Back from Zimbabwe

Hi, friends!

Thank you so much for your prayers and support surrounding my trip to Zimbabwe.  It was incredible!  I met the most wonderful, humble, gentle, selfless,  joyful people.  I played with and helped lead worship for BEAUTIFUL, precious children I will never forget.  I was inspired, challenged, protected, and blessed, and...I learned a lot.  And of course, I left part of me back there in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I took a lot of photos, but I can only fit so many below.  I'll do my best to recap a trip that could fill a thousand pages.

This is Jeff and Tammy Scorziel, my new heroes. 

Jeff is the pastor at Bulawayo Baptist Church. His love for the Lord, the Word of God, solid teaching and compassionate pastoring are so genuine...truly the entire town of Bulawayo is being impacted. People LOVE the Scorziels.  You won't see much of them on the web or social media...they're too busy serving, interacting, planning, praying, dreaming and changing Zimbabwe.  I was blessed to stay with them for a week and watch their energy, passion, courage, creativity, faith and JOY at work, day by day.  Their lives have a rapid pace and beautiful rhythm, and at the end of each day they crash into a well-deserved sleep.  They are both great cooks, resourceful, funny, godly, and all about serving Jesus and the poor with all of their heart, mind and strength. One of their dreams is to teach locals how to cook, and find employment doing so.  They are always dreaming. When I am spent at the end of a busy day, I can find myself "vegging" watching Youtube dog rescues or clips of soldiers returning to their families.  Not Tammy...she Youtubes how to make stuff...always thinking of what she can make, do, sell, in order to help the poor. On the "side" of Jeff's busy ministry life, he has a blooming coffee roasting and selling business, the profits of which he pours right back into ministry.  

 Zimbabwe is one 5 poorest countries in the world and currently suffers from 90% unemployment.  Inflation is a constant nightmare these people wake up to every day. Government corruption has sucked the life and productivity out of this fertile land that once was called the "Breadbasket of Africa."  It is beautiful country, and the people are absolutely precious--peaceful, loving, and joyful amidst crushing economic circumstances that worsen by the day. Yet their smiles are radiant and their faith in Christ is real and evident.

 In order to help people, Tammy  (with Jeff's backing) started a non-profit called Fruitful Harvest, which supports the poor of Zimbabwe. A sub-ministry of Fruitful Harvest is Tammy's work with hens and their eggs.  She currently has 3 huge cage-free hen houses, and what she is doing with the bounty of eggs these girls lay is just incredible.  She employs local workers to manage the coops she designed (they appreciate the work and housing!), also giving them the opportunity to make a profit bagging and selling the chicken manure (which doesn't smell bad, by the way) to local farmers.  And the eggs.....these chickens are so happy and healthy, their eggs are so beautiful, tasty, and nutritious, their popularity continues to grow all over Zimbabwe. And from the profits, Tammy feeds and helps children and families of Zimbabwe.  

She goes to local public schools and gives out an "Egg a Day," (a starving child can live on an egg a day), winning hearts and favor at these schools.  Oh, did I say that Tammy LOVES children and is fabulous at communicating with them? She is welcomed with her team from Bulawayo Baptist to go in to these schools on other occasions and teach the children about Jesus through Holiday Clubs and other gatherings. I was there for three of these Holiday Clubs (details to follow).  

Everywhere we went, Tammy's phone was ringing and dinging with customers wanting to purchase her eggs.  On the way to church, there were flats of eggs on the laps of whomever she picks up on the way (always a group from somewhere). At home, their gate buzzed with neighbors wanting her eggs.  High-end safari resorts love her eggs because they are so fresh, organic, and taste and cook beautifully.  Her dining room table currently has flats of eggs piled up, ready to be sold or boiled to give out to school children.  It was an absolute delight to see this ministry in action.  Tammy is the epitome of the Proverbs 31 woman.

The kids were on winter break (tri-mesters), so although I didn't get to see the Egg a Day distribution in action, I was there for the holiday club outreaches.  

The first quick outreach was to a squatter village outside of town.  The purpose was to play with and feed and sing with/for the children there, and inform them and their parents about the upcoming holiday club the following week.  The kids were precious!  They were SO excited about simple things--a hug, a jumprope, singing about Jesus, and the little lunch they received--half a PB&J sandwich, a piece of fruit, one of Tammy's hard boiled eggs, and a single wrapped piece of Easter candy, most of which went unwrapped and saved for later. 

These precious kids are the poorest of the poor, but they were SO joyful and playful.  And responsible!  Kids taking care of kids everywhere.

