I just got home form Zambia last night about 11:30pm. Today's Sunday. After church and lunch, I played with Kaitlyn for a while. Now she's supposed to be taking a nap, but she's not doing to well. I'll try to fill you in on a few details from the trip.
This year our Bible work was a little different than it has been for the past few years. We feel that for the time being, the Lozi people's great need for Bibles has been satisfied. Over the year we have met missionaries, shop owners, and even South Africa Christians who buy Bibles from us at Katima Molilu, Namibia and either sell them or distribute them through this area. We felt God leading us to explore the Southern Province of Zambia which is dominated by Tonga-speaking people. We ordered 2,000 Tonga Bibles and about 1,000 English Bibles to take to this area. We also had around 300 Mbukushu New Testaments and over a thousand Scripture portions. Uncle Piet left a week before I did to take these Testaments and Scripture portions to the Kavango region of Namibia (the western part of the Caprivi Strip.) He had a team of 5 other people--Aunt Hester, Andrew Glick (intern from God's Bible School), Ntate Sam, Ntate Boomo, and Ian. They sold the Testaments and gave the Scripture portions to the high school seniors in this area. In my truck was Nienka (a veterinary), Sonya (also works at the same vet clinic), and Malan (a plumber from Johannesburg.) Since all of the people with me have jobs, they could only be gone for two weeks. The plans was that my team would join Uncle Piet's team and sell Tonga and English Bibles in Livingstone, Zambia. Then I would bring them back to South Africa, and Uncle Piet's team would move further north with the remaining Bibles.
Friday night before I was to leave on Monday, we got a text message from Uncle Piet. The timing belt of his truck had broken, and the head was ruined on the engine. He needed parts to fix it. Saturday morning Uncle Johan and I made a quick trip to Bloem to buy a complete head, gaskets, and other parts. Saturday evening I packed, Sunday I preached at Matukeng, then Monday we left. We spent Monday night in a little town called Zeerust on the border of Botswana. Malan, the young man from Johannesburg drove there to meet us, and we slept at his uncle and aunt's house. As always the hospitality of the Afrikaans people was exceptional.
Tuesday morning we left for Botswana about 5:30am. Normally the border crossing into Botswana is quite simple, but not this time. There was no change when I paid the fees, some of the needed permits were unavailable, etc. I think we were there around an hour and a half and finally left without one of the permits. We traveled northwest from Lobatse across the Kalahari desert through Khanye up to Ghanzi. The only game we saw was ostrich and steinbok, but the vegetation in the desert was very interesting. It was also the first time I've seen ostrich chicks. The further north we drove the more rainfall there is, so the bushveld gradually changes from acacia (thorn trees; see picture on right) to mopane (a group of trees that stays green year round). The southern part of the desert only gets 4 inches of rain a year. The northern part gets 12 or more. North of Ghanzi we were looking for a place to spend the night beside the road. In the middle of nowhere we came across a side road that had a sign offering camping. We decided to check it out. A Christian farmer had decided to set up a little campground catering to people traveling from Cape Town to Botswana's game preserves. When he found out we were missionaries he gave us a 50% discount. A hot shower in the beautiful bathrooms that he built himself was very welcome! Water was heated by a very effective homemade water heater that burned a mixture of kerosene and used motor oil. The picture on the right is sunrise in the Khalhari
Wednesday we proceeded north skirting the western edge of the Okavango delta. This delta (certainly one of the seven wonders of Africa) is where the Okavango river disappears into the sands of the Kalahari desert creating a beautiful tropical paradise that extends a hundred miles or more into the desert. Within this delta are some of the finest game preserves in Africa. Most of the time we were several miles away from this paradise, but we did catch a few glimpses of the river. We crossed into Namibia at the sleepy Mohembo border post, and found Uncle Piet and his broken truck 35 miles further west on the banks of the Kavango river looking into Angola.
The bearings in one of the idler pulleys for the timing belt had failed causing the belt to break. Normally these timing belts and bearings are to be replaced every 100,000 km, but this one didn't even make it to 90,000. The valve guides were warped, and the valves were so badly bent that they couldn't be pounded out of the head. We set to work about 2:00pm, and by God's help had the truck running before 11:00pm that night. The parts store sold us the wrong idler pulleys and bearings, but in God's providence, I happened to have a set of used ones in a box of spare parts that I always take with me on these long trips. It was a clear miracle. The nearest part store was 130 miles one way, and the parts might not have even been available there.
