Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Road Trip

Having officially completed my year in South Africa, I took 4 weeks out with Sarah and Sally to travel the country. We started by spending a week in Cape Town/ the Western Cape and then left on a 3 week road trip driving along the N2 all the way to Mtubatuba and back again. In total we drove 5500 km! Here's a selection of photos documenting our trip . . . .

The Western Cape

The first weekend that Sarah and Sally were here, Paul (McFarthing) and Abigail (my roomie in Mtuba) and Abigail's friend came down to Cape Town from Mtuba so we joined them as tourists for a few days. We went to the Cape Point Nature Reserve (see photo), boulders beach, Cape Town centre, the Company Gardens, the Robben Island museum, and up table mountain. It was great to all be together and we saw some very beautiful sights. We were very blessed by the weather and had some lovely sun. Whilst in the area, Sarah and Sally and I went to church in Gugulethu, a township in Cape Town that several of my friends from the FYP training blocks went to. It's a church with a definite difference- the services are translated into Xhosa and most of the worship is in Xhosa as well. Typical African style, it started about 1 hour late becasue half of the leadership were stuck on their way back from Hermanus because the car had broken down. But I loved the service and everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming.

Still in Somerset West, we went to the Vegelegen wine estate. It was just 5 minutes away from where I'd been living, yet I had no idea it existed! We also managed a day trip out to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned for the majority of his time behind bars. And we climbed the Helderberg, something I'd been wanting to do since I arrived in Somerset West.











The Garden Route

We hired a car for our road trip that escaped surprisingly unscathed (apart from a chipped windscreen and broken number plate) considering the distance it had done and the road surfaces it had been along. You'd think that after driving for 3 weeks you'd get bored of it, but the scenery along the roads was so beautiful I think we could have kept going for a lot longer. Our trip started out along the Garden Route and our first stop was in Knysna, about 5 hours from Somerset West. Travelling up to and down from Mtuba we stayed in Backpacker's Hostels, most of which were very good quality and very cheap. The stop after Knysna and our walk in the forest was Nature's Valley, slightly off the main route but very peaceful with a beautiful beach. The Hostel here was in the attic of a fairly posh B&B, and had a cute little outside kitchen and shower!


Eastern Cape and the Transkei Homelands

On entering the Eastern Cape we headed for the Addo Elephant Park, a fairly small game park but boasting many herds of elephants. We met a guy at the hostel who came with us into the park and was able to show us all the good spots to drive to in the hope of seeing some animals. We saw elephants crossing the road in front of us, lions (though admittedly from very far away) and black-backed jackal as well as the more common buck. After Addo we entered the Transkei in a lot of rain and eventually found the hostel in Cintsa. Again, it was situated right next to an idyllic beach so we decided to stop for 2 nights here and go horse-riding and canoeing up the river.
I think the drive from Cintsa to Coffee Bay, our next big stint, was probably the most beautiful- I love the rolling hills and the little rural villages scattered about. Avoiding the animals that just wander across the road was a bit of a mission but kept us on our toes. We stayed another 2 nights there, and did some walks and a drumming workshop- I really enjoyed that!

KwaZulu Natal

On day 8 we finally made it to our destination- Mtubatuba. I was glad to be somewhere where I didn't feel like a tourist and could actually do some work and sleep in the same bed for a whole 6 nights. Jeff and Tudi put us up and were wonderful, wonderful hosts. It was great to be back in Mtuba and meet up with my friends there. We visited the school where I'd worked, planted 3000 rose geraniums, went out to Shikeshela and of course went to the beach and game park. Sarah and Sally had their first braai (South African bbq) and poitjie (traditional Afrikaans stew) too.

After Mtuba, we made our way to Durban where we explored the Indian Market, the University and the beach front and bought a large wooden giraffe named Geoffrey (for my mum, not me!!) who became a key part of our trip. Then from Durban we visited a friend of mine in Pietermaritzburg and went on to the Drakensbergs. We stayed at the base of the Sani Pass and were amazed to see as we drove towards it that the tops of the mountains were covered in a layer of snow. We had planned to do a day trip up into Lesotho that was run by the lodge, but unfortunately couldn't get past the border in the vehicles because of the snow. Unwilling to give up so easily, the whole group decided to hike up into Lesotho, and 3 hours later made it to the top, and to the highest pub in Africa!

