The Inconvenient Detour

Hey guys! So I’m really excited to have my brother as a “Guest Blogger” today.  Get to the end. I promise you won’t regret it. I know it was something that I needed to hear! 🙂 Enjoy!

 

The Inconvenient Detour

Let me start off by saying, writing like this is not my thing. My sister is the one with the meaningful, thought-provoking blogs, so if you make it only 1/3rd through before returning back to your Facebook page to see your friend’s post about what he is having for lunch, I’ll completely understand. And please forgive any grammar or punctuation errors. I’ll just be happy if my sister-in-law with her masters in English can read half of this without punching her screen. ☺

With that disclaimer…

The Trip

A couple weeks ago I was fortunate enough to meet up with my sister Kristen, Brother-in-law Reinier, and my mom in South Africa for a 4 day safari. In the past, I’ve traveled to South Africa as a missions trip, but this time, it was just for pleasure and to spend some time with my sister and her husband who were visiting from their home in Madagascar. They only come to America once a year, so it was great to get to see them in person during the year instead of having to wait until their yearly voyage to the U.S around Christmas time. This trip was extra special because not only would I get to spend quality time with my family, but our safari was going to be in Kruger Park. Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in South Africa (about 7500 sq miles) and is one of the coolest places on earth. It’s one of the few places that you can take your own car, travel at your own pace, and see exotic animals up close without a cage in their natural habitat. You can drive for hours, and even when you’ve been down the same dirt road before, it’s always a new adventure because there is always the possibility to see something you haven’t seen before. It’s not like the private game reserves around the area where people own the land and are more like a huge zoo. This land is purely the “wild”. It only has a few entrances into the park and unless you are staying at a camp within the park, you have to be out by a certain time. I have been on South African safaris before, but this was the first time it truly was the wild, so this was definitely something on my bucket list.

There are a few rules that you have to abide by while in Kruger. The most important rule is that you can never get out of your car. The only exceptions would be is if you are inside a gated camp site, or at a place designated by a sign that said you could get out at your own risk (like a lookout point). You can also be outside of a vehicle If you were with a group and armed guide during a “walking safari”. Another big rule is that you had to be back at your camp ground or out of the park by 5:30 pm (unless you were on a night safari with an armed guide). During this time of the year, this is when the sun starts to go down and the predators start to become active. There are no street lights anywhere, so being out after dark could be very dangerous especially if you were to get lost. Also, the speed limit is strictly enforced. Animals walk out in front of vehicles frequently, so it’s safe to say you wouldn’t want to be traveling at 40mph and hit an elephant straight on. The elephant might not notice “the bump” but your car might. You also wouldn’t want to be flying down the road and run over some small endangered animal crossing the road at the wrong time.

So that brings me to the actual events of one particular night…

It was Thursday evening, the last night before my mom and I headed back to the U.S. It was around 4pm and we were just hanging around our camp house resting after a long day of driving. Reinier had suggested going out one last time before the camp gate was shut at 5:30 for one last chance at seeing the animals that had eluded us the days before. We finally decided that just the 2 of us would go out, and give my mom and my sis some final mom-daughter bonding time before the end of our trip.

Reinier and I then headed out to explore the long single road that lead into the camp before making a u-turn and heading back. It was about 5:15pm and we were about 5 minutes from the camp entrance when a van coming from the opposite direction slowed down, and rolled down the window to tell us that an elephant had pushed over a tree blocking the road into the camp. He said there was no way to get around the barrier and the only way to get back to the camp was to go back down the long single road, take a huge loop detour around the park to the only other entrance to the road, and approach the camp site from opposite end. The only problem with that plan was that it was 10 min before the camp gates closed, and there was no cellphone service to call my mom and my sister what had happened. Reinier estimated the detour to be around 1-2 hours going the speed limit.

This definitely wasn’t what we had planned and it was frustrating that we had no way of contacting our family to let them know of the situation. All they would know is that the gate closes at 5:30 and we are nowhere to be found. No one else would have known about the tree in the middle of the road, and it’s not like they have a road maintenance crew that gets called out in the middle of the night to clean up issues like this. Not sure I would want to be in the middle of the dark, hacking at a tree with an axe and flashlight while a leopard is nearby scouting out his next snack. For the situation, we had no other choice but to go the long way around, and pray we weren’t pulled over by the game reserve guards for being out after curfew. The car that had warned us said we could follow them around to the other side, so we quickly made a u-turn and got in line behind the 2 cars.

