Thursday, May 21, 2015


[Revised Version of Chapter Fifteen from the book
When Even The Devil Deserts You
A Dream Again Book
Published by Dream Again Press
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number  92-097008]
The memories of Mashoko Mission are fading.  My childhood on the mission station in southern Africa seems at times little more than a dream.  Someday I hope to be able to journey there again.  This time with my wife.  I know the country will be vastly different.  When I lived there it was called Southern Rhodesia and was ruled by the whites.  It is now Zimbabwe and is ruled by the Shona people.

    There is one place in Zimbabwe that is vivid in my memory.  It is an old walled city called the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.  The Acropolis, Temple, and valley of ruins stand out against a backdrop of the veld land and small kopjes and clumps of bush that make up much of Mashonaland, the home of the Shona people.  It is one of the major mysteries of the history of this land.  Who were the people who built these massive structures that some say are the most remarkable drywalling architecture in the world?

    Theories about the builders of Great Zimbabwe abound.  During the time I lived in the country most of them excluded the possibility of it being built by the Shona people.  White Rhodesians would point to the small pole-and-mud huts with their grass roofs that the Shona people then lived in and declare it was absurd to think they had built such grand structures.  I am certain that the Shona people of today do claim them as theirs.  When they got their independence, they named their country Zimbabwe.   

    One day on my way to visit the Ruins I picked up an old man walking along the road.  I had driven the hundred miles into town to pick up supplies for the mission.  After dropping off the orders to be filled, I took my usual trip out to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.  I was curious about the old man.  He was the first white person I had ever seen walking along the road in that country. It was common to see black men and women walking, but this was the first white person I had ever seen.
    He got in the Land Rover and we continued on toward the Ruins.  I rented a cabin there and asked him to spend the night with me.  I had planned on staying over before making the drive back to the mission and thought it would be nice to have some company.  I could tell you I was just being nice, but that would not be entirely true.  The old man was fascinating.  He had passports with the pages stamped full of visas.  He had traveled the world, working his way from place to place.  We talked the entire night.
    When I asked him who he thought built the Great Zimbabwe ruins, he said it was the Shona people.  I took the white view that they could not have done it.  His reply was very simple.  He said, never look at the present condition of any peoples or at any individual and assume you know their history.  Can you look at Rome today and know it once ruled the world?  Can you look at America today and know how recent that nation was born?  Does the Egypt of today tell you how great it once was?
    Feeling very much put in my place, I asked him about his dreams.  I thought he would tell me about the places he still wanted to see.  I was surprised again.  He told me he was on his way to the Nile to die.  He was almost at the bottom of Africa.  He was headed to the top of Africa. He was on foot, yet he had every confidence he would die on the banks of the Nile River.

    I learned a lot that night.  Among other things I learned not to judge a person by his or her present circumstances.  I learned not to guess about the dreams of others, but to ask them them what their dreams are.

    It took a dream and a lot of sweat to build what is now the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.  The old man had a dream, and if he made it to the Nile before he died it took a lot of work.

    I have a dream.  I dream of the day when every mentally ill person is dreaming again.  When we all see a bleak future turning into a bright beginning.  When we are all embraced by a community of caring folks.  When we all have a place to belong.  When none of us feel like we are living through the days “when even the devil deserts you.”  This is my dream and my prayer.

    My illness dashed all the dreams and expectations my mother and father held for me.  They died with little hope of seeing me better.  I will never be well (recovered), but I still dream.  It is those dreams that enable me to battle the voices in my head when they scream at me to kill myself.  It was my dreams that kept me writing this book.  It is my dreams that quiet my shattered soul.  My Nile is when more of us begin to dream again.

Will you
    help some shattered soul
         to start dreaming again?

Will you
    become the hands and feet
         of Jesus and walk beside someone today?

Will you
    warmly embrace us
          and show us God’s enduring Grace now?

© Ed Cooper, May 21, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved

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