He’s still up there, one of Mugabe’s victims declared

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 15, 2007

Not all of life’s changes are positive, noted one of our longtime coffee companions in an e-mail I received last week. How should we respond to changes that are really bad?

Most of us have had to adapt to personal changes brought about by the death of loved ones, the loss of income, or failing health. But what about negative changes on a massive scale – changes that affect whole societies and nations?

Globe-trotting public speaker Jack Popjes, writing from Malaysia, where he was conducting a retreat on silence, spoke out loud and clear.

“When we notice that the values of the society in which we live are changing, we should not simply adapt to the changes unthinkingly. We need to check to see if the values we are exchanging will produce a society that will help us thrive or one that will bring chaos and confusion. If the latter, we need to resist the change, not adapt to it."

The next day I received an e-mail from another of our overseas coffee companions that made Jack’s concern breathtakingly vivid.

Eddie Cross, economist and small-business proprietor in Zimbabwe, is also a voice for non-violent political reform in his beloved southern Africa country. Under the corrupt regime of President Robert Mugabe, Eddie has seen his beautiful nation change from democracy to tyrannical absurdity, and from being one of the most prosperous nations on the continent to economic collapse.

Recently Mugabe, in response to run-away inflation he himself is responsible for, decreed that merchants must sell their product way below cost, a decree that is strictly enforced. This, according to Eddie, is a move intended to bankrupt urban companies, including his own, enabling their aging leader to assert regime-saving control at the expense of the very institutions that gave the nation its earlier prosperity.

Wholesalers are no longer able to meet their commitments; retailers are shutting their doors; the workforce is leaving the cities in droves. Knowledgeable observers worldwide are counting the days till the death of this once-great country.

All because of unconscionable change at the highest levels.

In his e-mail Eddie spoke of walking out of one wholesaler, “furious at the situation I found there – staff standing around with nothing to do, empty shelves and a sense of desolation. What on earth do these idiots in government think they are doing?” he asked himself.

Then he had an encounter that put everything back into hope-filled perspective.

“I decided to walk over the road and see the managing director (MD), an old friend, to ask him what they are going to do,” he wrote. “It was quite obvious to all but the blind that they were going down the tubes – an old business with a proud record of service to the community.

“Arriving at reception, I noticed that the man who answers the phone and directs visitors was reading his Bible. Not much else to do, I thought. I greeted him and asked if the MD was in his office. He said he was out – but I could see his secretary. I said no, she could not really help me with the issue I wanted to talk about.

“I then asked him what they were going to do about the collapse of the business. Receptionists are like taxi drivers – they know everything. His response to me with a broad smile was: ‘He is still up there!’ At first I thought he was saying the MD was upstairs, and then I suddenly realized he was saying God is still ‘up there,’ and if that was the case, we should not worry, just trust in Him.

“I felt as if I had been hit with a pole. How could I be so stupid as to think that we could actually do something about this self-inflicted crisis? I had let my faith slip, given in to despair and just wanted to vent my spleen on another victim. I walked back to my car and resolved to trust more and to ‘walk by faith and not by sight.’ Nothing had changed, but I felt better and went on to scour the city for product, eventually dispatching a substantial load to the store, which was sold out in 24 hours. We are down, but not out, and we are not going to let these evil people win.”

A while later, Eddie was in a queue with an elderly woman.

“We got talking and she said to me, not knowing who I was, that ‘we at least have not made the mistake of fighting.’ We have chosen the right road. The road for us back to sanity and recovery lies through peaceful, democratic elections and a legal transfer of power. Let’s not let go of that route, it is the right one and we will eventually win through and in the meantime trust God to provide our daily bread.

“He is still up there!”

© 2007 Warren Harbeck

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