II Corinthians 9:9
"As it is written, He [the benevolent person] scatters abroad; He gives to the poor; His deeds of justice and goodness and kindness and benevolence will go on and endure forever."
Written by Leigh Smithson, pastor Crossfield, AB
I left for Africa for an adventure of a lifetime on July 7, 2012. My goal was to ride 'shotgun' with the African Mission Directors, Tim Maguire and Kalengule Kaoma (KK for short) on one of their mission trips. In order to track and recall details of this trip, I took a mere 54 pages of notes. As I read my notes now, I realize that I have very poor penmanship. So much so that it is now difficult to discern if I was writing on a smooth road or on the perpetually potholed pavement called a highway.
First, I need to share some thoughts about fear; the type of fear the disciples faced in Matthew 14:26 who "cried out in fear" while on their cruise on the Sea of Galilee. Those lads were truly frightened until Jesus came alongside and calmed things down. That is the kind of fear I felt I might face as Tim and I planned to travel through five or six South African Countries. Now, the question comes to mind..." what did I fear?" Let's see, the list is long and here it goes.
As the plans began to come together I recalled the recent story of a Portuguese elder that was with Tim on a mission trip. The elder was arrested at the Zimbabwe border for doing nothing more than taking a picture of the sunset. He was eventually released, but that experience would unnerve most of us. Diseases were a concern as well, my arm took a lot of needles to prove that issue. I would have to take Malaria pills each day and I also had an emergency prescription in case of stomach problems. I was warned about the food and water but I was encouraged to always eat what was given by the village hosts. Hmm, what else can happen in Africa?
How about the robberies our ministers and members have experienced? How about kidnappings? (My friend Amanda, from Red Deer, was held captive and tortured for a year and a half in Somalia). I heard that bribery is a matter of fact with many authorities there. I noticed on the internet that most people who have houses barricade themselves behind high fences topped with barbed wire. I would be leaving my wife, Heather, behind in Canada for almost three weeks and I know she was concerned. As if those issues were not enough, I heard that Tim Maguire, my host, likes to trap deadly snakes for a hobby! Yeah, I had nothing to worry about! Ha!
This trip began with and Invite from KK to come over as a substitute teacher during the summer time. However, their schools are out when our schools are out. (I have the summer off as well since I am a teacher). Tim and KK then put their heads together to plan a trip that would help both of them connect with as many members and churches as possible over a 2 week period. The costs would be covered by the Crossfield, Alberta congregation, and I would provide my airfare.
The week before I was to depart, I was at the Silver Meadows SEP in Alberta (I am both the camp Chaplin and septic /sewer system maintenance person. What a combination!). We had the privilege of having Gary and Wendy Moore with us as their daughter was attending camp. Wendy took me aside a couple of days before I was to leave on this trip and mentioned how much the African brothers and sisters love visits; it helps them to feel appreciated and loved. Wendy is a very calm person was especially careful when she made a point of saying ..."You have nothing to worry about!' Well, nothing strikes fear in my heart faster than when someone says..."you have nothing to worry about! I will admit, I was a 'wee' bit worried and I did fear what could happen.
Here comes the turning point. On my last day of camp, Gary asked all the staff and campers to come and lay hands on me (I had to remind some campers than hands around my neck did not count!) Gary, Wendy, and several others prayed for my safety and protection AND a spirit of peace and calm! That was all it took as I claimed the promises of Jesus to 'fear not'. I knew then that I would be okay. The Holy Spirit really gave me a spirit of calmness, and dare I say, a lack of fear! We faced many frightening, annoying, and potentially disastrous challenges along the way. However, I do not want this treatis to sound like I was a hero for going because our Mission Directors face these things on an almost daily basis. They are the hero's of the story. These notes tell of many of our experiences, yet in spite of them all, I felt calm, safe, and was fear free. All credit goes to the Holy Spirit. A small warning...fastens your seat belt!
