Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thinking of Zim

Above is a picture I took on a country road in Zimbabwe. I've been thinking about Zim often lately. It's been pretty busy so I haven't posted recently and I am preparing to preach in our main service this upcoming Sunday, on Psalm 2. As I think through that wonderful Millennial Kingdom Psalm (guess you know my eschatological persuasion), I am reminded of the national, economic and spiritual instability of so many nations. People really do plot in vain and rebel against the Messiah thinking that Biblical standards are shackles and ropes that tie the hands. They think they can plan a sucessful coup but the One who is enthroned in heaven laughs mockingly at their feeble attempts. Yet the scary thing is that the King of Kings will rule with a rod of iron and will shatter them like clay pottery. The same "rod of iron" that is described in Psalm 2:9 is described in Revelation 19:15 when Christ returns. If you are rightly related to Christ, i.e. saving faith, then you can take shelter in him (Ps 2:9). If you do not have a relationship with Christ, then it truly is a scary thing to fall into the hands of an Angry God (2:12). One day every king shall bow to the King of Kings. One day every nation will be ruled by the Righteous King. One day all peoples everywhere will confess that He is King. No more terrorism, no more economic woes, no more genocide, no more tyranny. I look forward to the "Return of the King" who will be King over Zim and every other nation.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Dollar That Traveled Ten Thousand Miles and Back Again

The picture of the dollar bill is one that I got in Zimbabwe during my bartering time at a flea market. Zim’s economy is in shambles but has gotten slightly better since they switched from their own printed currency to that of the US Dollar. The high inflation rates eventually caused the Zim dollar to be worthless and everyone who had money in the bank or retirement funds lost everything in the switch. Yet I find it fascinating that another country can make the US dollar its own currency. Since it is obviously not printed there, people have to rely on others bringing in the dollar. When you go into a grocery store, you cannot get change in the form of coins. So if you buy a Coke and it costs $1.30, then you can give the exact price, find something else for 70 cents or pay $2. On one of my last days there, I bought a coke and a candy bar that totaled $1.90 and decided I didn’t want to look for something for 10 cents. Yet that 10 cents that I disregarded could buy a package of soup. I have seen people scour for things to add for 40 cents. This is even more humbling when you consider the average person in Zim makes $100 a month. So 10 cents is a lot. It was yet again another lesson for me, one that I have seen in other countries but it still hits hard.
I was reminded about this dollar a few days ago at the Burbank Airport on my way to San Jose for a few days. After clearing security for the 8th time in two weeks, I went to buy 2 Dr. Peppers. The guy at the register gave me a total for $6.56 and I laughed….but he was serious. Two sodas for that much, well I was at an airport and they are known for that. Well, I really wanted a DP so I pulled out my cash and there it was, starring at me….a dirty dollar bill that traveled 10,000 miles and back again.

Yesterday I read an article from a Zim online news site. It is called “Can I have a Dollar please?” If you want to read it, and I suggest that you do, you can find it at zimbabwejournalists.com. The gist of the story is that the writer looks at the hard times that everyone is feeling but especially in the rural areas. A cousin, who was only 37 years old dies. This brings a rare occasion for those in the city and those in the rural areas together. So the writer shares the story of how his uncle, who use to live in the village recognizes one of the grave diggers, a former classmate is elementary school. They catch up on old times and this man, aged and broken over the burdens of life in the rural areas asks for a dollar. The request makes him uncomfortable but he asks anyway. He only wanted one dollar. He had never even seen a dollar before. Why did he want a dollar? To process Maize-Meal so he could have Sadza, a thick doughy substance that is the staple food in Zim. Everyone eats Sadza. Yet he needed a dollar to process the maize meal so it could become Sadza. Since he couldn’t afford it, he and his family had been eating boiled maize meal. The only thing I can compare it to for us in the States is being used to eating mashed potatoes growing up and then having only the ability to eat raw potatoes because you lacked one thing to have it mashed. One dollar because his children want Sadza instead of boiled maize meal. Needless to say, that dollar that I looked at as I used other cash to pay for my DP’s makes me uncomfortable in my comfortable re-entry to the US.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Long Journey Home

