Seeing South Africa has been a dream of mine for a long time. Rick has been there three times, always on business, and never saw more than the airport, scenery flashing by a taxi window and the inside of a hotel. When we received an invitation from Chris Johnson at Christian Art Distributors to come for a visit, we jumped at it. We have had a long-time, long-distance, friendly relationship and looked forward to spending time with those we’ve met. The beginning of October we climbed aboard an Emirates A380 (a bucket list experience for Rick) and flew to Johannesburg where we were met at the airport by Sua and Johan du Plessis. They helped gather our suitcases and whisked us off to the beautiful Villa Anna Sophia in Vereeniging where Tyndale senior editor and friend Karen Watson was already in residence. Rick and I dropped our luggage in our room and joined Karen, Sua and Johan for dinner. We felt immediately at home.
After a much-needed Sunday rest, we got up Monday and rode with Sua to the Christian Art headquarters where we were greeted by staff members singing African songs. The joy of the Lord filled the warehouse. I had the opportunity to share my testimony before we toured a second facility nearby. Having been in business ourselves (Rivers Aviation Services) we were impressed with the immaculate warehouse, organization of product and efficiency of everyone. It was a pleasure to meet so many who have been instrumental in placing so many Christian books (including mine) in the hands of South African readers. Later in the day, we headed for Melrose Arch and the African Pride Hotel. That evening Sua took us out to an authentic African dinner. Oh, my! Yummy! I can’t remember the proper names of what we ate, but I can tell you the food was delicious! The music made me want to get up and dance, but Rick gave me that “behave yourself” look. I think the musicians felt my vibe because one planted a head-dress on me and handed me two shakers. I had a blast trying to keep pace.
Over the two weeks, I had the opportunity to meet and thank company sales reps at sales conferences (one in Gauteng and one in Cape Town). I also met many general market retailers. We did book signings at several stores so I could meet readers. I had breakfast with two delightful ladies (Veronica and Christine), one in Johannesburg and one in Cape Town, both of whom had won the drawing for Leisure Book Club contest. Veronica’s son had brought her and he talked about the importance of mothers and had both of us teary. I was also given the chance to talk with ladies at Moreleta Park Church and the congregation NG Helderberg Church where I was welcomed by a group of lovely teenage girls eager to ask questions and chat before I gave my testimony (a sweet time that helped me relax before speaking).
Sua wanted to be sure we saw some of their wonderful country. We spent time driving around Johannesburg and Soweto where we saw Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu’s home. We went through the amazing Apartheid Museum. Our guide was full of interesting information and history. While Karen, Rick and I were in Cape Town, Chris Jr. drove us all the way around Table Mountain and down to the Cape of Good Hope. It was a perfect day of clear skies and sunshine, the sea turquoise and lapis. We dined in a restaurant at the end of the world. He also made sure we saw Lion’s Head and the Twelve Apostles as well as the beautiful coast.
How can I put into words what this trip meant to us? Sometimes the dream is just a shadow of the reality, and we meet strangers who are immediately recognized as sisters and brothers. That’s what Rick and I felt in South Africa. Connection. Shared hope. Thanksgiving for all God has done and is doing. We went to say thank you and offer encouragement and came away blessed beyond measure.
But I’m not finished. In another blog, I will tell you about the last two days when Chris and Ems Johnson took us to Shamwari for a photo safari!