Disney

This might sound like stating the obvious, which it is, but Disney is best not viewed through the eyes of a cynical 40 something!! I hated being part of a never ending advert, being ripped off and, being nagged by endless health & safety announcements (which everyone ignored anyway). The list goes on but as I said, Disney is best not viewed through the eyes of a cynical 40 something.

Disney is best seen through the eyes of a highly excited 8 year old!

We had a great time with family and it was good for Joel & Eli to spend time with their cousins as this is a rare treat. I also enjoyed spending time with Bethy, our middle niece, as we made the most of the late night rides to go on the bigger rollercoasters that the others either couldn't ride or wouldn't ride.

Christmas Day

We had a fantastic family Christmas day despite it starting at some unearthly hour! Eventually Dean let Joel and Eli open their stockings at 4am in the hope that they would then go back to sleep. Job done by about 5am but not for long! At least they were excited.

Christmas dinner was fantastic as ever thanks to Lisa's great cooking (courtesy of Delia) and it was great to actually have a family Christmas dinner on Christmas day for the first time in three years.


Happy Christmas

Wishing you all a

Very Happy Christmas

and a

Blessed New Year

Love from

Dean, Paula, Joel & Eli
XXXX

Eli's 5th Birthday

Eli had a day of two halves as he celebrated his 5th birthday today.

The first half of the day was at Grandad's where the family made a fuss of him with some great presents.

The second half of the day was spent back  in Wimbledon (after the now regular trudge along the M25) where he finally got to play with his toys.

The day was then topped off with a lovely family meal at an Italian taverna in Wimbledon where genuine Italian gelato was the winner!

Mission Ed' - QRC

Today was a great day as we spent time with Queens Road Church right here in Wimbledon. This was our church family just after Joel was born right up until we left for South Africa in 2004 and we still have many good friends here.

As our mission education visiting goes this was the lowest key visit of all of them and yet one of the best too. We spoke briefly during an interview with Phil Moore about our work in SA and afterwards enjoyed catching up with many great folk.

Drat And Double Drat!

Drat this pesky snow and its meddling in our affairs!



Friends

One of the joys of our kind of lifestyle is that when we do make it back to Blighty we're able to make time for friends we've not seen in a while and today was one such occassion.

We first met Peter and Sue through CYFA Ventures many a moon ago and we've not seen each other for many many moons! Sadly we only had time for a coffee but it was still great to meet up again and swap news etc. Hopefully it won't be so many moons before we see each other again!

HMS Belfast

Thanks to some great friends we were able to take the boys into town again for another memorable day out. This time they chose the Belfast and were really fascinated by all that they saw.

Joel particularly loved the replica sick bay where a real operation was being performed (by models!).  Eli was very taken by the shell room and enjoyed becoming the Admiral and 'steering' the ship for a while.  It was a really good fun family thing to do and we had a blast.



Half-Way

We're half-way through our mission ed' trip and over half-way in terms of speaking engagements so it's almost downhill until we return home.

For now we're back in Wimbledon for our last 'quiet' stretch before Christmas after which it all gets very busy again as we have a few things on before our tip to Cheadle early in the New Year.



This is also my first HD movie so I'm quite chuffed with it.

A Day To Remember

We've had such a good day in London!

We started off at the Natural History Museum where it was obligatory to see the dinosaurs and creepy crawlies, of course. Followed by the mammals where Eli wanted to see a tiger and then we spent loads of time looking at various whales etc whilst Eli tested the interactive displays to check they really were child proof. Job done!

Hertford

On Sunday we had one of our busiest mission education visits as we were at Herftord Baptist Church where Dean preached twice in the morning which was followed by lunch and our Powerpoint presentation and informal photo slideshow. We always enjoy visiting Hertford as we've known many of the folk since 1999 when we began studying at All Nations in Ware.

It was great to see so many old friends again and to meet a lot of new folk. We came away feeling very supported and valued. Dean was particularly impressed by the flyer they had been distributing to encourage folk to come along. We love how HBC really grasps the concept of partnership with all of their mission partners!

The snow has melted a lot overnight in the rain which also means the big freeze never materialised. At 8pm the outside temp was down to -8°C but by 11pm it had warmed up to around -5° and it must have kept getting warmer. It's hardly an Indian summer out there now but it is a welcome relief!

So we're off to Hertford at lunchtime today ready to speak at two services tomorrow morning followed by our Powerpoint over lunch as our mission education trip continues. Really looking forward to seeing good friends again!
We managed to venture out to Tunbridge Wells this morning after spending an hour or so clearing the drive (and car) of snow.

