I realise that it is often difficult to understand cultural differences and how the gospel fits within certain cultures. For example, working out the gospel in an animistic culture throws up a whole set of difficulties which aren't immediately easy to address. As such I may have completely misunderstood this article on the BBC news website, but I'd love for someone to explain just how carrying a gun for personal protection fits with the gospel and teachings of Jesus. I seem to recall him saying something about 'turning the other cheek', but I may be wrong.

I'm not sure whether carrying a gun is in itself a sinful act but if one chooses to carry a gun one is clearly prepared to use it and guns are made for one purpose, killing. Equally I don't agree with the notion that wearing guns to churches or any sacred space is particularly troubling. After all, we're not overly concerned about buildings but rather the presence of God as we live under grace not law. What does trouble me about Christians carrying guns is the intent of the person carrying the gun and how that intent can sit alongside a true faith in the gospel of Jesus. I'm interested in your thoughts on this one.

Weekend

Dean is finally feeling better so we had a lovely afternoon walk in the Nature Reserve after church. Thanks for your prayers for him.

Church was great this morning and we had a visiting preacher from Mitchell's Plain. Graham has spoken at Grace before and we certainly enjoy him. We had a few visitors again today which is great as word seems to be getting out that Grace is a church of integrity. One of our biggest joys about church is that our boys love it. This is such a huge answer to prayer!

As ever the Nature Reserve was a lot of fun. This afternoon our dear friend Jo (with the blue car) joined us which was great as the boys really like her. Joel was delighted to be able to show Mummy the 'witch's castle' on the mountain and to show her the 'secret way' to the climbing tree. Eli was in a bit of a grump as he'd refused lunch and was complaining of being hungry.

Shinning across the river


Joel with the obligatory ice lolly


Joel taking a photo of a photo being taken

Runaround

Whilst Paula was visiting in Chris Nissen with the HOPE home based care team I took the boys for a runaround in the Nature Reserve. We ended up there for almost four hours and Paula joined us for lunch after she had finished in CNP.

This is such a favourite trip out and we all really enjoy it. The weather was a bit better than it has been so far this week so we were able to walk about a bit.

We were pleased to see that the boardwalk by the pond is being extended so soon we'll be able to walk all the way around it. As you can see the views by the pond are quite stunning.

So today is the first day of the school holidays for our boys. Most schools close today but theirs closed yesterday so we'll have our hands full for the next three weeks. On Wednesday next week we're off to Greyton for a few nights and then at the end of the holidays we'll be off 'camping' for a weekend as we enjoy the family getaway I won in the parents race recently at the Miles 4 Smiles fundraiser.

Eli doing what he does best


Two enthralled boys


Apparently Mother Goose died (sorry if that comes as a shock) and was laid to rest under a stone in the Nature Reserve

A Moment In Time

Over on our photoblog Finnie's In Focus we've been running a series entitled: A Moment In Time and at present we're up to Part 17 with several more still to come.

Hope you enjoy the series.

Flu Is A Real Swine!

Spare a thought or a prayer for Dean as he's got himself a bout of real flu not the pseudo man-flu blokes normally seem to contract. He's on a hefty dose of antibiotics and is generally feeling pretty rubbish.

Hopefully normal service will resume shortly.

Winter Solstice

June 21 is the shortest day of the year also known as the winter solstice and we're pleased that it has finally arrived as now the days can begin to draw out and we can head back towards summer. Winter here in the Western Cape is quite unpleasant as it is the only part of the African continent where it rains. Everywhere else it rains in summer or seasonally as in they have no real winter. Tanzania was one such place whereas in Zimbabwe the winter was quite cold with temperatures dropping as low as -2°C but with midday highs of 25°C. Here the temperature never gets as low as that but with the rain and the northwester howling the windchill factor comes into play. All this means we're longing for summer!

Project Fix It - Goes Large

Project Fix It was an initiative we ran whilst with HCC in which we sought to bless our brothers & sisters in Chris Nissen Park by fixing their homes up for winter to ensure they all had leak fee roofs, proper windows etc etc.

