Busy Times Ahead..

Having had a hectic weekend of birthday parties and 'Project Fix It' this week is about to get a lot busier and more hectic. Dean has a ton of stuff to do in preparation for part 2 of Project Fix It such as collating the outstanding jobs, sorting teams for Saturday and buying the outstanding resources needed all of which needs to be squeezed in between his language studies. On Tuesday Dean starts an intensive Afrikaans language course at Stellenbosch university for the next three weeks. Unfortunately, this clashes directly with the school holidays so Paula will have no real support from Dean during this time. So we're not really looking forward to the immediate complications of the next few weeks but we're really excited about the longer term benefits, especially if Dean does get a good handle on the language. Also, Dean's not looking forward to the daily commute into Stellenbosch, the peak time journey is a nightmare, so please pray for safety on the roads for him.

Please remember Paula Joel and Eli in your prayers in the coming days and weeks, school holidays in winter are never much fun as we all tend to go a bit stir crazy. Hopefully the rains will hold off for most of the time so at least the boys will be able to play outside. This week isn't too bad as Joel will be at Emyezweni in Lwandle tomorrow morning whilst Eli will continue at his nursery this week. Paula will then be looking for some help and support for the following two weeks and is hoping to "maak 'n plan" with some of the mums of Joel's friends.

Oh yes, Dean went to a braai on Saturday with Eli to watch the Springboks take on the All Blacks and had a lot of fun winding up the bok supporters :)

Project Fix It - Part 1

On Saturday we had the first phase of our 'Project Fix It' in which we're blessing our church members who live in the local townships by fixing up the things that make for a more bearable winter. So far we've replaced front doors, fixed leaky roofs, built new front steps and replaced many broken windows.

The support from church members has been brilliant with some giving money and others rolling up their sleeves and doing the work. We also wanted to bless the wider communities so as well as blessing our church members, we had people praying with those in need and a team of guys playing with the children for a few hours. All in all it was a tiring morning but everyone went home feeling satisfied at having done a great job. Praise God!

One of may donations, this one from Colours For Africa who gave us 120lts of top quality paint

Len's Glass supplied all our needs for the broken windows

Betty with her tin of paint which will do the whole indoors

Richard replacing the first of many windows. This is Peter's house where all 5 windows were broken and Peter's bed was next to a broken window. Saturday night should have been a good night for him

One of many fixed windows

Malcolm, Richard & Joseph (a plumber from Lwandle) enjoying a welcome cuppa at Michael's house

The kids had a lot of fun

Ruben and Quinton assessing Mama Jane's toilet

Aunty Henna had a new front step built, she was delighted!

Phase two will take place next Saturday, so look out for some more pictures and reports of how things went.

Project Fix It

Starting tomorrow we're launching 'Project Fix It' in which we want to bless our church members living in the local townships by fixing up their houses to make them more tolerable for winter. Many of our members can't come to church in the mornings because they're too cold or wet. So, Dean has enlisted/conscripted a number of folk to come and undertake simple repair jobs such as replacing windows, fixing leaky roofs etc. At the same time we'll have a number of church folk visiting people in the community to pray with them and share the gospel. We'll also have a small team who will play with the children particularly in Chris Nissen. We want to bless the whole community but we also want to make sure we meet the most basic needs amongst the believers first. This project will run for the next two Saturdays so please join us in praying for success both practically and spiritually. We'd love to see people saved and added to the church as a direct result of the blessing being poured out in the communities.

This afternoon Dean went to buy most of the materials we need and the bakkie was severely weighed down with sand, cement, doors, toilets etc. We'll be meeting at the church building at 8.45 to allocate the jobs and pray before going into Chris Nissen, Lwandle and Broadlands.

We'll post some photos and stories in the next few days.

Apologies to Bob the Builder

Shortest Day

Today is the shortest day (for those of us in the Southern hemisphere) which means that winter should be about half done, but one never knows! Today was unseasonably warm (quick run out and panic about carbon and slap some tax on something!) and a really beautiful day. One of the joys of African winters are the stunning skies. The Southern Cape is the only part of the continent where it rains in winter, but between downpours we get to enjoy the same clear and cloudless blue skies as the rest of Southern Africa. Such skies are amazing and have to be seen to be believed.

As is now our custom on Thursdays, Dean took sandwiches from Joel's nursery to the Chris Nissen créche. Today was a bit different as the mums had each contributed some nice 'smellies' to bless the ladies who run the créche. As you can see in the photo below they were delighted with their hamper of goodies.

l to r: Mabel, Elize, Gertrude & Tracey

Care Packages

Jim over at Missionary-Blogs.com recently asked if we'd write about 'care packages' from home and what they mean to us. So here goes...

"What do you most miss from home?" & "What can we send you?"

