The title says it all, The Gathering's Soup Kitchen is a dirty, scruffy ministry which demands one gets one's hands dirty, and after running for nearly three years, and getting to know so many regulars, it's impossible not to get one's hands dirty, and do you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way!

Thursdays are brilliant (and even better in term time when our Homework Club is running).  I spend most of the morning making the soup and then in the afternoon I get to prepare the venue and then serve the soup (normally with help from Joel and one or two church members), whilst Errol provides a semblance of order outside and encourages passers-by to partake.  He's a natural evangelist.

It's very easy to look at The Gathering's Soup Kitchen and think what a nice piece of work it is without fully appreciating just how serious a need it fulfils.  It's also easy to look at the pics of the many kids that regularly come and think how cute they look, but again it's all too easy to miss just how serious the need in the community is for The Gathering's Soup Kitchen.

Homework Club

Thursday saw our last two Homework Club sessions of 2017 and each of our kids have done themselves proud.

We've had some great feedback from some of their families and hearing how certain kids have increased their maths grades from 1s to 5s and above is fantastic.

Also learning that none of our kids are repeating the year is also great news, especially for one young lad who has been stuck in Gr4 for three years!
We had so much fun at The Gathering's end of year party for our Maths@Home Homework club on Friday.

22 kids were eager to get in with a few siblings and friends trying to slip in too, but we managed to contain the numbers.

We played the old classic Fly-Swat Hockey  followed by Pie Face, which was interesting and hysterical in equal measure as 22 kids were desperate for their turn. Using the spinner was pointless because they all wanted to be splatted with cream which made for quality entertainment!

Pray For Zim

We had the privilege of calling Zimbabwe home for almost three years from 2000 to 2003 and still to this day carry a torch for the nation. Zimbabwe is quite simply the most beautiful country we’ve ever been to. Zimbos are the warmest and friendliest people you will ever meet and visitors are always bowled over by the reception they receive.

Sadly though, all has not been well in the former ‘bread basket of Africa’ and since 1999 has been the basket case of Africa, and that can be attributed to one man and his colossal ego.

Mugabe was once a genuine liberation hero, but that crown slipped a long time ago and he’s nothing more than a despot.

So what’s happening today in Zim?

We know a few things for sure… we know the military have taken control, allegedly only to “purge the criminals from govt” but they are firmly in control. We know that Mugabe is under house arrest in State House and is safe, and we know the Grace Mugabe has fled.

So what sparked this sudden and dramatic event? Mugabe recently sacked his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa at the behest of his wife (Grace) as she has designs on power and wants to succeed Mugabe as president of Zim.

We also know this was a step too far for the military who are incredibly loyal to Mnangagwa for all he’s done as both a liberation hero in the 80s and for bringing the different military factions together after independence.
Here's a useful 'who's who' from the BBC

We also know that Mugabe is very old, quite ill and is only human, he can’t go on forever, though sometimes it feels like he might!

But now there has been a seismic shift in Zimbabwe and things cannot and will not simply return to how they were.

Firstly, Mugabe’s power has been challenged in the most public manner possible. He’s no longer untouchable and his word is no longer sacrosanct. That is a seismic shift!

Secondly, the Zanu-PF Youth movement have publicly apologised to the military. Let’s be clear here, Zanu-PF Youth are a vicious bunch of thugs who apologise to no-one as they hide behind Mugabe and do his dirty work for him. Again, they are a nasty bunch of thugs and for them to be apologising publicly is indicative of the seismic shift happening in Zimbabwe.

What we don’t know is what happens next.

There are a few things we don’t want to see happen. We don’t want to see Zuma getting involved, the man’s a walking disaster zone! We don’t want the infantile AU sticking its nose in making more proclamations about the rule of law and the constitution. Mugabe et al effectively suspended the Constitution many years ago and as for the rule of law, that is simply a joke to most Zimbos.

So can the army really purge the criminals and then hand power back to Mugabe? I really doubt that they can having challenged his rule and humiliating him so dramatically, he’s not a man known for forgiving those that cross him.  Equally however, the military have always honoured Mugabe as a liberation hero and it seems unlikely they will harm him in any way.

