|Central Africa for Christ - April 2008|
An epic battle is raging in Central Africa. It is the battle for the soul of a continent. Communism, Islam and Christianity are locked in a World War of Worldviews.
We undertook this mission to deliver desperately needed literature and leadership training for those involved in the frontline of this spiritual conflict. Missionaries and evangelists to Angola, the Congo and Zimbabwe were requesting assistance. We had invitations to conduct Leadership Training seminars in Zambia, and yet there were no young men available to answer the call and respond to the need.
‘Whom Shall I Send?’
My father-in-law, Rev. Bill Bathman, who recently celebrated his 80 th birthday, offered his services.“I’ll drive the supplies to Zambia and conduct whatever meetings you need,” he offered.
I knew that he meant it. Last year, Bill Bathman took my place in our mission to Zambia, conducting the services and seminars I was scheduled for, to enable me to conduct the funeral service for my oldest sister, Kath. Earlier, Rev. Bathman had driven 8,000 kilometres overland from Cape Town to Sudan to deliver a vehicle and desperately needed supplies to our mission base there.
‘Give Me That Mountain!’
However, despite this Caleb type response (“Give me that mountain!”), I knew that younger men needed to complete this particular mission. I contacted co-worker John Leach, who had been a fellow soldier and member of the original military prayer fellowship which I had started back in 1979. It was out of this Bible Study and Prayer Fellowship in the infantry that the vision for the mission of Frontline Fellowship developed. He agreed that, although we are in our late forties, we need to show the younger people how it should be done.
Although this would be a challenging mission involving 9,000 kilometres by road, across four borders, and involving potentially dangerous situations, the Lord impressed it upon my heart that my younger son, 8 year-old Calvin, should also be part of the team. My wife, Lenora, was aghast at all the schooling and extra-murals that he would miss. Especially as Lenora would have only just returned from a three-week trip to Europe accompanying our youngest daughter, Daniela, on her ice-skating competitions.
It was my firm conviction, however, that Calvin would learn more on the road, and in this mission, than he possibly could through any theoretical book work and classroom instruction. Even more importantly, I believed that the Lord would use him in ministry in a way that neither John nor I could be used, and this is exactly what the Lord accomplished.
Overland mission trips involve a bewildering amount of preparation. Books, Bibles, Gospel literature, tracts and audio-visual materials in numerous languages need to be ordered, prepared, printed, allocated and packed. Our four-wheel drive vehicle already had over 330,000 kilometres on the clock. It had completed more overland missions across Africa to Sudan than anyone could remember, so every aspect of the vehicle needed to be double-checked, with many parts being repaired or replaced. The week before departure the clutch gave in, and an important engine part needed replacing. We wondered what other surprises were ahead for us on the road. We both agreed that it was definitely time to acquire a new field vehicle, but this was the only one available for this mission.
Correspondence with contacts in the field to organise the many services and seminars had been on the go for over six months. Yet there was still much fine tuning to be done in the weeks leading up to the countdown.
Space is limited in a one-ton pick up truck, so we had to carefully consider the needs and requests of the Bible colleges, churches, mission bases, schools, chaplains and evangelists that we needed to supply. Highest priority was given to Zambia and Zimbabwe, but missionaries and evangelists ministering in Angola, the Congo and Namibia also needed to be re-supplied.
For the last seven years it has been my practice to produce at least one leadership training book a year which can be given to pastors, teachers, evangelists and chaplains attending our conferences and courses in the field. This year, the book that we were distributing to participants in our seminars was: The Power of Prayer Handbook.
However we were also racing against the clock to see if the new, revised and expanded edition ofBiblical Principles for Africa could be printed in time to also make this trip - so that we could distribute them to Zambian Christians in government. By God’s grace, the first consignment of Biblical Principles for Africa arrived just in time to also be included in the valuable cargo. All this needed to be carefully wrapped and sealed so as to be waterproof on the roof rack.
Although we had no idea what torrential rains we would be driving through, we realised that rain was a possibility and so great care was taken in order to wrap this valuable literature in multiple layers of waterproof material.
Frontline Administrator, Gill, also had numerous packages and boxes of valuable Gospel literature for us to deliver, or post, in the field for the Library Programme. Africa Christian Action Co-ordinator, Taryn, had numerous packages, boxes of Christian Action literature and newsletters, and Franschhoek Declarations for the Christian Action Network Conference, and key contacts in the field. Others gave us specific gifts for individuals.
