find that the congregation had been waiting from 6 pm for me to arrive. At any rate, it was great to send them out into their community to pray through the streets of their neighbourhood. I went out walking with the corps officer to see how they were doing, and it really blessed me to see the congregation praying in groups in front of homes, singing prayer choruses on dark street corners and praying for people on the street. The corps officer wants to continue the prayer walks once a week. And he's arranging a 24/7 prayer week next month.

On the ride home (a bit slower) the corps officers came with us so that they could visit an ill member of their congregation in a private hospital near my neigbourhood. They invited me to accompany them and we were given two minutes to pray for the woman at her bedside (it was well past visiting hours). She looked very weak and was struggling to breathe. She couldn't speak and could barely move her hand but she could see us. The corps officer took her hand as we prayed over her. This morning the corps officer visited me to let me know that the woman died a few hours after we left.


Almost Famous

A few weeks ago I was interviewed over the phone by Doug Field for the Canadian Salvation Army's podcast. I haven't heard it yet, but I'm told that it has been posted on their website ( I hate talking on phones (let alone for a taped interview), but I think it went reasonably okay. I think I even managed to avoid discussing politics. So, mom, check it out.


Farmer John

For those interested, in the past week we have enjoyed some luscious strawberries from our garden. I know you're all jealous. So I won't mention our lettuce, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, onions, green peppers, basil, etc, etc. However, you probably don't have calloused hands or aching legs. It's so incredible to eat food that you've grown in your own backyard.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Home League and Heroes' Day

I gave the devotional at THQ Home League today ("Take a Break.") I never thought I'd join home league (a Salvation Army group for mostly "older" ladies), but now I'm part of 2. I joined the one at my church by accident. A few weeks ago when church ended they made announcements (in Shona), and then a bunch of people left, but the 2 ladies seated next to me stayed. So I thought I'd better stay. A few minutes in I asked someone what was going on. "This is home league - and we're so happy you've joined us." They were disappointed that I wasn't up for joining the sewing contest. I just didn't think my contribution would bring our group much glory!

We celebrated Heroes' Day and Defense Forces Day on Monday and Tuesday. I think there might have been a typo in the state newspaper,"The Herald." The ad for Heroes' Day said, "Let's all remember that we are what we are because of the sacrifice and selfishness of these sons and daughters of Zimbabwe." Oh, Zimbabwe!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

'A' Band & 112%

I arrived home from South Africa last night. I spent a really amazing week with youth leaders from around Africa. I was so blessed to be with this group. Most of them are working with orphans and vulnerable children in their countries. They were coming together to write theses about their experiences, and I got to be a mentor. That part was cool in itself, because I felt like I was actually contributing, and was so touched to see how proud the students became of their work. It was awesome. I was exposed to new ideas (such as community counselling), and my heart was just really blessed to be surrounded by a great group of people committed to hope for their continent. Of course, it didn't do much to help my travel bug. There are just so many places in Africa I want to visit! Oh, and I saw the General. He accepted my salute.

A nice surprise when we got home was our 112% raise. Now that's got to tell you something about the quality of our work performance. Honestly - do you know of anyone else who has ever received this type of increase? It almost makes up for not being millionaires any longer. We're slowly getting used to the new currency.

John spent the week at National Music Camp. He thought he was going to support "technically" and maybe teach some poetry/creative arts electives. When he got there, he was appointed 'A' band leader, and had to lead the band workshops. Dad McAlister - feel proud of your son - he's totally carrying The Salvation Army brass banding torch!! Hopefully we'll get some pictures up soon. Speaking of pictures, all of the students wanted to get their photos taken with John. He's such a superstar! He asked me to bring a Big Mac home from S.Africa, but I just wasn't sure how well it would travel...

