Birthday Boy

Here's wishing our baby a very happy 11th birthday.

When Paula first met him in Bloemfontein hospital at a mere 12 hours old he was simply labelled "Baby number 9".

This total world-changer, Eli (the Lord is my God) Thomas Finnie, is destined by the King of Kings to bring light and life to all he comes into contact with. This unique, highly slightly off the wall, loving, funny young man is going to bring together people of all different ages and cultures.

You go my boy, we cheer you on and we love you and all that you bring into our family!

Christmas Soup Kitchen

Last night we had our Christmas Soup Kitchen at The Gathering and it was an incredibly fun and blessed time. It was great too that a few more of our members were able to be there and join in the blessing of our regulars.

Big THANKS go to the high school students & teachers at the International School of Helderberg for providing the shoe-boxes and to Pizza Cafe for the pizzas. The kids were thrilled with their presents and everyone enjoyed the pizzas.



We were thrilled to welcome Mark from Green Shoots to The Gathering on Wednesday night to give a presentation on their Maths@Home project which we will be running from January.

This followed an excellent evening last Wednesday of visiting the homes of many kids who attend our weekly Soup Kitchen. The response from their families was brilliant and that was reflected in the turnout for last night.

Blessings

We had the privilege of visiting our beloved HOPE Home Based Care ladies this morning and were able to bless them with small gifts thanks to the generosity of some special friends in Blighty.


It blesses us so much to be able to love on the ladies in this way and to hear their grateful hearts as they pray and give thanks to God for you.  This is true partnership.

Thank you to those that made this possible!

Shoeboxes

Today was a great day for The Gathering and our boys school; the International School of Helderberg, as the High School have been putting shoeboxes together for the children that attend our weekly soup kitchen.

Here we're receiving the first few boxes, we'll get the rest of them tomorrow and we can't wait to give them away next week when we bless our soup kitchen regulars with pizza too.

Joel and Eli are also thrilled because school finished for the year today. Hooray!

Besties


Joel & Nicholas,
best friends since forever
(2006 to be precise).

2011 v 2016


These two are super
chuffed to have finished
their exams today.

Well done lads!








Green Belt

We are super proud of Eli getting his Green Belt in Karate tonight. He's worked really hard over the last few months and it was great to see how much effort he put in to it..

Kancho Terry Lynn said she was hugely proud of him, that there has been a vast and marked improvement in his technique and attitude and she had no hesitation in awarding him the belt.

During the grading Eli volunteered to do a solo Bo Kata and pulled it off with aplomb, we're proud of you sunshine!

Grey Water

We've taken a big step forward in recent days in terms of harvesting as much of our grey water as possible.

The first picture shows the attachment for taking water from our bathroom to the garden, it's just waiting for the hose to be connected.

The pics below are of our slightly Heath-Robinson method of harvesting the water from our washing machine and dishwasher.

Our weekly soup kitchen was brightened up no end last week by these cheeky little chappies who brought their own table and chairs so they could enjoy their soup in a civilized and comfortable manner.

Joel and I couldn't stop laughing at the way the older girl kept bossing organising the other kids.

It's great to know that they feel comfortable enough to do this.

This is the South African Post Office's latest offering of local stamps and I have to say they are very nice.

They're also quite educational given that I only knew of and seen three of these species of kingfisher.

"History repeats itself

Has to

No one listens."

Steve Turner, Poet.

So what has this picture on the right got to do with Trump winning the US presidential race?

Quite simply, the picture on the right reflected the pollsters and moralisers view during the Brexit campaign that it was too tight to call, but the Remain camp would win just as Hillary would last night. 

Whoops!
We posted earlier on Facebook about Linden, one of our church members who was stabbed late last night. We now know that he was stabbed three times, twice in the shoulder and once in the neck which severed the femoral artery.Linden is currently in ICU and is being operated on at some point this afternoon.

