Merry Christmas

A very Happy Christmas to you all!

Lots of love

Dean, Paula, Joel & Eli
XXXX

Eli's 6th Birthday

A very happy birthday to our special six year old bundle of endless energy and fun!

It hardly seems possible that it is six years ago today that Paula flew to Bloemfontein and held Eli for the first time as she waited to bring him home.

This little bundle of joy has transformed our family life with his boundless energy and sense of fun and also making us a truly international family.

We're so grateful to God for the miracle that is Eli and especially grateful that he blessed our lives!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ELI!


Many of you who heard us speak on our last mission education visits or came along to one of our Facing The Mountain Roadshows will remember our two biggest prayer requests. Firstly we asked you to pray that we might be able to go church planting again, although we had no idea how this would be possible at the time. Secondly we asked that you join us in praying for our boys coming year at school but especially for Joel as we had some reservations about his year ahead.

Thankfully we serve an amazing God who answers our prayers.

WHCYIAMWOTGOC

On the BBC News website there is an article entitled "What would Jesus do?: The rise of a slogan"

It makes for an interesting read but I find myself disliking this logo quite intensely. I've always felt that it's a bit of a silly question for two reasons. Firstly, as the article points out, we don't really get much of a clue as to how Jesus conducted himself away from the limelight and so we can't really answer the question.

On The Stoep

As summer finally heats up we're able to spend more and more time out on the stoep in the early evening and it makes such a refreshing change from wasting time in front of the telly.

It's a real privilege on the evenings when the southeaster isn't blowing to sip a chilled glass of vino and enjoy dinner alfresco, especially when the Hotties mountains are illuminated so beautifully by the sunset.

It's a great way to relax after a busy day!

Eli's Birthday Party

Once again we celebrated Eli's birthday just before the end of the school year so that as many of his friends were able to come as possible.

Much fun was had as 13 of his friends ran riot around the garden, climbing on the tree house, playing on the jungle gym, bouncing on the trampoline and getting dirty in the sand pit.

In fact so much fun was had we only had time for one organised game. Pass the Parcel went down a storm as ever and we even got away without having the inevitably distraught kid that can't accept they didn't win. Phew!

Another Year Gone

Not too sure what happened to the school year that was 2011 but it seems to have whizzed by. There is one week left but let's be honest, very little gets done in the last week. that will make up for the busyness of this week with awards ceremonies and school concerts, but it's been really good fun.

It's been a great year for the boys, not least for Eli who can now read and write. we're very proud of him for this achievement!

Girls Will Be Girls!

I had a very eagerly anticipated "girly" coffee morning with 4 special ladies at my house today - it was time to get my wonderful HOPE home based carers out of their community for a few hours to just spend time chatting, laughing, eating and reviewing the past year! Each lady is a special nugget of gold, they will definitely be taking their places at God's top table one day!! It was so good to enjoy some lovely food and to potter around the garden chatting about patients and friends and our lives.

World Aids Day



The world seems to have gotten a bit complacent about AIDS and the devastating effect it has so it takes a bit of shock tactics to get the world to sit up and listen.
Hopefully Willy the Tourist might help to do this.
Our life group in Macassar last night was such an encouraging and humbling time.

It was a real privilege to hear testimony after testimony of how God has moved mightily through the year to bring folk to the point of being excited about planting a new church into Macassar early next year. For some of the guys there last night this has been a torrid year, starting with the collapse of the church and the hassles resulting from it. Some have then lost jobs, had to move house a number of times, had family members die, one of our number has lost two brothers this year! Others have had to look after extended family to help out financially in tough times and one family have had a terrible time with drug dealers and all sorts of related nonsense.

Weekend Stuff

Summer seems to be toying with us at present as the weather has generally been pretty good during the week and then pretty horrid at weekends. Winter is definitely hanging on to the bitter end!

This last week and the weekends either side of it has been a good time for us as we've managed to sort out and rise above a bit of rubbish that was thrown our way and as a consequence find ourselves in a stronger position than before.

