An important message from Peter Vandenberg
Will you stand with us for Brazzaville?
With our team safely home again, and the trucks waiting in Brazzaville for the Great Gospel Campaign from 9 – 12 August, our Travel Blog has come to an end. Thank you so much for staying with us, praying for the team through thick and thin, and sending your words of encouragement. We appreciate you. Please take a moment to watch this brief video from Peter Vandenberg, Vice-President of CfaN. In it, he reminds us just what all of this hard work and endurance is for – bringing Africa to Jesus!
We have arrived in Brazzaville
Praise the Lord! It gives us great joy to say that we have crossed the finishing line and have arrived in Brazzaville at last. As we had hoped, yesterday we were rapidly underway on the beautiful tar road, putting big miles under our tires. Our escort continued to do their excellent job of getting us through roadblocks with relative ease. About 100 km out of Brazzaville, the road suddenly deteriorated drastically, and we found ourselves averaging 20 km an hour. It was tough to be going so slowly when we were so close to our destination. But nothing could stop our joyful mood, and we came to the outskirts of Brazzaville at sunset. There is a travel ban on trucks in the city until 10 pm, so we parked and left with the support vehicle to check in to our hotels until the curfew ended.
It felt really good to drive into this city after approaching it for so long. This morning, we were greeted by the sight of the incredible Congo river. What a view! It is reminiscent of a coastline because of its sheer size, with Kinshasa barely visible on the other side. Our last tasks were to park the trucks together, get tires fixed in town, and retrieve all our personal luggage. With the final jobs done, all that was left was goodbyes, as we all prepared to leave on various flights to different destinations, our memories soaked with an experience that will last a lifetime. What an epic journey that was! Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, to all the precious partners who have prayed for us, encouraged us, and kept us going through this tremendous challenge. It has been a privilege to share this experience with you.
Rolling through the Congo – nearly there!
In a whirlwind of activity, our convoy got back on the road again, heading to Brazzaville. A two-hour stop in Ouesso filling all the trucks was an absolute blessing of a task. Our escort now consists of a very hard-working local pastor, a man from Congo customs and a well-built gendarme with a smile that shines like the sun. They are smoothing our passage through the roadblocks, and our progress for the day was a record for this trip at 350 km. Everyone, including Wini, is confident we will make Brazzaville tomorrow, with only 450 km to go.
Our long and arduous trip is drawing to a close, and even though we are all exhausted and homesick, there is a growing sense of accomplishment amongst us.
We’ll see you in Brazzaville!
Our time here in the beautiful town of Ouesso was a journey of its own. As we waited for our paperwork to clear, we had the opportunity to really get to know each other well. We passed the time playing soccer and getting to know the locals. French is a marvelous language, and we practiced on each other to the amusement of our hosts! With great joy, we got the news that we would be allowed to continue on to Brazzaville, and so we pray that the next blog you get from us will be from there. Internet connection is intermittent here, and it is a curious fact of modern life, how very isolated one feels without it. It is times like these were you really experience the true value of fellowship, as we mutually support each other. This CfaN crew is made from solid gold. Everyone is aware that we will share a bond for the rest of our lives after getting through this mission. We will also be much better soccer players due to the amount of practice we are getting! Please remember us in your prayers for this last, crucial leg of our journey.
Back on the tar, only 800km to go
We were on the road at 4:30 this morning, everyone in good spirits because we know there is tar road all the way to Brazzaville, which is just over 800 km away. As we came to the all-important turnoff to Brazzaville, our customs escort turned in the opposite direction, to Ouesso. The mood in our vehicle was tangible as kilometers in the wrong direction went under our car. As it turns out, we must clear customs at customs headquarters for the region, and that’s Ouesso. It is a beautiful town on the banks of a mighty river where people come to see gorillas in the wild, jungle all around with the accompanying sounds. We parked the trucks in the customs compound and began with what we always do when we stop… truck maintenance. These magnificent vehicles rely on the constant tender care of this crew, and worn parts are replaced regularly. The news came from our customs agents that we will be here for a few days, and that is a perfect opportunity to get our trucks in top shape for the last leg. With only 820 km to go, everyone has our goal in sight, and we all recognize the fact that our journey together will soon be over. That is both encouraging - and also a little sad for this tight-knit team.