I was to be met at the Johannesburg airport by Tim; we had made careful arrangements and I was 100% confident he would be there. I did not even take his contact information since my cell phone probably would not work. In a record setting turn of events, I was off my international flight from London, had my luggage, cleared customs, and was in the arrivals lobby in less than 20 minutes after arrival. I did not see Tim as I excited the customs area, but I did see about a thousand other people...literally! The place was packed and everyone had a sign in front of them with people's names on them. Several international flights came in right after us and the lobby got 'more' fuller. (Some grammatical license is assumed with that sentence!)
Now everyone knows that no one ever gets off a flight that fast so Tim was not in a hurry to get there right on time. I waited in the same spot, by the information desk near the back of the arrivals area, for 2 1/2 hours! By this time, I had to do something so I rolled my luggage up the ramp to a cell phone provider store. I bought some air time and phoned Gary and Wendy Moore back in British Columbia. It was 2:00am their time; Gary had a really bad cold and I did not recognize his voice, (sorry Gary and Wendy, but thanks again)! Gary was kind enough to text Tim and a few minutes later we both met up. It seemed as if we missed each other at the arrival gate by just a couple of minutes; he was waiting at the front of the arrivals area. I now carry Tim's contact information with me just in case I get to go back. Was I worried?? Not a bit.
As Tim and I got out to the parking lot...I saw a lot of really nice back country type of 4x4 trucks; I was excited to ride in one of them and tried to guess which truck was his. However, we seemed to be walking past most of them when I noticed a tiny little gold Renault parked there. In my mind I said, "oh no...a Renault". The Renault does not have a reputation of 'ruggedness' back home. As I was to find out however, this is the toughest car built on the planet and it got us safely through a 6,600 KM trip. Was I worried?? Not a bit.
I had no idea until we started to drive that Tim drives like an Indy 500 driver. He skims in and out of traffic while texting and talking; this man can multitask! However, I am left almost breathless with a couple of his tricky manoeuvres, but I begin to realize this is survival on the South African roads. My seat belt was tight and my tired eyes were wide open. Was I worried?? Not a bit.
Something you do not see in Canada is street vendors selling goods on the traffic intersections. In fact, it is illegal, for safety reasons, to do that. However, it is common practise in South Africa. I cannot believe my eyes as Tim drives towards a group of vendors (I thought he was going to run them over). It turns out Tim needed a couple of cell phone battery chargers and the street vendors have the best price in town. He got a good deal and as he pulled back into traffic, we are immediately pulled over by a traffic cop. I am thinking, "I have only been here an hour and I am going to get arrested". Turns out, Tim is a reservist and he showed the policeman his badge, and we were on our way. Was I worried?? Not at all!
That evening, Tim hosted a SEP meeting at his house, so it was a late night but I met several very dedicated and wonderful people. SEP planning is a nonstop activity and our children are blessed to have access to such programs and workers. Early the next morning, Tim and I got up at 3:00am, packed up the car and headed off on our epic journey. It was a fast trip as we headed east towards Mozambique; this route was going to take us through Kruger National Park. Since I was here as a tag-a-long, I had not given a moment's thought about seeing animals in the park. In fact, anything I would see would be a bonus.
For those of you who have gone into game parks, you know you are often disappointed because the animals do not cooperate (this is not Disney land where animal appear on command). However, in 5 hours, Tim and I saw zebras, giraffes, a buffalo, elephants, an ostrich, baboons, monkeys, lions, hippo's, an eagle struggling to get a big fish out of the water, a leopard that had just pulled a zebra(lunch) into a tree, a spitting cobra sit up in front of our car and spit, both black and white rhinoceroses' (rhinoceri perhaps???), giraffes eating and running, Impalas (and some Toyotas too!), kudu, mongooses (again, mongoosi perhaps??), some cool colourful birds and a couple of polecats playing dead in the middle of the road. Wait a minute...they were dead! Later, Tim stopped at one herd of elephants where we heard one trumpet. Tim even got one elephant to mock charge the car. Was I worried?? Well, yes, this got me a little concerned...why tempt the Lord?
The roads in Kruger Park are gravelled for the most part, with some sealed ones as well. We were going along at a fairly good clip on a gravel road when we came over a small hill only to discover a log had been placed on the road as to prevent traffic from going straight through. A sudden right hand detour was the only place to drive because it was too late to stop. The quick turn to avoid the log caused the car to slip and weave from side to side to side to side to side...you get the idea. I then saw a tree coming rapidly before us; I remember putting my arms in front of my face waiting for the airbags to blow. At that exact moment, Tim regained control and we were on our way. Neither of us said anything for a while, it was a close call. Was I worried?? Not a bit. In fact, I have done the same thing on icy roads and survived.
