Praise rang throughout Clouds End on Friday morning as songs burst from exuberant hearts – it seemed to shower the entire atmosphere in an effervescence of joy! There is nothing quite like the jubilance of Shona people praising God. It invades your very soul, and before you know it, you are clapping and stamping your feet to the music as your heart explodes alongside theirs.
Rhythm is part of Africa, her people are born with it, and the Tazvita group were no exception. Wheel chairs rocked and swayed as their occupants ‘danced’ with praise. Feet pumped the ground in rhythmic step, despite twisted and withered limbs, or sightless eyes. It was a deeply moving sight and a truly joyful time of entering into the courts of praise as one. These were not ‘disabled’ folk, they were simply brothers and sisters in the Lord, as we celebrated together, basking in the joy of the Fathers love. Yes, they have physical restrictions, but that has nothing to do with their value and worth – each one is treasured in His sight. Each surrendered life has a very significant role to play in the kingdom – and in order to bring His plans to fruition, He needs only one thing – their hearts.
Most, if not all, have been remarkable students, soaking up every drop of knowledge like dry sponges, willing to be squeezed out in service to the others back home. Joseph and Maxwell make an exemplary leadership team, each charismatic and strong, with an intrepid desire to see the community succeed. They hope to make a difference in Chivhu, to ultimately impact the entire area, and what more typical way for God to do so than through those the world perceives as ‘weak’.
The stories within this group are many. Most, are heart breaking. One beautiful young woman has two feet – one of them at the end of a perfectly formed leg, the other protruding from her knee. She has no calf. She walks with a crutch, curling the toes of her deformed foot around the top end. She has been told all her life that she is cursed, and should have been killed at birth. How God must have wept upon hearing those words …
Another young woman in a wheelchair never saw her mother, who died shortly after she was born. Her father rejected her due to her disability, and later her brother abandoned her, leaving her alone and defenceless. Finally an aunt took her in, where she lives today in Chivhu. She has a broken heart, hidden deep below her broad smile.
On that last day of devotions, the various groups each performed a delightful and repeatedly amusing skit from a passage of scripture. One of the blind ladies, whose often expressionless face gave the impression of detachment, suddenly came to life! In animated fashion, she carried out the narration of the story and despite those dear sightless eyes, seemed to bore into our souls with the impassioned vigour of a true preacher on fire for Jesus!
Born with normal sight, her creeping blindness began at fourteen, when she was also orphaned, and within ten years had completely destroyed her eyesight. Taken in by relatives, her life became a living hell. Her uncle was physically and emotionally abusing her, forcing her to live alone in a small hut and leaving her to almost starve whilst his family ate in front of her. Eventually an old school friend rescued her and brought her to Chivhu, where she learned to beg. Is it any wonder she sometimes wears a detached expression? But God had a plan…. During her stay at Clouds End she began to discover how He sees her, and learn that she is of great worth in His sight; that He planned her for a purpose.
“I want to work with my own hands in order to live and stop begging,” she said, “I believe from here, I am going to be a great person. I am now ready to face my tomorrows, and apply the knowledge I have learned. I also learnt that I need to forgive….”
The stories go on. And on. Each tearing at the heart, each wrenching the soul. Each compelling us to keep giving, loving, pouring into these broken but treasured clay pots – filling them with what they need most – the love of the Father. His gentleness, His goodness, His faithfulness, His kindness.
1 Sam. 2:8 “He lifts the poor from the dust – Yes, from a pile of ashes – And treats them as princes sitting in the seats of honour. For all the earth is the Lord’s – And He has set the world in order.”
Friday was the group’s final day, which culminated in a baptism service. Wheelchairs trundled off across the path, followed by the clicking of crutches and tapping of blind sticks as we all made our way to the baptism pool. What followed was a poignant experience, and something that will remain etched on the hearts of the FfF team forever. One after another precious soul was lowered into the water – some having to be lifted out of their wheel chairs and carried, some letting go of crutches at the steps, others having to be guided sightlessly into a new experience. Unable to see their friends being baptized and know what to expect, they could only listen to the euphoria. Yet trustingly they gripped the hands that guided them into the wet, where they were immersed as a sign of obedient surrender to their Lord and Saviour. Craig had the honour of baptizing them, along with Duncan who has so faithfully walked with them since the middle of the year. There were tears, shouts of joy, songs of praise and many soaking hugs as everyone rejoiced. Surely all of heaven celebrated with us!
Domatter (whose name has been changed from Nomatter) waded into the water with her massive limbs, acutely swollen from a condition diagnosed as congenital lipodystrophy, and came up from her emersion raising her hands in praise. “Makorokoto, Domatter!” Congratulations! “Yes!” she beamed with water running down her beautiful face, “I am DOmatter, and I have been made new!”
God is so GOOD! Words just fail time and time again. How do you describe the Joy of the Lord …? It is impossible in language form. You have to see it on the faces.
So now, they have gone back. This is where the hard work begins, away from the comfort of Clouds End, to where the enemy slithers into action, waiting with his pernicious venom to attempt robbery and destruction. In Africa, there are many ‘churches’ which combine witchcraft and ancestral worship into a dangerous and evil cult. They rule – true to the nature of their originator – through absolute fear, perpetrated by lies. Members of these sects live in constant dread of dying, losing everything they have, or worse – the death of their children – should they try to leave. Several of the Tazvita group had been trapped in this pit, but perfect love casts out all fear, and for those seeds that fell on good ground, the foreboding was broken. Still, they need prayer…
Remember them, as you approach the Throne.
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