It’s been quite an interesting couple of months since I last sent out a newsletter.
One of the major ‘events’ we had to deal with in May was that one day while sorting out some things in our clothing store room, (a stand-alone building about 12m x 6m) one of our older girls, Linda, and I found a freshly shed snake skin in a box of clothing. Snakes are not that uncommon but this was a big one…a 2.2 metre long black mamba skin. Mambas are deadly and there is no anti-venom in the country. Snakes in the wild are one thing, but in a confined space full of boxes of clothes in a building all too close to our Baby Unit it’s a different story. Our maintenance men cut down all of the overhanging trees which we thought might be giving the snake an entry point and we called in a snake expert who, with the help of our men, cleared and checked loads of boxes and then temporarily stored them in our library while snake traps were set in the clothing store. Despite baiting them with live squirrels, which most uncooperatively kept escaping, and live chicks, which stayed put and cheeped away tantalisingly all night, the snake was never caught. We can only assume that it was outside hunting when the men cut down the tree branches and then couldn’t find a way back into its cosy sleeping place and so has relocated…far, far away from our Baby Unit and clothing store …we hope!
Just over 23 years ago when we opened our special care Baby Unit and took in our first three little ones, Chipo was one of those babies. I remember so clearly her wearing a little frilly yellow dress the day we collected her from the hospital. Now all these years later, the first weekend in June saw Fiona and me heading to the city of Mutare to celebrate with her as she graduated from Africa University with a B.Sc. in Psychology. What a special time it was. Fi and I caused considerable amusement to those sitting near us when we leaped up to ululate and cheer for her in true Shona style as she was ‘capped’. Not what they expected from the only white ‘mothers’ in a crowd of over 5,000, but there was no way we were going to be ‘British’ when Montgomery’s first university graduate was being honoured!
Chipo returned home with us and on the Sunday evening our church youth group surprised her with a party to honour her achievement. They took the initiative, funded and cooked a wonderful meal, decorated the dining room and blessed her with a gift. Lots of speeches, lots of fun and laughter; and a wonderful sense of ‘family’!
Chipo is now living in Harare where she is working as a counsellor at ARC, the Adult Rape Clinic. Such a blessing that she has found employment when so many of her fellow graduates are still unable to find positions .
Meanwhile we continue to press on through the national shortages.
One of the major difficulties the whole country has been experiencing over this past couple of months has been excessively long electricity cuts, often lasting 18 hours a day, every day. Sadly this is not likely to be a short term thing. Unusually low rainfall resulted in low water levels at the main hydro-electric plant in Kariba, poor maintenance of the coal powered generators in Hwange causes frequent breakdowns, millions of dollars are owed to other countries for already received electricity….. just some of the causes. So we are all trying to adjust our daily schedules considerably in order to work around the few hours each day that we can afford to run our generator.
Quite often we have had no telephone communication either as the transmitter that covers our area runs on diesel and the telephone company keep running out of fuel to power it!
To say that it is difficult trying to juggle things around these issues would be an understatement. Don’t ever take for granted your electricity and telephone signal!
Then a few weeks ago the country ran out of bread flour. No bread available anywhere, though plenty of cakes and buns! (Figure that?!) Whether or not it was the much maligned Marie Antoinette who said it, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” does rather seem to fit the situation!
So we’ve had to quickly re-think what we do about the children’s packed lunches for school. I am grateful for our ever-resourceful senior cook who came up with some workable plans and with various readjustments to the menu we are still managing to maintain a balanced diet for the children…and no, we have not just “Let them eat cake.”!
The patience and resilience of the average Zimbabwean with all of these problems continues to amaze me, but this week the nation has been hit with yet another man-made crisis which has really rocked the nation and one wonders whether this might just be the tipping point.
For some time now Zimbabwe has had a multi-currency economy, with the US dollar being the most commonly used foreign currency. Week by week the local Bond or RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement) dollar has been losing value, and with the exchange rate increasingly being governed by the black market, prices in Bond/RTGS have continued to rise, while by contrast quite often US prices have been lower than for years. On Monday morning, with no prior warning whatsoever, the government introduced a Statutory Instrument which, with immediate effect, made trading in any currency other than Bond/RTGS illegal. This caused mass panic everywhere with people rushing to banks to try to draw out cash from their foreign currency accounts, many banks shutting their doors, shops closing because they didn’t know how to re-price their goods etc.. Neither we nor anyone else we have talked to have any idea what to do or how it is going to work out. Theoretically, once everything settles down this decision could possibly help stabilise the economy but without having had any time to prepare for the change everything is currently in turmoil, and with a history of so much rampant corruption in high places, people have lost trust in even seemingly sensible policies.
And so it all goes on….
Psalm 143: 8 stood out to me very strongly earlier this week: Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
Only God knows the way through this mess and so we continue to look to Him for day to day guidance.
It feels as though we are in a long night of shortages, difficulties, confusion and turmoil…but the morning will surely come.
In the middle of all of this we recently received some wonderful news that has felt like a little glimpse of dawn.
Some months back, before the power crisis started to affect the nation, a friend in Harare contacted us to say that his company which deals in solar powered energy, had been partnering with one of Germany’s biggest solar companies on some installations at a mission hospital. The German company wanted to further invest into Zimbabwe by donating into another project and he wondered if we’d be interested. Interested?! Ha!
This week he and a colleague came out to finalise a few details and told us that a team will be coming out from Germany in September to install as a gift to us a tailor-made solar unit to power our three boreholes and provide lighting for our children’s houses. This has come as such an encouragement in a very difficult time.
Finally…I thought I’d been doing pretty well ‘keeping all of the balls in the air’ during this past few days of chaos but maybe I haven’t looked as strong, calm and healthy and as I thought. Ruvarashe, aged 9, brought me a picture she’d coloured last evening when she came to give me a goodnight hug. She’d written on it: ‘Dear Miss Masho I love you so much becouse you love me to. I want you to love me I want yo to not die. Thank you’
Didn’t think I looked quite that bad! Am I weary? Yes a little. Am I worried? Not really. Do I know what to do? No, I haven’t a clue! Quite frankly it’s all too much for any one of us to try to figure out. We are just trying with His help, to keep things as settled as we can for the family here and waiting it all out until the full dawn breaks.
So greatly appreciate your prayers for the nation as a whole and for the Montgomery family specifically.