It had been a long and busy period of construction of the school facilities and church building. The student body of JBU in Arkansas provided funds for the church construction; a legacy gift had provided for the building of the church tower; the dedication had been held with many folks coming from miles away to rejoice with us in our Lord’s provision.
During its construction, at various times, there were 40+ workers employed. For the entire period, there were several “fundi washi” (builders), “seremala” (carpenters) and key laborers who had stuck with us. The station evangelist acted as the work overseer as well as conducting the daily work-day devotions. The job could not have been done without these men.
Since the Salawe area, at that time, was a highly populated though isolated area, many folks had not been far from their homes. I decided to take several of these key workers and treat them to a camping safari out in the Serengeti Game Park. Some had never even seen a hyena (though there were many about) except as a shadowy shape nosing around the cattle krall at night. This would be quite an experience for them!
We packed into my Land Rover – me and 2 others up front, 6 in the back. All packed in along with food and a tent. Down the road we went the 70+ miles to the entrance gate to the Serengeti. Fees were paid and following the long road to the Seronera area we went. I had booked an isolated camp-site for the 2 days we would be there. At the site, we set up our large tent (remember those big Sears umbrella tents?), cooked our evening meal and turned in. Tomorrow would be a long day as we “toured”, looking at the animals. Morning came, hot tea and African “doughnuts” (maandazi) and we were off.
The animals must have heard we were coming and decided to put on a show – at least, to show up for us. We saw everything – many types of antelope, hippo, elephant, giraffe, lion – animals they hadn’t seen before. We even came across a leopard ambling down the track in front of us, unafraid and not wanting to share the road! We slowly followed, about 30 ft. behind, and enjoyed the show.
Back to camp for the night. The full day without eating made us all hungry. The camp fire was lit and well stoked, a good meal of ugali (corn-meal mush) with meat and gravy was prepared and enjoyed by all. The sun had gone down, darkness had set in, we were all sitting around on logs chewing the fat – recounting the day’s experiences. Suddenly, off in the distance we could hear the pounding of hoofs. They got louder and louder and it was obvious they were coming our way. We were soon surrounded by a large mixed group of zebra and wildebeest (gnu) wildly running by. We chocked on the dust stirred up as they passed by and faded into the distance.
BUT – I knew there was more to it. Something was chasing them. I went off to my Land Rover parked nearby and turned on the spotlight. Yes, there they were. A whole pride of lion! They were following the herd hoping to make a kill for their supper! With the spotlight shining on them they scattered wide, keeping far away from our camp-site.
All but one! It was intent on closely following the scent of the herd that had passed by. It kept coming toward the vehicle, turned away at the last moment and passed around the camp about 15 ft. behind the tent (which was now filled with the trembling men!) and disappeared into the distance without even seeming to be intimidated by the tent or vehicle.
When I announced an “all clear”, the men came out of the tent. Their voices increased in volume as they discussed what had just happened. Since the lions had disappeared, all were now brave.
Time for bed. We all crowded into the tent, wrapped ourselves in our blankets and lay on the floor. The tent flap (which covered the entry) was lowered and closed us in. We were secure, we were sure, but who knows?
BUT – that tent flap was short. It didn’t reach all the way to the ground. Of course there was a mesh screen but the poor man who slept on the floor just at the entry had a view of outside. Everyone (who thought they were secure) teased the poor guy no end telling him that he could be seen by any animal outside and that, seeing him, would take his arm or foot off. Man, they gave him a hard time!
Nothing happened. We all slept soundly, even that fellow at the entry, and after the sun had come up and we drank many cups of hot sweet tea we packed up and took off for home.
What an experience those men had! For days they talked about it. It was a great time of sharing experiences and fellowship. Those are well-remembered things from our days in Africa.