Since September 2nd, we have been staying at Zwartkloof private game reserve in the Limpopo providence of South Africa, near the town of Bela Bela. This incredible reserve is home to giraffes, tigers, empallas, monkeys, mongoos, zebras, baboons, ostriches, and so many other animals…especially my favorite…lions! This place is beautiful. There is nothing quite like an African sunrise or sunset and the best part of all is going to sit in the field at night and not only seeing thousands of stars, but also seeing part of the Milky Way galaxy.
Our first day on the reserve, we were able to walk a bit, stretch our legs, have some alone time or a nap if needed, and get settled into our bunk rooms. From there we hit the ground running as we began our work. Some painted fences, some moved tarps from pen to pen, and my group…we cleaned out the tiger pens for the incoming tigers. To all my friends who have cleaned out horse stalls…I’m just saying, it could be worse. Our job was to clear out all the branches that had been cut from each pen, but these were no ordinary branches. These were branches with camel thorns anywhere from 1cm to 4” long. They will snag your clothes, cut your arms and legs, and worst part of all they will pierce through your shoe and stab your foot no matter how thick your shoes or boots are.
Between each pen we were able to find a small spot of shade and take a rest as Graduate and Adam would empty the trailer but instead we called them thorn breaks as we literally just sat to pull the thorns out of our shoes and feet.
It was a long hard day, but it was a productive day of work. At the end of it all I was filthy, I could definitely smell myself amongst other smells, and as we hopped in the land rover to head back to camp, Dan (team leader) took us past some other pens and the moment I had been waiting for finally happened…I got to see a real life, African lion and lioness. Their names were Christian and Elsa and as we went by there was another lion, named George, and 3 more lionesses, Ava, Elma, and Julie.
These majestic creatures were beautiful. I start each day hearing them roar and then end the day around 5:30 with a large roar like no other.
As I was talking to Helene (host missionary) about the thorns and the day of work that we had she began to put things into perspective for me. She told me how those thorns that pierced our shoes were the same ones that pierced for our transgressions. The branches we picked up were from the same type of tree that were used to make the crown of thorns that was placed on Christ’s head as he made the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.
As I got pierced, poked, scratched, and stuck many, many, many…MANY times I began to realize I had no room to complain. My pain was a temporary moment that would heal and eventually go away after awhile and His carried an eternal weight that was worth an eternal glory.
As Hein (our host missionary) once told us…even peeling potatoes can bring glory to God, so do it all with gladness and a joyful spirit, pray without ceasing, and give thanks always for ours is the kingdom of God and He is with us every step of the way (2 Thes. 5).
We will never know the impact we can make just by picking up branches and having conversations with those that we worked with. I met some really “lekker,” (cool) workers named Graduate from Mozambique, Adam from Zimbabwe, and Kombright from Mozambique, each with their own story of how they got here and their own families. It may not have been a Jesus conversation…but it was the start of building a relationship that may one day build a bridge.
“You can count the seeds in a mango, but you can’t count the mangos in one seed.”
Until the next Adventure,