We realised that we were not only ambassadors for Christ, but postmen and deliverymen with quite a bewildering array of items to deliver and key contacts to find. Sometimes the contact details were quite sketchy, and so maps, directions and communication devices were essentials. Little did we realise how much all of that would be necessary on this trip.
John and I worked through the night preparing everything necessary, from water purification systems to vehicle tools, lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations, sermon notes, print runs, stationary purchases, Boxes of Love for Zimbabwe, and much, much more.
However, although I remembered everything else, including inoculations, mosquito nets and malaria medication, somehow I left it to the last minute to open the safe to look for my son’s passport. Calvin’s passport was missing! A frantic and thorough search failed to turn up his passport.
Several people advised me to leave Calvin behind, but I would not consider it. Tershia and Gill quickly phoned around to find where we could most urgently obtain a new passport for Calvin. Soon Lenora and I were heading out with Calvin to join a long queue and fill in the necessary papers to apply for an emergency passport. By God’s grace, this was achieved in a couple of hours, and, by early afternoon, John, Calvin and I were on the road. By the next day we had made up the lost time and were back on schedule.
Travelling With Spurgeon
For our team Devotions we were reading from C.H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. It was extraordinary how appropriate and on target the daily readings from the Prince of Preachers were.
The second day of our journey we were in the middle of a desert driving in boiling hot conditions when suddenly a rear tyre blew. By God’s grace, John, who was driving, managed to maintain control over the vehicle, and, without touching the brakes, which could have caused the vehicle to roll, brought the truck safely to a standstill at the side of the road.
As we examined the tyre we were horrified to see that it had been full of tyre foam, of the sort that one might use for a quick and convenient seal of a puncture so that one could drive on to the next town and have it repaired or replaced. Here we had driven almost a thousand kilometers, in a heavily-laden pick up truck, on a previous puncture blocked only by some foam sealant! It was an- accident-waiting-for-somewhere-to-happen. In the midday heat of the desert, the inevitable had happened. It was only by the mercies of God that the vehicle hadn’t capsized and rolled.
We praised God for His protection and set to work to replace the tyre. Within a few minutes an eighteen-wheeler truck came barreling over the hill and splintered our red triangle to pieces! Fortunately it missed us. We put a second warning out, even further, and prayed that, along with our flashing hazard lights, this would be sufficient warning for passing traffic to avoid us. Soon we were on our way and able to purchase another spare tyre in a nearby town.
Our communications was hampered by the Frontline Fellowship field telephone being unusable throughout the trip. For some reason the battery was completely dead and wouldn’t recharge. However, even after we purchased another battery for the phone en-route, we found that the codes we were given would not activate the phone. This wasn’t too serious, as John had his own phone, and bought a new sim-card in each country we travelled through to be able to have communications. However, at our first stop in Zambia, his cell-phone was stolen out of the vehicle door while we were distracted with a number of people trying to sell items to us.
As there were some key contacts with whom we had no directions or physical addresses, only telephone numbers, this could have been a serious problem. However, a friend in America, who had recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, had sent his satellite phone to us for emergency communications. He had also purchased 500 minutes airtime as a gift for us! He could not have realised how useful this would become for us, and how God used His thoughtfulness and generosity to enable this complicated mission to achieve all its objectives.
Before we reached Zambia we had important boxes of World Missionary Gospel booklets, Christians books and Discipleship materials to deliver to a key pastor. It was dark by now and we drove through a spectacular electric thunderstorm. The sky was regularly lit up from one side to the other by brilliant bolts of lightning. As the rain began to fall we were relieved that we had taken such care in waterproofing all the valuable literature on the roof rack.
By God’s grace, we passed through military and police checkpoints without incident. Because of the storm the soldiers were huddled in their shelters, and not wanting to get wet, and just waved us on.
Soon we had the joy of meeting our contact and following him through the back roads to where we off-loaded the precious boxes of Gospel and Discipleship material. We were assured that many pastors, Bible students, teachers and evangelists would be blessed by these materials.
After a night of fellowship and catching up on news, we drove out early in the morning for Zambia.
