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Pleasure Dome Thunder BW

Mountain Hike

I was involved as softball coach and umpire with the Homespun Softball Club for nine years. In 2015 my wife coached the under-16 boys team, in which our son Eden was a player. The boys were keen to follow in the footsteps of the under-19 team, who enjoyed annual hikes in the Drakensberg mountains; I had accompanied them on some of those hikes. This time, my wife asked me to lead her team into the mountains on her behalf. My brother agreed to join me as additional adult.

The goal was to hike for a few days in the mountains without tents, sleeping in well known caves. We would start from Dirk’s cabin in Bergview, just above the Drakensberg Sun hotel, and hike to Stable Cave. Then past Hospital Cave, through the valley to Zulu Cave for our second night, and return to the cabin on the third day. These are not the typical caves seen in movies, with a small entrance to dark passages and inner chamber. Instead, they are all open caves, large recesses in the rock, with ample dust floors and massive rock overhangs… almost as if a huge wedge was cut from the mountainside with a giant axe. They provide shelter from rain, but remain open to wind and cold.

Here follows the testimony of how Raffaello, one of the under-16 players, was able to join us on the hike.

On the evening of 6 October 2015, at 18:56 the following text message appeared on our group chat from Francesca, Raffaello’s mother:

Please will you pray for Raffaello… He has a fever… headache.

As she requested, I prayed for Raffaello, sincerely hoping he would join us on the hike. I figured I’d wait until morning for news about his condition.

Early the next morning, 7 October, at 07:12, Francesca’s report came through:

Did not go well during the night… don’t know… I call on wisdom!

After reading that, I knew God’s Word was sought for in this matter. I prayed, and brought Raffaello before God. Here follows my prayer, and His reply as I wrote it down.

07:24 Heavenly Father, please give Your Word and Wisdom for Raffaello.

07:25 My son, Raffaello is not feeling well now but he is healed for this hike. He will walk with you and enjoy it. Nothing is too great for Me! Let him come, he will be well. I will strengthen him and bless him to be with his friends on this hike into the mountains. He is not alone.

I sent God’s Word to Francesca. It was for them to hear His Word and believe. If they believed God, then He would indeed perform on Earth what He had shown to be His will in Heaven. According to my faith—knowing God would heal, with God’s instruction to let them come for the hike—I invited Francesca to bring Raffaello to join us.

To encourage her, I testified to her about how God had healed me the night before the previous year’s hike, when I accompanied the under-19 boys. The head coach, Dirk, and his son had prayed for me, and I was perfectly healed within hours, just before a most challenging hike in which we ascended 1600 meters onto an icy cold escarpment, had our tent ripped by constant gale force winds, encountered drug smugglers, and experienced roughly 60 degree Celsius temperature differential as we descended 1600 meters back to the cabin, all within 2 to 3 days, and no sickness in sight.

Later that morning, our lawn was bustling with boys being dropped off by their parents, offloading backpacks and sleeping bags. Scanning the crowd, I was pleased to see Francesca and her son amid the excitement. To my dismay, Raffaello looked incredibly pale and weak. I had hoped by now he would at least be mostly mended and ready. In contrast to the other energetic boys, Raffaello should not be here at all—or so it appeared.

However, appearances can be deceiving. They had come in faith, not because he was better—far from it—but because they trusted God, according to His Word for them. While I spoke to the two of them, the Lord’s compassion for Raffaello overcame me. I embraced that ill young man, with tears running down my face. At that moment, God’s virtue was felt flowing through me into him! I encouraged Raffaello that I’m standing with him in faith, standing on the Word which God had given to him out of love. 

We proceeded with arrangements, and distributed hiking supplies between all the backpacks. At some point, as I walked past the two of them busy packing his bag, Francesca mentioned that Raffaello was feeling better. As a first indication that was positive, but not yet a complete testimony. We still had a 5 to 6 hour road-trip and three days of mountain hike to complete. God still had much to accomplish. God’s Word accomplishes everything He sends it for, and does not return to Him void.