Now, we're in Macassar and we're aiming to go further and higher by replacing existing dwellings/hokkies with wendy houses and actually building homes where possible.

We're also planning on undertaking a whole host of repairs on houses too, but the priority is to sort out the key accommodation issues where members of the church either have no permanent home or live in a shack which is unfit for the purpose.

As Grace Community Church we're motivated to make a difference in the lives of the neediest amongst us. Just as the church in Acts ensured "There were no needy persons among them." Acts 4:34a So we want to care for our brothers & sisters whilst also being a living witness in the community.

We've identified four church families who are committed and bear fruit in their lives (Rom 7:4) but who live in circumstances (for reasons well beyond their own control) that are less than ideal. Personally, we feel strongly that when our brothers and sisters live in hokkies like these God's name is neither honoured nor glorified.

We need to exercise some care as to how we undertake these projects as we could easily end up with the fastest growing church around, but for all the wrong reasons. That is why we're applying the simple criteria of helping those who are committed to the church and are bearing fruit in their lives.

The dilapidated wendy house above is where one of our worship leaders lives in Macassar. She's a single parent and runs a small business as a hairdresser. She has three kids of her own and recently took in her teenage niece who was living in exceptionally bad circumstances - some people live far worse than this.

The front door is badly broken and barely closes properly. The window to the right is broken and in the photo above you can see that the window to the left is completely boarded up as the frame has rotted away. The worst part of this though is the roof. It's made up of three different types of roofing sheets which don't fit together too well, consequently it leaks very badly. This is a priority to fix.

This hokkie belongs to another young single parent in the church who has two young girls. Due to unfortunate circumstances she was living separately from her husband and life was not easy. He died recently, but amazingly whilst he was sick she took care of him and then sorted all the funeral arrangements for him. This would have cost her a huge amount both physically and emotionally.

This situation is a bit different to the others in that this mother owns the plot she lives on and the concrete slab in front of it is ready to be built on. As a church we've been in touch with some friends in Grace and HCC (our former church) who have agreed to supply us with the bricks we need to build a house. Daniel has drawn up the plans for it and is about to submit them to the municipality for approval which should take three weeks. Hopefully this will all go smoothly and we can start building ASAP.


Here 's some fantastic news and a great answer to prayer. After our previous post On A Hot Tin Roof some friends from Queen's Road Church in Wimbledon gave a gift which paid for half of this new wendy house for a couple in our church. We're really delighted for this couple and bowled over by the generosity of friends. We truly serve a great God!

Below is a picture of the hokkie they used to live in with their two little ones under 5 and brand new baby. Believe it or not this old hokkie was a step up from where they were previously but it still leaked badly and had a rough dirt floor. Now they have a leak free home with a nice wooden floor which is raised off the ground. In case you were wondering what 'hokkie' means it's an Afrikaans word which roughly translates as 'kennel'. Hokkie is used to refer to any shack or lean-to in which people live.

This hokkie was about one third the size of the new wendy house


As a church we're committed to making a difference in the lives of our members so that they might make a difference in the live of those around them. All this is going to cost us quite a lot of money and we believe our God will provide. If you would like to be a part of this then please get in touch, either through the 'Contact Us' link at the top of the blog, email us or leave a comment on the post. Either way we'll reply and give you more information on each of these projects and how you can join Grace community Church in blessing some amazing brothers & sisters in Christ.

Father's Day

Joel's school celebrated Father's day this morning by inviting the dads to come and do some silly races followed by bacon & egg rolls.

It was good fun and everyone entered into the spirit of the event and had a good laugh. It was also good to meet some of the other dads, you begin to understand some of the kids a bit better!

Joel participated in a beanbag race but Eli couldn't be persuaded to do anything other than chase around after Daniel his best friend.

We don't normally do Father's Day as it is a bit of commercial nonsense, but this was really good and a nice way to honour the dads.

Joel lining up for his beanbag race

Do Not Adjust Your Set..

