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Zimbabwe Life – 4 Months In

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, it’s a testament to how busy its been for me with work, church and life.

I thought I’d give an update on African life 4 months in as it’s the new year, its been interesting to look back on the last few months and compare the differences to life in the UK.

I’ll try and not rehash too many of the details that Marie shared in her last post.

So we have been in Zim a little over 4 months now, I have to say all the negative stories you hear about Zim are probably a little over blown by western media, sure there are some problems but I wouldn’t say they are as bad as western media makes out.

We’ve been blessed enough that we live in an area with very few power cuts and I mean perhaps 2 mins every other week or so compared to 12 hours a day that some areas get. I think this is because we probably are on the same power feed as the local hospital in our area.

Water hasn’t really been an issue for us with the exception that you cannot safely drink straight from the tap, we have a borehole (2 actually) which supplies drinking water for the complex, but its not enough to run the general water supply for the whole complex, which means the main water pipes are fed from a tank which is kept full with a mixture of Borehole water, Municipally supplied water and even the Swimming Pool when the municipal supplies are not working (which is fairly regularly at least in the winter months which are June through September). As you can guess chlorine isn’t good for you and it’s commonly known that the municipal water is not to the same standards compared to the UK. This is mostly down to the infrastructure not being as reliable (burst pipes, no power at treatment facilities etc). The water situation hasn’t been too much of an issue for us, we have our containers with which we go to the main borehole tap and fill for drinking water and for the puppies, which is luckily by the side of our house which is convenient. The only real challenge has been remembering that I must spit the water out when rinsing my mouth out after brushing my teeth (I used to have a quick drink after rinsing my mouth in the UK).

As I mentioned, work has been pretty hectic the last few months. I’ve made some changes as well in recent months too, I was previously spending a lot of my time working with Frederick Townes, Willie Jackson and the gang at W3 EDGE who are the main go-to guys to go to when you want WordPress to scale. It was a blast but unfortunately it was ultimately taking way too much time away from spending it with my wife and doing some of my own project based work (not directly in the WordPress/Internet sphere).

While I was working at W3 EDGE, I had the privilege to take a trip down to Cape Town in October and speak at a WordCamp Conference. I spoke on how to scale servers for maximum WordPress performance. It was quite a geeky and very tech focused talk but it went down well from feedback from others. I put the slides up on slideshare and the video has been uploaded to YouTube, unfortunately the audio quality for the first few minutes of my presentation was a bit poor but it picks up further in. Hopefully I’ll be able to do another talk at WordCamp Cape Town in 2013.

So even after wrapping up with the W3 EDGE team it turns out I was still very busy, some new hosting clients came in looking for more capacity for their magento store, as they were paying a rather hefty amount to Rackspace each month but not getting the amount of scale they desired. Scale roughly can be thought about as the amount of traffic a site can take based upon certain factors – for example when I mention scaling up a site, it could mean adding more servers into the equation or adding resources to the existing servers or just optimising the existing gear so it can do more in the same hardware, and so on. I won’t bore you with all the details, if you do want to find out more, please do take a look at my business website and contact me there 🙂

So Christmas has been and gone, perhaps the most exciting thing in the run up to Christmas this year was getting to be involved with our church’s (ONE Church) large missional event. This year it was called “Christmas Unrapped”. It was a mix of traditional carols, a 5-10 min gospel message and a play/performance combining Spoken Word, Dance, Acting and even some Bollywood, all in the Avondale car park (there’s a reasonably large Indian population within the Avondale area). I was originally only put down to do some lighting design and lighting on the day, but quite late on it was realised that a lot of the technical side of things was not arranged yet at all. So I got promoted to Technical Director and ended up arranging and organising all the technical aspects of the event from Power, Sound, Lighting and then running Sound on the night. It was definitely an eye opening experience and may have given me a few grey hairs in the process, but looking back I really did enjoy it!

Christmas itself was nice and quiet, I was able to take just over a week off which made a real change to the fast pace busyness of work and was really relaxing, spending lots of time with Marie, enjoying the quiet moments while they last, and playing with our puppies! We can’t really call our dogs “Puppies” for too much longer as they are over 6 months old now and just recently got spayed, which was a little bit traumatic for them but Salt & Pepper have both bounced back nicely.

In just a few days that quiet will be all but gone for the most part & I don’t say that as a negative point. Our baby is due on around the 28th January, so it literally could be any day now. In some respects its still a bit surreal that I’m going to be a dad in a few days time (because I haven’t really had much to do in the last 9 months), in some respects its quite scary to think another human life is going to be totally dependant on me (& Marie) for absolutely everything, and in some respects its quite exciting and I look forward to the challenge. I’m certain that as I learn stuff, I’ll share here as time allows as well as share as many photos as I can, here or via facebook.

