As I drove out of the Addo Elephant Reserve, I breathed in the aroma of this truly remarkable place, as if it may be the last time I smell this part of this incredible land. All my senses were still on full alert, still looking, listening and anticipating one last magical glance of wild animal life in this extraordinary reserve.
As I drove out through the gates and the final car check point for the park rangers to sign you out make sure there are no lost souls still wandering around inside the park after dark, I felt for a moment like I was leaving Jurassic Park. It really feels like you are in another world altogether, lost in time as it were, and for those fleeting hours you could be in another time period altogether.
The drive from Addo to Port Elizabeth is a short and easy drive of about 45 minutes. The contrast is amazing. From dusty, narrow dirt roads, suddenly I am on a beautiful wide divided freeway. The weather was so beautiful. It was a stunning warm, sunny day and as the coastline of Port Elizabeth came into view the sunlight danced on the ocean waters. The address of my hosts was clear and easy to follow, perhaps the knowledge of staying in an apartment on beach made it even easier to find.
In no time at all I was in the gated apartment block of Michael and Vanessa Floyds home where I would be staying for the next three nights. This trip was a combination of wanting to see more of the South African countryside and coastline, as well as giving a series of bible talks and studies at each stop along the way. The rush to be here before nightfall was that my first Bible Class was to be given later that evening and there was the small issue of meeting, greeting and eating before heading out to the Port Elizabeth Church and giving the first talk.
Michael and Vanessa’s apartment had prime uninterrupted ocean views from their balcony. Sitting there and watching the sun set took me into another world again. The gentle balmy sea breeze brought the daylight part of my amazing day to an end and introduced an evening of friendship and fellowship. I had only met Michael and Vanessa once before and this was in Mauritius where Michael was doing some Bible Mission work where I joined them at some of the classes for a few days. We clicked and connected immediately, so much so that Michael even passed one of his speaking appointments over to me, such is his generosity !!! Now two years later we were reunited and we picked up conversations again like we had only dropped them the day before.
The Thursday evening I spoke on the time period between the Old and the New Testaments high-lighting the remarkable changes that had taken place when the Old Testament closed with Jerusalem in ruins and only a small numbers of Jews living there, in contrast to the thriving city of Jerusalem we find when we open the New Testament with all these new characters like the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Scribes etc that we had never heard of before. It seemed to be well received, although I think some had a slight difficulty with the speed and accent of the Australian version of the english language that was being presented to them.
Friday was a rest day from speaking and we spent the day looking at some of the sights of Port Elizabeth as well as driving down the coast to a quaint little restaurant on the beach called “Barnacles”, so called because of all the ship wrecks in this part of the South African coastline. It was a stunning day and a beautiful way to spend the early afternoon with a glass of wine or two.
Saturday began with breakfast on the balcony looking out across the ocean. It is such a stunning view. The sun was glittering on the ocean waters as the people made their ways in either directions below. By 10.00am I was on my way, following Vanessa to the Port Elizabeth Bible Education Centre (BEC) in an outer suburb Port Elizabeth. The BEC was an old shipping container, converted into a room for people to come and go and receive free Bible correspondence courses or just chat about the Bible. There are four Bible courses in total and each student or visitor is given 2 parts of a course to take home and complete. After completing the 2 parts, they would return to have their papers marked and corrected if necessary before being given the next 2 parts until each course had been completed.
From here a group of us drove to a Public Hospital and met up with some other local South African brothers and sister where we proceeded to visit various hospital wards where there were sad and lonely patients who rarely have any visitors. There was about ten of us in total and to watch these beautiful brothers and sisters and young people stop at each bedside and talk and comfort these lonely patients was truly inspirational. They had taken some little clear bags that they put 2-3 biscuits in each to give to these patients. The patients were all so very appreciative, with tears of joy and thankfulness as we moved from one to another.
Later that evening Michael and Vanessa had arranged an ecclesial Brai (BBQ) back at their apartment where I would give a talk on the Blood Moons, the Shemitah and the Jubilee Year. The apartment was packed and the balcony was in full use as the sun set on the African horizon. The smell of the meat on the brai filled the air with expectancy and the chitter chatter of all the conversations going on around the apartment was intoxicating. Black and white, male and females, young and old … we were all there lapping up and enjoying this remarkable fellowship. Apart from Michael and Vanessa, I had never met any of these people in my life before and yet here we were, all talking like lifelong friends …..
Sunday morning came around quickly. I woke with a start early wondering where I was. This strange feeling of not knowing where you are for a moment sends a slight panic attack through my mind …. Then the sounds of the ocean through my bedroom window brings a gentle calm to me only again to be startled in to the realization that I had to pack my car as I was heading back to Durban from the Meeting Hall today immediately after the Memorial Meeting and a lunch at the hall.
A quick pack up and luggage into the car was followed by a light breakfast on the balcony. It was another beautiful day in paradise with clear blue skies as far as the eye could see. Breakfast of toast and a banana was accompanied with some quiet thoughts and meditation time on my two talks this morning. I had chosen for the Bible Class to speak on John 1 and for the exhortation, the first miracle of Jesus from John 2, with the Wedding at Cana. The Memorial meeting was followed by a communal lunch. I needed to be on the road by 1.30pm to get as far along the highway home as I could before resting for the night, so I started my farewells to everyone only to find that everyone wanted to say a personal goodbye and share a farewell hug ….. It had been an especially warm and friendly time with all these amazing brothers and sisters.
The drive home was a good and easy drive. Being Sunday there was very little traffic and no road works, so I made good time all the way. I had not expected to make it all the way back to Durban in one trip, but after making my first stop, a fuel stop at the half way mark at Mthatha, I cruised into Durban just after 11.00pm.
Port Elizabeth was not just any “Port” …. Is was a warm and welcoming harbour, with wonderful kind and caring people and friends who have endeared themselves to me for the rest of my life.