Monday, September 14, 2020

Teenage Zim Memories


Hello Nhaka Friends,

I have been blessed with the opportunity to partner with Rock Forward and Nhaka Foundation on two separate overseas trips.  I’m beyond grateful for my experiences with an organization and people that are God’s hands and feet in Zimbabwe, Africa. On both adventures, I was able to partner with the Nhaka team as we collaborated to organize a Purity Conference for local youth. The idea of the conference was generated from a space of Godly teaching, self-conviction, and an opportunity to share the grace that can be found through the blood of Jesus. In 1st Corinthians, Paul shares with us the truth that God has created our body’s as holy and living temples for the Spirit of God. As His children, we are to honor our body’s and recognize that they are not our own, but a temple for the most High to dwell. The act of virginity until marriage and sacred respect of our body’s prior to marriage honors God. Yet, with that said, there are many young teens that have been robbed of personal decisions that honor the ability to make the choice to remain a virgin until marriage. I believe that our Heavenly Father’s heart breaks when His temple is defiled, when choices are taken away, when innocence is robbed, when emotional scars are deeper than any physical wound could ever be, and when His children hurt. While the vast majority of us have the capability to independently make a decision about how to honor our bodies as God’s Holy temple, others have been stripped of that human right. I believe it is vital for kids to hear the heart of Jesus, to know that He loves them enough to die a brutal death for their sake, that they can be made clean and pure in His sight despite choices that have been unwillingly taken away, and that they are more precious than gold in the sight of God.

 

While the Purity Conferences have typically held similar schedules and activities, my experiences have been wildly different. A particular experience that I would like to share happened in 2016 during my first trip to Zimbabwe. One of the activities was for a handful of the students to write a brief testimony and then have the courage to stand before a crowd of peers and vulnerably share their experiences. This demanded a great amount of courage for these young teens. As a teen myself, I was expecting short, vague, and surface testimonies to be given. I could not have been more wrong. Typically, in the U.S., middle school aged kids are often viewed as being immature and annoying while simultaneously not often taking activities such as this very seriously. The contrary was true as I humbly observed multiple young Zimbabwe teens stand before their peers, share experiences that were quite personal, and willingly be vulnerable to share struggles endured with the found promises and faithfulness of God that was cultivated through the PSS program at Nhaka Foundation. It was amazing, I love to see young teens who are on fire for the Lord! The maturity and insight that we all witnessed that day will be etched in my mind forever. This activity opened my eyes to the different challenges that young Zimbabwean teens often face, some being quite far from challenges of my own, but many that affect teens no matter where we live. I was reminded that we are all tempted by similar situations and have similar challenges, despite having very different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, societies, and cultural norms. Proverbs 22:6 seemed to have been highlighted in my heart throughout our time at the Purity Conference, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”. 


Through the PSS program, the Nhaka team works intentionally to train and teach kids in the way of the Lord, so that they can become leaders in their own spheres of influence. I value the opportunity to have been a small part of the lives of these teens and thank God for the opportunity to continue to learn from my brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe, Africa. Connect with the Nhaka Team, volunteer@nhakafoundation.org and discuss the many opportunities you too, can participate in.


Best wishes,


Sydney

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

My Zimbabwe Memories

 


 

Friends,

 

Bright and vibrant colors painted by the hand of God can be appreciated in every direction through brushed jade green grasses, aqua blue skies, and stark black and white zebra stripes; the smell of smoldering coals from inside circular outdoor kitchens paired with the scent of elephant dung; gentle laughter from children as they curiously peer out from behind a Baobab tree to see the Murungu walking among the local village; to stained red feet after walking barefoot in the African soil; this is how Africa arrouses my senses.

 

In a small S-10 pickup truck, tucked between my father and an energetically passionate African, I found my love for Zimbabwe. The sun generously shared its warmth with us one spring morning in 2012 as we drove to Mapfeni Primary School. Windows were down, the ride felt as if we were maneuvering moguls, and the scent of burning wood made my eyes water. Or, perhaps it was my own tears as they cascaded down my cheeks, stained by the red dirt. We listened intently as our new friend shared his vision for communities and the legacy of African children. The final corner as we approached the school could have compared a fireworks finale. Hundreds of beautiful, bright, vibrant, curious, intelligent, loving, and inspiring children stood in a single file line with royal blue school uniforms and awaited what could be their only meal of the day. In that moment, a piece of my heart was planted beside the Baobob tree at Mapfeni Primary School.