Having left KZN, we headed to Port Elizabeth where we'd arranged for the sister-in-law of a friend, who was a surgeon, to show us around the hospital she worked in. Sarah Pennant, who's training to be a doctor, stayed there for over 12 hours shadowing Claire, while Sally and I had a tour of PE and went for a beautiful walk along the beach as the sun set. After PE we drove to Oudtshoorn and visited the Kango Caves, then stopped for the night in Swellendam before arriving back in Somerset West. We had a last night back in my flat then on Wednesday Ruben and Wilma took us to the airport in their combi and we flew back to England. Leaving South Africa was hard, but I'll be back one day!

Last 3 weeks in Somerset West

Although I knew the day would come when I'd have to say goodbye to everyone and leave, it still came as a shock! Somehow I managed to drag it out over a good 2 weeks of spending time with people and throwing parties- both a fun and very sad time. Once Bethany had left I had just a week on my own in the flat before my two friends from university came out to stay for a holiday. I worked for the first week they were here then officially finished FYP and was free to travel and see the sights before flying home.

Lwandle

During my week alone I spent quite a lot of time with my friends from Lwandle. A large group of us went to the beach at Strand on the Saturday afternoon and had a great time swimming and playing frisbee and just enjoying the beautiful weather. Then on the Sunday it was Anele's birthday and Rachel had a party for him at her house- I think my favourite memory of that day is when the 4 children found a play guitar, drumset and microphone and formed their own little worship band that performed for us. They're so cute! During the week Pretty and Norma from Lwandle and Poppie and Janine from CNP and myself went to the cinema and had a lovely evening together. They all seemed to get on really well, which was very encouraging.

Pre-school during the holidays was a very strange place to be. It remains open becuase it's also a day-care centre, but on average each class would have just 2 or 3 children in it. So other than spending quite a lot of time stood around doing not a lot I was able to catch up on some other work and planning in the office etc. That and talking with the other staff without having to worry about a mob of kids that need looking after.

Chris Nissen Park

With Dean and Paula and Bethany all in England, my last few weeks in CNP were quite hectic. I became the local errand-runner, not that I minded at all. I took a lady with leg ulcers to the pharmacist and then later to the hospital, arranged for someone else's TV to be mended and carted that around for a few days, tried to help a younger girl get her ID papers, and had lots of people to visit and spend time with. The great news is that Uncle Earnest now has a wheelchair and is able to get out of the house by himself and visit his friends. He's been waiting for a long time for that, and it really is an answer to prayer. I had a last discipleship time with Janine and Yonela, and need to pray now that they will continue to be looked after and supported and seek God for themselves. Dina and Poppie both excelled themselves in their hospitality in my last few weeks and as well as having Sarah and Sally and myself round for dinner, they let me hold a goodbye party in their house. I was very touched by the amount of people who showed up and made very aware of how much I was going to miss them.

HCC

It might have been cutting it fine, but in my last week as an FYPer, Step-Off got handed over to Lorien who I know will do a great job with it. The team of helpers has changed and expanded and I'm quite excited about how things are going to progress next. The work that Bethany and I were doing for Sharon for Launchpad is now being carried on by Melissa who's recently been employed by the church. So all in all, I don't think we're going to be missed! Tyara and I also had a great time together before I left and she's grown spiritually so much in the last 6 months. HCC has been a great place to serve and be based at and I've been very blessed by being there. They gave me a great send-off and Debs and Rachel organised a little goodbye party for me. The evening before I properly left Somerset West Ruben and Wilma had me and Sarah and Sally round for a meal- so I was very spoilt in my last few weeks. People have been so good to me, and I've really fallen in love with South Africa, but I have to trust that God still has good works prepared for me and that he'll guide me in what they are as I return back to England.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Some more photos









Somerset West High Street










Ruben and Wilma- my family over here!

I forgot to explain the photos in my last post, sorry!

Photo 1- On the top of a rubbish dump with CNP in the background.
Photo 2- CNP
Photo 3- Me and some of the ladies from Lwandle
Photo 4- Pretty on Strand beach
Photo 5- Some of the girls from Step Off

Monday, June 26, 2006

Amazing blessings

These past two weeks I've learnt more about trusting God than I have in a while, but he's proved himself faithful every time. We had a bit of an adventure a few weeks ago taking some friends back to Grabouw (a little town up in the mountains) - it was the middle of the night, a not particularly safe area, we got caught out in dense fog in which we could see nothing, and the headlights decided to stop working. But God knew where we were and we ended up getting rescued by the police and escorted back down the mountain. It makes a funny story now! Then this weekend, when we had to give the car back to Sharon, someone gave a gift to the church of a 4 yr old Toyota Tazz, in great condition, that me and Bethany have been given use of until we leave. The timing was perfect.

