Israel and Palestine

As the journey is beginning to end, I find myself looking back on the last 14 months often. Did we actually manage to cross Africa? Was it really as simple as it sometimes felt? How have I changed? Have I changed? What is life going to be like now?

We spent our last month in Israel volunteering in a guesthouse in Nazareth. It was fun and the owners are fantastic people but it was also hard work and often longer hours than we anticipated. Typically our days were filled with cleaning and preparing rooms for guests, helping with breakfast, packing and delivering ice, doing renovations around the guest house and updating online portals. We did have some time to ourselves as well though and whilst in Nazareth we managed to source the majority of the Middle Eastern props that we need for the fictional story. We also decided that we are going to attempt shooting some of the story by making use of green screen in order for the to look more authentic. We were able to find many suitable locations and shot the majority of the clean plates that we need. The remaining two clean plates we will attempt to shoot in Cairo next week.
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We left Nazareth on the 31st of May and headed to Jerusalem. I have family that live there. It has been absolutely fantastic spending time with them over the last few months so we decided to have a last few days together. We headed to Jerusalem on a Tuesday and deposited our luggage (which is now WAY too much and too heavy) at my cousins apartment and headed off to Ramallah for two nights. Whilst we were there we met up with our host from Jordan, who is visiting Israel / Palestine and he took us with to see the premiere of a Palestinian film and we were also able to visit Hebron, which is often the focal point of conflict between Israel and Palestine. It was a very interesting experience to see places that I often see in news broadcasts. On the Thursday we headed back to Jerusalem and had a very nice time with family until we left for Sinai on Sunday afternoon.

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We will be in Sinai until next week before we head to Cairo and fly back to South Africa after a few days on the 19th of June. Crossing from Israel to Sinai was our final land border crossing and while we were not expecting trouble one never knows when crossing in and out of Israel. We have heard so many stories of people having trouble getting into Israel and leaving Israel. In some cases people have been questioned for 2-6 hours when trying to leave to country. However, we have had no problems with the Israelis until now and our last crossing was no different. It took us approximately 10 minutes to leave Israel. We are convinced that we have a special Israeli angel that goes before us to the Israeli borders.

That being said Egypt was our nemesis in December and it seems that it may continue to be the case. Security is pretty tight in Sinai due to the current situation and our luggage was thoroughly searched when we crossed from Israel. The long and the short of the exercise was that Jeff’s quadcopter, which he had disassembled and was basically loose parts packed in ziploc bags, was destroyed by security. They broke the individual pieces by hammering them with a piece of metal plumbing.

Strangely I mostly found this amusing. When we left on the trip I knew the quadcopter could potentially be a problem and I thought I would be sad to see it destroyed as it is an expensive piece of equipment, but I wasn’t. I realised how less attached I have become to “things”. I always thought I managed to live lightly, not having too much stuff and not becoming tied down by excessive possessions, but on this trip I realised just how attached I still am to earthly possessions. It has been a journey for me to detach myself from stuff and be satisfied with God, knowing that he will provide my needs. I don’t need things. So sitting at the border watching the quadcopter being smashed I was secretly quite pleased with myself that it did not upset me. I wasn’t feeling stressed about the money, that it was an expensive thing being smashed for no real reason, I wasn’t angry, I didn’t feel wronged. I just accepted it and felt happy that the quadcopter was actually able to escape up until this point. It is actually a relief having the extra space in our over stuffed backpacks!

I can’t believe we are flying back to South Africa in less than 10 days time. It is a little bitter sweet. I have enjoyed this journey so much and learnt and grown so much, I’m not sure if I am ready to go back yet but it is also exciting to know that I will see family and friends. And of course there is still work to be done. We will hit the ground running in Cape Town, hopefully setting up meetings with actors and other potential partners who could be involved in the filming of the short story. We are hoping that we can complete the short in 6-8 weeks in Cape Town and then we can get down to the rest of the editing of the final film. Much of the footwork, scene plans, catalogs and transitions have already been done in the last few months so it will hopefully just be pulling it all together.

We would like to thank all our friends, family and supporters who have supported, prayed for and encouraged us over the last 14 months. We are so grateful for every person. Please continue to pray for us and follow our progress in the next few months as we strive to complete this project. If anyone wants more information or wants to chat, feel free to drop us an email.

 

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One last horray  for the quadcopter:

naz-quad from Jeff Davies on Vimeo.

