January 4, 2008
Dear Loved Ones who journey with us abroad and into 2008-
Happy New Year to all of you there in the snowy states! We hear of major snowfalls, Patriot football wins, and Iowa caucuses in fits and spurts. We hope you are all holding your own in the midst of weather and all.
It is a soggy time here in Zimbabwe, moreso than usual. We had lunch the other day with the Dominican Regional Superior and Sr. Rosemary said that this is the first Christmas in years that they didn’t sweat!! We smiled. We kind of wish we could sweat a little. The land is swollen as much as the rivers, and drownings are common…bridges are out in rural areas and many travelers are inconvenienced. We plan not to travel outside Harare at least until the 15th of January (and even that is unsure), and that would be southwest to Gweru. So far our work in the capitol city has taken us around and about quite a bit. Some people are predicting that sun and sweating is coming soon.
We know some of you may be trying to reach Karen directly and her email address is somehow faulty. Therefore, we have opened a new account for all of you to note. It is email@example.com appropriate for our new identity linked with TATENDA International. Please use that one while we are traveling. Nicki will have a new one soon, too, as firstname.lastname@example.org also appropriate. For now her original one works, too.
We are preparing now for a rather daunting challenge but one that stirs us nonetheless. On Dec. 15 we accompanied Maryknoll lay missioners to Mother Teresa’s community in one of the poorest areas of Harare called Mbare. We helped dish out Christmas food and watched a charming nativity play performed by about 25 children. Karen spoke with the superior there, Sr. Regina, and they scheduled a retreat for their residents who came from homeless situations, older men and women from Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. It was agreed we could use a translator and do a two day retreat with them on Jan. 7-8, 2008.
Last week they asked if some local women neighbors could join us. Okay, Nicki said. Then another note…how about an additional 25 youth (young teens??), too. So now the numbers have increased dramatically and age groups have become very broad. How to give a retreat on prayer to such a complex group and make it pertinent and appealing is a major challenge. Your prayers will be appreciated for this most unusual combination. Here’s the blessing….God does the work within all our situations… We are so grateful for that knowledge and for this opportunity. For Karen this is a dream come true, to collaborate with something that Mother Teresa’s community would be connected with. We are privileged to undertake it and have their trust.
We have heard word of the Kenya struggle and pray that peace will return there soon. We will keep everyone there in our prayers and trust that there will be a quiet and agreeable consensus soon in Nairobi, especially by Jan. 23. Let us all pray for this troubled nation, which for so many years has been a stable model for government in Africa.
In closing, here’s another personal story. While we were at the Dominican sisters, we came out one evening to cross the road and join the sisters for prayer. We said, “Good afternoon” to one young man as we crossed. Just before we were to go into the compound, he crossed the street to engage us. He was on the verge of tears. Alex is 18, bright in computers, studying for his O-level exams. His mother is in England, father in Malawi, older sister in Zambia, and he is here with two very young siblings, trying to keep the family together. There are misunderstandings. He asked us how to handle that when communication gets confused. Karen is great with street kids and she listened attentively to him, hearing his plight, his pain, and his despair. He had considered suicide several years ago, got through it then, and now today found himself entertaining it again. She dissuaded him strongly from going that route and listened for some time. What he needed was someone to bounce his troubles off of. He thought we would “be nice Christian women since we greeted him the way we did.” He is Anglican and asked if we were going to pray. Of course, we missed prayer, but felt like we had been helpful intervening. Saw him two days later and were encouraged he was still alive.
It is so difficult for people managing families here right now with massive loss in family leadership due to AIDS, emigration, and job loss. Please pray for Alex and all youth here. We continue to do so ourselves.
That’s it for here for now. Peace and blessings to all of you who are so faithful to us.
Love and Prayers
Nicki and Karen