In July, 2002 we bought the property we now call home. We had been living in Harrismith for four years by then, and were currently renting a flat outside of town. It was built on a farm in a converted chicken coop (no lie). There was a beautiful view from our living room window of three mountains -- Mount Everest Game Lodge.
Niel and I had been to Mount Everest a few times. (It was so named because one of the mountains on the property is named Mount Everest; we always thought it was so goofy.) We had gone there for Valentine's dinner once, at which we won a drawing for a weekend stay at the lodge (which we never even got to use!).
In May that year, we felt impressed to start looking to buy land for our mission base. We had brainstormed and had a list of things we'd want to eventually build on our base. When we heard that Mount Everest was for sale, we went out to see it with the real estate agent. Looking at it with all new eyes, it astounded us. We could check off so many things on our list that were already on the property: high/low ropes courses, thatched buildings, game animals, eating hall and kitchen, housing, conference facilities, etc.
We shared the vision with our family, Board, friends, and prayer partners. We all sensed it was the Lord and we decided to pursue it. A dear friend got a loan out Stateside for us and we went to the auction with $400,000. At the time, the exchange rate was R10 to $1; we had R4 million. I will never forget the day of the auction; it was like something out of a movie.
We drove up in our old VW van, feeling rather intimidated by all the Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs, and Audis that had arrived from Joburg. We had a lawyer here to represent us; he sat separate from us and did the bidding on our behalf. The auctioneer opened the bid at R5 million and we just sank in our seats. No one accepted it, so he lowered and started somewhere around R1.5 million I think. It progressively went up into the R3's.
It was then our lawyer and one other guy (let's call him Dude to make things easier) who were bidding back and forth; each would raise it an additional R100,000. Dude eventually bid R3.9 million; our lawyer bid R4 million and the tension mounted! If Dude raised it one more time, that would be it; we didn't have another cent to our name. He got on the phone with his banker to try to organize more money; and the auctioneer gave him some time before he finally banged his gavel and said, "Going once". Another two minute pause; "Going twice". Minutes went by; the auctioneer was giving Dude a chance to outbid us. Dude finally got off the phone and said, "That's it; I'm out" and walked out of the room.
"SOLD!"; the auctioneer banged the gavel the final time and that was it. We were hesitant to get excited; was it really ours? We turned to our lawyer (seated several rows behind us), and asked, "Was that us?" Indeed, it was!
The rest of the day was a blur of paper signing, and then reality set in. We now owned the three mountains which we had seen out our tiny flat's living room window! The year that followed was also a bit of a blur; our ministry exploded wide open and we were overwhelmed by so many new challenges. The vision before us kept us from selling the property and running far, far away!
The property is truly a gift from God. It is stunningly beautiful: 2500 acres including the mountains, 775 animals at last count (zebra, wildebeest, ostrich, antelope), amazing views on all sides. We felt the most notable feature was the prominent peak that resembled an eagle's head; we renamed the property Eagle Mountain.
The main complex area is 6000 feet above sea level (higher than Denver); the highest peak (the eagle's head) is at approximately 7,470 feet. Much of the property is on a slope; being out of shape and over a mile above sea level means walking between the offices often gets me out of breath!
We moved into the original farm house that has been here for almost 100 years. It's age gives it character, but it also has many quirks. It's not our dream house (by far), but it's home for now. And it's quite a step up from our old flat, which would fit in the kitchen and dining room of this house!
Well, so much for trying "to make a long story short". I think I made a long story...well, long. I'll post some pictures so you can see what I see everyday. Yeller, I'm curious how it lines up with the dream you had...