.WHAT RACE ARE YOU RUNNING?RUNNING THE RACE OF ADVENTURE

Builder

Trailblazer begs the answer to the question: “What race are you running?” In so doing it can bring about an introspection of what one can either stand for or make one uncomfortable about the deeper realities and truths or lies in one’s life that we all have to inevitably answer to anyway, one day. Or do we? Leading to somewhere, are we living for something or somewhere else even if we are on the wrong trail? Trailblazer is more than a brand because we are just followers on a trail of a Trailblazer who has already gone before. Trailblazer is a movement of God in our lives. Responders. To Jesus - Trailblazer.

And God responds to brokenness. It is kind of what He is about – restoring this world in all its facets from everything that breaks down, in people, planet and purpose. As trail runners, there is always another trail to explore - to continue to beg the question and keep running….until we cross the finish line? One day. What does that finish line look like?

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labour in vain.”- Psalm 127:1

As responders we have the ability to reflect the Builder. By the time Josiah was three years old he had the privilege of traveling to more countries than three times his age and crossed the Equator without even leaving the face of the Earth. He would still love to go in an aeroplane one day! But he prefers to build, and build with blocks. This deeply personal reflective Tale of Africa Calling combines real life intersections of reflecting our Creator across the African continent – the builder of nations, in a brand of LEGO we travel around with wherever we go. No instructions – just build, with some unique background stories not everyone gets to read about bringing meaning to the creations. And brokenness.

                               With LEGO “everything is awesome, and it’s cool to be a part of the team!” Really, it is! 

Home. Are we truly at home, ever? Sometime we just feel like we have one bum cheek where we currently at, yet at the same time the other one somewhere else. The more we move the more we realise that it is not on this earth, or in this life…

The process of leaving Cape Town started mid 2018 when we had to flee our home overnight due to safety reasons. We knew we had to obey before this, but we resisted. One of the last things Joseph did to the property was to build in water collection tanks due to the drought conditions the city was experiencing at the time.

We spent 3 months of 2019 volunteering at a subsistence farm in the Klein Karoo in the Western Cape of South Africa. A physically and educationally formative time, we learnt what it meant to plant, grow, harvest and process our own food, amongst the clearing of areas and digging holes for avocado trees, moving countless wheel barrows of rocks and a whole lot more privileged farm activities.

The 5 weeks of volunteer cattle, goat, chicken and more farming in the heart of the Kalahari in the Northern Cape of South Africa mid 2019 proved to toughen us up just a little more. And we built some sort of rendition of what we think or thought home could look like one day. That was also part of the work – building on and repairing the volunteer house we stayed in, with the mice in the roof and meeting some puffadder snakes in the mornings. This place was hard – sand, wood, metal, hardy Kalahari shrubs and farms so big it took Joseph 5 hours to run the perimeter fence. And this was a smallish farm we were told!

Plane fascination: no matter how one looks at it, for every male at any age. Even if Josiah has yet to step into one, this one was built off an inspiration of his grandfather who used to fly his dad and uncles around the Southern African skies visiting various places of interest in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia as a family in their youth. Little did we know that where we built this plane in late 2019 on a commercial potato farm outside Mbala town, Zambia, it was also the most perfect place of self-isolation enroute to South Africa during the overland repatriation expedition when we crossed into Zambia through a closed border. Some flights are pre-planned in advance by the Builder, always – we just had to get on board and keep driving…

Joseph: “Sometimes when one visits a place it can seem a little surreal. Never did I think I would actually ever travel to Rwanda, let alone from Cape Town in our car! But here I am, absolutely in my element, travel fatigued and with so much to do the agenda in the 72 hour visa permit we obtained at the Rusumo Falls border with Tanzania. Nothing beat a coffee to go in the pouring East African rain while driving on the right hand side of the road in our right hand driving vehicle. Epic black panther – any terrain, any nation, African hero”.