Thursday morning we left early to drive back to Katima Molilu. On arrival there, we noticed an ugly rumbling sound in the front end of the engine of my truck. That night and early the next morning, Ntate Sam (a Christian from Ladybrand) I replaced the water pump which solved the problem. Besides camping gear for 10 people, we loaded nearly 3,000 Bibles on two trucks, a trailer, and in a camper Friday morning. The camper trailer or caravan, as it is called here, is one that we took to Katima Molilu several years ago to serve as a "home away from home," and a storage place for some of our gear. We kept it at a business owned by a Christian where there was a security guard at night. Earlier this year, that business was moved to Windhoek, so we no longer had a safe place to leave it. We decided to take it back to Ladybrand rather than leave it to the thieves. We put all of our lighter camping gear and clothes in it to make room for the load of Bibles on the trucks and trailer. Because the vehicles were overloaded, we took it really easy as we drove from Katima Molilu, Namibia to Livingstone, Zambia. We arrived there about dark on Friday and camped at one of the large Seventh Day Adventist churches in that area.
Saturday we attended the Sabbath services at the church where we camped. I certainly can't agree with some points of the Seventh Day Adventists' theology, but I'm convinced that in this part of Zambia there are many serious Christians in this denomination. The Bible Study/Sunday School hour and the morning worship service were a blessing to me. The part I enjoyed the most was the music. A trio of young ladies sang several special songs throughout the service. I don't think I've heard a finer ladies trio anywhere in the world. They sang beautifully, with humility and sincerity. The church is very large, but their voices reached to the back without any amplification. I estimate that there were around 700-800 people in the service, but by adding more benches, they could comfortably accommodate over a thousand.
After the service, 6 people on the team went to see Victoria Falls. I would have loved to go again, but I've been there three times at least, and there wasn't space so I stayed with Uncle Piet. We moved our camp to the site of one of the Paris Missionary Society's early mission stations. It is now used by the United Church of Zambia. They let us camp there the rest of the time we were in Livingstone. We were comfortable enough there, but especially the first few days we were quite short of water. By the time we left, there was a full 50 gallon barrel, but the first few days we were on fairly tight rations when it came to bucket baths.
Saturday afternoon at 5:00 we went back to sell Bibles at the Adventist church after their Sabbath was over. (Their sabbath is from 5:00pm Friday to 5:00pm Saturday.) As usually they are our best customers. They put great emphasis on personal and corporate Bible study.
Sunday we attended the United Church of Zambia's English service which was from 8:30 to 10:30. They are much more formal and structured than the SDA church. After the service we relaxed, went to meet the pastor of another church, and got to know the layout of some of the suburbs of the city.
Monday through Thursday we divided into several teams and sold Bibles on the streets and in the markets around Livingstone. We quickly sold out all our English Bibles, but the 2000 Tonga Bibles aren't in great demand in that area. The city is quite a melting pot for Lozi, Tonga, Bemba, Nyanga, and Ntebele people. Most of them seem to still speak their mother tongue to one another, but I don't think I met anyone who couldn't communicate in English. It seems that the tribal languages are still commonly spoken, but seldom read or written. As a result we sold very few Tonga Bibles until English ones were completely gone. In fact, Uncle Piet went back to Katima Molilu to get the rest of the English Bibles we had in stock there. By Thursday word had spread about the availability of Tonga Bibles, and several people approached us about buying a box or a few boxes to take out into more rural areas where the language is still commonly read and used in churches. We are confident that these Bibles are still needed, but not in Livingstone. Still we were left with a dilemma--too many Bibles to fit on Uncle Piet's truck after I left.
Selling Bibles is always rewarding but tiring work. The memories of the years when Lozi Bibles were unavailable are still quite fresh to many of the Lozi people. For some of them a Bible is a very precious treasure. One afternoon when sales seemed a bit slow, we asked directions to another market. We finally found the place--about a dozen open shops or stands in the middle of a village. As I was walking from shop to shop, a lady spied the green cover of a Lozi Bible. She hurried to where I was to ask the price, starting to count her money before she even knew how much it would cost. She hugged her new Bible and asked, "Who sent you to me today?" I started to telling her about our Bible distribution work, but she quickly interrupted me and said, "God sent you to me. I've been wanting one of these (pointing to the Bible) for a long time!"
