Our trip to Zimbabwe was marked at every turn by the grace and provision of God. Henry worked to develop fruitful relationships, most notably with the manager of a food supplier who not only sold us the grain but provided the transport, by truck, into Gwai River, making the use of the unreliable rail system unnecessary. This proved to be a huge advantage, and relieved us of much stress. The grain was delivered by flatbed truck directly to the Gwai River Primary School where it was offloaded into a storage room.
This work was a collaboration of several organizations, made up of passionate individuals: Steve and I represented SLI; Todd Martin, a director of SLI, is also on the board of LCFA (an organization I helped create two years ago); Henry Nel of Rock of Africa/South Africa has a regular ministry to the Gwai River region and is beloved there. Our team was rounded by Paul Ness of Cape Town who added as much humor and faith as he did muscle and hard work.
Not only did your gifts, donations and pledges contribute to the direct distribution of grain to children in some of the poorest regions of Zimbabwe, but they also provided much-needed seed in time for the planting season.
Henry announced that I would be meeting with the women of the village and conducting a "women's conference" while he met with the farmers. Pastor Victor of Gwai River told Henry that I would have to address the women after Henry talked with the farmers. "Oh, no," said Henry, "she will talk to the women while I talk to the farmers...." Pastor Victor patiently explained: "Henry," he said, "the women ARE the farmers." In Zimbabwe, the women make up the work force, most of which is agricultural. We all had a good laugh as we remembered what we'd studied about this region, but realized that our own cultural biases sneak in anyway when we least expect it.
This time, instead of just donating seed, Henry proposed that the farmers sign a letter of commitment agreeing to donate back a portion of their crop to the school. Since it is their children attending the school, they should have no problem with this. The farmers seemed agreeable but a bit unsure, one woman in particular worried that she might not be able to meet her commitment if she should experience a poor crop, but we persisted, knowing that all the seed is donated, and that if they planted in faith, there would be enough. I think the fruit of all this will be a community invested in itself, committed to self-sufficiency (as opposed to charity). We are very excited to see, this Spring, what feedback the farmers give us about this experiment.
On the whole, our trip was blessed in every way. This time, there were no fuel issues, no flat tires, no border hassles (well, not many anyway), and though we had rain, none of it hurt the grain!
Our last dinner in Gwai was just bug-infested hilarity -- all of us laughing as Steve patiently picked the praying mantis off his spaghetti and I flicked the flying termites out of the butter -- finally removing the candles from our table and eating in the dark to down our deliciousness in peace. The food was amazingly good. The trip back to Johannesburg was also easy, and delightful in another way, as our conversations deepened our friendships. After a night in Johannesburg, our flights home were also uneventful, full of good food (believe it or not) and good movies. And a few tears for missing all that we left behind.
We challenge you to consider joining us as we plan our return in May.