 

It has been over eight years since my virgin trip into a community of people that have forever changed who I am, how I process life, and how I show love through actions instead of mere verbiage. I have had the honor and privilege of working hand in hand with the Nhaka Team and have personally witnessed genuine care and concern for the well-being of the communities in Zimbabwe. Team Nhaka concerns itself with holistic efforts of care through the promotion of early childhood education, to community gardening, to sustainable projects, to parental and community ownership, to school feeding programs, and the health and wellness of the young children. As a sister organization, we, the Rock Forward team partnered with Nhaka Foundation to create a program that both psychologically and spiritually promotes growth.

 

The parable passage from Matthew 25 resonates in my soul as that of a blaring trumpet. Just as the parable of the bags of gold, we have been given much. Hundreds of opportunities are available for us to invest our resources, both that of time and finances. I can almost hear the audible voice of God asking me, “Amy, how will you invest in Me?”. In verses 34-40 Jesus says, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

 

May the resounding sound of the trumpet echo in your heart, mind, and soul as you consider how to effectively use the gifts that God has given you to do unto the least of these.

 

A.J Yoder

 

August 30, 2020

Monday, July 27, 2020

Importance of School

                   
I am from that generation which had TVs and radios as the height of technology. Back then, kids could never arbitrarily switch on the TV because they were bored and needed a little entertainment. These things were sacrosanct! After all, in a community, one could count the number of homes that owned a telly. Nothing fancy too, just a regular 14 inch black and white little thing that needed an "expert touch" on the aerial for clear picture.

Things are different now. A lot more different. For many of us, introduction to computers was part of a course at a college, and many of us came into contact with one much later in life. (We still type with only two fingers, three at most, if we are using both hands. Four at a stretch.)

It's not so for kids of these days who appear to be born with keyboards attached to their fingertips and can do all sorts of things on smart devices. Looking at them is like looking at a smarter, more intelligent version of our species. A modern six year-old seems to have more knowledge than a 10  year-old from the '80s and '90s. And because of this, we forget that they are just little kids, and that besides the technology, we are just the same. They crave the things we craved as kids.

In this respect, the lockdowns have been extremely difficult for them to understand and navigate. Yes, they hear us parents when we try to explain why they cannot go out to play with their friends. They even adopt some of the terminology in attempts to explain things to others, or you hear it when they are playing alone in the corner creating a make-believe world where their inhabitants converse. But it still brings them pain that they are forced to live lives in isolation.

Not only that, but for a child, school is the greatest invention ever. It is everything parents cannot give: clever adults who spend the day teaching them all these new things (if you have ever wondered, yes all kids believe their teachers are cleverer, smarter, know infinitely much more than their parents); and a limitless number of friends. In short, school quenches every thirst within a child, the hunger for knowledge and that of companionship. Free from the rules and structure of home.

If they could have their way, kids would increase their school hours, I have no doubt about that. Maybe they might choose to have more playtime and less learning time, but they would choose to be in that environment much more than home.

Of course, parents should not take this personally or as an indictment of their failings as parents. If anything, they should accept it as it shows that despite all their best efforts, there is only so much they can do and can provide for their kids. For instance, we all want our kids to have emotional intelligence, to be considerate, empathetic human beings, but we can only teach them the theory. It is at school where they get to practice those teachings as they develop the social skills they need to navigate through life.

I know and understand that we are keeping our children home from school, trying our hand at homeschooling the best way we can, for their sake. That goes without saying. However, every now and then, make we should appreciate that the biggest sufferers are these little ones. They might not be able to express it, but they are going through a tremendous period of loss and psychological pain. Indeed, they can always catch-up academically, but till then, they are suffering.

By Nhaka Foundation
Guest Contributor- CS Chiwanza