The title says it all, The Gathering's Soup Kitchen is a dirty, scruffy ministry which demands one gets one's hands dirty, and after running for nearly three years, and getting to know so many regulars, it's impossible not to get one's hands dirty, and do you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way!

Thursdays are brilliant (and even better in term time when our Homework Club is running).  I spend most of the morning making the soup and then in the afternoon I get to prepare the venue and then serve the soup (normally with help from Joel and one or two church members), whilst Errol provides a semblance of order outside and encourages passers-by to partake.  He's a natural evangelist.

It's very easy to look at The Gathering's Soup Kitchen and think what a nice piece of work it is without fully appreciating just how serious a need it fulfils.  It's also easy to look at the pics of the many kids that regularly come and think how cute they look, but again it's all too easy to miss just how serious the need in the community is for The Gathering's Soup Kitchen.

Homework Club

Thursday saw our last two Homework Club sessions of 2017 and each of our kids have done themselves proud.

We've had some great feedback from some of their families and hearing how certain kids have increased their maths grades from 1s to 5s and above is fantastic.

Also learning that none of our kids are repeating the year is also great news, especially for one young lad who has been stuck in Gr4 for three years!
We had so much fun at The Gathering's end of year party for our Maths@Home Homework club on Friday.

22 kids were eager to get in with a few siblings and friends trying to slip in too, but we managed to contain the numbers.

We played the old classic Fly-Swat Hockey  followed by Pie Face, which was interesting and hysterical in equal measure as 22 kids were desperate for their turn. Using the spinner was pointless because they all wanted to be splatted with cream which made for quality entertainment!

Pray For Zim

We had the privilege of calling Zimbabwe home for almost three years from 2000 to 2003 and still to this day carry a torch for the nation. Zimbabwe is quite simply the most beautiful country we’ve ever been to. Zimbos are the warmest and friendliest people you will ever meet and visitors are always bowled over by the reception they receive.

Sadly though, all has not been well in the former ‘bread basket of Africa’ and since 1999 has been the basket case of Africa, and that can be attributed to one man and his colossal ego.

Mugabe was once a genuine liberation hero, but that crown slipped a long time ago and he’s nothing more than a despot.

So what’s happening today in Zim?

We are super proud of our four learners who all got 100% in the latest Maths@Home competition.

When each of them saw their names on the login page they were thrilled and excited for what they had achieved, and rightly so.

A lot of credit goes to Precious, our facilitator, she's great with the kids and they love her.

Stay tuned too for a big anouncement about our Homework Club for next year as it grows and changes. We're really excited about what's happening!

Soup For All

The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen is definitely the highlight of my week, from cooking the soup in the morning, to serving it in the evening and clearing up afterwards, it's pure joy to be able to serve our community.

It's also a joy to see our venue take on a real world practical use as it's packed to the brim with locals wanting soup and sandwiches.

Each week there's a lovely vibe as many regulars, and usually a few newbies, wait patiently to be served. Our regulars always make sure that the kids get theirs first and they always encourage any newbies to go to the front of the queue before anyone gets any seconds.

Tekkie Walk

Last night The Gathering was invited to join with the United Reformed Church in Firgrove as they held a Prayer Walk around the community.

The walk was brilliantly organised with one person being given a ribbon (for each stop sign) and the responsibility of praying for whichever topic they had been given. Then before moving on to the next street, they tied the ribbon to the stop sign.

I was given the topic of children and prayed for 3rd Street where The Gathering is. It was a great privilege, and the topic of children was very pertinent given that almost every kid in the community passes along 3rd St at some point each day, and we also host our Homework Club there.

It was also a huge blessing to realise that there were about six churches represented ranging from the URC to Methodists, Moravians and non-denominationals.  There is strength in unity, and it's great to be standing and working with other churches in Firgrove.

It’s Thursday so in social media terms that means I must be about to post my obligatory weekly pic on Instagram, which then automatically re-posts said picture on Facebook and Twitter. However, this week I’m posting the inevitable photo right here on our oft neglected blog.

This is a pic of the five (yes five!) pans The Gathering owns. Currently we’re just using the big one on the right, it’s quite large and holds 50 litres which means we can serve 200 cups of soup.

