Emyezweni Christmas Party

It hardly seems possible that a year has slipped past since I last entertained the kids at the Emyezweni Christmas party in Lwandle, but that year has shot past and here we are posting about it again.

I really enjoy being asked to entertain the kids and count it a real privilege to invest a tiny amount in the lives of these kids.

As ever they were a fantastically appreciative audience and certainly know how to make one feel good! The simplest tricks continue to be the most appreciated. The fire juggling is a huge hit, but the unicycling and diabolo are also popular. Climb the string is the simplest of diabolo tricks but probably the most appreciated. Throwing the diabolo is also great, the higher the better! Each year I try to do something different, so last year I used my fire clubs for the first time and this year I used my juggling rings which went down very well. Next year could be a bit tricky.

The Biggest Loser

On Wednesday, Zelda launched our 'Biggest Loser' competition to help some of the overweight folk in church to lose some weight and reclaim their health. Sadly, obesity is almost as prevalent in SA as it is in the West. There is a R1000 prize up for grabs and the members who signed up for it are very excited.

As Paula & I know only too well, there are no shortcuts to long term weight loss. The key is healthy eating and regular exercise. Nothing else works! Unfortunately here in SA it's perfectly legal to advertise weight loss gimicks on TV and people still believe the lies of these rubbish products.

In case you've never seen or heard of the Biggest Loser, take a look at the show's website here.

Family Time

As every parent knows, trying to make time for your kids in the midst of the busyness of everyday stuff is not always easy and is an area of life all too easily overlooked.

We're far from perfect in this, but we do try to make sure we spend at least part of the day with them and now that summer is here it is so much easier as we can spend the early evening out in the garden.

The swing and the trampoline are firm favourites with both boys (Dad also enjoys the trampoline!) and they seem to love to egg each other on to swing and jump ever higher.

Eli jumping as high as he can


Joel took this photo


Joel practising his star jumps

Joel The Dolphin

Joel has been having swimming lessons for a while now but recently he seemed to click and it all came together for him. Suddenly he's very confident, prepared to try new things (such as going upside down) and loves spending as much time as possible under the water. We're thrilled that he's overcome his fear of the water especially as summer is here and many of our friends have pools.

Joel's swimming teacher is delighted with his progress as are his mum & dad!


Diving through a hoop


Good swimming boy!

Weekend

This weekend was a bit different to the norm (whatever that is). Dean left at 4ish on friday afternoon to get to Swellendam for the Double Century 205k race on Saturday morning. Click here to see how he did. Meanwhile Paula was entertaining the boys at home. They had a great time visiting a friend and chasing the ducks before chilling out at home with a borrowed DVD - The Emporer's New Groove. Joel took his responsibilities as 'man of the house' very seriously!!

Dean returned home exhausted but happy at around 6pm just in time for a shower and for Paula to fetch the baby-sitter for her surprise Birthday treat. Dean had managed to keep this one very quiet! We went to see Lionel Ritchie perform in Cape Town, his first ever gig in the country and he was superb! Paula is now officially Diana Ross as she (and every other lady) dueted with Lionel on his classic hit Endless Love.

Sunday was another great time in church. The morning started disastrously with the transport for the equipment falling through followed by some missed phone calls and a bit more disappointment at being let down. However, God is gracious and most of the congregation seemed unaware of the trials the leadership were experiencing. Consequently, there was the usual sense of expectation and as ever, God didn't disappoint!

Preaching Class

We're really enjoying being part of a church that values its members and cares for them as family. Wow, how we've missed that for a few years! One of our greatest joys at present is being drawn into the life of the church and particularly into the leadership side of things. I'm particularly encouraged that after a barren and almost desolate few years at last I'm beginning to stretch my wings and fly again.

One of the ways this is happening is through the core group of guys that Daniel has gathered together in Grace Community Church. This is a small group of guys who he feels have the potential to be effective leaders within the church. I feel very privileged to be a part of this group and I'm loving the fact that my lead elder is taking time to get alongside me and draw me in.

On Thursday night it was the turn of four of us to do five minute preaches, followed by feedback from the rest of the group. The guys all did very well except for me. I prepared far too much so only got through half of my material. How easily one forgets what one learnt at bible college! Despite this, Davey and I are going to do a team sermon this coming Sunday which we're both looking forward to.

Davey in full flow

Weekend

This weekend was slightly different as we welcomed Pete, Steph and Caleb into our home. Pete is one of the elders at Queens Road Church in Wimbledon. It's always a pleasure to host friends and they were a pleasure to have around.

We spent a bit of time at Delheim as well as plenty of time at home, chillin' and chatting. On Saturday evening we abused their presence by ducking out to a friends 40th birthday party, the theme was 1968 and most people made a great effort to get into costume.

Church was great again, with worship being led by Nick (from HCC). After church on Sunday we had a potjie in the evening and invited Daniel, Zelda and their kids to meet with Pete & Steph. We had a great time and it was really good to chat about some of the issues the church faces and to talk a bit about the relationship with NewFrontiers.