These are two common questions which are actually quite hard to answer. When we were in Tanzania we welcomed just about anything, especially Pepperami sticks and Onion Bhaji Mix. However, here in South Africa we can get pretty much anything. Our local fish & chip shop is far superior to anything in the UK, as is most local produce and marmite is on the supermarket shelves. Our local pub (we don't frequent it too often) even serves Kilkenny on draught and Boddingtons is available in the local bottle store!

So what makes a good 'care package' from home? One dear friend sends the Telegraph Motoring section to Dean, she gathers up a month's worth and post them off. Needless to say Dean is delighted to receive them and very distracted for several hours as he reads them. This is the kind of thing that keeps us connected with home. So in short the answer is magazines and news items. Paula enjoys Hello etc. and we both appreciate getting various newsletters and parish magazines from our supporting churches (although not all send them to us). Just about any magazine or journal would do, although it's always good to get something you're particularly interested in such as cars or mountain biking.

Ultimately though, a good old fashioned letter is what really makes our day and makes us feel connected to friends back home!

Mum's Come Out In Force

Today saw the culmination of months of prayer, planning and hard work as Paula hosted a meeting in the tent at Chris Nissen for mums of 0-3 year olds and mums to be. The idea was to reach out to this particular section of the community and find a way of getting alongside them as friends on common ground. To do this Paula and 2 fellow mums from the church held a coffee morning with talks on the benefits of breastfeeding and good nutrition for babies followed by a short gospel message. As always with these things we had no idea how many would come and we had been praying through all the practicalities like good weather so that mums would turn out etc etc. Paula was hoping for between 5 and 10 women/teens. Praise God, 26 mums and at least 10 of the older women who care for youngsters turned up and had great fun listening to shared wisdom and advice.

Although many were reluctant to open up publicly for questions, several of the women and girls spoke with us afterwards and we were able to share advice on problems with feeding etc. It was totally refreshing to be laughing about cabbage leaves in bras rather than worrying about how to solve the latest feud in CNP!! Paula now has some really good follow-up for the coming weeks and we pray that God would open doors here for new friendships and contacts in the community. We are also praying that some of the women will want to volunteer to be trained up to make and sell their own baby food in the community.

All in all Paula was thrilled by the response and we are enjoying basking in some encouragement for a change. It has also been great for her cell group to see such massive answers to their prayers for this meeting and for the involvement of church members in CNP, which is increasing all the time.

Danelda addressing the mums

A goodnumber of young mums turned out

So obvious that these mums long for support & help

Time Capsule

Not long ago I stumbled upon a Blog entitled Telstar Logistics where they were following the story of a time capsule which had been buried in Tulsa in 1957 to be dug up 50 years later in 2007. The time capsule consisted of a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere and a few other items. Unfortunately at the time of burying the Plymouth it's proneness to rust was still unknown. The initial excitement at the uncovering of the time capsule was maintained right through until the final official unveiling of the car and capsule when clearly things had not gone quite as expected. Good humour seems to have prevailed throughout the event and even though things weren't quite as hoped it all looked like a pretty cool thing to have done.

Follow the full story here:

1957 Plymouth to Emerge from Tulsa Time Capsule

Uh-oh! Tulsa's 1957 Time Capsule Is Filled with Water

Tulsa's 1957 Plymouth Becomes a Monument to the Cruel Ravages of Time

You can also see a complete photo presentation of the unearthing and unveiling of the time capsule at: Michael Bates' Photos

Love Hate Relationship

Today summed up my love hate relationship with Chris Nissen Park. I'd been in the morning on behalf of the Red Cross and had a great time with my friends there as the purpose of the visit was to find the best way to spend R10,000. One particular church member was very happy and helpful! Then this afternoon I went in with Duncan (Morgen's father) who gave a 30 minute basic first aid training session for the ladies running the creche before helping sort their electrics out in the container where they work. Lo and behold our dear church member comes by wanting to know what we're doing and when I tell her she gets really angry telling me that I'm "..so unfair on the church members, ignoring their needs but helping others." This really annoyed me! Whilst we are in CNP to support our church members and help them win the community for Christ, we're also there to build God's kingdom and we'll do that any way we can. Whilst the early church made sure that none amongst them had need, they (and we) made sure that they were obedient to Jesus final command to "Go". How I wish some of our church members would grasp this and start caring about the lost in their own community.

Sometimes I really love Chris Nissen, some times I hate the place.

