Honey Badgers and all that…

6800 Kilometres, 68000 metres, 4080 miles. It was certainly a long way to go. The car loaded up with everything you would take away on holiday, plus everything you need to take in Africa, some spares, fuel, water and lots of dust (well you collect it on the way). After being quite done in during July we decided to go away for 3 weeks and after some deliberation decided upon Namibia.

Now of course, those that know me will know that I can’t resist doing a little bit of work wherever I go, whether it be thinking, meeting someone or plotting in my head. So you won’t be surprised that on our trip, we had a few incidents and happenings that gave I think perhaps a greater significance to our journey. To give you an idea I thought I would write about them here.

On the way, we stayed in Livingstone for a couple of nights. After a manic day driving to Lusaka, getting the car balancing sorted and having a roof rack made (yes made on the way!) then driving on to Lusaka, we thought we would stay put a little. Apart from seeing Victoria Falls, this gave the opportunity to meet up with Sly who happened to be in Livingstone before setting off to Botswana. Sly is part of a trio of people who work around Namibia and Botswana. He’s 27, his friends Bernard and Keegan are 25. Well they just go off to places and stay for 3 months doing mission. I like it! So inspiring to see. Well between us we have possibly hatched a plot to plant the Life! Initiative in Botswana. It all depends how it opens up, however it was such an encouraging conversation, I thought that I would mention it here.

After Livingstone, it was a long drive to Windhoek, via Rundu and the main road via Otjiwarongo and Okhandjia. Nothing special happened in Windhoek suffice to say that we made it and that it was a brush with a more ‘normal’ life. As soon as you leave Rundu, it’s like you leave Southern Central Africa. Everything is neater and well the towns are like towns, rather than collections of semi dilapidated buildings. The distances are vast, you can drive for hundreds of kilometres and pass only a handful of villages. Again, these are concentrated to the north, and the further south you go the less villages of the traditional type there are.

That certainly rings true in the desert. On to Swakopmund with it’s European feel, where else can you sit in a Konditorei in Africa? Where else can you have Shwarzwalder Kiersch Torte or no end of German baking delicacies? In the early morning with the fog, it is like it is raining, I think it was 7 degrees one morning. I’ve got to admit it was heavenly being away from the dust and heat. Yet, go 30 km into the desert from Swakopmund and you are back in it, amazing.

We spent some 7 days camped here and simply put the feet up, relaxed and did things like quad biking and dune boarding. The kind of things missionaries do………… ūüôā

It was on the way back that some of the lessons came flooding in. It is difficult to drive an entire distance to a destination in Namibia in one day. It is too big, too little people and too little in between. So, you have to stay over at many places. One of the things you can do is stay on a Guest Farm, and we ended up on one such farm called Vreugde (see http://www.vreugdeguestfarm.com) We had driven over the desert, then into the hills of the Kaokoveld, past some of the Namibia’s highest mountains in the Brandberg massif. Then onwards towards Etosha National park which was where we were headed. Situated just south in a conveniant location was the guest farm.

I can safely say, I have never and I mean NEVER, had such a warm welcome anywhere as we did at that guest farm. It really wasn’t a surprise to find out the Elsie, a likeable larger than life woman who speaks at least Afrikaans, German and English, was actually a Christian. Maybe at dinner when she spoke about people needing to know Jesus, gave it away. In the surrounding areas, over the last 20 years, she had been doing mission work with the workers of the farm compounds in their area. What really encouraged me is that a lot of values that are important to the Life! Initiative, were so much in evidence here. Fantastic! She was even careful about outside help (investors as she called them) as she was worried about the effect that ‘aid’ would have on people. I couldn’t have said it better myself! I’ve travelled a lot in Africa, but have not met many people who share my sometimes more ‘radical’ views on mission in the church. It was great to find some people who did.

The second thing was the structure of rural society. We have concentrated predominantly on villages, which is our calling, but I have also begun to realise that farm compounds make up another sizeable section of the rural population. Maybe God was just signalling that to me for the future?