I’m going to leave it there for now, hopefully we won’t be so tardy with updates in the future (I say that now….).

Update from Zimbabwe

Well it has been one and a half months since my husband and I landed at Harare Airport, Zimbabwe, so here’s a brief summary of what we’ve been up to so far. Our time here has been very fruitful, productive and joy-filled! We have achieved everything we set out to accomplish by the grace of God, for example:

  • Ant obtained residency in Zimbabwe for the next two years
  • We opened a local Zimbabwean joint bank account
  • We moved into our new home and furnished it
  • Our Nissan Navara (Ant’s car) and household belongings, that we shipped from the UK, arrived two weeks ago
  • We bought a Hyundai Excel (my car) about a month ago (It literally had only one lady owner previously – whatever that means! – Ant says thats good)
  • We registered with Cimas Medical Aid Society and with a doctor
  • I registered with a gynaecologist, who is apparently the best in Zim, and had my 20-week scan a few weeks ago (who will also be delivering our baby)
  • I have booked into the maternity section at the hospital to have my baby (as if you don’t book in advance you might not get a bed and be turned away, that’s how busy/popular they are!)
  • We have a reliable internet connection set-up in our home, which means Ant has been able to work from home for over a month now
  • We found a maid who works for us 1 day a week, who does the cleaning and ironing (I’m so grateful for her!)
  • We were given two cutie-pie jack russell puppies from my parents, their names are Salt and Pepper ☺

We’ve got involved and stuck into One Church (a Newfrontiers church plant) and recently completed the three-week Vision & Values Course to become members, and we joined the Vainona “Vainona Massive!” Community Group, which is the closest one to our house. Ant is doing the Sound at church every third Sunday and he’s been asked to oversee the Media Team, which means he gets to church two hours early each Sunday for set-ups and to make sure all Media aspects are running smoothly. Basically, he’s in his element and he’s absolutely loving it!

Ant joined a gym, which is about a 15-minute drive from our house, and he’s been going three days a week – early on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. I would have loved to join him but of course I’m not allowed, being pregnant and all, how convenient J I am so enjoying seeing how happy Ant has been since he arrived in Zim, I think the laid-back culture and lifestyle really suits him (as well as the hot climate). He gets on really well with the people here and it makes me happy to see him so happy!

I have been a real house-wife doing the cooking, washing, cleaning, baking bread (we have a bread-machine), baking biscuits, buying the groceries, feeding the dogs, and doing bits of Admin for hubby J I’ve also been able to see and connect with old friends and family, some of whom I had not seen for years. I’ve been enjoying going out for coffees, visiting friends and having friends visit me, even some who I hadn’t seen since school days. It’s been fantastic being able to spend time building relationships with new and old friends! I’ve been a real social busy bee J

All in all, I hadn’t realized how much I missed the Zimbabwean lifestyle and wonderful people until I moved back here!

ONE People

I’m reading a book at the moment called Glorious Intruder by Joni Eareckson Tada, and it’s challenging me in many ways to go deeper in my relationship with God. I recently read part of a chapter of the book which made me think about ONE People, which is the church plant Ant and I will be joining in August in Harare, Zimbabwe. I thought of it because the subject name of the chapter is exactly the same name as ONE People.

Here is what I read:

Think of someone you wish you could come alongside to help today. Take a minute to visualise that person’s face. A close Christian friend, perhaps, or a family member living far away. You’d love to reach across the miles with a gift of strength wrapped in the sunlight of encouragement. You’d love to inspire him or her to walk straight paths and stay close to the Lord.

Yes, you can pray. Please do. You can also pick up the phone or drop a card in the post. But there is something else. Something you might not have considered. Something mysterious and powerful. It has to do with an obscure little story about a man named Achan.

In Joshua 7 we read about the astonishing victories which Joshua and his citizen army secured for God and His people. But God laid down some strict guidelines about these conquests. After the battle of Jericho, for instance, God made it clear that all the booty – whether gold or silver, bronze or copper – was to go directly into the Lord’s treasury. No one was to line his pockets with Jericho’s plunder; these things were to be consecrated to God and kept in His sanctuary.

But Achan had other ideas. He tucked away a few of those costly items for his future retirement and told no one about it except his family. He thought He was getting away with something, but He didn’t count on God the Intruder. He didn’t consider his all-knowing, all-seeing God.

The Lord knew all about it. Joshua 7:1 tells us that ‘God’s anger burned against Israel’ – the whole nation! In fact, the very next battle which Joshua led was a disaster. The Israelites were beaten and humiliated by a wimpish rag-tag militia, and that evening the people stood in disbelief around thirty-six fresh graves. Thirty-six sons and husbands didn’t come back to their tents and firesides that night… and never would.