                               Lisa built this one - a reflection of our home for some while we dubbed "Black Panther" after the fictitious African Marvel character, and our vehicle.

By the time Joseph had built this truck in Uganda without instructions, we had had the advantage of coming across hundreds of such real life renditions of the said at the border posts of African nations. Within 13 months we had crossed 17 African borders overland (4 of which were Pandemic induced closed with Embassy assistance, plus 3 denials). We often got to speak to the gentle men behind the wheels of these beasts while queuing and we were humbled by the role they play in keeping Africa’s wheels turning. Some countries would just not economically survive without these transporters carrying goods from the continents’ various ports inland for human survival and flourishing. And let’s not forget the role they play in the extraction of Africa’s unprocessed wealth to the western world…of which no pandemic can get in the way!

IMG 20200322 193132Our attempt at building a coffee processing station, Uganda.

Usually, we all see others through our own cultural paradigms and life filters. And then we make conclusions of what is needed. We realise that Africa does not really need anything, but hey, who would not want to accept help, especially if its free? Time and time again, this was highlighted in our visits and interviews with many an organisation with a heart to make impact and perhaps even amends for the past ills of human movements through extraction. Problem is, we found, that unless anything is nothing short of leaving a legacy of generational sustainability, aid usually hurts more in taking away a viable opportunity for betterment in the future. It was challenging not to feel a lump in our throats in witnessing the big gaping holes left behind in societies by the west when they leave. Leave? Yes, it is expected that good hearted western impact movements leave after a time and nothing continues. Talk about building and then breaking down!

                               Abandoned coffee processing station, East Uganda.

We spent 6 weeks in lockdown in East Uganda at a lodge we were hoping to volunteer and work at for a while. While it never materialised, it was nevertheless a watershed moment as although we felt like we were in the right place, it was not a right fit. We had to step here in order to discover that, and we were grateful that we did. This was our turn-around and departure point for the expedition back to South Africa for a season - a poignant place called Sipi where some of the world’s finest coffee is grown on the slopes of Mount Elgon. The vast flavours in a cup of coffee will forever linger on in our hearts and minds of some of the special moments we had here where we were not even allowed to drive our vehicle without permission to go shopping for groceries in a lockdown that was one of the strictest in the world. 

                               Victoria Falls National Park with Bridge, background, pre-pandemic, November 2019, Zimbabwe.

During our repatriation we tried crossing into Botswana from Zambia and were denied entry. We have not met anyone ever who has been denied crossing a nations border. It’s difficult to explain and it’s kind of surreal it even happened. Nobody can really resonate what it’s like, deep down. Yet, who are we to expect to cross a border anyway, just because? After this denial Joseph remembers “walking across the Victoria Bridge border from Zambia to Zimbabwe to obtain permission to transit Zimbabwe in 9 hours straight to get to South Africa for the birth of our second child during the closed border posts of the pandemic July 2020. I did not see one single tourist around. Only one Zambian trader. And three police check points whom I had to explain our situation with each time. Besides the bizarre scenario which highlighted the exceptional continent Africa is, thinking about this day still brings about intense emotional renditions of trauma I’m not sure I could ever get over. And I just hope maybe I don’t, because it’s made me appreciate not only the simple things, but the privilege of even being in the position in the first place”. And we can add denial to transit through Namibia to this too.

                               The official border line of Zambia and Zimbabwe on the Victoria Falls Bridge with the mighty Zambezi River 128 metres below, July 2020. Absolutely alone with God on the bridge. Unreal, but tangibly beautiful with Victoria Falls in their fullest effect! Privilege.

LEGO represents building bridges in our lives, often from one context or people to another. And brokenness. Each time we move, our creations get broken down, put in a box and then we build again. In real life, how we leave a place or point of impact determines how well the preparation went into the build in the first place. Sometimes, it’s better not to build unless it will last. It is not always awesome.

What race are you building?

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