Nothing new under the sun

Te’let’ (Woven Threads)

February 22, 2024 | Opinion | Volume 28 Issue 4
Barbara Nkala | Columnist

In Ndebele, my language, we have a proverb that says, Inala kayihambi, kuhamba indlala. It says that times of abundant harvest are not reported, but times of hunger and famine make good news. Too true.

All news worth reporting, in worldly standards, is that of horrendous happenings, such as wars and all forms of affliction on the human race. Very little that is good and peaceable takes precedence. That has been the case since time immemorial. A teacher full of wisdom once said, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

I am from Zimbabwe and I know that some of our countryfolk in the diaspora hide the fact that they are Zimbabwean because they fear the backlash of being associated with the devastating oppression that makes the news. People are sometimes surprised when they visit my country and see people chatting away and laughing.

Indeed, some of my countryfolk are good cartoonists and creators of comedy that keep us laughing at ourselves.

For years, we have kept hoping to emerge from desolation and frolic into our Canaan, but, ironically, the desert journey is an unending abyss. So, rather than wallow in endless pity parties, people still sing, dance and make merry.

I was recently flipping through old magazines, including the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) Courier. I was pondering stories I had read and enjoyed. I came across Tigist Tesfaye’s presentation at the MWC 2022 Assembly in Indonesia. The following statement jumped out at me: “In the middle of this turmoil around me, around the globe, how can I celebrate in a situation like this?”

This reminded me of the Israelites who showed their bitter memory of the horrible cruelty they suffered in exile. When their captors asked to be entertained with songs, they said, “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4).

Similar questions are posed all the time because people are plagued by numerous scourges in my country. The church is not exempt. What affects the general population affects those who practise Christianity or any other faith. Some people in my country are continually afflicted by hunger, unemployment, poverty, injustices, corruption in high places. There is no respite.

Trials or no trials, life goes on. Not all hope is lost.

I know a Christian family who, at the height of devastation and great suffering in my country, testified that they cried before the Lord asking that he create a Goshen—the fertile, comfortable and plague-free land set apart for the Israelites in Egypt—for them despite the ongoing scourges. And God did just that.

They are a humble family who seem to have their feet firmly on the solid Rock that is Jesus Christ. God does rescue those who wait upon him even in poverty-stricken third world countries like mine. Such people try all they can to help kith and kin and others.

As we hear in the daily news, the whole world seems to suffer its own peculiar calamities. There are numerous scourges plaguing the rich and the poor, the elite and the uneducated, those within the church and outside. There are power issues, sin and a variety of fears. COVID devastation was not selective.

The wise teacher who proclaimed that there was nothing new under the sun also said, “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

So, what does this say to me? It says the good shepherd cares for us all despite the numerous and different challenges we face. If we embrace God and his statutes, he can keep us in Goshen, while plagues devastate the evil around. Trials and tribulations will always be there, but faith kindles hope all the time. Hallelujah! 

Barbara Nkala is a writer, teacher, speaker and former Southern Africa regional representative for Mennonite World Conference (2016-2022). She is a member of the Brethren in Christ Church, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe.

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