Holiday

It was pure joy to once again go to Greyton for our annual holiday. This is the seventh year we've managed it, and our souls feel refreshed for having soaked up so much fresh air, good food and great family time.

Our holiday is precious time, not least because we get so little of it out here. Dean has posted on this before, but in Blighty we used to enjoy 5 weeks of annual leave, now we don't even manage a full fortnight.

Still, it's always great to grab whatever time we can to reconnect and recharge our batteries, especially as the boys go into their biggest term of the school year.  All prayers gratefully received as exams loom for them both.

For our Silver Wedding Anniversary last year I wanted to give Paula a gift that would last but also one that had a cost, not a financial cost, but a personal one. So, starting on our anniversary last year I gave Paula the gift of letters. No, I didn't give her the alphabet, though it would have been cheaper, easier and a whole lot quicker. No, what it actually meant was that I committed to writing to her every day for a year, sending her a letter or a card.  Some letters would be posted, some I would hand to her and others were left somewhere for her to find. I know I missed a few days but looking at the little mountain of letters and cards I know did my best. But more importantly, it was a huge blessing to me and a great lesson, but more on that in a bit...

I have to say it was a lot of fun. It was great to rekindle the letter writing skill (we used to write to each other constantly before we got married), especially in this age of connectivity and constant social media interactions when pens are rarely required. The whole experience was enjoyable and the highlight was intentionally setting aside a few minutes each day to write a letter or card. It meant that for a few precious minutes all I had to do was think about Paula and what I wanted to say to her.
Those were treasured moments!

Before & After

We're thrilled to finally see The Gathering's new kitchen completed and ready for service.

It's been quite a journey getting to this point but we're thankful for all the blessings that made this possible, and to our guys at The Gathering who worked so hard to prepare the space ready for the installation. I also enjoyed sorting the plumbing and electrics, it felt like old times doing that stuff again.

We still have a bit of painting to do and one more cupboard to install but beyond that the kitchen is already being put to good use as we provide refreshments to our Homework Club kids, and it'll be great to do some Soup Kitchen prep in a decent useable space.

Since The Gathering moved in to the heart of Firgrove our Soup Kitchen has steadily grown each week to the point that it's a real squeeze inside as everyone tries to find a seat.

This week the queue for soup went out the door and didn't seem to end for the first twenty minutes and by 25 past six the soup had all gone which was pretty gobsmacking.

Given how busy we've been in the last few weeks we began with 70 cups set out ready to be served and in the end we served 94 people and about the same again in seconds and thirds. When we began our Soup Kitchen just over two years ago we never dreamt that we would be serving so many folk. In our first Soup Kitchen we served 13 people, 10 adults & 3 kids!

Secret Weapon

I'm feeling quite overwhelmed at present.

Since The Gathering moved into the heart of Firgrove our Soup Kitchen has been steadily growing, especially amongst the elderly who were too afraid to cross the busy R102, and who could blame them?!  So, over the last few weeks many new faces have become familiar faces as people feel much safer coming for soup within their own community.

Just like in recent Soup Kitchens, this week's  was very calm and also ran very smoothly, in part because folk know where we are and how it operates, but it was also in part thanks to our new secret weapon... a small measuring jug that is pretty much the same size as the cups we serve the soup in. It really sped up the serving process, especially when folk were coming for seconds, thirds and fourths.

Karma Chameleon

Until two days ago I had only ever seen one chameleon in the wild, or at least in my garden, then suddenly today I came across another little guy (maybe it's the same one) and decided to get some better shots of him.

This is a Cape Dwarf Chameleon indigenous only to the Western Cape and close to Table Mountain, though they have been found as far out as Agulhas.

Personally I'm thrilled to have this lttle guy in my garden and would love to see him again sometime.

It's been a funny old week.

It has been a week of small jobs and disjointed routine, but somehow in the midst of that it has also been quite satisfying. I'll explain the disjointed bit up top...Paula is now in Spain for some valuable time with her big Sis & family, she left on Wednesday and her penance for abandoning us was 34 hours of travelling 😂. So I'm attempting to impersonate Super Dad for a couple of weeks but I'm not very good at impersonations.