Well, after two plus days of travel, I am finally home. Last night was a challenge in sleeping. "Lag" is a mild term describing what the Jets did to me. It was a great trip. I was sad to leave so many wonderful Christians. Zimbabweans are such a sweet people. Yet it was good to be home. I left on Saturday afternoon and didn't arrive home until Sunday afternoon which was really Monday early morning in Zim time. Today I'll spend some time putting thoughts to pen and paper. I'll also try and highlight several aspects in the next couple of weeks too. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers. Continue to pray for Thomas, Dany and Sam.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thanks for Praying

Thomas is doing better. He had a fever, the chills, was dizzy and weak. The hospital checked for malaria and it came back negative. They think it was a virus and he is sleeping today. Thank you for praying. Continue to pray for him and for us.

Without him, we're kind of in a holding pattern. We went to a flea market and mall today. You can tell the economy has really impacted people here. Many shops were closed and Mrs Hodzi told me it use to be very busy here. The traffic lights don't even work in many places because there is no money to change the lights. They are using US currency but they don't print it and its hard for them to make change here. No banks and no ATM's. I actually found a 50 billion Zimbabwe dollar on the ground. It's worthless. The average income per month here is 100 US dollars a month.

Many are suffering but they are such a happy and friendly people too. If you know Thomas than you know Zimbabweans. Kind, sacrificial and very sweet. Even in the flea market where I was enjoying bartering, they were friendly and I never felt pushed (which is different for flea markets).

Well, its two more days here and I leave to come home. I am homesick but mostly I miss my wife. It will be a great Sunday! I'll try and update before I head out but I'll have much to say when I am home and able to post pictures.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Updates and Prayer Requests

Right now, Thomas is at an emergency clinic so please pray for him. Last night, he was coughing and had a fever. Today, we tried to go to Victoria Falls but had to turn back because he got worse. So please pray for him. I'll update his condition as soon as I can.

As far as updates, we visited an Aids Hospital and then an orphanage for mentally handicapped children. Both were sobering. You could sense the fear that the Aids patients were going through. We prayed with a couple of them. At the orphanage, we spent some time playing with the children. Most have been abandoned and abused. One little boy is both physically and mentally handicapped. He was living in a chicken coup when the orphanage found him. His name is "Blessing" and followed us around in his wheelchair.

What often happens is because of the economic conditions, most people cannot even get food for themselves. Often, children are without both parents because they have died of Aids. Those who are mentally handicapped are at the bottom rung and often neglected among the orphans. There is much ministry here that includes social ministries along with equipping the church to do these outreaches. It has been insightful to see Thomas and a very real sense of compassion for these people, especially the mentally handicapped.

Well, I have so much to write but I'll do so later. Again, please be praying for Thomas and for the rest of us too.

Monday, June 8, 2009

HIV In/And the Church

Over the weekend, we spent some time in the rural areas. The economic conditions are even worse there. We drove on the major highway, which was like a rundown version of a paved country road in some parts. Then we drove for some time down a dirt road - really slow for a longtime.

The place we stayed at was a training center that many came to from a long ways away. Some even walked miles to this. It was humbling to be there. They were more on the charismatic side of life and I don't think they even knew expository preaching. In fact, a missionary I spoke with here says that he knows of only two people in the country who preach out of the Bible in an exposition fashion. So, for me, it was a reminder of how blessed I am to have studied at Masters and how blessed I am with Pastor Bob. I hope we were an encouragement. I spoke out of Romans 12 (Don't be conformed but transformed) and Colossians 1 (learning how to pray from Paul's prayer).