Slipping and sliding in the mud
In the last two days, we hit the jungle, big time. Nothing can prepare you for the sheer majesty and awe inspiring magnitude of the African tropical rain forest. We wound our way through it on narrow roads with the undergrowth brushing our vehicles and our eyes and mouths wide open. A brief shower calmed the dust on the road, for which we were happy, until it became apparent that we now had a film of mud on the road which turned it into a skating rink. The trucks were sliding every which way and the guys did a sterling job of keeping them from disaster a few times. We only had to use the winch once to pull out the only 2-wheel drive truck, and there was a breathtaking moment as Garry saved his truck from jack-knifing at the last minute.
The road dried out toward the afternoon and then it was Border or bust. We made slow yet steady progress, averaging just 20 km an hour on the terrible road. We finally pulled into the border post at 3:30 a.m. and immediately went to sleep. In the morning, the border post became a hive of activity as it opened 8:30 am. Thanks to the great help we received from a local pastor, we were through the Cameroon side of the border in record time. By lunch time, we were back on the very bad road winding through the jungle. Fortunately, the rain stayed away and we were mud-free. On that road, if it had rained, we would have been stuck for days waiting for it to dry out, and we passed a few trucks on their sides in the deep gullies at the side of the road. After 30 km, the road became much better. Sections of it were even tarred already and we couldn’t believe our luck as we began making excellent headway. After 100 km, the road became a beautiful, continuously tarred road and we were flying! Only 800 km to go to Brazzaville!
Heading into the deep jungle
We arose this morning at our roadside camp where the roadblock pulled us over last night. The pastor who is accompanying us has returned to Yaoundé to get more paperwork we need to continue. Although it was a little frustrating to be stopped so soon after leaving Yaoundé, there was a general good mood amongst the crew, as we know it is a minor hurdle, and it is simply great to be on the road again. While we waited, we spent time on cable preparation. We’re going to need strong steel cables to tow trucks out of mud when we hit the jungle proper. The roads in this part of the country are not tarred, or even covered in gravel. They are dirt, pure and simple, and they turn into deep, sticky bogs when it rains. And it rains every single day!
Our papers arrived at lunch time and we were on the move again. We made great progress this afternoon, but were held up by a mechanical problem on one of the trucks. After waiting for the daily afternoon deluge to subside, the guys fixed the problem in quick order and we were back on the move again. By the end of the day we had covered 120 km, which may not sound like much to you, but it had us rejoicing!
We’re back on the road to the Congo!
This morning we were greeted with the news that it was highly likely we would be on our way today. The team was very excited to get on the road again, as every kilometer toward Brazzaville is a kilometer closer to our families and loved ones. Various checks and preparations were performed on the trucks, tents taken down and bags packed, rubbish burnt and food gathered. Around lunch time, Wini arrived and told us we would be moving in an hour or two, so everyone kicked back and waited for the all-important “We Move” command to come. As the afternoon wore on, a little despondency crept in as it began to look like yet another false start. However, like a thunderbolt waking you from an afternoon snooze the command “We Move” rang out and it was all hands on deck! We turned the trucks around and drove straight into the teeth of afternoon rush hour traffic. Even that was a pleasure. We were simply so happy to be making progress. We may not have gone very far today, but we are back on the road to the Congo, and spirits are high. Thank you so much for your faithful prayers. Please continue to pray for favor, protection and good road conditions.
Signed, sealed and ready to go
Customs came today and inspected all our cargo at length, and then gave us the all-clear. This means we have every reason to believe we will not only move tomorrow, but we will move unimpeded through the rest of the country. Everyone watched with baited breath whilst they went about their work, and Wini, our Captain maintained his cool throughout. There was a palpable sigh of relief when the task was over, and we settled down into the ritual evening communal activity of supper making, the promise of progress exciting all of us. All that is required of tomorrow is our visa extensions, and then we MOVE!!
