Wednesday, October 17, 2012

South African Conference.

Conference center in Simonstown, South Africa.
Before I left for Mozambique I was looking into various missions conferences around the world, and I happened to stumble across one in South Africa.
"South Africa?! Why isn’t that next to Mozambique?" I thought to myself. 

So I looked it up on a map and sure enough they were right next door. I figured since I missed the one in Kenya earlier this year (as I wasn’t able to leave S. Sudan at that time), that I’d tag on this conference to the end of my Vision Tour trip to Moz.

Part of my thinking at the time was “Why not?”, but more importantly than that I felt compelled to go. God prodded me until I signed up and booked the flights.

However when I signed up for the week long conference, admittedly the South Africans on the other side of the computer screen were a bit confused. Had we spoken in person, this is how the conversation might have sounded.

-- “Which church are you from?”
-- “Calvary Chapel Mesquite, NV.”
-- “But that’s in America...”
-- “Yes. But I’ve been working as a missionary in Africa for the last two years.”
-- “And you are going to come ALL this way for the conference?”
-- “Yep. I’ll be in Mozambique for a missions trip anyway...”
-- “Okay.” Long pregnant pause. “I guess we’ll sign you up then.”

Naively, I thought since I was flying in and out of Johannesburg that I’d be able to simply rent a car and drive to the conference.

I was wrong.

Johannesburg is nowhere near Cape Town. When I learned it would be roughly 15 hrs driving, I decided to catch a flight instead.
    -- Who knew South Africa was so big?

I didn’t know what to expect when I got on the plane for the coast though. I figured I’d just go with the flow and figure things out as I went. In my head I'd rent a car when I got there and drive myself to the conference.

Karen and Demitri Nikiforos.
However, God went before me and prepared things perfectly. Those in Cape Town organizing the event (who I would later learn are the pastors of Calvary Chapel Cape Town --Demitri and Karen Nikiforos) blessed me over-abundantly long before I even arrived.

They had someone pick me up at the airport! They got me a ride on a chartered bus to Simonstown where the conference was being held! And then after it was over, they made sure I made it back to Cape Town in style, then offered me a bed in their home for the night!

I absolutely fell in love with them!

(Funny side note: once I landed I learned that I was not at a missions conference but a pastors and leaders conference! ha ha! No wonder they were so confused I was coming. :- ) 

Jeanne Claycamp and me.
But the divine appointments and exciting encounters don’t stop there; so much happened during that week that I’m finding it hard to write them succinctly.

Would bullet points suffice?         


How do I describe the beautiful facilities... and even more beautiful brothers and sisters in the Lord that I met along the way? How do I explain the timely and apropos teaching from the pulpit ... or the anointed worship?

It was so refreshing. So healing. So sweet.

But more than anything, it allowed me time to sit at His feet and listen. What was I listening for, you ask? Simple. I was only asking one question.

Do I go back to Mozambique or not?

The cracked open door was nice but it certainly wasn’t a neon sign. I wanted confirmation. If I am going to head off to Africa, learn two new languages, battle with government officials, and re-open an abandoned hospital, I wanted to know two things.
  • One. That this is His will for my life.
  • Two. That He is coming with me.
Much like Moses I kept crying out, “Lord unless you come with me, I’m not going.”
And not unlike Joshua I was feeling fearful to enter the land. There are hundreds more qualified and capable. Why me?

---“Lord... are You sure you want me to do this? We are talking about ME here. You and I both know I have the grace of a bull in a china cabinet... forget china shops!”
-- “Yes child. I know you very well. I made you this way. I have a purpose for you there.”
-- “What purpose?”
-- “You’ll see... but remember you are a bulldozer not a bull. You level mountains. You dig up stones. You make things move. That is what is needed there... for this season.”
-- “So... you are sending me there long-term. Is it my final destination?”
-- “Yes and no. Yes, you will be there for a time but I’m not planting you there permanently.”
-- “What do you mean? I thought this would be my final stop.”
-- “Remember,” He chided, “I created you. I know your purpose. You’re my bulldozer. You’ll be there a time, hand things over, then I’ll use you somewhere else.”
-- “But Lord,” I whined, “I want stability. I want to be planted.”
-- “You’ll have that for a season,” He explained, “but eventually, I’ll move you on. I created you for digging not planting.”
-- “Yes. Lord.”

I won’t bore you with the rest of the conversation I had with Him. Let me just say He spoke. He spoke in whispers. He spoke in prophecies. He spoke in scripture.

He spoke.

I’m to go to Mozambique.

But even better news... He’s coming with me!


I’ll stop my story there for now. Just know that I’m thrilled to pray and prepare for Mozambique. Will you please pray with me?

I have a number of boxes to tick on my prayer list.
  • Set up an account with Shepherd’s Staff again so donors can give through them
  • Paperwork for work visa (Police clearances for Philippines, Haiti and Sudan in particular)
  • Finances (Language school fees, vehicle, one-time moving expenses, monthly support, etc.)
  • To know which schools/intensive courses to attend for the Shona & Portuguese
  • Raise the salary for the Mozambican nurse I'll be hiring
  • Car to use in the States through December (as I’d like to be back in Moz by January).

Thank you so much for praying!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spectacular Six!

Okay... so am I allowed to brag a bit? Am I allowed to tell you the crazy ways I've been blessed? If not, you have no business reading this post.