The sun was going down quickly and as the pitch black approached, we determined the 2 cars in front of us were completely disregarding the speed limit. They were flying! We had no choice but to keep in line with the caravan so we didn’t get lost, which meant we also had to go super-fast down the twisting and turning dirt roads, and up and down huge hills wrapping around mini-mountains. Now earlier that day, while driving at a snail’s pace, we had at least 20 elephants, 4-5 Rhino, Buffalo, and countless Impala and other deer-like animals all cross the road in right in front of us. Some would just be standing in the road, and others would dart across the road so we’d have to hit the brake. Going 30-40 miles an hour in completely dark is not the ideal thing to do when you can’t see around the corner and animals bigger than our car tend to chill in the middle of the street. Needless to say, we had our prayers working the whole way. I think it was half fear, and half excitement that kept us going so fast, even though we knew all it would take was one animal to ruin our trip and Reinier’s borrowed car.

After about an hour of driving, and us nearing the needed camp road turn off, the 2 cars in front of us screeched to a sudden stop. As we slammed on our break in turn, we looked up to see the head of a massive male lion poking out of the bushes right next to the road. Lion sightings aren’t exactly rare, but to see one up close like this didn’t happen all the time. When lion sightings happen during the day, it’s usually via binoculars and you have to jockey for position with 20 other cars trying to get a small glimpse of the lion sleeping off in the distance in the bushes.

The other cars paused for a minute to take in the cool view, then slowly pulled forward to complete the journey back to the camp grounds. After Reinier and I had completed our excited “WHOOHOO’s” at just the chance to see the top of a lion’s head that close, we started to pull forward… and then the unexpected happened. The massive cat arose from his resting spot and calmly proceeded to walk across the road, just inches from the front of our car. He looked right at us as he casually passed by and entered into the bushes on the opposite side of the road to disappear in the darkness. Wow, what a sight! I had seen lions before, but never one so close. Reinier and I suddenly included a series of high fives with our excited “Whoohoo’s!.” In that moment, all of the frustration of the situation that existed just minutes before was no longer there and we were more anxious to get back to the camp site to tell the family of the sighting rather than the inconvenience of the detour.

Once we got back to the camp, the gate was opened for us, and soon discovered that my sister and my mom had found out what happened from the campsite guards and were patiently waiting our return. We readily told them of all that occurred and how we just happened to be at the right place at the right time to catch such a great view of the huge cat.

When the excitement slowed down and the night concluded, as I lay in bed still on a high from the night’s adventure, I felt this thought of “was that sighting really a coincidence?” What are the odds that we would be on that very road, at that very time after curfew, and what are the odds that the lion would wait until OUR car pulled up for it to rise and pass right in front of us? I guess anything is possible, however it did get me thinking.

At the beginning of the evening, the tree in the middle of the road was a huge inconvenience. No one likes it when you are going down the road, almost to your destination and there is a sign that says “Road closed,” with signs pointing to the long way around. We didn’t like the fact that we had to drive an extra hour without being able to tell our family what was going on. We also didn’t like the fact we had to put our lives in danger by speeding down twisting and turning roads not knowing what danger could lie around the corner.

But by the end of the night, our frustrating inconvenience turned into one of the top highlights of our entire trip. We would have been perfectly fine getting to the camp site on time that night and would have still enjoyed our time that evening. We wouldn’t have known what we missed, and life would have gone on happily. But… if you would have given me the option up front to choose taking an hour detour to see a lion up close, vs getting the camp site on time, I would have GLADLY chosen the detour.

I guess that’s when the realization hit. How many times have I had an inconvenience in my life that turned out to be something much better than what I had planned originally? Either I prayed for something or expected something to happen in a certain way and then all of a sudden, the plan changed. An elephant knocked down a tree in my path and I was forced to head in a different direction completely out of my way. When things don’t go as planned, my initial reaction is frustration and the need to vent to God, usually with attitude that it’s His fault and why would He let something like this happen to me. I tend not to pause and consider that this all may be part of a bigger plan that includes a happier ending than what my initial prayers were for. And then when I look back on the situation, I would have gladly chosen the inconvenience to get the final reward. The funny part is that these inconveniences tend to happen pretty frequently and when God does present a better result than my original prayer, it doesn’t stop me from getting any less frustrated the next time an inconvenience comes my way.

This is one of my family’s favorite verses. It just never occurred to me that in order for God to give “better” prayer results, sometimes we HAVE to be inconvenienced…

Ephesians 3:20
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…

And hopefully the next time I’m “inconvenienced”, I won’t be so quick to be frustrated, but rather thank God up front for what he is shielding me from, or what better victory He has in store for me.

Maybe this thought was just for me, but just figured I’d share it in case anyone else has had an elephant block their path recently.

For those going through a struggle, just remember….behind every blocked road, there could be a the victory of the lion waiting.

My reminder…

lionphotojoey

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