I have a confession to make. The signs indicating the road to take to get to Grahamstown from Port Alfred were there…no one had removed them. Louise and I were so busy discussing what we were doing and who we were meeting we simply didn’t see them. So, forgive me road workers…
Today has been mostly a driving day. The only exciting things we did…except nearly get wiped out by a speeding taxi overtaking an oncoming car in our lane…was stop for breakfast and stop for lunch.
Birah Cafe…cheese and bacon pie!
We seem to be doing a lot of eating on this trip! A necessary evil, I suppose.
The views along the way were stunning…what a pity one couldn’t stop to take photographs because of all the road construction! The aloes were magnificent! The mountains, the rolling hills, the deep river gorges, and the gentle ploughed slopes made one want to burst forth in praise.
So, we had Faure do that for us…yes, it was a requiem, but his interpretation of the Pie Jesu just seemed to fit with what we were seeing and experiencing.
Mthatha is an interesting place…bustling and busy, just like Addis Ababa. The traffic is just like Addis Ababa too with a fair bit of Cairo and India thrown in for good measure. Those of you who have had the misfortune of driving in those places will know what I mean. In most places in the world, the front passenger seat is the seat of honour. In Cairo, according to Bishop Mouneer, it is the seat of horror. A few times I have had to “do my Ethiopian thing” and push my nose into endless traffic to cross over or have had to go through a very red light because no one from the other side stopped. Nerve-wracking fun.
My great-grandfather, Arthur, was the first principal of St John’s College here back in the 1880’s. Apparently this is still a very good school and only the best pupils get to go there. Way to go, Arthur!
Bulie and Louise.
Our contact here, fondly known as Bulie, came to get us and we went out on the town…not exactly…but we went to a local restaurant and talked about the Diocese and about future possibilities for LEAD training here.
She told us that Rooted in Jesus Junior is a great hit here, and that she is sure that Rooted in Jesus (Adult version) as well as the LEAD program will take off as well. But, as we saw in the Diocese of George, we need to look at translating the material in other languages such as Afrikaans and Xhosa. It is just so much more effective to learn something in ones heart language…so we have our work cut out for us!
We found out that we are in the wrong B&B…YIKES! So we will have to move tomorrow…no rest for the weary. Sigh.
A recent team member asked Suzy if she is ever burdened by the poverty and need she encounters here in Honduras. She responded by telling a humorous story about being a “fool for Christ” when she knowingly was scammed at the airport by a man selling her a very rare and valuable “bonzai” tree. All the Hondurans witnessing this sale were frantically gesticulating that she should not buy what was obviously just a twig stuck in dirt. “I could see that he probably had children at home wondering if there would be food on the table that night.” She also pointed out that, although there was some fabrication in his pitch, he wasn’t stealing or committing a crime. She also recounted another conversation about a man with one arm who looks for help at the very busy intersection by the airport. He is bright, well-spoken, and otherwise healthy. “Wouldn’t you rather work?” she asked. “No one will hire me,” was the response. True enough. In a country with over 50% unemployment, why would you hire someone with one arm when you can two for the price of one? So, he dodges traffic looking for a couple lempira or two (just pennies) from cars stopped at the light.
All of us living here have these experiences day in and day out. Sometimes I will go a couple of days without being approached and some days I can’t walk 10 feet without coming across someone in need. At times, especially when I am exhausted or stressed, it is overwhelming. I just want to cry out, “Go away! Leave me alone!” I am heavily burdened by the sadness, the unrelenting need, and the feeling of being so small, just one person. I am tempted to look away, to change my path to avoid the disabled person, to ignore the dirty face of the hungry child.
As I reflected on the team member’s question, I realized the problem is not being burdened. The real problem is when we are NOT burdened. God calls us to be burdened, from the Old Testament:
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ – Deuteronomy 15:11
To the New Testament:
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
– 1 John3:17
These are not gentle suggestions. These are imperatives. When we follow these imperatives, no matter how burdening or inconvenient or expensive, we are richly rewarded, not just in the next life, but in this life. You receive hugs from children clutching a toy from a just eaten Happy Meal, a prayer from a grateful mom and even two little chicks from an older man.
A final story. A confession. I have a large “airport family” of baggage handlers, money changers, disabled adults, and poor families. We love each other, ask about each other’s families, help each other out, and pray for one another. A couple of years ago, I noticed an older unshaven man hanging around the outskirts of my team as they loaded the bags into the van. He had a hopeful look but said nothing as I paid the baggage guys. I made a snap decision that he was a drunk and ignored him. This scene repeated itself over the next few weeks. Although I wasn’t rude, I wasn’t kind to him. One day I was waiting for a team and he approached me. I noticed his hands were shaking. “Are you okay?” I asked pointing to his hands. “I have Parkinson’s. I used to have a job but now I can’t work.” Do you know what the sword of guilt feels like as it pierces your heart? I do. I learned a valuable lesson. Never judge. Roberto and I have become fast friends. One day, recently, he asked when I would be back at the airport because he was going to bring me 2 “pollitos.” (baby chicks) I was inwardly alarmed (what am I going to do with baby chicks???) but smiled and thanked him in advance. Sure enough, the next week he gingerly handed me a bag. “Careful. There are 2 pollitos inside.” Honestly, I was afraid to look inside! I waited until I got to Casa LAMB so I could ask Dulce and Gloria what to do with them. I opened the bag to find this:
I love my pollitos and the accompanying scented roses. So, be burdened and you will be richly blessed.