Still waiting in Yaoundé
We’ve had so many delays so far. We’ve now been in Cameroon so long that our visas have had to be extended, which is what Winfried is busy trying to sort out for us. We’re all hoping and praying for a good result, so that we can get back on the road to the Congo on Tuesday. In the meantime, we’ve become something of a fixture on the local vendors’ morning sales routes, and I think they’ll miss us when we’re gone! We celebrated Vincent’s birthday over the weekend, with a good bit of singing and numerous jokes about his advancing age. It all helps to keep our spirits up. Please pray for us every time you think of us, for a breakthrough so that we can finish our journey and get the trucks safely to Brazzaville.
With heavy hearts
Brazzaville is postponed
It is with heavy hearts that we have to inform you that due to circumstances beyond our control, we have to postpone our upcoming gospel campaign in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo.
This has come about because our convoy of four eighteen-wheeler trucks carrying all the equipment for the event have, during the 3,300 km (2,000 mile) journey to get there, had to pass through an area of civil unrest and the national military there established many security measures that resulted in weeks of delays. They are now safely past the area but with over 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) still to go, they will just not arrive in time for the event.
Please pray with us for the rest of their journey to Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo where the trucks will be parked in readiness for the new gospel campaign date which is yet to be announced.
Yours in the Harvest,
Evangelist Daniel Kolenda
together with the CfaN Ministry Team
We still have a vital job to do!
Now that we have been here a few days there is something almost like a routine creeping in, and in a strange way it is comforting – a lovely cup of tea in the morning from the local walking tea salesman, then the daily fresh bread from the bread lady, with a baguette for our breakfast. There is a good chance we might be on our way tomorrow, and we will all be praying when Winfried leaves to go speak to the authorities. Now that the campaign is definitely not happening, we are all keen to get to Brazzaville, put the trucks in storage and get home to our families. By now, we’re all missing our loved ones, and the idea of going home is a great motivation to the guys. Since this might be the last “down time” in a while, I’ve taken a few moments to introduce you to Lawrence Boafo, one of the longest-serving members of the CfaN technical crew.
We still have a vital job to do!
Everyone is dealing with the news of the Brazzaville campaign postponement in their own way, and the team keeps each other’s spirits up with the kind of interaction born of good humor and shared faith in our mission. We still have a job to do, and that is to get these trucks to Congo, for the next Great Gospel Campaign. We are undeterred. Please keep praying for us. There’s still a long way to go.
We are still camping in Yaoundé until the next set of papers comes through. I personally had a very unpleasant encounter with a rotten coconut and have now learnt to smell them first! After a few hilarious hours of filling water tanks, some of us went on a shopping expedition to buy groceries, and the sight of six men on two little motorbikes was priceless. We then cooked up a feast on our campfire, helped along by some compressed air from one of the trucks. These guys have done this before, and it shows. The sharing of stories and general banter around supper is truly a privilege to be a part of. As night fell, we set up tents just in time to shelter from the daily deluge that was on its way, the sounds and sights of this amazing city all around us.
A hot shower is a wonderful thing!
Last night, after finally making it to the city, we had the utter joy of our first hot shower in 8 days. Let me tell you, a group of men in the tropics without running water for that long gets mighty stinky! We woke up fresh and clean, greeted by the bustling sounds of the capital of Cameroon, Yaoundé. We busied ourselves with various laundry (lots of laundry!) and maintenance jobs whilst waiting for even more paperwork to be processed for us to continue. These endless delays are very worrying, and there is a growing sense of concern over whether it’s even possible to still make it in time for the campaign in Brazzaville. We know that it’s in the Lord’s hands, and we ask you to keep praying for us “without ceasing”. A torrential rainstorm in the afternoon was a welcome relief from the ever-present heat, and I caught up with some of the guys while they were preparing a typical meal of fresh, local food.
