Cold, cold, cold…but I told Louise a long time ago that when I complain about the cold winters here she must remind me of the 63.8 degree Celsius weather in Gambella. So, I let her do the complaining and I simply nod in sympathy.
This morning, the preacher used the image of a desert rose as an illustration of the nominal Christian…beautiful to behold, but nothing more than fossilised soil. For those who don’t know what a desert rose is, here is a picture of one.
There could not have been a better confirmation for what we are seeking to do as Growing the Church. The reality of non-productive church goers is something that needs urgent attention. The horror of successfully Christianised nations committing atrocities beyond human nightmares such as the genocides of Rwanda and South Sudan remind us that we simply cannot do church as we have in the past. Something must change.
In our recent application to SAMS-USA for a project to fund a scholarship program to assist those who simply cannot pay for the disciple-making training, we pointed out the fact that numerical growth does not necessarily bring about the type of change one seeks for those being added to the Kingdom. The LEAD program, however, teaches disciple-makers to walk with their disciple(s) through a process from unbelief all the way through to maturity.
The LEAD program teaches disciple-makers how to win the lost for Christ…then how to build up the new Christian in their new-found faith…then how to train that person to make disciples themselves. All three of these lead quite naturally to the final phase, that is multiplication. But the important thing is to write the concept of multiplication into the DNA of the new believer right from the start…a far easier thing to do at the beginning than to try to ignite that passion at a later stage.
And now, I must disappoint you all…we did not braai tonight…in fact we did not braai at all today. It was a quiet day in this peaceful country town and we spent it peacefully together with everyone else. We had pancakes (American crepes – well, sort of) and chicken soup and now we are gathered around a lovely warm fire.
Tomorrow…ah…we are so excited…
It was -2 degrees Celsius this morning…needless to say, we did not emerge from our beds with the roosters…actually, even the roosters decided to keep a lid on it as we didn’t hear any until later. There is one here whose crow sounds a lot like a rooster we had in Gambella…”Oh what shall I do?” he laments…no-one ever gives an answer.
It suddenly dawned on me that our dear American friends and family will not quite understand our reluctance to crawl out from under our duvets…we do not have central heating (or cooling for that matter) and the cold out there is the cold in here as well!
But in spite of a late start, we did get quite a bit accomplished. We worked on our itinerary and our scholarship fund project application and got a few items we still needed for the road. Louise cooked a few ready-to-pop-in-the-microwave-and-eat meals for the Queen and we ended the day with family, doing what our family loves to do…braaing…which is not exactly the same as American Barbecuing.
Right now this is what the next two weeks will look like.
Monday June 26 – Swellendam and Mosselbay – sleep over in George
Tuesday June 27 – George (Bishop’s Council 10 AM) – sleep over in PE
Wednesday June 28 – PE Meeting at 11 AM – sleep over in Port Alfred
Thursday June 29 – Grahamstown – no meetings set up yet – sleep over Port Alfred
Friday June 30 – to Mthatha
Saturday July 1 – Mthata
Sunday July 2 – Mthatha – Celebration service
Monday July 3 – to Molteno (Day off)
Tuesday July 4 – to East London for meeting – sleep over in East London
Wednesday July 5 – to Plettenberg Bay – sleep over there
Thursday July 6 – morning and afternoon meetings in Plettenberg Bay – sleep over there
Friday July 7 – head on home – we may stop over in Villiersdorp if we feel it is too far for one day’s drive.
The map below shows more or less the way we will be driving except we turn off to go to Mthatha (which here is spelled Umtata). We will also be going inland to Molteno, a small town where Louise’s Dutch family and my British family lived three generations ago. In spite of the Boer War raging all around them, these families stayed friends which only goes to show it can be done in Jesus!
We left Cape Town too late…the traffic was simply absurd. But, as we have a rental, we also have music, so Brahms and Mahler helped calm the nerves and got us safely to our destination.
We enjoyed a peaceful evening dining with the Queen.
This weekend, Louise and I will gather our thoughts, go through all our presentation material, contact more contacts, write out an application for a new project to sponsor Growing the Church trainees through SAMS-USA, and rest. More later…
Louise and I are asking for serious intercession.
We leave for a two week trip to the Eastern Cape on Monday. In many ways, we are retracing the footsteps of my great-grandfather who left Cape Town for the Eastern Cape in 1873…only, he and his family went by ox wagon and horse, not by car.
In many ways, this whole area still needs the Gospel as much as it did in the 1800’s. Crime, violence, corruption, superstition, witchcraft, and any number of evils are still practiced widely. Poverty and disease, HIV in particular, plague the people. Many of our Christian brethren in these areas suffer hunger and need.
The southern most part of this area (George and Knysna more particularly) has been devastated by a recent raging bush fire and we wish to be an encouragement to these folks, not a burden. Pray for wisdom as we introduce them to the work of Growing the Church. Many people lost everything. Pray for Lyndon as he coordinates the GtC work in a Diocese which is about as big as South Carolina.
From there we move on to Port Elizabeth – a large coastal city that is key to reaching thousands with the liberating Gospel of Jesus. The key person there is a young man who knows and loves the Lord. Pray for Ulrught as he seeks to open the way for GtC to come into their Diocese to train faculty and Diocesan teams in disciple-making.
From there we move on to Port Alfred and Southwell, both in the Diocese of Grahamstown. Pray for Pen who will be hosting us, together with Cynthia, Basille, and Carol, who all serve in different ways in the area.There is a huge Art Festival taking place in Grahamstown at this time, so we may not be able to do our introductory talk there this time round…but, we will be able to visit the historic mission station where my great-grandfather worked and where my grandfather was born. We are making some good contacts in the area for future reference. Hopefully, on our return journey we will be able to meet folks in East London, another large coastal city.