The next dangerous experience occurred around one in the morning. An ugly pot hole 'attacked' the car and bent the two right tire rims; we pulled over to evaluate the trouble and discovered the front right tyre was rapidly losing air. As we started the repairs a stranger pulled up in a really nice truck and offered to help. I did not like this for a moment and felt uneasy with his mannerisms. He was quick to take the hammer out of Tim's hand and started to beat the rim into a semi round shape. I thought this was strange...who is this guy and why did he take the hammer so fast? As we got the tyre inflated with a can-o-tire repair stuff, the stranger got back into his truck, but the engine would not start. Interestingly enough, the stranger knew exactly how to 'hot wire' the truck by going under the hood. Once the truck was started, and before he drove away, he told us to follow him into his garage 'just up the road'. We said okay, but when he pulled in, Tim just kept on going straight. Tim was sure the truck was stolen and the lad was up to no good. Was I worried?? No but I was a wee bit leery.
Shortly after that, it was my turn to drive. It was so black outside and there are always people walking on the sides of these very narrow roads. As we came around a corner, I knew a big truck was coming, but it took a milli-second to realize he was in my lane. I slowed down but there was no shoulder to drive on, therefore I swerved into his lane; the oncoming lane! Suddenly, the truck swerved back into his proper lane where I was. I quickly swerved back and the truck quickly passed by. I cannot even describe how close a call this was, it should have got my adrenaline pumping and my life should have passed in front of me. It happened so fast, there was not even time to yell to Tim. Not to worry though, all the swerving woke him up real fast! Interestingly, I did not have a speck of fear in me; Tim and I just talked and we drove on. Obviously, the Lord did not intend for us to be called 'home' that night. Was I worried?? Not in the least! But I did thank God abundantly for sparing us that night!
Later on, at 2:30am, after almost 20 solid hours of driving the world's worst roads, we parked at a closed gas station. We decided to sleep till dawn when the station would open and we could get gasoline. The place was mostly dark, with lots of spooky shadows; it almost appeared to be abandoned. As I was looking for a place to 'pass that which comes naturally" (an African ministers description of saying he had to pass water), I was confronted by a person coming out of the shadows carrying and assault rifle. Tim later identified it as an AK47. We told the guard we just needed to park till dawn so we could buy some gas; he said okay.
As Tim slept in the car, on the driver's side, I tried to get some sleep too. However, a crowd of young men started to gather in front of our car. I could not help but recall that Tim and I were the only white people around, and that the mighty Renault was made of very thin metal. The group was getting louder and larger; I just could not close my eyes. Eventually, around 6:00am a school bus came by and picked them all up. (Whew, that was a close call! Haha). The rising sun let me check out the place while Tim made breakfast of cold, round, boneless steak (okay then, canned hot dogs), coffee and some left over KFC chicken. We gave the guard a bunch of food; turns out he was hungry too! Was I worried?? Not really...ha!
My first opportunity was about to come up where I would be eating food that was prepared in a small village. As we drove in, I saw a young lad catch a chicken and hold it in front of me. I looked at the boy and slowly drew my finger across my neck and pointed at the chicken. The young lad smiled and shook his head up and down. In a couple of hours, that chicken was on my plate, along with its blackened gizzard. I have eaten lots of gizzards before so I was okay with that, and the chicken tasted salty but delicious. Tim had mentioned earlier on the trip,(in passing), how he had once been served caterpillars. (You know, the fuzzy kind, that are hard to swallow if the hairs are pointed in the wrong direction) As he tells the story, it was dark and as he bit into the food, a very sharp antenna of the caterpillar pierced his lip.
Tim's story came to mind as I tasted the unusual spices on the chicken. However, I asked God to bless the food to provide nourishment and health. What was that unique taste? Did this chicken also have several secret herbs and spices?? As I chewed, I wondered, but I was not worried. No way!