Wasn’t this the same army that had defeated mighty Jericho? Why had the Lord withdrawn His blessing at such a critical moment? General Joshua was beside himself. He tore his clothes and literally fell on his face in the dirt before the ark of the Lord.

But listen to the Lord’s amazing words to His servant:

Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant… They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites can not stand against their enemies (7:10-12).

Then Joshua got wind of what Achan had done. It was because of this one man’s greed and disobedience that God’s anger had been kindled against the rest of the people. The central truth from this chapter is sobering to say the least: the sin of one person affected the whole camp.

It’s a valid lesson even today. We may tuck away little sins out of the sight of others. We might cleverly disguise the way we manipulate other people. We might falsely accuse folks behind their backs. We might chip in our twopence’ worth when people are huddled around gossiping. We might hide some private sins, which dishonor and displease God.

If Achan could speak to us today, he would warn us that our sins will find us out. Our disobedience can – and does – affect the rest of the body of Christ. When we stumble and fall into sin, we’re setting the stage for others to do likewise. Like the camp of Israel, God still deals with His church as a whole, and we mustn’t think we can get away with our ‘little sins’ without them affecting our Christian friends.

Believers are ONE with other Christians – we’re never told to become ONE, we’re already ONE. Corinthians chapter 12 says that together, we Christians are like a human body with Christ at the head. The human body is probably the most amazing example of teamwork anywhere. Every part needs the other. When the stomach is hungry, the eyes spot the hamburger, the nose smells the onions, the feet run to the food stand, the hands douse the burger with mustard and shove it back into the mouth where it goes down to the stomach. Now that’s co-operation! No organ in the body can act without affecting all the rest.

There is something almost mystical about the intricate, intimate link between us believers. If we care anything about Christ, the Head of the body, if we care anything about the rest of the body – our wives, husbands, children or neighbours – we must face our daily challenges and temptations with them in mind.

So what’s the ‘something nice’ you can do for your friend today? In a mysterious way, you can help that person in his or her spiritual walk by simply obeying. Obeying God in all those little tests and struggles this day may bring. Obedience may seem like a private, personal decision, affecting no one but yourself. That’s what Achan thought.

Summer is here… I think!

Wow! haven’t blogged here in a while and thought I should post an update. It’s been pretty pretty hectic for me the last month or 2 with studies, exams and work, I’m not complaining though! It has just meant that some things have taken a back burner while I focus on the priorities in the right order (God, Wife, Study, Work, Other). So roughly in that order :).

ChristChurch has been good, Marie and I got to witness Andy Tilsley being officially “prayed in” as an elder and the general comings and goings of church life, Marie has joined the crèche team to help combat the current and further impending baby boom! and they couldn’t keep me away, am back serving Sundays on the sound team now technically called the tech team (excuse the pun) which encompasses the visuals team also which i think is a brilliant move purely because the 2 teams were quite small on there own and trying to organise social events was rather difficult because normally what ended up happening is 2 guys end up meeting up for a beer (which is not a bad thing!) rather than 5 or 6 people meeting up having a meal and enjoying good fellowship.

Marie has been the usual busy with working for Newfrontiers, carrying on as usual despite all the ongoing staff changes that take place regularly, she is still knitting a woolly green scarf for me for Christmas, hopefully its ready in time although i wont need it because we are going to Zimbabwe for Christmas again, Woohoo!

Studies have finally concluded for the summer, I am still awaiting results and have one exam to do in august – due to the bad organisation of Uni which I have probably mentioned before. i had to spend 4 weeks at uni after my exams attending lectures which apparently had been the plan since the beginning of the academic year but we weren’t informed until mid way through our exam period despite several people including myself asking for clarification several times throughout this year (i think that shows how badly organised the uni is) in fact some were so badly caught out because they had already booked flights home for the summer and couldn’t attend the lectures. gladly though its all done, i cant wait to get this degree over and done with purely because it holds very little relevance to my day to day freelance work, and any content that did is already going out of date, that’s how fast paced the IT industry really is.

Work has really ramped up the last month or so, I’ve had the chance to meet and even work with some great teams like (new web infrastructure), Rackspace (got to see the Rackspace mini and got a goody bag) and have met the awesome GoSquared team and WooThemes just the other week, its keeping me busy which i like and importantly its earning money, I’m actually quite thankful to God for all the work as I had to replace my laptop a few weeks ago (the old one couldn’t take the load i was throwing at it) which cost a seriously painful amount of money which if it wasn’t for the work i wouldn’t have been able to buy.

Other than that, not much has changed, still busy busy busy, off to see my dad and Karen for the weekend next weekend which should be good as we will probably get to go to the village church too so that should be an experience for Marie (its not Newfrontiers!), the weather here has been pretty miserable the last few days but we got a couple of thunder storms that Marie and I both enjoy watching.