Posted by: John Hall | February 15, 2009

One Day in Africa

Children of the FloodThe last day and a half had been a whirlwind.  On Thursday night Heidi Baker from Iris Ministries had shared about the severe flooding that Mozambique was experiencing at a regional conference in Kelowna that I was attending.  The news that the world seemed oblivious to, was that thousands of people had been displaced and were living in temporary grass huts with no clothing, food or water.  Some of the young men that she had been a mother to had begun to take it upon themselves to bring whatever they could buy to the masses gathered in temporary camps.  Could anyone come and help, was the cry?  Whatever, or whoever could be mobilized quickly would be welcome.   And so without much forethought my wife booked a ticket for me, loaded me on a plane and sent me off for ten days of who knew what in northern Mozambique on the shores of the Zambezi.


The hastily arranged plan was to have a group of fourteen people meet in Maputo then grab a transfer flight to Quelimane, a town in the north,  and finally make a four hour trek by Land Cruiser to a small town called Morrumbala where we would be based on a Word Vision campus.  Hours before I got on the plane our group of fourteen turned into three, with the rest of our crew being made up of young staffers who would drive to Quelimane from the Iris Pemba base.  Flying into Quelimane we could see the massive alluvial plain of the Zambezi, and the vast amounts of water that had transformed the delta into a menace for Zambezia province.  I could tell this was going to be interesting. 


The plane landed and the heat blasted us on the black tarmac.  I was back in Africa.  A short walk, a reasonable wait and we had our luggage and were ready for adventure.  A little more waiting (can’t be too anxious in Africa), and we were warmly greeted and whisked off to a crowded Land Cruiser and smiling faces. 


A few side trips needed to be made while a flat bed truck was repaired for use in hauling food into the refugee camps.  In the meantime we got to stretch our legs and practice dodging traffic zooming past us in an unusual direction. By about four in the afternoon we were underway and driving out of Quelimane.  As we left the city our attention was drawn to the shoulders of the roads which were crowded with pedestrian traffic.  Bicycles with black sundried fish tied to the back or live chickens strung over the handle bars passed each other frequently. Fish moved into town, and chickens to the country.  Women balanced bags of beans, maize and rice on their heads while moving nimbly in the flow.  Regularly small stacks of citrus fruit, or straw mats marked a vendor trying to make a few dollars from the passers by.  As the houses began to thin on the outside of town so did the flow of traffic.  It didn’t take much longer before people were few and far between, but the road was seldom empty.  Our driver made sure that the occasional country pedestrian was well aware of our passage, pounding on the horn with fervour which created a flurry of activity, sending people diving for the tall grass lining the road.  Giant white cumulus clouds scudded by overhead sometimes massing into massive thunderheads and the greenery had a certain lushness to it that made me think of fresh rain.


Soon our paved road became a dirt track and the bench in the back of the Land Rover began to inflict itself on our backsides like a nun in a Catholic school dishing out punishment to boys who had been truant from Mother Africa’s class for too long.  The road might have changed but our speed didn’t alter greatly.  Puddles in the road turned into giant tidal waves of mud and debris, painting the landscape brown.  Corners were taken aggressively sometimes causing us to drift through them.  We were losing the day and the concern was that it wasn’t great to be out in the African bush after dark.  Unfortunately pressing hard sometimes causes accidents and today was no exception.  On a straightaway it happened.  A swerve around a puddle and our back end swung out from under us.  Our driver quickly compensated by steering left but the wobble didn’t leave and the fishtail continued to the right and then back again to the left, but what a left!  Our wheel hit a concrete abutment about a foot high that formed the frame for a small culvert lifting the Land Rover up and tossing us in the back around like rag dolls.  Just as quickly as it had started it stopped and we lay moaning on the floor grasping for understanding, our luggage strewn around our legs.  We were still upright, but were we okay? 


A few more minutes to recover and we all piled out to look at the vehicle.  Everything appeared fine on the outside but one glance underneath caused a quick reassessment.  One of the stabilizers, formerly attached to the rear drive train, had been snapped off.  With no alternative we piled back in and started driving.  The vehicles rear end creeped away from the front end at a comical angle and any speed over 15 km/h began to cause other oddities.   A new plan was needed. Bush Road It was decided that we would split into two groups.  One group would continue with the damaged Land Rover and the other undamaged Land Rover, all the luggage and the camion would continue to Morumbala and send help back.  There was still a drive of one and a half hours to make to get to town.  It was about 5:30 and dusk was coming quickly so we piled into the Land Rover and left.  We made good time and were able to get to the little village quickly and dispatch two local pastors to retrieve our friends.  Close to ten or eleven that night the bush saints limped into the compound with the broken Land Rover.  Using practical bush ingenuity they had taken several lengths of binder twine and tied the offending bracket to the rear axle improving performance enough to get the vehicle to its new home.  I retired that night in a bed, thankful to be safe, with the crickets and frogs singing a lullaby.  I thought to myself as I drifted off, “Not bad, for a first day back in Africa”. 



  1. Hi John,

    Love to hear of you, your family & your adventures. Wish I could have been with you.

    Looking forward to the day when God calls us on an adventure together.

    Love to all of you.


  2. What an adventure! Your vivid description together with our experience in Africa had me sitting right there in the Land Rover with you. I look forward to the rest of the story.

    We leave for tame old Nicaragua tomorrow with our grandsons on a Journey of Compassion. This will be quite enough adventure for their first time abroad.

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