In June 2019 we were on our way back to Belgium – our holiday was over. In the departures hall at Cape Town International Airport, a sign with the words “Montagu approved” caught our eye. Those words spoke to our hearts and we knew it was time for a new direction in our lives. Our South African love story started 15 earlier, when friends invited us to visit them here.

They showed us the Garden Route and Route 62, and we fell in love with a whole new culture, lifestyle, and flora and fauna. The panoramic views, delicious food and particularly friendly people won our hearts. My family and I have been holidaying here every year since then. We started seeing the special potential in the people and their resources. We saw a pioneering spirit, and the kind of courage, leadership and creativity that make this country unique. Seldom have I seen a nation that loves its country so deeply. It stirs deep emotions and gives you courage to do the impossible – like transporting tanks of water from the south to the north of the country,thousands of people who gather to pray for rain, entire communities who stand together in times of natural disaster.

From the age of nine, I knew the Lord was calling me to Africa. I imagined I was a nurse, travelling alone by motorbike. Well, Africa and I had to wait until I met my wonderful husband, Johan. I had to bring two exceptional children into this world and live for 55 years before the doors would open. (The dream of the motorbike I had to let go!) My husband is a medical doctor and I am a doctor who does Christian counselling, and we often work together. We are concerned with different problems – I specialise in distress and panic attacks; my husband likes to help medical doctors with burnout. We often visited Montagu and both felt this town could become our home. We bought Montagu Rose, formerly a bed-andbreakfast, with a view to restore it and use it as our consulting rooms. Our daughter, Anne-Laure Knockaert, oversees the restoration. She moved to South Africa in November 2019 and lives in Montagu. She specialises in restoration and renewal, and loves the architecture of Montagu.

We arrived last month and experienced the strangest Christmas, with high temperatures and mosquitoes on the stoep. “Jingle Bells” in shorts, and palm trees decorated with Christmas trinkets, as our own Christmas decorations were still at the Port of Cape Town. Montagu is a precious diamond: we have a tidy and well-organised municipality, a very friendly post office, a kind congregation that, in my book, gives new meaning to the concept of hospitality. There is a large variety of shops an restaurants, farms that produce excellent wine, and large fruit farms. There is the Avalon Springs resort, sporting events, hobby clubs and schools in a peaceful, safe environment. The residents are proud to live in Montagu. We are being invited to dinners and braais, and for drinks. Hospitality is not just a gift here in Montagu, but a way of life. The
congregation takes care of its people. We would like to thank Montagu for this warm welcome and for all the help. We love you and welcome you in our hearts.

Dr Isa Declercq

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