Will Emmerson Mnangagwa be installed as the de facto president without elections or will he take the job on in a caretaker position until elections?

Will the military’s purge of criminals extend beyond the realms of the govt and start targeting the opposition and general population?

So many questions and yet there is one simple answer, we must pray! In recent years the church has flourished in Zim as the nation has suffered under Mugabe. People are realising that hope lies only in Jesus and that’s why churches have grown massively.

Let’s stand with Zim in prayer.
We are super proud of our four learners who all got 100% in the latest Maths@Home competition.

When each of them saw their names on the login page they were thrilled and excited for what they had achieved, and rightly so.

A lot of credit goes to Precious, our facilitator, she's great with the kids and they love her.

Stay tuned too for a big anouncement about our Homework Club for next year as it grows and changes. We're really excited about what's happening!

Soup For All

The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen is definitely the highlight of my week, from cooking the soup in the morning, to serving it in the evening and clearing up afterwards, it's pure joy to be able to serve our community.

It's also a joy to see our venue take on a real world practical use as it's packed to the brim with locals wanting soup and sandwiches.

Each week there's a lovely vibe as many regulars, and usually a few newbies, wait patiently to be served. Our regulars always make sure that the kids get theirs first and they always encourage any newbies to go to the front of the queue before anyone gets any seconds.

Tekkie Walk

Last night The Gathering was invited to join with the United Reformed Church in Firgrove as they held a Prayer Walk around the community.

The walk was brilliantly organised with one person being given a ribbon (for each stop sign) and the responsibility of praying for whichever topic they had been given. Then before moving on to the next street, they tied the ribbon to the stop sign.

I was given the topic of children and prayed for 3rd Street where The Gathering is. It was a great privilege, and the topic of children was very pertinent given that almost every kid in the community passes along 3rd St at some point each day, and we also host our Homework Club there.

It was also a huge blessing to realise that there were about six churches represented ranging from the URC to Methodists, Moravians and non-denominationals.  There is strength in unity, and it's great to be standing and working with other churches in Firgrove.

It’s Thursday so in social media terms that means I must be about to post my obligatory weekly pic on Instagram, which then automatically re-posts said picture on Facebook and Twitter. However, this week I’m posting the inevitable photo right here on our oft neglected blog.

This is a pic of the five (yes five!) pans The Gathering owns. Currently we’re just using the big one on the right, it’s quite large and holds 50 litres which means we can serve 200 cups of soup.

Holiday

It was pure joy to once again go to Greyton for our annual holiday. This is the seventh year we've managed it, and our souls feel refreshed for having soaked up so much fresh air, good food and great family time.

Our holiday is precious time, not least because we get so little of it out here. Dean has posted on this before, but in Blighty we used to enjoy 5 weeks of annual leave, now we don't even manage a full fortnight.

Still, it's always great to grab whatever time we can to reconnect and recharge our batteries, especially as the boys go into their biggest term of the school year.  All prayers gratefully received as exams loom for them both.

For our Silver Wedding Anniversary last year I wanted to give Paula a gift that would last but also one that had a cost, not a financial cost, but a personal one. So, starting on our anniversary last year I gave Paula the gift of letters. No, I didn't give her the alphabet, though it would have been cheaper, easier and a whole lot quicker. No, what it actually meant was that I committed to writing to her every day for a year, sending her a letter or a card.  Some letters would be posted, some I would hand to her and others were left somewhere for her to find. I know I missed a few days but looking at the little mountain of letters and cards I know did my best. But more importantly, it was a huge blessing to me and a great lesson, but more on that in a bit...

I have to say it was a lot of fun. It was great to rekindle the letter writing skill (we used to write to each other constantly before we got married), especially in this age of connectivity and constant social media interactions when pens are rarely required. The whole experience was enjoyable and the highlight was intentionally setting aside a few minutes each day to write a letter or card. It meant that for a few precious minutes all I had to do was think about Paula and what I wanted to say to her.
Those were treasured moments!