Hmmm, did I mention in the previous paragraph about sanitary conditions? Right, I guess not so let's talk now. I shook a lot of hands, a lot of hot sweaty hands. Some of the villagers had very powerful body odour and there was a slight hint of, well, waste! The villagers use their left hand to wipe away the dirty stuff, but you do not see hot running water, soap dispensers, or clean towels anywhere. Therefore, Tim and I used a lot of hand germicide lotion. Lunch was presented on nice dishes with forks and knives offered to all. In spite of the Westernization, everyone used their fingers to eat. I gave it a try as well and was not even worried about food poisoning; my biggest worry was biting my fingers. God continued to look after us and I was not worried about stomach upset! I found if I felt good about an hour after eating then I was going to be okay! Besides, what a little bit of food poisoning between friends!
Our trip continued northward towards Malawi. At the border, I was surprised by the young guard who greeted us. He did not have on a uniform, his clothes were not professional in any way and he smiled a lot. (I learned eventually that the more a guard smiles, the more trouble you were going to have!) As he interviewed me about my trip, he was twirling his handcuffs and asked where my yellow fever card was. I do not have nor need a yellow fever card so I was taken aback when he asked if I was in Brazil recently. As it turned out, I was in Brazil six months earlier, but that passport had expired and there was no indication of my travels in this new passport. I was not quick enough at the time to answer skillfully or wisely, and said I had just been there. It took some quick talking to assure him I had not been in the Amazon or the jungles, so he eventually stamped my book (again, I was wondering if this is where I was going to be arrested or detained!) As we left the outpost, the young guard came out to our car, told us he was fasting to hear of Gods direction for him. I prayed for him, Tim gave him his card, and we stepped on the gas!! Was I worried?? Not a bit, plus I was able to witness.
Just a few minutes after leaving the outpost border station, we hit a deep pothole that had some very sharp rocks on the edge of it. We just knew from the sound we now had a hole in the oil pan; the red oil light coming on confirmed the worst. We had no choice except to keep driving but we soon arrived at very busy little town that was teaming with people. Loud music was blasting out from some very poor quality speakers. It was not a comfortable feeling!
Tim left me in the car while he searched for oil. In the meantime, the African night comes quickly and all of a sudden the town's power went out. The town was instantly dark and quiet which was a blessing in disguise since the music was very annoying. However, I was now alone in the dark locked car and I had no idea where Tim was. Once again the car started to be surrounded by a lot of young men. In spite of that I was not worried and I had every confidence God was looking after Tim and me, even though I was making plans on what to do if Tim did not make it back. (My only viable plan was to pray!) After a very long wait, Tim returned with oil, diesel oil, which is only to be used in diesel engines; we had a gas engine! Now I was worried for the sake of the engine, but not for us.
Eventually, Tim got so tired driving that I had to take over. The hills at the south end of Malawi take you high up in very short order. We climbed from a 100 meter elevation to about 1200 meters in about an hour. We were stopped at several police road blocks and traveled very windy roads. Near the top, a big truck was stalled on an uphill grade in the middle of the road; I would have to drive around it. I came to a full stop as other vehicles were coming down the road. The driver was beside his truck as my turn came to pass around him. I inched my way up and was on the far right side of the road where the shoulder had a steep drop off. I hugged the roads edge and squeaked by.
As I passed by the driver, I heard a slight 'thump', but continued on. Tim then informed me that as I passed by I had hit the truck driver's butt with the mirror. There was no way I was going to turn around and check things out and apologize. Therefore, I prayed that the Lord would look after the driver, along with his 2 inch wide, by 12 inch long bruise on his backside. Fortunately, the mirror on the Renault was spring loaded and did not suffer any damage! Was I fearful?? Not a bit. However, the truck driver might be fearful of gold Renaults.
The oil light was coming on with increasing regularity, but we made it to our preplanned lodging in Blantyre and met up with Kalengule Kaoma. KK is the Mission director for all the African countries that Tim does not look after...if that makes any sense! It was 10 o'clock at night and we were all hungry so hopped in the car to find some grub. However, the car stopped suddenly about two blocks from the lodge; it seems the engine had seized up and would not turn over. We had to walk down a very dark street to a gas station to buy some oil.
