Travel days are almost always an adventure for B Squad. I don’t think we’ve made it through a single one without a story.
Let me tell ya, this one was no different.
We had to be at the Johannesburg airport early on Sunday morning, so we left Botswana a day early to bus to South Africa. It’s a short ride, only 6 or so hours away. Initially, the only issue was that we didn’t have a place to sleep the night before our flight.
Our alumni SQL knew of a church that hosted her squad while she was there, so she gave that contact to our logistics leaders. The pastor was more than willing to host our squad and let us sleep on their church floor.
We ended up on an amazing bus and had a flawless bus ride (which, from experience, is real uncommon in Africa). When we arrived, we were almost immediately greeted by the woman who was there to pick us up, and she lead us to the vans that would take us to the church. We loaded up the vans and were on our way.
Out of nowhere, our driver pulled over on the side of the road. We didn’t understand why until smoke swarmed the outside of the vehicle, creeping its way into the windows of the van. We quickly hopped out and waited. The easy explanation was that the engine basically crapped out on us. We were stranded.
But that’s not the reason I’m telling you about this travel day.
The other van went to the church and dropped off our bags, quickly coming back to pick us up on the side of the road. We waited for a short time and made it safely to the church. No harm done.
The part I want to tell you about was when we arrived at the church. We walked around the corner to the entrance, and I noticed that there were several cars parked near the front. We didn’t walk right in; we were waiting in line forsomething. This wasn’t just a night’s sleep in a building.
I finally made it to the doorway to see a spacious room and a line of people with the brightest smiles. They opened their arms to hug every single one of us. We went to each one, hugging each of them as though it were a reunion with people we knew. It was the warmest welcome I’ve probably ever received in my life. I was so overwhelmed in the best way.
Once I made it through the line, I noticed the huge L shaped table, set with plates and silver wear for probably 40 people. I saw the bar with soda and snacks. There was hot water for coffee and tea. Dumbfounded, we walked over to the sanctuary to put the rest of our stuff away and the pastor, Ben, walked in to give us the run down.
He told us that they were having a braai (African BBQ) for us. While waiting for dinner, we would hang out and fellowship with these strangers that didn’t feel like strangers. After dinner, we would worship together in the sanctuary, lead both by their group and then by some in ours. Then we would have the option to go to someone’s home for a hot shower. They had a few people willing to take a handful of us, allowing the whole squad the opportunity. In the morning, they would have snack bags for us to take to the airport.
We all stood there with our mouths wide open, some of us gasping in awe as he explained how the evening would go. Hardly any words, only gratitude and a million “thank you’s” throughout the night.
So, that’s what we did. We fellowshipped with amazing people that genuinely wanted to be there. It never felt like a burden for them to spend time serving our squad. They cooked and grilled the entire time while we all just sat there enjoying the evening. When we asked how we could help, they said we could just keep them company. It was incredible.
The buffet line of food was unreal. Boerewors sausage, lamb steak, beef steak, potato salad, pap (African maize meal), salad, garlic bread, grilled cheese with tomato and onion on it, rolls with butter and syrup, and THEN dessert. What.
The whole night was the most beautiful picture of the body of Christ. All of these sweet humans dropped their Saturday evening to serve a bunch of strangers who just needed a floor and four walls to sleep for one night. They felt like family in spite of only dwelling with them for a few hours.
The entire time, I just kept thinking the same thing over and over. I have to give this pastor my key.
Keys for the Journey is a ministry that Austin Ulsh started for all the squads that launch for the World Race. He hand makes keys with words imprinted on them, prays over them, and then places them in an envelope with a Racer’s name on it. He gave them out a few days before we left, and challenged us to give them away when we encountered someone who encompassed that word, phrase, or Bible verse.
My key said “the Body”. The Lord taught me so much at training camp about the importance of the body of Christ*, and revealed even more to me through these amazing people in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The next morning before we left, I pulled Ben aside and explained what the key was and why I wanted to give it to him. I told him to pass it along to someone else when he encountered the body of Christ like I had. He was genuinely honored to receive it and gave me the biggest hug.
I hope that key travels all over the world like I have, to places where the example of the body of Christ leaves a group of people speechless. I will never forget them.