It was about 4:30am when we left the small farming community in Zimbabwe. This had been our three week stop over point where we had been making final preparations for our long awaited stay in the unknown ‘Warm Heart of Africa’, Malawi.
The rain was pouring down in sheets, lashing the windscreen of the overloaded Combi and small trailer. The road, or excuse for one, was just mud and it was nearly impossible to see any pot holes. It was unusual to encounter a storm of that strength so early in the African morning. We could see the evil one was already busy trying to hamper our first missionary journey.
It was now four months since we had left our ‘home’ of the past 18 months, a small, little known mission station in the Natal Midlands town of Nottingham Rd in South Africa. We had lived there with others who had laid down their lives to serve the Lord, after leaving our Johannesburg house and shares in a successful young plastics company. The Lord had touched our hearts so powerfully over a period of about two years, that we felt we needed to sell all that we owned and follow the Lord full time – quite a decision to make for a young family, consisting of three young children, (and two to be born in the future!).
Most people, including our own families could not understand the new path we had chosen. Some said it wasn’t necessary to follow the Lord in such a ‘strict’ way. It was indeed becoming increasingly difficult to explain why we had in fact, chosen this path. It is a well known fact that our salvation is a free gift from God and that there is nothing we can do to ‘earn’ this most precious commodity. Along with our salvation comes a certain spiritual sight (awareness) of God, our sinful nature and of course, the evil one.
As many brethren know, it is very hard to share God with those who have not been granted this wonderful ‘sight’ and unless the spirit is working in that particular situation, it normally ends up in bitter confrontations or plain “boring” conversation. On many occasions, I found the words that I was sharing with non believers, sounded (felt) like, cotton wool coming out of my mouth. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Trying to explain what we were doing often ended up complicating the situation even more, leaving us with red faces; in these times our God taught us lessons in humility.
The way in which God had touched our hearts was quite amazing. We agree now, that had we known in the beginning, what we have experienced over the last two years, we would not have ‘ventured’ out. So wonderful are Gods ways, He never gave us a ‘preview’ of ‘forthcoming’ attractions, but gradually changed us as we adapted, (by His grace), to certain situations. He has changed us so much that today we readily accept situations which we would never have believed possible for us to endure. Not by our strength, but by Gods power alone.
He never led us to a formal Bible College but simply said, “I will be your teacher and everyday situations will be the classroom”. He sent us to a precious brother who had already completed 14 years at this ‘school’ and it was him who God chose to be our ‘Elijah’.
Life continued at the mission for about eighteen months. Daily we were confronted with real life situations as we went about our chores which ranged from garden work to semi-skilled work
with our hands, making various wooden crafts for sale to generate funds for the needs of all at the mission.
Anyone who has lived a communal life will know the challenges involved in this way of living, especially for a young family from the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg, used to their own way of life. By Gods grace, we had decided to lay our lives down for the Lord and follow Him with all we could. We realised that Jesus had done the same for us, so could we expect to do anything less in return? The day we decided, (by His power), to follow Him we no longer had any rights.
We were totally in His hands and believed with all our hearts that whatever happened to us from that day onwards, was planned and allowed by God for our good, to mould and shape us for His purpose alone. As we discovered, very few of us know anything about loyalty to Christ or really have a deep understanding of what Jesus meant when He said, “….for My sake.
It is not a comfortable thought to realise that you have lost your life, but when we receive ‘sight’ of where the journey ends, we are comforted by His great love and awesome wonder, and soon see that which we have ‘lost’ is but darkness and sadness without hope and it’s amazing how we try to hold on to it!
As our relationship with the Lord deepened, we began to see things in a very different light. The times of criticizing others and complaining about our situation, became times of being exposed to areas in our hearts which we had never seen before under ‘normal’ conditions, when WE were in control. It was hard to accept that there were still parts of our hearts which were very self-centered and filled with anger and bitterness of past situations in our lives. We were coming face to face with these things day by day as God worked to ‘clean out’ our hearts. We could sympathize with Isaiah when he said, “…because I am a man of unclean lips….for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” .
I remember two occasions in particular when my wife and I sat down together and wept like two of our own little children, wondering what on earth we had done. We felt trapped, in a small box with absolutely no way out. Going forward into the unknown without any calculated guesses, seemed sure disaster and going back into the world where we had just come from, would not mean that we would go to Hell, but what if this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we passed it up?
I said to my wife Kathy, “Where do we go for help? There is no doctor on this earth that can help us now; they will think we are crazy, although we know we are quite sane. There are very few Pastors/Reverends who have experienced a ‘forsaking all’ and following kind of a walk themselves, so it would be difficult to get advice from them.” As we wept on the lawn overlooking the picturesque Drakensburg mountains, a scripture came to mind, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
From that time, we felt Gods sovereign strength in each situation that came to us. Sometimes things seemed impossible, but we had the strength to ask God, “Lord, what are you teaching us in this situation?” It really helped us to go on. We saw change in our lives, by Gods grace.
One early morning, during communal prayer time, the Lord spoke to us through a precious brother and said we would soon be going out from the mission to begin to fulfill the great commission. The Lord never said at that time where we would be going or how, but that we should pray together with another young married couple who had also been with us at the mission.
We began our first step of obedience and prayed every day for one hour or so, together. Bits and pieces of information started coming in and all had to be carefully and prayerfully thought through as the ‘flesh’ (our will), played quite an important part in making it’s ‘opinions’ known.
I had kept contact with a brother from Malawi whom the Lord brought me together with at a conference in Kwa-Zulu Natal at a large mission station, and I wrote telling him how the Lord was sending us out but that we weren’t sure where we were going. Not long afterwards, I received a letter back from him asking us to please pray about coming to Malawi because he had received a word in 1989 saying that people would come from far to teach him. We were amazed. Our feelings were mixed. Excitement at the thought of now actually going out and doing for real all that which God had been teaching us through other brethren, and fear of the unknown.
We subsequently received other confirmations of going to Malawi through other people as we continued our daily prayers. Few knew the real truth of what was going on because we did not want to hinder God speaking through others to us. It was obviously very important that we knew that this was definitely God speaking to us.
An additional word followed saying that we should spend a short season of about three months in Johannesburg to fellowship and share with some wonderful brothers and sisters who came to know the Lord at the same time as us. So in October 1993, we left Nottingham Rd for Johannesburg. Another chapter in our spiritual walk had closed, and as sad as we were to leave the mission, we were very grateful to all the precious brothers and sisters whom God had used there to mould and shape us. There was little room to take anything because of limited space in the Combi and trailer. Four adults and five children didn’t leave a lot of room for much luggage. The Lord showed us to leave all our remaining household things apart from some bedding, an iron and kettle. We would be leaving and expecting not to return unless God specifically showed us to.
Our time in Johannesburg was a great blessing as we were able to share our testimony with others. We lived with a very precious family whom we were able to share much with and whom God used in return to bless us in so many ways.
Living together with other people can be very difficult, but with the help of the Lord, together with brethren that really desire to come closer to God, it can be a most wonderful and deep spiritual experience. Such was our season in Johannesburg, and we truly thank God for the opportunity.
Our financial resources were very limited, and three weeks before embarking for Malawi, we had no money for the trip! The Lord provided through two brothers and we received some money from the sale of one of the cars we had given to the mission. “…time with the Master”
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