I must digress just for a moment. It was so dark that I had stumbled into a crack in the dirt sidewalk. I recovered quickly as if nothing happened. However, when I walked by the same spot in the morning, the crack was actually the leading edge of a 10 meter straight drop down into a ravine. Hmmm, glad I didn't fall into it! Was I worried after the fact? Nope, just grateful to still be walking! I now 'un-digress and back to the story.
The gas station had some oil, but we did not have Malawian money. Another short walk to a bank machine was in order through the dark streets. Once again, it looked like a young guard there had a very big gun. Tim got some funds, we went back to the gas station, bought the oil, and walked back to the car. The little engine drank all five litres, but the engine still would not turn over. We eventually pushed the car up a small incline where we could then point it downhill towards the direction to the lodge. Tim steered the car down the hill while KK and I followed behind. It was easy to see where the car had rolled because a trail of oil had left a very clear mark on the road. As we pushed Tim's car into the lodge parking lot, a gush was heard and the remainder of the oil returned home to the earth (from whence it came). What a mess!
The next several hours of our conversations involved plans for getting Tim and I back to Johannesburg and to get KK back to Lusaka. We had to get flights, and a tow truck arranged to take Tim's car back the 3,000 km to his home. What a nightmare! In the meantime though, we were safe in Blantyre and the ministerial conference started in the morning. Was I worried? Not a bit but I was disappointed as I still wanted to experience Zambia, Namibia and Botswana. I guess that would have to be another trip.
Malawi Ministerial Conference
The conference was a delight for me. I was able to meet most of the people Rick Shallenberger had written about earlier in the year (posted on the GCI website). KK was the host since Malawi is a country he is responsible for. However, he made sure that Tim and I would be put to work too! It was fun how KK arranged this. His exact words to me were "you can talk about anything you want, but I want you to talk about conflict resolution methods". I then decided on my topic right then and there...it would be on "conflict resolution methods!" Was I worried? Not a bit.
Pastors, Ministers and Mission Directors at Conference
It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway. God is good. Long before this trip was ever envisioned in my mind, God had brought a young man named Andy into the Blantyre congregation. He works for the church at the school doing maintenance PLUS, he is an auto mechanic! He was able to repair the Renault's oil pan with 'space age technology 'epoxy, make a new silicon gasket and coached the engine to turn over. The car ran flawlessly for the remainder of the trip, bent wheel rims and all. There was nothing to worry about!; God is in charge.
Each church has its own character and style, but each one shares in the hope and grace of Jesus. Thank you Father for Jesus, who is the head of the church, we share in Him through the communion. Speaking of communion (I have to admit that was a nice segway), I experienced something I have never seen before while doing a communion service. KK had asked me to talk about the element of wine and Tim had taken the bread portion (no pun intended). After Tim handed out the bread (full loaves that each person tore a piece from), I began the wine explanation.
The room was quiet at first, but a small commotion was beginning so I stopped my presentation. It turns out that in Africa, you do not waste food; you use it all! The audience wanted to eat all of the bread, every last bit (bite) of it. I was happy to stop talking as this all was taking place. I mentioned that God has a great sense of humour and everyone laughed as this bread was passed around again and eaten up. Once the bread was all eaten, I finished with the wine presentation. That was a new experience for me; but I wasn't worried. Rather, we all enjoyed a communion service which brings us all back to the humanity of Jesus and his divine presence in our lives, even providing for our daily (loafs of) bread!
After the conference, Tim, KK and I were able to conduct five church services in five different locations. The roads were often very bumpy due to the ever present potholes and dried up ruts but Tim and I had now developed excellent neck muscles and were able to handle the 'rough rides'. We visited five churches; Mombezi, Naminjale, Mwanda, Kabange, and the refugee church in Dowa. The people were so friendly and I a sure we shook every adult and childs hand in these villages. It was a great experience and fun too! The people we so excited to have a visit from KK and Tim; one could never harness all their energy in the singing and listening to God's word. One church even built their own musical instruments; banjo, upright bass, guitar and drums. The music sounded wonderful and I am sure everyone there (except me) had taken professional voice lessons. What a blast!