En-route we had the joy of seeing the spectacular Victoria Falls - truly one of the greatest natural wonders in the world. The mighty Zambezi River plunges over this mile wide 300 feet high waterfall at a rate of 500 million litres a minute. On this day, because of the heavy rainfalls, Victoria Falls was in full flood. We could see the spray from the Falls from 70 kilometres away.
In the Footsteps of Livingstone
As we parked and walked to view the Falls we passed by a statue of missionary explorer Dr. David Livingstone. To the local people Victoria Falls was a sacred place where they believed a huge snakeNyami – Nyami (the river god) lived. Therefore until David Livingstone, human beings never stepped foot there. He discovered an animal sanctuary undisturbed by humans. It was Dr. David Livingstone who first saw, sketched, named and made known to the world what we now know as Victoria Falls.
It was in 1855 that David Livingstone had set out by makoro (canoe) upstream from the Falls, approaching the thundering smoke which the local people called “the smoke that thunders.” He landed on an island on the lip of the Falls (now called Livingstone Island) and from there crawled to the edge to obtain his first view of the Falls.
David Livingstone later wrote that this was: “The most wonderful sight I had witnessed in Africa. No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes, but something so lovely must have been gazed upon by Angels in flight.”
During the Rhodesian War
It was a breathtaking sight. As Calvin and I were thoroughly drenched by the spray of this thunderous waterfall, I remembered the first time I had stood at Victoria Falls as a young 12 year-old schoolboy. It was 1972 and Rhodesia was being targeted by communist terrorists. Two young Canadian girls, tourists, standing right where I was standing, had recently been shot dead by soldiers from the Zambian side. These were only the most recent examples of the ongoing terrorist campaign against Rhodesia. When I had first looked out across the Zambezi River at Zambia to the North, I remembered feeling the same sense of fascination mixed with horror and apprehension that I had felt when looking across the barbed wire and minefields separating East and West Germany. Zambia was the enemy! “I will never be able to stand on that side of the border,” I remember thinking.
From Communism to Christ
And yet, on so many other occasions since, I had not only stood on the other side, but been welcomed onto the army bases, police stations and prisons of Zambia to proclaim God’s Word and received by their President at State House.
The land which had been the communist base from which Soviet landmines, heat-seeking red-eyemissiles, and the AK 47s and RPGs which had killed so many farmers and school children, had now renounced socialist humanism and embraced Christianity.
Zimbabwe in Ruins
Now the land where I had been brought up, Rhodesia, was no longer the productive paradise for wildlife that it had once been. The most productive agriculture economy in Africa had been systematically destroyed under the communist dictatorship of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. Now we needed to smuggle in food, medicines and relief aid to the destitute and starving Christians in Zimbabwe.
We passed by vervet monkeys and baboons along Zambezi Drive as we made our way to Lusaka. This was my 14 th mission trip to Zambia. We arrived late at night at a campsite outside Lusaka.
From Beer Hall to Bible Conference
Early the next morning we were setting up for our first appointment: The Christian Action NetworkFire of God Conference. Our host, Bishop Peter Ndhlovu, greeted us warmly and helped us off-load all the great books and other resources we were bringing for the Conference delegates.
We needed to rearrange the seats and tables in order to accommodate the PowerPoint slide presentations by projecting onto a large white wall. Hundreds of chairs needed to be moved around, but this venue, The Bible Gospel Church in Africa congregation in Matero, is very versatile. The building used to be a beer hall before Pastor Ndhlovu converted it into a church sanctuary. Big and bold banners around the walls declared the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest Commandment, missionary vision, a hunger for Revival and numerous Scripture verses.
As we were setting up I was horrified to find that I could not open a single one of my PowerPoints. Although, for over 6 years, my laptop and video projector have accompanied me on Leadership Training conferences as far afield as Nigeria and the Congo, this was the first time I had experienced such a problem. John, who knows much more about computers than I, tried in vain. Not even my backup data CDs could be used as my laptop just informed me that I did not have the program necessary to open any PowerPoints! It turned out later that someone had sabotaged my computer by corrupting the very program needed for these presentations.
Improvise, Adapt and Overcome
While John and I were trying to get my PowerPoints up and running, Calvin stepped in and began training the conference delegates in Way of the Master and Evangelism Explosion Gospel presentations. By God’s grace, John had his laptop, and with some data CDs I had with me, we were able to present all the lectures necessary with PowerPoint visual accompaniment.
