Rev Hendrik Du Plessis
I went to visit him on Sunday afternoon, July 4, before I left for Mababe. During my visit to him, I spoke to him seriously and warned that he is very exposed to Covid-19 because there are many children and grandchildren living in his yard. They pick up the virus at school or anywhere and come and infect the people in his yard. “Frits, as you know, there is now a drastic increase in Covid-19 cases in this area. I am prepared to take you to your cattle post at my own expense. ” We then agreed that I would take him away to his cattle post at 9 o’clock on Monday morning.
The next morning he called me and asked if we can wait a while, because rumors are circulating that the vaccine is on its way, and we could be vaccinated sometime that week. I called Sister Thupe, Gantsi’s nurse, to find out if the vaccine had arrived.
It had not arrived but she promised me to let me know as soon as it is there. On Tuesday morning she let me know that the vaccine had arrived and that we could go for the Sinovac vaccination on Wednesday morning.
The next morning we first had to go to the hospice in Gantsi to be tested to see if we might not already have the virus. Arriving there, we had to wait in a long line until it was our turn. Miriam (my wife) was with us too. She came on her own. Our plan was to be vaccinated together. From there we went to the community hall for the vaccinations. Shortly after Miriam was vaccinated, she began to have severe heart palpitations and felt very dizzy. Frits and I waited with her until the symptoms started to subside before we tackled the 40 km back to D’kar again. So we were able to drive up behind her to make sure she got home safely.
The next day I called Frits to find out what time I could pick him up to take him to his cattle post. To my shock, he replied that his daughter, Dinah, who teaches at the preschool at Clareo here near D’kar, had contracted Covid-19. She had been tested positive and the clinic on D’kar has ordered them not to go anywhere so that everyone can be tested on site. They would arrive the next day, Friday, which did not happen then and was postponed until Monday.
Monday, July 12, Abdul, his son Johannes, and I, left for Mababe. This time, unfortunately, Frits could not go along. On the way to Mababe, I kept in touch with Frits all the time. Eventually the clinic came and eight members of his family tested positive, Frits included. From then on, I called Frits every day until Friday the 16th. Sunday the 18th, I called again in the afternoon. His daughter then answered the phone and said that Frits was struggeling to breathe.
I immediately called the clinic in D’kar and asked them to send the ambulance to Frits as soon as possible. Not long after, they went to pick him up at his house. He was still trying to climb into the ambulace by himself, but they had to help him up because he was already so weak. That evening I called his daughter. I heard her crying heartbrokenly. The ambulance man had just brought the message that Frits had not made it. I could not believe it. His family, obviously ignorant, did not notice that their father’s condition was getting worse. It was not easy for me, but a huge shock. For 20 years, Frits and I were inseparable. If there was anyone who always faithfully wore his mask, it was Frits, but he was not protected against his own family.
As I mentioned, Abdul and Johnnes, his son accompanied me to Mababe and Motopi. Abdul made his confession of faith in D’kar a year ago. For him it is very important to take his sons with him, to expose them to the Gospel. He desperately wants them to get involved with the church. They themselves have not yet made a confession of faith or attended the services, and the Christian conversations around the campfire are very important to Abdul as far as his children are concerned. On a previous occasion it was Xgaiga, his other son, who was with us at Bere, and then Johannes. With the recent Mababe and Motopi outreach, it was again Johannes who could not wait to go along.
We were in Mababe for two weeks where we could conduct regular Bible studies. When we meet, it reminds me a lot of the house churches in New Testament times. There were no churches then as we know it today. In 1 Corinthians 16:19, Paul says, “The churches in the province of Asia send you their greetings; Aquila and Priscilla and the church that meets in their house send warm Christian greetings.” In Romans 16: 5, Paul says, “Greetings also to the church that meets in their house. Greetings to my dear friend Epaenetus, who was the first in the province of Asia to believe in Christ.” In Colossians 4:15, Paul says, “Greetings also to the church that meets in their house. Greetings to my dear friend Epaenetus, who was the first in the province of Asia to believe in Christ.” In Philemon verses 1 – 2, Paul says: “1From Paul, a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy—To our friend and fellow worker Philemon, 2and the church that meets in your house, and our sister Apphia, and our fellow soldier Archippus: 3May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” It tells us that house churches were a common phenomenon in New Testament times. It is encouraging to know that even the apostles started small, and had congregations that arose in homes.
The name of the man who welcomed us every time and who has gone out of his way to invite and receive us since 2017, is Idea. How he got his name as a Bushman, I do not know. He is a very dynamic person and through his actions we have already got a large yard from the government on which we can later, if the Lord wills, build a church or a structure.
He has a book in which he writes down the names of all who receive Bibles and audio Bibles. His wife does the writing for him. In the two weeks there, we were able to visit the village, Sankoyo, twice and Khwai once. The joy and excitement of giving people the audio bibles strikes you anew every time. According to Idea, the audio bibles are going to bring many people to repentance. “It is as if they are now hearing the Word for the first time,” he said.