Faith and CNP

In the last two Primal services the focus has been on not limiting God by our lack of faith in what he's able to do, and I've really felt challenged by it. I've just reread Jackie Pullinger's 'Chasing the Dragon' about her work in the walled city in Hong Kong, where in 2 years she saw 75 heroin addicts come off their addiction with no withdrawal effects and totally change their lives around, just through the power of prayer. I want to have faith to see God working in powerful ways here too, using me, but it's got to start with me being willing to change.

I was very encouraged by the times I spent in CNP last week, because whereas I'm usually very 'shy' and not good at approaching people I don't know, God gave me a couple of opportunities to pray and talk with people I just met on the street, and there're another 4 girls who are hopefully going to come to church next week. On a not-so-positive note, a girl called Jackie who I'd begun to spend some time with and get on well with has run away from home and no-one seems to know where she is. We'd really appreciate prayer that she would be kept safe and decide to come back. We're also praying that Earnest would be given a wheelchair from somewhere/someone so that he can get around on his own and not be cooped up in his little room all day. Sadly with the weather turning quite cold now there've been 2 deaths in CNP in the last week from TB. As it's relatively small, the loss is felt by most of the community, and there're several other quite sick people at the moment as well. It happens every year, but that doesn't make it any easier for them to handle.

Lwandle Cell

As my cell group stopped meeting for the last 3 weeks due to exams etc. I've been going with Debs and Rachel to the Lwandle Cell. In a way I wish I'd been theref rom the beginning because I love it there, but I know I learnt a lot from being around the youth in my other cell. The worship in the Lwandle cell rocks! How is it that all Africans can sing really well? It's a good way to practise my Xhosa, and we don't get away without having a bit of a dance too. As for the rest of the cell, it's a bit lacking in content but they're getting there. Vathi leads the cell (and works in the preschool) and has an amazing heart and great leadership potential. There's always a big group of kids there too who either have come with parents or just come in cos they know the preschool. And going to Mug and Bean afterwards (starbucks equivalent but better?!) has become a weekly thing.
A few Saturdays ago I spent the afternoon with my friend Pretty- we went to the beach and walked and talked. She' s a lovely girl and very bright, but is struggling to find work. I think I'm going to try and help her put together some kind of CV and take her to hand it in to lots of places. I need to pray that her ID is all in order (so many poor South Africans don't have their ID book cos they can't afford it or they don't have their birth certificate and hence they can't work so they stay poor) and that she find s a job quickly.

Goodbye Bethany

It's Bethany's last week this week, which means I've got lots of goodbye parties and meals to go to. I'll be sad to see her leave, although I'll see her soon in England and I won't be on my own here for long with Sarah and Sally arriving on the 6th July. I actually had the week alone last week too cos Bethany went to Clarens, but I think everyone thought I was going to be v lonely and so I had about a hundred different invitations to go out and do something. I ended up having company in the office too as Tyara decided to job shadow me for a week now that her exams were over. She' s doing well, and really enjoyed going into CNP and Lwandle which was abonus. It's school holidays now so I think things'll slow down for a bit, which is good cos it'll give me more time to spend with friends before I go. This coming Sunday is my last one with the Step Off kids, and there's many other lasts coming up. It's very sad! I'll just have to make these last weeks the best so far.


Monday, June 05, 2006

A lovely weekend amongst other things . . .