Blowouts and burning rubber
What a joy it was to get up bright and early this morning, and drive with nothing holding us back. The convoy was unstoppable. We had a lot of ground to cover, and the crew were convinced we could make it from the moment we left. Yaoundé was just a few miles away, it seemed. An hour’s stop for diesel and we were rolling again. The obligatory roadblocks held us as usual, however it didn’t dampen our spirits and we made Yaoundé TODAY! Apparently, there is more paperwork to do, and our General, Winfried Wentland, rose to the task and secured our place to stay tonight. Yaoundé is a beautiful city, full of the vibrance that is transforming Africa. We are very glad to have reached this milestone, especially after all the drama it took to get here. Watch today’s video for a glimpse of how tough these driving conditions are for the trucks and the team.
Mountains, boiling brakes and bursting tires
Today began with us waking at our roadside camp spot where the roadblock pulled us off last night. The crew spent the morning doing laundry and odd repairs. I personally had a great little adventure taking a ride on one of the local taxi motorbikes into town to change money (see photos). My driver was highly educated and well spoken. It was great fun and a nice change from the endless waiting.
Around lunch time, some policemen and Winfried went into town - and an hour later returned with our papers to continue! Hallelujah! Unfortunately, we headed down the wrong road for 20 km, and had to backtrack. Then, around 4 pm, we had two blowouts on one truck and smoking brakes on another, which cost us dearly in time. This is because this part of Cameroon is very mountainous and the brakes get so hot that they melt the tires! One tire blew out and hit Abbey in the stomach, which really hurt, but he took it like the good soldier that he is. We were off after one and a half hours of roadside repairs - and drove straight into another roadblock, which kept us for nearly two hours. This crushed any hope of making Yaoundé today as it was already 8:30 pm. We only managed 65 km for the day with 220 km still to go to Yaoundé. So, we made roadside camp for the night, ready for an early start and feeling hopeful that we will drive into Cameroon's capital city tomorrow morning.
Slow going in the heart of the rainforest
After yesterday’s good progress with the escort, we were put up in the local hotel the authorities had kindly arranged for us. This morning, after all paperwork was completed, we were on our way around lunch time. The many roadblocks meant that progress was painstakingly slow. Add to that the fact that Jako’s truck brakes are taking strain with the heavy trailer, which means we had no choice but to stop and cool them down manually with water. We were finally stopped entirely at 5 pm by the police, who informed us we would have to wait here until the morning for another permit to continue. Our total progress for the day came to only 80 km. The crew turned in for the night and we are all hoping for better progress in the morning. We still have two thirds of the distance to go to Brazzaville. Time is slowly running out to get there on time to set up. We urgently need your prayers!
Safely through a conflict zone
We didn’t make it very far from the border last night, before sunset and another mighty rainstorm. It was a great feeling to be putting our tents up on the containers again, on our way at last after the long wait. Our goal was to reach the next city on the other side of an area that has seen much conflict in recent months. We had our own escort to look after us, as well as the friendly local police, who rode the entire way with us. In fact, we in the Hilux had the privilege of having one of the policemen with us in our vehicle, and he gave us a running commentary as we wound our way through the beautiful, thick vegetation of the Cameroonian rainforest. We were very grateful for our escort, who were there to see that we got to Bamenda safely, as we did towards evening. We made good progress today, and pray that we can cover plenty of ground tomorrow. Whenever you think of us on this journey, please pray! Pray for the team’s safety, pray for favor and protection, and pray that obstacles will be removed from our path to Brazzaville. Your prayers are absolutely crucial, and we depend on them.
Great news - We are on the move!
Firstly, a huge thank you to all the prayer partners who have been praying for us, as we waited at the border. Winfried says this is officially the longest time he has ever waited at a border, so we’ve broken some kind of record already on this trip! But it felt like there was a change in the air this morning. We woke up to a welcome coolness in the air after a night of very heavy rain. And let me tell you, there is nothing quite like a tropical thunderstorm. I was definitely the only thing keeping my tent from flying away in the storm, and it was incredibly exhilarating. And here’s the good news! It looks like our long wait for paperwork is over, and we are about to MOVE! We have an escort to help us through the next area, and the whole team is rejoicing that we’re on our way at last. Now, please pray that we can cover the rest of the trip in record time, so that we have enough days to set up for the campaign in Brazzaville. Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to do another video for you, and tell you about our progress.
