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'His heart, His hands, His feet'

Zimbabwe | As a nation collapses, God's people are making a difference

Issue: "On the road again," May 9, 2009

The following is a follow-up letter from the pastor in Zimbabwe who wrote to WORLD readers in the July 12, 2008, issue ("Lord, how long will I call and you will not answer?"). He has asked to remain unidentified for security reasons.

Dear Friends,

Warm greetings again from Zimbabwe, where the overcast weather outside is a visible token of the goodness of God in supplying so far a wonderful rainy season in a year where, due to the national collapse, poor rains or excessive rains would have sounded the death knell for many in our land. In a sense, this epitomizes our situation at the moment, in such dire straits, and yet regularly, here and there, little reminders of the Lord's faithfulness and goodness.

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Much has happened since last I wrote. My last letter was woven around the theme of [victimization], and I shared a concern for so many who are victims of the degradation of this nation and the abuse of this people. Were I to supply a single word for the present state of the people, I suppose the word demoralized would fit. After years of raised expectations and then dashed hopes, of broken promises and unfulfilled commitments, of ineffective international pressures and inaccurate regional conclusions, of daily struggles to meet basic needs in the context of an increasingly obstructive and inept governmental system, the little stream of hope amongst the people of Zimbabwe runs very shallow and very slow at the moment. Even with regard to the agreement to form a government of national unity and even in the light of the very recent bill passed in parliament creating the post of prime minister for [opposition leader Morgan] Tsvangarai, people are reluctant to raise their hopes too high. If once bitten is twice shy, then what of often bitten?

As a Christian however, though hope on a human solution has sunk low, I think faith in a Divine agenda has been refined. When years ago, watching our struggling people, I asked the Lord why He was allowing such struggles and what He was doing, the answer impressed upon my mind was that He was making His people more like Jesus, His Son. I see that happening here amongst the people of God. When several months ago, seeing our tired people plodding wearily on in their faith, I challenged the Lord concerning His lack of care, His indifference to suffering and His inactivity in answering, He took us to Habakkuk and told us that He was refining the faith of His people so that they would trust Him, no matter what, when He seemed uncaring, when He seemed silent, when He seemed inactive.

I see that happening here among the people of God. When near the end of last year, the human suffering grew and poverty increased and cholera broke out, and we asked the Lord why He was not meeting needs and helping, He answered that He was, and asked us what we had to offer. And He took the few loaves that were in our hands, and made them food for many as Christians do what they can to feed and help the poor, and minister to the sick and encourage the downtrodden. And when it seemed that there were no more loaves to make available, friends from South Africa moved by the Spirit would drive up with pick-up truck loads and small car loads of food for the poor and elderly, and widows, or out of the blue (and we know who rules in the blue!) a donation of money would come from a saint overseas who had heard the voice of the Spirit.

And a glance at the face of God would show upon His lips a smile of knowing care and a gentle reproof for little faith. And when yet again, as we so often do these days, we pray at a service for yet another young person who is leaving the country, or a family emigrating for economic or educational reasons, and I ask God why He is taking so many good people away from an already weakened church, He points around the world at other places of spiritual need, and challenges us to be sure that those we lay hands on and send with our blessing, go well trained for service and in love with Savior and ready to extend the kingdom wherever they go.

He may paint strangely at the moment, but paint He does, and one day, the picture will be seen to be perfect. In the mean time, Lord, make us obedient brushes!

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