Storm Clouds Looming?

Sadly this post is nothing to do with the weather but rather the rumours currently doing the rounds in some of the townships.

Whilst I was in Chris Nissen Park this morning I was told by one of the well known gossips (who also seems to have a finger on the pulse of community life) that the xenophobic violence is going to start again on Friday. I was really concerned to hear this but equally it confirms my suspicion that govt have not got things under control. I was also told about one Nigerian family who have very bravely returned to CNP. Despite the fact that their house and shop had been completely looted they had set about repairing it all and getting the business up and running again. I do fear for them and what might happen to them.

Then this afternoon I received another SMS from Alfred in which he says that: "There are rumours that tomorrow gangs will make a checkup round for remaining foreigners, but I don't know how true it is. We just trust God will stop it all."

Please pray against a resurgence of this mindless racist violence. Pray too for ongoing protection for Alfred and his family.

The View From Here - Pt 4

I really like these winter days before the rains come. After a few pleasant days the Northwester has picked up and is now pumping right across the Helderberg basin as it brings the rain ever closer. In the process the wind makes some dramatic shapes with the clouds.


This was taken at the entrance to Chris Nissen Park this morning

The View From Here - Pt 1
The View From Here - Pt 2
The View From Here - Pt 3

Alfred sent another SMS this morning saying:

"Praise God the situation looks calm on our side. But some are still hungry for violence."

We really thank God for keeping Alfred and his family safe.

This afternoon I met Eduardo from Angola. He rocked up at the office looking desperate and confused. Eventually we managed to ascertain that he had misunderstood what the church where he was staying had told him. The church currently has nearly 700 people staying in its building and needs to spread the load, so they told the people that they were to be moved to other local churches. Somehow Eduardo thought he had to leave so he came to us for help. We managed to sort this out and Dean took him back to the church where he'd been staying. As Dean and Eduardo got chatting he told his story... Luckily on the night the violence broke out in Nomzamo he was at work and he received a call telling him not to return home. A friend went to his house and rescued a few personal items but Eduardo lost everything else. Today he carries a small bag with all his worldly possessions in, he has nothing else! Eduardo is here completely legally as he fled the war in Angola. He's been her for over 5 years and simply cannot return 'home' wherever that might be and he is far from alone in having such a tragic but genuine story as to why he came to SA seeking refuge from the war. This is such a shameful episode in South Africa's history!

The situation looks to be calming down and the govt claim to have brought the violence under control. In reality it's more likely that there are so few foreigners left in many of the townships that there's little excuse for continuing the violence. Most NGO's are united in speaking out against the govt's ineptitude and seeming lack of any longer term plans or strategy for dealing with the displaced and those who are responsible for the violence. Mbeki has been totally silent on the whole issue and today left the country to attend a conference in Japan, so the country can't be in crisis! Quite what will happen as and when the displaced return to their homes is anyone's guess.

MTB Photo

Here's a photo from my most recent mountain bike race, more can be seen here.

The weather was glorious even though the ride was tough.

We had a great time that weekend, see: Weekend below for more.

Friends & Foes

Last night I spoke to my friend Alfred, a Zimbo' living in a local township, as I wanted to check he was OK and to offer him & his wife accommodation if they needed it. Alfred told me that he'd managed to get his four kids to safety out of the township but he and Pauline were staying. He had arranged a house swap with a friend in the community (a South African national) in the hope that his house would not be attacked. One has to admire the bravery of Alfred's friend! I made Alfred promise that if he got into trouble he'd call me and I would go and pick him up. Alfred used to be a part of my men's bible study in CNP until his work commitments prevented him from attending.

This morning I received a text message saying: "We thank God for this day. Mobs were walking up & down the street but God was on our side. Praise God for His Love." We really do praise God for keeping Alfred and his family safe. Please join us in praying for Alfred's safety but also for an end to this senseless racist violence.

I went into Chris Nissen last night to take some food to one of our friends who had absolutely nothing in the house and whilst there I was chatting with a few of the guys about the impact this racist violence is having on them and their community. The folks in CNP are confident the violence won't be seen there, but the eight Nigerians who were living in the community were forced out by the residents of CNP. These Nigerians were friends and neighbours with CNP folks, but were suddenly treated with utter contempt and disregard. We love CNP and the folk in the community, but we're disgusted by their actions in this!

As I was driving away from CNP last night I was amazed at the continuing stream of pick-ups and lorries loaded with peoples possessions as they flee the violence. People have been fleeing Nomzamo all day and night but they are also starting to flee the other townships in the area.

Meanwhile local churches are responding magnificently with one of the biggest local churches opening its brand new (never yet been used) building to house refugees from the violence. Other churches are putting teams together to serve the displaced and to pray with them.