All was going really well until we were ¾ the way up Morley's Hill leading out of Weald when another driver decided he was coming down regardless and forced me off the road. Three attempts later we made it with the subtle odour of burnt clutch.

The snow has started to thaw out a bit but the forecast is for a big freeze overnight though we're really hoping it doesn't freeze too badly overnight as we need to be leaving for Hertford around lunchtime.

I'm not entirely sure how, but in getting our bags in from the car last night I put my back out and have been in a lot of pain ever since. I've never had real backpain before and am not enjoying it one little bit! Sitting down is the worst so I've found that if I keep walking things are a bit better.

So having had a short walk with my boys this morning which they enjoyed right up until the cold killed the fun, I then had a decent walk this afternoon down to Westwood Farm.

Before & After

I took the first pic of the car after making it onto the drive and abandoning it where it stopped. Since then the snow has barely stopped and now the car is well and truly stuck for the time being.

Guess we're not going anywhere in a hurry!

Sledging!

With two very excited boys in tow Daddy got to go sledging for the first time in donkey's years.

After a slow but thankfully uneventful drive to Weald we managed to get to Grandad's house without incident. sadly the guy who backed up to let us pass wasn't so lucky as he wrote off the car behind him! We took a bit of a run up to the drive and once on abandoned the car where it stopped.

Richard was then a star as he came and picked us up in the Landy to take us to the farm.

Joel and Eli finally got to experience snow for the first time and they loved it! Joel has wanted to play in snow for years so he was really thrilled to be in Susan's garden finally playing in it.

Snowballing Daddy seems to have been the highlight (Mummy was a bit wiser and remained firmly indoors - only cos she doesn't have any wellies!) but building a snowman came a close second. Daddy was sent back indoors to find a carrot for the nose and something for the eyes and the result looks pretty good for a first ever attempt by the African boys.

It's Snowing

Apparently the current snowfall is the earliest in the UK for 17 years and we have two very very excited boys who are desperate to be playing in it.

This is the view of our garden in Wimbledon which leads me to surmise that if the snow has settled this much down south in London Town how much worse/better must it be out of town.

Guess we'll find out tomorrow when we'll be venturing down to Weald.

Chillin' Out

What else is there to do in this freezing weather than to chill in front of the telly?

Don't you just long for those days when you could lounge around on the furniture like that?

Got to admire Eli's style there!
Sometimes life does a full circle and today was one of those days as Paula caught up with a friend she made in her first few months in South Africa 2004. Nikki and her family subsequently moved to England in May 2006 and today was the first time they have seen each other since then. It was lovely to catch up and to meet new additions to the family!

Ice Age

Joel & Eli have never experienced ice in it's purely natural state so the current weather here in Blighty is a bit of a shocker and not just for them!

Having wrapped up as warm as we could (more layers are needed in the next shopping trip!) we popped out for a bit of fun on Wimbledon Common.

Although we didn't see any Wombles on the common we did get to see the frozen pond and then set about trying to see if we could break the ice by throwing sticks and stones onto it.

The Week So Far

Getting used to life back in Blighty is one thing but trying to adapt to life and the weather is very trying! We had to scrape ice off the car for the first time in many many years and couldn't believe how long it took for the heater to kick in and start pumping hot air into the car. When we go home in January we might be going home to the fag end of summer but we really can't wait!

We've been phenomenally blessed so far, not least by the loan of a car for the two months. Once again we must thank our friends at St. Andrew's in Oxshott for sorting this out for us. The car is a Fiat Stilo (we'd never heard of it before) a five door hatchback and it's perfect for our needs.

We've managed to get out and do a bit of essential shoping without the kids and we've even had them looked after for a couple of nights already allowing us to catch up on a bit of sans enfant sanity.

Despite the busyness of rushing around, meeting folk and having meetings in between the full on weekend commitments we're planning to steal some family time so we have a chance to chill, regroup as a family and recharge the batteries.

This morning was just such an occasion as we set about exploring and rediscovering the delights of Susan's amazing garden. Looking at the pictures (see full album links below) it's hard to believe that we're in the middle of London given how green and lush the garden is.

This afternoon should also be a lot of fun as Grandad & Lesley are here to take the boys off our hands for a bit as we escape for an hour or two.

