Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Africa (03/05/09)
TITLE: Happy, happy Africa
By Fiona Dorothy Stevenson
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The bittersweet phrase from an old song hung in memory while tears drowned my sight. I held Michael’s email in my hand and wept for old friends. His email told of current events in Zimbabwe, listing requests for prayer.
Where was Nell?
Nell visited me on an irregular fortnightly basis when I was a young mother with a toddler and a newborn. She always had a baby strapped to her back. She came with a handful of wilting vegetables and a small bunch of roadside flowers. These were not for sale: they were her gift to me. In return, my gift to her was a small collection of baby clothing or household items. Nell would not enter my house. Instead, we visited for an hour or so sitting on the kitchen steps, sipping huge mugs of steaming tea, and she would sometimes accept a ‘doorstep’ of bread and jam. Her friendship was precious, and when we moved to another town, I missed her visits greatly.
Many years later, when my sons were in high school and I was struggling to maintain the roles of housewife and mother while also holding a fulltime job, Missy came to my door. After working in Salisbury for many years, Missy decided it was time to return to her family in neighboring Malawi. She saved enough to buy gifts for everyone, and to pay for her rail ticket home. While waiting for her train she was accosted by a gang of youths and robbed of all but the clothes she was wearing. Now Missy was looking for work while she saved again to buy a ticket.
Nell was tall and thin, her face wreathed in smiles. Missy was of medium height, and as wide as she was tall. Within the week, Missy was the darling of the home. Not only was she an excellent housekeeper and cook, she had the boys cheerfully doing the chores they would not do for me. She sang and laughed and chattered, and she loved the Lord with all her heart. A year later we smiled through our tears as we put her on the train, praying for her safe journey and arrival. It was a joy to receive her letter relating the events of her journey, and thanking us for our friendship. Dear Missy, we look forward to renewed friendship at the foot of the throne.
And there was Kilpen. Kilpen worked in our home for several years until my husband took a pastorate in South Africa. A year later we returned to Rhodesia to a small rural church. In time Kilpen learned of our return and traveled to Gwelo to find us. But we had recently left Gwelo to open a new church in Hatfield, a suburb of Salisbury. Undeterred, Kilpen returned to Salisbury and made inquiries until he found us.
At this time, Missy was ruling the family roost, but we knew her heart was set on returning to Malawi, and were not sure when that would be. So we sat down with Kilpen and Missy, examined our financial obligations, and discussed a division of labor. They were both ardent Christians and for eight months they worked in tandem, until we fare-welled Missy. Kilpen relinquished the garden and took on all the duties of the household, even to requesting that our son teach him to cook. Next, in consultation with us, Kilpen hired a garden boy, made sure he was thoroughly converted and taught him the word of God. The next step was to train him to do housework and see him settled in a more lucrative job. Then he hired another garden boy…
Kilpen held a mid-week Bible study in his quarters, which the former garden boys attended regularly.
Changes came. Rhodesia gave place to Zimbabwe. We left for Australia. Kilpen went to work for our ‘daughter in the Lord’ and for some time we kept in touch. He retired and his son worked for Kathy until she left to join her family in Britain.
Kilpen, where are you and your family now?
These are just three of our African friends with whom we shared our lives in what was then ‘happy, happy Africa’. We look forward to meeting them again at the throne of Jesus.
But tears cannot heal the hurt that today is Zimbabwe.
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