Life Carries On!
I suppose a report like this could be done without mention of bathroom and toilet facilities, in fact, it might be in good character to leave this alone. However, I will not do that since it part of the experience as well.
The outhouses, more commonly known in Africa as 'long drops' are, shall we say, Unique? Some of these places are so dirty that you would rather just 'wait'. I think some of the facilities might be the most dangerous germs havens around! Here are pictures of a short village commode, an open air design (no fans required), a sideways 'sitter' (the wall was directly in front of the toilet seat), and one that we will just 'leaf' for now. Was I afraid to use these facilities??? Yes, I was and therefore, I did not use them; there would be other opportunities.
We three amigos were now on our way west into Zambia. The mighty Renault is running fine and we have some cold Coke and chocolate bars in the car to keep the hunger pangs at bay! But first we have to stop at the Zambian border. Tim and KK had to go into a building and get some insurance papers. Tim parked his car on a slight incline and had his tires turned hard to the left. As Tim and KK were inside the building, I waited in the car when all of a sudden; a young man decides he wants to back his car around Tim's car. (Who knows why??) If you can imagine this scene; the sun is getting low so it is hard to see, the young man starts to back up and has turned his wheels tight. As he does so, his front bumper touched the front of Tim's tyre. The young man continues on his quest to turn his vehicle around but now his tire is firmly grabbed by the middle of Tim's exposed tyre. Rather than stopping, he just continues on till his bumper actually ripped right off of His car. He got out, threw the bumper in the back seat and waited. As this is happening, Tim's car (with me in it), is once again surrounded by several young men looking for food, money and trying to get into the car. All I hear is "boss...boss...boss...".
I did not want to take pictures of all this commotion for concern that someone might take exception to me doing so. However, I did get a picture of these boys just before the bumper relocation experience. Finally, and after a very long time, Tim and KK returned and we drove on. Was I worried, no, but I was really looking forward to them returning.
I had mentioned earlier about Tim's driving habits. Ah yes, this man has the gift of an Indy 500 race car driver. It did not worry me as he texted, drove fast in and out of pot holes, texted and carried on. He has obviously perfected the skill and is able to easily find those little keys on his Blackberry. I was not particularly worried by his habits and he was not too worried about my lack of judgement as to where the left side of his car is/was. Right hand side drivers and left hand side drivers have to learn how to judge where the opposite side of the car is. Remember the story of me hitting the backside of the truck driver? Well, at one point I was again driving and had to pass by some rubber pylons. You know where this is going. I wiped out one of those poor little cones while doing a fair clip of speed. Haha
So, you think the roads would be more dangerous with Tim and I driving? Enter KK who now takes over the driving duties. KK said his eyes are not that good at night so he struggled with all the bright approaching head lights. However, we had to keep pressing on during the night time. I remember at one point saying to myself...I don't want to drive, Tim cannot drive (cold and flu) and KK should not drive. However, I really was not worried, we just needed to keep moving.
Tim and I shared another experience during this mission trip. Tim had never before visited Zambia; this was his first time here. It was also my first time here but this was KK's home turf. I am not sure if this was a bonding moment, but it is fun to mention. We three amigos took a hotel late at night at a 1/4 star hotel, (three separate rooms at about $20 USD per night).They brought hot water in buckets for our 'sponge' baths, and we marvelled at the miscoloured flooring, feminine bedspread and toilet covers, broken door locks, dirty walls and dusty mosquito nets. Was I worried that the 'decorating police' might show up and repaint the rooms? Well, yes! You never know when a makeover is planned. It was a short night of sleep, then up at 4 AM in order to be at KK's house by noon time.
We made it to KK's house by mid day; it felt like home to Tim and me. We will always have happy memories as we spent time with KK's family and enjoyed their wonderful hospitality. We also had a Saturday afternoon meal with most of the ministers working in Lusaka. Was I worried about remembering all their names?? Not at all.