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10
We got lost today…well, not quite lost, but we did miss our turnoff because the dear folk doing the road construction had removed all the signs on our side of the road. So, we blissfully drove on until we got to the mouth of the Fish River. Stunning views, but way off course…but we did get to see a family of Vervet monkeys on the way, so it was not a total waste of time!
Once on the road to Grahamstown, it was a straight shot…well a curved straight shot through Bathhurst. This is the bastion of 1820 British Settler territory and we drove past farms with names like Lyndhurst and Waters. Many of these farms are game farms so we spotted a few zebra and various antelope like Springbuck and Blesbokke. This is also hill country and the views along the way are breathtakingly beautiful. Many aloes grow here as well and their blooms are particularly bright red this year.
The Cathedral of St Michael and St George
Today we met with the Rev Dr Claire Hunter, the wife and co-worker of the Dean of the Cathedral (see here: http://grahamstowncathedral.org/) who is away in Stellenbosch attending the funeral of his godmother who recently passed into the arms of Jesus.
Dean Andrew Hunter and his wife Revd Dr Claire Nye Hunter
Claire is an educationalist and was so excited to hear about the new LEAD program of Growing the Church…we were so excited she was excited, so you can only imagine how much fun we had over coffee and delicious home-made cakes. We look forward to training with her on board as GtC faculty in the future.
She told us that the Cathedral was one of the best integrated churches in southern Africa. If you look at the pictures on their website, you can see why she says so! A wee glimpse of heaven…every tribe, nation, tongue…together worshipping our one Father. Bliss…
Aunt Alice is on the far left.
Claire was also able to point us to the Cory Library where an exceptionally helpful young lady by the name of Louisa…good name…helped us find the baptismal record of Southwell Anglican Church. Lo and behold, there it was. Pages filled with my great-grandfather’s signature as he baptised baby after baby after adult…yes, adults too…after baby. Folks didn’t have television or cell phones those days and the winters are cold. Three of these babies were his own children. Clara, John (my grandfather), and Alice, who later became an Anglican nun and served at a mission in Rusape, Zimbabwe. This was an amazing find. The librarian was so excited she hugged me goodbye!
John Lomax, born on 3rd October 1882 and Baptised on 19th November 1882 by his father, Arthur Lomax.
We spent a lovely cozy evening with Pen, her sister, Carol, and her Rector, Cynthia…thankfully, Carol’s Staffordshire Terrier is male, otherwise I would be totally outnumbered! We had a marvellous time and Cynthia is convinced the LEAD Disciple-making course is a necessity for their parish…if only people knew how life changing this course really is! To follow Jesus…to REALLY follow Jesus, is to make disciples…and what could possibly be wrong with that? And to follow Jesus is to embark on a journey that will take you deep into the very heart of God…
All in all, this has been a fantastic day! Thank You Jesus!
Port Elizabeth is know as the “windy city” and boy did it live up to its name today! We had hardly started our presentation when we heard this howling sound…everyone else seemed quite unperturbed, so we raise our voices and carried on.
It was a wonderful and encouraging meeting – in fact the most engaging meeting we have had thus far. Everyone was engaged…asking questions, making statements, discussing ideas, dates and venues…it was so exciting that Louise and I completely forgot to take any photographs…not one…sigh…
From Port Elizabeth we headed on up north towards our next destination…Port Alfred. This became a destination because of an enquiry I had made about my great-grandfather who had served as Rector and Principal of the church school in nearby Southwell. Pen is a priest in the area and I got her name and email address from the church website. (see here: http://www.albanyanglicans.org/stjames/) But, as always with a great God like ours, this seemingly casual encounter turned out to be a divine appointment for us and we spend a wonderful, God-filled, Spirit-led evening with her, encouraging her and praying with and for her. She is a brave woman with an indomitable spirit and someone we have come to admire and respect over a very short period of time.
But prior to our arrival in Port Alfred, we made the long awaited detour to St James, Southwell, to see this tiny church in the middle of what would have been nowhere at the time when my great-grandfather and his brave wife and children laboured for the Lord out of love for the people who lived here.
It was here, at Southwell that my grandfather, John Lomax, was born and raised for the first seven years of his life.
The Altar area.
The baptismal font in which my grandfather was baptised.
Inside St James, Southwell.
The old Rectory and school.
The Mission Church.
The kitchen…I wonder how many meals Mary Ellen cooked here!
The list of Rectors…Arthur Lomax is 4th from the bottom.
Arthur’s signature is on the top right.
It has been a long day and tomorrow we are off to Grahamstown for more meetings…who knows what the Holy Spirit has in store for us!
Last week Lynn and I authorized the purchase of my plane tickets to and from the Solomon Islands! I am humbled and grateful for the financial support that has come in from individuals and churches. Support raising did not always seem plausible/possible, but God has certainly been good! Opportunities for me to share about my upcoming work in the Solomon Islands continue to arise and support continues to come in. The opportunities to preach, teach, share and connect with people have been encouraging to me.
During the six months I am in the Solomons I will have limited (possibly no) reliable access to the internet. I am a millennial, but I am also a semi-Luddite, so I am not too worried about this. On the other hand, it is important for me to keep folks at home updated. If you would like to sign up for my email newsletter, please click here and fill out the form. I’ll be working with some folks back home to send out periodic updates.