The first home you see when driving into the village of Kilarney.

Next we drove to one of the rural (and very simple) public schools to set up for the following day's Holiday Club.  The teens and leaders from Bulawayo Baptist are so impressive--joyfully working hard...and NONE of them looking at phones, I might add (HOW REFRESHING--'makes my heart ache for our youth).  Tammy explained that several of the most involved teen boys were all rescued from a hospital where they had been abandoned, and were adopted by a wonderful Christian couple. They were spectacular teens!  All of them kids took on so much responsibility with joy and devotion.

After unloading supplies, we took off in a couple of pick-up trucks into the rural surrounding area.  We blasted music (all Jana Alayra music!) from a big battery powered speaker while the teens ran around passing out fliers to anyone they saw.  When we showed up the next morning, the children came running...from everywhere!  It took several trips to gather them all up,  all bathed, excited, and thrilled to pile into Tammy's truck for a day they will cherish for a long time.

And what a wonderful day it was...of Bible stories, games, food, singing, and prayer.  The children absolutely drank in every minute.  And to see and hear them pray (I had to peek), you could see faith in God that is deep and treasured.

I played a very small role in these experiences, jumping up to lead some praise and worship with their team. I was one small component of many, many hands working very hard to give these precious children food and a wonderful day in the Lord.

Saturday before Easter, Tammy put together a women's luncheon where I was the guest speaker.  This was such a JOY!  

*By the way, I don't have many photos of me on the stage for the following reason:  the agent at customs when I arrived asked my occupation.  When I said "songwriter" he looked at me squarely and said, "You are not allowed to perform while you are here," and handed me a paper I had to sign and keep with me, returning it upon departure. That made my heart jump a little.  Tammy said there was no way they would follow up on that, and reminded me that I wasn't "performing," I was "ministering!"  Good point!  But to be safe, I didn't take or post photos that could be held against me until I was safely on my way on the plane. I really didn't want to wind up in a Zimbabwe jail cell!

Back to the luncheon:  here are a few of the amazing ladies who put together the most delicious meal...note the poor equipment--they were scraping carrots with dull knives. The meal that appeared on every one of the 150 or so women's plates was bountiful and so delicious!  

I shared my testimony, which miraculously seemed to resonate with and encourage the women present...many whom have lost so much--from their business to corrupt government, family members to disease and poor health care...but NOT their hope!   I had such amazing conversations with so many of these courageous, beautiful women!  They inspired me beyond words, and I always marvel at the connection God gives us instantly in His Son! 

Above are Braunwin ("Bronnie") and her mom Sue--we became instant friends and that friendship continues, thanks to WhatsApp.  Evelyn (below) is a mighty gentle warrior.  She and 2 other women were in a car accident where they were all thrown from the vehicle and severely injured. Tammy and Jeff went to visit them immediately afterwards in the hospital, and each of them had the same response: "Praise the Lord. He was with us."  Though Evelyn lost the use of one hand and hobbles slowly now, "Thank God" and "Praise God" is what comes out of her mouth.  Truly inspiring.  Note the visual of the stone rolled away from the empty tomb on the stage behind us. Jesus defeated death and gives us eternal life, victory, hope, courage, purpose.  What an Easter Saturday this was!

After this wonderful luncheon, I had the opportunity to visit one of the many children's homes (aka orphanages, but these are truly HOMES) in the area.  This one was run by a courageous woman named Debbie Brennocks.  She and her friend Sandra had begun a program educating girls in public schools on how to avoid rape (all too common there) and sexual abuse.  This turned into a dream for a home where children and teens rescued from abuse could live in love and freedom.  Sandra sadly passed away from ovarian cancer before it came to fruition, but to see this home (named the Sandra Jones Children's Home in her honor) now fully alive and changing the lives and destinies of so many was beyond inspiring to me. Below, one of the cheery classrooms and the Education director (I think her name is brain!).  Each child receives a beautiful quilt hand-made and prayed over by women from a church in Australia.  The child keeps this quilt for LIFE. And their uniforms...darling!

The children at the Sandra Jones children's home truly know and experience love, faith in Christ, family, hope, learning, studying, responsibility, productivity, music and joy.  The kids learn to farm and sell their produce, wash and hang dry their own clothes, learn to sing and dance, read and write.  There are "grandmas" there to guide and comfort them, professional counselors there to help them through their tough issues...and 90 or so brothers and sisters there to play, grow and enjoy life with.  It it truly an amazing thing.  The affect Debbie, her team and this home have on lives is incalculable!  I love this mural on the front wall.  The word "Ubuntu" means something in Debele like "It takes a village," or "We're all in this together." The beautiful smiling woman next to it is one of the young teachers for the children.