Praise God for friends who believe in the best of you!

I've been really encouraged of late by John Wesley and more particularly by an excerpt from his diary. John Wesley (with his brother Charles) is one of the biggest names in 18th century British history, though his impact goes way beyond Britain's borders.

So here's the excerpt from his diary:

Here's a tale of two guys I care for very much and have a huge amount of respect for and two guys who are struggling through very different but equally tough times.

As I said a few posts below Ernest has just suffered a massive stroke. Thankfully he has an amazing family around him who are taking excellent care of him. As an outsider looking in it's a real privilege to see just how well loved Ernest is. My family circle consists of Paula, my fantastic sons and my brother. Ernest had 40, yes 40 members of family by his bed the afternoon after his stroke!

Hopefully many of you will have received our November update by email. If you haven't had it and would like to receive our monthly updates and quarterly prayerletters let us know and we'll add you to the list.
Now that we're (almost) no longer Crosslinks mission partners we're taking control of our monthly updates and prayerletters and we want to distribute these by email as much as possible. In fact we will no longer be sending the monthly updates by snail mail, apologies if this impacts you. If you have been receiving our news via snail mail but you have an email address please let us know as it's so much easier (and cheaper) to email them. If you're old fashioned like me and want a piece of paper in your hand then it's easy to print.

I've been watching with interest over the last week or so the debacle surrounding St. Paul's and the ridiculous way in which things are being managed.

I feel I should make some things clear at the outset. Firstly, I support the Occupy London protest and think it has a very simple and valid message that the City and govt need to listen to.

B. A. Eli

In honour of our school's International Day tomorrow Eli asked for his hair to be like B.A.'s and Daddy simply couldn't refuse the opportunity to have a go at doing it.

Eli's well chuffed with it!
Not sure what his teacher or the Principal might think of it, I guess it might have to disappear in time for Monday morning.

So often in life it is the same people who do everything and this is often met with criticism or complaint.  In the case of Chris Nissen Park we are always so thrilled to see men and women who are solid, full of Jesus Christ and committed to serving in their community taking on the roles.

It is so exciting to see again two of the HOPE Home Based Care team taking the lead in Chris Nissen in the fight against crime. All of these ladies are loved in the community and we are proud of them. In particular go Anne and go Aunty Poppy!!











Wristgate

I had my last appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon today and he was well pleased with my progress.

After just 4 months, yes 4 months! I have 99% of movement back. The scar is diminishing and the swelling is almost gone. The surgeon reckons it will be a while longer before it's all normal again but he's really happy with my progress.

I've been cycling again for the last three weeks and generally carrying on as if nothing happened and barely notice my wrist anymore.

Ernest Update

Thanks for all your prayers for Ernest!

Ernest was discharged from Hotties yesterday (Monday) and went home with his family. He was much stronger than he was on Sunday afternoon, sitting up, moving his arms and able to speak a little. Please continue to pray for healing for Ernest.

Ernest

My friend Ernest had a serious stroke during the night. His family are with him at the hospital and I'm just about to go and join them. Things aren't looking good for him so please pray for him.
As we said in our Macaasar Update post below "This year has been a real rollercoaster ride with some scary white knuckle moments!". Arguably the scariest of these whiteknuckle moments has been trying to sort out where we go after leaving Crosslinks at the end of the year. Many of you will be aware that we've been mission partners with Crosslinks for the last 12 years and earlier this year we mutually agreed to call it a day in our partnership. 1999 seems like a long time ago now and we've had many good times serving with Crosslinks in those years but often there comes a time when priorities and views diverge onto different paths and as such it's time to bid farewell to Crosslinks though we'll remain with them until the end of the year.

Bandana Day

It's Bandana Day in South Africa as we're all encouraged to wear bandanas with the Sunflower Fund logo on to raise awareness of leukaemia and the South African Bone Marrow Registry which exists to find and match bone marrow stem cell donors for patients who need a transplant, such as those with leukaemia and other life threatening blood disorders.