Duncan talks to Tracey, Gertrude, Sandra & Elize (l to r)

Practical demonstrations certainly work

After the training Duncan sorted an electrical issue

As you can see the door of the big container desperately needs fixing

A Proper Curry At Last

We died and went to heaven on Sunday! Yes you did miss the rapture. Heaven was an assortment of real Indian curries cooked by Caroline (Morgen's mum). The food was sublime and we had a really relaxing afternoon with some other parents from Joel's school and Caroline's dad, Maurice who is visiting from the UK. Maurice is originally from India and having lived in Norwood for many years is also a Palace fan which makes him a top bloke! Dean & Maurice spent much of the afternoon playing pool but only when not eating curry. Joel had a ball with his friends Liam & Morgen, so much so that this morning he could only talk about Liam's house and going to play there again.

On Saturday Joel went to Stuart's 'Super Hero' 4th birthday party and had a riotous time charging around the garden and having sword fights with his friends. Eli found the food table and assumed his normal position, demolishing a fair proportion of what was on the plates.

Dean was delighted with his unexpected Father's Day present of three bottles of wine from Eli. Judging from the labels it would appear he may have a little cottage industry of his own on the go.

Stuart (left) and some of his Super Hero buddies

Even Super Hero's need birthday cake

Bible Study

We had an excellent bible study on Thursday morning looking at the first chapter of Acts. I tried something a bit different, so prepared a brief overview of the chapter and then gave them several questions which together we looked for the answers in the chapter. Whilst it was the usual suspects that contributed; Michael & Cyril, it was a good meeting and they all seemed to be happy with it. I was really pleased and grateful to God for answering my prayer regarding a bit of refreshment for the group as I've struggled with it for a while.

As you can see from the photos we're now meeting in a lean-to that Michael has put up on the front of his house. This will be interesting this winter when the wind & rain are hammering the structure.

Basil & Trevor

Peter & Cyril

Michael making tea

Michael & myself

Palace News

The season may be finished but there is some Palace news to report. The biggest news is that the fixture list for next season has been published. However, due to the Football Data Company's refusal to accept a European Court ruling I can't publish them here so click the BBC Sport link for details.

Highlights of the coming campaign are an opening day clash with the Saints and a busy period over Christmas and New Year, playing away to Coventry (and Judas Dowie, more on him in a moment) on Boxing Day, away to relegated Sheffield Utd on the 29th and then home to Norwich on New Year's Day. The latter end of the season doesn't look to concerning at this stage.

Dowie lost in court in his battle to clear his name, so now it's official, he's a liar! Simon Jordan took Dowie to court on the basis of "fraudulent representations" after Dowie was released from his contract (and a £1million clause) at Palace saying he wanted to move closer to his family in the North of England. A few days later Dowie popped up at Charlton! Whilst Jordan is a controversial character and not universally liked within the footballing world, I think he is good for the game and this victory is definitely good news.

Big Joel, Little Joel

A while ago we had Joel Bird stay with us for a few days as he enjoyed a long weekend break from his time with Scripture Union in Jo'burg. Joel had to return to the UK a bit earlier than expected so he spent his final night with us before leaving. The boys were really chuffed to see Joel again and Eli took a real shine to him. I know Joel's parents will read this, so just to let you know that it was a rela pleasure to have Joel stay, he's a real credit to you!

Busted! Joel & Eli had to share whilst big Joel was in Eli's room. We heard much laughter at 6.30am and caught Joel in Eli's cot reading to him

The rain let off for a while to let us play outside before church

Eli's turn to impersonate Shrek

Eli & big Joel looking at photos

Where's he gone?

Boo! Joel playing with the offering basket

Joel & Joel swordfighting, little Joel was delighted to have someone to really fight with

We had a lot of fun

Big Joel reading to little Joel & Eli

A rare family snap

Eli & big Joel


With winter being set in the time spent out in the garden is at a real premium so we have to make the most of the brief spells between deluges. Yesterday we had just under one inch of rain and that's fairly average at present. Amazingly even the locals have stopped saying "We really need the rain" or "I love the rain" which is quite something. Being British I have a built in dislike of the rain and as much as we may really need it I really don't care for it at all!

Eli loves being outdoors and especially enjoys splashing in the puddles and kicking the fallen leaves

Joel just wants to charge around on his bike

Update (Of Sorts)

How to update without getting into trouble with someone? Probably not possible so here goes..
Chris Nissen is a real challenge at present. Mainly because some of our church members are behaving appallingly and preventing other non members in the community from either coming to church or trying out one of our groups. This is very frustrating and not exactly honouring of Jesus' instruction to "Go..". Our frustration is further compounded by lack of support from those in authority who keep saying "No" to our various strategies for dealing with the issues whilst failing to offer any positive solutions themselves. This is probably why we've not Blogged for a while.

I took Trevor, Tom & Basil to see Vicky at the TB hospital in Cape Town on Friday. As ever it was great to see him, especially as he's doing so well. Vicky has become a bit of a celebrity as he seems to be one of the few patients actually enjoying his stay and has never caused the staff any problems or tried to abscond (one patient was in the process of absconding as we arrived so we unwittingly foiled his plan!).