The rest of the week was spent preparing, going with Tammy to gather children from the four winds of Bulawayo to Holiday Club (aka Vacation Bible School), helping lead the vibrant worship at holiday club, and watching the incredible team at Bulawayo Baptist at work.  It was humbling and awe-inspiring to watch this little team organize, teach, feed and bless so many hundreds of children, with more of them coming each day.

This is Ramona, a widow for many years with a delightful southern drawl.  She is an organizing machine, and somehow managed to organize and manage checking in and register the 4-500 precious children who kept arriving all week long (the crowd grew each day).  

And a few photos of kids who were gathered up in Tammy's and various trucks from all over town. They were all SO excited when Tammy pulled up!  I never saw so many children happily cram into the back of a pick up!  Tammy always blasted the music (always mine...I am so honored) to round them up, and it blew me away hearing them sing every word as we drove along.  That's a powerful thing...thinking back on how the Lord plopped some of these songs in my head, I wrestled to get them out at my kitchen table and then the hours of recording and Ron's devoted production. Then all these years and miles along, hearing these beautiful children in Zimbabwe singing them happily.  Too much to take in!

The children were excited and wide-eyed, and SOOOO well behaved!  I was amazed how a crowd of squealing, playing kids would immediately hush when Shephard (the Children's Pastor) would start speaking (with NO mike, I might add!).

The Bulawayo Baptist Team did an absolutely fabulous job with skits, Bible lessons, games, and worship (which I had the joy of helping lead).  

It was a delight to watch Tammy teach the Bible stories, along with her uber-expressive interpreters (some of the rural kids spoke more Debele than English). She is incredible with the children!  SUCH passion!

And the kitchen crew cranked out lunches every day that blew my mind. It looked like the feeding of the 5000, how these hands just moved and all those lunches appeared. I LOVE their hearts for serving Jesus and feeding His children.  Each day the kids happily gobbled up a lunch of a sandwich, a piece of fruit, a sweet drink in a tube, an egg (of course, Tammy's), and a sweet.  You would have thought it was Christmas.  They were hungry...nothing went to waste. I was so thankful to have packed JUST enough adult shirts for each of these women to get one.  God always seems to do that...provide just enough.

I must say that I didn't quite know why I was going to Zimbabwe.  I just knew that Tammy's kids at her church loved our music, I met Tammy and Jeff twice and thought the world of them, and my calendar was clear (although Ron's was packed--he had NO time to get involved).  The Lord provided the money quickly for my airline ticket (through many of YOU) on a GoFundMe I sent out, so I considered that a thumbs up from Him.  As time got closer, I just kept praying that somehow I would be a Tammy and Jeff, to the children, to whomever.  They didn't NEED me on any of these adventures (except for maybe the women's event)--I more tagged along, helped out and watched the Lord do marvelous things.  I watched Him provide needs.  I felt His comfort and the connection in the family of God in Christ.  I fell in love with these people, who have so little in the way of possessions, but so much in relationships, faith in Christ and joy.  I was inspired by this couple who have stepped out in faith and sacrificed much, and are being used beautifully day in and day out to be the arms, feet, and heart and hope of Jesus.  By the way, they do have two married daughters, sons in law and 5 adorable grandkids back in California who miss them terribly.  I caught this moment where Jeff and Tammy were Facetiming with them.  I got that pinch in my heart for them all, realizing how much they miss each other.  Serving Jesus DOES involve sacrifice, and all of them live that, yet with joy and surrender...knowing that when God calls, you answer. 

It was an unusually fabulous Easter for me, celebrating our Lord on the other side of the globe in this way.  It was profound to get messages and see posts around the clock on Instagram and FB and on my phone about Easter celebrations all over. It was obvious the whole WORLD was celebrating the truth that Jesus is ALIVE! He is Risen Indeed, Halellujah!

Oh, by the way, for those of you who supported me on GoFundMe, you will be happy to know that the money raised beyond my travel needs went into almost 3 suitcases of supplies I bought and carried over there (and thankfully the customs agents waved through, praise God).  As I write this Tammy and her team are making 400 chocolate chip cookies to bless the volunteers (note the gigantic Costco bags of chocolate chips!).  And all the extra money was a gift from all of us to their ministry.  I hope this little re-cap has given you a bit of a picture of all they are doing.  THANK YOU for supporting me, supporting them!!



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