“Traffic jam in Maputo at 6am, emergency toilet stops for passengers with the dreaded lurgy, then remarkably fast border crossing. By sundown, I am settled in Nelspruit SA in a gorgeous flat on a farm surrounded by fertile fields and green rolling hills. Hunkered down on the couch, new novel open, glass of cab sav in hand. Sunset. Silence. Sublime. I may not budge from this spot for 10 days.”
This year I am required by the conditions of my visa to leave Mozambique every three months. Last year it was every 30 days. “Going out” would normally imply going down the road to the store or out for dinner or a movie. At Zimpeto it is missionary lingo for leaving the country.
“When do you have to be out?”
“I’m going out next week.”
“I’m going out next week too. We can go out together...”
The price of overstaying one’s visa is about $100 US a day. One of our missionaries misread her visa and overstayed by a month. Ouch.
Occasionally we will do a border run, a half-day’s trip to the border and back. Every now and then I’ll catch a ride all the way to Nelspruit with a friend then spend a week or so in South Africa, which is where I am at the moment. I haven’t been out for a break for about six months and I forget how very much I need it until I am settled here at Mercy Air in one of the flats offered very cheaply to missionaries in southern Africa who are in need of a rest.
Every time I “go out”, I feel the weight of work and busyness begin to lift as I drive through the Zimpeto gates. At the first toll booth, I breathe more deeply. Through Matola, sigh. Second toll booth, the heaviness is falling away. Cross the border and suddenly the land is green, the air is clear and I can see for miles, physically and metaphysically. The tiredness of months of hard work and spiritual battles slips away and I head into the tranquillity of some down-time.
Today I am sitting at a picnic table under a stand of lush pecan trees. I sip coffee as a mongoose ambles by. The frogs revel noisily in the puddles left by the thunderstorms that rumbled across the African skies for most of last night. Vervet monkeys frolic in the trees about 30 metres away and occasionally a couple of the babies venture close but then are hurried away by panicked parents.
Now this is what I call down-time.
I do so love my life in Mozambique but, even when we live lives that we love and to which we are totally committed, we need to step away occasionally and experience something other than the everyday. Yes, at some point, living in Mozambique stopped being a novelty for me and became my everyday reality and so I need to take time out to rest, to pray and to keep dreaming.
There are missionaries at Zimpeto who have been dreaming of Africa for a lifetime. I am not one of them. I never dreamed of Africa or of Mozambique: I dreamed of being in the centre of God’s perfect will, wherever that may be in the world. Some friends 0f mine moved to Mozambique in 2000 and encouraged me to visit. Finally, after years of pondering, I booked my plane ticket for a three week trip in 2006 and knew that I had just signed off on a collision course with destiny.
For me it is not about Africa or about Mozambique but about obedience to going where I am led, when I am led there. It is about the whatever and the however of following, just one step at a time. People often assume that I am in Mozambique because I love the country but I hardly knew it until I lived here. I had to step off the map of all that was familiar to me and move to a place I did not know to then fall in love. It is like an arranged marriage of God’s perfect design. The dream truly was exceedingly, abundantly more than I could ask or imagine.
Then at some point after colliding with destiny and a year or two of living the dream, it became day-to-day. It lost its shine, its excitement. It began to feel less like an adventure and more like a settled ordinary life. There is nothing wrong with this – it is a sign that the dream has become reality. Glory to God!
When the dream becomes reality and the cycle of life continues day-by-day, we then start to dream again, until the next collision with destiny takes us off the map of the last dream we journeyed. This time, we gaze higher and dream bigger because, last time, God proved Himself so infinitely faithful and able. It may not mean a physical move but a mental one, or spiritual or emotional. Or it may mean moving to the other side of the world. There are a thousand ways to dream and a million different expressions of those dreams.
I will return to Mozambique in a few days with a bag of ripe pecans just off the tree, a rested body, a rejuvenated soul, and my dreams of God’s possibilities refired as I reach to grasp those dreams and draw them to me, one day at a time.
“Now to Him who by the action of His power that is at work within us is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think - infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams – to Him be glory...”!
Eph 3: 20,21 [Ampl.]