A Spade Is A Spade

Let's be clear about just what is happening here in South Africa.

RACISM IS RAMPANT!

We've had stories about white students in Bloemfontein abusing Res' cleaners and urinating in the food, and now we have stories about neighbours turning on neighbours. Looting their houses, burning them and in some instances burning their neighbours.

South Africa is a deeply racist nation and needs to get a grip of the issues involved and do something to address them before the next generation adopt their parents attitudes and perpetuate the racism that is so deeply ingrained across all sections of society. Blacks, White and Coloured South Africans are all deeply racist!

Township Riots

International news agencies have been running stories of township violence in South Africa over the last few days. What is particularly shocking is that this violence is purely discriminatory as it's directed at foreigners living in the townships. Nigerians, Somalians and Zimbabweans seem to be some of the worst affected. In essence the people in these townships are behaving exactly the same as the white oppressor did during the apartheid years, this is the real tragedy!

The BBC announced on their news website this morning that: SA violence spreads to Cape Town. Today the violence arrived on our doorstep in Nomzamo township. I saw a bit of the violence as I was driving along the N2 on my way to Chris Nissen Park. Later, after I took Michael to the station he was telling me about some of the horrific injuries he'd seen whilst he was at Hotties hospital with Tom. The police presence is good and the helicopters are buzzing around a lot. As we drove out of CNP we saw lots of trucks loaded up with people's possessions as they flee the violence. Sadly this has also impacted Chris Nissen with the few Nigerians in the community having left already. Please pray that the violence wouldn't come into CNP.

The churches in the area are responding magnificently opening their buildings to refugees and many Christians have opened up their homes to those who have been displaced.

See previous posts on Nomzamo:
Fire In Nomzamo
Shack Fire In Nomzamo - The Church Responds
Nomzamo Fire - Unsung Heroes

Weekend

We had a great weekend in Montagu. Dean was riding the big race so we decided to go back to Joel's favourite place 'in the country' - Farmer Koos's farm. We took the boys straight from school on Friday and enjoyed a fantastic lunch on route - just look at that view! It was wonderfully warm and very relaxing. The boys simply loved pottering around the farm and Eli was often gone for up to an hour making himself at home with the animals/machinery.

Dean had a great, albeit tough race, and we went to meet him at the finishing line. After a long wait, it was good to see him coming at last! That evening we enjoyed a fun meal out, though we proved yet again that our boys just don't do late nights - they were really crabby on Sunday morning!! We feel so blessed to live in such a beautiful country. Family weekends like this are golddust for us.

See Krakadouw MTB for more on Dean's race.

Eli enjoying one of the many quad bikes on the farm


Joel & Cocoa at sunrise


Daddy, Joel & Cocoa (with Daddy's medal)


Not In The Job Description

Once again, yesterday found me doing things I never thought I would have to and that certainly aren't in my 'job description'!! It was the day of the funeral for my friend in CNP (see: Grieving & Rejoicing). I turned up at 8 am knowing that CNP funerals never run to time, only to find that the first part in the house was already underway!! It was a truly fitting and glorious occasion, in the right sense of the words. My friend's life was honoured and all the glory went to God. As usual though, things never go as you might expect. I had greeted all the family members and stood for an hour in the wind and rain outside the house because there were so many people. Just as we were waiting for the coffin to be brought out of the house and taken to the tent in CNP for the next part of the funeral, my friend's oldest daughter came and told me that I was needed. I went in and next thing found that I was carrying the coffin whilst holding on to the 12 year old daughter who is wailing at this point. I find it strange that noone seems to want to comfort a crying child in this situation. I then spent the next 2 hours taking part in the service whilst trying to be of some comfort to the daughter who was really distraught, yet lucid enough to say that she would never see mummy again. How powerless you feel in situations like this! I was honoured to be able to speak about my friend and managed to provoke a few laughs as well as many tears amongst those gathered, so I think it went down well.

Please do continue to pray with us for the remaining family, especially the 12 year old daughter. She is so vulnerable and is an orphan now. We are planning to organise some professional counseling for her, but she really needs all the love and support that we can give in the coming weeks and months.

Winter Has Arrived!

Winter is well and truly here and the weather is awful. The Northwest wind is pumping heavily and has almost destroyed our TV aerial as well as taking branches off a few trees. The rain also arrived today which gets most locals quite excited but the English in us stops us from finding rain exciting!

Joel & Eli however couldn't wait to put their raincoats and welly boots on and go splashing in the rain. Thankfully they'd had enough after half an hour but Eli did manage to do some jumping on the trampoline in that time.