No news for today
The power has been down for many hours for our crew in Cameroon, so we don’t have any video or photos for you today. Please check in again with the Travel Blog tomorrow, and in the meantime, keep praying for our team, especially for favor and good weather, because apparently, it has been raining heavily there!
Please pray for the team!
Today began with the glorious sunrise of the equatorial region. We were informed by the local customs officials that we must unpack our cargo, in order for them to inspect. This is a normal thing for all large trucks and the team handled it with grace and decorum. It does mean that we will be here for another night, however. The team handled this task with the God-given patience that they are used to from doing these campaigns. As the night crept in, the crew came back to pay hotel bills and sleep… hopefully, in preparation for a long drive. Tomorrow, we hope to be on the move. Unfortunately, we’ve been without power at our accommodation, so we can’t do any filming until we’re able to charge batteries again. As always, we value your prayers. Brazzaville is waiting to hear the Gospel, and we’re eager to be on our way.
It’s looking good for the new route
Today was the second day of the local public holiday. The crew busied themselves with various odd jobs and some excellent fellowship around the breakfast table, where story sharing has become a daily institution that we have come to cherish. Winfried was on the phone a lot organizing with various parties to get us moving again as soon as possible, and the good news is that it looks like we are on the road again tomorrow! Needless to say, the prospect has everyone excited, and the guys are particularly interested in seeing our new route north of Gabon. The word from local truck drivers is that they have been working on the road and that it is good. We will make the final call on the route upon reaching Yaoundé and after further investigation. However, Wini is confident that we will go north of Gabon. Only time will tell. While the guys were busy checking on the trucks, I chatted to Garry du Plessis, from South Africa.
There’s a two-day driving ban
Because of the public holiday here in Cameroon, the local authorities have implemented a two-day driving ban. This means that we are sitting in our hotel on the border waiting out the curfew. Patience is a very useful attribute when traveling in Africa, and the team made the most of the day amusing themselves with various R&R activities. The power, which had gone off the night before, returned in the afternoon and the air-conditioning hum kicked in to cheers of delight from everyone. This is not a cold place! Once again, we passed hours chatting and sharing stories of past campaign adventures, and Wini held us spellbound with his story of sinking on a river ferry in his truck. Wow, that man has been through a lot. We are all praying that our customs agent arrives tomorrow and we can resume our journey. In the meantime, I talked to Jako Hugo about what it’s like for the crew members to be away from home so much.
Hurry up and wait!
What we were hoping for this morning, was that the customs agent we’ve been waiting for would arrive and clear us to move on. However, by 1pm, it was clear that it wouldn’t happen today. That has further consequences, because it is Cameroon’s Independence Day tomorrow, which means a complete ban on all trucks driving through the country for the day. It now looks like we may be stuck here for as long as 3 days, until the local festivities are over. This has happened to the team before, and we will just have to wait it out.
On a happy note, one of the crew who was delayed because of his Cameroon visa was able to join us, to great rejoicing from the team. Now, if only the power would come back on! We have had no power for almost a day now, which means all our technology is fast running out of battery charge. It also means that there’s no water at our hotel, as they use an electric pump. We get by with buying small packets of clean water from the hotel reception, and pass the time with reading and enjoying each other’s company.
Please pray that we will quickly be given the go-ahead to carry on driving to Congo!
Watch the video for a brief introduction to Winfried Wentland, the CfaN Field Director.
Through the first border
It felt good to be making progress today, as we began with crossing the border from Nigeria to Cameroon. On the other side of the border, we discovered that we must wait for customs officials and a military convoy to escort us to Yaunde. We had time on our hands and so we spoke to a few of the local truck drivers about possible routes to Congo. They said that the road north of Gabon into Congo is drivable, and that would solve the visa problems we might have for our Nigerian brethren. The afternoon was spent on Google Earth investigating roads and making food. Just as the steak was cooked, a courteous military man informed us we could not camp at the border post, due to security issues. A small change of plans, and we ended the day checking into a local B&B with very friendly people, to sleep and await tomorrow’s news of the convoy.