Then on to Mthatha for a weekend of celebration…apparently, the entire Diocese is gathering for a “family” day on Sunday…so we will get to meet a lot of people all at once! They have promised to provide us with good music and dancing…looking forward to it! Pray for Bullie, our contact and coordinator there.
On our return journey we will meet with folk in another coastal town named Plettenberg Bay. Pray for Pam. There are a number of churches in the area and people are ready to start outreaches, but many folks here are poverty stricken. Training costs about R300 (about $25) per person (that barely covers our costs to print the booklets), so we may need to start a project scholarship fund of sorts.
The return journey is more flexible as some folk may ask for us to return…as I said, we are hoping to meet with folks in East London…but I am sure we will fill our agenda soon!
Please pray for:
1. Protection. The roads here are dangerous on so many levels…wild and domestic animals freely roam around and often cross the roads unexpectedly right in front of fast moving vehicles…uniformed persons have been known to stop cars saying they were speeding, with the hope of receiving a bribe…crazy drivers take huge risks and endanger the lives of everyone around them. Pray for our vehicle as well…no flat tyres or other mechanical problems.
2. Persons of Peace. We need to find spiritual, influential people who will catch the vision of disciple-making and run with it in their Diocese. Please pray for divine appointments all along the way.
3. Financing. GtC operates on a tight budget and has to charge folk for the training. We do not want to miss key leaders simply because they don’t have the wherewithall to pay for the training. Please pray for generous folk to step forward and offer scholarships.
4. Health. That the Lord will grant us good health and that we will not get sick.
Last week we woke up in the dark…our power was off. At first we thought our electricity had run out, as have been running a dehumidifier 24/7 since our flat was mildly flooded during the Mother of all Storms…but we still had enough left on the meter. (Yes, electricity works differently here than in the States.) I waited until the bewitching hour was over and WhatsApped (is that an acceptable verb now?) our Growing the Church group to see if their power was off as well…but then it came back on again…so, we thought no further on the subject.
But last night, we found out what had really happened. As you can see from the photographs, our block of flats has an electrified fence all around it with electric gates that work with remotes.
|Louise at the main gate…the infamous power box is behind her.
|The security camera that revealed all…
But, that did not stop two possible gang members from getting over it. It’s not hard to see why…there is a tree right next to a street lamp…even I, admittedly with some difficulty, could get over there. Apparently, one of our visitors scaled the walls of the building itself and attempted to enter our neighbour’s flat via their porch…but our neighbours woke up and foiled whatever plans he may have had…they sleep with the porch door open as they, like us, are on the second floor.
From the video footage they could see that the other visitor walked around the base of the building and then towards the gate where he found the main electrical switchbox and…yes, you got it…turned off the mains. Why this box was not locked remains a mystery, but there you have it. He then got over the electrified fence without any discomfort to him or his friend.
Gang activity in our area has apparently escalated of late and we have been warned to become increasingly vigilant. This is so sad as leads to profiling. For us, the only way forward is to treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of whether they are digging in the trash or dropping their children at the school across the road off in a Mercedes Benz…but to be wise and not put ourselves in harm’s way. So, no more late night strolls unless we are in a group…sigh…this world needs Jesus…
|Our flat is in the centre on the second floor…the neighbour’s porch is to the left in the picture…it is relatively easy to scale that wall because of the wood slats.
Louise and I boarded flight 110 to
Johannesburg on June 8 together with our newfound friend and mentor, Jeremy
Koeries of J-Life. We were heading back to Johannesburg to follow-up with those
we trained the beginning of May as well as to train a new batch of trainers.
We stayed in a lovely Convent by the Name
of Koinonia, in an area known as Bezuidenhout Valley.
The training, however,
took place in an area known as Sophiatown….one of the oldest racially mixed
communities in Johannesburg which was destroyed in 1955 when over 2000
policemen forcibly moved people to different areas according to their ethnicity.
Almost all the buildings were demolished, but the suburb was rebuilt, renamed
Tromf (Triumph) and zoned as a whites only area, until the name Sophiatown was
reinstated in 2006. The training centre itself was one of the few structures
not destroyed by the bulldozers. It used to be an orphanage, but is now the
Diocesan Headquarters for the Diocese of Johannesburg. Sophiatown was also home
to the much loved and respected anti-apartheid activist, Father Trevor
Huddleston. Jeremy, Louise, and I managed to visit a centre named in his honour
as well as the church he shepherded and where his ashes have been buried.
On Friday, 9 June, John Abrahamse, the
international director of J-Life, met with our May group for follow-up to see
how they had used the material they had learned previously. He also wanted to
show them how to coach their own disciples and how to teach others to coach
their disciples. All the training materials are designed to create a
multiplication effect in the Parishes, Dioceses, and the Province. To quote the
Apostle Paul, we seek to train those who “will be able to teach others also” (2
Timothy 2:2) until every member of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa has
been trained or equipped to do the work of the ministry.
Unfortunately, as it
was held on a working day, a number could not participate, but we have
encouraged them to form small support groups among themselves and to teach and
coach each other as well as to hold each other accountable. The J-Life leaders
have also graciously made themselves available should our faculty or teams need
On Saturday, 10 June, we started training a new group, made up of representatives from the Diocese of Johannesburg and the Diocese of the Highveldt. Some will become Growing the Church Faculty for their respective Diocese, while others will become Diocesan Team Leaders who will serve to train Parish leaders who, in turn will train parishioners.
We returned from Johannesburg on BA flight
6407 on Sunday, 11 June, tired, but joyful. It was a wonderful training event
that we will remember for a very long time.
God Bless Africa,
Guard her children,
Guide her leaders,
And give her peace.