As you can see in the photo, the weather really isn't too good but it isn't deterring the boys!

Today is Mother's Day (the international one) so Joel helped me do a cooked breakfast for Mummy which was served in bed much to the delight of the boys. Hopefully Mummy will have a relaxing day if she can remember what one of those is.

Comfort food is the order of the day when the weather turns bad. They enjoyed making their own pizza


Dean rode in the Tru Cape on Saturday morning, read more here and compare it to last year's effort here.

Palace Result

Palace lost the first leg of the play-off semi final to a stunning late goal from Bristol City. This was a great game of football and very entertaining with the Eagles getting a great ovation from the Selhurst faithful as they left the field and considering Palace's away record this season you wouldn't bet against them getting a result at Ashton Gate.

Click below for:
Match Report
Manager's Comments
Minute By Minute

Next fixture: Tues 13th May away to Bristol City.

Law In South Africa

A friend recently brought this to our attention..

Two recent court cases, have earned the attention of newspaper readers in South Africa

1. One person was fined R1 000 for not having a TV license.
2. Another was released on bail for R500 after being arrested for murder.

The moral of this South African story:

If you do not have a TV license and the inspector comes round, kill him.
You'll save R500.

Bible Study

We had an excellent bible study in Chris Nissen this morning. We were looking at the story of Samson as part of our series on Famous Bible Stories. The aim of the series is to equip the men with a good basic knowledge of where the famous stories are in the bible and what they're about.

Anyway, this morning we were looking at Samson asking the question; was his a wasted life or not? We came to the conclusion that his life was wasted but ultimately God triumphed and something good came out of it. We then sought to apply Samson's story to our own lives, what can we learn and how can we make sure we don't live empty wasted lives? Each of my men agreed that they want to live lives which reflect God's glory so that we can win the community for Christ. I was so proud of them for this!

I'm really beginning to see that with this small group (just five men) who are incredibly faithful we could turn this community around and see the kingdom of God advancing in a dark place. My aim over the next few weeks is to just spend time with these men, building them up and encouraging them to continue to live lives worthy of the gospel of Christ (Phil 1:27).

I'm excited about Chris Nissen Park again!

Grieving And Rejoicing

Today has been a very sad day. We learnt this morning that our friend and patient in CNP who has recently got on to ARV treatment died. She had been very sick in the past week, but we never thought that this was it. Paula took her to the clinic on Tuesday and they immediately admitted her to the hospital where she stayed until her death. Thankfully, Paula, one of our carers and the family were all able to visit her in the final week and spent some quality time talking and praying with her. Apparently, the night before she died the family all said that she looked 'beautiful'. If you have seen anyone in the final stages of AIDS, this is hard to imagine, but it is a good reminder to us all that when you are prepared for death, Jesus shines through you. I thank God that the family have this special memory of her. This afternoon Paula visited the family to offer some comfort and to grieve with them. This lady leaves behind her elderly mother - a real sweetie!, her elder daughter of 19 with her 3 year old and her younger daughter of 12. Paula had a lovely visit. They are so relieved that the suffering is over and that she is with God but it is particularly hard on the 12 year old. After we had spent some time chatting and praying, I said how much I would miss their mum/daughter because she has become my friend. As soon as I said this, the 12 year old said, "I really miss her too" and burst into tears. This was so good, as it is often quite taboo to cry in this community, but it was also very hard. I just held her and tried to comfort her and remind her that she has her sister and granny who love her. I was also able to tell her that I have also lost my mum. For an instant, I felt like we moved a step closer. Please pray for me as I attend the funeral on Saturday and speak - this is a privilege for me. Please pray that I might be able to glorify God through her life and the fact that she was so open about her status. I have to be honest that a part of me feels that the recent fight to get treatment has been a waste of time, but I know that isn't the case. May God use this experience to help the HOPE team to tell people to get tested and, if necessary, onto treatment as early as they can. As I was leaving the house, the mum asked me if I would be taking back the Bible I gave to her daughter - she was so delighted when I said, of course not!! Please pray for this family. They are so vulnerable and so beautiful at the same time. We now have lots of counselling work to do in the coming weeks and I long for more people like my friend who will be open to God through their illness. I will miss her passion, sense of humour, naughty spirit (who am I now going to 'tell off' for trying to hide a crafty fag!) and love for God hugely!

As we so often find in CNP however, as Paula was visiting the family in crisis, Dean was attending the 1st birthday party of Hayden, Michael and Joyce's foster son. This was a very sweet and jubilant affair with cake and sweets and drinks everywhere. The house was overflowing with children having a whale of a time and Michael and Joyce were very proud. Hayden took it all in his stride and pottered around making sure he got his fair share of cake! Days like this remind us how much we feel at home in CNP. We do feel very much a part of the community - able to laugh and cry with our friends as we mourn or celebrate with them. Thank you Lord!

