Originally, we were supposed to come to South Africa in June 2020. It took us 6 months to finally get here. During these 6 months of “wandering in the desert”, the Handley Family, who were our neighbor and home church friends, never gave up the hope of us visiting them. They kept encouraging us and we also felt a call from God to come as well. So it was with such excitement for us to finally visit them at Jeffrey’s Bay.
Before reaching them, we spent beautiful three days at the tall cliffs of Drakensburg (Dragon Mountain) which borders the country of Lesotho, and swung by the largest Indian city outside of India, Durban.
China Reunion in Eastern Cape
The Handley family just bought a nice three-story house next to a lake. Their 4 rooms were all occupied given they have 5 children but they kindly gave us their rooms for 5 more persons to stay. During our five days there, we surfed, we swam at the beach, we jumped, slid, and zipped at an amazing water hole, we picked up sea snails to eat, and we even tried Ethiopian food (with raw meat!).
We had curry night, fried rice night, braai night, dumpling night..Every night is special! I had a one-on-one date with the father, Grant. Annie had a one-on-one date with the mother Jean. And we had a couple’s date with them as well.
The Handley organized a worship prayer evening where he invited people who had been in China or those who have a heart for China. We shared what God has been doing in our lives in China and our experiences here in South Africa. Annie led people in doing prophetic painting and the evening ended with a “fire tunnel” for people to bless each other as we all walked in a circle.
Besides the Handley’s, we also met our other South African friends from China: Jacquesjot and Lana, Reon & Rachel, and Murry & Jason from Global Challenge. We also had a dumpling dinner with a family from China. Katherine, the eldest daughter and one of Joani’s best friend, waited for us to arrive to have her baptism because we were her friends from China. I had the honor to baptism her together with Grant, her father, at the lagoon. It was a big, happy China reunion.
“The Handley is such a gentle, kind-spirited, good-mannered family,” Olivia said with a big smile. “The kids would say, ‘Good morning, mom!’”
“It feels comfortable staying with them. They are ‘relaxed-organized’ people and don’t feel uptight,” said Joani who just made up a new adjective. “Sometimes they would pass the dishes, sometimes they just reach for the food. And either way is okay.”
Miraculous Encounter at Wilderness
After leaving the Handley’s family in J-Bay, we started on our two days drive through the beautiful garden route of South Africa. On our first day, we stopped at Storm River for a photo op, hiked for 4 hours at Robberg Nature Reserve at the Plettenberg Bay having fun watching fur seal swim, took amazing panoramic sunset photos on top of the cliff at Knysna’s East Head, and saw a fisherman caught 3 bluefish in a row on the Wilderness Beach.
At the Wilderness Beachhouse Hostel, we had an amazing encounter.
A white guy came over and asked, “My name is Deon. Did you come from Transkei?”
“…No…but we were just there volunteering…” We didn’t know what to say at first because we don’t look at all that we are from Transkei.
“I guessed that it was you! I just talked to Theo and Debby in the morning and they said an Asian family of five was just there and when I saw you five, I thought to myself it must be you!” Deon said with excitement.
Originally, I tried to book an Airbnb but the host didn’t respond after a day. Then I tried another one with the same result. So at the last moment, I booked this hostel. Of all the places in South Africa, we were at the same hostel and Deon actually guessed who we were!
The next morning, we were in a hot debate as to what was the point of this divine encounter with Deon. At that exact moment, Annie, the hostel owner, approached us and shared with us why she started this hostel and many other words of wisdom.
“ I always loved the sounds of the ocean. For me, it sounds like God saying, ‘Shh… Everything is going to be okay.’”
“Before I wonder why my husband always find whole shells while I can only find broken ones. Then God reminded me that if I find a whole shell, I will still break it to make shell strings. So God just provides what I need.”
Annie shared cheerfully about how even though COVID has really affected her business, she is grateful that at least she can sell the hostel, which is better than many other people’s situation. She had a good year last year, so that profit is helping to keep the hostel afloat this year. She is more concern about her 10 staffs and about people not able to enjoy the beach, not her profit. To not layoff her staff, the staff all agreed to work just part-time, including herself. She also met a 90-year old traveler who still have dream. Dream don’t go away just because you are old. You can always pursue it.
Olivia asked her why does the seashell makes the ocean sound, she responded nonchalantly, “Oh, I don’t know. It is probably some sort of scientific reason. You can go look it up on your ‘tippity-tap-tap’ (smartphone)!”
Knowing how stressed I have been with travel logistics during COVID, for Christmas, Olivia gave me this shell that Annie gave her. Olivia wrote in the Christmas card:
“This is the shell she gave me that I want to give to you now. In it contains the sound of the ocean. So whenever you are stressed, you can just lift it up to your ears and remember that God is also whispering to you—everything is going to be okay. And may you remember this encounter and know there is a reason we can’t find a place to stay, a reason for chance meetings, and a reason when things don’t work out. May you find hope, love, joy, and peace in Jesus every time.”
Driving on Route 62
On our second day, we drove towards Route 62, after both Deon and Annie recommended this alternative route. As a matter of fact, Annie planned all the places we should stop on our drive, including the ostrich farm, a drink at Ronnie’s Sex Shop, and the Velvet Red Shakes at Diesel & Creme. It’s nice to have someone else plan our day for a change!
We were so excited to see Ronnie’s “Sex” Shop because the thought of a family going to a sex shop together just sounded so “weird”! The story behind the sex shop is that originally, the bar was just called Ronnie’s Shop, but very few tourists stop. One of his friends played a prank and added the word “Sex” between “Ronnie’s Shop”. Now it is a famous must-stop shop for all travelers. In the shop, travelers would leave bras, underwear, t-shirt, hats, and all sorts of clothing hanging from the ceiling. It was our first sex shop experience as a family!
After the encounters along the Garden Route, our hearts were filled with thanksgiving and our faith was strengthened. Little did we know that God will send 3 angels to our path when we got to Cape Town. Stay tuned!