Sadly we had to say goodbye to Pete, Steph & Caleb in the evening as they returned to their friends in Fish Hoek, however we will see them again briefly on Thursday.

Eli in action on the climbing frame at Delheim


Giving Caleb a push


Steph & Eli on the trampoline


How we looked back then


Sue (birthday girl) & Graham


Craig came as a baby as he was born in '68


Peace dudes! Joel has a style all his own


Chatting before dinner (l to r: Pete, Paula, Daniel & Zelda)


Pete made a great impromptu climbing frame..


..and the boys enjoyed 'beating him up'


The world is safe whilst superman is around!

Pirates vs Ugly Sisters

Somehow, the monsters got hold of a marker pen (thankfully not a permanent one) and then disappeared into Joel's bedroom for ten minutes whilst they 'made themselves up' to look like pirates.

Thankfully after a long soak in the bath and much scrubbing most of the marker had come off.

Eli really does look to be cut-out for panto, ugly sister anyone?

Baptisms

We like to do things a bit differently at Grace Community Church and it's always great to mix regular Sunday fellowship with fun, laughter and lots of food. So this morning we had our service in Daniel's garden and baptised four folk in the swimming pool. It was a real privilege for me to be doing the baptisms with Mervin. We started with a time of worship before the dunkings and after the formalities the adults decamped to the rest of the garden for food whilst the kids colonised the pool.

As promised, the weather was in the low 30's and the Southeaster was kind to us by not blowing too hard. All in all, it was a perfect way to spend the morning at church!

Jesus' final instruction to his disciples was to 'make disciples of every nation, baptising them in the name of the father, the son & the holy spirit'. What a joy it is to faithfully follow Christ and his teachings!


Each of the folk being baptised gave a short but moving testimony, Linda was no exception


Whilst the others were eager to get out of the pool ASAP, Alberto just wanted to receive as much blessing as possible. Amazingly as we were praying for him after he'd been baptised his whole face changed and became very bright. He certainly met with God! Alberto had removed his hearing aid for his baptism, but incredibly was able to hear everything that was said which is a real miracle!!


Baptising 84 year old Aunty Alla was an incredible privilege!


Robyn lead the charge into the pool, launching herself from the stoop


Splashdown

Weekend

We're all well and enjoying a bit of warmer weather. Apparently it's going to be over 30°C tomorrow and we can't wait! winter was too long and the rain is still lingering, we had 20mm of the awful stuff on Thursday.

The good news is that we managed a night away sans enfants on Friday which was bliss. Some really good friends looked after the boys and very bravely took them camping (which involves a long story which culminates in the tent falling down at 4am!). Anyway, we had no such dramas, just a very relaxing evening and a lovely slow drive home stopping at all the farm stalls enroute. It really is a rare privilege to be able to peruse these places at leisure without being hassled for sweets or a toy.

Apparently the boys were really well behaved and very polite (typical, they're not like that at home) so for a treat we took the boys out for tea on Saturday. Joel was in paradise as he had prawns -yet again- and Eli wolfed his spaghetti in record time which made for two very happy and tired boys.

Starting young!

Who Did You Vote For?

Over on the BBC News website there is an article about the US election entitled: Who voted for Obama. It makes for some very interesting reading and tells you quite a lot about modern America. One of the things that struck me from it is the fact that older whites are generally pretty scared of anything resembling change, especially if that change is represented by anyone other than an old white man.

Anyway, my point here is nothing to do with that but to do with the bit entitled: The Palin Effect (see image to left) which is about evangelical Christians in the States, who happen to make up about one quarter of the entire electorate. As the exit poll shows, they voted overwhelmingly for McCain, whilst amongst other faith groups the ratio is roughly 2:1 for Obama. So why do so many evangelical Christians vote for right-wing political parties? I've wondered about this for years. In fact, I first pondered on this when as a young man (and a new Christian) some idiot told me that the Tory party (in the UK) was 'God's party'. At the time I didn't challenge this assumption, mainly because I was too young and immature and also a bit intimidated by this older guy. Today I would roast that kind of comment and would have a thing or two to say to people who hold similar views.

A Brave New World

This morning I've got to express my sense of pride in the American people. By electing Obama to the presidency, they have given the Republicans a 'bloody nose' and said 'enough is enough' to Bush and his cronies. This election result also says a huge 'no' to war. Forget the history of the first black president, this result is about change and the fact that the ordinary American wants to see things change big time.

So why my excitement? America affects the world like no other nation! what happens on that side of the Atlantic has ramifications everywhere. Living and working in Africa, one quickly becomes aware of the influence America has, especially in the fields of HIV and AIDS. America donates more towards these issues than any other nation. Hopefully with a visionary like Obama in charge, things will get a lot better for a lot of people.

Two great quotes from Obama's victory speech:
"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,"

And regarding John McCain: "He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine,".

The last time I felt this hopeful about politics was in '97 when New Labour thumped the then washed-up and corrupt Tories. Sadly they failed us. I really hope Obama can avoid similar pitfalls.

For now I am really hopeful for the future, I believe America and the 'American Dream' is in safe hands now. God Bless America!