Good news- the sun's back! After a fortnight of miserable rain and cold (though admittedly not as depressing as in the UK) this weekend has been like summer again. And after feeling that all I've been doing here is working, I've had a very social weekend. Friday we went to Sean (the 'youth pastor') and Susan's engagement party up in Heldervue. In true South African style they had a chilled, open-house braai- a v relaxed evening. Then after a bright and early dance class on Saturday morning I took myself off to the nature reserve for a couple of hours to do some reading and make the most of these beautiful surroundings while I'm here. It's so peaceful and absolutely stunning that I'm regretting not having made more of being so close. Later in the afternoon, Josie (the church secretary), Bethany, Melissa (Ruben and Wilma's- whose flat I live in- daughter), Angus (Josie's son) and I drove out to James Town, a little place just outside Stellenbosch. Josie's mum, an amazing 76 yr old coloured-Afrikaans lady, had invited us for 'afternoon tea and cake' although it turned into tea and cake then dinner later as well. They are such a lovely family- Josie's one of 7 children and 2 of her sisters were there too, telling us all their family history and letting us look through their treasured photo albums. It's strange to think that up until 20 yrs ago the place they grew up was a farming community with no electricity and now it's mostly houses, and nice ones at that. They've got a great family testimony too of how Auntie Sarah (yay, finally met someone else with my name!) first became a Christian and has had the joy of seeing 6 of her 7 children and her husband make commitments to the Lord too. We've been invited to a party there on the 24th, which will definitely be quite a cultural experience but lots of fun.

Sunday morning was quite a struggle out in the kids work. I'm finding it tough having to be with them 3 weeks out of 4 and actually miss being in the morning service. But I guess it's good for them to have some continuity and I've built relationships with them much quicker than I would have otherwise. Anyway, this Sunday some of the lads were really playing up and there was some quite evident bullying going on that I had no clue how to handle. I've passed the buck onto Sharon now who oversees all the kids work, but it made the morning v difficult. Some of them come from some very hard backgrounds and I can understand why they behave like they do, but that still doesn't make it right. A friend of mine from Lwandle has started helping out too and she's been fantastic with the big group of Xhosa girls that we have. I do sometimes take a step back and wonder what on earth I think I'm doing trying to teach this group when I'm so inexperienced and speak only English, but fortunately God knows what he's doing.
In the afternoon we went into Chris Nissen Park to have lunch with Dina and Poppie. Poppie had cooked a lovely meal, and then we went for a walk along the railway line and climbed up a big hill from which you could see the whole of CNP, ariel view. Ouma Sophie walked with us too and I was very impressed by her climbing ability! I was slightly worried when we met a group of boys from CNP who were out catching snakes and had 4 of them in a big glass jar, but they assured me they were harmless. As per usual, when we started walking we accumulated a group of about 10 children who followed us around, but it would feel wrong by now if we hadn't. I do wish someone would teach them that they can't just pee anywhere though. That's one thing that really irritates me!

Primal and Cell

Primal (the evening youth meeting) has been going well lately. I'm really encouraged that it's changed since I first arrived in that it's a lot more multicultural now and a taxi load of youth come in from Lwandle each week. It would be great if we could bring in some of the CNP youth too, but one step at a time I guess. Sean's been great at giving young people chances to preach and lead worship etc, and last week Bethany spoke for a bit. She did really well- there's definitely a gifting there. Yesterday we did things a bit differently and basically had an hour and a half of straight worship.

Lots of people brought prophecies and words, which doesn't normally happen, and it seemed that this was something of a turning point.
The cell group I'm in has been going well too. Norma and Kelvin and Lwando seem more settled there now, and whilst I'm fighting a losing battle because I want to be allowed to go in and pick them up on my own, I have at least been able to find a guy each week to accompany me. It's been great watching the girls in the cell mature and grow in God, and I feel more useful now than I did. It's exam season at the moment (although that seems to be a permanent state of affairs here) and we're not having cell now until the holidays so I get to go and visit some others for a few weeks. I still meet up with Tyara who is constantly amazing me with the depth of her faith despite the hardships she's facing at the moment. Since becoming a Christian she's also started bringing her mum to church who subsequently became a Christian, and several of her friends have been along to Primal.

Other bits

We had an interesting afternoon in CNP last week when a film crew arrived to do something for a documentary they're making on how some communities are slowly being transformed and the part that churches have played in that. Despite my insistence that I really didn't want to, I ended up being 'interviewed' in a kind of discussion panel with some other people who work in CNP and some of the locals. Most of it was in Afrikaans, but I think I followed most of what was being said which made for some interesting listening. There are still lots of divisions and little jealousies in the community and I felt that some of what was being said was kind of an attack on the church because we work through Dina and because we can't visit every single person in the community. However we all prayed together at the end, which was a good thing to do!

