Be Careful What You Pray For

by Apr 13, 2022Missions, Worst of Times


I pinched myself more than once as I sat with my family on a plane enroute to the Republic of South Africa.  After 24 years of waiting, my childhood dream of being a missionary to Africa was becoming a reality.  Finally, God answered my prayers and was fulfilling one of the deepest desires of my heart. It was beyond exciting. An adventure from the moment we got the go-ahead from the Lord—including the sale of our home in less than a month. We lived high up in the mountains, it was January, and 3 feet of snow on the ground. The quick sale of our home, under those conditions was nothing short of miraculous.

The flight was over 30 hours long, including several layovers.  It was gruelling.  At the time, smoking was still allowed on flights.  Our seats were in the row immediately before the smoking section.  It was the same as sitting in the middle of it!  There were no other seats available.  All we could do to endure was breathe through wet napkins and take lots of walks to the front of the plane.  But we got through it. 

We arrived at night.  Beyond exhausted, we collapsed into bed in the house we would call home for the next year.  We barely drifted off to sleep when the sound of helicopters flying overhead startled us awake.  I was certain they were about to land on our roof.  Before we had a minute to react, the gunshots erupted.  They sounded like they were coming from the helicopter, but that thought seemed too crazy to entertain.  Morning light and a missionary’s explanation revealed exactly what happened.

The property of the Bible Institute where we had come to serve, bordered a ‘township’ in the valley below.  That township was occupied by members of the Zulu tribe.  They were often in conflict with another tribe known as the Xhosas.  The clash between those two tribes during our first night in South Africa led to the death of 5 people. Two of the dead bodies lay just outside the property line of the Bible Institute behind our house. 

My bags were still unpacked, and I’d be less than truthful if I said I wasn’t the least bit tempted to turn around and get back on the next plane home. Dream or no dream, dead bodies in our back yard, killed our first night in Africa, was not what I had signed up for.

The clashes continued throughout our time there, but none were as violent as that first night, our introduction to life in South Africa.  We learned to carry on, sadly, as most residents of that turbulent country did.