Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and a blessed New Year.

From all at The Gathering.

Joel At Busy Corner

Following Joel's school speech on homelessness and his challenge to his fellow learners to contribute deodorants for the homeless (See Local News), tonight was the night for Joel to go to Busy Corner and give them away.

Joel was thrilled to be able to give to those he's already met and it was great to know that they all had genuine needs. Some folk asked Joel if they could also take one for a friend or family member and Joel was very happy to let them.

It's been great for Joel to go on the streets regularly and to build relationships with some of the homeless folk and it definitely helps in identifying the genuinely needy. Our boy has such a big heart!

Happy Birthday Eli!

Our beautiful, crazy little boy turns 9 today!

Nine years ago our Christmas was totally turned upside down by his unexpected arrival and today our little world-changer is still having that effect!

Happy birthday Eli
XXX

Ghosts Of Christmas Past

Having posted a picture on Facebook of Joel topping off our Christmas tree with the angel we thought it might be fun to revisit the ceremony from years gone by. Joel was too young to participate in 2004 and Christmas 2005 was a bit of a blur what with Eli's planned arrival, delayed arrival and eventual arrival on the 21st. Also we're missing a pic from 2010 as we were in Blighty with family that year.

Local News

Recently our blog was criticised by some fools people who claimed that all we did on here was post snippets from the local press, so today we thought we'd post a snippet from the local press so they could feel justified in their smugness criticisms.

So here's a snippet from our local rag about Joel and his school appeal in which he encouraged his fellow learners to bring in deodorants for the homeless which he's planning to give out over Christmas.

So proud of you Joel!


Having launched The Gathering a few weeks ago we've wanted to spend time working on the DNA of church and what it means for us in our daily lives.

So last night we gathered for an amazing time of praise and worship and then we launched our Thankful Thursdays Challenge.

Ask for nothing, 
Give thanks for everything!


It's really very simple. We give Thursdays over to thanking God. No prayer requests, no shopping lists, none of the usual directing God through our prayers. We simply thank God!

Miss You Dad!

I miss my dad!

My dad died 30 years ago today when I was all of 18. He was only 55 but looked much older as he'd been battling MS for twelve years.

They say it gets easier over time but it doesn't. All you do is put your loved ones out of your mind as much as possible. The hole left in your heart after they depart is never really filled! 

 How many conversations do I wish I could have had with him. How much advice would I like to have asked of him. But more than anything, I wish he'd met Paula and my boys.

I don't have any decent pics of my dad but this is one of my favourites amongst the few that I do have. This was taken in 1953 whilst he was serving his National Service with the RAF at Biggin Hill.

Blessings!

I wasn't going to share this testimony but then I felt God speak to me on Sunday about not denying him, so here goes...

Almost two weeks ago we gave away one of our couches to some friends who were experiencing some difficulties. We had two couches and could survive on one so we were very happy to bless our friends. It was amusing when the boys got home from school and noticed the gap where the couch had been. Eli said in a sullen tone: "I suppose you gave it away.", we could see his little brain thinking about how much we could have sold it for.

We were quite happy with just the one couch but late last week we were blessed with a gift that allowed us to replace the couch. In fact, the gift was so generous and we were blessed with such a great deal that we were able to replace both couches and give our second couch away too.

God is awesome!

Vandalism!

Twenty three years ago today we'd gone for a quiet day out with some friends and family. The day started brilliantly in church followed by a slap up meal together but then to ruin it all some morons individuals (we know who you are!) vandalised our car.

You can't trust anyone!


I had the joy and privilege of going to Belville to pick Ziggy & Mercy up this morning after their eipc bus ride home from Harare. They set off on Tuesday!

It's great to have them back and we're grateful to our awesome God for making straight paths for them. They belong to us (Tree of Life) and we're delighted to have them home!

Despite having been gone for just a few weeks I had forgotten what it's like chatting to good friends who are grounded in scripture, they truly are a breath of fresh air.

10th Blogoversary

We're not sure how but somehow we missed the 10th birthday of our blog, though according to blogoversary.com the anniversary isn't for another 37 days!

We've been a bit lax with the blog over the last few years and we'll make no promise to be better at it because that would most likely be a lie. We do love the blog and enjoy it but sadly facebook has largely taken over.

10 years ago the blog was called Adventures With God and looked like the picture to the left. In July 2010 we relaunched the blog with a new look and the new name: Facing The Mountain. Maybe we need to freshen it up again?

Happy belated birthday Blog.

Eisteddfod

We are so proud of Joel who participated in the Helderberg Eisteddfod yesterday afternoon. He was awarded Gold for his poetry recital and Gold Plus for his prepared reading.