From Vreugde I spent 3 days in Etosha National Park, where the children were not the most enthralled with Rhinos etc. no it was Honey Badgers! This is all the fault of Jeremy Clarkson, who in Top Gear, says that Honey Badgers are one of the most dangerous animals in the world. So my kids were somewhere between enthralled and petrified when two of the little badgers came scurrying to raid the bins in our camp site whilst we were watching them. Jacob kept asking me, “Do Honey Badgers die?” to which he meant, “are they going to kill me?”. I assured them they wouldn’t. See you never thought Top Gear would have such an effect would you?

From the dangerous Honey Badgers it was on to Rundu in an afternoon, where we entered what I think of more normal Africa. You could tell it at night. Speed humps the size of mountain ranges over the road, people wandering everywhere and the distinct smell of Africa. Rundu is right on the Angolan border, and from where we were staying it was about ooooo 20 metres. This is the closest I’ve been to that country for some 2 years. I still feel a burden for there, just need the opportunity to plant the initiative there……. that thought could make all kinds of trouble happen…………..

Then the next morning, a 300 mile dash to Katima Mulilo on the border with Zambia. here I was meeting Bernard, a friend of Sly and an attendee of Dignity’s School of Rural Evangelism and Discipleship in Lusaka in July. It was great to see him and we discussed about the possibility of starting some Life! work in Namibia. No guarantees, but it may just happen!

After 3 more days and more than a day spent at different immigration offices, trying to get my permit updated, we eventually made it home. It was some trip, a bit of an expedition at times.

It is on such trips that you begin to get a vision for a place, begin to see how things could work in the future. You meet people, you befriend them and sometimes they become very important people in your future as well. God has a rich tapestry that he is weaving with this life of ours, we however, need to open our eyes to see it, to embrace it in the here and now.

I try to travel with my eyes wide open. When was the last time you really, really opened your eyes and took a good look around you at what God is doing in your life?

Maybe it’s time that you did?


A Short Video of Angola

For those of you who just like to see what is going on, why not have a click of the above. A rather low quality version of my work this evening. It’ll give you a great idea of what we were getting up to in Angola.

I’m too knackered to write anything else. I’ll write something interesting on the blog soon.

If you want to share the link with your friends, you can use, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJtcq5pjGIk

Back from Angola

Well as you may have just read I am back. The last few days have been a little hectic. Flying across countries, or leading an Alpha conference. In fact I’ll say a little bit about that.

On Saturday we ran the first ever Alpha type thing in Angola. The Alpha Course is a course for people to find out more about Christianity. (Click Here to See More) Most of the Anglican churches in the capital city Luanda turned up and the day was very well received. A major problem is resources for the course, as quite frankly there are none in the entire country or within a 1000 miles of the capital city. However, there is an opportunity there to begin this in the country and one that I am very keen on.

We also spent some time at the beach! I know, being an evangelist is not always hard. The sun, sand and Atlantic Ocean always provides a nice background to some contemplative time! Seriously though, it was nice to spend a little time at the end of the trip relaxing, also knowing you will be home soon. For me that is always the biggest drain, the emotion of being away from home. Every time I think that I have cracked it, bang there it goes again. It probably always will.

Anyway, I’ll be back into things in the next few days. In the last two weeks however, I have felt re-invigorated. The last 2-3 months I felt as if God has really got my attention, and the more I spend time looking at Him, the more I am understanding what it is he wants me to do in my life.


An Amazing Day

exclamation Well I’m sat here in Manchester in my house. I got back from Angola yesterday after a journey of 21 hours. Quite a long time! My bag is still somewhere along on the trip. Obviously my bag likes traveling more than me. A thought that strikes me as I listen to Sting whilst typing this is that it is so so cold! I’ve been used to 35 degrees not 13 degrees!

As this is the first time I’ve had Internet access for a little while I want to tell you about the utterly amazing day we had last Thursday. Thursday was the day we had set aside to put into practice with the Church in Luena some of things we had learnt in the school of evangelism the Saturday before.

The day started with 4 hours of prayer from 7am till 11am. This I lead. Now I will admit to not being completely up for that the night before. I had that dread of a long church service, that most Christians feel from time to time. The feeling that eternity was going to start early the next morning. However, I forced myself to focus on what I believe God wanted. To this end, I knew that God wanted us to focus on him and then focus on those outside of the Church.

