We wanted to provide a brief update to everyone who follows our posting to South Africa through Hands and Feet International. We were scheduled to travel arrive in Cape Town on January 15th, departing Orlando on January 14th. But God has other intentions for us to stay put – for now.
We were two hours away from leaving or home in Davenport, FL for the airport when we got an email from KLM stating that our flight leg from Amsterdam to Cape Town had been cancelled (our routing took us from Orlando to New York to Amsterdam and finally Cape Town). No explanation was given and as we got back in touch with Delta Airlines whom our tickets were with, we were rebooked three days later. We were a bit out of sorts having to react on such short notice but were thankful that alternate flights were now in place. Well that only lasted for less than 24 hours as by the next morning, January 15th we woke up to another email from KLM that our next flight just rebooked from Amsterdam to Cape Town on January 18th was also now cancelled. The only positive thing to this was that this time they gave us 72 hour’s notice, just enough to cancel the second PCR tests we had just booked, and get a refund from the travel clinic.
These PCR (or polymerase chain reaction – the gold standard and highly accurate) Covid tests are the “new normal” for nearly all international passengers wishing to either transfer through or arrive at other destinations. You can see what they look like from the picture of mine inserted above. We had gotten our first PCR tests in time to have the results in hand before our original flights were to depart. These are pricey tests, costing $250 US per person down here. And as you can see, having to redo them as flights get cancelled or changed by the fluid international regulations can be quite frustrating, stressful and costly as one won’t be allowed on a flight without a hardcopy of a negative PCR test in hand at check-in.
As you can see from the picture above, flights had been operating regularly from Amsterdam to Cape Town up until January 14th. But we learned that overnight the Dutch government changed their regulations that all arriving passengers into Holland would now require not only a negative Covid PCR test within 72 hours but also a negative rapid Covid test administered at the outbound airport one hour before departure! This new requirement meant that Cape Town would have to suddenly come up with enough rapid tests for all departing passengers to Amsterdam and set in place a testing protocol that could handle the volume of all departing passengers in a timely fashion. The string of cancelled flights that resulted caught us and surely many other passengers with travel bookings.
Whether the Cape Town airport authorities will be able to get testing facilities and capacity in place to satisfy this very stringent requirement by the Dutch government remains to be seen. And with the continuously evolving situation with Covid strains, cases and governments adjusting to keep their populations protected from possible international travellers infected with Covid – especially the South African strain, who knows what will be in place by time we are scheduled to travel. All we can do is commit our plans and intentions to the Lord and trust Him to get us back to our Cape Town home, our mission work and our friends there as soon as possible. Even though KLM’s schedule showed flights starting to operate in early February, we felt led by the Spirit to defer our next rebooking another 40 days to allow for some stability to return to international flights into Cape Town as well as allow Covid cases there to stabilize as they contend with a mutating strain and overfull hospitals as present. Plus we should also learn more from the South African government who are due to update their current level-3 lockdown order sometime before it expires on February 15th.
For now Sonya and I are holding at our place in Florida (hey it’s not a bad place at all to be “stuck”!) and continue to hope and pray our latest re-booking dates for flights departing Orlando Feb. 24th and arriving Cape Town Feb. 24th operate per the schedule. Sonya continues to field inquiries from South African ladies looking for post-abortion help and wanting to learn more about the Living in Colour program. And I will continue to connect via Zoom meetings with Hillsong Africa Foundation (HAF) and Hillsong South Africa senior leadership regularly to keep in the loop of developments in both organizations in order to provide advisory services to them as called upon. I also intend to begin joining the weekly Innovation Hub Core Leadership meetings via Zoom to get up to speed on the Program as they plan for an exciting new iHub launch in Johannesburg and continued rollout of the Program in Cape Town with new 2021 cohorts of young adult learners.
How can you help and support us? Please join with us to pray that our flights operate for Feb. 24-25 or that God opens up an alternate route for us to get back to Cape Town. And that God will continue to keep us Covid-free and safe here in Florida. Should you be interested to come behind us with financial support as we undertake our HFI mission for the next 4 years, you can donate to our South Africa posting here. All gifts are tax deductible and flow 100% into defraying direct costs of our mission.
Until our next update, God bless, keep well and stay safe!