In the last episode of this series Lydia Venter recounts the miracles it took for their family to complete their epic road trip to Kenya. In this episode the missionary family discover they need even greater divine assistance to get through their first few months in a foreign country
Entering Kenya in such a miraculous way brought about great celebration among us and we couldn’t wait to reach our final destination. Njoro was still 347km away and – with the horrible road between Nairobi and Nakuru that time — we would only arrive in this little agricultural town after midnight.
Jack du Preez, the headmaster of Njoro Bible College which we were joining as lecturers, and his wife, Estelle, hosted us before we moved to our own place. In the meantime we were assigned some classes and got to know the students. What a privilege it was to know that we could help equip these (mostly) young people for ministry.
In November a family we had been befriending approached us. They had nine children and were struggling financially. They asked if we could take care of one of their daughters, Clemencia, who was 13 by then. We came to Kenya with only three donors supporting us with relatively small amounts, mounting up to R1 200 per month. We also had a small sum left from Wilco’s pension. The exchange rate was about 7.1 shillings for a rand, which left us with very little cash after our house rent was paid. However, we still felt that the Lord was giving us a resounding “YES!” when we prayed about whether we should take Clemencia under our care.
By the beginning of December, after three months in Kenya, we had at least accumulated some basic furniture, a gas stove, etc, so when Jack and Estelle left for South Africa after the college had closed for the holidays, we found ourselves alone as most of the students had travelled back to their homes as well. We had not yet had time to build a relationship with our immediate neighbours, so, apart from Clemencia’s family who lived some distance from us, we hardly knew anyone. Little did we know that having ONLY God to rely on, would set the platform for one of the greatest miracles we would ever encounter.
Our monthly income from South Africa was paid in via Africa Missions, but somehow our money was accidentally transferred to a wrong account. We suddenly found ourselves with very, very little money on our hands! That year was a very dry year and our rainwater tank outside was completely empty. We asked around and locals told us that rains were expected at the end of March, beginning April.
We had no other source of water at our new residence, so we used the last of Wilco’s pension to connect PVC water pipes to a private borehole about a kilometre away from where we lived which would feed into a small tank in the roof above our bathroom.
I remember we had a small, orange, rectangular basin which we used to bath in with maybe two inches of water available for “bathing” each night — not for each person, but for all of us!. Something funny to mention is that I hated the colour orange for many years after that, because of this experience.
During all of this we were praying like never before. One evening, in the middle of December, Wilco went to the bathroom when he heard the sound of a thin, but consistent stream of water, running into the tank. That night we could properly clean ourselves, celebrating the “fact” that Peter had probably fixed the borehole pump.
Early the next morning Wilco jumped on his “pikipiki” (motorcycle) to go and thank Peter for fixing the pump.
However, on the 6th of December the pump of this borehole broke. The cost to fix this was way above what the owner, Peter, could afford, so all of a sudden we found ourselves without water and without money and with a household of two adults and four children. And our meagre food resources were slowly dwindling.
“I told you I don’t have 140 000 Kenya Shilling (+R19 470) to fix it!” he replied. Father God – El Shadai! – continued providing water for us until early January 2002, without any logical source or explainable manner, in which this could happen.
We still had no money and Christmas was drawing nearer. By that time most of our food was finished and we sparingly used whatever was left. We had an orchard of 38 orange trees, producing small, sour oranges. So, Wilco would pluck some and exchange them on the local market for greens to eat with our porridge. While Wilco and I initially prayed with power and faith, it slowly turned into a daily ritual of lying prostrate on the floor in our bedroom, crying and wailing before our Saviour, Jesus of Nazareth.
We didn’t know what to tell our children — why there are no decent food on the table and why we couldn’t take them anywhere. We still had a lot of work on the 13-acre piece of land, so we tried to keep our minds occupied with that.
Our desperation reached a climax in the week before Christmas. It was painful to realise that we had brought our children to a foreign country where it seemed that we were not able to look after them in a manner worthy of God. Had we missed the Holy Spirit? Was our timing wrong?
Three days before Christmas some people phoned us on our landline. Wouter and Erna Jooste were teachers at St Andrews International School in Turi and we had only met them once, very briefly. They told us that they were on their way to Nakuru and asked if they could pass by our place. We didn’t know how to tell them that we had no tea or coffee or milk or sugar to offer them, so instead we just agreed and explained to them how to get to us.
They arrived a few hours later with a brown envelope in their hands. They were hesitant and nervous, we could tell. They said that for the last three days, as they were praying, they kept on seeing our faces before them. They handed the envelope to us and urged us not to take offense or view it the wrong way. Inside the envelope was 19 000 Kenya Shillings (about R2 624). “Thank You, Thank You, Jesus. Thank You for providing in such a wonderful way! Thank You for your children’s obedience. Please bless them, oh Lord.” We had the best Christmas ever with enough left to keep us into the new year. Surely God had kept a record of our wanderings and placed our tears in a bottle — this we know: God is on our side. (Psalm 56:8-9)
On Old Year’s Eve we had an overnight service at the Apostolic Faith Church where Wilco was ministering from the Book of Joel. He emphasised verse 23 of chapter 2 that talks of God sending his abundant showers, both the early and latter rains. We then took hands and prayed specifically that God would send us rain — still in that very week. On the 1st of January 2002 we were invited to go and minister in a church in a town called Gilgil. As we travelled back on the 2nd, upon entering Njoro, we drove into the rain. It rained non-stop for about a week, and when our rainwater tank outside was about half-filled with water, the stream of water in the house stopped as mysteriously as it had started. In hindsight it struck me that the constant flow of heavenly water that had sustained us was a little like a modern-day version of the story of the widow in 2 Kings 4, where the miracle oil stopped flowing after she brought Elisha the last jar of oil.
God revealed Himself to us during those first few months in such an astounding way, showing us His miracle-working power. Our family longed to feel safe and cared for and He did exceedingly, abundantly more than what we could even pray or ask for. Indeed, His mercies are new every morning. He IS the Lord, A God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness . Let us all then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need — Hebrews 4: 16
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