However, if so then let me just preface this a bit by saying I have a very unusual Bucket List. I won't bore you with the details but it's extensive and usually involves jumping out of planes, eating wacky foods, and hiking massive mountains.

One long-time item on this list... was to go on a Safari in Africa.

When I priced out the safaris in Kenya, however, I sputtered in surprise and disgust at the thousands of dollars they insisted I pay, and I resigned myself to NEVER seeing the Big Five (Aka: Elephant, Rhino, Leopard, Lion, and Hippopotamus).
          --But then God took me to South Africa.

When I saw that I had a few days between my time in Mozambique and the Pastors and Leaders conference in Cape Town, I looked into going on a quick safari. The prices they quoted me were not only reasonable... they were cheap!

Praise God!

So naturally I signed up. I figured it would be my birthday present... and boy was it!

The first day was a long drive from Johannesburg to Blyde River canyon, then to a fancy lodge just outside of Kruger national park.

My guide, Hoppy, was South African born and raised. He had a knowledge of the animals in this area that could only be described as encyclopedic.

Me at Blyde River canyon. River below. 
If there was a lizard or a bird --let alone any of the big game-- he knew its name and habits. It was extraordinary.

He took me and a honeymoon couple from Brazil through a remarkable ride through one of the world's most extensive national parks.

Kruger national park was founded in 1898 by South Africa's then president, Paul Kruger. The intent was to keep a sanctuary for wildlife from the massive hunting then practiced.

In all, the park is roughly 20,000 square kilometers and is similar to the length and size of Israel (390km long and 100 km wide). 

The Blyde river was pretty but nothing to write home about. We came, took a few pictures, then raced on to the game park.

That first night we stayed in a fancy lodge which arranged a night safari where within minutes we were able to see a crocodile, impalas, wildebeasts, and then a leopard.

The leopard (seen above) was within a few feet of us, lounging in the afternoon sun.


Afterward we came across a pride of lions with five males and five females. I was told that the only reason the males are together are because they are brothers. But once their alpha lion passes, there will be a fight for the ladies... and then three of the brothers will move on to other prides.

We watched as they slept, yawning and stretching from their afternoon nap. Apparently, lions sleep up to twenty hours a day!

Who knew?!

The next morning... we came across some white rhinos as well. They looked unreal! I seriously wanted to go up and touch them just to be certain they weren't in my head. I have dreamed of seeing rhinos up close for so long... I just couldn't believe it!


African White Rhino-- reportedly 3000 live in Kruger but they are being poached.

From there we saw countless baboons, bushbucks, and kudus. I really like the kudus for their regal stance and intricately twisted horns, but I was happy to see the giraffes, zebras, and genets too.

A male Kudu. The females look just like them... but without horns!
Two young male impalas play-fighting.
We saw birds galore (plovers, rollers, starlings, storks, vultures, eagles, etc.). I'd bore you with all the various names of them... but they were spectacular and diverse.

My favorite had to be a toss up between the ostrich and the yellow-billed hornbill (above), which some might recognize as zaza from the Lion King. 

I learned that ostriches don't put their head in the sand. Go figure!
Naturally there were sables, steenboks, waterbucks, and hyenas too. The warthogs always gave me a laugh though.

There is just something so beautiful in a face that ugly!

A warthog with a face only a mother could love!
However my greatest desire was to see a lot of elephants, and boy did I! We were able to watch hoards of them; they walked in front of us nonchalantly eating grass or stripping trees of their new shoots.

My guide frequently complained of the massive damage they do to the park, knocking over trees to eat the roots and generally forging paths through whatever and wherever they liked.

But when you think about it... if a newborn elephant weights 250 kilos, imagine how much the adults weighs. There is little that would be stupid enough get in their way --apparently even hippos don't even mess with them.

They have no predators in the park at all. None.

The hippos were also high on my list of 'to see'. They however, did not find it convenient to come out of the water so I could gaze  on their meaty mass.

This picture (above) was the closest I got to getting a sneak peak. All the rest of my pictures show little brown patches in lakes, with ears attached. They are basically an oversized pig with a water fetish.

The buffalo were everywhere. Herds and herds of them drank at every watering hole. They were majestic... but skittish. We never seemed to be able to get close.

On the last day of the safari, we came across four cheetahs (thus transforming the 'Big Five' into the 'Spectacular Six')!

Since this usually solitary hunter was in a pack, we suspect they were siblings. They were far off in the distance and getting active around some warthogs. At first we thought they had killed one of the warthogs, but was we watched through binoculars we could see that they were the ones being chased!

All four of the cheetahs are in this picture. They are looking at the warthog.
Yep. Four cheetahs were run off by one fiercely protective warthog mama! Man was she mad!


The baboons also gave us lots of laughs. Their playful nature and general appearance was hilarious.

These baboons were Chacma baboons, known for their brightly colored genitalia. The males had blue testes and the females red butts. Apparently, their hind-quarters get brighter when they are ready to mate.



The best part of the trip though... had to be watching the baboons swimming. 

Yes, the usually hydrophobic primates set aside their fears for a few brief minutes and played in a shallow river bed like toddlers in a wading pool! 

Our guide explained that in his 17 years of traipsing through the park, he'd never seen anything like it.


So enjoy this remarkable and unique video:

What a blessing! 

Some of the pictures and the definitely the video are courtesy of my co-adventurers, 
Narcizo Souza-Neto and Daniela Coelh. Thanks for sharing!