Anger Management

I read an interesting article in the paper yesterday. It was about a new bar in Nanjing, eastern China. The Rising Sun Anger Release Bar has hired 20 well-build men in their 20s and 30s who have agreed to be used as punching bags by customers. So, along with buying a drink, customers can beat up staff, smash glasses, shout and scream. The owner of the bar assured readers that staff are fully equipped with protective gear, and given regular physical training. How bizarre!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Happy Women's Day

Today is National Women's Day in South Africa. We celebrated by participating in a march in Soweto. This march commemorated the 1956 women's march against pass laws. It felt like we were entering into history. Women need freedom! South Africa is supposedly the rape capital of the world. 2 interesting stats - a woman is raped in South Africa every 26 seconds. And a young girl born in South Africa has a better chance of being raped than learning how to read. But there is hope - keep South Africa in your prayers. And please - appreciate all the wonderful women in your life. I know that I do! Happy Women's Day!

Monday, August 07, 2006


Happy Birthday to my dear Nana! I love and admire my Nana so much. She has always showed an interest in my life, and listened to me, and prayed for me, and that means a lot. She has taught me wisdom, kindness and faithfulness. I love you, Nana!

The other day I met a woman who reminded me a lot of my Nana. She was tall and dignified. I met her when John and I were visiting a senior citizens' home. The place was dreadfully sad. It is mostly filled with "foreigners" from other countries who married Zimbabweans, and then were rejected by the Zim families once their spouses passed away. Every person I met pointed at her/his stomach saying "nzara" (hungry). One lady only had 3 teeth, and couldn't talk, so I was told to watch her hands. My interpretation of her hand gestures (pointing at the administration building and then cutting her throat with her hand) led me to wonder about some of the rumours about how staff at the home take all of the donations for themselves and their families and let the residents starve. The whole situation was sad and just so unjust. It's so unjust that someone who is just like my grandmother would be in a situation where she is so marginalized and rejected that she is being left to starve. Our world is so bizarre. But God is good.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Back in Joburg

I'm in Johannesburg, South Africa. This is where I first arrived in Africa back in 1998. It's good to be back, and to catch up with some old friends. I've been reflecting on how much my life has changed since I was last here (in 2000). It seems hard to believe that that much time has passed. I feel like I was just here, and yet so much has happened to me and deepened me since then - including my whole marriage! By the way - we celebrated 4 years of incredible marriage last Thursday - I'm so in love with John! Being married to someone you're crazy about is a beautiful thing.

I've spent an amazing weekend with my friends Stacey & Buhle, and their 3 kids - Trinity (their adorable 6 month old - I think we've actually had some meaningful conversations in baby talk!), Bijou (their 17 year old foster daughter) and Nhlanhla (who is nine, and actually Buhle's brother, but they're trying to adopt him since their mother has passed away). Adoption is generally frowned upon in Zim, but seems much more accepted here. Fostering/adopting is a lifelong commitment, but man, it seems to make sense in terms of what really makes a difference. I admire Stacey & Buhle so much. I can't believe we're the same age and they have 3 kids (including a teenager!) Stacey & Buhle have really spoiled me since being here. We've had oreos and hot chocolate, and also went to McDonalds yesterday. I put all reservations about large multinational corporations aside and totally enjoyed my McNuggets. I also felt totally overwhelmed in the grocery store. There is just so much food and so much variety here - it seems hard to believe it's a neighbouring country to Zim. I almost fainted in the chocolate aisle. I also caught myself worrying that we were driving for too long, and that we were going to run out of petrol and be stuck. I realized, however, that no, in this country (like in most countries!) you can be fairly sure that if you go to a petrol station, they'll actually have petrol!

This morning we went to South Rand Community Church. I was so blessed. I love God, and worshipping Him is when I feel most "at home." I think worshipping God and loving people are the reasons I was put on this earth. South Rand reminded me a lot of our home church in Regent Park (614) - in its multiculturalism and worship and mix of people. I love our corps in Harare, but I must admit that it was nice to sing and hear a sermon in English. I got introduced as being from Zimbabwe, and after service a whole group of Zimbabweans came over and said how nice it was to see someone from home. That felt cool. I still can't really believe I'm here. God is good. Unfortunately, John didn't come to South Africa - he's back in Zim at the national music school.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Trip to Zambia

We had an awesome time in Zambia. It was so, so good to spend time with Bram & Anita. They refreshed our spirits and it gave us so much joy to have a piece of home come to us (so anyone else that wants to come visit....) Having good friends to share life's journey with is just such a wonderful gift. We also got to eat "Canadian" food for a few days. John has a new addiction to nutella, and we also enjoyed delicassies such as Cheerios, coke, chocolate chip cookies and spaghetti (notice we're eating a well balanced diet!)