Sadly this incident has been brewing for a while because the family live next door to an illegal shebeen that started operating about a year ago. The family have tried many times to have the shebeen closed but without success, despite it being there illegally!

Last night at gone midnight Linden asked the few stragglers at the shebeen to leave because he had to be up for work at 4am this morning. All we know after this is that a few of the stragglers rounded on him and stabbed him.


This reminds me of some of our Roadshow visits down the years.

One of the best was on the Wirral many moons ago. We had been clear with the church as to what we needed tech wise, back then it was as simple as an overhead projector, and the church had promised all would be fine. On the day there was no OHP so we had to pass our acetates around the congregation whilst we spoke. Priceless!

On another not so distant Roadshow, we were in a church where the vicar (an ardent Mac fan) decided to overrule the tech guy and interfere with the PC and our PowerPoint. Needless to say it didn't go well. 😂

We had a great evening on Tuesday night as The Gathering hosted a marriage enrichment evening using Mark Gungor's Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage.

We served pizza and cool drinks with the video and settled back for a lot of laughs and some brilliant teaching.

We've been wanting to do this for a while but getting all of our couples together has been virtually impossible, so we went ahead with most of us there and we're so glad that we did.

Thankfully tablets have moved on a bit since Moses' time. So today is a very exciting day as we took delivery of our first six tablets ready for our Homework Club starting in January.

With Precious confirming that she wants to be our facilitator it's all feeling very real and very exciting.

South Africa's drought just got a whole lot more serious for those of us down in the Western Cape with Level 3 water restrictions coming into force as of today.

This means we have to make a minimum of 30% savings on our water consumption and for those that fail the financial cost will be quite big because all tariffs are increasing from the 1st of December.

Our consumption is so low already, thanks to the measures we've put in place, that making a 30% saving is just about impossible, but it does mean that other than using grey water we won't be watering the garden this year. It will be interesting to see how the garden looks next June!


Being part of the Hillsong Network is a great blessing to us and we love joining Hillsong for mornings like this one yesterday.

It was such a blessing to hear Jentezen Franklin speaking a very simple but powerful message about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and the fact that he did it so as to avoid causing Judas any shame or embarrassment. That's grace in action and the total opposite of religion.

Lee Burns's analogy of leaders being like bus drivers was also poignant. He made the point that the bus driver doesn't cry when folk get off, rather he's happy because it makes room for others to get on board. Love it!

This morning we had the privilege of speaking at Joel's high school assembly about The Gathering's Soup Kitchen.

Paula put a proposal to the school about them getting involved in our Christmas outreach by providing pizza for everyone at the kitchen and gift boxes for the children that attend.

The school have responded brilliantly and after Paula spoke so well (with the PowerPoint slides) at the assembly this morning, the Student Council are meeting later today to sort out exactly how the students will respond.

Homework Club

Hot on the heels of gaining our NPO registration we've had a great morning meeting with Green Shoots to talk about and plan for our Homework Club starting in the new school year in January. We'll be using their Maths@Home programme which is very exciting.

We're clear on our hardware needs and hope to have this all sorted in the next couple of weeks, we've got our internet connection sorted, so now we need to identify our facilitator, get some training in place and sort a few policy and admin procedures.

In the next few weeks we'll also start identifying which of the kids that come to our weekly Soup Kitchen will be best served by joining the Homework Club and then we'll be ready to rock n' roll in January. 

Please do join us in praying for God's provision in every way.

Thank you LORD!

As of today, The Gathering is a registered NPO (Non Profit Organisation) here in South Africa.

This is a massive answer to prayer, thank you for standing with us in praying for this.

Thank you LORD!



Café Church

When I arrived at The Gathering's premises on Thursday afternoon I was feeling fine, but when we left at 6:45 after our soup kitchen had finished I was limping quite badly on my right leg. I have no idea what happened to my leg or why it started hurting, but it was very painful.

