Family Update

We decided to brave the wet and cold and spend a few hours in the Nature Reserve yesterday with the boys! We were the only people there apart from those actually climbing the mountain, so it was a bit weird - but great for us! The Nature Reserve is really beautiful at this time of year. The proteas are out in all their glory and look beautiful against the dark greens of the surrounding foliage and the dramatic dark skies.

The boys enjoyed running around letting off steam - jumping in bok poo (why not!) and generally getting soaked running through and splashing in the muddy puddles. When we left Joel's wellies were completely full of water!!

We treated the boys to a drink in the cafe - mainly because we wanted to get warm and sit by the fire with a cup of tea! - and they decided they wanted an ice lolly instead. How strange are they!!

We love mornings out together like this!

So, we're all well and over the recent bout of Chickenpox. Eli got it just two weeks after Joel and suffered very differently to Joel. Eli really enjoyed his week off school and Joel was really cross that he wasn't able to stay at home too. In fact he was heard saying the immortal line: "I want more Chickenpox!" as he wanted to be at home with Eli. Thankfully he soon got over that.

Church is going really well and we love being so involved. Thanks for all your prayers. We feel like we're getting to know folk and we're constantly blown away by the church's love for us. The boys are also enjoying King's Kids which is a real blessing.

Swinging on the 'climbing tree'


The proteas are quite spectacular at this time of year


Joel enjoys learning about the various flowers and fynbos in the reserve


Boys at their happiest


Charming


Despite the horrible winter weather, ice lollies remain a favourite


You can probably guess what that is

On A Hot Tin Roof

One of the best ways to make inroads into a community is to get stuck in and help with practical needs. So this week I've been trying to get more involved in this way. I spent some time with Aunty Florrie this week and with some help from Michael managed to stop two major leaks on her roof. The rains are due back over the weekend so our handy-work will certainly be tested.

We're also looking at how we can practically assist some of our other members especially one young couple who have three kids and no home of their own. Hopefully we can tell you more soon.

Last week I had the privilege of doing a teaching on giving at our mid-week all together meeting. I really enjoyed it and the feedback has been very encouraging. Hopefully we'll see some fruit from this in the lives of our members. I've also been asked to preach this Sunday which again I'm really looking forward to.

Whilst on Aunty Florrie's roof I was quite taken with the view out towards the Hottentots Holland mountain range.

Inter School Sports

Joel & Eli's school (International School of Helderberg) has two 'sister' schools in the Cape so today they held their annual Winter Inter-IES sports event with three main events of Football (or soccer as they insist on calling it here), Hockey and Netball. Eli is too young to compete, but Joel was involved in two football matches against Hout Bay International School and Blouberg International School. They won the first one 3-0 and lost the second 4-2.

Joel did brilliantly, especially as he's only been playing for three weeks. We were really proud of him as he ran his socks off and played really well as part of the team. He was a bit upset that he didn't get to kick the ball more but he'll get there.

Joel wasn't afraid to get stuck in


They both had a lot of fun


Conceding the 4th goal


Team Photo with coach

Joel was upset as he got hit by the ball right on the final whistle. That's Mrs Tinsley his class teacher holding him

Miles 4 Smiles Assembly

This morning I had the privilege of attending the special Miles For Smiles assembly at Joel & Eli's school.

The total raised this year was R40,375 (£3100)which is an amazing amount of money for such a small school. Last year as a school we raised enough to pay for four cleft palate operations so this year we should be able to pay for seven and a bit which is fantastic!

It was quite a moving assembly as the children who had raised over R1000 each were awarded with special certificates. Then the final cheque was presented to Operation Smile who oversee the cleft palate operations.

Fresh Herbs

Paula has been wanting to grow her own herbs for a while so having successfully killed off a tree in the pot we decided to give it a try.

We planted Basil, Parsley and Rocket for starters and we plan to move onto Coriander next. Amazingly, despite our best efforts the plants are thriving and we've used a little bit already.

We just need to convince Eli not to play with his diggers in the pot which is no small undertaking!

Bakkie

We're very pleased to present our new bakkie which we were able to purchase with the very generous support of St.Andrew's Oxshott, Queens Road Wimbledon and some friends in Cheadle.

It's a Ford Bantam which is built in South Africa exclusively for the local market. The 'bakkie' bit (it means 'bowl' in Afrikaans) has lower sides than our previous one so it's far easier to get stuff in and out. It has already been a huge blessing as we've been transporting food and building materials here there and everywhere.

For the TopGear fans; the engine is a 1.6i Rocam and whilst it's bigger than our old one it's actually a lot more economical. We managed to get a great price from the Ford dealership who threw in lots of 'toys' for the price which is great. The boys love playing with the windows and were keen to show Mummy how the stereo works.