Despite the silence on the blog things have been busy and lots of things have happened which we haven't blogged about as we needed to wait for confirmation etc. Some of our biggest news will follow in another post in the next day or so but we're very excited!

This year has been a real rollercoaster ride with some scary white knuckle moments!

Holiday Time

We've just had a fantastic break as we enjoyed our annual holiday. It seems to have become a bit of a tradition to go to Greyton but to be honest it suits us as a family as we've all had a great break.

Dean got to ride with his boys again which they all love and Paula got some well deserved peace and quiet with a good book and cup(s) of coffee.

One of the real joys of this holiday has to be the fact that we park the car on arrival and don't use it again until it's time to go home. Bliss!

Celebration

What a morning we had as we hosted a celebration in Macassar.

The celebration was exactly what it said on the tin.

It was such a privilege to be back in Macassar, even if it was for just one morning.

We've had a great morning in Macassar giving out flyers for tomorrow's Celebration in the New Civic Centre. We were few in number but big in hear and gave out a few hundred leaflets, had many good conversations and managed to pray with one or two folk. We had a good time praying with a guy called Willem who admitted he's a drinker and asked for Jesus to help him stop.

20 Years Today

It seems unbelievable (to me at least) that we've been married for 20 years today. I think Paula deserves a medal for this!

On the one hand I can't believe the time has flown so quickly, one has to wonder where it all went. On the other hand it's gone quite slowly as we've done some amazing things in that time, been to some incredible places and met some truly amazing people.

Having spent over heal of our marriage serving in mission has also been fantastic! We met through the Real Life Mission in Sevenoaks way back in 1985

Thankfully as we turn 20 today we're just starting out on another new adventure. Thank you Lord!
As Love & Grace Church builds up towards planting a church into Macassar, we invite you to a time of Praise & Worship in Macassar. This will be a massive celebration event  on Sunday 18th of September at the New Civic Centre from 10am.

Come meet with God through a Holy Spirit-filled meeting where the focus will be to draw near to Him.

Please join us if you're in the area or pray for the event and our outreach prior to it if you're not able to join us.
I've been giving a lot of thought to the recent riots and disorder that occurred in Blighty whilst I was there. The two events were unconnected by the way! I've read many theories about them, watched many news items about them and still am left dazed and confused. There really was no rhyme or reason for what transpired. The initial riot in Tottenham after the fatal shooting of the man in the taxi was kind of understandable and in itself was nothing particularly exceptional. What was unprecedented, at least in my life time, was the way so many 'riots' then randomly sprang up right across the country. None of them were related to the shooting incident but rather appeared to random acts of looting and vandalism in a copy-cat style. Whatever they were and whatever the cause, I was left feeling like a foreigner in my own land.

On My Way Home

By the time you read this I should be well into my flight home, hopefully less than twelve hours from seeing my amazing wife. I'll have to wait 'til school turns out to hug my boys but it'll be worth the wait!

If I've not managed to speak to you during this flying visit to Blighty please don't be offended or take it personally as it's been quite a hectic time with lots of meetings etc.

Having been in Blighty for almost a week now I'm feeling like a true foreigner far from home. This land that I once loved so deeply seems hellbent on ripping itself to shreds. I'm not just referring to the senseless looting and violence but how society here has become so deeply divided between the haves and the have nots. The looting and violence is totally senseless but questions must be asked as to how and why it happened. What allows young people to ignore any sense of inhibition, leading them to commit acts of violence and theft and to then boast about it? As a parent I'm also horrified that there are families whose 9 & 10 year olds are participating in all of this.

Tired of looking at blogs in the same old perspective?

Try this funky new look for Blogger blogs.

There are five alternative ways of viewing blogs though I think the mosaic way is my favourite.

Follow the link to see for yourself: Mosaic View
We love this sort of thing... you only have to flick through the local rag and see your amazing Chris Nissen women doing yet more good work! Not content with 'just' caring for patients in the community they are also busy knitting socks and other things for those who don't have a lot in these cold winter months. This picture comprises 3 of the HOPE carers; one live-in carer in the form of a patient's wife; 1 former patient and a family member of one of our church members amongst others!!

