Thursday, August 23, 2007

Back from Zimbabwe

I'll try to write more details next week, but I just wanted to let ou
all know that we got home safely from Zimbabwe.  Thank you so much for praying.  We saw God answer prayers so many times.  To me the biggest miracle was when we crossed the border.  The last time I went there, it took 6+ hours of elbowing your way to the front of lines.  This time it only took 45 minutes!  I don't think we waited in any line more than 5 minutes!  It was amazing!  Normally there are hundreds of people trying to get huge car, truck, and bus loads of things into the country to sell.  There had been a rumor (it may have been the truth, but it didn't happen) that the Government was going to stop imports from South Africa
on the 1st of August.  Maybe people were afraid of this deadline and were waiting to see what would happen.  Anyway we sure had an easy entrance into the country.  The last step in the process is the vehicle inspection.  Customs agents can almost disassemble your vehicle see if you declared everything and aren't smuggling.  There are two lanes--the green one and the red one.  Since we had lots of food aid to declare, we weren't sure which line to go in.  Before we drove up there, I asked one of the officials which line we should go to.  He said, "If you think you've filled out the papers properly, then you should definitely go to the green line.  We don't want to see you in the red lane."  When I drove the vehicle up he stamped the pass without ever looking up from his newspaper.  All of the government officials we met (police,
soldiers, immigration, etc.) all seemed very unmotivated and
discouraged.  It was very sad.

We had originally planned to sell the 1500 Bibles and use the money to help the church.  We had considered buying cows since Africans typically are very good at caring for them and they appreciate instead of depreciating.  When we saw the economic situation and how difficult life is for the pastors, we felt it was better to leave the Bibles for them to sell so that they can live off the money.  A huge amount of their daily lives is spent just trying to put food on the table.  Most of them are not able to do any ministry because life is so complex and ever-changing at the moment.  Another reason we chose to do this was that if we were selling Bibles it would arouse a lot of suspicion and could end up in problems for us.  The pastors wouldn't let Uncle Piet and I even pass out tracts.  The black men from Ladybrand could be a bit more free, but there were still places they couldn't go.  The final
reason we opted to leave the Bibles for them to sell was because of
inflation.  The Bibles will hold their value.  If we had sold them all,
it would be difficult to get enough cows for sale at a fair price before the money devalued.

The conference went well, but it was a tremendous spiritual battle.  We did a lot of counseling and personal evangelism during the weekend of the conference.  It seemed that there was a steady stream of people coming to our tents or to sit around the fire who were seeking spiritual advice.  Unfortunately, most of the people in the church are unsaved. The man who founded the church was an expert at organizing and motivating people, but he was very shallow spiritually.  His son who is now the leader, seems to be much more interested in really helping people get saved.
One lady was confused and struggling with questions about ancestors, demons, false prophets who had told her that her daughter would not be able to marry because of a curse in the family.  The Lord reminded me of numbers of scriptures that dealt directly with her problem.  As we read and talked her face literally began to shine as she understood Jesus' power to deliver her and her whole family from the power of these demonic things.  I have never seen a person's countenance change so
drastically in such a short time.  It is an awesome privilege to be used by God!

The economic situation in the country is shocking.  Currently the
government admits that inflation is 4700% per year.  That means that prices double approximately every week!  About a week before we went, the government introduced price controls on many products especially food and lowered prices by 50%.  The result is empty shelves in the super markets.  Wednesday night when we were coming home, we wanted to use up the rest of our Zimbabwean dollars.  We went to the best grocery store in a reasonably large city.  There was quite a bit of stuff on the shelves, but nothing worth buying.  For example, you could by tomato sauce, all kinds of wines and beers, powdered soup mixes, and cardboard cookies, but there was no bread, corn meal, rice, Coke, sugar, or salt. I finally went out onto the street and bought 6 large avocados for R12.50 (less than $2).  Uncle Piet "squandered" the rest of his money on a box of cheap ice cream.  It was the first time I've ever experienced having money but having a hard time spending it. Even reasonably well-to-do people in the cities can't buy meat.  I talked to one man who has a successful business who had not eaten meat for 4 weeks.  Many people are leaving the cities and moving back to rural villages where they can buy or raise corn, cabbage, chicken and goats.  In the mornings there is a steady stream of people, wheel barrows, hand carts, and ox carts going out of towns to the country to buy food on the black market.  (The politically correct term for the black market is "private sales."

The business man I mentioned who could not get meat in Harare installs security and alarm systems for big businesses, embassies, etc.  He has two rates of payment.  If the customer can pay in a foreign currency, then the price is less.  If they plan to pay in Zim Dollars, then the price is higher because he has to pay handsome commissions to exchange it for foreign currency.  He said that when he gets paid in Z$, he has to have it all exchanged into a foreign currency (on the black market) within 4 days or he will lose most of the profits from the job.

Well, that gives you a little idea of what happened.  I will try to
write more.  Thanks again so much for your prayers. Both Steph and I really appreciated them!!!



Shawna said...

Praise the Lord for your safe return! Thank you for the exciting report! It's encouraging to see the ways in which God worked on your behalf. We thank you for your hard work and risk in taking this trip, also. May God continue to bless His Word that you left behind in Zimbabwe!

lettydru said...

As I read your blog this morning, my heart rejoices in the dedication you both share to the ministry God has called you. I know full well how hard it is sometimes to express the spiritual needs and the spiritual battle that is overwhelming. Still, in all that, what a privilege it is for you to be ministering and building the Kingdom in that place! We're praying for you today, that you hearts and spirits will nurtured by His smile of approval, and that you will have strength for those many daily responsibilities.

Love in Christ,
Collette Burch
Philip & Collette

lettydru said...

Oops, didn't realize I hadn't erased that last line!