Oct12ThuOur fourth 5 years October 12, 2017
To say Ryan and Erin’s schooling wasn’t going well is an understatement. Simply, it just wasn’t working, and it wasn’t healthy. We knew a change was needed. Erin needed to be in a place where she would be in an English schooling environment. Ryan needed a living situation with less rules, more space and more fun. He needed a place where he would not be in a cramped apartment, not in a city and where he could be Ryan. What were we going to do?
When our team in South Africa found out what was happening, the finances became secondary. Everyone realized that if there was no solution, our time in Africa would come to an abrupt end. Fortunately, there was a school nearby where some of the South African children had gone years earlier. Tentative arrangements were made for them to attend. Because it was a different system, they would need to be assessed. We got them on the plane as quickly as we could and arranged interviews at the school.
The interviews went well, and the headmaster told both of them they would be accepted. It was a good fit for Ryan. But it turned out it wasn’t so easy for Erin. She was registered to take two university courses. To our surprise, the level she had graduated at on Bonaire was not high enough to meet the university requirements! Now we had another setback to deal with.
After much discussion, we decided Erin would return to Canada and do one semester in a Canadian school before going to college. In the meantime, she would enjoy time with her mom and dad. She eventually returned to Canada after Christmas that year and did one semester in high school in St. Catharines, Ontario, before going to Red River college that fall in Winnipeg.
With the education issue settled, it was now time to sort out our new life. We had to find a place to live, buy appliances, and I needed to begin my apprenticeship into the ministry in Africa.
When Sandy and I arrived in South Africa, specifically in Johannesburg, it was a dangerous place to live. All of a sudden we had to watch our backs; security was a major issue. Everywhere we went and everybody we met talked about it. There were already a lot of real stories.
When I initially sat down with the international director of Africa, Stephen Boakye-Yiadom, after I arrived, he laid out his plan for me. He wanted me to understand the scope, the problems and the diversity of the ministry in Africa. To be able to do this effectively, I would need to travel to the far reaches of Africa. They had already laid out a schedule for me. I was going to be gone as much as I was home for the next seven months! This didn’t sit well with me because of security: how would I protect my family? The solution was to put a security system into our home.
One night not long after moving into our place, Erin heard something on the roof. We thought it was a bird as we lived close to a pond where birds frequented. Sandy and I remember now hearing something rattling our security gate on our patio doors, but we went back to sleep. When we got up in the morning, we discovered that it wasn’t a bird; someone had been on our roof and removed our security horn so that the horn wouldn’t sound when they broke into our house! I was scheduled to travel that very day. How could I leave my family? We decided another missionary would stay with Sandy and Erin for the period I was gone.
Our house in South Africa
I started travelling. My instruction was to observe, to do nothing unless it was mechanical, write a report and simply learn about the ministry. It didn’t actually work as we planned. Each time I went to a place, I ended up helping them work through problems at the request of the national directors. I was also meeting listeners, and I was getting more excited by the day about the ministry in Africa. Once again, God was using me in ways I never imagined! I was becoming part of the team, and I was enjoying it!
TWR Africa’s footprint was growing; wars were coming to an end in many African nations, and the opportunities exceeded our ability to deliver on them. I was conflicted. I had come to Africa to be the station director in Swaziland. That was still part of the plan, but there was so much that needed to be done regionally. It was decided that I would still go to Swaziland, but I would also assist regionally as much as time would allow. In spite of all the crime, we were coming to love South Africa. We had made friends with local people and had found out that South Africa had lots to offer.
Eventually we did move to Swaziland. Unlike many of our previous moves, this one would be done by professionals, and space wasn’t a concern. The packing of the truck was uneventful, and the driver left our place around 5:00 pm. We’d see him the next morning in Swaziland. His plan was to drive to the border and sleep overnight there as the border closed at 10:00 pm. He would clear everything at 6:00am when the border opened and meet us at the house at 10:00am to unpack. We would leave at 5:00am and be ready to unpack when he arrived. What could go wrong?
As we came over the top of a hill about half way to Swaziland, there was a truck on its side going across the road. Sandy said to me, “I am sure glad that isn’t our moving truck!” I said to her, “I hate to tell you this Sandy, but it is our truck!”
You cannot imagine how weird it was to see all our things lined up along the side of the road. Furniture in many pieces, boxes everywhere. There was nothing we could do. I borrowed a cell phone and told the team in Swaziland that we wouldn’t be setting up our house as planned; our stuff was all down the side of the road. Our first official day in Swaziland was spent with an insurance adjustor.
Little did we know that we were about to experience even more culture shock in Swaziland. I’ll tell you more next time.