Reviving the Prayer Meeting
My first message at the CAN Conference was: Whatever Happened to the Prayer Meeting? The response to this challenge was quite extraordinary. Bishop Ndhlovu informed the members of his congregation that they would be holding an all-night prayer meeting the very next Friday! In fact, over 200 people, including the youth groups, responded to the pastor’s challenge to gather for the all-night prayer vigil the following Friday. John, Calvin and I were invited to launch this all-night prayer vigil with Scripture and further teaching on Praying the Psalms. By God’s grace, we were able to return from our ministry in Kabwe just in time for this event.
The Bishop also arranged for a TV crew to come and interview me concerning Biblical Economics and the challenge for Reformation in Zambia. The TV crew also recorded Calvin’s Evangelism Explosion Gospel presentation. These clips were broadcast that Sunday night, and again re-broadcast Monday morning, nationwide. Throughout the rest of the mission trip, Calvin was approached by strangers who thanked him for his presentations, which they had seen on TV.
Equipped and Empowered
There was tremendous enthusiasm for the messages on Revival, Reformation and Missions. We distributed hundreds of copies of The Power of Prayer Handbook and Biblical Principles for Africa to delegates. Over 240 participants registered for this Christian Action Network Conference.
During the open discussion time, Zambian pastors who had completed Frontline Fellowship’s Great Commission Course in Cape Town testified how their ministries had been transformed and empowered. One pastor spoke of how he had managed to unite many of the pastors in their rural area in evangelism in the market place using The Way of the Master and Evangelism Explosionapproaches. God’s Law is the schoolmaster that leads us to Christ, he concluded. Many souls had been saved and lives transformed by these outreaches.
Reorganising our Resources
That evening we had to pull everything out of the back of the pick-up truck and reorganize and repack. Although we hadn’t been on the road for a week, there was already disorder and dirt to wage war against. To ensure that nothing was missed, and that the right materials were delivered to those who most needed them, we took advantage of the temporarily clear skies to reorganize everything.
Walking With Wildlife
During an early morning run Calvin and I got thoroughly lost in dense bush and we came back with literally hundreds of thorns in our clothes and shoes and many cuts and scratches. We didn’t see many animals that first day, but we saw lots of spoor. On other days we saw giraffes, impala, zebra and other wildlife.
Calvin pulled out some cat food for several wild cats that made themselves known to us, and thereafter every morning, without fail, they were there when we woke up and emerged from our mosquito nets. One night I woke up to the sound of somebody rustling through our bags. I leaped up, torch in hand and illuminated a wild cat who had decided to help himself to one of the whiskers sachets of cat food! With his claws he had ripped the sachet open and was enjoying a midnight feast!
Calvin Challenges the Congregation
Next morning as John headed off to conduct another church service, Calvin and I headed for the Bible Gospel Church in Africa congregation in Matero. Bishop Ndhlovu called Calvin to the front and asked him to present to the congregation what he had impressed upon the conference the previous day.
Calvin strode up to the platform, and facing the congregation of well over a thousand people, loudly proclaimed the Ten Commandments, followed with the Evangelism Explosion Gospel Presentation, several Scripture verses, the Apostles Creed and ended with Ephesians 6:10-18 – The Full Armour of God.
There were loud cheers and spontaneous applause throughout the congregation. Bishop Ndhlovu then asked Calvin to recite some other Scripture memorisation, and challenged the congregation to be more diligent in memorizing Scripture themselves, and in training up their children in the way they should go, so that when they are old they will not depart from it.
Earnestly Seeking God
I found the congregation most receptive and enthusiastic for my sermon on Personal Revival – The Fire of God. Immediately following the sermon, the congregation spontaneously erupted into prayer, and for a long time people were earnestly seeking the Lord, with hands raised, or on their knees, pouring out their hearts to the Lord. It was a precious time of worship “in Spirit and in Truth.”
God and Government
The next day we were received by the Minister of Home Affairs, General Ronnie Shikapwasha, MP, and by the Minister of Information, Mr Mulongoti, MP. We were able to hand over to these cabinet ministers copies of the new, revised and expanded edition of Biblical Principles for Africa. These were received with much enthusiasm and we were able to discuss many practical implications of Biblical principles for economics and education, crime and punishment and other national issues.