Left to Right: Trevor, Vicky, Basil & Tom

Despite the frustrations we're seeing some great stuff happen both in CNP and personally. One of the best things to have happened is Joel's school have adopted the CNP créche and are providing sandwiches and fruit for the children every Thursday. Joel is particularly proud that his Daddy takes the sandwiches to the créche. On Friday Paula took two other mums in with her which looks like it may result in some serious input to the créche.

Watch this space for a personal update in the next day or two.

Firstly I need to make clear that the title of this post is not an issue for ourselves at present. We're committed to the local church and for the moment God has led us to serve Him at HCC. That will only change if God clearly leads us into newer pastures but until such a time we're happy to be obedient to the call He's placed on our lives. That's not to say that we don't find things (many things) frustrating at times.

I wonder whether Jesus envisaged the church ever being a place where people would get hurt and the lonely would remain lonely? I believe Jesus had a very different vision of what his bride would look like, after all he spent much of his time reaching out to the hurt and the lonely. Paul gives us many clues in his letters to the early churches as to the quality, character and virtue of the bride to be. Also, Luke gives a wonderfully clear picture of the early church in Acts which would appear to refute the notion that people should be hurt or lonely in church. Whilst Luke's account is a historical one of how the church sprang up and grew, it does present some interesting models of how church could and arguably should be.

Many churches today claim to be 'New Testament' churches, but when last did you see the church devot[ing] themselves to the apostles' teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone being filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs being done by the apostles? When last did you see all the believers united and having everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, and giving to anyone as he had need? When last did you see the church gathering every day, breaking bread in their homes and eating together with glad and sincere hearts? When last did you see the church praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people with the Lord adding to their number daily those who were being saved?

Wow what a vision of church! How we long for that and yet how far we are from it!

Where am I going with this? I was chatting to a friend (yes I finally have one after 3 years) after church and he was really down. He'd been let down by three guys who he thought were friends and is left feeling lonely and hurt. So much so that he is considering looking around at other churches. I really empathise with my friend as it is really hard to break into circles of friendship here, it's taken me three years to make one good friendship! In fact, my best friends are not church members (or Christians for that matter). However, I don't believe that this is a problem unique to our church, although we certainly have our fair share of unique problems!

Is leaving one church to find another the answer? Or is leaving the church altogether the answer? We have friends who have done the latter and it hasn't worked, their personal faith has taken a dive. Joining a different church might be an answer, but chances are we'll only take our problems with us and not actually find what we're looking for. Also, wherever humans are involved, there too you will find pain, misery and loneliness in amongst everything else, both good and bad. So if you leave one church because of problems, chances are you'll experience problems wherever you end up.

Despite everything I remain committed to the local church and believe that the local church is the hope of the nations. The church is the bride of Christ and as such she is a wonder and a beauty. I'd love to see many things change at church or for things to be done differently, but equally I'm convinced that we're where God wants us to be. Where is that verse about life being easy and a bed of roses?

Remember, if you find the perfect church, don't join it as you'll ruin it!

Ahoy there me hearties!

Joel had the most wonderful, magical afternoon yesterday at his friend Ross's 4th birthday party. Of course it was a Pirate party and everyone came dressed and ready for action. As soon as we turned in to the farm entrance there were skull and crossbones announcing the venue and once there, the woods had been transformed with papier mache crocodiles in the stream with a plank to walk over; a croc' for pin the tale on the croc'; treasure hunting; signing their names in pirate blood etc, etc,. Ross's mum certainly has a very active imagination and I think she enjoyed it more than all the guests!!! Joel was in his element and lapped everything up right up to the moment when they all had to go and hunt for a treasure chest which contained mini chests for each of them full of treasure - wow, we have heard nothing else all weekend!!

Needless to say, when Eli turned up half way through with dad, he also entered in to the swing of things as chief 'taster of all party food'. He also amused himself with a puppy and nearly collapsed with laughter when he managed to entice the poor animal to eat some birthday cake from a cup which got stuck on his nose - who says babies aren't sadistic!!

We are finding these occasions to be great ways to get to know the parents a bit better. We had some great conversations yesterday and are now looking forward to another 2 parties in the next 3 weeks - any excuse! Next stop a 'Superhero' Party - oh my word!

By the croc' pool

Eli getting stuck into the cake

With Morgen and their treasure chests

Friends To Play

Joel had his friends Liam & Morgen to play after school one day this week and much fun was had by all. As ever, Eli crashed the party and struck up a friendship with Liam who was very kind to him. The house was complete chaos for a few hours between lunch and their mums picking them up, but it was worth it.

Morgen masters the trike

Liam on Joel's bike

Eli getting to grips with a bike