On Sunday, we went to church about an hour and a half away. At this church, we praised God, heard testimonies and Thomas preached from Romans 5 and the benefits of justification. During the testimony times, one lady stood up and shared that she was HIV positive and her children are positive too. Yet she praised God for how good He is to her and her children. I talked with the pastor and many in the churches are HIV positive. In fact, 1 in 4 are positive in Zimbabwe. This made me think of what would we do if someone in our own church stood up and shared about HIV. How would we treat them, how would we respond, how would we minister to them? This is a big problem here. It is not just ministry to those who are infected outside the church but many within. It will be a big issue for Thomas to think through too.

Today is a day of rest. God knew something when He instituted the Sabbath. It was much needed and we have had good fellowship with our host families.

Thank you for praying and for leaving comments. I enjoy reading them. Also, thanks to my wife for posting for me and for allowing me the opportunity to come here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Updates from Steph via Last Phone Call with Jason

Jason asked me to update his blog as he has limited access to Internet for the next few days.

Many thanks to all of you who are praying for him and the team. Both of us are most grateful for each one of your prayers. It's been a blessing to hear what's been going on. I believe God has a great plan for ministry in Zimbabwe! I'm so glad that Thomas wants to return home and that COC has a tremendous opportunity to be apart.

Here's the latest:

  • Friday night Jason preached last minute to 60 youths. He gave his testimony, had a Q & A and taught out of Romans 12:1-2 with the title "Two Decisions Every Christian Should Make". The main points were: 1) Decide to Be Committed to God & 2) Decide to be Changed by God's Word.
  • On Saturday morning the team will travel about 5 hours south of Harare into rural Zimbabwe to preach at a Pastors Conference. There will be about 70 - 90 pastors from around the country. They greatly desire Leadership training so Jason's messages will be geared around what Pastors should be and what Pastors should do.

That's all I have for now but I'll keep you updated as I get word of Team Z's activities. Sam Minyard should be leaving either today or tomorrow to join the group soon. Please remember him in your prayers this weekend.

Thanks again from a grateful wife!

-Steph Beals

A Brand New Day

Well, thanks for your prayers. It is definately being seen. Getting on the net can be a bit challenging. Sometimes pages will load, other times after I have written an email or blog, it doesn't go through. So I will try and post this, not knowing if it goes through. I didn't even know that last post went through until right now.

So, I am feeling much better. I had a great nights sleep and have not had any issues at all today. I have a last minute "youth group" preaching event tonight and I'll be preaching on Romans 12 challenging the youth to be completely committed and continually changed.

So my funny story will also be a transparent story. One of the encouragments that I got from Dr. Halstead's updates in India was how he was struggling and what he was learning about himself and God. The same is true for me here. Zimbabwe is worse than I thought it would be. It really is devastated here. Sometimes I felt like I was in the movie Black Hawk down without the guns. However, although the country is in such terrible conditions, the people are sweet and generous. I enjoy them very much.

So, when we arrived in Zimbabwe it was late at night, we were tired and for Zimbabweans, it takes a really long time to do anything. Much different for us "go...go...go" Westerners. So it took forever just to leave the airport. We dropped Dany off at a wonderful older couples house. Then on the way to my place, we got lost, were in the "high density" areas which is what we would call a combination of Ghetto and Slum. On the way there, Thomas states that he thought it would be neat for me to stay here. In my mind I thought, "neat for who?" Then, he and the other people in the car mention that the place I will stay at got robbed last night. So I asked, what does that mean, robbed when they were home or away. The answer...while they slept?!?! Then, my stomach starts churning from something I ate in South Africa. I thought I was going to have an accident. By the time we arrive at my place, which they decided to change since the other place got robbed, I was in serious pain. As we approach this very torn down place, they also said the electricy had been shut off and didn't know when it would be turned on. I mentioned to Thomas that I had to use the restroom and it was an emergency. So I get into the bathroom, with no lights and the toilet doesn't work unless you pour water into the tank. So I get them to show me, finally use it and try to flush......no flush. So, with a red face I go out and ask for help. I finally am shown to my room, no light, bad stomach issues, fearful of getting robbed and now alone...to think. I start to wonder if I caught Cholera already and what would I do if I had it. Needless to say, it was a struggle but God reminded me of His control and that even though this was an extremely uncomfortable situation, I was in His plan. It also gave me time to think about how comfortable I am. Even when I have gone to places were they have serious issues, I've always stayed in decent places. Yet how fortunate we are to have so much, even a working toilet and light. The people I stayed with the first night were so kind, made sure I was okay, cooked me breakfast and will be at the pastor's conference on Saturday which is 5 hours away from them. THey have nothing yet the husband took off work and they were so kind.