During our time there, a government vehicle stopped at our campsite. One of the men introduced himself to us as Maun’s council secretary. His name is Lets. He asked me about the work we do and whether we can get involved in Maun as well. My answer to him was that we can get involved everywhere depending on the funds we raise. He asked for my number and I totally forgot about him until he called me out of the blue yesterday to hear when we were going to Mababe again. He would like us to meet Maun’s council chairman. That man, he says, accompanies the president everywhere in the area. If he hears about the fine work we are doing, the President is definitely going to hear about it, and he expressed his sincere appreciation for what we are doing there.
During our stay at Mababe we were also physically active with the cutting of poles. Idea initially suggested that we hire people to cut down the 40 mopane poles for the fence. My suggestion was: “Idea, there is nothing wrong with our hands, we can cut the poles ourselves, Abdul, Johannes and I.” I have to say, except for the blisters, it was very good exercise. In the end we were able to cut down 35 young mopane trees, good poles for the churchyard. Now we just need the wire for the fence. The question then comes to mind involuntarily, what are we going to do about the elephants. The only thing is to repair the fences from time to time. The people there are used to repair their fences from time to time. There are times when the elephants walk over the fence but when they break it, one has to repair it unless one can get an electrical contraption which shocks them when they touch it.
Idea, as I said, is a very dynamic person, and is serious that we should establish a permanent church in Mababe that serves all the surrounding villages. He also wanted to know from me if we could go to his other family in Kasane next time so that they could also hear the Word of the Lord. It is about 600 kilometers through the wilderness.
The time in Mababe passed quickly, but also slowly, especially the nights. One night seven lions came to visit our tents. I could hear the one near my head passing by. At Abdul and his son’s tent they sniffed and one with his nail scratched at the tent. Abdul then whistled as finely as an angry mamba. People who have ever encountered a severely upset mamba will know that he makes such a shrill whistling sound. The lions then left us alone afterwards. According to Abdul, lions are afraid of mambas and they know a mamba’s famous whistle when he is very angry. From then on we slept with one eye open. Abdul says he once heard a mamba arrive in the field. He found himself between the mamba and his hole. Then, he says, a mamba is then at its most dangerous.
After two weeks in Mababe we wanted to go back home but we could not get travel permits. Meanwhile, Frits was buried Sunday morning. We decided to drive to Maun on Monday, where we would ask the DC (District Commissioner) for a special permit. Unfortunately, the DC could not help us, because these are urgent curfew measures that the president himself has introduced.
On Monday night we camped at Motopi. There we had a long conversation with Gift. He is a Zimbabwean, who has been Dorette’s right hand on Motopi for years. Now that Dorette can no longer go to Motopi regularly, he is the one who handles the services there on Sundays. I called Dorette and asked if it is not the right time to confirm Gift as an elder, seeing that he had applied for citizenship in Botswana and that his Tswana had improved a lot over the years. Dorette thought it would be a very good idea if he is prepared. I discussed this with Gift who was very excited about the proposal and assured us that he definitely feels he is called to work for the Lord. The reason why we postponed it in the past was because there has always been a sword hanging over his head that he can be expelled from the country at any time.
The next morning we were still unsure how we would be able to go back to D’kar. This led us to the plan to drive down the old Heineveld fence. The elephants trampled the fence there. From Makalamabedi it is over 200 km on a sand single track road. That night we slept beside the road, me in the back and Abdul and Johannes in the front of the bakkie. They would keep watch over me, because the lions abound there. This they promised me. I rather think they were too scared to sleep outside. I must say, I have not slept so cold and uncomfortable in a long time. The cold is coming in from everywhere. The next day we were fortunate to be let through the Tsao gate to the Ghanzi district. The Tsao Gate is one of the gates to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Three days ago, Idea called me with the bad news that ten of his family members had tested positive for the corona virus, he included. Our closest pharmacy in Gantsi have a fund set up to provide for people who could not afford with medication. I contacted the pharmacy and they were able to help me with medicine for Idea and his wife (Ada). Your intercession is asked for this family that is now going through a difficult time. Because there are now strict restrictions again and we are not allowed to cross zones, I arranged with their son-in-law to meet me at the foot-and-mouth gate at Kuke. Unfortunately he could not keep his promise and I had to make another plan to send the medicine to Maun where Idea would send someone to pick it up.
The big secret with this disease is to treat it as soon as possible. This we saw with Frits. The big danger is, you do not realize that your oxygen levels start to drop. Because the clinics are so poorly equipped, it leaves our old people very vulnerable. To date, Idea says the clinic there in Mababe has not provided them with any medicine. They will apparently visit them again on Monday.
We pray that the Lord will give us the necessary wisdom during this time.
Your brother in Christ,
Hendrik du Plessis.