Farming and Filming

It is 5:20, I cringe and roll over as Jeff’s alarm wakes us up. It is time for our quiet time, before we quickly get ready to be picked up for work at 6:30. After Ran and Eyal pick us up we drive the 20km from the Moshav to the date farm. The scenery is beautiful. We pass numerous caves in the Samarian mountains which local Bedouins use to shelter their sheep. The hills are very green and there are wildflowers after the winter rain that we had. As we pull up to the date plantation we spot some deer between the date palms. They are very tame and barely take notice of our arrival.

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It is chilly and misty in the early morning so the first thing we do is to make some tea and coffee to warm us up. We enjoy this together with wafers. A great start to the day. Once the coffee is finished we head off to our tasks for the day. The date harvest is in August so it is currently project season. We have worked on various projects since our arrival mid-January like installing a toilet and tiling the floor of the loo, erecting a structure for a shade cloth (it reaches 50°C in summer), painting the containers on the farm and maintaining the irrigation system. By far the biggest project that we are working on is establishing a new plantation. This is what I’m working on. Ran taught me how to drive his digger and I am digging the 150 holes needed for the saplings to be planted. Some of the others are working on laying new irrigation pipes for the yet to be planted trees.

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At 10:30 Ran calls us in for breakfast. We gather together for a breakfast of pita, tomato, cucumber, pepper, tuna and tahini. I mix the tahini (tahini paste with water and squeezed lemon) while the other chop veggies and make coffee. We finish off our breakfast with more wafers and halwa. It is back to work for us until 12:20 when Ran calls us in and tells us to pack away.

We arrive back at the Moshav around 13:00 and quickly get some hummus and pita for lunch. The work day in the dates might be finished but “work” is only starting now for Jeff and I. After lunch and relaxing for half an hour,  we get out our laptops and start where we left off yesterday. Our current mission is to go through each and every video clip that we have shot in the last 11 months and catalog it according to criteria of visuals, content and relevance. This is a massive task and has kept us very busy for the past 6 weeks.

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Even though we still have a fair bit of content to go through we will probably only be able to put aside another two weeks for cataloging as we also need to finish the script for the fictional piece before the end of March when we will be heading to Jordan to hopefully pick up some content connected with the Syrian refugee crisis. We plan to be in Jordan for two weeks after which we will return to Israel for 3 months to prepare for and shoot the fictional piece.

Luckily it has not only been work 24/7. We get Saturday’s off at the Moshav and decided that we will rest from our work as well. We have had some nice opportunities to travel around. We have visited Masada and the dead sea, Nazareth, the Golan Heights and various trips to Jerusalem, including this past weekend when we conducted an interview with author Tom Doyle, visited the Israel Museum, the Qumran caves, the Western Wall tunnels as well as the Dome of the Rock on temple mount.

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Things have been busy and will likely continue to be. During March apart from finishing the catalog and the script for the fictional story we also want to visit Palestine and meet up with a group from Global Challenge among other things. Please pray for wisdom to prioritise our time well and for energy to make the most of the working hours that we have. Thank you to everyone that has been praying for divine connections and opportunities. We have really experienced God’s favour with finding contacts. We recently contacted an organisation about our project and got very positive feedback. Please pray that we will also find the right contacts to work with in Jordan. Lastly I rather daunting task ahead of us is finding a cast for the narrative fiction story. Plesse pray that God will provide the right people and guide us through the process.

Pastors and Sheikhs

We had just ridden a mammoth day and were quite tired. We had really enjoyed a break on Lake Bunyonyi, so we stayed an extra day than we had planned. The result is that we had to try and ride from Kabale to Kampala in just a day, a bit further than normal but manageable. However, about 30km into the day, Anneen got a flat tyre. This was our first flat, which is amazing since we had already ridden 18,000km. We managed to get it fixed but lost a little time. We pressed on trying to get to Kampala before dark. Passing a monument marking the equator, I quickly stopped for about 120 seconds, just enough time to take a picture. The sun was beginning to set so there wasn’t much time to spare. Arriving in Kampala we had missed our goal, it was already dark. Anneen spotted a guesthouse named “Plan B Guesthouse”. We laughed but decided to stick to plan A. We don’t usually book ahead but this time we had booked at a backpackers because we had to have a package posted to us from South Africa. We had managed to cross 2 borders without anyone complaining about the lack of a number plate on Anneen’s bike but decided it needed to be replaced. Unfortunately after trying in both Tanzania and Rwanda this meant shipping from South Africa. As we got closer to the center of Kampala the traffic got pretty knarly, compounded by the darkness. Luckily we managed to navigate the busy town without incident and arrived at our planned stop for the night.

