African Adventures #6
Greetings once again from Africa. I want to thank you all for your continued support and prayers for me and for the mission team here in Namibia. Here’s a little update from the dusty little town of Opuwo…
Dust. I tell you, here in Opuwo, that word takes on a whole new meaning. For five months there has been no rain. The passing cars churn the dirt roads into clouds of choking dust. For us foreigners who aren’t used to the dust, it can become a real trial. For months, I have had a cough whenever I talk for a long time or even take a deep breath. Anything that sits collects dust–not in a matter of weeks but in a matter of days or even hours! The other day I was at the home of Charlie Eklund, one of the career missionaries here. Suddenly I heard a friend calling: “Come quickly! Quickly! Look over there!” Running to the other room, I looked out the open doorway overlooking the town of Opuwo. There, sweeping across the town and advancing directly toward us, was a solid wall of billowing, blowing dust! At the leading edge of the storm we could see people running for shelter–then a second later the people, buildings, trees, and everything would disappear into the cloud. At that point, I decided it might also be wise to return to the safety of the closed portion of the house. As we came inside, a gust of wind hit the house, blocking out all visibility, howling around the corners and pouring dust through every tiny crack! Then, what was that? A raindrop! And then another! But alas, that was all. Soon the storm past, and the dust began to settle.
But life isn’t all about dust storms in Opuwo. The various studio recording projects have been continuing. Last month Kapitango and I recorded a series of short educational programs with the state vet to teach rural farmers about the care and vaccination of their livestock. I have been training Kapitango to be able to take over the operation of the recording studio when I’m gone. Soon I will be returning to the states. In fact, I’m scheduled to fly home on October 31, so my time here is very short. In the next few weeks we are planning to do some recording with the Himba people, before I come home. I’m really looking forward to that. In fact, if everything goes according to the most recent plan, the recording team will be leaving a little after 5PM today to head for the bush.
Speaking of plans, though–it might help to understand something about how “plans” work in the mission field. Actually, we were planning to leave yesterday afternoon. Actually, before that we were planning to leave on Monday of this week. Actually we were planning to start this project a few weeks (or months) ago! But…such is life in the mission field! When you are working for the Lord, it really doesn’t matter what you are planning, but what is He planning for you? That’s something I’ve been learning lately. Sometimes we see the raindrops and we expect to see the rain come, but the time still isn’t right. God knows what the Himba people need to hear, and He also knows when the time is right.
But my time waiting hasn’t been totally wasted. Sometimes, the best way to reach people is by making friends. Just this morning, Kadafi, a good friend of mine, came by to visit. Like many people, my friend Kadafi loves to chat. But unfortunately, Kadafi is unable to hear or speak. I don’t know sign language, and even if I did it wouldn’t be the same as the sign language in southern Africa. So, we “talk” by writing back and forth to each other on a pad of paper. (Thankfully he can write English.) Using this method of communication we’ve gotten to know each other. Just a few weeks ago his mother was in a bad car accident. She was seriously injured and has been in the hospital for several weeks now, making a slow recovery. On more than one occasion we have prayed together for his mother’s healing.
Many of my friends are the young children and youth who come to the church and Sabbath School. On Sabbath afternoons, I would often join in the children and youth activities with Charlie Eklund. As I mentioned in my previous African Adventures, Charlie was on furlough for three months, only returning in August. It was so incredible to to see the children’s excitement when Charlie returned! Since he has come back, almost every week we have an activity with the children. It may be something as simple as eating and singing together, or as adventurous as hiking a river bed or having a picnic on a distant mountaintop!
A few weeks ago Lisa Scott (my fellow SM) and I had Sabbath dinner at Charlie’s house. As usual, a number of youth joined us for dinner. After dinner, we decided to take a walk around the mountain behind the town. As we walked, a lady came from her hut and asked us to come and pray for her family and her sick child. We gathered around and prayed together. As we continued our walk, we came to a place where the path ran parallel to a high electric fence. In spite of our warnings, some of the children discovered that the electric fence was apparently off, and started playing with the wires. As we continued to walk, I lagged behind while Charlie and some others walked on ahead. Suddenly someone came running back with the news, “Toy just got electrocuted by the fence! He’s lying on the ground!” When I arrived on the scene, I found Toy (a young teen-age boy) lying on the ground near the fence, with the others standing around. He wasn’t dead, but was obviously in shock. They had prayed together and soon he started regaining his strength and was able to sit up. Before long, he could stand and we all walked together down the mountain. After that we decided to be much more careful where we took the children and youth on Sabbath afternoons.
Just recently, all the seventh grade students had to take an entrance exam at the secondary school here. (Secondary school starts at 8th grade here, not 9th grade like in the states.) The exam was scheduled on Sabbath morning, which posed a problem for the young people. Would they take the exam on Sabbath, or would they come to church and risk losing their chance to get into the school? On Friday afternoon, two girls came to Charlie with their dilemma. What could we do? Charlie spoke with Gideon and Pam, and Gideon decided to speak with the school principal. Charlie, Pam, and I needed to go shopping, so we went together and who should we find along the way but the school principal! The same Friday afternoon Gideon was able to arrange with the principal to make an exception and allow the learners to attend church and to keep the Sabbath, staying with the pastor for the day, and to take their exam after sundown Saturday night. What an awesome God we serve!
Remember that dust storm I was talking about? Sometimes the little trials of life seem to well up like a cloud in front of us. The electricity, telephone, and water that go out frequently. The computer that crashes and loses your work. The waiting. The changing of plans. Sometimes, it seems, you can’t even see where you’re going! You see a few raindrops–the promise of rain–which never materializes. Sometimes it’s the little things that we cherish in our hearts: the little sins, the little covetousnesses. All these add up until they become a cloud of dust–blocking our view of the Son.
Only a couple days after the dust storm, it was Sabbath. Actually, it was the same Sabbath as the 7th grade exam. Early in the morning, I awoke to a new sound–the sound of rain. Not the thundering of a downpour, but a slow, gentle rain. The dust was gone. As I looked outside, the earth which so shortly before had been parched and barren was now softened. Soon the students began coming to the house–first one, then another, then another. That Sabbath, six 7th graders chose to honor God in keeping His Sabbath.
Just as the rain has settled the dust and brought new life to the earth, so God’s Holy Spirit has worked on the hearts of these young people, many of whom still did not fully understand the truth of the Sabbath, to impress them to take a stand for Him. This isn’t the only miracle I’ve witnessed recently, either. Just this past weekend I had the opportunity of going with the pastor and a group from Opuwo to a series of revival meetings in Ongwendiva, about 4 hours’ drive from here. What a blessing it was to hear the inspiring messages and music, to work with the children, and most of all to witness 18 precious souls dedicating their lives to God through baptism. Oh what a blessing it would be to see a revival like this take place among the Himba people!
I want to thank each one of you again for your prayers, encouragement, and support for me during the nine months I’ve been here in the mission field. Soon, I will be returning to my other mission field in the USA. In some ways, I feel like Namibia is my home–I have so many friends here. But Namibia is not my home. I was born in the USA, and my parents and home are in the USA. But America is not my home, either.
I’m but a stranger here,
Heaven is my home;
Earth is a desert drear,
Heaven is my home;
Danger and sorrow stand
Round me on every hand;
Heaven is my Fatherland,
Heaven is my home.
(Thomas R. Taylor)
Will you join me in praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, in Namibia and around the world? Soon we will all be going home!
“Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” (James 5:7-8)
In His Service,