On Friday morning my leg was feeling OK again and I gave it no further thought until the afternoon when the pain was back with a vengeance. The pain was like an electric shock running down my leg but deep inside the leg. That night I couldn't sleep at all, so in the morning Paula took me to see a GP. The Dr was mystified, especially when she touched my thigh and saw it spasm. So after a big injection of anti-inflammatory pain relief I felt a bit better and was a bit more mobile. However the drugs were simply masking the pain.

Finally, after months of waiting, frustration and endless emails I've managed to resubmit The Gathering's Not for Profit Organisation (NPO) application.

Our previous application was knocked back but no one at the Department for Social Development thought to tell us why!

So, this time we've used their template for our Constitution (so if they knock it back again I'll be apoplectic annoyed). We also have more than the minimum number of required Officers in the organisation, so it's looking hopeful this time.

According to the website the application should take 28 days, yeah right so we wait with baited breath...

Surprise!


My Saturday began like any other regular Saturday, I'd taken Eli to football practice and after that I was expecting to have a nice quiet breakfast with Paula and my boys.  However, Paula's scheming knows no bounds and I was blissfully unaware of just what she had planned!

As Joel & I arrived at Fred & Max I noticed a lot of cars in the car park but just assumed it was a typically busy Saturday, and there's a gym above the coffee shop so that explained things. However as I approached the venue I saw a few balloons through the window and as I entered I was gobsmacked to see so many people. It took a few moments to realise that they were all there for my 50th!

I didn't think I was that gullible but I guess I'll have to work on paying more attention to what's going on around me!

To The Gathering With Love


Whilst on our recent FTM Roadshow Tour in Blighty we asked if a few friends and supporters would mind to speak to our folk back at The Gathering.

This is the result and it was greatly appreciated by all at The Gathering!

Awesome Sunday

What an awesome time in God's presence at The Gathering this morning!

Paula & I had just got back from holiday so we'd asked our friends Flynn & Sally from Word Of Life to minster to The Gathering and we're incredibly grateful for their faithfulness.

We were blessed because they've just returned from a missions trip to Istanbul and we received the overflow of the blessing they had received on their trip.

We began by reading Psalm 111 and our worship flowed out of the psalm into a phenomenal time in the presence of the Holy Spirit with words and prophecies flowing.

God's awesome grace never fails to astonish us!

Happy 50th

I've always had a fear that one day someone is going to realise I shouldn't be where I am doing the things I am, but I also feel that until they catch up with me I might as well carry on and see what I can get away with.

Part of my plan has been to put this meme into action and I think I might just have pulled it off, but don't tell anyone.

Sadly however, I think JM Barrie was right when he said "All children, except one, grow up". So  this is a big year for me as I turn 50 and have been married for 25 years, and if turning 50 isn't proof of growing up then being married for 25 years definitely is.

Happy Days

The corruption of our boys is almost complete as Dean's plan for them to have as misspent a youth as his slowly comes to fruition.

We've had some fun evenings and some great meals out but tonight at The Hungry Monk was fantastic.

We're having a great time away and as ever we're having a lot of fun in Greyton, our happy place!


I was stood outside The Gathering's premises recently when this rather nice Bentley pulled in to the service station for fuel. Like everyone else, I stood and admired such a beautiful car but then I stood back and watched the bigger picture unfold.

But first, a bit of context...in South Africa it is against the law to serve yourself at a fuel station, you must be served by one of the attendants. It's a nice touch and the attendants normally go beyond their basic duty and clean your windows and offer to check your oil and water, invariably this leads to a nice tip for the attendants.

Slideshow


We put this short slideshow together for our Renewal of Vows service at St. George's back in July.

The photos start back in 1985 when we started dating and go right through to this year.

We hope you enjoy it.

Silver Wedding Anniversary

We seem to have been celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary for a while now, but then again, why not?! It's quite a milestone and one the world would like to have bet against. We often laugh about the fact that someone (who shall remain nameless) gave us six months when we announced our engagement. 24½ years later we hope they feel differently.

