Chris Mizrany is a missionary, photographer, and web designer with Helping Hand in Cape Town, South Africa.
For me, one of the most exciting parts of Christmas is the presents. I know, Christmas is about so much more than gifts—yet the simple act of opening my presents and finding out what’s in them always brings me a lot of excitement. I catch sight of a gift, beautifully wrapped, with my name on it, and it thrills me! Even if I have an idea what it might be, it’s so much fun to open the package and see the gift for the first time!
Our city in South Africa regularly experiences major power issues, with up to five hours of what they call “loadshedding” daily. Due to overdemand and undersupply, the electric company must cut back and shut off the electricity intermittently. During these periods, industry grinds to a halt, stores close, traffic booms, fans and fridges turn off, and everyone suffers. There’s only so much you can do without power.
In his book describing years of veterinary work in the harsh Yorkshire Dales of England, James Herriot tells the story of Tip, a sheepdog at a local farm. He first encountered Tip one freezing morning, when he walked up to the farmhouse door, looking for the owner. Suddenly, from under a pile of snow at the foot of the door, Tip emerged, cheery and full of excitement. James was shocked, and later asked the farmer why the old dog was left outside.
I was sitting in the car inside a parking lot, taking a moment to think about changes in my life and work. It felt like I had hit a plateau, and I was honestly a little worried.
Suddenly a man popped up next to my window. Short, straggly, and with an air of boundless cheer, he greeted me warmly. I was a little surprised, and even more cautious. Crime is rampant in South Africa, and there are plenty of opportunists looking for an easy mark.
Recently, two friends, my brother, and I participated in a very special event—the Fisherman’s Friend Strongman Run! This 15 km route includes 30 obstacles of varying difficulty. There’s sticky mud which sucks your feet down rapidly, and you have to keep moving to stay on top. Then there are icy river sections to swim or wade through, testing endurance. Nets, trenches, tires, steep dirt slopes—all good reasons to justify to oneself, I just couldn’t make it. But the fact is, it’s possible.
Each year, when Easter comes around, I find myself overwhelmed by the thought of what Jesus went through for us. So much suffering, anguish, and pain He took in the hours before His cruel execution. Not to mention the mental distress of knowing what was coming. Yes, He knew the purpose behind it all, but it was clearly still terrifying. In fact, Jesus requested an exemption from the cross.1
Some years ago, a friend and I were on an overnight bus trip to another part of South Africa. We stowed our bags, connected our headphones, and braced ourselves for the long uncomfortable hours ahead. Before the journey began, I remember thinking I wish teleporters existed, and we didn’t have to waste all these hours just to get somewhere. Little did I suspect what was coming.
My new year literally started with a bang! On December 31st, my phone leaped out of my hand in an apparent dive of depression.
I picked it up immediately, not really expecting anything to be wrong. It had fallen on a carpeted floor, and I’d dropped it several times before without damage.
If you asked me how I feel about music, I’d say I’m an enthusiast. My friends might say a fanatic, but I just tune them out.
There’s something inexplicable about music that moves our hearts and stirs our souls. Powerful lyrics can be just the right thing to lift our mood and cheer us up, and I personally owe many happy moments to inspired songwriters.
I’ve often struggled to make time to pray. Though my wife and I pray together each morning and before bed, I find myself neglecting that regular “talking with Jesus” throughout the day, especially when sudden things come up. I know I need to pray, but it’s hard, really hard, to set aside “prayer time.”