We have returned to America after three months in Africa, ministering in the countries of Zimbabwe, South Africa and Cameroon. We are thankful for safety across the many miles, good health and wisdom! We memorized 2 Peter 1:3-11 during this trip. What a challenge and blessing to know that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. Our heart’s desire is to know Him more!
Our summer always begins with our training camps here in Florida. I was in charge of SBs (Special Blessing Training for those who need “extra” instruction during their free time in following our policies), so I worked daily with teens on various work projects all over the camp. I also helped in Video and Computers. I also am Mr. O.C., the guy who directs the Obstacle Course each morning at Boot Camp. Linda is like a whirlwind in action. That woman jumps from thing to thing. She teaches, cares for the leaders, is the outdoor cooking instructor plus makes all the special outside meals, speaks at rallies, counsels teens and the list goes on. This year she earned a new nickname, “smokey”— ask her about it sometime.
Our first major assignment overseas was to lead a team of 15 teens and two fellow leaders to Zimbabwe. Our team was an eyeglass/medical team and we had a wonderful experience. The team flew from Orlando to Washington, D.C. where we overnighted in hotels. We were met by some terrific parents who fed us a meal which was such a blessing for the team! We continued on the next day landing in Johannesburg, South Africa, where we overnighted before busing to the Zimbabwe border. Those border crossings are intense, and we moved our luggage several times for quite a distance, but our team members were troopers. We reached the Zimbabwe base in the middle of the night after busing for over 13 hours. Once the sun rose, we realized we were in a beautiful yet cold country. The stars at night were simply breathtaking.
We traveled daily (squeezed into the back of a truck on dust-covered roads) to a different location and would set up a clinic to give reading glasses and medical treatment to the people who would be waiting. Often, when we would arrive, 100 people were already in line. In total, we gave out 1,200 pair of reading glasses, treated 2,000 medically and did presentations and puppet shows for over 4,000. We prayed with each person we treated or gave eyeglasses to, and some were overjoyed with being helped. We had a pastor call our staff and he was so blessed to see people in his congregation reading their Bibles in church for the first time. Our team members were such a blessing to the people of Zimbabwe and to us. We loved watching them grow in faith and learn to adjust to different circumstances. We laughed much! WE LOVE YOU 2015 ZIMBABWE TEAM! May God continue to guide and direct your lives!!!
After taking the team back through the border to South Africa to fly back to the States, we returned to Zimbabwe where we remained for another month. It is always difficult to put in a few sentences the impact a trip like this has in our lives. The country is beautiful and filled with balancing rocks, in fact the name Zimbabwe means, “House of Rocks”. It was also very dry and cold. We fell in love with our three staff families and the Bible school students. I spent time re-wiring the buildings on the property, both for the electric and solar power, worked on the water pump and did several other maintenance jobs. I always had a group of guys following me around as I was training as I was repairing. Linda did base inventories, cleaned up and re-arranged the office, taught a MSSM refresher to everyone and helped with finances. Together we encouraged and challenged our staff. We were able to get a new photo copy machine for printing the materials for the MSSM Sunday Schools and also bought new bicycles for the motorcycle circuits. We were so pleased with how the Sunday School ministry is running. They are reaching 7,000 people EACH week through this ministry. The Circuit Riders, who ride bicycles 90K each week, are humble, godly and committed young people. Many firsts for us include: getting chased by a group of turkeys, throwing rocks at monkeys to keep them out of the gardens, helping day-old chicks learn how to drink water, walking seven miles to visit widows (one who had her eye pecked out by a chicken) and seeing Victoria Falls. Our staff have persevered through some very dark and difficult days under the harsh and corrupt country leaders. They have dealt with inflation, hunger and fear. They are truly some of the heroes of the faith and we greatly admire them.
After a tearful goodbye to our Zimbabwe staff, we headed to South Africa for a week. Again, we crossed the borders by land and it was not enjoyable. We made this crossing four times and each time we were delayed at least three to four hours. It is an unbelievable experience. We stayed at our base and spent time sharing with the interns and students, visiting the MSSM ministry and helping with a few projects around the property. We even attended a missions conference with the group at a local church. I talked Linda into attending the Hillsong Church with me. She was not too crazy about the loud music and flashing strobe lights, but she enjoyed the message and later admitted she did have fun. It was also very cold in South Africa as it was winter.
Following our time in South Africa, we flew, via a small airline, through Rwanda to Cameroon. It was our first time in Rwanda and so I had to get a cup of their world renowned coffee while we waited for our flight. It was great! We spent three and a half weeks in Cameroon and boy were we busy! We immediately noticed the weather change from cold winter to hot, humid and rainy summer. It was so rainy this year that we were unable to visit two of the four Rescue Units due to road conditions. We were able to get to two of the Units and spend time with the MSSM Circuit. While we were at the Rescue Unit in Ngie, we ran into a terrible situation. Margaret, who is 18, had had a seizure and fallen into boiling water. Her left hand is totally without skin and the fingers look burnt. We were able to get her to a clinic with a doctor to help, as she needed antibiotics and clean care. Her story is a sad one. She was sold to a man at 15 years old. Her first pregnancy ended in a stillbirth. She does have two children (a two year old and nine month old). Her husband abandoned her after the accident, stating she was too much trouble. She is living with her widowed mother in dire circumstances. The Unit is assisting with formula for the baby and our facilitator was taught by the doctor how to continue her care. This girl broke our hearts—in fact, Linda cried so much I was the one helping our facilitator. Pray for healing for Margaret’s hand. We spent time going over finances, had a BMW graduation (all the graduates voted to wait till we arrived) and had various meetings with our staff, facilitators and the board. All in all, it was a blessed trip. The Lord gave us both good health, wisdom and lots of laughter. I love this missionary life with my dear wife, it is such a privilege and adventure! Since returning home, we learned that our facilitators, Chris and Rachel gave birth to a son, who they named Maher, how humbling.
After three months of laundry by hand, bucket bathing and terrible roads we are glad for the amenities of our home in Florida. We are back to work in the office. I am working in the Computer Department writing software, repairing this and that and working on the websites. Linda took a term off from teaching as this is her busy season as In-House Editor for the ministries. She is writing, editing, getting organized for finding leaders for 2016 and working on our fiscal year-end for MSSM and AIDS Orphans. Linda is thrilled to be home again with Kalah. She missed her so much. They are buddies and I don’t even try to keep up with their conversations which haven’t stopped since we got home.
Kalah really enjoys being a teacher and is doing very well. Zachary is still working full-time and attending seminary. Daniel, Kelsey and Tom and Deena both purchased houses this summer. The grandchildren are growing, the boys are over six months now and our sweet Elsie turned three in September. We are thrilled with every moment of Papa and Nana time we get, either hands on with Link or via FaceTime with Elsie and Jude. Our greatest joy is knowing that our children walk in the Truth!
The Lord willing we plan to due some deputation this year for the first time in three or four years. When we have the times confirmed we will let you all know. Many details need to be worked out so please pray for us in making this all happen.
1. Safety the many miles these past months.
2. Good health to serve the Lord.
3. The hundreds of lives impacted by our ministry this past summer! To God be the Glory!
4. November 22nd is our 35th wedding anniversary. Praise God for my wife, my friend, my sweetheart and my ministry partner. It has been a wonderful journey thus far!
1. Pray for wisdom and discernment in our job responsibilities.
2. Pray we work everything out to do some deputation soon.
3. Pray our children and grandchildren will walk in truth and obedience to the Lord.
4. Pray for consistent support.
Tom and Linda Maher