Adapted from a sermon given by Lynne at Trent Vineyard Church, Nottingham, UK in June 2013.
I run an organization called Family Impact Africa, and until late 2013, I also managed the Zimbabwe team. But that’s not really what I’m here to chat about. What’s more important is how I got here, to this place, to today.
I am Zimbabwean, but I lived in the UK for 19 years. I went to Nottingham Trent University and studied business and loved it. I am really fascinated by small business and entrepreneurism.
So I jumped at the chance to join the Malt Cross Café-Bar team in 2004. Working with a team from Trent Vineyard and other churches in the city to set up the bar. It married my three favourite things, business, bars and Jesus! So we set it up and 12 months later God told me to resign. Nightmare. Who leaves a small business after less than 2 years, which hasn’t even broken even yet? What kind of leader does that? I struggled massively with the decision, BUT GOD. So I resigned, with 4 months’ notice and worked through to the end of 2004.
I had planned a holiday in Zimbabwe, my first visit back for 4 years, to see my sister, brother-in-law and family. I left the UK on New Year’s Eve 2004, and spent January 2005 in Zim.
I wrote in my journal on the 17th Jan 2005 (2 weeks into a 4 week trip) “I think these next two weeks will change my life. I know that whatever decision God shows to be right will totally challenge me. It seems ridiculous for me to consider moving to Zim…” I was convinced God would make it clear and I was determined not to migrate across the world for a laugh. It had better be a God-thing.
I discovered the Lord is gracious with his children (especially me). I wrote a list of more than 20 things God just HAD to do before I moved anywhere. And guess what – he didn’t answer them all (surprise surprise). In fact one of the ones I was most preoccupied with was my student loan – which I carefully laid out to the Lord he should pay off before I go to be a “penniless missionary in Africa”. But he didn’t. Yet somehow in the last 8 years, I have slowly paid my loan off. The answer to that prayer was because God wanted to work through other life lessons with me.
One of the prayers he did answer and turned out to be one of the most important was my residence status. After 19 years away, I got my residence back. On the 8th April 2005 I flew into Zim, and on the 9th I got my residency back. This was God’s big neon sign.
I joined Family Impact on the 9th April 2005.
I have been in Zim through some of the most difficult years the country has ever experienced. One of the highest inflation rates in history, and certainly the fastest dropping economy every recorded. We’d pay for bills with holdalls of cash. No food on the shelves, no fuel in the garages, electricity and water cuts. Droughts. At one point we only had running water for 8 hours a week. Some of my friends living in the capital Harare haven’t had water for more than 6 years.
Many times in the first 3 years particularly, I wanted to leave. What was I doing here? But God said “Lynne, I made it abundantly clear you should be here, and I’ll make it just as clear if you should leave, so chill out and trust me.”
Trusting the Lord has been my biggest journey: do I really trust him? Do I believe he has the best? Do I know he loves me, unconditionally, even if I never “do” anything with my life? Do I really believe that as Hebrews 13 says “he will never leave you nor forsake you”?
Do I think that it is my stubbornness? Hard work and determined mind and will power that keeps Family Impact together, and helps us make it through the difficulties of no cash, financial turmoil at Family Impact, country economic challenges and a couple of droughts?
One of the things I realised very quickly, was that the Lord spoke to me through his word (scripture) and if I didn’t know my scriptures, what was I expecting him to do – write verses on the wall of my room each morning? So I read my bible, I read it tested it and depended on it daily, as if my life depended on it. And some days it felt like it did.
The breakthrough for me came in 2008, through 2 Corinth 4 v 1. “And so, since God in his mercy has given us this wonderful ministry, we never give up.” Later on in that chapter it says in verse 7 “…But this precious treasure – this light and power that now shine within us – is held in perishable containers, that is our weak bodies. So that everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own”. Verses 8-9 go on to say “We are pressed on every side, by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.”
In 8 years I have been seriously ill twice, for a cumulative total of 5 years. I have suffered from depression, anxiety and fear. I have suffered from insomnia and lethargy. I have never been in physical danger and God has never let me down. 90% of the time I do not like God’s methods or timing, in either my ministry leadership or the development of my character. But I was called by him to this adventure and He’s never given up on me, no matter what stupid stunts I have pulled over the years. So I ain’t ever gonna walk away from Him.
John 10 v 10 says “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness”. And I reckon that the adventure that I am on, is life in all its fullness. It’s been filled with laughter, joy, incredible friends, awesome family, seeing God perform miracles before my eyes, and waking up to amazing sunrises and watching spectacular sunsets. Living in a country with over 250 days of sun a year. It has also been filled with tears, despair, self-pity, pride, sickness and confusion.
This doesn’t make me a special person, deserving special respect or favours. As Eleanor Mumford said last month in a talk at the Alpha International Leadership conference, we are commoners. All of us. What makes us extraordinary is the power of the Holy Spirit in our mortal perishable containers that enables us to live life to the full, and experience this adventure with Jesus.