Category Archives: The Call

Post 75. Bridges burnt

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Us all blurry eyed at the airport. Zoe making plans to rock and roll.

Us at the airport- all blurry eyed.

We did a trip down to Durban to say goodbye to Wilf and Val, Dave and Pete and their families.  It was a hard one.  For us, we were going on the adventure of our lives, and they were just wondering if they would ever see us again.  We tried to give them assurance that we would be ok, but how could we know that?  We let them into the details we did have, but those details opened up more questions we couldn’t answer.  Nothing we said made them feel better about letting us all go.

Back in Johannesburg, we had an amazing send off from our church.  There were so many tears but lots of promises of letters, calls and visits. During a conference in the Drakensberg, we were prayed for again.  Dudley and Anne Daniel and Mike and Joan Hanchett were the first of the NCMI families to leave the shores of South Africa to go to “the nations”.  We were the third.   It was comforting to know, that while we were going alone we weren’t really alone.  There were so many who loved us and were supportive of what we were doing.  There were commitments from our church and a few friends to support us financially until we got on our feet.   We weren’t quite sure what “On our feet” meant but we were hoping that wouldn’t take forever.  At the same time, knowing that in a third world context, it might.

When we were on the stage surrounded by our friends, I got really tearful.  I was trying hard to be brave.  Every time I came undone, I hid my face in Tony’s chest.  There was no way I could hide my smallness or my vulnerability.  While all the words had been encouraging, I had a feeling that things weren’t going to be easy.  When we got back to our room later on that evening, I expressed my concern to Tony.  There wasn’t one mention about how tough it was going to be.  We took the words and wrote them down in our big book of “Words for India.”  There were some pretty big ones and there were also a lot of blank pages still to be filled up.  We were very aware that any words no matter how great or profound, were just fantasies without hard work and obedience.

On 3 September 1991, we left South Africa.  Tony was beyond excited.  It was his fourth trip to India.  It was so different from his first trip as an independent, messed up twenty one year old on the drug/hippy trail.  This time he was going as a pioneer, a husband and father of two. This time he was hoping to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Going to the airport with our family and friends was hard. Some were crying as if they would never see us again.  While we didn’t want to upset the girls, Sue and I were beside ourselves; especially when I saw her hugging Asha and Zoe goodbye.  She was like a second mother to them.

We had bought a set of 4 new suitcases from medium all the way down to small; one for our clothes, one for the girl’s clothes, a bag for books and toys and then a small one for toiletries and extras. The girls each had a little back pack of goodies and special toys to keep them busy on the plane.   We heard the final call and we had to go.

When we were thousands of kilometres up in the air, Tony and I independently had the same thought. “If this plane goes down it will be at the peak of my obedience to God.”  We would have been happy to go to heaven right then.  I was so happy I wasn’t giving much thought to how the  “heaven” thing might have happened.

I hadn’t flown much since our around the world trip with Ash when she was 6 months old.  Memories of our bad take offs and landings came back to me but I managed to calm my self down.  The kids distracted me and I kept trying to imagine what it was going to be like landing in India.  Our flight was great.   Zoë kept us on our feet and got overtired and miserable.  Ash was as good as gold.  When the girls finally dozed off at the same time, I got out my journal and scribbled down some of my thoughts.

“Lord, if you want to take me now

At the peak of my obedience to you

You can do that

If not, please give me the grace

To be always at a peak

So I will be ready at any time

Love,

Lin”

So, with all our bridges burnt, there was no going back.  This was it.   My heart was in a country I had never been to and I was following it.  We were making plans to live there forever, not in the least bit concerned that all we had in our passports were six-month tourist visas.

PS.

From now on I will be sharing excerpts from my journals in quotation marks.  That way I will stick to how I was really feeling at the time with no hindsight perspective.

Post 74. The big question

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Our six years in South Africa were coming to a close.  Johannesburg had become our home and now we were going to have to say goodbye.   We had made so many good friends.  We had also accumulated a lot of stuff; a whole houseful of furniture, clothing, toys, books and kitchen utensils.   Most of it had been given to us.  Once our tickets were booked, we started to give things away.  We managed to sell some of our big things and that money was going to be what we lived on when we got to the other side.  All we had left was a big box of Tupperware, a few boxes of books, photo albums and a few other sentimental things.  Friends offered to store them for us.  At that point we had no idea when we would ever see them again.  We weren’t planning to be back any time soon.

The big question was, “Where will you be living in India?”   Somehow we knew it would be in the North, somewhere near the source of the Ganga.  While it was something, it still left a lot to the imagination.  India was huge and there were needs everywhere.  How was it going to be possible to pick a spot?  Closing our eyes and pointing at the map wasn’t an option but at least we knew our starting point.