In many respects we always believed we would hit this milestone and carry on way past it, but in other respects we're more than amazed that we've gone the distance so far.

To say that we'd have gotten this far without our faith would be foolish, all honour must go to our Lord for sustaining us!

So we've renewed our vows in St. George's, the church we were married in all those years ago. We've been to Paris for a week to celebrate on our own in style and now we're enjoying some special time at home with our boys, who think we're ancient because none of their friends' parents have been married for anywhere near as long. Oh the joys of being older parents!
Here's a thought for all my church leader friends...

At your next leaders or elders meeting, forget the business side of things and rather, give each person a mop, broom, duster etc. and get stuck into cleaning the premises.

If any of your leaders complain or refuse to get stuck in remove them from the leadership team.

You'll be doing yourself and the church a huge favour!

Paris

We've never done this before but thought it would be good to share our September prayerletter on the blog. We hope you enjoy it...

We can’t quite believe that we’re writing this having just celebrated our Silver Anniversary in Paris. We’re feeling incredibly blessed and privileged to have been able to celebrate in such spectacular fashion!

However, there is a story and testimony behind this which we want to share... We had been planning this for a few years but were never sure it would actually happen, especially knowing how much the whole thing was likely to cost, but earlier this year we decided to step out in faith and book our plane tickets for Paris. This was a big *GULP* moment for us because it really was a step of faith and we knew the credit card bill wouldn’t be too far away. However, we believe that 2016 is a year of blessing and within a short space of time we had been blessed with some gifts which meant we could breathe out and pursue our anniversary plans to the full.
This morning it was Paula's turn to share the word and minister to The Gathering and what a great job she did!

Paula spoke about the River of God using Ezekiel 47:1-12 as her main text. We all felt like we'd been served up a full banquet as she faithfully expounded the Word and opened up the simple mystery for us.

I particularly loved the point about salt water becoming fresh water, something that is impossible for man but effortless for God.

The word was followed by a powerful time of ministry which picked up on the word and a prophecy shared earlier in our gathering.

God was clearly moving and speaking to us as a church and we're thankful for his presence!

2016 has been a great year so far, and to be honest it just keeps on getting better and better!

It was prophesied in The Gathering early in 2016 that this year would be a "year of blessings" and this has certainly been our experience and we're deeply grateful to God for the blessings poured out in our lives.

Today marks another major blessing for me as I've been married for exactly half my life today.

I was 24 years and 347 days old when I had the immense privilege of marrying Paula and today is 24 years and 347 days since then.


Man I am seriously blessed!

Happy Place

It's great to be back in my happy place making soup on a Thursday morning for our Soup Kitchen later this evening.

Today's soup is a butternut, carrot, tomato and beef sausage offering and so far it's tasting delicious, even if I say so myself.

We've been blessed by a family who have been providing the soup for the last few months and we're thankful for the blessing that they were. However, we felt it was time to take control again and reclaim the Soup Kitchen as an outreach of The Gathering.

I hadn't realised just how much I had missed making the soup until today!

As we approach our Silver Wedding Anniversary next month I'm going to post some thoughts, reflections and anecdotes about marriage...

Back in the day when I was still a practicing social worker for the local government in Blighty, it was deemed politically incorrect to refer to one's wife or husband as wife or husband. Rather, we were encouraged to be more inclusive and refer to our wife or husband as our partner.

Maybe the PC loonies happy calling their spouse their partner but I'm not. In fact I'm as far from happy with this PC nonsense as I am from the moon!

Let me explain...
A while ago I posted about my Greatest Joy in ministry which is quite simply releasing others into ministry.

This morning at The Gathering we had the utter joy and privilege of hearing Errol preach for the first time. Errol was excellent. He'd been incredibly dilligent in his preparation, he'd spent ages reading the scriptures and delving into commentaries and he dealt with a "curved ball" (to quote Errol) with aplomb.

