There is an unassuming plaque in a stone column along the tar road between Crocodile Bridge and Lower Sabie. On the face of it is no different from the other stone markers in the park – they indicate the distances between camps and rest stops; announce the names of watering holes, pay tribute to people and events in the illustrious history of Kruger Park and have on occasion been known to have a leopard or two reclining on them. On account of this, I expected a benign message on this plaque too. Imagine my surprise then, when I first read the words inscribed there – the unexpected realisation that a place of such beauty had once been the scene of inconceivable drama. Even in severe drought, this leafy spot is welcoming and peaceful. The trees and shrubs offer a sense of protection and shelter… so contrary to the testimony of the words inscribed there, recording an ambush that took place in the vicinity on 12 July 1725.
In June of 1725, Frans De Kuiper of the Dutch East India Company, was sent on a mission to find the rumored goldfields of the interior. It was on this mission, that his party of 30 men were ambushed by Chief Dawano’s warriors. The De Kuiper party was forced to retreat to Mozambique as a result.
This small plaque and its brief allusion to such a dramatic event several hundred years ago, has remained in my thoughts for the past week. The incongruity of what happened in this beautiful, peaceful place, is ironically what made it so perfect for an ambush! I would never have expected an ambush there – everything about it speaks of peace and shelter. I would imagine the ingenuity of the assailants in picking the location for the ambush, worked very much against their quarries – besides, what is an ambush, if not a surprise?
There have been times in my life where I have felt ambushed by things that have happened to me… the untimely death of my father; the illness and death of my first husband and later my own illness. These life events caught me off guard and left me feeling unprepared. In retrospect, nothing could have prepared me for any of these things. So if nothing could prepare me, then what was the advantage to my enemy in ambushing me?
I took longer to fight back…. Sometimes I even considered retreat… retreat so far into myself that I would likely never have come back out. Fortunately for me, I was not alone when I was ambushed – my Saviour, Redeemer and Friend was beside me and He was the One who fought for me when I could not, who protected me when I felt alone and vulnerable, and reminded me of the victory and the power that is mine by His blood and authority.
Perhaps you have just been ambushed. Perhaps you are still not even ready to concede that you are/ were in an ambush because you feel indicted by your own foolishness for not seeing it coming? May I remind you of two things?
1) An ambush is a failure if the quarry sees it coming and,
2) You are not alone, UNLESS YOU CHOOSE TO BE.
The way I see it, Chief Dawano’s warriors were simply defending their territory against their perceived enemy and I suspect they used the element of surprise wisely. Have you ever thought of surprising your enemy next time he thinks of ambushing you? Stand firm in your faith in the One who has your life in His hands and your back in every fight, and you will be the one controlling the outcome of life’s ambushes. It is never too late to rewrite your ending -starting today you are making history – maybe you will need to retreat for your survival? I don’t know about you, but I see no shame in that either – after all, dead men cannot retreat:-). So the only real question is this: “are you standing in a perfect spot for an ambush?”