I expressed my great concern that the Secular Humanist textbooks of the Kaunda era, with all their situation ethics and evolutionary propaganda, be replaced with thoroughly Christian textbooks based on the facts of Creation and applying the Lordship of Jesus Christ to all areas of life. We also discussed the importance of chaplains, not only for the army, police and prisons, but for all in the Civil Service.
The evolutionary exhibits of the Livingstone Museum (which include imaginative ape men, hostile comments against the Church and positive presentations of witchcraft) were also discussed. I strongly recommend that the Zambian government contact the Creation Museum, near Cincinnati, in the USA, for assistance in transforming the Livingstone Museum into a scientifically accurate, Creation Museum. This would be worthy of the name of Dr. David Livingstone, and of the Christian commitment of the nation of Zambia. Considering that Victoria Falls is the greatest natural tourist attraction in Africa, the potential for attracting more tourists to Zambia, through a high-quality Creation-orientated museum in Livingstone would be absolutely tremendous.
Protecting the Right to Life
We also met with Bishop Paul Mususu, the President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia. We discussed the threats to the right to life of pre-born babies by those who are seeking to implement the African Union’s agenda to force legalized abortion on all member states. The danger of these internationalist organizations with their Humanist agendas, was discussed. Bishop Mususu expressed his appreciation for the research and resources from the Christian Action Network.
Then there were some pastors needing counselling, and we had the opportunity of meeting like minded American and British missionaries of Zambia Action. They have a dynamic leadership and literature ministry which we can network and co-operate with.
Integrity in Ministry
In the evening, John and I spoke to the Kanyama Pastors Fellowship. Only six candles lit the large church hall. Yet, numerous cell phones regularly interrupted the Bible Study and discussion time and we had to give some advice on how to discourage the answering of cell phones during services. Problems with the Kanyama Bible College which we had helped launch were also discussed with the Pastors Fellowship. Most of the students have never paid their (very nominal) student fees, and the college had failed to pay the (very minimal) rent at the mission base they were using. John spoke very forthrightly concerning integrity and honesty in our Christian witness. At one time it seemed as though a riot would erupt!
Early the next morning Calvin ministered to the Baptist school in Kanyama township. The whole assembly of all grades, were vigorously involved in the Romans 6:23 Marching Song, repeating TheEvangelism Explosion Gospel presentation, and key Scriptures. Then John presented a Devotional challenge to the assembly and we were off driving down muddy dirt roads to the Christian Vocational Training College.
Here I presented a lecture on TheCrusades vs Jihad and on Muslim Evangelism. Then, during Q & A, John and Calvin ensured that each student and staff member received a copy of The Power of Prayer Handbook. After lunch with the Faculty, we were off to Christian Voice Radio for an interview and to hand over many of our Reformation Society, Biblical Worldview Summit and Livingstone Fellowship lectures and sermon CDs for future broadcasts.
That evening John lectured at the Kanyama Bible College while Calvin and I were ministering to Africa overlanders, backpackers and others at the campsite. An incident had occurred on the weekend when I had spoken to a loud and obviously drunk group of adults. They had responded abusively, and with swearing and blasphemy. When I rebuked the one man for taking the Lord’s Name in vain and swearing in front of a child, he stood up and threatened me: “I’m a police officer – I’ll beat you up! I can have you locked up! I’ll panel beat you!”
Some of his other drinking companions added: “We need another Mugabe in this country! We don’t need any of you people! We need a Zimbabwe right here. This is our country!” Another one added: “We don’t need people like you here!”
The situation was quite explosive, and volatile. However, by God’s grace, Calvin and I persevered with these loud, drunk, rude and abusive individuals until emotions had calmed down, and we were able to communicate rationally and constructively. Soon one of the men who had been very insulting and abusive was quite tearful and admitted that his life was in a real mess and that he needed God. He asked me to get him a Bible and pleaded for prayer.
The police officer who had threatened me, identified himself as an Assistant Superintendent. I expressed concern that someone in his position could threaten to abuse his authority and to so blatantly break the law by threatening violence against a foreign visitor to the country. When he heard that I was a friend of the Minister of Home Affairs, General Shikapwasha, he seemed to sober up instantly.