Errol recently graduated from college with a law degree (LL.B) so he's more than capable of doing the necessary research, and then seeing an argument/point through to its logical conclusion and we weren't disappointed this morning at The Gathering!

Also on Saturday Linda was sharing testimony at a women's event organised by a local counselling service as part of their Women's Month Celebrations. It was a great joy to release Linda into this and we just know that she was a genuine blessing to some very hurting women.
I know little of American politics and if I'm honest I have little interest.

However, in Donal Trump I find myself unusually drawn to the pending US Presidential Elections, if only because he's actually quite entertaining, albeit in the same way that the 1974 film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is.

As I was reading some stuff about Trump I came across an article by Graydon Carter in Vanity Fair about an epithet he bestowed upon Trump some 25 years ago in Spy Magazine. Back then he called trump a "short fingered vulgarian", which in itself is quite amusing if not a little rude.

Soup Kitchen

There was such a happy vibe at our soup kitchen last night. Maybe it was because Paula got to join us for a change, though I suspect that it was because it felt like a warm Spring evening which just encouraged guys to hang around a bit longer and chill together.

Either way it made for a pleasant and fun evening serving our regular friends.

The soup went down a storm and everyone left sated and very happy.

Thank you for the blessings Lord!

Yesterday we had the privilege of attending the Hillsong Leadership Network Open House. We always find these times very inspiring and uplifting. In fact, they're so full and packed that to quote Steve Penny (yesterday's speaker) we just feel the need to "sneak off to our cave" afterwards to digest all that was said.

We really value the input and support we receive from Hillsong, we know some local churches are threatened by them but their fear is baseless. How can anyone be threatened by a church that uses the tagline: "Championing you & your local church"?!?

Baby Saver

On our recent Roadshow trip to Blighty we showed a couple of pictures of the Helderberg Baby Saver but we didn't get a chance to explain exactly what it is or why it's needed in the community.

The Baby Saver is on the side of Choices, a crisis pregnancy counselling service run by the local churches in the Helderberg. The Baby Saver itself is on the side of the building, away from any CCTV or other forms of surveillance, so mothers that need to give their babies away can do so anonymously.

Greatest Joy

On our travels we often meet folk who try to assume a role of authority over us or speak in to our lives, as if somehow they have a right to, when the reality is they simply don't. Not only do they not have that right, but most simply don't have a clue as to what it is they're actually trying to do, even if they are well meaning.

However, every once in a while you get to meet someone who truly is a mentor and truly does have the skill of asking the right questions in the right way and of drawing out the best in you.

We had the privilege of spending time in the UK with Paul, one of Paula's former bosses. He now runs a mentoring network and is in the process of establishing a brilliant ministry called Chapel House.

Anyway, in the midst of our precious time with Paul & Jane, Paul asked a very simple question: "What is your greatest joy in your ministry?"
The main reason for our trips back to Blighty every three years is to feedback to our supporters and churches and to try and drum up some fresh support. Over the years people drop off for a number of reasons and as such it's hard work maintaining the momentum in encouraging folk to partner with us financially.

Aside from giving tax efficiently via Stewardship, we've now set up two very simple ways in which you can partner with us. Both options are via PayPal, the first allows you to simply donate using any credit or debit card, the second one requires a PayPal account.

Petition

Recently I started a petition on the UK Government's petition website.

At first glance it may appear to have an anti South African stance about it, but it really doesn't. Saly, I was limited to a certain number of characters and after several attempts this was the best I could come up with.

This isn't anti South Africa or South Africans, far from it. What it is about is stopping what I feel is a gross injustice. After 12 years in this beautiful land and despite having permanent residency and a cinstitutional right to remain in South Africa, I am still prohibited from voting in any elections. However, any South African who lives in the UK can vote in all UK elections providing they meet the residency criteria and have registered to vote. This is not fair! With no reciprocal agreement allowing Brits to vote in SA then South Africans should be prohibited from voting in the UK.

