Flying Home from Africa

Woodcutter in Mozambique

In the next few posts I would like to return to the end of my trip to Africa, and update you as well on events since then.

The long trek home began in the back end of a large, bouncy truck, included a quick stop at a souvenir shop, where we watched three men carve figurines from beautiful, dark wood. They will spend an entire day on one piece and then be grateful to sell it for $5. The average full-time employee in Mozambique earns $4 a day or about $110 a month. Most of the shops are owned not by local people, but by the Chinese and other nationalities. You can imagine this may create some tensions.

Nampula has 400,000 people but no malls and no large stores. They did have a Shoprite Store for a few years, which was great, as the local people could then get almost everything they needed at one stop. But its owners in South Africa became suspicious that embezzlement was taking place, and before they could investigate the whole building burned to the ground.

On the flight from Nampula to Johannesburg I sat next to a white woman who grew up in Zimbabwe. She looked much older than she was. She and her husband, who are Christians, have tried to start several businesses throughout their lifetime, but all to no avail. Customers often don’t pay for services rendered. Moreover, each time they acquired a few earthly possessions, thugs broke into their home and stole it all—even down to food from the cupboard and drinks from the fridge. They have been left “penniless many times,” she said. Now they are in dire straits and pray daily for God’s provision.

To go from the poverty of Nampula to the luxury of the Johannesburg airport is a bit of a culture shock. The 17-hour overnight flight from South Africa to Washington, D.C. (with one drop down in Senegal), went well despite my exhaustion. I enjoyed editing Dr. Andrew Woolsey’s doctoral dissertation on the development of covenant theology. What a ground-breaking book this is! I am so glad that Reformation Heritage Books is going to publish it.

My flight landed three hours late in Washington D.C., so I missed my flight to Chicago. That was the beginning of a strange 10-hour saga in which I tried to get tickets to Chicago and on to GR—first, successfully; then, unsuccessfully, as my boarding passes didn’t register after all. Meanwhile, Mary called me and told me that my dear mother was dying, which made getting home all the more urgent. Finally, I got on standby to Chicago. Because the plane stayed at the gate for an extra hour to take on additional customers, I then missed my Grand Rapids connection.

All the Chicago-Grand Rapids flights were full for the remainder of the day and evening, but in God’s kindness, I managed again to get on by standby. The fact that my mother was dying did not help at all, but having “Silver Elite” status as a “frequent flyer” did, as I was put at the head of the standby list on both occasions. Had that not been the case, I would not have been able to make it home at all that day. As it was, I didn’t arrive home until 8:00 p.m. It took me 39 hours to get from Mozambique to Grand Rapids—the longest airport trek of my life. One could fly around the world in that amount of time!

Our family went straight from the airport to Kalamazoo to see my dying mother. After praying, singing, and talking, we said a second tearful goodbye, telling her that we would meet her on the other side, God willing, to spend an eternity together praising Christ. We then drove up to Grand Rapids to see Johanna Mast, who was in the same condition as my mother. After visiting with them, and working our way through pre-arrangements for a potential funeral, I finally arrived home just before midnight.


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