The locals call it “Khaki Fever” – a term often used by safari guides in Zimbabwe to describe the condition of a person who falls hopelessly and helplessly in love with Africa. Symptoms include extreme infatuation and fascination with the land, the people, and the wild animals of that faraway place. I have had a severe case of “khaki fever” for as long as I can remember! From my earliest recollections I have been drawn to the people, the wildlife, and the countryside of Africa, and for the past thirty-plus years my life has been bound up in one way or another with all things relating to that captivating continent.
It came as no surprise, then, to those who knew me well, that in 1981 after graduating from Samford University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and after serving for a few years as pastor of churches in Texas and Alabama, my life took a radical change of direction. It was then, in response to the call of God, that my wife, my family, and I pulled up the roots of our American way of life and moved to Zimbabwe, Africa, where we served for years as international missionaries. One would think that such a radical move would help assuage the intensity of my “khaki fever,” but all of those years of living in the deep bush of Zimbabwe Africa did nothing to alleviate the fervor of my love and addiction. In fact, if anything, those years merely increased my passion. Even now, every year I return with a group of intrepid volunteers to the remote Zambezi River Valley in order to spend time with the wonderful BaTonga people who live in that region. In my case I fear the condition is incurable!
Seldom do things in the course of an adult lifetime work out so that childhood dreams actually come true. However, the Lord has blessed me uniquely. I have been privileged not only to live out my life in obedience to the divine call of God, but also to experience abundant opportunities for authentic adventure. I was favored to live in a time when I personally experienced the last generation of “real” Africa before the waves of western society washed across its face and eroded the wild raw beauty of an indigenous civilization that is now almost gone. Thirty years ago I knew a timeless people who lived simple lives, carried spears and knobkerries for protection against wild animals, and sometimes even wore bones in their noses. They communicated with drums and swift runners carrying messages from tribal chiefs. Now, those same people have adult children who communicate with cell phones and ride in comfort-equipped buses from bush villages to growth point communities where they regularly check their e-mail accounts.
I’m back in the states these days, living with my wife Shirley and pastoring a church in the South Central Kansas. We have three grown children, all faithfully serving the Lord, and four wonderful grandchildren.
“Khaki fever” still burns deep in my soul. Indelible memories of an action-packed past are forever seared into my way of thinking. Treasured recollections from those wonderful years in Africa are splattered across my mind like mud spots on a land cruiser after an adventurous afternoon in the bush. Should I wash the truck? I don’t think so. Instead I think I will just pass it on to those who may come after me who choose to travel the same rough roads.