Flexibility

I was really struck by what one of The Gathering's members said recently about The Gathering's door always being open, because most people in this community are used to seeing churches being locked up and empty all week after Sunday apart from a brief spell on Wednesday evenings.

However, for me, I've been passionate for a long time now about church buildings being open and used on a daily basis. I also believe that the fact that church meets there on a Sunday should merely be the cherry on the icing.  Sadly so many seem to be empty from Monday to Saturday and for me I couldn't and wouldn't want to do church like that again.

All Is Calm

I'm still reeling from The Gathering's Soup Kitchen last night, it really was a joy to be there!

I had a sense that with the hideous cold and wet weather of late it would be a good night, but I had no inkling of just how good it would be.  We fed 77 people which is the most The Gathering has fed at any one time, but what really struck me as we were serving was the sense of peace and calm over the Soup Kitchen. That's not to say that it's usually crazy, it just isn't, but last night it was such a peaceful event and it felt good to be a part of it.

After Dark

The Gathering's Soup Kitchen was another great evening! It's always good to see so many of our regulars and today we welcomed back two who have just been released from prison, they were missed whilst they were away.

We also had a few of the locals who regularly hang around the laundrette and shop most days and it was good to serve them. There are some odd characters in there but having finally ventured in through our door they revealed themselves to be interesting and entertaining characters.

One older lady was very stoney faced and had spent quite a bit of time shouting at some of our regular kids to the point I was feeling a bit wound up by her, but thankfully once we'd overcome the language barrier I realised she was actually teasing them and having a real laugh with them which they also enjoyed.

Coming Home

Paula wrote this on Facebook and I'm not sure I can add much to it...

"What a spectacular morning at The Gathering's new home as we praise marched from the garage and entered our new building to celebrate Jesus as a family and with a few friends! The presence of God was so beautiful amongst us and God poured out His Holy Spirit as we worshipped. [We] loved Aunty Lenora's word for the church which was so confirming of all that God has been saying and doing amongst us already and so very encouraging as we look forward strategically! God gave her Psalm 72:1-5 for the Gathering, written by Solomon but said by David, looking forward to the endless reign of Christ! She felt that God was saying that the outcasts are His priority...the wounded and the marginalised, those thrown aside with no value in the world's eyes.The Lord is bringing in these days ahead higher levels of grace and mercy and love of people. This name "The Gathering", people will call it the "Gathering of Love". People will see this as a Haven of Love, they will flock here,I don't know how you will fit them all in...but God knows. Expect to see many promises come to pass in the season ahead, sudden advancements and lots of movement as God realigns you to operate at higher levels. Woohoo, the church is moving on!!"

Welcome Home


We put this short video together to show to The Gathering at our Welcome Home Celebration this morning. It's a brief look at the journey from identifying our new home to getting it ready for this morning's Gathering.

Well Done Lads!

Towards the end of The Gathering's Soup Kitchen on Thursday Jade & Jayden came rushing in with their mum to show us their school reports for the end of Term 2. They both got 7s for mathematics and a combination of 6s & 7s for everything else (7 is the equivalent of an English A).

They were understandably chuffed with themselves and their mum was over the moon! To think that Jade in particular had been written off by his teachers not so long ago. This makes our Homework Club so totally worth it! We're impacting an entire family who are learning that the church is a safe and fun place to be and in time we hope they'll get to meet Jesus too.
Last night was our soft opening for The Gathering as we held our first Soup Kitchen in our new home. It really did feel like we had come home and the buzz outside as we built up to serving at 6pm was great.

Once the Soup Kitchen began there was a lovely vibe and because most folk were able to sit in the same room as we were serving the soup  it led to a few conversations that previously we would have missed out on. Hopefully that side of things will grow and opportunities to minister will increase.

As an end of term treat Eli's school had iced a load of cookies and they went down a storm with young and old alike!

Just before we began serving, some local decided to become the police and started shouting at the kids because they were being a bit lively, though he soon got the message that we're not a religious bunch who demand silence. LOL!

It's nothing on the scale of Trump's ambitions, but it's still exciting and encouraging to see the wall going in in The Gathering's new home. One gets a sense of how much better our meeting space will be and how much space we have for our office, kitchen and kids venue. It will be a little squashed at the back but worth it.

