The Venter family embark on a nine-day trip to their new home country — and experience God’s deliverance, again and again
The morning of Monday, the 27th of August 2001, was fresh and crisp with the air loaded with excitement, expectation and gratitude. The Nissan Hardbody Pickup as well as the 1-tonne trailer were packed to full capacity, with just enough space at the back of the pickup for an adult and our three beautiful kiddos. “Kenya, here we come!!”
Wilco worked hard to establish the best routes plus places to overnight, while my work was to organise the file with all our paperwork and pre-pack food and snacks for the trip as we had no idea of the availability of shops and resources, especially on the long stretches between bigger towns.
Something interesting to share about the file, which later proved to be a key element when finally arriving at the Namanga Border between Tanzania and Kenya: as I was working to put all the paperwork and documentation in an orderly manner, the Lord one day spoke to me very clearly, directing me to put an A4-size family photo in the file. As I pondered upon this, Father reminded me of the prophetic word spoken by the late Werna Haupt, about our children opening up the highways and byways for us in Africa.
Before we left, a brother, who had often travelled through Africa for mission work, sat us down and told us that because of our personalities, it would be better if Wilco handled all the interactions at the customs offices at border posts, and that I should rather just stay in the car, praying. He hinted that I might lose my cool and discredit us in the eyes of the authorities (I’m rolling my eyes as I type this ;-). He then added as an afterthought: “But Wilco, if they continue giving you trouble, it might be better if you go and call your wife.”
All jokes aside though, we took his advice and so I found myself interceding at every border post. We also partook of the Lord’s supper every day and would splash the remains of the fruit of the vine over the car wheels, declaring: “We go through with YOU, Lord!” These words became our anthem over the next nine days, traveling through Botswana, in and out of Zimbabwe past the Victoria Falls, Zambia, Tanzania and finally … Kenya!
At some point in Zambia, I was driving while Wilco took a nap at the back. Jaco sat with me in the front and we were still busy praying when we saw a lorry overtaking another truck and coming right at us. The road was very narrow with no space on the side to move to, and all I could do was to shout: “JESUS!” while swerving the vehicle as far to the left as possible without hitting the bushes.
Wilco woke up and saw the trailer falling over, when suddenly he said it was like an angel pushing it back on the road. We couldn’t stop because of the narrow road and it was only when we reached Lusaka that we saw how the truck had hit the trailer on the side. Luckily, without any significant damage. Praise God, hallelujah!! We sang with the Psalmist in Chapter 46:1:“…God is our ‘Mānōs’ (Refuge) and Strength, a very present help in trouble!”
Another time, as we were traveling through Tanzania, hoping to get to the border before they close, we had another close encounter. Again, Wilco was resting at the back, and again Jaco and I had just finished praying, when suddenly the tow bar broke. Thank God the momentum caused the trailer to fall forward and slide towards the Nissan. We had actually been crossing a bridge and realised in retrospect how devastating it would had been if the trailer had slid to the side instead, falling down into the creek, as there were no protective rails on the side.
As Wilco appeared from behind where he was resting, he joined us in prayer, asking God to send us help. As we opened our eyes a guy stood next to us, directing us to his workshop about 200m away. Apart from the fact that it was super cheap to fix it, the repaired tow bar was also much stronger than before and lasted until the day we sold it almost 12 years later. “Oh Abba, You are so faithful! Your Word declares in Psalm 32:7 that You are indeed our hiding place. You preserve us from trouble and surround us with shouts of deliverance.”
The memory of us sitting outside in the dark, waiting, and the guy working tirelessly in a dim room, are engraved on our hearts. Of course, this event forced us to look for accommodation in Moshi that night as it was already late in the evening when the guy finished. The next morning, we took it slow and when we finally left the guesthouse, it was an hour before noon — a mis-calculation, planned by Heaven, to give us our final victory before entering the heart of East-Africa, Kenya, late that afternoon.
We arrived at the Namanga Border on Tuesday, the 4th of September, at around 4pm. I remained in my usual spot in the vehicle with Jaco and the kids, praying for favor, while Wilco presented our documentation to the customs personnel. This is the testimony with which he greeted us hardly half an hour after arrival:
After glancing through our paperwork, the officer told Wilco that we needed to leave the vehicle and trailer in Namanga until our work permit was finalised (remember me being so hesitant to leave for Kenya before the Lord convinced me that I could trust Him? Exactly because of this reason!).
Wilco went on to explain to the official that he had a family and that it was getting late. The official then suggested we go to the Nairobi depot to leave the vehicle and trailer there. Upon looking at his wristwatch, he saw that it was already 4:15pm and realised that we would never make it for the depot in time. He took the file again, slowly paging through it. When he got to the photo of our family, he asked Wilco: “So these are your children?” Wilco nodded.
“Ahhh, you’ve softened my heart!” said the official, while signing the papers. “Go!”
Namanga, at the end, turned out to be the easiest border of all the countries we’d passed through. What a mighty God we serve! The Lord had truly gone before us as Isaiah 45:2 says, and made the crooked places straight. No wonder Moses blatantly declared in Exodus 33:15 “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here!”
“God, You’ve done it!! We finally arrived ‘home’! Thank You, thank You, thank You! Now Lord, let the ‘real’ journey begin!”
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