The Church in question was a small ramshackle church in a very poor area in Luena (are there any rich areas?) called Bethsaida. There were perhaps 100 people in the Church, they had apparently been there since 5am singing. We led some prayer for a while, the first 30 minutes in silence, contemplating what God was saying to us. After a couple of hours, we divided everyone up into groups to walk around the area praying. This never normally happens in Africa. Think a little bit like an impromptu March for Jesus. My group, we walked through the area, prayed for the local Catholic Church and also visited a school and prayed with every class, headmaster and teachers. Soon enough four hours had gone, everyone seemed encouraged, we took a break for 2 hours.

Pastor Luis returned with some news that only two of us could get flights to the capital. With us needing to run an Alpha training conference in Luanda (the first in the country) we really had to be there. Something in me responded. We prayed right there and I said, “We are going back to the office, there are going to be four tickets”. Luis seemed a little reluctant but he went along with me.

Firstly we had no car so we had to walk in the baking midday heat. No mean feat. I was feeling kind of impatient, hoping everything would be OK. God at the same time, seemed to be nudging my Spirit to trust him. After 25 mins or so, the car caught us up and we were bundled inside. Our smiley brother (never did know his name) promptly drove us around to his office, not the airline office. As I did not know the time the airline closed I was feeling very impatient inside.

What happened next, defies belief, but that is the God we know. As I was sat there, I felt the Spirit say to me, “watch me play my hand, just sit there and watch”. Our friend the driver got out and went to find his boss. He returned saying that he was coming to meet us. I was thinking, I wander what is going on so I asked, who is your boss. He replied, “the minister of transport for Moxico Province”. So his boss turned up and accompanied us to the airline office. He disappeared with the director of Taag Airlines in to an office we me waiting outside. They emerged 5 minutes later and the tickets had been grated. Luis seemed surprised and pleased. In those five minutes I had not said anything or done anything. Just sat there. God had indeed played his hand.

With that out of the way, we returned to the Church. What happened was amazing. The Church we had split into 2/3 groups. Some to practically go and help people. Some to go house to house and pray for people, some other people to preach. There is not really an understanding of corporate evangelism (ie. everyone) being involved, so this was a first. I first went to see how those doing the practical work were fairing. As I walked around the dust tracks and dirt of the area, I could see members of the Church sweeping, washing pots, helping wherever they could. Something in me leapt to see this. Some of the people had brought soap and clothes out of their own poverty to give to those in need. How humbling! I stood there and started to think, how good would it be if this could happen all over the place.

I heard the story of a widow, sat in one of those ramshackle basic houses. She was all alone, and if I remember correctly, she could not see properly. Some members of the Church had come to her house, where they cleaned for her. She started to cry. Nobody had EVER helped her before. The group prayed with her and she said she would go to the Church on Sunday.

I then went to the other group to see how the preaching was going on. I cam across one African pastor berating some guy for not going to church. Why is it we do that? I mean it was hardly going to encourage the guy. I sat down, in the dirt, in the mess and sat with this guy. I found out his name, “Pedro”, and asked him where he lived. He was an alcoholic. We talked about his future and I told him that the alcohol was stealing his future and that maybe only Jesus could help him. Do you know what, he gave his life to Jesus. We prayed for him, and his heart was genuine. You could pray for him too.

Twenty minutes later we were praying for a woman with neck pain. She could not move her neck properly. Another church member prayed for her and she said that she could feel something happening. Then I prayed for her, and the rest of the healing took place. She could move her neck completely and she said that she had no pain. I mean, fantastic!

We returned to the Church later in the afternoon. There were testimonies of what had happened, people who had become Christians, stories of help. I was bowled over.

I had a sense of a great victory. Evil, the Kingdom of Darkness had been dented, but not by me, by the Church working together. As we were driving up the road, I caught a site of a traditional witchdoctor in the area we had been working, all dressed up, big mask, hairy boots, sticks, shield etc. etc. Do you know what went through my mind, “too little, too late”. The day belonged to Jesus and his love and power, not to the evil that is all so prevalent in Africa.

Prayer Points in Luena

Just a quick flash of some prayer points:

We are doing some ‘evangelism’ with the Church today. Pray that it would go well and that the Church would get some of the social stuff I want to do.