Mother or son could have feared the worst and pulled out. Instead, Raffaello joined us on the road-trip to the mountains, yet another testimony of his faith, and that of his mother. Francesca would no doubt be praying for her son.

Would he choose to stay behind at the cabin while we hiked for three days? The spacious cabin perched on a ridge, it’s wide second-storey wooden deck overlooking the lakeside hotel in the steep valley below. The boys enjoyed the grand view which I had seen several times before. We then prepped for an early rise the next morning, all the backpacks ready. Everyone enjoyed a hot shower, and the boys helped prepare supper.

The next morning, Raffaello was ready with his backpack. He hiked along for three days across challenging terrain, talking and joking along, in good spirits all the way. He walked with the lead group, and served as one of our scouts when needed—going quickly ahead and returning with information, just to repeat that route with the rest of us. He also willingly offered assistance when he saw a need. None of this is evidence of illness or weakness of any kind—just the opposite.

On the second night, while sleeping in Zulu Cave, Raffaello experienced severe earache, which God promptly healed after we prayed and waited on Him. Later the next day, when I asked Raffaello about it, he confirmed that his earache was completely gone, since the night before.

Below follows my hiking journal, which ends with the details of Raffaello’s earache being healed.

9 October

08:37 Last night we slept in Stable Cave. We’re now sitting just above Hospitaalspruit (translated as Hospital Stream). Nine fellows went to explore the cave below here. After the rains of yesterday, the breeze is fresh and lively. Even the water in the bladder pipes don’t really heat up. Clear skies. Perfect hiking weather!

10:30 Resting in a deep valley between massive boulders. We passed dry waterfalls and river beds. This valley has almost no water pools, and no stream.

12:10 We’ve been at this superb swimming hole. Jumped off a high rock into a very deep pool. Swimming in cool water, but not freezing cold, like in winter. Everyone enjoyed a swim. After drying on the rock in the sun, we washed dishes and some socks. We’re about to enjoy a late breakfast. We couldn’t have breakfast earlier, due to lack of water. We survived on snacks instead.

13:10 We just left what will likely turn out to be the most awesome swimming hole on this hike, hitting a trail up the opposite face of the valley, without shade and in the scorching sun.

13:38 After a gruelling ascent via switchbacks, we cruised on the contour path and heard thunder towards Lesotho, followed shortly by very welcome cloud cover. Right now the boys are enjoying a waterfall coming down boulders in a gorge while I’m typing this entry under a shady tree. More thunder means we may encounter rainfall before we make Zulu cave. At least we have plenty of fresh water, an essential that the boys should take less for granted after yesterday’s ordeal (lack of water on the trail and at Stable Cave, looking for water, fetching water, carrying heavy water for many mouths, for cooking, drinking, and washing). Feeling drips from the sky and the lovely sound of running water over rocks.

14:27 Arrived at a running river about 1 km downstream from Zulu cave. We have been hiking through light drizzle and cool cloud cover. These past two days we have experienced much such cloud cover despite hot weather reports of up to 37 degrees Celsius in this area. This shouldn’t be so surprising, considering that we prayed for exactly this at the mountain cabin, just before we set out yesterday morning. Right now my feet are chilling in the river while the rest are swimming. Time to join them!

15:02 Leaving the river to hike up to the cave. Dripping again. Put rain covers over backpacks in case of heavy rains. 

15:26 Filling the water cans before we hike up to the cave, in case Zulu Cave also lacks water. Cool weather persists.

19:50 It’s now dark outside. Night time. Some chatter from the boys, drowned out by the perpetual splattering of the Zulu Cave waterfall. Lot’s of fresh water plumbed right into this cave. We’re all tired. Today was gruelling but also fulfilling. Here’s what happened after my previous log entry of 15:26…

We hiked up to where we thought was Zulu Cave. No cave. Disappointed we pulled into a cove with a waterfall. We studied the map again and were convinced we had to go on. We hiked on. We then found a valley leading up to trees and a cave. After a steep ascent it turned out to not be Zulu Cave.