When Tony got back from his survey trip, things were a little bit clearer.  At least there was a plan.  We would stay in Goa for six months to learn as much as we could from the NFI family.  Tony felt that would be the softest introduction to India for all of us.  That was settled. We were going to take one step at a time.  Goa was in the South and we were going to live in the North.  How we were going to get up there didn’t enter our minds.

God had also spoken to Tony about children of influential families.  He was reading Ps 45:9 which talked about daughters of kings being part of God’s household.  Tony started to cry and pray for those children and had a deep burden for Rajiv Gandhi’s daughter.  He had no idea if he even had a daughter.

People thought we were radical.  We didn’t feel we were being radical.  God told us to go and we were being obedient.  We both knew that if we chose to stay anywhere else, no matter how “safe,” we would be miserable.  Our biggest desire was to be in the will of God. His will was going to be home for us

I didn’t know much about India.  Most of what I knew, I had learnt from Tony, and he wasn’t the best at giving details.   We didn’t have a TV so I hadn’t watched any programmes featuring India on National Geographic.  Because we didn’t know where we would be living, we didn’t know which language we needed to learn.   We didn’t even think about it.  There was no preparation other than preparation of the heart.  During my YFC and O.M days we had been taught to be R.F.A.  Ready for anything.  We figured that as long as our hearts were ready, we would be ok.

We chatted to Phil and Linda Maxwell who had started a community and school in Hout Bay.  Their advice was that we home-schooled our girls.  That sounded like a good idea.  They also talked about what an idol formal education had become.  They helped us to see how much our girls were going to learn just being on the trip with us.  The advice we got from Rob Rufus was “Go in naivety and childlike trust.  You don’t have to know everything for everything to work out.”

It became more and more obvious to me that our children were happy and secure, all the time they were with us.  They didn’t mind where we went or for how long, as long as they were tagging along. The concept of another nation, another city was just not an issue for them.  It had to do with family.  Geography has little meaning when you are 2 and nearly 4.  We decided then that if it wasn’t an issue for them, we weren’t going to make it an issue.  There was going to be no suggestion of “shame you poor kids, having to tag along with us and give up all your friends and family.”

They were part of our call to India.  Whatever we were going to face, we were going to face together.  We were burning all our bridges and there was no plan B.

Post 73. Leave the girls with me.

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Life was busy.  Rigby and Sue introduced us to Dudley and Anne Daniel.  Dudley had formed a team called New Covenant Ministries International. They helped pastors and leaders all over South Africa.  Tony was the new kid on the block so he went along and sat quietly listening to everything that was going on.  It was all really helpful for our future and there were many friends made along the way.  Those who knew of our plan to move to India were supportive and it was comforting to know we weren’t alone in the decision

The movement got bigger and bigger and the first few couples left South African shores to start communities in other countries.  We knew our time was coming soon.  It had been almost six years since Tony had arrived in S.A.  He had learnt so much from Rig and other people in his life.  We read lots of books on parenting, marriage and missions.  One story we cried through was the story of William Carey.  We were so challenged by his life and perseverance.  He just never seemed to give up no matter what happened to him or his family.  We wondered if we would be as brave.

Asha was besotted with her baby sister.   Zoë was chunky and strong and able to put up with all the affection.  They were best friends from day one.  Zoë started walking at 9 ½ months.  She insisted on pushing the limits and was prepared to risk her life for anything she felt was worth it.   She was given a little brown monkey with a pointy finger that was supposed to go into its mouth.  Zoë used that finger to touch all kinds of things she wasn’t allowed to touch.  If we asked her if she touched the stereo, she would just say, “Monkey touchdit.”   When she was 2 ½ I told her I was going to smack her for something.  She looked at me and said, “You smack me, I smack you.”  Another time, she ignored me when I was calling her over and over again.  When I went to find her she looked at me and said, “Talkin a me?”  She had a twinkle in her eye and was full of spunk.  The Bum Woody worked over time.

Asha at 2 ½ was a sweet tooth, “admin” type.  During a ladies bible study she was paging through the Bible as if she was reading it.  I asked her what she was reading.  She ran her finger along the line and said, “God said, you must eat sweets.”  Once when we were on holiday down the coast, we visited a church. Nothing had been organised for the kids so they were all at the back on a blanket.  Asha got them all to sit in a circle, opened her little brown suitcase, handed them each a toy and came and sat down next to us on a chair where she could watch them.  They were all way older than she was.

When people heard we were moving to India with our girls, we got different responses.  Most of them were positive, but Wilf and Val were very concerned.  They suggested we leave the girls with them, go do our thing in India and then come back when it was out of our system.  More than concerned, they were sad.  They had already said goodbye to Ryan and Leigh.  Another friend from Brazil, wrote a very angry letter to Tony, telling him how irresponsible he was, taking his little girls to India.   She didn’t mince her words.