The three of us had planned on leaving for Namibia after church services on Sunday so we said our goodbyes to KK's family. Once on the road we just had to stop for food before the long trip ahead of us. For some reason, it seemed to take a very long time to have our restaurant meal served. As we waited I taught KK and Tim how to cross their eyes, but just one eye at a time. Here is a picture of Tim trying out his new skills, followed by a railway signal that was also crossing its 'eyes'. Was I worried the railway crossing lights might not work? Not at all as the tracks had been removed!
We eventually made it to the west side of the city of Lusaka, when we got a call from KK's family telling KK they had been in a car crash. Then the phone disconnected. You can only image the heart stopping thoughts that race through your head. We turned around immediately when the second call came in. Fortunately it was not as bad as imagined. Just a fender bender, but it meant we had to go back to KK's house and spend another night. This turned out to be a blessing for the family though as I used the extra time to run solar lighting into KK's house. Now the family can see at night without having to run extension cords and listen to a noisy generator. Unfortunately, the family ran out of propane that night so we had a nice hot KFC meal; KK's kids were delighted. Everything worked out well in the end and I wasn't even worried.
Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe
Since we had now lost a day, Tim decided we would not go into Namibia. KK was disappointed as well since he had not been there before but he was needed at home. Time was now of the essence to get back to Johannesburg. Once again, the Good Lord looks after those who are weak; in this case, me! (again). When we left Tim's house 2 weeks earlier I had left all my flight information there. I had bought my tickets almost a year before so the details were not fresh in my mind. I thought I was going to be leaving on Friday from Johannesburg and still get home on Friday. After all, this phenomenon had happened when I flew from Canada to Japan. As I was explaining this to Tim, he patiently showed me how this was not possible since the International Date Line is on the other side of the globe. haha I honestly did not know exactly when I was to return home.
If we had gone to Namibia, it could have compromised my flight times. However, since we were no longer going to Namibia, it meant that we got to Johannesburg a day earlier than originally planned. I cannot even imagine the cost for replacement tickets if I had missed that flight. sigh... All the way back from Lusaka I was wondering about my flight and had a strange feeling we needed to get back to Johannesburg earlier than planned. I am sure it was prompting of the Holy Spirit. Was I worried? Well yes. But I was worried I had messed up and would not have anyone else to blame.
Up till this time, I was very relaxed in spite all of the excitement and new adventures. Tim's calmness helped me a lot through some of the 'anxious' moments. Tim seemed fearless up to this point. However, Tim's 'waterloo' was about to come. As a preamble to this, it is helpful to understand that I love to use puns; these are statements that mess around with the English language by giving double meanings. Puns are plays on words and are well crafted and delightful twists on word meanings, plus, they are cleaver too (my humble evaluation). The best part is they usually drive people 'crazy'. For example, we had to stop to let a herd of donkeys cross the road. I rolled down my window and yelled at them. I said "hey, get your ass off the road!" Tim just kind of looked at me with 'the look'. (Anyone who spends time with teenagers knows what 'the look' is). Tim was feeling better but still not feeling 100% with his chest cold and congestion, when I zinged him with another one.
I had come to a stop on the road to wait for another herd of animals to cross, this time they were cows (so far we had stopped for elephants, giraffes, a snake, a millipede, a tortoise, donkeys, goats and cows). I looked at one of the cows and said "Tim, do you recognize that cow?" I could tell Tim was thinking I must be a crazy man for asking such a stupid question, but he was polite and answered "no". I responded by saying that "I had not seen 'herbivore' either"! I could sense Tim's greatest fear had now come to pass; being stuck with me in the middle of Africa with nowhere to run! You can tell by his body language that he did not want any more puns. I tried to restrain myself from another pun for his sake as we crossed over the railroad line, but I couldn't. I mentioned a train had just gone by to which Tim said, "How do you know that?" I replied that the train had left its 'tracks'! See, they are funny !
I could not help but notice that Tim answered fewer and fewer of my questions as time went by. I don't think he wanted to get 'zinged' with another one.
Every once in a while a pun can turn a situation around to actually make you 'look good', such as in this story. We were still heading south towards Johannesburg home when we came across a dead animal on the side of the road; its body was partially hidden in the tall grass. As we drove by it I said to Tim that I thought it was a baby lion. Before you can say "u-turn", Tim had Monique turned around and we were heading north to check it out. As it turned out, it was a dog. Tim had a pretty good laugh that I could not tell the difference between a dog and a lion (I am from Canada after all). This is where puns can come in handy. I said to him, "Did you think I said a lion???, I really meant an animal was 'lion'...on the ground". Well, I thought it covered up my mistake pretty well but Tim wasn't going to fall for another one.
