An early morning message woke me from my sleep. The repeated reminder to pick up my message dragged me from my bed to my phone charging itself away on the kitchen bench. As I tried to open my bleary eyes and squinted to try and focus, I could see that there were three messages ….. all of them with the same message. Please bring water with you to Candu when you come tomorrow, we have no water !!!
Before I left South Africa to return to Australia in May, I had planned a trip to Port Elizabeth stopping off at Candu and East London along the way. This trip was happening the next day and the message was coming through loud and clear that much of the northern half of South Africa was in drought and in some or the rural farming areas like Candu, it was a serious drought with no town water and only the reliance on pumps and some poor quality bore water stood between them and disaster. Even Durban is on the brink of water restrictions, so severe is this drought that is besieging South Africa and media reports are declaring it the worst drought in 150 years in parts of the country.
With 20 x 5 lt bottles of water and some food parcels for the poor and needy in Candu filling every crevice of my little car, I set off on the first leg of my trip to Candu. Candu is about a 6-7 hour drive (depending on traffic & road works) south of Durban and inland from the coast. It was an easy day’s drive and I left early with the intention of having a Memorial Meeting and early meal so the local crèche teachers and people could enjoy our time together and still be home before dark.
All was going beautifully to plan until 15 minutes from Candu when a tyre blew out and I came to a sudden stop on the side of the road in rural South Africa. It was about 2.30 in the afternoon and at the hottest part of the day, but I proceeded to empty the boot of my car of all the water bottles and food to get to the spare tyre. With a line of food and water sitting on the side of the very dry and arid farmland, the local villagers and children started to come out of their huts and homes on the hillside village above me to see what was going on. The thought of all this water and food sitting on the edge of the road hastened my efforts to get the spare tyre and change it as quickly as I could and be on my way.
You can imagine my shock when I finally got to the spare tyre only to find it was flat too and worse still, there was no “jack” to lift the car and replace the tyre anyway !!! This was a new used car we had only just purchased and we had been assured that it had been fully safety checked, including the spare tyre etc, before the handover to us a few weeks earlier.
Sitting on the side of a South African road, with all this food and precious water and people gathering around was quite concerning and thoughts of just abandoning the car with all the food, water, my lap top, ipad, camera and clothes etc flashed through my mind. I had unsuccessfully called a number of garages and tyre companies at Mthatha, about 60klm away, but they were not interested in travelling all that distance to “save” me or repair and replace my tyres. Finally, a local young Candu brother called “Eddie” found me on the side of the road and arranged for a “taxi bus” to come and get me from a small town 20klm away and help me to repair the tyres. He brought his own jack and took both the tyres back to town where we were fortunate to find a tyre shop still open with only minutes to closing time. We had to replace both tyres with new ones and then he took me back to the car where we were able to get everything back in order. I was also able to buy a jack in the town, so now we were all set again, even if the sun was now setting and all thoughts of an early dinner and bible study were well and truly gone.
Later that evening, many of the women returned to the Candu Good News Centre for a Memorial Meeting and a meal, even though it was now dark. Perhaps it was the thought of fresh water that brought them, plus a meal of roast chicken, rice and potatoes, but I prefer to think they wanted to see me again and enjoy my company, food or no food !!!
The next day (Wednesday) I continued my drive onto East London which is on the east South African coastline. All the land was tinder dry and I thought how one spark here would be absolutely devastating to all these very poor and humble farmers. Nearly all the farm dams were empty or nearly empty and the land was so very dry. The drought had grabbed this land by the scruff of the neck and there were no signs of letting go. The wet and rainy season was well and truly gone, and the winters here are long and dry now until October. It’s going to be long hard and dry winter with no sign of the rain for another 3-4 months.
It wasn’t until I was nearing the coastal town of East London that the land started to change colour slightly and the faint tinge of green started to appear. Barry van Heerden had arranged for me to stay with some church friends at their home in East London where I was also going to give a Bible Class talk on the “Blood Moons” and the “Shemitah” that evening. My hosts, Ron and Renee are an elderly couple with hearts of gold. I blew in and blew out the next day with little time to get to know them very well, but their warmth and hospitality in opening their home to me, feeding me and giving me a warm and comfortable bed was priceless.
This hospitality is one of the truly remarkable things about our faith and fellowship as Christadelphians. To think that I can knock on the door of people that I have never ever met or even heard of before today and may never meet again this side of the Kingdom of God, and yet they open up their homes and lives to visitors like they are long lost friends. Sadly Renee is suffering from kidney failure and Ron had to take her to hospital very early the next morning for kidney dialyses which she has three times a week. Yet despite this difficult time, Ron still managed to bring me a cuppa tea in bed and have breakfast waiting for me when I arose.
There may be a drought in the land, a serious drought ….. but there is no spiritual drought here in South Africa.