While I was talking to these people, Calvin was busy playing with their children. What had initially seemed like a disastrous confrontation finally ended up as a most constructive time of discussion and evangelism.
The next morning we were ministering at the assembly of the Baptist Theological Seminary. The Principal informed me that the President of Zambia, Levi Mwanawasa, worshipped at the same church where the seminary assembly was being held. He had in fact been baptised in that church. My missions presentation of The 10-40 Window and Sudan was well received by the students and staff.
Then we were driving across town, and over very bad muddy roads, to the Apostolic Faith Mission Bible College at Kasupe. They were most impressed with Calvin’s Scripture memorisation and I lectured on Judges 2 & 3 and Deuteronomy 6. John concluded with a powerful challenge to know the Word of God and the God of the Word.
School Ministry in Kabwe
At the end of this long day ministering at Bible colleges, we found the great North Road and headed two hours North to Kabwe. There we met up with our longtime friend Eugene Kalunga, Principal of Excellence Christian Academy. The next days were filled with lecture presentations in the various classes. Calvin moved from pre-school through grade 1, 2, 3 & 4 teaching the Ten Commandments, the Greatest Commandment, The Romans 6:23 Marching Song and the Evangelism Explosion Gospel presentation. John and I worked our way through the various classes dealing with The Bible and Animals, Church and World History and Evangelism.
Each morning we also had Devotions with the teachers, and on Friday afternoon we all took part in the hour-long Assembly. I preached on Daniel 3, Calvin presented the Ten Commandments andEvangelism Explosion. Everyone took part in the Roman 6:23 Marching Song and EE presentation. John concluded with a challenge to change their world for Christ.
In the afternoon, while John and Calvin visited the Pro Christo Mission base, I lectured at The Rock Bible College on: You Are What You Read and God’s Law or Chaos. A military chaplain who had completed our Great Commission Course was also part of the college. I loaded him up with some good literature for his strategic ministry.
Reformation and Revival
Then we needed to drive back to Lusaka in time to help launch the all-night prayer vigil in Matero. The atmosphere in the church was electric. As we went to prayer, the people erupted in enthusiastic intercession. On Saturday morning, over 440 people, from 86 different churches and ministries, gathered together for the Reformation and Revival Seminar in Kanyama. There were several church choirs which led the worship. Everyone participated in following Calvin’s EE Gospel presentation.
I lectured on God’s Law or Chaos. There almost was chaos when The Power of Prayer Handbooks started to be distributed as some people were desperately concerned that they might miss out! I also presented lectures on The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived and Biblical Principles for the Nation. The hunger for discipleship literature was intense. Boxes of Chapel Library materials were snapped up in minutes. Chaplains and evangelists from all over the country came for boxes of World Missionary Press Gospel booklets, Christian Action leaflets, and other evangelistic and Discipleship resources. Some evangelists had travelled all the way from the Eastern Province to participate in the conference. We ensured they went back with boxes of great evangelistic materials.
Bibles and Bikes
It was also a joy and privilege to equip 24 evangelists and pastors with bicycles – as part of our Bibles and Bikes programme to put wheels under the Word and enable evangelists to reach more people more often.
Besieged by Bars
Then, after this full day seminar, we still had another service at a church besieged by bars and nightclubs. While being bombarded and heckled by pagan noise all around, Calvin boldly and effectively presented the Gospel. John stood up and gave a most inspired evangelistic sermon. The results were electrifying as more than 60% of the congregation came forward and made a public commitment of their lives to Christ. Bishop Bwanali, John, Calvin and I prayed with many of these individuals as the sun was going down and darkness was precluding any further ministry. There was no electricity in this part of town.
Communion in Kanyama
The next day, while John was busy ministering elsewhere, Calvin and I were the guest of Bishop Bwanali at his Baptist Church in Kanyama. I preached on Ezekiel 37 – Can These Bones Live? This was followed by a Communion Service and a precious time of prayer with our good friend Bishop Bwanali Phiri. We handed over supplies for Zimbabwe and prisoners, for the team that was going to cross the border that very next week.
