African Adventures #4
When was the last time you spent a week in a village on a tiny island in
the middle of endless water, grasses, and water lilies? Paddled a dugout
canoe to church? Gave a sermon in a church with dung walls and a dirt floor?
Slept in a thatched-roof home? Or took a bath in a river infested with
crocodiles? When was the last time you stood on the edge of a 300 foot cliff,
and watched one of the major rivers of the world pour into the canyon at your
feet? When was the last time you saw a rainbow so close you could actually
touch it? Or climbed a sand dune? Or walked on the moon?
How many of you have ever thought of becoming a missionary? I tell
you–you can’t beat the job description. Well–on most counts that is. I miss
all you folks terribly, but I tell you–life here is great! The past few
weeks, as usual, have been filled with adventure. Actually–I’ve had more
adventure recently than I think I’ve had in most of my life. I really feel
guilty keeping all this fun to myself so I figured it was time to write you
all an e-mail and share some of the adventures.
Well I’ll have to confess I have done all of that and more in the past few
weeks. No–we don’t have a huge river or sand dunes in Opuwo. I have been
traveling. This month the rest of the team here traveled to a training session
in the states. With the team gone and the first phase of recording completed,
it seemed a natural opportunity to take some time to travel and see the
continent. I received an invitation to go with Mary, a teacher here in Opuwo,
to visit her family in Caprivia. Mary’s father is a retired pastor who lives
in a small village in the flood plains of the Zambezi river, about 80km
downstream from Katima Mulilo. (Katima Mulilo is toward the end of the
Caprivi strip, the narrow piece of land in the north-east of Namibia) I also
wanted to see Victoria Falls and the Namib Desert.
So Sunday, April 23, the adventure began. Our whole team (Gideon and Pam,
Charlie, Kapitango, and I) traveled to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.
There we spent the night and the next day most of the team flew to the United
States. Monday evening I got on a bus and arrived Tuesday morning in Katima,
where Mary and her family met me and took me to their home. After some
visiting and shopping on Tuesday, we spent the night and Wednesday morning
began our (interesting) journey to Mary’s village. Because the Zambezi river
is now at flood stage, all road access to the village is cut off. The village
is literally an island in the flooded river. The nearest road access in
Namibia is an eight-hour canoe trip from the village. However, there is a
very good road directly across the river in Zambia. So we opted to take the
Zambian route. This meant crossing the border into Zambia and then taking a
canoe back across the river into Namibia. Using this route meant only a three
hour paddle to the village.
So Wednesday morning John arranged for a buckie (pickup truck) to take us
to the border. We loaded our things and off we sped. At the border we had to
change to a Zambian taxi. Actually we were loading our things into one taxi
when the police came and told us we had to use a different taxi. I don’t
know–I guess different countries have different rules about things… So we
loaded all our supplies and 8 people (6 adults counting the driver and 2
children) into a rickety Toyota Corolla. That was a bit of a squeeze to be
sure! Just after crossing into Zambia we came to the small town of Sesheke.
The driver the noticed we had a low tire, so we pulled off and two of us got
out and waited while the taxi went to a service station. As we stood beside
the road, a tall guy, obviously drunk, walked up offered me a cigarette. Of
course I refused, but he kept insisting. Finally I just said, “Thank you
friend but I don’t want a smoke.” Then I shook his hand and he walked off. A
minute later the taxi showed up again and we headed down the road.
After driving slowly for over an hour the tire suddenly went completely
flat. So we waited beside the road until a big Mercedes truck drove by.
The taxi driver flagged the truck and we rode the rest of the way on the back
of this truck. At the river a boat was waiting to take us to the village. The
river crossing itself was quite an adventure. No–we didn’t see any crocs or
hippos (too bad) but the water lilies, tall grasses and plants, and endless
waterways were unbelievable! We reached the village just as the sun was
setting and received a warm welcome from Mary’s family.
I will always remember the five days I spent in that village with those
friendly people! I spent my days talking with the villagers, watching and
helping them prepare food, eating with them, and learning to paddle the
canoes. I stayed in the pastor’s home–a very nice home with a dirt floor,
dung walls, and a grass roof. I even had a real bed to sleep in! I felt I was
living like a king! On Sabbath morning I taught Sabbath School and preached
in the small village church. Yes–I even took a bath in the river! I heard
endless stories of the crocodiles in the river but fortunately never had an
encounter with one. According to one story, a man was sleeping in his house
near the water, and was snoring loudly. A crocodile heard the snoring and
came and took the man from his house! So–ever after telling me that story,
John (Mary’s husband) would say “I’m going to call the crocodiles” whenever
he wanted to sleep.