Our old bakkie was getting very long in the tooth and had been used and abused by many different drivers during its lifetime. Sadly it got to the point where it was costing us far too much to make it worth keeping. Most recently the engine management unit packed up and the replacement was developing problems within a couple of months of being fitted. Despite spending many hours trying to rectify this particular problem, the garage had to admit that they had no idea what was wrong!

Thankyou again to those who made this possible.

Dirk

This afternoon I had an experience which would probably scare the life out of most South Africans but somehow it seemed quite normal to me.

I was out and about with Michael and whilst he was in someone's house a guy called Dirk waved to me and then came over and got into my bakkie. Thankfully I've known Dirk for a few years and trust him. Anyway, he started to tell me that today was the day that he finally got confirmation that God is alive and well and he wants everybody to know this.

Dirk told me the story of how he ended up in court this morning and was now a free man in the afternoon. A while back he was involved in a kidnapping and robbery which ended in attempted murder as he doused his victim in petrol and set fire to him. I knew of the case from local news reports but hadn't realised that Dirk was the perpetrator.

The long story cut short is that Dirk admitted his guilt and in doing so got his co-accused off the hook. However that meant that potentially he would be going down for a very long time given his previous record. Amazingly the judge gave Dirk an 18month suspended sentence and a R2000 fine. No doubt the victim's family would consider this to be a miscarriage of justice, but from Dirk's perspective this was an amazing answer to his prayers as he'd been on his knees before God asking for help whilst on remand.

Whichever way you look at it it is quite an amazing story. Personally I agree with Dirk that God's grace was clearly evident in a very dark situation. Dirk is now in the process of telling everybody about what God has done for him and that is brilliant.

I would ask that you keep Dirk in your prayers as he's had a very troubled life and is no stranger to prison. However, he is a very likeable character and personally I trust him and enjoy spending time with him. To know more about why I trust him read my post entitled: Wed Afternoon In CNP.

Feeding Programme

Our feeding programme in CNP continues to go well and As has become custom over the last few years, once a month we deliver food to some of the neediest folk in the community. Today we bought the food (made possible by the Phillipi Trust and St.George's Weald) for our 13 HOPE home based care patients. This is a monthly venture and really blesses the families concerned, particularly in these days of huge price rises. It is quite a big task, but, together with our local supermarket, we are finally getting a system together that runs like clockwork! We then use the bakkie to pile all the food in before taking it off for house to house deliveries - you should see the smiles on people's faces and hear their thanks!! It's very humbling.

It was also a sad day today as we lost one of our patients who has struggled for many months now with lung cancer. She had recently spent a brief spell in the local hospice but had been home for 2 weeks before she died. Naturally the family are extremely sad, but it was lovely to be able to go and visit again and to take some practical help. It was also great as Paula had been able to ask her on Friday if she was at peace with God and then prayed with her. These are special moments and what the HOPE team is all about.

Home Improvements

Michael has been making the most of the break in the weather (the rains are due back tomorrow) to get some work done on his 'extension' at the back of his house. I've been helping him over the last few days as he's been able to get some zinc roofing sheets and a 'wendy house' panel which we were able to cut to size and put up as the front of the extension. We then set about putting a window in and below you can see the finished article. I don't think anyone would rush to employ me for my building skills but it has been a lot of fun working with Michael. Maybe we could start a company and call it 'Bodge it & Leggit'.

I've written much over the years about the inadequacies of the houses in CNP and it has really struck me again over the last few days just how appalling they really are. They are constructed from a simple concrete frame which is filled with breeze blocks with just enough space left for the badly fitting doors and windows. The roof is made from corrugated asbestos sheets with no ceiling boards inside! The gaps between the wall and the corrugation are filled with cement apart from two gaps on each side which are left open to act as 'air-bricks'. The houses have a toilet and shower cubicle in one corner with a sink in the main room (there is only one room). There is no hot water! In winter these houses are like fridges and in summer they're like ovens. They are built down to a price and the quality of the construction is truly third-rate.

Michael doesn't have permission to build but like most other residents of CNP has no real choice but to put up a shack so that his family can enjoy a bit more space and privacy. Eventually he plans to have two bedrooms and a bathroom in the extension.

The window finally in


Michael covered in sawdust from cutting the window frame

Mother's Day

Ben 10 is alive and well in our house! A couple of months ago we had no idea who he was, then we succumbed (or at least mum did!) and got DSTV, now we are responsible for propagating his future!!!

As you can imagine, Joel and Eli were delighted when a friend of ours recently returned from the UK with 2 pairs of matching Ben 10 pyjamas for them! Joel couldn't believe his eyes and questioned mum for ages as to where they had come from - knowing he hadn't seen them in the shops here!!!