Things to pray about

- I'm very aware that I'm not here for that much longer, and would love to be able to hand over some of the things I'm doing (eg. Step off, discipleship) to people in the next few weeks so that I know they're going to be carried on once I'm gone.

- HCC have started having weekly prayer meetings on a Tuesday evening, and they've been really exciting times but not many people have been coming along. It would be great if more people would be motivated to come and get stuck into prayer!

- If I'm honest, I've been pretty stressed and over-worked lately and not handling it greatly. I need lots of grace and patience and to remember why I'm here!

Photos-

Top to bottom = 1) the Helderberg basin, 2) Dina, Poppie and Paula (our project leader), 3) Bethany, Kelvin, Norma and Pretty in our flat, 4) Likho, my favourite kid at preschool if I'm allowed to have one!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Just 2 months to go . . .

Concert in Lwandle

I think the highlight of the last couple of weeks for me was the 'concert' that Bethany and I went to on Saturday. There's a lovely Zimbabwean family in our church who now live in Lwandle and the 5 of them have formed a group called 'Gospel Unlimited'. They were doing a fundraiser for some new equipment and put on an open-mic afternoon in a little Baptist Church in Lwandle. It was so much fun!! Me and Bethany were the only white people there, and consequently got some funny looks, but there was a really great atmosphere there and some excellent singing. There's nothing quite like a Xhosa choir, with everyone else dancing while they sing. Anyway, I've got to know the Ndlovu's quite well now. Pauline works in the preschool as a cook, and Norma and Kelvin, the eldest children, have started coming along to the youth cell that I'm helping out with. That was quite a big step as I don't think there're any cross-cultural cells in the church, because of language and location mainly, so I was bit worried about whether they'd feel comfortable and enjoy themselves. It seems to have worked well though and I'm picking them up again this week to take them through.

Funeral in Chris Nissen Park

On a sadder note, a few weeks ago now, Bethany and I went to Aunt Evelyn's funeral in CNP. She was a lady who lived next door to Dina who I didn't actually know very well, but we were there because Dina had asked us to come. I guess we were sort of representing the church because Dean was away that week. We actually slept over with Poppie the night before (Dina's daughter) and had a lovely time there. Her family's pretty big and she'd invited some friends over too so there were lots of new people to get to know. We had a braai and then went for a bit of a walk around- CNP has a very different feel to it in the evenings. It's a bit more alive I suppose because more people are there. There are four 'shacks' which sell beer and play music etc. that open in the evening so we paid a quick visit to one of them but decided it was probably best not to stay too long! The next morning we went to the funeral which was very sad but quite an experience. Firstly it was an open casket funeral- my first time being at one of them- and secondly it was held in her quite small house and lasted for 2 hours. There were 4 different preachers, all of whom spoke in Afrikaans and 3 of them shouted most of it. I was quite proud though that I managed to understand most of one of them- that was the guy who spoke at a normal level and not so fast. In fact, he was Chris Nissen himself. I've finally met the infamous man who has had so much input to the community.
My discipleship with Janine and Yonela has been going well and a couple of weeks ago Janine became a Christian, which was very exciting. I just wish my Afrikaans was better so that I could talk about so much more with them.

HCC

I'm beginning to get a bit sick of the church office because I've been spending a LOT of time there recently. Thankfully most of it's been productive though. I still love being involved in Step Off, but I'm a bit discouraged at the moment because there doesn't seem to be anyone willing to take over the reigns when I'm gone. Sean, the youth pastor, has started coming out with us on a Sunday morning occasionally and it's good to have his support and input. We've got about 30 kids coming to it now, and I'm trying to spend time during the week going to see them etc. That's quite easy for the ones who live in CNP and I had a lovely chat with Clifton yesterday who told me we needed to talk about more difficult things on a Sunday moring so that they could learn what the adults know and get closer to Jesus. He's a great guy- I have a lot of respect for him, though he is very good at asking for and taking money! I find it difficult not to give in but I know it won't help in the long run.

Ooh, I can't remember whether I said last time or not, but we have a car! That was a great answer to prayer. Sharon (who we do lots of kids work admin for) had an old white ford estate that wasn't being used so she offered it to us for the time being. It's been such a blessing. We get through petrol scarily quickly but we're making up for lost time!




Photo at top= View of some houses in Lwandle from the preschool playground.

Second photo= Some children in Chris Nissen.

Third photo= the church building.