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The capital itself is busy and chaotic, quite different from Kigali in Rwanda. Boda boda (motorcycle taxis’) are abundant, to the point where it’s difficult to know where to look. I remember learning my observations when I learnt to ride a bike at age 16, but this was ridiculous. The next day we got onto our primary task in Kampala, acquiring a visa for South Sudan. We had our letter of invitation from Isis South Sudan, our passports, photographs and money. In theory all you need to get a visa. We listened to all the applicants going through the process and getting told, “Come back on Thursday to collect your visa”. Unfortunately after filling in the paper work they sprung a surprise on us, they wanted to see the company / organization registration document for Iris. We knew this would probably mean coming back tomorrow. So we sent an email to Iris and got the response the following morning. Heading back they seemed happy with the paperwork and responded, “Come back on Monday to collect your visa”. Monday? It seems the embassy is closed in Friday through to Sunday. Unfortunately this was going to push back our arrival in South Sudan.

With our new gained free time in Kampala I got some editing done that was hanging over me. We also did a day trip to Jinja, which turned into an impromptu over night trip. In Jinja we saw the source of the Nile, well one of the sources. Is it really possible to locate the source of a river (queue Top Gear)? In Kampala we also took the opportunity to replace the headlight bulb on my bike which only had brights and not dipped lights. There was a mechanic at the entrance to the backpacker which seemed to be making a living servicing bikes belonging to expats. The locals all have Chinese 125cc bikes, but here there were quite a few bigger bikes. Whiles chatting to the mechanic we met another customer, an American. It turned out he was a missionary, so we decided to mention our project. As we head further north we’re trying to be more careful about talking about our project as in some places it would not be well received. After hearing about our project he told us about a Muslim background believer he knew that he thought would be keen to talk to us. He summarized his story, which was quite something. It involved fleeing his home country due to the conflict in Dafur, and then also having to flee Egypt because of his conversion. We exchanged contact details and planned to try to get in touch.

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Monday came around and we reclaimed our passports with the additional visa. South Sudan is currently in civil war. After gaining independence only a few years ago the various tribes in the country began to compete for power. There are many rebel groups operating in the country, including the LRA (although it is thought that they are currently in the DRC). Before we had applied for the visa we had sought advice from Iris regarding security. We had been given advise about a safe route and that reassured us. While applying for the visa and confided in God, “If it is unsafe then prevent us from getting the visa”. But now I stood with visa in hand ready to head north. We looked back over the email from Iris. They advised against going to the capital and using the main route. There were known bandits and regular issues. But there was an alternative road to Yei that only required riding 80km within South Sudan.

A few days later we approached the border with South Sudan. We were told that the only tar roads in the country existed in the capital and sure enough the perfect tar road ended at the border post. After doing paper work on the Ugandan side we proceeded to the South Sudan side. The local immigration officers told us that we had to register with the authorities and pay a fee. I was unsure about whether I was being taken for a ride but paid and proceeded. Within 10m of crossing the border people in plain clothes pulled us over. I was very weary of anybody claiming to be an authority because of all the rebel activity. How do you know who you can trust and who you cannot? They wanted to search our bags, so we began to go through our belongings. We insisted that we open one bag at a time and go through things together, to avoid things disappearing. Maybe I was being difficult but after half an hour they moved us to a building. This was actually reassuring as there were at least official looking government logos on the building. Another half an hour of searching occurred. We’re still not entirely sure what they were looking for. Surprisingly the quad-copter was not a problem for them. However there was some excitement when they found a stash of A Narrow Path stickers. The manager stepped in and we were told we could go.

Leaving the border town we were weary of being on the road after dark. About 10km along the route we passed another government building. They wanted us to stop but I decided to keep riding. We had already completed our formalities, why should I give another person an opportunity to try to scam us. However another 200m down the road there was roadblock. We had to turn back but it was harmless in the end. We had just passed the border for the DRC and they wanted to check our passports. Luckily this time no bag searching, only a few questions about our belongings.

After this we proceeded on to Yei. South Sudan is our second country that drives on the right, but it’s a little different on dirt roads. You tend to drive in the middle of the road however when you encounter a vehicle coming the other way you have to remember to move over to the right rather than the left, a little confusing. Arriving there we waited for our host to come find us. Apparently a white person waiting in town for more than 5min is very suspicious and we had various ‘officials’ wanting to ask us questions. At one point I was taken to a building for further questioning. I make all the questioning sound bad, but really it makes perfect sense. The country is in civil war and there really couldn’t have been many tourists around. It’s funny how a little bit of fear affects your perception and your ability to trust people. Sometimes when you are travelling you forget how your attitude tints your experience. After this round of questioning our host found us and took us back to the Iris compound.