The last two weeks have been odd and just a bit frustrating as I've not been able to get on and do things I wanted and needed to do. This was compounded by the boys having a five day weekend with Friday, Monday and Tuesday off school. As such I was unable to do any visiting and couldn't get involved in the stuff I normally do. Thankfully Paula is now home and life is back to normal, at least for just over a week until the school holidays. I've felt like I needed to adjust the proverbial TV set but as the continuity announcer always says; "Do not adjust your set, normal service will resume shortly." Thankfully normal service is resumed.

Last night we led our first midweek small group in Macassar. As a church we ditched cell groups (the cell group experiment was a dismal failure across the globe, don't get me started on that particular rant!) and had Friendship Groups for a while which have now given way to 'home group' style meetings in which we're aiming to build on the success of the friendship groups. Last night was a great time together and as a group we're agreed on what we want and hope for from it. We were very encouraged by the meeting and were also pleased that our language lessons are paying off as we could easily understand the bit of Afrikaans that was spoken.

I am also doing some further theological training with the South African Theological Seminary which is enjoyable and going well. Again this was on hold but I'm now able to pick it up and crack on. Apparently I have an exam on 2nd Sept, scary! I'm doing a module called: Words & Works of Jesus. I know that doing this further studying will benefit not just myself but our ministry too, especially as I'm preaching more now and plan to be doing some bible studies in Macassar soon.

Back in Chris Nissen, Michael has been the 'point-man' in the community for a feeding programme being run by ? (we're not really sure). I've been helping him to collect the food from Lwandle township and then get it to Aunty Poppy and Elise who are cooking it and distributing it in the community. We're not sure who runs this programme or what the aim of it is but it should help some of the neediest in CNP get through winter. Now the elections are over it will be interesting to see how long this programme runs for.

Rape - A Way Of Life?

Here's a shocker from the BBC News website: South African rape survey shock. According to the survey one quarter of South African men have raped a woman or child. That is truly horrific!

The study was done by the South African Medical Research Council so it's not easy to dismiss its findings.

This nation really needs a lot of prayer.

Sadly the BBC did not include a link to the actual study which is very disappointing.

The new football season begins in August with the full fixture list being published today. As ever no-one is allowed to publish any fixture list because of some outdated and immoral arrangement between the FA, Football League and a data company. Anyway, there are ways around the draconian arrangement such as visiting the BBC who have a license to publish them.

Palaces fixtures for the 09/10 season can be seen at Palace Fixtures. The key dates so far are:
Saturday 08 August Crystal Palace v Plymouth - opening day of season
Saturday 26 December Crystal Palace v Ipswich - Boxing Day, unusually we're at home.
Sunday 02 May Sheff Wed v Crystal Palace - Final day of season
Most fans seem to want to know when their teams play Newcastle. Palace play Newcastle at home quite early in the season on Saturday, 22nd August with the away fixture being played at the Sid James' Park on a cold and miserable Wednesday night in late January, the 27th to be exact. Another fixture worth noting is when Ex-Eagle Gareth Southgate (assuming he's still in charge) brings his Middlesbrough side to Palace on November 7th, with the return leg on April 3rd.

A special note for Sal; yes I will be blogging about Palace this coming season as I really missed it last year.

Mummy's Home

Mummy got home yesterday morning. We were all excited to have her home again and the boys were delighted to see her plane land at Cape Town airport. we got to watch the plane taxi all the way to its berth which was quite cool.

Our family felt incomplete without mummy and whilst we were nowhere near a 'Lord of the Flies' scenario, life just wasn't the same without her.

Paula had a great time with family and friends and enjoyed celebrating birthdays with family. She also appreciated an all too brief trip to Manchester to see some special friends there. As ever, Sal (Joel's godmother) was a real star, not only helping Paula pull off the surprise but in packing up some great toys for the boys. Eli loves dressing up as Buzz Lightyear and the numerous tanks have been well appreciated by Joel.

One of the joys of a trip to Blighty is the shopping. The choice seems almost infinite and the quality, particularly clothing, is great compared to what we can get locally. Amazingly Paula managed to get through with 29.5kgs of main luggage and 11kgs of hand luggage. Not bad when her main allowance was 23kgs. Much prayer went into getting her through.

World Blood Donor Day


Today is World Blood Donor Day. I had no idea there was such a day but am pleased to see that there is. If you want to know more visit the World Blood Donor Day website.