It was a bit scary.  Before Tony’s survey trip, we had very little idea about where we were going.  We didn’t know what we would do about schooling.  We knew very little about anything.  What we did know was that our girls were going with us.  God spoke to us about the children of Israel.  He didn’t tell them to leave their kids in Egypt.  He didn’t say, “Leave them in Egypt and when you are well settled and safe in the Promised Land, you can go back and get them.”   If that had been the case, the kids would never have seen their parents again.   Staying behind wasn’t an option.  They had to go with their parents.  They had to see the wonders of God.  They had to see His wrath against sin and they had to wander in the wastelands to see how He could provide food, water and everything else they needed.  They had to be there.

Reading about how William Carey had lost two wives and a couple of children in India wasn’t much comfort to those who were already concerned.   I knew there would be huge adjustments. As mother of two little ones, I knew that I would be stretched beyond anything I had ever known.  I knew I wasn’t going to cope with starving people and dying children if I didn’t have the means to help them.  God knew the many needs would overwhelm me; and I knew He wouldn’t put me among people to be devastated by them.

In all of the questions and wonderings, there were a few things we knew for sure.  We had friends.  We were going to India.  Our girls were coming with us.  So was God.

Post 72. The Call

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A lot had changed.  Tony was working at Waverley as a salaried pastor, we sold our VW Golf, got a second hand Renault and we had two children. Our biggest surprise was when two businessmen from the church told us they wanted to build us a house.  One of them was a builder and the other owned a hardware store.  They insisted that they didn’t want us to pay a cent towards it.  It was a gift for us.

We couldn’t believe we were going to have our own home.  The church property at Linbro Park was the perfect place for it.   We watched the foundations being dug and the building going up.   We went to the hardware store and selected light fittings, kitchen cupboards and paint for the walls.   It was amazing.  In the back of our minds we knew it wouldn’t be ours for long but we were determined to enjoy it to the full while we had it.

For our house warming party, our friends brought plants for our little garden.   We had shovels and spades ready and we all got our hands dirty.  We loved showing them around and having people on almost every corner of our wall-to- wall carpet.

Just as we were settling, Tony felt it was time to make a survey trip to India.  Dudley Reed was quick to volunteer to go with him.  They had sent their passports to a travel agent to get visas.  On departure day, we left the house for the airport but the passports still hadn’t arrived.  They were apparently in the belly of a plane, which was landing just before theirs was due to take off.   We were all at the airport ready to say a teary goodbye to the two brave men about to embark on their first trip together.  Departure time came and went and we were left standing in the departure lounge, stunned that they had missed the plane.  The travel agent really got it from all sides.  We went home, had a good sleep and the next day was like déjà vu, except they had their visas in hand.

There was a big trip planned all over India; first to Bombay where they met up with some of the leaders of New Frontiers who were doing some great things.  They became good friends.  From there they travelled to Chennai, Delhi and were making their way to Mussoorie, Bihar, Varanasi, Kathmandu, Delhi and then back to Johannesburg.

On the way to Mussoorie they stopped in a small village called Kotdwara.  Tony went up to the flat roof to worship and pray about our future in India.  He was looking over the village and singing an old Keith Green song,

“I pledge my head to heaven for the Gospel,

And I ask no man on earth to fill my needs.

Like the sparrow up above, I am enveloped in His love,

And I trust Him like those little ones He feeds.

Well I pledge my wife to heaven, for the Gospel,

Though our love each passing day just seems to grow.

As I told her when we wed, I’d surely rather be found dead,

Than to love her more than the one who saved my soul.

Well I pledge my son to heaven for the gospel.

Though he’s kicked and beaten, ridiculed and scorned.

I will teach him to rejoice, and lift a thankful praising voice,

And to be like Him who bore the nails and crown of thorns

I’m your child, and I want to be in your family forever

I’m your child, and I’m going to follow you,

Oh no matter whatever the cost, I’m gonna count all things lost

I’ve had the chance to gain the world, and to live just like a king,

But without your love, it doesn’t mean a thing.

Well I pledge my son, I pledge my wife, I pledge my head to heaven for the gospel.”

As he was singing, God spoke into his heart; “I want you to give me your children; whether they live or die.” Then, “I want your wife, whether she lives or dies.”  Then, “Now I want you, whether you live or die.”  Dudley went up onto the roof to find out where he was.  He found him on the floor in a fetal position, weeping in agony.

While I had agreed to going to India and was really happy to go anywhere, I still hadn’t felt my own personal call.  I was very aware that India wasn’t just “anywhere”.  While Tony was away God did just that.  I put the girls to bed and sat listening to “Let me be a shining light to the nations.”  When the line “Let me be a healing balm to the nations” played, I started crying.  My heart filled with an overwhelming desire to bring healing to India and her people.

A week later some insurance salesmen came around trying to make us scared for our future.  “What if something happens to your husband?  You could end up in a tiny flat in Johannesburg with nothing.”  My reply was, “If something happens to Tony, I will be living in India.  If I have nothing, that’s also ok.”  I meant it with all of my heart.