Pray for the first ever (very small) Alpha Conference in Angola, to be held in Luanda this Saturday. Pray that it will grow from this small seed.

Pray for our safe travel this Friday to Luanda and Sunday to Home.

Pray for the Church in Angola, that it would mature and grow.

Pray that we would be able to focus on the time we have left.

Live for the Moment

It’s wednesday. We are back in Luenna. I think it is a week since I last posted on here – doesn’t time fly? One of the things it is hard to do whilst you are on a trip, is believe it or not to focus on the here and now. There are always other days, and of course, going home. Those trends have a habit of pulling our focus away from the day in hand, to some future time. When we are there, guess what? we do the same again. That means we never live for the moment.

Let’s take the last couple of days as an example. A 120 km trip into the bush, 2 towns (municipio’s), Leau (pronounced Lay – oo – ah) and Lames Come (I think!). It takes 5 hours to travel those 120 km as the roads are so bad. After bumping around, your mind can drift, and if you are anything near as human as me, you start to wish you just were not there. But then if I’d kept in that frame of mind I would have missed so much.

Meeting the Town Administrator od Lamez Come and praying with him.

Praying for the town and having an impromptu evangelistic meeting in the town.

Missing the two peolpe who were posessed by Spirits and sorting them out. (I know that sounds just about as wierd as it can get!)

Missed talking about our future work with Pastor Luis.

And so many other things. We all need to learn to live for the moment.

The previous days saw a lot of activity. It’s always difficult communicating here. My portuguese whilst understanding a lot, speaking is difficult. Then there are cultural differences. When we met with the leadership here to discuss what we thought we could do, it was quite tense, more to do with communication than anything else. I’m happy to say, they seem to be coming on board!

We’ve run a school of evangelism where we tried to build in pratical help. In Africa, most of the churches work is preach and preach and preach and preach. However on Saturday we spent the day thinking about social helps. For the first time I thought that a lot of people ‘got it’!

Yesterday I had an intersting conversation about the church and helping people to grow here in Angola. It seems to me that so many Christians simply dio not know about what they believe. Many of them still have problems with witchcraft and many other things. The net result is a Christianity that is more concerend with itself than others. That bothers me and is something I want to do something about. The more i think about what we hope to do here, the more convinced I am that we need someone here for a few months (any interested people speak to me!). Better get praying for that person I suppose.

Anyway, I’m here at the UNICEF offices and I have far outstayed my 30 minute welcome. I’d better be going. Jon

How Life Slows Down

Perhaps the hardest thing for me about being in Africa is the pace. Everything is so slow. Now this isn’t meant to be a criticism of Africa, more my inability to slow down.

So here we are in Luena, slow town, where everything takes an age. Luena is 1400 km away from the capital, Moxico province being one of the most difficult provinces to reach by¬†road or rail.¬†I’ve just been speaking to a UN representative who told me that¬†this was a difficult province to work in, prices some 300% higher than the capital (for example¬†a bag of cement costs some $40, probably about $8 in the UK)

However that is not the only thing I struggle with. We are here teaching the Church, there was one point in a meeting last night, where I suggested that the church was meant to serve others, that caused no small amount of consternation in the room. It is as if the Church exists in some quarters to serve itself РI fnid that difficult.

The good news is that we have started to talk a little about what we believe we can do here practically. It is hard and I feel like I’m paying a game of poker and I don;t know all of the rules. If I say too much and promise too much, people are bound to be dissapointed or worse still, somehow just keep expecting handouts. I’m really senstive to that – it angers me a little. If I don’t say¬†enough – nothing will ever happen.¬†In my mind I’m thinking lets just try¬†a little and see how it goes. I really need a lot more wisdom that I have for this, better ask God for some.

One of the results of life slowing down is that I think more. Sometimes that is good, sometimes I really do not like it. Thoughts can be very encouraging or discouraging things. With me it very much depends upon the mood I am in.

Tomorrow sees the start of the leaders conference we are doing. I’m going to talk about eternity, and how being heavenly minded should make us more use here on this Earth. haven’t managed to do a whole load of preparation, so pray for me in that. (I have done some for those who know me!)

I wander how Sarah is getting on in South Africa and Adam in Zambia? Maybe if they read this they could leave a comment!