So, that is my story of a difficult night. No sleep but plenty of time to think, pray, confess and praise the Lord. Why does it take things like that to be thankful?

I hope that was an encouragement. I am thankful for all of your prayers. I called Steph last night and she was such an encouragement to me. I am blessed to have such a wife. I am blessed to have great friends who will read this and pray. I am blessed to be here among people who have so little but give so much. There is much to do here, much ministry to plan out and I am thankful our church will partner here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The first few days

I am in Zimbabwe but am struggling a bit. Not sure how much I can write but I'll try to post quickly. We got in to Harare and the city is worse than I thought. There are some sweet Christians here though. Dany got to stay with a wonderful old couple in a really nice place. Thomas stayed with his mom. It was really cool to see their reunion after 7 years. I am having some stomach issues and will post more about my difficult evening later but boy are there some funny stories. I'm not feeling that well, missing my wife and am having trouble sleeping. Except for that, we have had some great meetings with people and today I was very encouraged as we met with a like minded national missionary who has been doing ministry in Harare for 20 years. Tonight are more meetings so please pray for us and I would especially like your prayers for me. It really does force you to remember how comfortable you are in the states when you are in challenging circumstances. It really is an honor to be here and I am excitied for what God has in store for Zimbabwe, Thomas and our church.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sleeping in South Africa

Thanks for all of your prayers. I had a good night's sleep and am now awake at about 5:30 a.m. I am very thankful for the common bond that believers have throughout the world. Yesterday, a former Master's college student picked us up from the airport and a family that doesn't even know us took us in, fed us and we stayed in great rooms. It reminds me of the apostle John's admonitions to be hospitable in 1-3 John. The host family, Wendy and Dunkin are great and we hit it off right away, chatting for a long time. It was a great time of fellowship and I felt like I had known them for years. They are a great example to me. I feel very rested for now, but know that later today I'll be tired. Everyone else is sleeping so it makes for a good time to study. Today we will be meeting with someone who might be partnering with Thomas in the future. He oversees the church planting in Africa and will take us to meet some church planters here in South Africa. Then its back on airplanes to Harare tonight.

Adventures In Africa....we are in South Africa


I only have a few minutes to update but we arrived in Johannesburg and are waiting to fly to Durban. The trip was uneventful until we started to board in L.A. About 10 minutes before boarding, our flight was cancelled due to a door on the plane that wouldn't shut properly. They had to wait for a part to fix it and it would take 10 hours just for the part to arrive. All of the people were told that they would have to fly out the next day. Well, that was a problem for us since we are getting a connecting flight for a one day meeting in Durban. So, I spent about an hour to almost two hours trying to get us to South Africa and all the flights were booked. God was very good but He always is. We met up with a really helpful Ticket Agent that worked hard to get us on a different airline. So we had to fly to Boston, then London, then get on a different flight to South Africa. We had to recheck everything again and go through Security. When we arrrived in Boston, we had to go to another ticket counter and they didn't have us on the flight. Thankfully we got another great ticket counter person who worked hard to get us on the flight and made sure our bags got there too. Needless to say, it was a good experience to remind us that though we may plan our way, God directs our steps. Thank you for reading this and praying for us. Continue to pray for us, we have a busy schedule tomorrow morning, meeting with a potential ministry partner for Thomas.

I am thankful for my traveling buddies, Thomas and Dany. Both had great attitudes and were flexible. I do wish I had my best traveling companion...my wife, Love and miss you Steph. Right now I am sipping on a Rocky Mount Mocha??? I also had a shwarma for breakfast in the airport. How odd is that?