We spent around about a week with Iris in total. We really had a fantastic time. The base is the smallest of the 3 Iris bases we have visited and actually for both of us probably the one we enjoyed the most. We got to know all the missionaries there and many of the kids. Maybe the reason why our experience was different from other Iris bases was that there were no other visitors there. It really felt like we got to experience what life was like on the base. Sometimes on the other bases we have visited it’s tempting to mainly interact with other visitors.

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Somehow in the midst of a country in turmoil the Iris base has such a sense of peace about it. It was fantastic to also see the kids really getting stuck into God there. A highlight there was worshiping with the kids during youth meeting.

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Also while there we got to film some content with 2 different MBB’s, a Christian who’s brother converted from Christianity to Islam and various other people. Probably our most interesting interview was chatting to a pastor about the effects of war on the church. He really had a heart for peace making. Sudan was interesting for us because of the divide between the Arab (Islamic) north and the Buntu (Christian) south. We were really interested in how these two groups interact. We also got to meet with an Englishman who had been in South Sudan for around 20 years who answered a lot of our questions about history and politics. Right at the end of our stay we met up with a couple that are planning to resettle in a refugee camp near the border of Sudan.

This is getting a little long, I know, so I’m going to summarize the next couple of weeks after that. Please excuse the brevity. After dealing with a border official that didn’t want to let us back into Uganda, we ended up in a town called Arua. We had a contact there that worked with Scripture Union. We were really blessed with our time there. We got an opportunity to spend time with both a pastor and a sheikh who are involved with debates between Christians and Muslims. We got an opportunity to film an open-air church meeting in a local market. We also got to join Scripture Union on one of their outings to a church in a pretty remote part of north Uganda.

After Arua we went on to meet up with the contact that we’d been put in touch with via the American in Kampala. I don’t want to divulge too much about his story but it was quite an emotional story and we were blessed that he was willing to share it with us. Our film has 3 sub storylines, one of which is a scripted non-fictional story that we intend to shoot in a couple of months. We’ve already started the scripting process and █████’s testimony very closely follows the themes of the climax of that story line. This makes this interview really useful to us. We praised God that he would delay us in Kampala and set up this opportunity for us!

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After this we had a couple of long days riding that led us to Kenya. We’ve had to make some calls about our trip, but more on that next time!

Witchdoctors and Islam

It has been a while since we have released a proper blog. I feel like I have forgotten how to write. There is so much happening and I sometimes feel overwhelmed to get it onto paper. Let’s back way up to the start, where our video blog left off. We left the comforts of Kuti Wildlife Reserve and headed for the unknown territory of Mozambique. We had met a very friendly American family whilst in Maputo in April and they invited us to visit them in Beira. The Reinagels are missionaries in Beira. They started their own organisation, Equip Mozambique, which is focused on helping locals start businesses and discipleship. They have partnered with a large, dynamic, local church in Beira. Jon promised us there are many Muslim converts in their congregation and so we decided to take them up on their offer and head down to Beira, even though it seemed like quite a detour.

We were welcomed with open arms and tremendously enjoyed Carla’s cooking skills. There were all sorts of treats like cinnamon rolls, banana bread and Mexican fajitas. After days on the road eating mostly dry vetkoek, morvite and peanut butter sandwiches, this seemed like heaven. The variety almost blew our minds! After finding our feet and figuring out some admin we got right down to work. Jeff was roped into presenting a film workshop to the church’s media team to help them improve their skills. It was received really well. Everyone seemed to enjoy the interaction and learning from each other.

We also had the opportunity to interview six Muslim background believers. It was very interesting to see the similarities on their stories. God is really working with healings and miracles in Mozambique. Since leaving Beira we have seen this thread all through the Muslim areas in the north of the country. On our last Sunday in Beira a witchdoctor brought all her charms and potions to the church to be burnt. As they went up in flames people were cheering and praising God. A glimpse of what is yet to come…

During our time in Beira, we spent much time thinking about our future plans (after the doccy) and what God is planning for us. Please pray for us as we continue to seek his will for us.

