“Heart of the Amazon”

The last time I blogged, I stated that “Karina e eu temos planos também”. Well, the plans have come to fruition. We are now volunteering our time in ministry that is assisting an English group in Brazil where the need is greater.

The night before our flight to leave the States, we enjoyed an excellent dinner with family. Karina cooked an herb-roasted turkey with shallot pan gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato soufflé and creamed corn. And I had my first chocolate tres leches cake!

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The next morning we arrive to ORL and find out that our flight will be delayed to the extent that we will not be able to get our connecting flight at MIA. Somewhat a problem since our brothers and sisters are expecting us to arrive this night. The airline provides us with the option of paying for our dinner, hotel stay, breakfast and lunch because of having to fly out the next afternoon. This time, the flight schedule is as planned and we (Ellie also) arrive safely in Brazil.

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After communication by email and WhatsApp, we finally get to meet the brother, in-person, that cares for the English group. We make our way to a place that has been temporarily provided for us until we are able to find an apartment. We are thankful for this provision.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother couple is also assisting the English group; they are visiting from London. We went into our first day of ministry in Brazil in a mode of ministry to speak to known foreign-language speakers. Yes, English is one of the foreign languages spoken in Brazil. Portuguese is the official language. I know many Portuguese words but I am not conversational yet. I can read and understand Portuguese better than speaking the language, but Karina and I still have joyful conversations with our brothers and sisters while in service. Many in the English group are Brazilians that are still learning English. Their continuous efforts are sure to be blessed. Some joined the group without knowing English and are now speaking, reading and writing English.

I’m getting used to wearing short-sleeved dress shirts, no tie and the very hot weather. It has been 100+ degrees everyday that we have been here (plus humidity). The temperature has not hindered the excellent Bible discussions within various public areas.

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Pride Lands

Three days remained of our visit to Zimbabwe and one was supposed to be a day of rest. Of course we couldn’t let that happen after traveling soooo many miles. One day we had nothing scheduled but thanks to our hospitality overseer, we were able to find an excursion for a game park. We saw impalas, elans, zebras (mbizi), giraffes, fish eagles and even enjoyed a boat ride.

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The next day was filled with animal sights also. Lions, nyalas, baboons, a 300+ year old tortoise, gazelles, hyenas, wildebeests, warthogs and rhinos.

Our time in Zimbabwe has ended. We hope to see our new friends again one day. Until then we’ll keep in contact via emails, Skype calls and WhatsApp messages. This unforgettable visit certainly was an exchange of encouragement. Vaughn and I will continue to put forth the effort to assist in areas where the need is great. Seus planos vão levá-lo para a Costa Rica. Karina e eu temos planos também. 🙂

 

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Toonana muParadhiso!

DAY 3 – 2014 Zimbabwe International Convention

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Finally blogging about the final day of the 2014 Zimbabwe International Convention. Another day of upbuilding, encouraging, associating and learning with brothers and sisters we hope to see again one day. We were wowed again as we heard the morning attendance was 78,714. A DVD was released that was translated in Shona showing how a father, at first, struggled but succeeded in caring for the spiritual matters of his family. Vaughn and I found out later that our hospitality overseer’s wife was a voice on that Shona translated video.

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There was also the release of the front and back parts of the revised NWT in the Shona language. In line with Matthew 6:33, “all these other things” were added for the Shona to benefit from as they continue “seeking first the Kingdom and his righteousness”. During the final discourse, all of the missionaries present at the convention gathered to one area on the stadium’s field. After the day’s session was over, many Zimbabweans continued singing a cappella. Such a beautiful harmonious sound.

ATTENDANCE:

  • Zimbabwe Sign Language – 744
  • Ndebele – 4,305
  • English – 14,497
  • Shona – 62,863

TOTAL : 82,409

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Later, in the evening, Vaughn and I enjoyed hospitality of dinner, games and convo at a couple’s home until 1:30 a.m. Good times!

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First … and the only

DAY 2 – 2014 Zimbabwe International Convention

The brotherly association continues. We exchange gifts with many that me meet. We brought post cards that featured a picture of a congregation in Alabama and it had a link to a video that showed a sample of daily life of the friends there. We also had small bags of candy and pens labeled with this event; small mementos that would call this occasion to mind whenever they saw the gift.