Our feet don't seem to have touched the ground since landing at Heathrow. Having been picked up by Stephen, he then dropped me off in Oxshott on his way home so that I could pick up the car we've been fantastically blessed with whilst we're in Blighty. We then had an afternoon to unpack before joining Paula's family in Weald for Indy's 12th birthday. Not sure how our youngest niece suddenly got to 12 years old, we must be getting old! We had a fun meal out with her to celebrate.

I'm quite excited this morning as our Mission Education trip finally gets underway as we speak at our first engagement. We're at St. George's in Weald, the village where Paula grew up and most of her family still live. St. George's is a great church family and we always receive a really warm welcome from many dear friends most of whom we've known for many many years. In Paula's case some of the folk have known her since she was a baby!

This morning we're showing our main Powerpoint presentation with our 5 minute HOPE Home Based Care DVD followed by coffee & cake when we'll be showing our 15 minute photo presentation which is a lighthearted look at our lives at work and play.

All to be topped off with a fantastic family roast!

The Eagle Has Landed

I'll claim to be the Eagle given that I'm a Palace fan.

Anyway, we finally landed a mere 5 hours late. Confusion was the order of the day at Cape Town airport as we were told the plane had a battery problem so we'd be late taking off. Then we were told the flight was cancelled and we'd "know more in 20 minutes". This was a much quoted expression which seemingly had no meaning whatsoever!

Eventually after a 3 hour delay we were on board only to be delayed for another two hours whilst a large crowd of drunks were taken off the plane by the police followed by their luggage being removed. 

We're never too fond of having to say goodbye to folk, even if we will see them again very soon, but that's one of the drawbacks of the life we lead.

Saying goodbye or au revoir this time has been made a little easier by some fantastic friends who have made time to give us a really fun last few days.

Eli's 5th Birthday Party

Eli was honoured to have an early birthday yesterday as he will be in the UK on his actual 5th birthday in December and school's out for summer here so most of his friends would have been away too.

So, he dressed in civvies to school and pretended it was his big day.  He has been asking for months for a Ben 10 cake, so mum and dad bravely rose to the task and it was a pretty good result we think!!! (see below) Eli certainly loved it, and 10 kids and a few parents managed to demolish the whole cake at his party.

Weekend

One of the joys of living where we do is that no matter how one is feeling or what is going on one can always stop and take a minute or two to enjoy the sheer beauty of the mountains and coastline interspersed with stunning vineyards. We really are incredibly blessed to live in a very beautiful place!

The weekend began with Michael rocking up and doing a load of work in the garden which was a fantastic blessing.

On Saturday we had a fun day at home followed by fish & chips on the beach in Gordon's Bay followed by the obligatory clamber through the rockpools. The boys were as happy as a pair of pigs in mud (see pics below).

Prayer Request

We recently asked for your prayers regarding an important meeting we had. Thanks for your prayers as that went really well.

However, things have taken an unforseen and unexpected twist since then and we find ourselves in a very difficult and very unpleasant situation and once again we must ask for your prayers.

As things work out we'll let you know more but for now please pray for grace to abound, for wisdom on all sides, for integrity and for God's will to be done.
In the midst of a very stressful couple of weeks and no immediate sign of the stress ending I've managed to have a really blessed day!

As I collected one of the guys for our Men's Group he told me not to rush off when I dropped him back home as he wanted to give me something. So off we went and we had a good group. I'm loving the way some of the guys are starting to talk freely and open up about things.

Definitely the highlight of my week!

I had a great phone call with my mate Michael the other day.

Michael had sent me a 'call me back' which I normally ignore unless he follows our pre-arranged code so I know it's important. Anyway, I decided to ring him and the conversation went like this:
Me "Hi Michael, how you doing?"
Michael "What can I do for you?"
Me "You sent me a 'call me back'."
Michael "I know. What can I do for you?"

What a fantastic call!

I hope that Michael's willingness to serve is a response to what I've modelled to him over the years that we've been friends. Either way I was dead chuffed and my garden's looking quite smart now!
Here's a couple of photos from the boys recent school production: Once Upon a Planet

They had such a ball and put in a lot of hard work to make a really enjoyable production.  Joel was a "good soldier" and Eli was a robot, who particularly enjoyed "hamming it up" and playing to his audience.  The play was loosely based on Star Wars, so very popular in our house!

Prayer Request

We've got a fairly big and important 36 hours coming up from 9am this morning. Please pray that all goes well and that the Lord's will is the one that prevails.

