Finding purpose in the delay

I arrived to my new home in Luanshya, Zambia last night at 11pm after 8 days travelling on the road from SA.  Rather than fly from SA to Zambia (that would have been too easy right? 😉 ) I was offered the opportunity to travel via road with James one of our key Zambian leaders.  We needed to purchase 2 vehicles for Hands at Work in Zambia, of which imported second hand cars from Durban in SA prove to be the best value option for purchasing vehicles, and so last Sunday I took the 9hr bus ride to Durban to meet James.  The plan was to spend 2 nights in Durban to buy the cars.  The cars are then loaded onto carriers and driven to Botswana.  James and I would bus to Gaberone, Botswana, meet the vehicles, clear them through customs and then drive them up to Zambia.  Blessings (another one of our key Zambian leaders) would meet us in Bostwana to help drive the vehicles back (it’s a BIG 2 day drive from Gaberone, Botswana to Luanshya, Zambia).

I have learnt that patience is a skill that is much required in Africa!  I have spent more time “just waiting” over these past 8 days, than I would have in an entire year in Australia.  In Australia, we get frustrated if we have to wait in line at the grocery store for more than 5 minutes, and yet here in Africa waiting is just part of the process.  And it’s not uncommon to wait for hours, literally.  As I have experienced this past week!

From the beginning things did not quite go to plan, and it seemed that circumstance upon circumstance compounded the errors and delays we experienced.  The first morning in Durban, the process of purchasing the vehicles, which would normally be completed in a few hours, took a whole day, meaning the vehicles did not get loaded until the following day on the carrier.  When we met the vehicles in Botswana, only one of the vehicles arrived, and we waited an extra day and a half for the second vehicle to arrive.  The vehicles were sent to the wrong customs agent so again we experienced delays.

A funny reminder that I was back in Africa was the first day in Botswana.  We required some papers to get emailed to our customs clearing agent so they could be processed and we could depart.  We were trying to only stay one night in Botswana so we were pushing this process (but we ended up spending 2 nights!).  After 3 or 4 phone calls back and forth, we managed to have the email sent.  But then accessing the email became an entire process!  We arrived at the custom agents office to advise them the email had been sent and should have arrived, but they had no power in their office, so no email.  We asked if they could take us to an internet café, which we arrived at to find they had no internet.  We then proceeded to a second internet café, which actually had internet (although I’m sure they might have been using a 28.8K modem 😉 )  It took me 20 minutes to log into a gmail account and download a 1.5MB attachment.  Only to discover the attachment was a PDF document and the computer had no PDF software, so again we could not open the document!  Eventually we headed back to the customs agents office, power was back and we managed to download and print the email.  It was one of those TIA moments for sure 🙂

The pivotal moment of the trip for us all however occurred as we finally had all the paperwork and vehicles cleared and departed Gaberone, headed for the Zambian border.  We left Gaberone at 11:30am in the morning and needed to make it to the border by 6am the next day, with a 12-13hr drive ahead of us.  It was going to be a long day!  But the plan was to drive to the border, arrive by 11pm/12am, sleep in the vehicles at the border, and be on the first ferry across the border at 6am.

Well, we started off, got 100km up the road from Gaberone and were pulled over by the police.  The normal process would be to pay the 200 Pula insurance fee to the police for each vehicle and then be on our way.  After some discussion these police officers decided that we needed to follow them back to the police station to pay the fee, and then also had decided that we were not allowed to drive the vehicles through Botswana, but rather should have them loaded on a carrier again to the Zambian border.  However, this was not normal process and carriers do not generally travel that way!

So we had to turn around and drive 50km back to the police station, and then began our 3.5 hour wait, while they detained us and the vehicles.  The corruption is rife in many of the Countries we work in with all levels of authority.  We had paid the Insurance fee for the vehicles, so the only reason we were being held (as far as we could see), was because we were not willing to pay a bribe.  James tried to talk and reason with the officers for the first hour or so, meanwhile Blessings and I were quietly praying while we waiting, praying for favour, praying for God to release us from this situation, praying that he would make a way in a frustrating and difficult situation.  After the first hour, and as we were beginning to find favour, the officers we were dealing with were sent back out on the road (they were highway patrol) and so we were left sitting, waiting.  They gave us the name of a carrier to call, which we eventually did, to discover it was a little syndicate they had going with this driver who would come and charge to tow us away and then give money to the police as a kick back.  We did not want to be a part of this.  As the hours passed and we sat waiting we were beginning to question why God had not cleared this up and released us to be on our way.  After all, I honestly believe nothing is impossible for God, but this situation was not going away.  I said to James and Blessings, we just need one Christian in this police station to help us.  James said it was unlikely we would find one, because with all the corruption Christians are not generally found in these roles.

Eventually the original police officers who had brought us in, came back to the station as their shift was ending and they were headed home.  The male officer began opening up to James that he had had a vision from God a few months ago, and he knew God was calling him back to church, but he had been struggling and wrestling with this.  We were able to talk with him, encourage him and share that we had prayed for one Christian to come and help us, and that was him.  Within about 15 minutes of this, he had advocated on our behalf, cleared up the whole situation and we were on our way.  We really believe that God had placed us there that day to minister and encourage this man.  We have continued to pray for him, and James and Blessings will follow up and continue to encourage him via phone.  James also had great chats with the tow truck driver that was involved in this Syndicate with the police to encourage him he should not let other people use him in this way and that he could do much better by not being involved in such matters.  It appeared he heard this and perhaps God is also starting to do a work in his heart.

Looking back on the past 8 days – we were sent to purchase vehicles.  That was the practical task we were sent to achieve, but God always has ways bigger than we understand, and if I look at the week, the trip was more about ministering to the people we met along the way.  I honestly believe all the delays we experienced led us to this police officer that we met and were able to encourage.  God is certainly doing a work in his heart, and we certainly need more Christians with integrity rising up in positions of authority to stamp out corruption and bring about change in these countries.

It also got me thinking, how many times do we experience delays in life, or question God’s timing.  We pray and ask God to move and yet it appears he is silent, or not answering our prayers.  We ask, where is God? in these situations, and yet perhaps we should be asking, God what is your purpose for me in this moment?  In this delay?  In this period where I am praying and believing for something but for whatever reason it has not come to pass yet…

What is your delay?  What is that thing you have been desiring to see come to pass and yet it has not yet?  Can I challenge you to seek God’s purpose in the delay…because His timing is perfect, and His ways are higher than our ways!

Other highlights of the road trip included, sleeping in the cars at the border, albeit only for 1.5hrs after we arrived at 4am!  Passing 2 massive elephants by the roadside in Botswana, one a little cranky we were disturbing his evening (free safari!)!  Watching the commotion caused as a big bus got stuck driving off the ferry at the Zambian border and a big truck had to tow it out of the ditch it had become stuck in!  James and I bonding over our mutual love of strong black coffee and finding an amazing cup of coffee in Livingstone, the day after we had not really slept (maybe that’s why it tasted so good 😉 ). Riding the escalators in Lusaka (a novelty for many Zambians who have never ridden an escalator before!)  I accidentally interrupted a mum taking a picture of her two kids riding the escalator 🙂 The amazing conversations along the way with James and Blessings, getting to know them and being inspired by their big hearts to serve God and serve the vulnerable in the communities we work in – I have been both inspired and challenged!  And the best part – arriving to a warm bed last night knowing I could sleep and not have to keep moving the next morning.

I’ll update you on my new home in Zambia soon.