Truth be told Joel's a little disappointed in himself because it's the first year he's not got a Cum Laude, but the judge was very clear that the bar was set a lot higher this year and she was marking them accordingly.

Regardless, we're very very proud of Joel!

Next stop the Music Eisteddfod on Friday in which he'll be playing his own interpretation of Stairway To Heaven by Led Zep. He's going to be amazing!

The non-return valve has been fitted. Hooray!

In fairness, once the municipality had been convinced that our sewage problem was of their making they acted well and reasonably swiftly to install the valve.

Hopefully this will be the end of sanitary products etc. winding up in our garden when the storm drains burst and flood the sewers.

They remain perplexed as to why the sewers get filled by the storm drains overflowing but hopefully they'll be able to fix that problem too. For now I'm just happy to know that the risk of our home flooding has been dramatically reduced.

In South Africa we regularly use the expression "we'll make a plan" or "ons sal 'n plan maak" but up in Zimbabwe they actually do it! There's no talking about making a plan, just the reality of having to get on with it.

I loved every minute of being back in Zim, despite the constant power cuts, water shortages and shocking roads. I loved how the locals don't waste their time complaining and moaning about how bad it is but rather get on with life. I loved every minute of being back there because it made me realise just how much of my heart I left there when we were thrown out in 2003.

For most of our time in mission we've been involved in sowing seeds and rarely got to see the fruits of our labours. This is why I'm so thrilled by what I'm seeing in Zimbabwe.

This morning I went to River of Life Westgate, the church we were instrumental in planting back in 2002 with a team from River of Life Mount Pleasant.

Those were exciting times as we gathered at Westgate as a small team with a giant vision to see a church planted and a variety of social outreach projects established.

I arrived late for the English service so I got the sermon in English and stayed for the worship in Shona. I'd forgotten just how great Shona worship can be and Westgate was pumping this morning!

A Special Day

When asked how today went I simply replied: "Today was one of the happiest days of my life!"

Ever since we left Zimbabwe so abruptly in 2003 I've longed to return to see our many friends that we never got to say goodbye to.

So to be here for the wedding of our dear friends Ziggy & Mercy and to get to meet up with Linus, Emilia and Shepherd was a real privilege.

Emilia and Shepherd really put themselves at risk back in 2003 when they accompanied Paula to the immigration dept to argue our case for us. Their selflessness was truly remarkable and we will be forever grateful to them!
We heard on Sunday lunchtime that our 'dad' had died. Uncle Paul was a giant in the faith and a man we had grown to love very dearly.

I never had the privilege of meeting Nelson Mandela, but I did have the awesome privilege of knowing Uncle Paul and I now treasure the few occasions I got to sit with him and listen to his stories about his life and growing up in this amazing but divided country.

Today I look back on those special times with this amazing man of God and I'm humbled to have known him and I count it a pure privilege to have had him speak into my life. I will always be grateful for his wisdom!

Macassar Protests

Recently I posted "Love Your Neighbour?" about some evictions in a local township and our attitudes surrounding the whole debacle.

Well for the folks in Macassar the issues just got very real and tensions will only rise in the coming months.

SANRAL (South African National Roads Agency Limited) had obtained a court order to remove squatters from some land in Lwandle but they had no plan in place as to what to do with those displaced by this action. Initially the displaced moved into a community hall and then in a very short sighted move by SANRAL the people were moved to a site in Blackheath which they also owned. This lead to an immediate and angry response from locals there who have also been waiting a long time for housing, so the people were moved back to the community hall where they remain.




We're all ready for the World Cup.

How about you?


The Cotton Picker Eli

We had the privilege of attending the school's Music Café even this morning in which Eli was performing his first ever piano recital. We're very proud of he's doing given that he only started learning in January.


This picture looks like a scene from the dark days of the apartheid era, but sadly it's not. This was taken yesterday right here in the Helderberg Basin as some squatters were evicted from private land.

The tragedy is that the private land is owned by SANRAL (South African National Roads Agency Limited) which is in fact a govt owned public company) and so the govt and law enforcement agencies refuse to get involved hiding behind civil law and neglecting their duties. The cycnic in me also wonders why these evictions didn't take place before the recent elections, but that's a whole other debate.

Special Times!

Some of my highlights of being a dad have to be sharing a love of quality rock music with my boys, teaching them to ride their bikes and with Eli, teaching him to ride a unicycle.

Today my joy went a bit further with my boyjie as we went unicycling together on the road and then turned off to ride around the disused farm dam near our house.

Eli is super confident on his uni and to watch him riding in front of me is pure joy! Unicycling with Eli is my happy place.

Enjoy the video below of Eli riding.