Staying cool in the heat
Today began with an early start from the town of Ikom to the border. We arrived relatively quickly and by lunch time we had set up camp at the border post. Word arrived that the necessary papers were on their way and would be with us early evening. So, the crew settled down for a day of rest and relaxation. However, it wasn’t long before the tropical heat became suffocating, and it was a minor miracle when Jako and Gary walked into camp fresh and cool, with the AWESOME news that there was a river not 100m from where we were. Naturally, the rest of us quickly made use of this refreshing godsend! In the evening, we cooked over the campfire, joking and laughing together, and went to bed early, well prepared to cross the border first thing in the morning.
A day of excellent progress
This morning, from the rooftops of our truck containers, we were greeted with perfect traveling weather. We packed up our tents and were on the move just after sunrise, making great progress, only being stopped twice by the many police and military roadblocks that are a feature of travel in the area. The people manning the roadblocks always greeted us with big smiles at the news that we are spreading the Gospel and are on our way to Congo. Despite two flat tires along the way, we arrived in the border town of Ikom with enough time to get the tires fixed and to meet with the agent helping us across the border. The crew’s spirits are high and we ended the day with a roadside barbecue and stories around the camp fire. Tomorrow, we hope to be leaving Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, and heading into Cameroon, a nation known for beautiful scenery and great music.
THIS is why we need your prayers!
Yesterday at 8.30 am, we set out at last from the CfaN Lagos warehouse. Winfried gave a brief, inspiring word to the guys, and then we prayed together for God’s blessing on our trip. Negotiating Lagos rush-hour traffic in these huge rigs was exciting indeed. We made good mileage in the morning, until we were stopped in our tracks by an entirely blocked freeway. A tanker had dumped its entire load of fuel!
Three hours later, we were underway again, until one of the trucks suffered a breakdown due to a clogged fuel filter, a common problem in these conditions. Lawrence and Jako made short work of the repair, and the good humor was intact, as Lawrence smiled while sucking in mouthfuls of diesel. After one more stop (this time, thanks to a broken, aging air hose which was fixed again by these miracle-working guys) we drove the final few kilometers to our roadside stop. The exhausted crew set up camp on top of the containers and went straight to sleep. What a day!
Packing the trucks in Lagos
Today began with a fascinating and highly entertaining session around the breakfast table, as Winfred Wentland held our attention with story after story about his many adventures over the years of working for CfaN. From being held hostage, to sinking ferries and dodging arrest for deportation, the whole crew were spellbound. We found out that the other local crew members chasing visas were unsuccessful, but we are going to leave anyway with them and pray for intervention along the way. As we are definitely leaving tomorrow, we spent the day doing some food shopping, spares buying and money changing. The trucks have been turned around and everyone is very excited for 6:30 tomorrow morning. Brazzaville, here we come!
Watch the video to see us getting the trucks ready to go.
Making the final checks before moving on
Arrival in Lagos
After arriving in Lagos late last night, we got a good night’s sleep and were up early this morning, eager to get under way. Unfortunately, we were greeted with the news that some of the local crew were still waiting for visas, so we won’t be leaving today. But everybody took it in their stride and after breakfast we headed over to the CfaN warehouse. There is plenty to do, and the crew got stuck into more preparation, repairs and checks. The truck rigs are truly impressive pieces of equipment, and they are treated with tender loving care by the guys. Despite this minor delay, which is typical for a journey like this, everyone is in high spirits and really looking forward to getting going.
As for the weather, the tropical heat and humidity is inescapable! I had to wipe the camera lens every 5 minutes because of the condensation. It didn’t stop me taking a few minutes to talk to Marcus Ahrnke, who is driving a rig for CfaN for the very first time, about how he came to take the job, and what he’s expecting. (The video is in German, with English sub-titles.)
Ready, steady, go!
Here’s a brief video clip from Gregory Vandenberg, who is on his way to join the CfaN technical team as they drive our campaign equipment from Nigeria to the Congo. He will be updating us on their progress and their adventures along the way. Keep watching this space daily for exciting videos, photos and reports, and don’t miss a thing!