5 - 0

Palace had to win today to ensure their place in the play-offs rather than draw or lose and hope that other results might go their way. So they set out their stall early and finished with a huge statement of intent as to their ambitions for the play-off finals. Not content with 6th position, Palace played their way to 5th. Right now the remaining teams in the play-offs are probably not too keen to face Palace who have surged from 2nd bottom to 5th in the league in the second half of the season in a remarkable turnaround under Neil Warnock. In fact, Palace finished just 8 points from automatic promotion so who knows what might have happened had Warnock been appointed a little bit sooner?

Palace started brightly and won a penalty on 8 minutes which was tidily slotted home by Watson. Two minutes later the academy star Victor Moses added a second, by which time Burnley were down to 10 men and the result was looking comfortable for Palace. The rest is pretty much history as the Eagles went on to score a further three goals to secure the most important result of the season and their biggest victory of the campaign. Clinton Morrison netted the 5th goal and added his name to the Palace record book yet again! In what is set to go down as another historic Sunday at Selhurst Morrison grabbed his 113th goal for the club to go level with Mark Bright in the all time top goalscorers for the club.

Bristol City beckon in the play-off semi-finals the first leg of which will be played next Saturday.

Click below for:
Match Report
Manager's Comments
Play-off Places Review
Matchday Clockwatch

Next fixture: Sat 10th May Play-off semi-final home to Bristol City.

Sing Along To Pink Floyd

As I was sat at the computer this evening Paula was feeding the boys and I could hear the David Gilmour CD I made from his recent Remember That Night DVD on the stereo. What really made me smile was the fact that Joel requested the CD, it's currently his favourite (having displaced Roger Waters to #2) and he loves singing along to classic Pink Floyd tracks from the 70's such as Breathe, Wish You Were Here & Comfortably Numb. He's word perfect and sings beautifully. In fact, he knows some of the Floyd stuff so well that he has his own names for them, for example Shine On You Crazy Diamond is known as the Aquarium Song. Joel's favourite at the moment is definitely Gilmour's performance of Echoes, he just can't get enough of it!

A class moment during this evening's Pink Floyd sing-along was when Joel told Eli to stop singing as he was being Richard Wright on the keyboards. Joel is also very taken with David Bowie and his rendition of Arnold Layne.

No silly nursery rhyme CD's in our house or car!

My boys make me VERY proud!!

"Your Cape Town's Very Nice"

Today being the third public holiday in 1 week(!) we decided to go with our friend Jo into Cape Town, with a difference. This time we wanted to go to the Planetarium, which we knew would be a real treat for Joel. What a day we had! It turns out that the Planetarium is attached to the South African Museum a local version of the Natural History Museum, so we all had a ball gazing at dinosaur skeletons; stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes and getting truly knowledgeable about the great white sharks that we live alongside here in False Bay! Following a very memorable trip to the cafe where Jo had a 'small snack', and we all gazed on in admiration - we had an excellent presentation of stars, planets etc. etc. in the planetarium. Both boys were open-mouthed and loved the chairs that tip right back so that you can gaze at the presentation on the ceiling.

After this Jo introduced us to the cultural side of Cape Town and we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the Botanical Gardens, whilst Joel and Eli chased the squirrels. We couldn't have picked a more fantastic day, with Table Mountain as the back drop under a deep blue sky - bliss! We found a lovely pavement cafe and had even more to eat before coming home whilst listening to Joel singing along with his new friends, Dave Gilmour and David Bowie!! The comment of the day goes to Joel, who piped up to Jo, "Your Cape Town's very nice Jo". We agree!!!!

Joel was very impressed by the dinosaur which was too big to get into the photo


Both boys really enjoyed the museum


Eli was taken with the bears..


..whilst Joel was enthralled by the goryness of this exhibit!


I will ride this one!


Paula & Jo who's become a good friend. The boys adore her!


Paula, Joel & Jo in the Planetarium


In the Corporation Gardens


Bike Race Video

Here's a short video of the boys having a bike race. Joel is on Eli's bike and Eli very determinedly rides Joel's, watch his technique.

Breakfast

This was one breakfast that was thoroughly enjoyed, but probably for the wrong reasons.

This week is a bit of an odd week as Monday was a public holiday followed by Tuesday & Wednesday back at work with today and tomorrow also being public holidays. Great for family time but bad news for work and also quite disorienting as it's too easy to forget which day is which as it feels like the weekend all the time.

Guess we shouldn't grumble.