Last night we walked outside after dark and gazed at the sky. No lights from any city. The closest little town is over twenty kilometers away. Cape Town is over two hours away. The moon is only a sliver so the stars are all the more brilliant. Then we said to one another, God calls each star by name. Amazing!
I looked up attempting to find the Southern Cross, the equivalent star system to the Big Dipper in America. The entire Southern Hemisphere circles around that constellation just like the Big Dipper at home. The Milky Way arm is so dense that constellations appear somewhat foggy. Cathy and I held hands and thanked God for the moment and gift he has given. During the time of Jesus the stars were just as bright and vivid as here in Africa. I have heard theologians talk about people of that time resting on the roof and falling asleep to the night sky. They became very familiar with the night sky and would easily note special celestial events such as a comet or the star that guided the wise men to Jesus.
Punctuating this serene beauty is the remains of a Duiker outside our bedroom window. He is the smallest antelope in Africa. He is no more than two feet high. He is a petite and beautiful little buck. He had apparently been killed by a Caracal, an African Wildcat. Or maybe even a Leopard that is roaming the mountain peaks around this game farm. We don’t know for sure. All that is left is his skull, hind legs and a few vertebrae. All of the flesh is gone except the fur on the lowest portion of his legs.
The serenity, beauty and tragedy of nature is magnificent. But it is also a reflection of the mission field for a missionary. Yes it is wonderful to reach across a cultural divide and touch the hearts of other people. At the same time it brings a new set of challenges unknown in our culture. More than once I have heard a missionary say, I don’t understand! They were speaking of the cultural difference that is mystifying and perplexing. Africa is their home, but they struggle to understand the behavior of people from various groups. Thinking and feelings are not the same from tribe to tribe. In fact some values can be completely opposed to one another. Reaching a plateau of understanding is a feat unto itself.
During the past few weeks Cathy and I have fallen into the isolated dependence that many missionaries feel on the field. Cathy’s passport visa was nearing expiration and the Home Affairs office was an hour away. We rushed to arrive and get an application for an extension. The red tape was challenging and somewhat frustrating. We were discussing having to fly Cathy out of South Africa if the extension would not be granted. We still don’t know if it will be granted and it could be several months before we hear. It is sort of crazy.
During the same time, all of our Check Cards were blocked by the bank. Attempts to clear the error went uncorrected for three weeks. Finally last Saturday I went to a town almost an hour away where I could make a phone call to the fraud department of the bank. The attempt was unsuccessful since I could not give correct numbers that had been converted into dollars because the bank uses a different exchange rate every day. I only had one exchange rate given when we transferred funds into South African Rand. You begin to realize how alone you can be. An email to our Board Treasurer cleared the problem up in one day. We are so thankful for the board that guides and uplifts us.
The computer has continued to malfunction while I was typing for the future book. Hyper sensitivity from the touchpad caused the typing to jump from one paragraph to another. Sometimes I would be several sentences along when I would look up and see that portions of each sentence was located in three different places. I had to go and find a computer specialist to correct the problem. They aren’t exactly standing around in the bush of Africa.
Last month I walked across one of the highest suspension bridges of Africa with two missionaries. The queasy feelings created by the movement of the bridge and the canyon you could see between the boards was a little unsettling. Some people actually froze on the bridge with fright. Others avoided it all together and walked around on the rocky trail. To me that is a great image of the mission field. Often you hold on to the cables of God’s strength but feel the wind of adversity blow and make you aware of your vulnerability. It is isolating and anxious. Thank you for your prayers.
Cathy and Danny Sartin
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