Driving Where Livingstone Walked
Then we were off to Livingstone. The further from Lusaka we went and the closer to Livingstone we approached, the worse the roads deteriorated. Perhaps that was somehow appropriate. As I have often pointed out to young missionary volunteers who complain about the bad roads and cramped conditions in our vehicles: “We drive where Livingstone walked!” When visitors ask whether a certain location is “in walking distance”, I reply: “Well, actually everywhere in Africa is in walking distance – David Livingstone proved that! The question is whether you have the necessary time to walk there.”
In Zambia we had delivered and distributed almost a ton of Gospel and Discipleship literature and ministered to 5 Bible colleges, 4 churches, 3 mission bases, 2 Christian schools and to military, police and prison chaplains. So far we had conducted more than 50 public meetings, but there was much more to see and do as we were going to return to South Africa via the Caprivi Strip and Namibia.
The Golden Highway
We still had more literature to deliver and contacts to meet on this return trip, but it was also a vital part of Calvin’s ongoing education to be introduced to the Operational Area where John and I had spent so many years during the Border War.
So much had changed. Instead of crossing the mighty Zambezi River by ferry at Sesheke, we now were able to drive across on a magnificent bridge (courtesy of the Federal Government of Germany). Instead of the frustrating and dangerous dirt road (the famous Golden Highway) we drove on a magnificent smooth straight and broad tarred road across the whole length of the Caprivi Strip. This road was also courtesy of Germany. I remembered that Colonel Jan Breytenbach had observed that some of his units had lost more good men to vehicle accidents on the treacherous Golden Highway, than they had in combat with the enemy.
In fact, during that unforgettable December 1994 when Frontline Fellowship sent four vehicles into the field, and only one came back, we had had one of our vehicles roll on the Golden Highway in Caprivi. Despite the lack of visibility in the huge clouds of dust churned up by trucks, our pick-up truck had been attempting to overtake a truck when, to avoid an imminent a head-on collision, it had to leave the road and rolled, crushing the canopy.
As this was at the very beginning of the series of mission trips we had planned for that December, this presented us with several problems. It was the rainy season and without a canopy extraordinary measures had to be taken to in order to secure the literature and other vital equipment.
Ambushed and Arrested
I was in Zambia conducting a Biblical Worldview Seminar when the word came through that another of our mission teams had been ambushed, arrested, and imprisoned in the Caprivi. They had succeeded in delivering almost a ton of Bibles, Gospels and medicines to the beleaguered Christians in South East Angola. It was on their return trip, that they were ambushed by the Namibian Defense Force. Many rounds of machine gun fire were fired at their vehicle, but by God’s grace, they were unharmed. They were thrown into a stinking, filthy, overcrowded Namibian jail, and we had to mobilize international prayer and pressure to have them released. When the Lord opened prison doors and set the captives free, part of the team returned to South Africa in the pick-up that had been rolled earlier on the Golden Highway. The others waited for the vehicle I had driven up to retrieve them, as their land rover had made its last trip into Angola. Then we heard that our field worker, Anthony Duncan, had died in a head-on collision just south of the Orange River. (Bill Bathman wrote of that traumatic trip in Angola By the Back Door.)
Testimonies of God’s Protection and Life Transforming Power
Many other memories of my 24 mission trips to South West Africa/Namibia and Angola came flooding back. John pointed out areas where he had crossed the border into Angola on previous Bible smuggling operations. We shared testimonies of God’s protection under fire, incidents on patrols, stories of fellow soldiers who had come to Christ through our prayer fellowships and Bible studies on the border.
We drove past Wenela, which at one time had been the South African Marine base on the Zambezi. Katima Mulilo, once the headquarters for Sector 70. I related to Calvin stories of when Katima Mulilo came under mortar and rocket attack from SWAPO terrorist bases in Zambia. Mpacha, the Air Force base from where many hot pursuits and raids were launched across the Zambezi.
A magnificent fish eagle, circled us as we passed by numerous wildlife and saw evidence of elephant herds in the area. We passed by the Omega, once the base for the old 201 (Bushman) Battalion, and Buffalo Base where once the legendary 32 Battalion had operated. Col. Breytenbach had recruited thousands of FNLA guerillas – black Portuguese-speaking Angolans – to join the South African Defence Force and fight against the communist SWAPO and MPLA.
It was a trip down memory lane, and an opportunity to expand the education of my son, as John and I related various ministry and military testimonies prompted by these landmarks in our old Operational Area.
