The tour was on. I was the sound mixer for New Song. Our minivans were packed to capacity and there was always plenty of junk food. We drove from city to city all over South Africa, Transkei, Botswana, Bophuthatswana and Rhodesia. We set up in schools, churches, fields and any hall that would have us.
It was intense; packing and unpacking sound equipment into the trailer, setting up and doing hundreds of sound checks; rolling up cables and picking up heavy equipment. I got the nickname “Schweppes” for being such a good mixer. I wasn’t sure I deserved such a compliment.
We went into some scary places. Hillbrow was something else. It was the downtown of downtown Johannesburg. There were so many lonely people who didn’t have family like I had. They were lost and very alone. I had taken my family for granted and hadn’t given a thought to how others lived. My life had revolved around myself and mine.
People wanted to talk and tell us their woes. There were times when there were tears; from us and them. After every trip into Hillbrow, I could feel my heart getting bigger. I was able to take more and I was feeling something that I hadn’t felt before; compassion.
We walked through the townships of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth to call children for kid’s clubs. Whenever we could, we set up a place for the young people to come and talk. We saw lives changes in front of our eyes. The more I saw, the more I realised that what I had was something beyond me. It had the power to change lives forever.
Our trip into Rhodesia was interesting. When we drove between towns, we had to go in convoy and in some areas we were told to duck down and hide. We would lie there expecting to be shot at and we never really got used to being followed by armed men. It was the end of the war.
In every place we stayed with local people. We were treated like kings and queens and we made some lifelong friends. I learnt the art of giving even when I didn’t feel like giving. After concerts, when we were exhausted and ready for bed, our hosts would want to talk and open their hearts to us. I learnt to go the extra mile and to make time to listen.
So, we ate and drank and worked hard. There were conflicts which we learnt to sort out and personalities we just had to get on with. We learnt to accept different cultures and realised that our way wasn’t always the best way. There were adjustments and changes, and our hearts grew many times over.
By the end of the year there were lots of tears and promises to keep in touch. Most of us were twice our size and it wasn’t just that we had more than one slice of bread after dinner.
I had only seen Wilf and Val once that year. I was tired and I couldn’t wait to get home. I walked into No 28, up the stairs and into the lounge. I was surprised. Everything had shrunk.