Fourth photo= The Helderberg Mountain (as viewed from church)

Cape Town!

Going back a while . . . my and my group at summer camp.


Enjoying a time of worship in the middle of nowhere in the Karoo desert on the way to Bloem- the bus tyre was being changed.





Another shot of the Karoo




Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bloem, training and everything else . . .

It feels like a very long time since I've been in this office and after two weeks away I guess it has been a while. I'm glad to be back now but am already feeling the pressures of everything that still needs doing. I haven't been into preschool this week though, which has been a big blessing as it's given me more time for other things.

End of March

I know I'm forgetting something big but I can't remember much of what happened just before I went away. That'll teach me not to keep a diary! The Chris Nissen Park netball team had its first practise but with no ball and no posts it was unique to say the least. Half way through we found a football from someone that was pretty flat but better than nothing. Oh, and I spent the first 20 minutes sweeping the courts with broom to get off all the broken glass and big stones as most of the girls play in bare feet. I enjoyed myself though and got to meet a few new girls who I've not had any contact with before. I'm quite glad I don't speak fluent Afrikaans becasue it meant that when they got into big arguments over whether the ball was in or out or which team should have possession I could just smile and ignore them. Great! After practise I stayed in CNP to help set up a surprise birthday party for Poppy, Dina's daughter, who was turning 21. It was a really lovely evening and lots of fun. I met with Tyara a couple more times as well, and have had some amazing chats and bible studies with her. We did one of them down on the beach at Strand, and the other time I cycled up to her house- something I will never do again! Give me flat Cambridge any day. Tyara's so keen to learn and is reading books faster than we can find to give them to her. I've got a lot to learn.

The Bloemfontein Conference

Bloem was great! There were many points during the 20 hour bus journey there that I thought we'd never make it, but I'm very glad we did. In fact the journey itself was quite an experience. Bethany and I went in a fairly rickety old bus with some of the other FYPs and guys from Gugulethu (township in Cape Town) and Jubilee (big church in Cape Town). The driver insisted on playing his one cd on repeat at full volume for the entire journey, making sleep impossible, so for the first couple of hours the bus became a moving nightclub. South Africa doesn't have rules about not standing up and dancing in the aisles of a bus- or if they do everyone ignores them. Most of the drive was through the Karoo, a big section of desert, with breathtaking scenery. We got to see the sunrise both times and I certainly never got bored of looking out the window.
One of the best parts about the conference was being able to meet up with all the people I've met at various places on my travels since July. It was so good to see Abigail again (my Mtuba roomie) and catch up with news from there and even meet her parents. Bethany and I were on kids work for about half of the time so I felt a bit out of what was going on with the main sessions, but had a good time with the kids. God was clearly working amongst them as well. A new apostolic oversight team has been appointed for South Africa now, and there's 4 church plants happening within the next 6 months or so- exciting stuff. People had come from many other African countries for the conference too so it had a truly multicultural feel, and some amazing times of worship!

FYP Training

Straight after Bloem the 32 FYP students headed back down to Cape Town then up the west coast to Vredenberg, just outside Langebaan. We all missed the beautiful beach at Noordhoek, but there's more to life than sand and sea. This time we stayed in a backpackers lodge attached to a riding stables- it was pretty small so we really got to know people well! The structure of the weeks were quite different to the last blocks, and the first week was taken up with a pretty intense counselling course. I actually found that very interesting and it completely dispelled my somewhat sceptic prejudgment of counselling. It did feel a little like I was back at uni for a few days but strangely enough I enjoyed that feeling. Then the second week was taken up with some (somewhat pointless in my view) teambuilding and 'experiential learning' stuff. On the Thursday we had pretty much the whole day in which to take ourselves off somewhere alone with nothing but a notebook, pen and bible and spend some quality time with God- I think everyone appreciated the chance to do that becuase it so rarely happens in busy normal life. During that week we also met together in small 'life groups' and had the chance to share our testimony/life story with eachother for an hour and a half each. For people like me who really hate the focus being on them that was quite difficult but I think it did me good. It certainly helped me to see just how faithful God has been. The fact that that was the last training block was quite sad, but I was kind of glad to be heading back to Helderberg. The day after it ended was Bethany's birthday and we spent the afternoon exploring the central, non-touristy bits of Cape Town. Easter Sunday was hectic as normal but then Monday was a bank holiday so it gave us some time to recover from the last fortnight.

