The Move to Secondary School Didn’t Change Much

Life at secondary school did little to change my Christian belief and certainly didn’t seriously challenge my creationism.

Personally, life during these early teen years was horrid. My parents were going through an increasing antagonistic relationship. Well the antagonism was all going in one direction, which I and my brothers reacted badly against.

The emotional pain of it was very isolating and I earned the reputation for being a bit of a cry-baby. Not a good start for someone at an English all boys boarding school. Oh how I missed my friends in Zambia, and especially my brothers. It didn’t feel right being at school in England, I didn’t want to be there, I was in an unknown culture and I terribly lonely, I needed more than anything to be in a loving environment, with people I loved. School in England simply did not provide that, despite the very Christian ethos of the place and the couple of students whom I also knew from school in Zambia.

You’d have though that an English secondary education in the 80s would have included evolution to some level. I am sure it must have at some point, but I simply do not recall it coming up in any class at all. I remember we covered the basics of some parts of the body in biology, and then there was the obligatory frog dissection. That’s about all I can remember.

The only evolution discussion I can remember is with a class mate who accepted evolution and I challenged him over where each progressive animal emerged from. With each answer I laughed louder and pronounced evolution as impossible.

With each school holiday I loved returning to Zambia, the sun, my mother and brothers, the occasional safari. Oh how I loved those holiday safari’s, probably the only times I was truly relaxed in the presence of my dad and the new woman. If I close my eyes tight I can still go back to those moments, the warm sun, the still air, the clear blue skies, the silence, oh the silence. Scanning the bush for animals, any animal would do, getting clues from the birds in flight about what we might be able to see. Oh I could go on and on….

Sadly those moments were always too brief and real life was always a shock.

Staying with mum was the exception. I always looked forward to the holiday time spent with mum. There would typically be a few days of wind down but simply being there with her was often enough. There was no need for anything more special. Her always loving and gentle patience was so badly needed during those years.

I was very angry and the situation she was in, an only child, thousands of miles away from her parents, single mum living in a small flat who saw her children for only half of each holiday, the rest of the time they were at boarding school. There were numerous times when I tried to be act as her protector and she had to remind me that I was her son and it was her who protected me, not the other way round. They were hard lessons for a teenager in deep emotional turmoil.

Coming Close to Being an Orphan

In this blog I am trying to step through major events in my life in a chronological order. The next big event after becoming a Christian, was an event in the late 70’s which is a major factor in any history that involves my family. It not only concerns my family but several others too, its been written about in at least one book, featured in several international and UK newspapers at the time, as well as numerous radio and TV news broadcasts. Its impossible to tell my story without reference to this event, it has defined many things, both directly and indirectly.

In Brief

The event in question was raid on the farm on which my family lived. The raid was by Joshua Nkomo’s Rhodesian ‘freedom fighters’ and was one of several in the area. Despite being in Zambia, many miles away from the Zambia / Rhodesia border, we were not safe. In the months previous a neighbouring farm had been invaded and an elderly lady who lived there disappeared, never to be seen again.

During the raid, 3 people were taken captive, one of whom was my mother; they were all subjected to prolonged unpleasantness.

I and one of my brothers were safely away at boarding school and so all I would know of the event was a letter from my father telling me that Mum had had an accident and had suffered 2 broken ribs. The next school holiday, it seemed that all that was spoken about on the farm was this raid and the various circumstances that saved more people from getting caught up.

The couple who owned the farm were away so they were spared; my father was in town and was stopped on his return by one of the owners and told to turn around. Some other ladies on the farm were mistaken for younger children and left alone. My youngest brother was visiting a school friend so was not around to see anything.

The aftermath

I still remember today some of the many discussions and stories that were told about this event. There was much thanking of God that no one was killed and that the injuries to those captured were not as deadly as they might have been. Yet, some of those who I remember being about at the time I would never see again. The trauma having been too great and they would never set foot there again, some even left Zambia, never to return. So despite the relative ‘good fortune’ that day, the trauma went deep and lasted a long time.

Punishment for Sin?

There is no question that not everything was rosy at that time. There were a couple of families on the farm where one or both parents were having an affair. One adult speculated to me that maybe the raid could have been a punishment for the sin that was going on.

Even as a youngster, I found this idea difficult to fathom. The most critical element being that the people who suffered most during the raid were not those who were sinning most. If the raid was punishment for sin, why weren’t those who most deserved punishment the ones who suffered? Of course I am not saying that anyone deserved to be caught up in that raid, nobody did, it was an horrific experience which I dearly wish I could erase from history.

I will never know just how close I came to becoming an orphan that day and its not especially something that want to dwell on. Its how we hold ourselves after such events that define us.

My family stayed in Zambia. This must have been hard for my grandparents, since my mother was an only child. Despite discussing this event with my grandmother years later when I was a teenager, I do wish I had asked them more pointed questions about it when I had the chance, because now I can’t.

At my mother’s funeral, several people made reference to her dignity in the aftermath of this event. It would be afterwards that I would find an account that she wrote of her experience, it was dated 10 years after the raid. It would be a truly emotional read.

How does it define my Christian life?

To be honest in and of its own it doesn’t define anything in my Christian life. However, the life on the farm was a very Christian life with the majority of people being Christians and Christian passing through. The farm owner was an elder at the main Baptist church in town and we all went every Sunday.

As a child, growing up on the farm was wonderful, it was a fabulous place to explore and my most treasured memories are from those years.

This all changed after the raid. My parents separated and so we spent less time on the farm. As the affects of an unpleasant divorce sunk in, life became less happy and the farm became a symbol of the joy that once was. The raid became the full stop that marks the end of a chapter.

Life would definitely not be the same again.