A Tale of Two Journeys
By: Donna Haug
June 20, 2003
Five a.m. in Maputo, Mozambique, is just as dark as anywhere else in the world and the bed feels just as comfortable as it can be, but the Haug family dragged themselves out of bed and loaded up the truck for the big journey. My husband, Mark, and I finally had the last minute bags and three sleepy children in the truck. We looked a little like modern day hillbillies with our truck loaded to the hilt inside, roof rack piled up, roof top tent on the canopy and a fully loaded trailer towing behind. By six a.m. we picked up our fellow missionaries, Izirlei and Lenilda, and began our trip to northern Mozambique. Lenilda would be staying at a city at the halfway point called Beira. She would be helping to set up a Christian Education Resource Library there. Mark and Izirlei were going to be traveling around to various interior towns in the province of Zambezia for over 2 weeks preaching, giving seminars to pastors and leaders as well as showing the Jesus film wherever they went. Our children, who are on their summer holidays from school, were looking forward to spending a few weeks with Grandma and Grandpa, who just happen to be missionaries in Quelimane, the first city north of the Zambezi River.
At first the journey was fairly smooth. The road was not too bad and we were all dozy. Along the way we were amazed at how many charred and broken down vehicles we saw at the side of the road or flipped upside down in the ditches. We gazed at them as we passed, thankful it was not us. We ate our lunch standing beside the truck and had our bathroom brakes in the bush at the side of the road, always leery of the ever present danger of unmarked landmines. We finally arrived at our first overnight stop, Inhassoro, by late afternoon. The beach hotel we stayed at was very comfortable and nice. The options on the menu at the hotel restaurant left much to be desired. You could choose between fish and chicken. It was also a true lesson in patience as we waited “forever” for our food to arrive (cold) and as the power kept turning off! It’s amazing how dark it gets when the power goes out in the bush. Our six year old son, Jesse, had been admiring how many stars there were in the sky. When the lights came back on he wondered, “Hey! Who took all the stars away?”
The second day of our journey was to be a shorter one (only 500 kms), so we took our time leaving. Soon the road started to look like someone had taken a hole-punch to it. We slowly weaved around the tired eating potholes. Just when we got back up to speed, we would hit another stretch of more potholes hidden under those potholes. There were stretches of the road where the potholes had taken over completely and the asphalt simply disappeared. By the time we reached Beira we were all exhausted and longing for our beds. After visiting with the two Brazilian lady missionaries whose house we had invaded, we finally got to sleep close to midnight.
Six a.m. the following morning came a little too soon, but this leg of the journey promised to be even more interesting! We left Lenilda there, but she was replaced by another Brazilian missionary couple who asked for a ride to Quelimane. So, with all three children piled in the canopy of our double cab pick-up, we back tracked the two hours from Beira to the main highway (potholes under potholes, you must remember!)
Now, anyone who knows anything about traveling in Mozambique knows about the “ferry tales”. Mozambique is cut in half by the Zambezi River and there is no bridge to cross over it unless you are willing to do a two day detour through Malawi! The main highway up country ends abruptly at the river’s edge and a scary looking ferry is your way across to the rest of the country. Every trip that we or my parents have made through this area involves some sort of “ferry tale”. Either it is not running because it is broken down, or because it is raining or the line up is just too long and an over night stay in the truck is the only option. We had been praying along the way that the ferry would be running this time and that the line up would not be too long. We made good time to the ferry, arriving at the water’s edge by 11:30. As we drove in, we noticed there was no line up so we figured we would make it to Quelimane by mid-afternoon without any problem. But there was a problem. There was no ferry to be seen anywhere! We talked to a man who was sitting on a tractor, greeting him with a “Bom Dia!” (“Good Day!”) His response got me worried. “É um mau dia!” (“It’s a bad day!”) The day before our ferry had SUNK with three cars and two large, fully loaded trucks at the edge of the river on the other side! We could just make out the tarp on the one truck sticking out of the water! That could have been US! Thankfully no one was injured in the accident but now what were WE to do?
We were told about an alternate route we could attempt. Mark’s spirit of adventure rose up and off we went. We were to take a 60 km detour on a dirt road going northwest following the river. At a tiny village there was a turn off to an old railway bridge which had been converted to a long, one-lane crossing for the adventurous at heart. We crossed the river with no problem, but we were not “out of the woods” yet! We had to follow another much worse dirt road for an hour and then hope that the small ferry to get us across yet another river was running. After driving through rain and mud to get to this river’s edge our truck really looked like it had not been washed in an awfully long time! We joined the line up of cars and trucks desperate to make it across. There were people who had spent two nights in their trucks already and were not at all interested in spending yet another one there! As we waited we shared the last of our sandwiches with the others in our vehicle. I took my 11 year old daughter for a bathroom break in the reeds beside the river and apparently caused quite a commotion among those waiting for the ferry. Mark came after us to warn us that crocodiles like to hide in those reeds! Yikes! We quickly finished our business and got out of there intact.
We watched and shook our heads as we saw this tiny ferry, loaded with a pickup and a large truck, being winched across the river by a cable powered by four men laboring an oversized handle around and around. After four hours of waiting, it was finally our turn. We made it across on the last trip before darkness fell. Accompanied by two other vehicles who had asked to travel together with us, we ventured into the unknown. We had to find our way in the dark through one-lane, windy dirt roads to the highway. Two hours later we finally found the highway and arrived in Quelimane by 10 p.m. Were we glad to see my parents? Oh yeah! It was worth it all to get that big bear hug from my dad and mom, eat a good hot meal and fall into a nice comfortable bed! We had arrived!
As I considered the adventures of this journey, it reminded me of what our spiritual life is like at times. We start off fresh and eager. We see others who struggle or fall and we are just grateful it is not us. But then struggles and problems fill our journey with more potholes then we know what to do with and we begin to slow down and get tired. God provides rest stops and encouragement along the way but the journey must continue. Then life seems to take a turn for the better. Things are going smoothly again. We have time to enjoy the scenery and we are making good time. Suddenly, a tragedy happens that can throw us for a loop. Our expectations change and we take the detour. How will we respond to this detour? We can stand there and stew about it, getting frustrated and impatient, or we can build relationships along the way with fellow travelers. We can team up with them and journey together, offering each other companionship, safety and encouragement. And when we finally arrive at our destination, it will be worth it all. When we see Jesus face to face, we will hear his “Welcome home! You made it! Well done!” He will throw a party like none we have ever seen. I long for that day! I want to encourage you to keep on with your journey. Join forces with your brothers and sisters and soon we will all be home!
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I too am amazed at the fact you get time for writing on top of this busy, busy schedual. Davy
This is just incredible to me! Your stories of everyday life seem like such an exotic adventure to me. About the only "adventure" I have is if someone has a wreck and I have to divert from my 10 minute work commute to an alternate 15 mintue route. (All on well paved roads). It is so hard to imagine you out there dodging landmines and crocodiles and then calmly typing your article and placing it here on the internet. God Bless you and your family and may He keep you safe and in His grace! -Patrick
I'm with Patrick! Donna, this is amazing. With love, Deb