Thanks guys!
There's not much you can say about Greyton except... it is a little bit of heaven on earth!  We absolutely LOVE it, and this holiday was made all the better because the boys were a bit more mobile.  They really enjoyed going out on the roads with Dad on their bikes and even trying a bit of off-road too (it's a slippery slope!!).  There is absolutely no need for a car in Greyton, which was heavenly for mum and dad who seem to spend most of their time in a car. We walked to the shop, walked to a coffee shop/restaurant, walked generally and then just lazed around in the lovely house we had rented.  This was the same house we used last year and it is paradise for the boys.  The garden is big and full of hiding areas, ponds, little pool etc, so they literally spent 90% of the time out there making up adventures and - well Eli anyway - swimming!!

The Ucirsive One Dies

Joel & Eli treated us to their puppet show version of The Cursed One (at least we think that's what it was) at lunchtime. We were actually summoned by ticket!!

The story was about a girl (the ucirsive one) who eventually gets killed by Davey Jones, but before that she meets a pirate and Woody & Bullseye, whilst a Krakken wrestles with a lion.

...how does your garden grow?

One of the fun parts of enjoying the first spring in a new home is discovering just what is in the garden. Our garden was an overgrown jungle when we moved in and it didn't appear that much was going on at all, apart from the marijuana plant in the middle of the lawn!

However as Spring has well and truly sprung now we're seeing some good stuff in the garden.

Having previously promised a photo of Joel's puppet (Puppet Master) here it is...

Joel finally got to bring Davy Jones home just in time to take away on holiday. He's really chuffed with his efforts and I personally think he's done a brilliant job. The attention to detail is great and it genuinely is his creation from design to construction, nothing was done without his complete approval. In fact, he was so fastidious about the design that it took two days and many many attempts to finally get the hat right.

Holiday Time

At 11 am school turns out for the end of term and we're off to sunny Greyton for 10 days. The boys are uber-excited, poor Joel hardly slept at all last night! Eli can't wait as he's going to ride his bike on the road with Daddy for the first time and Joel just wants to kick-back and chill in the coffee shops of Greyton. Definitely takes after his Mum!

The house is in the good hands of Charmaine who's house-sitting so Rosie will get a break from the boys whilst being well looked after.

So, phones off, computer off, adios Blog, Facebook, Twitter et al for 10 days. Fantastic!
Once a week whilst studying at All Nations our tutorial groups were posed with a conundrum under the guise of Mission In Practice. There were rarely straightforward answers and more often than not no real answers at all, just plenty of discussion, some good arguments and the occassional chance to wind someone up for a laugh!

So here's one for today..

Life, Death & Cake!



Once again the weekend demonstrated what a diverse life we seem to live at the moment, and quite how many opportunities we have to participate in all walks of life and be ready with a word of encouragement, listening ear, tissue(!) etc. etc.

Puppet Master

I joined Joel in class today to help with the final stage of his puppet making. Each of the children had to design a puppet, work out what they needed, get the materials (plenty of running around for Mummy!) and then make the puppets. So today's stage was finishing off the puppets and the parents had been asked to come and help and I was the only Dad there.

Trees

We missed the National Arbor Week last week but may just have made ammends this week.

With a bit of help from my mate Rod we've just planted four indigenous trees in the garden. I love trees so it's a real privilege to be able to plant some and especially to plant indigenous trees that are in harmony with the environment.

Right to left they are: Assegai, Cape Beech, Natal Mahogany and Cheesewood. All are reasonably quick growing and the Mahogany & Cheesweood are noted for their attracting birdlife.

Today we celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary which is quite amazing! We keep being asked if we're doing anything special to celebrate our anniversary but to be honest it feels a bit odd as next year is a bit of a biggy being the china anniversary (20th).

Still we've got a great evening lined up as we'll be out enjoying a good meal with good friends as we celebrate Jo With The Blue Car's 40th birthday. It should be a lot of fun!

Bring on the next 19!

A few previous posts about our anniversary.

Elf n Safety

I'm not one for all the politically correct nonsense that surrounds so much of what masquerades as 'Health & Safety', particularly in places like Blighty where it's all gone way over the top!

Having said that, I do think there's a place for exercising a degree of common sense and looking at the 'scaffolding' being used by these plasterers on the house being built at the back of ours, I would suggest this might be a good opportunity for applying said common sense!