Monday, May 1st, we returned to Katima and Tuesday I took the bus from
Katima, back through Zambia, to the Zimbabwe border at Victoria Falls. From
there began another unforgettable 20-hour adventure. The falls was incredible!
I was able to spend a short time at the falls Tuesday evening. It was hard to
believe I was actually there–I was literally running from overlook to
overlook, watching the falls and the spray and taking dozens (or hundreds) of
photos. During this season, there is so much spray from the falls that it
often completely blocks your view of the falls! But I did see the falls–and
got thoroughly soaked in the process!
I spent the night in a lodge and had a taxi take me back to the falls
before sunrise the next morning. To watch the sun rise through the mist of
the falls was truly an incredible experience! I couldn’t help but sing
praises to God in seeing this marvelous work of His creation! I walked all
the way through the park, watching and taking photos at almost every
overlook. When I reached the end, I realized it was late so I hurried back to
the gate. Upon arriving at the gate, the taxi was waiting for me to take me
back to the lodge. It was 8:30AM–my bus left at 10:00AM from the Zambia side
of the border. And suddenly I came to a terrible realization–I had left my
camera tripod somewhere out there in the park–probably at the furthest
overlook! I ran all the way back to the overlook but couldn’t find it. I
retraced my steps, asking everyone I met if they had seen it. At the gate I
asked if someone had found it–no one had. They said to wait–a ranger may
have picked it up. I didn’t have time to wait so I went back to the hotel and
checked out. At my room I knelt down and prayed that I would find the tripod.
I know–it’s really a little thing but doesn’t God look out for the little
things, too? And I hated to lose my tripod. On the way back to the border, we
were going to stop at the park and see if they had found my tripod. I felt
impressed to tell the taxi driver that I had been praying I would find my
tripod–so I did. When we reached the gate, the attendant smiled–and handed
me my tripod! Praise the Lord! Just another answer to prayer, and a little
opportunity to witness, too.
After waiting in line at the border, it was past 10:00AM when I finally
reached the bus stop–and the bus was gone! I had no idea whether it had come
and gone, or whether it was just late. But just in case I took a taxi up to
the next bus stop in Livingstone. That turned out to be unnecessary–the bus
was almost an hour late. But I was sure glad to get back on the bus after all
the experiences I’d had with taxi drivers and money changers trying to cheat
me out of my money! After 19 hours on the bus I arrived back in Windhoek,
where I spent the night with friends and then caught a bus to Swakopmund, on
the western coast of Namibia. I spent the weekend in Swakopmund, and was able
to see the ocean and sand dunes and even took a full-day tour of the Namib
desert on Sunday. Some of the highlights of the trip were getting my picture
taken “on the moon” (actually the Namib Desert near Swakopmund), seeing the
Welwitchia plant (a very unique plant that grows only in this desert) and
climbing the sand dunes. Finally on Monday I traveled back to Windhoek and on
Wednesday rode a taxi bus back to Opuwo, arriving home Wednesday night, May
In the 17 days I was away, I took 1227 photos, traveled 5400km in 3
countries, crossed international borders exactly 8 times, slept in 5
different locations 8 different times (not counting 2 nights on the bus) and
only on three occasions did I spend more than one consecutive night in the
same place. But the Lord was looking out for me and I had so many
opportunities to witness, too! It was so amazing–every segment of the trip I
had an opportunity to witness to somebody: whether my seat mate on the bus, or
my roommates, or even the taxi driver! Almost every time people would ask me
why I was in Namibia, so I would share with them a little of what I’ve been
doing here with the Himba people.
Since I’ve been back “home” in Opuwo things have been settling back into a
routine. I’ve picked up new duties and am starting work on some new
projects–including work on an otjiHerero church hymnal! It’s been
interesting staying here with the rest of the team gone to the states but
it’s actually been a good experience, too. I’m glad to have lots of friends
here so I’m never lacking for help or for company. It’s not that I don’t miss
the team of course–or all you guys–but at least I’m not going insane for
lack of someone to talk to. On the other hand… judging by the length of this
e-mail… maybe I am…
In closing let me say, once again, THANK YOU for all your prayers,
e-mails, and support! It has been so amazing in the last few weeks to see the
miracles God has worked through prayer! Keep praying–and keep letting you’re
light shine. You never know what adventures God has in store for us!
Until next time–keep looking to Him!
In His Service,
P.S. Don’t forget to check out the pictures on my website at
(link) . I haven’t posted all 1227 photos but I’ve
posted a few of the best.