I would like to share a short series of articles highlighting our GNPI staff members who have learned the importance of cultural relevance by living in a different culture themselves. They have gained new perspectives which they apply to the ministry in practical and valuable ways.
Tom Nutt has worked at GNPI for 28 years. He has been my brother-in-law for 34 years. Tom is a blessing to everyone who knows him. He handles all his relationships and work with excellence. (Click on the names to see the other articles in this series by Angie Anderson, Greg Fish, and Pa See Caby.)
By Tom Nutt, GNPI Director of Operations
Ziden, Helen, Tom, Marla, Rachel Nutt
Tom is pictured with his parents, his wife, and his youngest daughter.
Often times we take certain segments or parts of our lives and place them in different chapters within our memories. Those chapters may span a few months, years, or maybe even decades.
There is a certain chapter of my life that focuses on having been born and raised overseas. This time period, while relatively short in comparison to the span of my life, holds some of the most vivid and cherished memories I have from all of the chapters in my mind.
Africa is the dark continent. It’s full of beauty, danger, suspense, and mysteries, many of which can’t adequately be described. It’s a vast continent full of witch doctors, superstitions, rituals, religions, charms, and gods too many to name. The land is plagued with turmoil and strife, fighting between tribes, wars between countries, and evil around every bend. On the other hand, Africa is full of beautiful people made in the likeness of God, a people who are searching for the Truth, a people who are in need of hope, a people who need to be loved, and a people who deserve the same grace that many of us have accepted and embraced.
To be more specific, the African country in which I was born no longer exists as we knew it back then. Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe, is located in the southernmost part of Africa. It was discovered and explored by David Livingston, then later settled by the Voortrekkers as they moved north from South Africa in search of lands to farm and places full of diamonds, gold, or any other minerals that might make them rich. Zimbabwe, while relatively small, contains some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Africa, from the quiet and serene balancing rock formations of Mana Matopos that tower high above the plains, to the bottom of Sinoia cave. From the highest peaks of the Inyanga mountains, to the deepest crevices of the Zambezi Valley, beauty abounds at every glance. The long shores of Lake Kariba can be found bordering Zambia to the north. Lake Kariba is the second largest man-made lake in the world, famous for its Bream and Tiger fish. Of course, Zimbabwe is also home to the most thunderous of the seven wonders of the world, Victoria Falls. “Vic Falls” as we called it, with its magnificent volumes of water plummeting far below into Devil’s Cataract and forcing clouds of mist to be hurled hundreds of feet into the air, is definitely a sight to behold. In addition to the beautiful architecture God created in Zimbabwe, lies a whole other world teeming with life, from the smallest of microbial parasites, scorpions and snakes, lizards and massive salamanders, monkeys and baboons of all shapes and sizes, to the biggest and most ferocious of all the cats. There are also antelope, zebra, giraffe, hippo, wildebeest, warthog, crocodile, ostrich, sable, greater kudu, cape buffalo, rhinoceros, and even the most monstrous and agile prates, the African elephant, just to name a few. All of this beauty and diversity created memories and pictures in my mind that will never be erased, but these aren’t the best memories.
My best and fondest memories of being in Africa come from the reason that I was born there. You see, at a very young age my father had a dream of going to Africa as a missionary. He had a vision of establishing a work that would have an eternal impact on the African people, so this started the journey of Ziden and Helen Nutt. After arriving in Zimbabwe with a one-year-old daughter in tow, my father was able to gain permission from the great Chief Dindawah to establish a mission station in his tribal area. Chidamoyo Christian Mission was founded, and that’s where my memories began. Chidamoyo translated to English means “place the heart desires.”
I remember seeing bricks made out of the rich clay that was mined by the termites, creating 20-foot-high ant hills. I watched as these bricks were used to build the school, a church, a hospital, and houses for other missionaries as they were recruited to come and help in the work. I saw an airstrip built, much of it cleared by hand, so that a missionary doctor could make emergency trips with patients in his small Cessna airplane. I remember riding over roads at a snail’s pace, because they were so rocky and full of holes. I saw our vehicle half-full of water because there was no bridge to cross over the river, but we had to cross. I also saw a witch doctor casting bones outside my bedroom window to appease the evil spirits, and snakes were slithering along the sidewalk just outside the door. There were nets covering our bed to save us from the malaria-carrying mosquito, and the night skies were filled with millions of stars highlighted by the Southern Cross that was always there so bright and faithful.
While all of these things constitute memories and beautiful pictures in my mind, they really don’t say much about what it was like to grow up on the mission field. The meaningful part of growing up on the mission field came through the lessons that I learned while I was there. The example set for me by my parents and other missionaries as I watched them work was one of humility and service. Meet the people on their terms. Learn to speak their language, think the way they think, eat the food that they eat, and go the extra mile to meet their needs, all the while sharing the love of Christ through the example you set and the words you speak. Teach others to teach others, teach churches to plant churches, and groom leaders to continue to work for generations to come.
Sure, I will always remember the beautiful morning sunrise with the cooing of the doves as they roosted high up in the trees and the burning in my eyes as I smelled smoke when we visited the villages. There was an all-day wedding on Christmas Day far back in the bush when it was well over 100 degrees. There were many Sundays with sermons that lasted three or four hours with multiple people speaking. I remember the faint glow of the gas lanterns or candles as we sat in the evening without electricity. Then we finished off the day, laying down our weary heads and listening to the beat of the drums as they drowned out the faint distant cry of a laughing hyena. The best memory, by far, was the brilliant white smiles and the whooping of the ladies as another person decided to follow Christ and was buried in baptism. That is what it was all about!
Now some 40 years later it’s amazing to hear reports of the work that continues. The hospital, while showing great signs of wear, continues to function each and every day meeting the needs of hundreds of people. The hospital has become well-known across the southern part of Africa as a renowned treatment facility for those suffering from AIDS. Many travel for miles to deliver their babies or have much-needed surgeries performed there. The school continues to thrive with students of all ages. Not all of the churches have survived, but most have. Many of the churches have grown and even planted churches in other parts of the region.
As I write these memories, it brings joy to my heart to know that my 20-year-old daughter is spending her summer there at Chidamoyo Christian Mission, serving alongside those working at the hospital. I don’t know if she will ever call it home or not, but I am sure glad that I had the opportunity to be born and raised in Africa and call it my home!