At the end of March, a young couple from Arizona did something many wouldn’t. Especially not with four school-aged kids.
Jonny and Carrie Dekkers sold most of their possessions, rented out their home in Arizona and traveled to Zambia, where they plan to stay in a rustic abode, hours from any real grocery stores for six months.
The Dekkers family en route to Zambia.
To serve alongside ITMI’s Johan and Leslie Leach as they work to saturate villages isolated between the Zambezi River and the Angola border with the Gospel.
Working in this area presents many challenges.
The Dekkers' rustic accommodations at the Leach's mission base.
Laundry has to be done by hand.
The only "air conditioning" available to experience is standing between two wet sheets hung to dry.
The critters are as close as family.
A bat found in the rafters of the Dekkers' home away from home.
Last weekend, Jonny shared this story that demonstrates some of the challenges and what the Lord taught him and his family.
After the adventure, Carrie shared,
“Jonny got the opportunity to preach at Pastor Collin’s church in Chavuma this morning. God used the crazy adventures from earlier in the week to prepare him to give the message. ‘Does what we believe inform how we live?’ ”
Jonny sharing in a local church.
Wednesday morning started early for me.
Up at 5am - yes, I know that’s not early for some of you but it is for this night owl - and out the door to pick up Davy, one of the local pastors in Chavuma.
We were headed back from Lusaka on a 11 hour “shortcut” to my home away from home.
The journey started off with me getting pulled over for going 87 kph in an 80 zone. That’s the equivalent of driving 54MPH in a 50 zone IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!
The Zambian road.
So after a bit of of persuading by Davy and I, the fine was reduced to 100 Kwacha ($8) which I’m 99% sure went in to the back pocket of the officer.
We were back on the road dodging potholes the size of baby elephants and slowing down to let herds of goats and packs of monkeys have the right of way. We were making pretty good time when we got to the Black Forest.
Most of the roads we had been on up until this point were pretty rough, but calling the sandy winding path we were embarking on now a road, is a stretch.
But this wasn’t my first time 4-wheeling so I threw the Land Cruiser into 4WD and off we went...for about 5 minutes.
That’s when a large truck hauling logs was coming down the trail our direction so we took a detour that landed us in deep sand and instantly I was stuck!
Thankfully, the guys were super nice and after a few laughs at my expense, they helped dig and push us out once one of them pointed out I hadn’t locked the front hubs.
Davy locked one and our new friend locked the other and we were off again.
After this mishap I remembered Uncle Johno telling me to not be tempted to take any of the many offshoots to the right that could send us down logging trails deep into the Black Forest.
So slowly, we made our way through the rough terrain but this sandy path was proving to be way more difficult than anything I had done in my Jeep back home.
Staying in lower gears, keeping my RPMs up, but still it wasn’t too much longer and I found myself stuck again and this time we were stuck good!
Davy and I got out of the truck to assess our situation. The spare tire and rear diff were sitting in the sand. We weren’t going anywhere until we dug them out, but we had to be careful not to sink our tires in even deeper in the process.
We tried everything we could think of, jamming small logs and branches under the tires to gain some sort of traction but nothing was working. All the while, hundreds of flies were invading every orifice on our heads.
In a last ditch effort we tried something a friend taught me a while back and tied small logs to the tires to lift the truck out of the spot it had dug in. Slowly but surely it worked! Davy made a path of branches and finally after over two hours we were out.
Still a long ways to go and light was quickly fading, which meant we were in danger of missing our only way across the river at Kabompo on a pontoon ferry. Davy warned me we were coming up on another stretch of deep sand just a little ways out from the river crossing.
I used every trick I knew to keep from bogging down but it was no use, we were stuck again!
Jonny assesses the stuck vehicle.
Davy quickly assured me not to worry and gathered some people in the village to help push us through. At this point I couldn’t help but feel a bit defeated and was about ready to turn in my man card, but was super thankful for their kindness.
We finally made it to the pontoon and...it was closed down for the night.
Davy jumped out of the truck and asked me If I had some extra money. He started chatting up the locals and got ahold of the captain of the only vessel that could get us home. Ten minutes later and a few extra bucks and we were across the river!
Davy reminded me to unlock the hubs as we were soon going to be back on tar roads. As I went to unlock the hubs I couldn’t believe what I saw. One of the hubs the guys “locked” was still in the free position!
No wonder we were getting stuck, we were essentially in 2WD the whole time.
At this point we were just excited that we were about an hour and a half away from a shower, some dinner, our families and a bed. We were on the home stretch when suddenly 20 minutes down the road all the warning lights on the dash lit up the night.
I quickly pulled over and killed the engine.
We popped the hood and there it was, the timing belt in pieces! It looked like somewhere in the Black Forest a branch shot up under the hood and knocked the water tank off its mount and wore through it.
We were stuck.
This is where normally a quick call to a tow truck, AAA or a good buddy and a short time later you are on your way. Not in the middle of the Zambian bush.
For one, we barely could get a phone signal. Two, very few people have cars much less something big enough to tow us in. Three, even fewer have the fuel to drive an hour plus each way.
So from a little after 8pm until about 5:30 in the morning we sat on the side of the road.
I dozed in and out of sleep thinking about all that had taken place that day. The lessons God was teaching me. Why everything happened the way it did.
I kept thinking about James 4.
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life?
For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say,
"If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
About 5:30 in the morning, I opened my eyes to see headlights off in the distance. I groggily flipped on the hazard lights and watched as a vehicle similar to ours drove past us and then stopped in the road and started backing up.
Davy and I got out of the truck to explain our situation when Davy recognized the man behind the wheel. It was a Mattias, a man who worked at the mission just up the hill from us in Chavuma.
We popped the hood and after a quick look he went to his vehicle and came back with a set of tools and a timing belt! He had a newer model of the same truck and had a spare with him.
He quickly replaced the belt and hurried off to take his kids to boarding school before I even could start the engine
Davy and I thanked God for providing a way for us and headed back down the road. After a quick fuel up we were shortly back in Chavuma. I dropped Davy off and rolled into see Carrie and the kids there to greet me just after 9am
I don’t understand everything God’s doing in the moment.
I am so thankful He is giving me a greater awareness of His role in every part of my life and teaching me to be more and more dependent on Him. Even if it means going through a crazy day like that.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
- Isaiah 55:8-11