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OK (1), SC (1), TN (1), NY (1), OH (1), United Kingdom (1), NC (2), VA (2), PA (6)
16 singers from diverse states and backgrounds. 1 common goal: to glorify God through the medium of music and ministry.
Somehow it worked, and I have come back from 3 weeks in South Africa very refreshed and so thankful for the opportunity to minister, learn, and grow while spending time with an amazing group of people. This post is the first in a series that will include lots of pictures and a few anecdotes from our journey. I encourage you to watch the vlogs that I have linked throughout the post; Myron did a great job capturing our trip in video form and you’ll get a lot more details and storyline there.
Side note: we really missed each other after we parted company 11 days ago. Small wonder that somehow all but three of us are together this very weekend again for a mini reunion! (6 of us were singing together at a friend’s wedding in VA, so the rest of the crew decided to take this as an opportunity to get together again. Somehow we’re on the bulletin to give a program at a church in VA tomorrow morning….)
Above: the Northerners are arriving!
Thursday, Feb 9: The Northerners met up in Lancaster, PA, and traveled to Dulles together, while the Southerners consolidated in Stuart’s Draft, VA, and did the same thing.
18 people make a lot of luggage! (Especially when they bring sleeping bags, tents, and musical instruments)
We finally got all the luggage checked (including Vlad’s tuba), got through security, and found our gate in good time.
We flew KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and I was super impressed with their service. The food actually wasn’t bad either. Our flight from Dulles to Amsterdam was 7 hours long, and there was a significant time change so we were served breakfast at about 11 pm EST. 😛
One of the stewardesses found out that we were a singing group, so she asked us to sing a song before landing. Singing “Lord, for Thy Tender Mercy’s Sake” at 1 am on an airplane after a 7-hour flight doesn’t yield the greatest audio, but you can hear some of it in the first vlog.
KLM served us some unique food. Once we had meatballs served with a mash of potato and kale as well as a mash of potato and apple. Quite good, actually!
We had a 3-hour layover in Amsterdam, which we passed by freshening up, playing games, and catching up with family using the complimentary wifi.
On this trip, I was introduced to an interesting card game called “Rats”. It doesn’t take a whole lot of brain power, but it does take quick reflexes. When I got home, I purchased the game off of Amazon to show my younger siblings and relive some fun memories. You can find it on Amazon here.
When you don’t have a table, stack a few violin and trumpet cases together:
Our flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg was 11 hours long, but it passed quickly thanks to being able to mostly sit together as a group. The seatback monitors had a neat feature that allowed you to play Battleship against other people on the plane, so we had many tournaments.
Flying over France:
Vlad assisting Myron by blocking out the light so he could get footage of our descent into Johannesburg (you can see this footage in the vlog linked below):
Click here to watch Vlog #1: “Off to a Wimpy Start”.
At the Johannesburg airport, we met up with Leah (who had flown from England), Vince, Paul, and Nelaine (who had flown together on a separate flight). We congregated at Wimpy’s, a restaurant that we later kept seeing all over South Africa. They seem to serve primarily breakfast food. The staff kindly allowed us to dump all our luggage and take over most of the restaurant for the night. We got into Johannesburg around 11 pm local time and Roy (our SA coordinator) didn’t come to pick us up until 9 am the following morning.
PS – South Africa is 7 hours ahead of EST, which most of us were used to.
We tried to get some sleep. Most of us got an hour or two, but since the lights in the restaurant were on and there were other jetlagged people awake and talking, none of us had much luck.
Eventually we gave up trying to sleep and started clustering together in groups to play games (at about 3 am).
Before breakfast, we all trekked up to the observation deck at the airport to see the beautiful sky. Of course it felt like we’d been awake for half a day already.
All the photogs were taking advantage of the delicious light. (I, for one, rarely see a sunrise.)
Myron, our resident videographer:
Finally leaving the Johannesburg airport! We were all very ready to smell fresh air and be outside again.
Roy brought three drivers with him: Lawrence, Frans, and Wian. Our caravan consisted of 4 vehicles and three trailers. If you watch the vlogs, you’ll quickly see that we had a recurring problem of staying together….
For most of the trip, all 8 of us girls traveled together in the big Mercedes van. We didn’t have a lot of extra space, but we made many good memories and did a lot of singing together.