Paula has also been enjoying a protracted Mother's Day. South Africa celebrates the day today, according to the International calendar. On Friday she was treated to breakfast at the boys' school, with a motivational speaker followed by a short concert in Eli's class and a wonderful hand washing ceremony in Joel's class. Eli totally stole the show, having the parents in stitches with his enthusiasm (what a different child he is!!!). Joel totally surprised mum, treating her to a lavender hand massage and wash followed by hand cream all on a piece of kitchen roll smothered with rose petals - oh yes, we're not joking!!!

The boys then really surprised her today with a cooked breakfast (nothing stolen!) followed by lunch out after church at her favourite restaurant. Unfortunately, by then Eli seemed to be sickening for something - hopefully Joel's chicken pox, so he was out for the count, but Joel loved the wonderful food and enjoyed playing with some of the local children outside as they came up to the restaurant gardens. he really does make us very proud with how easily he mixes with children from other cultures.


Miles 4 Smiles

This morning was a big one for the boys as they proudly donned their Miles for Smiles T shirts and set off to complete as many laps as they could in 2 hours to raise money for operations for children with cleft palates. The event was once again organised by their school and the boys had been looking forward to it all week!

Eli got off to a flying start (literally!) and took the little ones race by storm whizzing round the coned off track. The only trouble was that he didn't know how to turn corners, so we had to do a bit of quick coaching! After half an hour all the little ones had given up, so Eli took off to join big brother Joel on the "big boys" 350m track!!! Joel got off to a valiant start, completing a lap and then having a huge rest!! After lots of encouragement, he eventually managed a stunning 29 laps (a little over 10K's or 6.3 miles in old money) and really enjoyed himself. The event was organised brilliantly, with all the kids racing on different tracks around a brand new housing estate - so far no tenants, so it was paradise for them all!

The morning was topped off when Dean entered the parents race - 3 laps of the track (as used by the upper school - and won it with style, winning the family a 2 night stay at a luxury tented camp about an hour away from Somerset West. Well done Dad!!!!! That's two years in a row he's won and is delighted that the cycling is paying off at last.

Our boys proudly donning their T'shirts & helmets in anticipation of a fun morning

Chickenpox

For the last few days Joel has been lethargic and complaining of not feeling too well. Today he broke out in spots and the Dr confirmed the obvious... Joel has Chickenpox. He's actually quite proud of it, especially as it means he gets to stay at home tomorrow instead of going to church and will probably miss most of next week from school. Joel decided he likes the smell of the calamine ointment but doesn't enjoy the application as it's "too cold"

Hopefully Eli might catch it too and then we'll be all done on that particular childhood illness.

It's all go in the Finnie household.

It's always alarming to see how quickly an epidemic can become a pandemic. scarily though this particular pandemic transcended the normal route by skipping the epidemic stage and going straight into the full-blown pandemic status.

This is a pandemic that really should have the world seriously concerned! We've seen many ridiculous media events and stories over the years but the speed with which this Media Stupidity Pandemic took hold has truly broken any previous record!

I am truly stunned by the stupidity of the entire media and the way they have scare-mongered in this ridiculous episode. There really is nothing like putting stories into context and the reporting on swine fever is nothing like putting a story into context! I spent some time watching Sky News and was amazed and appalled at how every other news story has dropped off their news map. They really are a bunch of muppets but sadly they are not alone. Most of the international news agencies seem to be equally blinkered.

Let's start with a quick look at Mexico.. so 100+ people are confirmed dead within a population of 100million+. I wonder how many deaths they experience each day from HIV/AIDS, road deaths, cancers etc? The HIV/AIDS mortality rate in that country is far scarier than any flu virus but is somehow not worthy of international media reporting.

Globally, (as far as I can see) only 102 people have died from this flu with a further 218 confirmed cases. Quite what the media are getting so excited about is hard to see. No doubt they'll end up blaming Gordon brown!

So if the media were to get as excited about some of the truly scary epidemics and pandemics out there, maybe we'd treat them with a bit more respect. HIV/AIDS is a truly scary pandemic. TB, Hepatitis, Meningitis etc are also worthy of scaring the average punter. Heart disease and cancers are also quite scary as is malaria which remains the worlds single biggest killer. Strangely none of these make it onto the front pages and TV headlines in the same way as this mild form of swine flu. Come on peeps, get a life!

On a lighter note, if you are worried about whether you've contracted swine fever the early signs are that you come out in rashers.

It has been reported that NHS Direct are apologising to patients who call their hotlines as all they get is crackling on the line.