Testimony Sunday


Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story
(Psalm 107:2)

Wow, nothing warms a Pastor's heart more than seeing their flock growing in Christ, hungry for more of the Holy Spirit and stepping out in faith, sharing their often deeply moving stories of how God is at work and has been at work in their lives.

This morning at The Gathering we gave our gathering over to testimony. We like to do this a few times throughout the year because it's good to hear what the Lord is doing in each other's lives.

It was such a beautiful and powerful time as we gave witness to God's awesome power in lives, going back years for some and just days for others. We are left in no uncertainty that God's grace is unending & for everyone, and that there is absolutely no need to stay and wallow in your circumstances, no matter how bad they are, God has a perfect plan and a purpose for our lives and He will fulfil it!
Dear Mark Carney,
I'm sure you're a very nice man but would you please just stop talking for a while.
Every time you speak you run the UK down a little bit more and the Pound takes a tumble.
Please just stop talking!
Yours sincerely
Dean

So here we are less than two months on from the Brexit vote and reality, like Suarez's teeth, is beginning to sink in. The Bank of England is in panic mode because of all the uncertainty (despite the fact that everyone else faces the same uncertainty but just gets on with life) and has cut UK interest rates to a record low of 0.25%. This in itself isn't too bad, but what really doesn't help is that Mr Carney then paints such a gloomy picture of the UK that investors panic and the Pound tumbles.

Voting Day

Today is Voting Day in South Africa as the country goes to the polls to vote in the Municipal elections.

For me it's a day that gets me quite angry given that I've lived here for 12 years, am a Permanent Resident with a constitutional right to remain in the country and yet I can't vote.

What gets me even more is the fact that any South African (qualifying Commonwealth citizen) living in the UK who meets the residency criteria (resident for three months or more) and is registered can vote in UK elections. Why there is no reciprocal agreement is beyond me!

All I get from today is an extra public holiday. Guess I shouldn't grumble too much.

The last 24 hours or so have been horribly wet and cold but mornings like this make it worth it.

I took this earlier this morning whilst walking Rosie in our local park.

Sadly despite all the rain of the last couple of weeks our dams are still desperately low and we need some serious downpours before summer begins.

The image below shows that most of our dams are around 40% full which is desperate for the time of year. If the dams aren't at at least 70% by October we're in trouble this summer.

Family Therapy

One of our better purchases in Blighty was the classic Pie Face game and today we managed to get some squirty cream and play.

Watch the video below and decide for yourself how much fun this game is.  All we can say is this was a great family therapy session and can't recommend it highly enough!
We were a little bit early when we renewed our vows two Sundays ago, our Silver Anniversary isn't until the 14th of September, but the opportunity was too good to miss what with us being back in St. George's for our last Sunday.

We had a great morning and must thank St. George's and the Rev Mandy Carr for allowing us to hijack the bulk of the morning service to do this!

It was also a great privilege to celebrate with some truly special friends, we know many couldn't make it and we missed you, but we're thankful to those of you who were able to join us. 

I had the privilege of speaking for a few minutes and I did say that we should really call this "a celebration of Paula's madness" having put up with me for 25 years.
Such is the modern world that I'm sat here at over 10,000 metres up in the sky and a little over 3,000kms from home but still able to access the internet via on board wifi.  I wrote that on the plane and then fell asleep and forgot to post it, so here is the blog post I wrote...

Well our long anticipated and planned for trip is over, we're just a few hours from being back home and it's been good to spend a few hours reflecting on the last five weeks.

The biggest joys of returning to Blighty are always seeing family again and reconnecting with many friends around the country. Besides spending time with family in Sevenoaks were in Cheadle, Sheffield (with a sneaky night away in Eyam), Worcester, Abingdon and Wimbledon and it all felt like a bit of a whirlwind. Many of you asked if we could pop in and see you but sadly time didn't allow, but hopefully you might make it out to stunning Cape Town and we can meet up then.