Driving on the wrong side of the road!
We left the airport Saturday morning and drove 2 hours to the Samekoms conference center in Middelburg, where we spent one night.
The conference center was surrounded by pastureland – and a high-voltage fence:
“Big Red” (Wian’s little engine that could usually be found at the front of the caravan):
The door to the kitchen:
All of the rooms were on one hall. The accommodations were very simple, but adequate. (There were a few places where you could see daylight through cracks in the walls in some of the rooms, but the only unwelcome visitor we saw was a brightly-colored toad that David quickly dispatched.)
There were about 12 rooms like this one. The beds had mattresses (we realized how much of a luxury this was when we returned to this conference center the last weekend of our trip after spending 4 nights camping in the mud) which we topped with sleeping bags.
Beth (Bethey) with her charming hat:
The bath house:
The back porch of the conference center where some of us were catching some rays during the middle of South African summer in February:
Shavonn apparently having great fun sitting in the sunshine and hemming Leah’s choir dress:
Leah’s mom is from Uganda, but Leah was born in England (which is where her father is from – Leah’s parents met at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Charles Spurgeon’s church in London. Long after Spurgeon’s time, of course. Theirs is a very interesting story.) and has this lovely accent and all kinds of catchy phrases that we Americans tended to pick up on and use frequently.
Sitting around in the living area at the conference center for supper…
We did most of our own cooking while in South Africa. Eating very simply and cheaply meant that lots of pasta, potatoes, rice, and bread were on the menu. “When in South Africa….” I survived, but I was more than ready to get home and eat healthy again. 🙂
(From left to right) Roy Daniels, our South African tour coordinator (he’s an evangelist of British descent who was born in South Africa); Brother Lawrence, one of our wonderful drivers; Brother Paul and Sister Nelaine, our “parents” for the trip (they are from Pennsylvania and Bro. Paul preached at many of our programs)
Valonna, Shavonn, and Abigail
Saturday evening we did some much-needed rehearsing in the chapel at the conference center.
Sunday morning we drove about two hours to an Afrikaans church in Pretoria for our first program. All in all it went quite well, and we enjoyed the program as well as interacting with the people afterwards. South African churches have a wonderful tradition of serving tea and finger foods after their services (I assume this is something they always do, but maybe it was only because we were guests?). Black tea and Rooibos tea were usually served, and there was coffee for those who desired it (usually instant coffee). I was just delighted to be in a culture that caters to tea drinkers.
In case you were wondering, most South Africans speak English as well as Afrikaans or a tribal language, depending on their background. English is taught in schools, so some of the younger children we met weren’t fluent yet. It was a blessing to be able to communicate with almost everyone without using an interpreter!
See the cloud of dust below? We girls are at the back of the line – again. This was on the way to the church Sunday morning.
To get to the Samekoms conference center, we had to drive for about 10 kilometers on dirt roads. I thought the picture below was neat: paved meets dirt.
Click here to watch Vlog #2: “On the Road to Pennington”.
At our program in an Afrikaans church Sunday morning, Valonna met her South African twin! Don’t they look alike? Our drivers, who knew this lady previously, met Valonna and immediately told her that there was someone in South Africa she had to meet!
Immediately after the finger foods at the church, we started the 9-hour drive to Pennington, which is located on the southeastern coast of South Africa. We stayed there for a week at another conference center and went to different schools every morning to give programs.
On the road from Pretoria to Pennington in the Mercedes van with our faithful trailer full of luggage in tow:
We drove through the Drakensburg Mountains. Absolutely beautiful! This was during one of the rare moments when it wasn’t raining. Later on in the trip, we drove through hours of pouring rain!
(Photo credit to someone else – maybe Vlad?)
We arrived at the conference center in Pennington at about 11 pm, ready to crash. Wian’s wife Lientjie had a wonderful supper of chicken, rice, and gravy waiting for us, and we didn’t go to bed until about 1 am. After 9 hours of traveling, we needed a little time to unwind.
Side note: I tried Marmite for the first time. It tasted like I expected it to. 😛 One thing to scratch off my bucket list, though!
Bye for now, folks! See ya next week!
Myron is still catching up on the vlogs from the end of the trip, so be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel and check out the South Africa playlist to catch up on the vlogs you’ve missed!
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