Sometimes ministry overseas is not about church planting, deep conversations, building relationships, and the like. More often than not, it’s about living the day-to-day in the best way we can. It’s not always easy. A One Challenge worker, J.W., recently shared a travel experience he and co-workers had while doing ministry in southern Africa.
Road travel offers some of the most challenging aspects of our ministry work in Africa. On a recent road trip to Malawi, my teammates David and Cherie and I used 16 different vehicles and busses to reach three different ministry locations in Malawi.
As we finished our workshop in Mzuzu, in northern Malawi, our eyes were transfixed to the clock. Our hosts asked us to finish at 4 p.m. sharp – as our “express” bus was leaving at 5 p.m. The “express” bus offered non-stop service to Lilongwe.
With hurried goodbyes to our hosts, we reached the bus station, boarded the bus and secured our seats. There was no time for bathroom runs or getting food.
The bus environment was hot and humid. Inside, we observed passengers with chickens clucking in their handbags. Music blared. As our departure time of 5 p.m. ticked by, we waited. Another 60 minutes passed. When we enquired about the delay, we learned that the bus would depart when it was full. Finally, the bus began its journey to Lilongwe. Unfortunately, the “express” failed to live up to our expectations. The bus started and stopped incessantly deviating from its non-stop promise. It even diverted to another town away from our final destination.
With the bus packed tight with people, some lying in the aisle, we sipped our water sparingly and nibbled on crackers and cookies to keep our hunger at bay. We had no idea if a toilet break was in our future.
Over time, a tug of war developed between the Malawian passengers and David, Cherie and me. We were desperate to keep our bus windows open, because we were so hot and uncomfortable. However, for the Malawian passengers, the evening breeze was freezing! As a compromise, I finally leaned my arm and shoulder into the window, to keep it from being shut, but also to block the airflow from reaching others.
Finally, arriving in Lilongwe, we were eager to get some sleep. Our 3 ½ hour bus ride had morphed into a nine hour fiasco! To add to our dismay, we learned that the driver we had prearranged to fetch us had determined that our 1:30 a.m. arrival was too late for him! David, Cherie and I were left stranded at the bus depot in the middle of the night. Amazingly, we were able to secure another lift. Exhausted, sweaty and discombobulated, we finally stumbled into our rooms a little past 2 a.m. to catch some sleep before catching a plane home in a few hours!
This brief tale gives you a ‘behind the curtain’ look of our southern African life. Believe it or not, we wouldn’t miss it!