I can’t believe the Container is finally packed and on the way to Africa! It seems like we have spent all of our time for the last 11 months either planning, collecting supplies, sorting, or packing.
This Project started out as a “don’t you wish” back in 2007. On my first trip with Timothy up into Africa, I watched how quickly our bakkie (Afrikaans for “pick up”) was unloaded after driving over 1500 miles from Cape Town to Zambia to get the supplies there. I asked, “Isn’t there a more efficient way of doing this?” Tim laughed, saying that yes but it was almost more trouble than it was worth. A rookie at the time, I thought a person could just load up a container in the US, ship it there, and voila, you would have tons of stuff to distribute. Haha. After a few more road trips around the continent, I learned that it just doesn’t work like that in Africa. Sure, loading up the stuff on this side is do-able (I almost said “easy enough”, but having just completed that part, I can’t bring myself to use the “e” word yet), but just to get that far you have to raise the funding to ship it and gather the supplies to put inside, either through purchase or donation. Then, once you actually fill the container, which is 40’x8’x8′ and 2300 cu ft, it travels over sea (which is the easiest part of the whole process) where it meets Africa.
Ah, Africa. Africans have a saying, “You white men have the watches, but we have the time.” Oh, and they take delight in helping you experience time… a lot of it. After a short time in the Dark Continent, I understood the meaning behind “red tape”. After getting gummed up in a never ending stream of government paperwork and hassles, you quickly see RED. Importing a shipping container full of valuable supplies (for everything has value in a continent that has nothing) means dealing with a LOT of red tape. Once the container arrives at the coast, it will sit there until someone feels like loading it on a truck. Then it will travel over the perilous African roads. Land mines aren’t really a problem in Southern Africa (South Africa, Zam, Zim, Botswana, etc), but the roads are potholed and treacherous, petrol stations are few and far between, and road blocks (read “bribes”) are numerous. Upon reaching the border (read “paperwork and bribes”), the shipping container goes through all kinds of inspections before it can pass on. When it finally reaches your country, it has to go through customs (read “nightmare”).
However, once you’ve gone through all of that to get the container to the village, the impact is indescribable. Having that many Bibles, school materials, and supplies to distribute is simply amazing. You never forget giving someone their first and only Bible. I’ll always remember the little old African woman in rural Zambia who gently wiped her tears off the cover of the Bible I gave her. It wasn’t even a very nice Bible. The pages tattered and the cover worn, this volume had obviously been well-loved by someone before her. But she didn’t see torn pages or smudges; she saw her very own copy of God’s Word. She saw the opportunity to read about her Savior to her children and grandchildren. She saw hope for the future.
When I remember those beautiful people, I forget how long it took to pack the Container. Suddenly a few months of sweat seems rather inconsequential. When we finally open those doors in Africa, we will have thousands of books to take to churches, schools, pastors, children, and dear people… people starving for hope and real joy.
At the end of this phase of our Container Project, I truly understand what we saw in the beginning. This Project is way too big for us. I thank God that He was there every step of the way… before we were. I am grateful that He brought His people together to help us gather Bibles and supplies, fund the shipping, and manage the logistics. There are so many examples of God’s provision. I will try to remember some of them to share in the future. For now, I’m just so thankful that the Container is packed, the doors shut, and the inventory cleared.
Please pray that God’s hand will be on the Container and go before it. Pray that He will be there at the roadside, the customs desk, and the road blocks. Pray that He gives us favor in the eyes of the agents. Pray that His Word reaches His people in safely.