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Attendance increased today to a number of 74,694. This was the most people in attendance of any event in Zimbabwe history. This was also the first International convention in Zimbabwe and the only one in Africa for 2014.

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10 baptismal pools were provided for the 1,568 that were baptized Saturday. The youngest was 7 years old and the oldest was age 97.

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The way the final prayer was given was also a convention first, as the prayer wasn’t 4 separate prayers from each language group stage. It was one prayer spoken in English and then translated at the other language group stages. The prayer translation is supported by 1 Corinthians 14:13, 16, 28.

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“I’m Marvelous and he is Clever”

DAY 1 – 2014 Zimbabwe International Convention

We wake with excitement as the first day has arrived for our reason of traveling 8000+ miles – Christian fellowship and Bible education with those from many nations, languages and ethnic groups. After another excellent breakfast provided by the hotel, the group at our hotel makes the bus trip to the stadium I visited a few days earlier. It looks far different from what I remember. The brothers and sisters really did a great job cleaning, repairing, painting, etc. Their efforts are greatly appreciated by all in attendance and the Zimbabwe National Sports Stadium personnel.

Before the session starts we enjoy the time to meet and greet our brothers and sisters from all over the world. Some Zimbabwean names really stood out as unique to me…Beauty, Godbless, Marvelous, Clever, Pretty and Simba, to name a few.

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You may wonder how people of varied languages will be able to listen to discourses with the same content. Well, the stadium had 4 stages and sound from each stage was directed at each group in the language that reaches their mind and heart. The four languages were Ndebele, Shona, Zimbabwe Sign Language and English. The morning number in a attendance blew our minds…66, 791. It was amazing to see people steadily flowing into the stadium. You may find a source that says only one other event has filled the Zimbabwe National Sports Stadium to capacity. But as you can see from the numbers and the pictures below, this was the beginning of a historical event for Zimbabwe. One to be talked about positively, for years to come.

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People had to be seated on portions of the track and field. We enjoyed an excellent discourse by Bro. Geoffrey Jackson that was also translated into Shona. He used many illustrations that Zimbabweans could relate to from backgrounds of agriculture and love for soccer.

During lunch I had time to meet many brothers and sisters from the 30+ countries represented at the convention. Some were faces I’ve seen and met and some were new. While venturing around, I noticed the revised New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was already in the Shona language. We read about it being available in 120+ languages, but to hold the Bible and see this different language, you really see how it’s made available for so many people to learn the truth held in its pages. The afternoon attendance was 68,916.

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Agri-cultured

The next day’s experience is visiting a market and one of the villages some distance from Harare. The market is similar to what we would call a flea market. Carvings, men’s and women’s clothes, traditional attire, music, household items, food, souvenirs. Of course, I bought a dress for my niece 😉 . IMG_4044

Our group then had a wonderful lunch at a nearby restaurant before making the trip to the village. Vaughn and I were dropped off at the market by some friends so we caught a bus with other brothers and sisters en route to the village. I ended up sitting in the front, above the driver. So I’m looking out of the front window on the second level, taking in all the sights. I dozed off until waking on a dirt road that led to the village. We take this road for quite a while before stopping and being greeted by some of the young children of the village. They are laughing, smiling and waving. Walking up a path leading to the main area, we pass a brick oven which is used create the structures we will soon see.IMG_4048 IMG_4049IMG_4051 IMG_4053 IMG_4054IMG_4055

We are divided into groups and each group starts learning about the village at different areas. We start with the task of plowing a field. After a demonstration of a young boy leading the cow and how to keep the plow straight, Vaughn volunteers to try it out. He does well enough that one of the father’s wanted him to stay in Zimbabwe to help out. IMG_4056Next, we moved to some tasks that many of the women of the village engaged in. These, too, were serious labor. I gave my hand in grinding corn and and making peanut butter. Now that was real organic peanut butter. No chemicals, just peanuts and grinding until you like crunchy or smooth. No sugar, no molasses, no salt, no … whatever else is usually in the brand I buy. I tasted some of this finished product and it was pretty good!Photo Aug 21, 9 24 19 AM Photo Aug 21, 9 24 05 AM IMG_4057 Photo Aug 21, 9 25 16 AM IMG_4058