It just warms our hearts!!

Beach

One of the joys we share is being able to pray together on a Monday morning straight after having dropped the boys off at school.

It really is an immense privilege!

We were reflecting this morning on just how faithful God has been in answering our prayers, especially in the time since the church stopped in January. Many times we've found ourselves on the beach on a Monday morning with things seemingly falling down around us or we've been at a real crossroad not knowing which way to go or what was about to happen and yet His faithfulness through all of this has been incredible!

Weekend

With the clear blue skies and the lack of wind or rain one could be forgiven for thinking that it wasn't mid-winter here right now.

We're making the most of the glorious weather by spending lots of time out in the garden having fun with the boys.

Saturday was spent soaking up the lovely sunshine in the garden, teasing Rosie and playing on the junglegym followed by a cracking braai (BBQ) at Chris' house in Macassar. We also invited Chris and Bubbles over which was a lot of fun.

We're not entirely sure when this happened but it was a little while ago as Joel's camera has been lost for some time.

We're also not sure how he got away with taking photos in class without getting caught by the teacher but all credit to the boy for getting away with it!

Here's a few of his efforts involving some of his best friends.

World Cup Fridays

As we gear up for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand all school children in South Africa are allowed to wear rugby tops to school on Fridays.

Joel and Eli were really chuffed to get their Springbok tops this morning as they had been really disappointed having been told in no uncertain terms that football shirts would not be acceptable.

When asked if he likes his jersey, Joel replied "Won't you get me an England one please?" Quality answer! If anyone wants to right the massive wrong here and send some England tops to rescue some pride please do!

Gardening Bits

Following a difficult week it's lovely to be able to lay the current mess aside and enjoy a beautiful Cape winter's Saturday.

It's also great to have Michael back again working his magic in the garden. Michael is feeling much better after his recent heart attack and everybody including Rosie the dog is delighted to see him again.

Together we've managed to move several plants into better positions as well as plant the two different lavenders and two heliotropes I bought in Greyton last weekend. All in all I'm delighted with how the garden is looking of late.

I'm really saddened to have to say that Peter died over the weekend while we were away. He'd been battling throat cancer for a long time now, but that doesn't make it any easier.

Peter was a great guy who rarely asked for anything and on the few occasions when he did you knew he was desperate. Peter was part of my men's bible study group in the community and together we spent many many hours trekking around in a vain attempt to obtain his ID book.

Scar!

I finally got the all clear to start driving again. Hooray!

The 'cast' is off and now I have to wear a splint for driving etc. but otherwise the Doc wants me to keep exercising and moving the wrist.

So now I have an impressive souvenir that has left my boys speechless which is a very rare thing!

It's great to feel free again even if it feels a little vulnerable.

Weekend

After a bit of silence on the blog we've just popped by to say that we're off for a couple of nights. This break couldn't have come at a better time given some of the recent events.

Praise God for his faithfulness and mercy!
Locally this pic has no comedy value so this one is for our friends outside of South Africa. I guess it's a bit like Spotted Dick, we Brits see nothing funny about it but the Yanks find it highly amusing!
For those of you not in Facebook you might not know about my latest escapade.

On Wednesday I joined Eli's class as a helping/responsible parent on their ice skating trip to Grand West ice rink. We had a great time and a lot of fun was had by all. Eli took to the ice like the proverbial duck to water and was very pleased with himself. I on the other hand didn't have such a good time of it and came home with a rather splendid souvenir!

Don't Look Back

On Sunday we heard a great word from a young guy, all of 23 years old, but he spoke with great authority and wisdom for his age. We felt God really used him to speak to us, this has been happening quite a bit lately, and we felt very blessed and motivated afterwards.

His main passage was Luke 9: 59-62 "He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.""
Today is the International Day of the African Child and this year marks the 35th anniversary since the brutal murder of over 100 children and thousand more injured in Soweto by the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The children were protesting against being forced to learn in Afrikaans, demanding instead (and not unreasonably so) to be educated in their own languages.