We had a lot of fun in the Nature Reserve this morning. The highlights were watching Eli climb onto the roof of the jungle gym whilst a young mum pushed her 18 month girl in the swing. She kept looking at us and then looking at Eli as if expecting us to do something. We just chuckled. If she ever has a boy she might one day understand. She did look really shocked though when Daddy announced "Last one back to the car smells of dog poo." Joel & Eli rose to the challenge!

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the whole issue of church and what it is or what it shouldn’t be and what we as Christians should and shouldn’t be doing.

A case in point at present is the whole media circus around a tiny church of 50 and their idiotic pastor. Either he’s a marketing genius who has got himself known all around the world or he’s a lunatic. Either way there's very little of the grace of God in his interviews etc. Anyway, he’s not my main topic here and he’s already had way too much publicity so back to the question in hand.

Two things I’ve read lately have come back to bug me and the more I think on them the more I feel they are simply wrong. It took me a while to come to this conclusion because one of the comments came directly from a church leader I have massive respect for and the other came from a leader in the same church.

Learn To Earn

Yesterday we realised another dream as we were able to take 3 ladies, from the 3 different communities in which we work, to visit a local empowerment project, Learn to Earn. It is based in the largest township outside of Cape Town (around 1 million people!). Their motto is 'a hand up, not a hand out', which we love -that is the only real way to empower people.

They offer courses in sewing, cooking, woodwork, computing, graphic design and admin skills to the unemployed, asking them to contribute 5% towards the cost of the course (ie: approx £20 to £40).

Weekend

The last two weeks have been pretty much a write-off as far as I'm concerned as two weeks ago I had a bout of flu which by last Monday was over and I was starting to feel much better but then on Tuesday I got hit by something else and was feverish and in pain for most of the week. Thankfully this weekend was much more back to normal! I was really annoyed by this having got through winter with no illness to suddenly get walloped just as the season is changing. Not good!

The rest of the gang have been fine throughout, suffering only the vagaries of a very grumpy dad and husband but they seem to put up with me well.

I first met this amazing woman almost 6 years ago and remember even then being so impressed by her. As her story began to emerge over the months in my Bible study group and home visits my respect and love for her began to grow. X grew up on a local farm where she lived humbly but happily and later married a man whom she loved dearly. Together they had four sons and, though things were very tight, lived happily as a family and enjoyed the many friends living together with them on the farm. Both X and her husband were committed Christians and taught their children Christian values and ethics as they grew.

Gods Of Rock

I had the Gods of Rock on VH1 on TV in the background for a while this afternoon and I could see Joel had one eye on it whilst doing some drawing at the table.

His attention was then fully grabbed by AC/DC's Back in Black.

When he'd finished he brought over his picture and proudly announced that he's going to get the red guitar when he's older and play like the man in his school uniform.

He makes me so proud!
One of the ladies we've got to know recently would probably be dismissed by most as just being a quiet and even timid church mouse. If we were to judge by appearances she's unremarkable and would probably just get lost in a crowd.

Thankfully, we don't judge people on appearances but rather by what we see in their actions in life. This lady is truly a hero to us!

After church on Sunday most of us trotted off home for a decent dinner, maybe some roast vicar with acidic gravy followed by the obligatory kip on the couch.

I'm starting a new mini series which will run sporadically over the coming months about some of the amazing folk who I/we consider to be the real heroes of our faith.

It would be really easy to do just such a series on the likes of the amazing George Műller, Hudson Taylor, C.T. Studd or Jim Elliot to name a few that come to mind. However just about all that can be said about these heroes has been said and I'm not pretending to have any new insight into their extraordinary lives. If you're interested in the lives of some of these heroes and church history generally pop over to the Church History Blog by Lex Loizedes, it's a great read!

Cape Town Museum

We had a lot of fun today as we went into Cape Town and spent ages in the South African Museum and Planetarium.

The guy on the door gave a knowing smile as the boys shouted "DINOSAURS!" and ran off to the dinosaur gallery. Guess where we spent most of our time.

the boys were inspired to ask to go to the museum again after watching Night at the Museum 2, it's a really good fun film and certianly fired up their imaginations.

Afterwards we strolled up to Long Street which is full of great cafés and pubs and we had a cracking lunch.

Today was very special as the HOPE home based care team, prospective carers and spouses of some of our patients received customised home based care and HIV/AIDS training from Nicky Welsh. This is something that Paula has been wanting for over a year now and it has taken this long to 'pin down' Nicky and make the most of her excellent training skills!! We had loads of fun as well as refreshing (for some) our knowledge and skills base and having the ability to further customise the training for our final session next Friday.