Our time to leave Beira arrived too soon but adventure further north was beckoning and so we headed to Mocuba to meet up with Antonio, a local missionary a friend introduced me to. We were told that Antonio is a very dynamic guy who talks a lot and has many stories about Muslims coming to faith right in the bible school he runs and other seemingly crazy stories. It was a tenuous connection but we felt excited as we arrived in Mocuba, where Antonio lives. We were accommodated at a missions base and bible school. Antonio is very interesting and charismatic. He did have many stories and we were also able to interview some of the students. However, he told us the real action is in █████. That is where we should go if we want to see Muslims meeting Jesus. We will have to visit his friend Limardes who is based there. So after only 5 days in Mocuba we were back on the bikes again heading to the bush…

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█████ seems like it is at the end of the world. It is in Niassa Province, the north western and most undeveloped part of Mozambique. This particular village is actually within the Niassa Wildlife Reserve. We arrived there after 4 days of tough riding to find many smiling faces waiting for us. Our host, Limardes, got us settled down and we entered into a week of life in rural Africa. It was really incredible to see the great effort and love that Limardes has poured into that community. There is a church of 30 strong in a village of 5000 people, the only indigenous church (apparently) in Niassa province. It is a really tough environment where people’s lives are controlled by witchcraft, fear and ancestral worship and everything covered by a veneer of Islam. But the light of the gospel is shining brightly in this place as people are seeing the love that Limardes has for them.

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While we were in the village we helped to put a new roof on the church as well as repair a broken wall (which collapsed whilst repairing the roof…ironically). We were also able to interview Limardes, record some testimonies from his congregation, Jeff preached in church and even attended a local birthday party. But probably my highlight was going to meet and later interview the former chief imam (and witchdoctor) of the village and larger area. This man had apparently caused much trouble for Limardes when he arrived and strongly opposed the church. He was however sick and paralyzed for two years. It got to a point where things were really bad and his family was preparing for him to die. Many mussoma6witchdoctors had apparently tried to heal him but nothing happened. Then he got really desperate and sent his wife to call Limardes to come and pray for him. Limardes went there and told him he has to destroy all his witchcraft stuff. He agreed and all the stuff was destroyed. Limardes prayed and he was healed. He can walk and is in good health. Please continue to pray for this man. He is no longer involved in witchcraft and has been banned from being an imam. Although he is very friendly with the church and seems to believe what they preach, he still identifies as a Muslim.

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Our time in █████ had to end too and we were off to Pemba from there. We had planned to visit Iris Ministries but had apparently applied too late and they didn’t have space to accommodate us. We decided to go to Pemba anyway and see if we can be day visitors while camping at a local place. This worked out much better than we could have hoped. Jeff knows one of the long-term workers there and she met us and enquired after accommodation, which then turned out to be available. It was great. We could stay on the base after all.

Our time in Pemba was a little confusing. We were given the opportunity to go on outreach with Heidi Baker and possibly get an interview with her, but decided against it as we had an apparently great opportunity to film the Eid festival at the local mosque, which clashed. In the end, that fell through and we missed out on both opportunities. It was interesting that Jeff felt that God was saying he should not get too focused on including “famous” personalities in the film. God himself will grant success, not the appearance of some person. The message carries more weight than the person bringing it. Through all of this we had great opportunities to attend some harvest school sessions, learn a lot, spend time with God and we did lots of networking. We really met so many great people from all over the world that are interested in what we are doing and that blessed us with their prayers and company.

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From Pemba it was off to Ibo Island where we had another commercial engagement. I suppose that is full circle from Kuti. I’m not going to say anything about Ibo except that we worked VERY hard and please comment on the videos attached that were made there.

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Please keep us in your prayers as we are heading further north we are expecting things to get a little tougher. Pray for open doors, the right contacts and that we will stay walking close to God. Pray that we will have wisdom regarding which opportunities to pursue and which ones to let pass. Also please pray for all our hosts and friends mentioned in the blog, the Reinagels, Antonio, Limardes and Iris Ministries. Thank you to all of you for hosting us and making us feel welcomed and loved in your homes.

 

Finally, our car has been sold! Praise Jesus!

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Ministry and Tourism

Leaving Malawi, we went back to Zambia to visit friends in Chipata. Lameck and Joan are working with the Muslim community in their town. We had a lovely time catching up with them and getting involved with their ministry. We have attached a video we put together about our time in Chipata. It is contains some of the style elements we are planning to use for the final film. Please send us your feedback about the video, as we are interested to know what you think.

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We are hoping to earn some money for the project by shooting promotional pieces for tourism companies. So from Chipata, we headed back to Malawi to Kuti Wildlife Reserve near Salima. Please send us your feedback as well about the attached promo for Kuti. We are hoping to pick up some more similar jobs, so any thoughts would be very helpful. If you happen to know of a company on our route that might be interested, please let us know.

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We will be sending out a new blog about our time so far in Mozambique soon, so keep an eye out for that! Please pray for us this week as we are at Iris Ministries in Pemba, that we will have open doors to film and that we will be able to discern the correct opportunities.

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