Perhaps you are wondering why we sell Bibles. There are several reasons. First, we sell the Bibles at a subsidize price. We try to find out what the average person can afford, and then we subsidize the rest of the price. Second, if we just gave them away, everyone would take one, but many of the Bibles would never be read. If someone pays a little something for a Bible, then it shows they really want it and will probably use it. Third, when we sacrifice for something, we are much more likely to appreciate it and take care of it. If we meet people who don't have money or don't have enough money, but they really want a Bible, we give them one or sell it for what they can afford.
Friday morning I started back to South Africa with the half of the team who needed to be back to work by Monday morning. We crossed the Zambezi river into Botswana by pontoon at Kazungula. As we were waiting our turn to board the ferry, we met a Baptist missionary who lives between Livingstone and Lusaka in Zambia. It was almost my turn to get on the ferry, but I quickly told him about the Tonga Bibles and where to find Uncle Piet. He seemed interested, but then they motioned for me to come on to the ferry, so I had to go. The next day Uncle Piet sent us a text message saying this missionary purchased 300 Bibles. This was God's answer to our dilemma--a another miracle and a big answer to prayer! Uncle Piet can easily transport the remaining Bibles to more rural villages and cities farther north in Zambia now.
After all the customs and immigration formalities at the Botswana border, we started the long journey south. For about 40 miles between Pandamatenga and Nata, the road was in terrible condition with DEEP potholes. Many of them were easily 6 inches deep, and some close to a foot. The edges were very sharp and abrupt. Along the road we saw 5 broken trucks, mostly tires, or bent wheels, but one had a broken axle. Some of the road was just full of potholes and people were driving in the sand beside the road. Other places you would just get up your speed for a mile or two as you swerved around small pot holes then have to slam on your brakes to go off the edge of the road into the sand or crawl through a huge hole. In daylight, these potholes were easily visible by the long skid marks made by heavy trucks trying to get stopped. At night the road would be absolutely treacherous. I think we averaged less than 25 miles an hour through that section.
Through the rest of Botswana, the roads were in good condition, but our progress was still slow because of the huge caravan we were pulling. It is heavy (nearly a ton), taller and longer than my truck, and over two feet wider. It has a LOT of wind resistance, and with diesel and $6.00 a gallon, I took it pretty easy. We drove just under 50 mph. The top speed on level ground was around 55 mph!
We spent Friday night at a little campground place in Palapye in central Botswana. It is neat and clean, has lots of good African character, and we slept well in spite of the noise from the surrounding village. Because it was Friday night (I suppose) the music at the local bars was still going strong when I woke up at 4:30 the next morning!
After changing a leaking tire, we headed south again about 6:30 Saturday morning. This part of Botswana always seems very long and monotonous to me. It is flat with low mopane bush and sage brush. Occasionally there are interesting natural rock piles, donkey standing in the road, or a few cows that help to break the long monotony. We crossed into South Africa after passing through Gaborone, the capitol city of Botswana. From there we continued south to Zeerust through much more hilly terrain. This area has lots of wild aloes that were in bloom this time of year. They are very interesting and unusual.
At Zeerust we left Malan (the plumber from Johannesburg) and Ian (a school teacher who also lives near Johannesburg) at Malan's relatives house. They were going to spend Saturday there and then drive home Sunday afternoon. Since we took the caravan to Namibia four years ago, South Africa made a law that all trailers have to have a yellow reflective tape along 80% of of their length and across the back. We bought and installed this tape to avoid hefty fines. Then we left about 2:00pm for a long but uneventful trip down through South Africa to Lesotho. I got home about 11:30pm.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support. These trips always test our faith, but because of the many people praying for us, we are blessed to see God's providence in special ways. Your financial support is also so important. As prices of everything rise both here in Africa and where you live we know that giving becomes more of a sacrifice. I wish that all of you could see the results of your sacrifice as people's faces light up and they hug their new Bibles. It truly is rewarding to have a part in building God's Kingdom!
I'm going to try to put this on our blog and add a few pictures. You might want to look at the pictures there. gaultsinlesotho.blogspot.com