Swimming With the Crocodiles and Hippos
After a long, hot day driving, John recommended that we swim in the Kavango River. “But that’s full of crocodiles!” I warned. “No, Peter,” John responded, “That was back in the 80’s and 90’s. There’s no more crocodiles around here anymore”, he assured me. During his more recent missions into Angola, he had swum in the Kavango several times, without incident. I was a little skeptical, remembering my experiences with the crocodiles in the Kavango back in the 1980’s, but I took his word for it. It was very hot.
The tide of the mighty Kavango was tremendous, and it took real hard effort for us not to be washed downstream. When we came out of the river onto the banks, we saw what was obviously the spoor (footprints) of hippos. As hippos kill far more people every year in Africa than crocodiles, this created some concern. Shortly after that, as the sun had set and darkness was descending, Calvin stepped on a snake. His flashlight illuminated a long two and a half metre python crossing our path. As he reached down to pick it up, I reminded him that he’s not Steven Erwin! Some pythons can be surprisingly agile, and although they do not have any poison, they have some very vicious teeth and the ability to wrap around and crush one to death.
Moments later some locals informed us that we were “crazy” to swim in the Kavango. “There are lots of crocodiles here! There’s a five metre crocodile that we saw here just recently.”
Near Rundu I was able to show Calvin the Sector 20 HQ where we had held many evangelistic chaplains meetings. John and I pointed out the Angolan towns on the other side of the Kavango River through which we had smuggled many Bibles in the past.
Calvin was fascinated to notice the massive anthills, and how all of the anthills seem to point north. Calvin was also fascinated with all the wide variety of insects and night sounds in the bush. In some of the game areas, Calvin and I sat on the roof rack for better view. The dirt roads in Namibia were still well maintained, but the country had received huge amounts of rainfall, causing flooding in some areas, and many of the roads were very muddy. Before we left Namibia, Calvin had seen lots of magnificent gemsbok, giraffe, kudu, springbok, impala, wildebeest and lion.
It was early in the morning, and as we were heading down the road, we saw a large herd of springbok to our left. Then on our right we saw a magnificent male lion striding purposefully to outflank them while two lioness crouched in the bushes close by us, almost within reach. We switched off our engine and sat for a long time watching these very alert lions positioning themselves for what seemed to be breakfast. However, when other cars joined us, and then an Africa Overlander truck, the lions moved off - frustrated in their plans.
We continued to see many magnificent eagles, kestrels, falcons and impressive condominium nests where hundreds of birds co-operate together to build architecturally impressive nest complexes.
The Alte Festa and Christuskirche
In Windhoek, while John went off to deliver books to his contacts, I showed Calvin the Alte Feste Fort, which the German Army had built in 1890. Outside was the magnificent horse and rider monument to the Schutztruppe who had brought peace to this long troubled land. The inter-tribal warfare and genocidal conflicts which ravaged South West Africa were finally brought to and end when missionaries pleaded with the European powers to intervene. As the British felt over-committed they limited themselves to occupying Walvis Bay harbour alone. It was up to Chancellor Bismarck to declare South West Africa a German protectorate, and send a very small contingent to establish law and order in the region. These courageous pioneers, at great cost to their own lives, brought an end to the over 60 years of vicious massacres and enslavements which had devastated the area.
Nearby, dominating the horizon of Windhoek, is the magnificent Christuskirche built in 1907 by Lutheran missionaries. Unfortunately, the ideology of the present regime is evident in the fact that the Christuskirche is now on the corner of Robert Mugabe Avenue and Fidel Castro Street!
At a military roadblock just before exiting the country, we had the opportunity to distribute the last four Bibles in the back of our truck. There was much excitement from those who received them, and some indignation from other soldiers that we did not have enough for them.
By the time we reached Cape Town, we could praise the Lord for His protection over 9,000 kilometres, His perfect timing, and multiplied blessings upon every aspect of this diverse and complex mission trip.
Thank you so very much to each one of you who prayed for, and supported us. We were very conscious of what a privilege it is to be your servants, delivering vital materials to strategic ministries. We had the privilege of seeing the overwhelming and deep appreciation of pastors, teachers, chaplains and evangelists who are also very grateful for your partnership.
May the Lord abundantly bless and reward you for all your thoughtfulness and faithfulness in helping to make this mission possible.
Yours for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Dr Peter Hammond