I can't think of anything too unusual happening in the next few weeks but with things the way they are here you can never rule anything out! It's always interesting at any rate.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

March 20th

Well, as usual, the last couple of weeks have been hectic but with less than two weeks to go before the Bloemfontein Leader's Conference (a mini, South African version of Brighton), which is followed by another two weeks of training, I'm trying to pack in as much as possible. There's yet another public holiday tomorrow though, but it'll be good for some serious planning!

Emyezweni Pre-school

Things at Emyezweni are continuing to go well and I'm actually finding that from Thurs-Sun I miss the children. I've begun to recognise some of them around at church on a Sunday morning and it's always very rewarding when they come over and give me a hug! It's great that the pre-school isn't just about providing somewhere for the children to go during the day but has a real heart for teaching the kids about Jesus and being a positive influence in their families. It's difficult at that young age to see fruit from what's being sown but I believe that the children are experiencing things that will shape the rest of their lives.

Chris Nissen Park

I find Chris Nissen Park a very difficult place to be sometimes, but I wouldn't stop going there for anything. I'm still reading to Earnest each week, with more and more help now from other relatives and friends of his. A couple of weeks ago Bethany and I had a very interesting conversation with a group of Rastafari (who are part of the Rastafari movement, another religion). The movement originated in Jamaica, and they believe that Haile Selassie I, who was the King of Ethiopia, is God incarnate. Part of their worship involves smoking ganja- otherwise known as marijuana- and they all have dreadlocks. They were actually really open in talking to us and listening to what we believe in and we're meeting with them again this afternoon.
Another development in Chris Nissen has been the building of a netball court in the main park area. The government gave some money for it so that the community would have something to focus on and something for the young people to do. Dina, the main contact the church works in CNP through, has asked me to help with coaching some of the teams so as soon as it's finished I'll get involved with that. I'm looking forward to it as it'll be a great way to get to know some of the young people there who aren't coming to church and who we haven't had much to do with so far. Unfortunately, as with all poorer areas and probably everywhere else too, jealousy is a big problem and becoming quite prominent at the moment, with people feeling we're spending too much time with certain families, or that Dina is being too pushy etc. Prayer that the jealousy would subside and not hinder any of the work we're doing would be much appreciated.

I've now started to disciple Janine on Friday afternoons, and two of her friends and her mum have said they want to come along too. She's a really lovely girl and very keen to learn, and our plan is to begin to raise up some leaders within CNP who can carry things on when the FYP people leave (which inevitably happens a lot), and will also be better at reaching their own community because they speak the language. Dean and Paula are here pretty much indefinitely, but it's a shame there's not more continuity in the other people working into CNP- if some other South Africans who live around here were to get involved, the work would take on a whole different dynamic.

Helderberg Christian Church

Step-Off has really taken off and we've met for 4 Sunday's now. The first 3 of those I was leading and feeling a bit snowed under with work, but it was worth it. We have about 20 people on average a week, and they're a great group of young people but are becoming increasingly disruptive. It doesn't help that I can't communicate with them in their first language and that we don't have enough workers out with them, but hopefully the latter will change soon.
Bethany and I have been very busy with Primal stuff too lately (the youth/students work). HCC hosted a big youth event on Thursday and we were at church for about 11 hours that day, but it was worth it because about 700 young people turned up and the event was definitely a success. It was run by a group of people from Jo'burg called 'The Silver Ring Thing' and was all about abstinence, which they handled very well. For the Primal sunday evening services we usually have about 85 people, and at the moment Sean, the youth pastor, is preaching through Colossians. When I first arrived, Primal was very much all white which just felt wrong, but there's been a real effort in the last month to encourage people from CNP and Lwandle to come and make them feel welcome.
I'm still involved in one of the youth cell groups, and am now discipling Tyara, a 16yr old who became a Christian about a month ago. She's great fun, and so on-fire for God it's really encouraging to spend time with her. Her desire to read the bible and walk the life that God has called her too is amazing and I'm learning lots from her!

'Other'

I haven' t had time for much else, but somehow Bethany and I have managed to squeeze in two flat-warming parties (the flat wasn't big enough for just one) and go on the occasional trip to Spier, a nearby wine farm. I'm still dancing and enjoying that, and I think that's about all for the moment . . .