We studied the map again and determined we had to go further on still. We sent out scouting teams but they couldn’t go out far enough to find Zulu Cave. We then assembled a team of two boys (including Raffaello) and myself with our backpacks to find the cave. Instead we found the Bushman Cave, which I thought we had somehow missed. In a pinch we could sleep in this cave, although it would be disappointing.

The good thing was that I now knew where we were, and that Zulu cave was indeed still further on. At that point it was 17:15 and sunset would be at 17:50 with another three quarter hour of fading light. We were racing against the clock. More of the fellows entered the Bushman Cave, while Raffaello went back to help the others find us. My brother, Phillip, decided to wait in Bushman Cave while I took three boys with their backpacks with me to find Zulu Cave—which we did, rather soon, although it was a stiff climb indeed. Eden soon joined us, and the other boys (unburdened of their backpacks) went back to help the others in the fading light. I sent a message for them to dump their heavy water before the steep climb, since Zulu Cave had fresh water. In the meanwhile, my son Eden and I set up the kitchen to have something tasty going when the hungry lot walked in. 

In our effort to find Zulu cave we had skipped lunch, although we had a late breakfast at 12:00 and snacks along the way. The balance of our team walked in probably just after 18:00 with some daylight remaining, although fading. The relief was palpable for us all reaching Zulu Cave, and for seeing the kitchen in full production.

Soon after the two-minute noodles with diced sausages were ready, lunch promptly became supper, washed down with hot tea and coffee. We considered the day and spoke about how God had provided cloud cover for two days already, despite weather reports showing high temperatures, answering our prayers. 

Soon after everyone retired to their bedrolls and sleeping bags, chatter quickly died down to unusual silence. One of the boys came over and asked me if our planned supper could become a grand breakfast, something I had considered a few minutes ago. What a contrast to last night when voices and laughter were heard till late. Tonight, by 20:00 the cave was silent. I’ll now join them in their state of blissful recuperation. The only sound is the perpetual splattering of the cave’s waterfall. It is now 20:40. Good night!

22:30 I was awake and saw Raffaello and a friend making for the kitchen. A little later, I heard a huge racket as the falling water hit their empty plastic cans. I watched them place a kettle on a stove. I sat up and asked: “Are you hungry?” Yes, they were, and added that Raffaello has severe earache and needed to eat something in order to take medication.

I encouraged them to proceed, and told them to get some rusks. As I lay down again, the Lord told me to have coffee with them and to pray for Raffaello, that He will heal his ear.

I sat down with them, helped get the water going on the stove, and opened the coffee, milk and sugar packets. After asking him, Raffaello eagerly requested prayer. The three of us stood huddled together and prayed, and instantly the Lord’s presence came over us.

After praying, Raffaello said his ear already felt somewhat better, but I told them we should now wait on God’s reply. The Lord spoke to me, speaking healing and commanded my hand placed on the sore ear. Raffaello agreed, and so I did. As my hand touched his ear, the Lord’s virtue flowed with great power for several seconds, before He told me to ask Raffaello to test his ear—which he did, reporting it healed.

We sat down, and I encouraged him to quietly thank the Lord in his heart. While we waited for the kettle to boil, I did the same. God is most certainly good.

We departed Zulu Cave, hiked to the cabin, enjoyed showers, good food, and rest. After several hours drive from the Drakensberg to Johannesburg, we arrived safe in Midrand where eager parents collected the young men.

Exactly as God had spoken in His Word, Raffaello enjoyed the hike, without sickness, and God instantly healed his earache. The faith they had placed in God’s Word, heeding His invitation for them to join the hike, was a faith alive with works. If they had not believed, they would not have displayed any works to attest to their faith. Since they believed God’s Word, they prepared for the hike, travelled to my house, packed the distributed supplies along with all the others, said their goodbyes, got into the van, and set out on the challenging hike. Moved by their faith, God performed several miracles for Raffaello, in the sight of witnesses.