Father's Day

This morning I had the pleasure of attending the Father's Day celebrations at the boys school.

The school had gone to town in making the hall look great with muffins, coffee and chocolates galore for the dads. The children performed a great array of pieces from songs and poems to dances and jokes.

All the children did really well but I was particularly proud of my boys!



I give blood for a very simple reason.

When my younger brother was dying from Leukaemia he was often asked "What can I do for you?" His response was always the same "Give blood!"

Blood was literally my brother's lifeline.

To not give is simply selfish! To not give because you're scared of needles or some other rubbish is simply pathetic!

Ask yourself one question. When I'm sick or hurt and need blood, who's going to give it to me?






Miles 4 Smiles Assembly

Dean had the privilege of attending the Miles 4 Smiles assembly at the boys school this morning.

We love how good the school is at getting involved in stuff but the way they get involved in this particular charity is quite amazing. Between the children in this picture they raised just over R34,000 (£3100) which will be used by Operation Smile for corrective surgery for children with cleft palates.

We're also very proud of our boys who both got certificates for their fundraising efforts.

See our previous posts on Miles 4 Smiles.

And The Winner Is...

A little while ago we posted about Book Week at the boys school.

Both boys loved dressing up and Eli  went as an Alien who Loves Underpants. He was particularly pleased with his costume, as he got to fulfill a bit of an ambition by wearing a pair of underpants on his head to school. What made it even better for him was the fact that the teachers loved it!

Well it truly paid off for Eli as he was presented with the prize for best book week costume in the junior school.

The World's Clean Again

So said Eli yesterday when he put on his very first pair of glasses! After 20 months of visits and tests and eye exercises it was finally agreed that Eli should start wearing glasses. Though he does need them all the time we are starting off with just TV, work on the whiteboard at school etc to get him used to wearing them and in the hope of preserving their life. Odds are already on on how long Eli will make a pair of glasses last!!

We remain so thankful to God for His healing work in Eli’s eyes. We have known for a long time that he has been experiencing sight difficulties but had not realised the extent until the first round of testing when he was just 3 years old. It was explained to us that not only does he quite serious myopia but he also had a stigmatism which meant that his retinas were shaped like rugby balls. The odds were truly stacked against him.

Flying Thing

I was fascinated by this bug in the garden this morning and managed to get this half decent snap of it with Paula's point & shoot camera.

I think it might be a hornet but am not too sure. Whatever it is I was surprised to see it out on a cold winter's morning.


Aunty Poppy

Not many people in life could ever come close to being a new mum - well Aunty Poppy is one such amazing lady!  We ask you all dear friends to please call out to God for the health of our wonderful friend.  She is currently in ICU at our local hospital having suffered a heart attack.  Paula had a precious 10 mins alone with her tonight before it seemed like half of Chris Nissen Park turned up to visit (!) - so popular and loved is this woman!!  Unfortunately, the nurse wasn't having it and we were all asked to move on!!

Apologies to Ben Witherington for plagiarising his blog post title about the pending judgement day.

So Harold Camping and his sect have come up with a convoluted mathematical formula to determine exactly when the day of judgement will be.

Book Week

Once again the boys's school demonstrated this week why we love it so much and appreciate the wholistic approach to education that they excel at! This week was the beloved annual book week! Everyday the school had come up with various activities for the children to join in and to grow in their love and appreciation of books and reading. For example, one day they were allowed to go to school in their pyjamas and had hot chocolate.

For the whole week they were given a 'reading buddy' from a higher year and every time the bell sounded they had to Drop Everything And Read (DEAR), grab their buddy and go for it - how cool is that! Each day there was a quotation competition for the kids to have a go at guessing and winning a prize (Joel was thrilled to win on Thursday when he guessed the quote from Charlotte's Web!) and they also ran an all-week photo competition with various staff and pupils hiding behind their favourite titles!