I used to give blood in the UK but after having malaria in Tanzania the blood service got all snobby on me and permanently struck me off their lists which is a shame as my blood group is Oneg. Thankfully the South African blood service have no such hang-ups and because their screening is amongst the best in the world (if not the best) they know my blood is safe.

Anyway, the reason this issue is important to me is because my younger brother was dependent upon regular blood transfusions when he was battling leukaemia. Sadly that is a battle he lost but I remember him answering the often asked question "Is there anything I can do to help?" by saying "Give blood!"

There really is no excuse for not donating blood. It's quick, it's painless and you even get a cup of tea & biscuit for your troubles. Don't wait until you need a transfusion to realise just how valuable this service is.

Two More Sleeps

We're on the home straight now as we're only two sleeps away from picking mummy up at the airport. Needless to say Joel is really excited but Eli doesn't seem to get it all as he is a bit young.

Joel has really enjoyed his chats with mummy on the telephone and he seems so grown up as he chats away.

Unfortunately Joel's earache turned out to be an inflamed ear canal which seems to be getting worse. Our Dr was great and saw him just after church so he's now got some drops for his it. This afternoon he's had quite a high temperature so please continue to pray for him. Thankfully he's gone off to bed in fine fettle.

Farting Wellies

Once again the Helderberg Nature Reserve comes up trumps as the place to go locally. The weather was totally foul today but we went anyway. Our good friend Jo (in the blue car) joined us, I think against her better judgment, but we managed to have some fun. Somewhere along the line Joel managed to get a welly full of water (see piccy). He was so chuffed when it made a 'farting noise' when he took it off. We made it all the way to the 'climbing tree' where we stayed for all of five minutes before repairing to the cafe. As ever my boys demonstrated their 'uniqueness' by asking for ice-lollies on a cold and miserable day. They truly are odd.

Jo was a star and took the boys off my hands for a while so I could get a bit of shopping after which I joined her and the boys for McD's takeaway. Joel was really pleased to get a 'Night At the Museum 2' toy with his meal. As an aside, I have to say that that film is a rare thing in that it is at least as good as the original and I think it's actually better.

As I'm writing this Joel is in tears as he's got a bad earache. Please pray for him as he's been in pain for most of the afternoon. If he's still complaining in the morning then I'll take to the Dr.

Jo wrapped up to the nines doing her best to tolerate the weather (her mum will be impressed!)


Eli with his lovely 'apple' lolly. The lines on his face are from Joel who kindly 'painted' his face as Eli wanted to look like a lion!

Sciencentre

The weekend has started early for us as the boys school has decided to throw two teacher training days onto the weekend to make for a very long weekend which includes a public holiday on Tuesday. That means I've really got my work cut out as I can't escape during school hours.

This morning we went to the MTN Sciencentre which is fast becoming the boys favourite place, usurping the aquarium's long held place as the #1 destination. There is so much to do and it's all fun! From airgun powered rockets to computer games and wall building there really is something for everyone. Amazingly it's cheaper for adults to get in than it is for children but it's just as much fun for the adults.

Eli was deeply engrossed in the computer stuff


Rocket man


Joel enjoyed the computers too


The interactive displays are good fun


I wonder which one knows more about computers?


Eli the builder. Taking it all very seriously


Joel is so happy with books


Meanwhile Mummy is having fun at the pub with Sal

Home Alone

Someone once said that being at home with daddy was tantamount to being left at home alone. Not sure who said that but I'm happy to report that they weren't 100% accurate, at least not here.

We're all missing mummy, but she's having fun with family in Blighty which is great. So back on the ranch we're coping just fine much to the apparent amazement of many who seem to think we should have crumbled into 'Lord of the Flies' type anarchy by now. However, the boys are fed, homework is done, the washing is sorted and the earth is still spinning on its axis.

Paula has been gone almost a week and I have to say that I have a new found respect for what she does for the family. Now before I get a load of 'told you so' type comments let me make a point. I am an involved dad, more so than any other dad I've ever met and as such Paula gets a lot of help and support so she rarely has to do everything all by herself. That said she does work incredibly hard!