We drove to Zambia with our friend Paul and his dad. Friday we took a bus to Chinhoyi and then waited by the side of the road for a couple of hours while trying to hitch a ride to Karoi. There were tonnes of people waiting with us. Everytime someone would drive by as a single driver and not pick anyone up, I thought, "how selfish!" (and yet how many millions of times did I see this back home and think it was "normal"?) We finally did get a ride and squished in the back seat of a little car with another man. The car needed a good push every once and a while, and the driver drank beer as he drove, but I guess beggars can't be choosers. We arrived in Karoi safe and sound and stayed the night at Paul's dad's place. His dad is a DC, and what a beautiful, gracious man. I was totally blessed by him. Saturday we drove to Kariba (it's got a beautiful lake) and then across the border to Chikankata (which is about 2 hours outside of Lusaka).

Our first day at Chikankata we went to church, and then got a tour of the impressive compound. There's a hospital, a high school, and a whole host of community-based projects. We met Richard and Heidie, and that was neat, as we had only ever connected via blogworld (see "blog reads" at right). Richard gave us a tour of the hospital. It was cool to see the maternity ward because our friend Denise was born there. It was sad to visit the children's ward. I cannot comprehend how babies and children can be malnourished in this world of ours. It is so completely unjust. It was also a little eerie when one mother kept asking if I would take her daughter. "She's very nice. Don't you think she's cute?"

Actually, one guy that we met at Chikankata was there for a visit from the UK. He was born at Chikankata, and then adopted by his British parents who consequently moved back to the UK, and this was his first time back. He said it was quite surreal to be there. "I just kind of wonder, 'what if?' you know? If I hadn't been adopted, I guess I would be one of these guys on the street begging for food and work, rather than one of the ones they're begging from."

Our friends are in Zambia with the ZIM team, which is a group primarily comprised of Canadians who come to Zambia or Zimbabwe every year for 3 weeks to do construction and other activities. Tonnes of local workers are also hired. On the second day we joined them in their work. Anita and I were on a demolition team. We spent the day knocking down walls and moving cement pieces. It's not every day you get to demolish a building. And it's not every day that you have dirt and dust coming out of your nose for the next 24 hours. Yum! We were working on renovations for the nurses' quarters. A bunch of kids set up camp outside of our site, and watched us as if we were a TV programme. A couple of them even made makeshift face masks to imitate us (as we were trying to limit the amount of dust intake). It was very cute! Anita got some photos, so I'll try to post some in the future.

Yesterday we took a bus back home to Harare. It was a long journey, but an interesting one. Our bus almost hit some elephants who were crossing the road, and we saw lots of monkeys and baboons. We actually walked across the border from Zambia to Zimbabwe, and that was cool. Not so cool was getting some money seized from us at the border. And then getting stopped every couple of hours so everyone could get out of the bus and have our bags searched for money. We also came home to news that there have been economic reforms, and 3 zeros have been knocked off all of the prices. So, our days as millionaires are over. Oh well... :)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Isn't it Ironic?

Today we drove past the Ministry of Construction building. Someone was explaining to us that they've been working on the building for 7 years now, and they've estimated that it will be another 5 years before the building is completed.

Part of my job is administering financial aptitude tests for people who are interested in taking finance courses. The tests are kept in a binder labelled (by my predecessor) "Uptitude Tests."

And yesterday I saw a guy wearing a T-shirt saying "Will Shag for Food." I'm sure it's somewhat funny in the UK, but once it gets sent to Zimbabwe as a hand-me-down, it seems more eerie. In this country some women do have sex, just to provide food for their children. And some men rape women as they are stealing their food.

Isn't it ironic? (I feel an Alanis Morrissette song coming on...)