Happy Birthday Sunshine!

Happy Birthday to our amazing 11 year old!

It's scary to think about how quickly the years slip by but it's definitely a privilege and a joy to be your parents and we're enjoying every minute of it.

You are our sunshine!


Book Week

It's Book Week at the International School again and once again Joel has gone dressed brilliantly and is very excited to see how all his friends have chosen to dress too.

Joel chose to go as Mr Stink from the book of the same name by David Walliams. We had so much fun making him and his clothes dirty, cutting his shoes open and generally just making it up as we went along.

The biggest problem we had was finding rabbit droppings that Joel could use as ear plugs.

David Walliams has definitely been a big hit in our house having helped Joel to a few Cum Laude at Eisteddfod and now helping with Book Week.

Read more about World Book Day here.

Miles 4 Smiles Assembly

Paula posted this on Facebook but it totally deserves a blog post.

Totally inspirational special school assembly at Helderberg International School led by Braam Malherbe to motivate the students to raise all they can at their Operation Smile sponsored event next week.

Braam is an ordinary guy who has done extraordinary things simply because he believes he can and that anything is possible. He has run the Great Wall of China for Operation Smile, which no-one had done before or has done since and even his team nutritionist Dr Tim Noakes, said it could not be done. That was the equivalent of running a marathon 6 days a week for 100 days!

Good Shot

Amongst the many blessings we've received over the last couple of months it would be rude not to mention the photo shoot we had at home.

One of our church members is doing a photography degree and for one of his assignments he asked if he could photograph us in the garden.

We were well chuffed to be asked and well pleased with the results!

You can see more of Chadlee's photos and designs on his blog.


2014 has been the best start to a year that I can ever remember.

That's not to say it's been perfect or without it's issues and problems, there have been plenty of those. No, it's been the best start ever because when I step back and look at the bigger picture so many amazing and wonderful things have happened that I feel incredibly blessed.

This is also part of the reason why the blog has been so quiet through January & February. It's not that there wasn't anything happening but rather, I just didn't know how to write about it all. However, I've had some inspiration now, so you can decide whether or not it's divine inspiration.

There have been a few stand out events that on the surface of it might look like the highlights so far. Two of these have to be taking Joel to see Bruce Springsteen live and another would most definitely be seeing Santana live just a few nights ago.

However, there has been so much more than that going on.

Eli has just counted our haul of granadilla's from the last few days and the tally stands at 145.

The dining room smells divine!

Anyone got any granadilla recipes?



After a couple of false starts the man from the municipality finally came to inspect the sewer pipe and concluded that they need to install a non-return valve on the streetside of the property. Sadly due to the extensive damage done by the floods last year the emergency budget is exhausted so he could give me no idea of when they will get around to doing the work.

Still, we've had a man out to inspect it and that alone feels like progress.
Finally after two years of trying to get this issue sorted we've managed to get in touch with our local councillor who put us in touch with the right person at the municipality and they are coming to inspect our sewerage pipe on Friday morning.

During the flooding late last year and the usual heavy rains of 2012 & '13 we had the delight of sewage bubbling up in our bathroom. I was able to release the screws from the inspection cover very quickly which stopped the flow into the bathroom, directing it into the garden instead, leading to the discovery of all manner of unpleasant items in the garden.

New School Year

This morning saw the boys returning to school to commence Years 6 and 4 respectively and they do so with huge faith, hope and confidence. The holidays for them have been a time not only to rest and relax but also to do some thinking about this big year. We were quite surprised to find that both had set themselves goals for the year and for the first time ever both boys were looking forward to the return to school, albeit it for different reasons!

Delia I Am Not!

Having read my mate Hazel's Christmas 2013 blog post I was inspired and encouraged to confess to my own shortcomings in the Christmas cake department.

Like Hazel I made two cakes, one came out very well (see left) and once it was iced etc. it went down a storm.

Sadly that's not the whole story though...

My second cake turned out to have a few flaws, not least of which was its height. Just as Hazel struggled to find any real help for real world problems so I failed to find any advice or warnings about the best height for a Christmas cake. In fairness I was limited by the available cake tins, we only have two. No worries, I pressed on.

New Year's Day

I've not blogged about Palace for a long time so you'll have to excuse this post.  Though in reality it's not entirely about Palace.

It's exactly six years since I've been to a Palace game (see Palace Result - With A Difference) but what an occassion it was. I got to take Joel to his first ever match and he absolutely loved it! As a dad and a Palace fan it made for a very special afternoon for me and one I'll never forget

So what triggered the memory?  Well six years ago Palace played Norwich at home and this afternoon we have a repeat of the fixture, though sadly we have no repeat of our attendance.