Continuing to kitchen duties, we went to a small building where meals were prepared and cooked. I just realized that long sentence is the definition of a kitchen, lol. Anyway, we pass some of the village animals that end up on plates and we hear how some of the meals are made and proper ways that the women and children handle things in the kitchen awaiting the men to come in from working the fields. IMG_4060 Photo Aug 21, 9 38 40 AM IMG_4062IMG_4063

The women also demonstrated carrying pots on their heads. I had seen this earlier in the week of many other things being carried on the head. I gave it a try and did my best just standing in one place! This talent has to be taught from an early age. The balance and appearance of being effortless is amazing.

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The village was yet another excellent experience in Zimbabwe. When it was time to leave the village, we were escorted back to our bus enjoying their voices singing in a cappella. The next day will actually be the first day of the Zimbabwe International Convention!

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יהוה fo esuoH

…Yes, that’s right. A gathering at the rainbow – the Rainbow Hotel. We have arrived to enjoy food and fellowship. We are treated to a show of Zimbabwean music and dancing. One dance told a story of daily life in the village and on the farm. You could really grasp the importance of family and hard work. Once again, we were entertained by a choir (not the same choirs we heard earlier in the day at Good Hope). Strong male and female voices in Shona and English. I struggle to enumerate all of the types of food on hand, but I do remember “cleaning my plate” and going back for more.

We also get to hear some interviews from brothers and sisters that were around when this land was Rhodesia. Very encouraging accounts of integrity during times of civil strife. Night has fallen and we make our way back to our hotel to prepare for the next day. IMG_4031 IMG_4036 IMG_4037

It’s now the next morning; I’m showering and begin to smell pancakes cooking for breakfast! When our bathroom window is open, the aromas of the kitchen drift in. Mmmm…I can’t wait to taste the sweet syrup and rich buttery flavor. I exit the bathroom yelling at Vaughn, “Hey man, do you smell the pancakes?!” He looks at me straight-faced and somewhat upset. He had burned his shirt with an old iron we were given. Smh! Arrgh! No pancakes…just a maple-smelling dress shirt with a burn mark.

Today we are going to the Zimbabwe branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses and an Assembly Hall. For known reasons, my shirt will be slightly wrinkled but it’s ok, I’ll wear a jacket. As we arrive, it is just as the scene at Good Hope, we see a crowd of our brothers and sisters singing and dancing for a jubilant welcome. After some introductory words and thanks, we are divided into groups for the tour guides. We get to see various support services – workshops, computer department and landscaping. The highlight is the departments that support God’s kingdom-preaching work – service, translation, hospital information, relief, literature, mailing and Kingdom Hall Construction.

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We also try different foods and snacks that were available. Some appetizers before our lunch. The worm was an interesting morsel. Vaughn tries it first. It is dried and has the flavor of beef jerky. Yet, it’ll take a while before I’m not throwing ’em back like peanuts.

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An excellent lunch was provided and we ate till full. However, the meal has come to an end and we say our goodbyes. We now board the buses and head to the Assembly Hall. Quite different from what we are used to in the States, this is an outside construction. It’s warm but the cool breeze is nice.

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Our scheduled activities for the day have ended and we sing kingdom melodies on our way back to our hotel. We need of a few items from the supermarket, so the brother that originally picked me up from the airport comes to assist. He tells us how many areas are still figuring out the worth of the U.S. dollar. Zimbabwe experienced hyperinflation in 2008 to the extent that their central bank introduced a 100 billion dollar note (Zimbabwe dollars). In 2009, they suspended the Zimbabwe dollar and now have the U.S. dollar as official currency. So I experienced paying $1 for Dove for Men soap but $16 for shaving cream. Prices at a local movie theater were eye-catching also.

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My day ends with getting a chance to drive in Zimbabwe. This brother is too nice. The steering is on the right and the regulation is left-hand traffic. I put the car in Drive and begin to leave the parking lot. I tell the brother “I’m going to have to really concentrate to get this ‘right'”. Immediately, Vaughn laughs saying, “Are you sure about that focus?! Because you are on the wrong side of the road ‘right’ now!” I drive for a bit and then Vaughn gives it a shot. Between the two, we make it back to the hotel safely. Whew!

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