The toughest bit for me is the morning routine as Paula would normally get the boys ready and take them to school as that fits with her gym routine. So I've had to start setting the alarm for a lot earlier than I would normally just to get a jump on the day. Amazingly I was up before Joel this morning which is very very unusual. Yesterday he was up and watching TV at 2.15am. I soon dealt with that one! I think the really tough bit is yet to come on Friday as school is closed until Wednesday so we'll have five days with no-one to distract us.

Before that however there is an England game to watch on TV tonight to which I have invited a friend or two. We'll crack a few beers and give the pizza guy a call to see how he's doing. Glory! Thankfully all those early battles with getting the kids into a sleeping routine (all 3months of it) really does pay off later in life! By 7pm the house is quiet and I'm a free man, well almost as I can't actually leave the house. Thankfully South Africa has a thing called Mr Delivery and you can guess what he does!

Above is a rare photo of Paula with her sisters Jo (left) and Lisa (right). This one is of Stephen & Susannah who celebrated their 50th & 18th birthdays. You can probably guess who celebrated which.

Surprise!

On Thursday Paula flew to Blighty for a very well earned and well deserved break on her own. Truth be told it was payback for the Cape Epic (in case you missed what that was all about, click here)

Much subterfuge went into planning it especially as we wanted her trip to coincide with the birthday celebrations for Stephen's 50th and Susannah's 18th, so many thanks to Sal for helping with the scheming!

Initially Paula travelled to Manchester and spent a night with our good friends the Berry's there before travelling back down South to spend a night with Richard & Sal (Joel's godparents). This morning Sal helped Paula pull off the surprise for her dad. Paula's sister will find out later that she's back for several days.

Above you can see Paula's Dad quite unexpectedly seeing Paula outside his front door.

Whilst Paula is having fun in the UK we're back home enduring torrential rain and horrible cold weather. Despite this, we've been quite busy and still managed to have a lot of fun.

On Saturday we were involved with 'International Day' at the boys school. This is an annual event in which the school showcases itself and celebrates the rich diversity reflected in the numerous nationalities of student at the school. Joel was involved in the England presentation which was just a few football chants (what else can we offer the world?). Thankfully however the Indians, Koreans, Dutch, Mexicans et al more than made up for us. Meanwhile, Eli slept through the whole thing!

After church this morning we went for lunch at the boys favourite pizzeria and they were thrilled to see Nicholas from school and Ryan from church. They had a lot of fun and Ryan had a go at teaching Joel to swing a golf club.

Paula with her dad & Bethy, our middle niece


Caroline in her Sari with Morgen, one of Joel's friends


The England football chanting


Korea


Eli sleeping through the cultural presentations


The boys with their Ben 10 T'shirts


Eli jumping off the climbing frame at school


Eli demonstrating his climbing & balancing skills


My boys resplendent in their Palace shirts


The new Palace shirt for the 09/10 season which I think looks really cool!

Aunty M

I took a phone call from one of the home based carers last night asking me to come in to Chris Nissen today because the mother of one of our patients who died last year had just been taken into hospital. I went in to find a very classic situation of hopelessness! It seems that Aunty M has classic first signs of Alzheimers disease. She is not recognizing family members, getting very confused and upset and is generally causing anxiety to everyone around her. The worrying thing is that she spends every day supposedly caring for her 3 year old great granddaughter.

Anne, my carer, was so concerned that yesterday she decided to call an ambulance and thus Aunty M is now in hospital and has no real understanding of where she is and why! I had quite a long chat with Anne and Aunty M’s other daughter today to see what can be done. The options are considerably limited. There is no ‘home’ that she can go to because there is no money to pay for it. She is also not deemed sick enough for any organization such as the Hospice to provide home based care. It looks as if her daughter will have to give up work to come and care for her mother full-time. In one sense it is great and admirable that she can do this, but in another, she will have to disrupt her own family and lose her source of income and the line of poverty is extended. We promised that the HOPE team will do all that it can to help, but this is one of those classic poverty situations with which we are faced time and time again in South Africa.

We ended up praying and her daughter had a good cry – really, without God, what do people do?!