“God is more involved in your life than you are aware,” said Elizabeth Norrie to the women gathered at People’s Church in Hamilton. She used the Village of Hope in Zimbabwe as an illustration. Long before the home for abandoned, orphaned and abused children was built, the road on which it stands was named Good Hope Road. “Only God, who is always at work behind the scenes can arrange a ‘coincidence’ like that.”
When Elizabeth and husband, Rev. Gaye Norrie, went to the Village of Hope as directors, three years ago, she had no idea that God would involve her in one of His behind-the-scenes projects. “Everyone who knows me,” she says, “knows that I could never sell anything, but God has given me a passion for a special product. And I can’t stop telling people about it.”
As Elizabeth took daily walks around the Village, lost in prayerful thought, she caught glimpses of colour in the stones that litter the compound. Hints of blue, coral and rose. She decided to find a special rock, and have it carved and polished by a local artisan. When the Norries return to Canada, the rock will be a lasting reminder of their work at the orphanage.
Elizabeth pondered the thought that the Village is God’s and that He claimed it years before the idea of it was conceived. It was then that another miracle began to unfold.
In speaking with local crafts people, she discovered that, at one time, they made jewellery from the local stones and sold it to tourists. That industry dried up, along with most others. (Unemployment in Zimbabwe is 90%.)
An idea formed. Jewellery could be crafted from stones gathered from Village property and proceeds from the sale of it could be ear-marked to provide employment opportunities through micro-financing and to educate some of the older children who will need to develop skills to support themselves in the future.
“These stones we walk on every day have been waiting for a jeweller to make something beautiful of them,” Elizabeth said. “And aren’t many people so much like the stones? Walked on and bypassed, but, when put in the hands of a loving Designer, they become attractive and useful.”
Growing up, in a less than ideal family, Elizabeth struggled with feelings of inferiority. “Then when I moved to Ontario from the Maritimes,” she said, “I experienced those feelings again. I felt I just didn’t measure up.”
Elizabeth’s prayer has always been, “Lord, let my potential come to fruition for your glory.” At a young age, she gave her life to the Lord Jesus and He has shaped and polished it and made her a glowing example of His grace. Her childhood struggles have enabled her to see potential in each child. Most have had a difficult start in life and many have lost their parents to AIDS.
The stones themselves are unattractive at first glance. But, after they’re cut, shaped and polished, the colours become vivid and they take on a unique beauty. From personal experience, Elizabeth knows that “God will go to great lengths to make something beautiful out of our lives.”
The Canadian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Lisa Stadelbauer, visited the Village of Hope and was instrumental in equipping a complete computer lab for the school. After the Ambassador’s presentation, Elizabeth told her the story of the jewellery that had begun life as stones littered on the Village grounds. Elizabeth had displayed the jewellery using her best black skirt as a backdrop and invited the Ambassador to choose some pieces as a thank-you gift for her kindness to the school. “These are beautiful,” she gushed. It took some time for Elizabeth to convince Ms. Stadelbauer that she couldn’t pay for the jewellery, it was a gift. The Ambassador then bought pieces for her daughters.
When she thinks of herself as a marketer, Elizabeth laughs. “The jewellery is a miracle, but the real miracle is that I’m the one selling it to people. And I’m having the time of my life doing it.”
After the meeting at People’s Church, women streamed into the foyer where the jewellery was displayed on tables. Many special pieces were purchased, each one representing a bright future for a young person in Zimbabwe.
“I still can’t believe I’m doing this,” Elizabeth said. “First, God directed my attention to these ordinary rocks that had been walked on for centuries. Then, He made me passionate about telling the story of the stones.”
The teachings of Jesus form the basis for the work at the Village of Hope. Seventy children live in eight cottages on the grounds. In all, 650 students attend the primary and secondary schools. A church and medical clinic minister to the community.
With a love for Jesus, an education and employment opportunities provided from the sale of the jewellery, these children have the potential to change their nation.
(C) Rose McCormick Brandon 2014. Rose McCormick Brandon’s books are available at her website, Writing from the Heart.