The trip was now coming to a close and Tim and I are heading west towards Victoria Falls. They were magnificent to see even in the winter time when less water flows over them. It was at this time Tim discovered he had left his driving glasses at KK's house. While this was not a concern during the day, it could have become a problem for clear night time vision. As Tim raced through the day and night on the Botswana roads, I could not help but wonder if he could see clearly. Yeah, I worried a wee bit but said to myself "why should I worry? " Therefore, I did not worry, I just sat back and relaxed and tried to sleep. However, I could not sleep because Tim did not have his glasses! I wanted to be an extra pair of eyes, just in case. These head-on crash types of scenarios seemed to happen more than I would like to think. Sure enough, we had two more incidents of cars pulling out into our lane trying to pass, plus we had to watch for the ever present big speed bumps to slow down for. Was I worried?? Nope!
One last incident! This time, we were at a campground in Botswana, a fairly nice place. We inflated the air mattresses for the last time on this trip, but we did not know which one leaked. We got into the tent at a good hour when suddenly about 3:00am, a really loud noise happened close to us that sounded like a tree being snapped in half (elephants do this to gain access to the top leaves). The sound was undeniably loud, close, and distinctive. Tim woke up only to discover his air mattress had gone flat...again (the score, Tim 2, Leigh 1). He got up and re-inflated it and fell back to sleep rather quickly. Tim's cold was getting better, but he soon had some serious snoring going on. I was listening to this when all of a sudden; there were loud snorts and grunts coming from just outside our tent. Earlier, we had seen wart hogs in the streets but this grunting seemed to be coming from a much bigger animal. I listened, absolutely still with my eyes wide open, until I realized they were hippos resting just 15 meters away from us. We were protected though; there was a tiny little barbed wire fence and the thickness of the tent material protecting us.
Was I worried, no, but I was pretty tired! When Tim woke up, his mattress was once again flat so I did the only decent thing I could think of. I let the air out of my mattress too so I could empathize with Tim. It actually was more comfortable...who would have thought that?? Was I worried about having another bad nights rest? No, I knew my bed at home was waiting for me.
After 16 days on the road comfortably nestled inside the mighty Renault, we arrived back at Tim's house in one piece and still friends (my evaluation). We worked on his Aquaponic system and got it all set up, but then it was time to leave. I told Tim beforehand that I wanted to say goodbye before we got to the airport as I tend to choke up easily when I am sad. As we tried to say our goodbyes at the departure door, neither of us could speak. Just a couple of good hearty hugs and wave and that was it. Tim drove away but he got the last laugh though, he dropped me at the wrong gate! Was I worried? Nope, I just found the information booth and got the directions. Interestingly, this information gate was right above the point where I waited for Tim for 2 1/2 hours, 2 1/2 weeks previously.
The experiences we shared, the 'near-misses', time together (18 days of 24/7) and sitting in the car can either make friends or enemies. For my part, I feel a deep respect and love for Tim. He does a wonderful job in the most difficult of circumstances in the most efficient and cost effective way I can think of; he is totally dedicated to his mission as the director. The same goes for KK as well; I really miss those lads and pray for them in a much deeper way than ever before. I know I will see them again someday in person and we will pick right up where we left off. We will get together again; I have no fear about that!
Many thanks go out to Gary and Wendy Moore for their encouragement to go on this trip. I deeply appreciate the time with Tim Maguire, Kalengule Kaoma, pastors, workers, and villagers. I am very humbled and grateful to the members of the Crossfield church congregation who provided funding for this trip as Tim and KK needed the funds to visit their respective areas. I missed my wife but thank her so much for letting me go away for too long a time.
All praise and thanks go to the Father for allowing this trip to happen, for Jesus leading the way for his work to be accomplished, and to the Holy Spirit who gave us a safe, calm and fearless trip.
Stay tuned...there are more stories to come.