When we first moved onto the ranch 10 odd years ago my sister-in-law asked me how I intended keeping myself busy every day. I didn’t know how to answer her, although even then every day was packed full of activities. Now my answer would simply be: Come and see! Most days start at about 6.30am. Despite the cold weather moving in, it is such a beautiful time of day. Clean and fresh, like you feel just after you have washed your face in the morning – Alive! First chores are animal feeding – coffee for me (Still have a bit of Starbucks left!) and then the dogs and horses (Sandy, our neighbour has been on vacation so her horses came over for a vacation with us! 10 of them return to their home tomorrow). We will keep our two that have been at livery with Sandy while we have been away and we are going to ‘board’ 2 of her others, 2 lovely ponies that Sandy rescued from an abusive home and has been retraining them using the Natural Horsemanship way.
Unless there is an early appointment I will then try to work 2 of the horses before tea. ‘Work’, I say…… A lot of my quiet time ‘happens’ out there on those rides, amongst the bush and rocks. Therapy for the soul. About 10am we start the ‘planned’ work, if something else urgent hasn’t overridden that plan, like a neighbour from the community with a need or problem, offering to sell us some vegetables from their garden, or very often with a little gift for something they have received from us…….. a woven grass mat, a few vegetables or something they may have made with their hands. So often when we have taken food to people they are desperate to give something in return. How hard it is to take from them - maybe a few oranges or guavas from their fruit tree – when we can see that they need every bit of nourishment themselves. I made a mistake once when I said no to an offer of guavas as we have an orchard full of them and it seemed so unnecessary. How wrong I was and it still haunts me that I robbed that person of blessing us. On Wednesday the ‘activity’ for the morning was the meeting with 2 groups of HIV Aids people who wanted to meet and talk about ideas and guidance. When I first heard from Patson that they had asked to meet me I was horrified as I have no experience except enthusiasm to help with the development of any group. Then the Lord nudged me and said ‘So what! I will be there’, so there we were, 7 ladies and 3 men, sitting in our lounge and sharing cups of tea and sandwiches (Several ladies were so excited to eat bread after too many months without seeing a loaf in their areas!). I forgot to open in prayer (when I remembered I sent up a quick, silent, intense prayer) and we started just sharing who we were, what the groups’ goals were, what skills they all had, etc.
Evidently each group has about 13 members. They pool everything they earn and share a vegetable garden where those that are not yet bringing in money work. At a specified month of the year they will share the profits of their work. They have some very interesting goals and mostly all achievable. The men were all farmers, one with knowledge of carpentry and the other in ‘bush’ mechanics! So when the ladies started going thru some of my very old craft magazines and books to see what they could be making, the men escaped with Diamond to see what we have started in our garden: proper composting that should warm water pipes; trench gardens; and the beginnings of our ‘worm’ farming that we hope to start this weekend. Diamond reported that it had been a very good time and they were going to start all three projects ASAP in their own gardens and homes! Sooooo…. At least they have gone away knowing they may never have to waste money on fertilizer again. The ladies were so excited to see things they could work on and then find markets, possibly in the tourist shops in town, or just within their own community. The one lady has a knitting machine and when she is able to buy wool knits for the school children, another is a dress maker and has an old hand machine, but most of her work is repairs to old clothes that the community cannot afford to replace and she sews for some of the orphans in her area who cannot pay. Nearly all of them are able to hand-sew, knit, crochet, make rag mats, grass mats for floors or windows, and all are willing to try their hands at something new. Their next question to me was could I help them by buying them the wool, material, finding rags, seeds, etc. My answer: I could be praying with them and spreading the word of their needs, but I was unable to actually finance them. I could market as much of their merchandise as possible in the circles I move. They could have workshops at MS and could use my two very old and temperamental sewing machines when the sun was shining (They are electric so will need solar charge). I then explained to them that they needed to start small and develop perfect items before going larger (Thanks for that wisdom, Dyan!), and lastly I said, ‘This is YOUR project. It is not mine. I want to help, but I am sitting on the side cheering you on, YOU are the team. And when you start seeing the fruits you will be able to stand up and say: ‘Look what we have achieved!’. ’ Oh how I pray they are successful. They are amazing characters. They have all been brave enough to stand up within their communities and admit to having AIDS and are standing tall. Although in the urban areas it is more ‘acceptable’, out here in the rural areas it is a very ‘taboo’ and still people are shunned because of it. The bantering around the room was so lovely to watch, even though I understood little of it! Their main concern right now is to have regular, healthy food so they are able to take their ARV’s. If they miss meals the medicine seems to cause a bad reaction in their bodies. All of them are supporting at least one or more direct family members or extended family, so what little food they manage to get has to go a long way. I am hoping to visit an Aids Organisation in Bulawayo to find out much more than I do and see if there is any help for them locally. If any of you know of organisations that may be particularly concerned about this field, please pass this information on and our email. So! By the time that meeting was over we had more sandwiches and tea for lunch! How silly of me not to have anticipated it would become a lunchtime meeting! I have still to develop my ‘community’ ways! I cannot believe I forgot to take a photo of them to share with you! One of the ladies had a great name – Norma! She and I hit it off very well. Pierre and Rentia (YL Zimbabwe couple living in Bulawayo) visited us for two nights and we had a great time of sharing and discovering again each others hearts. For those of you who don’t know the history, Pierre and Rentia stayed on the ranch for a couple of years while we were in Malawi and from here started Farming God’s Way and Young Life in the Matopos before spreading further and moving into town. They are our extended family! Thank you for your continued prayer and we would be grateful for any input you would like to give us. Preferably constructive! Did you know we now have a Facebook ‘Cause’? We are posting these Newsletters there plus updates when we are in town. Also thank you to those of you who have made donations. Without you so much couldn’t even begin. As Chris always says, One Star Fish at a time. Your donations are helping to fill the dam with Star Fish! Blessings to you all, Norma