Our meeting space has more than doubled from our previous venue and will comfortably hold at least 40 people. It will also be a flexible space for our Soup Kitchen and Homework Club, but hopefully for various other community outreaches we do over time.

Busy Week Done

Following on from my "Busy Week" post, the jobs that needed doing eventually got done, but this being Africa they just took a little longer than planned, but I'm very happy with how they turned out.

The glass tinting works a dream and offers us a degree of privacy which is essential for our Homework Club, but it doesn't completely shut the outside world out. It was also a fraction of the cost of blinds.

The electrics were sorted and simplified and now the lights all work and I no longer bang my head on the light in the toilet. Small mercies and all that...

Get A Life!

It's great to see Eli fully committed to his football. He's loving playing for De Beers AFC and has done incredibly well to become a mainstay of defence in the Under 12s team.

Being Brits, we're used to football being in foul weather, but we find it highly amusing (and a little pathetic) how so many cry off at the first hint of rain.  Eli wouldn't dream of missing his football practice, no matter what the weather was doing!  Some of those kids, or rather their 'soccer moms' need to get a life.
It was with a little tinge of sadness that we served our last Soup Kitchen in The Gathering's current home. although we're not officially in our new home until the 1st of July we'll be serving next week's Soup Kitchen from there.

The sadness however is far outweighed by the sense of excitement, not just amongst The Gathering's members but our Soup Kitchen regulars are seemingly just as excited. As we were telling the guys about next week they all told us that they already knew about our move, which means the local grapevine is working well.

We also hosted our last Homework Club for this term and the kids were a little gutted to realise that it won't be running during the school holiday. We're definitely sensing an opportunity for some kind of holiday club in the Summer holidays.

Great View

In the midst of all the busyness at The Gathering's new home, it was nice to finally take a few minutes to drink in the view we will get to enjoy in the coming months.

All the jobs we were expecting to get done on Monday have now been finished, we have a shiny roller door, the front window has been replaced and the electrics have been sorted.

Shortest Day

Today is the shortest day of the year (so you lovely northern hemisphere peeps get to say goodbye to the sun tomorrow 😉) which means the sunrise was unusually late and this gave me the opportunity to get two lovely snaps of it.

This one was taken from our drive as I was about to take Joel to school. By the time I got the camera I had probably missed the best of it but the sunrise still looked pretty cool.

The one below is of the view from behind The Gathering's current home. I'm going to miss these views but that's more than compensated by the excitement of what's happening with The Gathering.
Today should be quite a big day in the life of The Gathering's new home. With just under two weeks until we start Gathering there, there is a lot to be sorted out.

It all starts today as the landlord is having a roller-door fitted so that should be security sorted. This should also mean that the Coca Cola sign for next door's shop be removed as the landlord has told them to get a smaller one sorted. Once this is done we can put our own sign up.

The front left window is also being replaced, and whilst there we're hoping he might be able to tint the windows or at least provide a contact who can do the job. The electrician should also be coming to make sense of the myriad of wires hanging around the place, the Duke of Edinburgh would be appalled by the wiring! 😉
Yesterday was a public holiday as we enjoyed Youth Day, so Errol, Phillimon, Eli & myself took the opportunity to spend a few hours in The Gathering's new home knocking things about, taking down a wall, removing the counter and then fixing holes, followed by lots of sweeping and mopping!

It was tiring but extremely satisfying and for me it was a joy to watch the guys excitement levels rise as they began to see the opportunities the church is being presented by this venue change.

I've been wanting to take some photos of The Gathering's Soup Kitchen to show the children at Eli's school as a thank you for their hard work making sandwiches each week, and to try and challenge them as we show them that not everyone has a privileged background.

Rather than patronise folk with the usual full on photos, I wanted to capture their hands receiving soup and sandwiches and I have to say I'm very pleased with these.

We've got the keys and we're in, thank you LORD!

Now a lot of hard work begins before our first Gathering in our new home on the 2nd of July. I've spent about an hour compiling a long list of jobs and now I need to get a timetable together so we have a plan of action to get it all done in time.

Aside from being right in the heart of Firgrove and all that that will mean for The Gathering, the most obvious blessing from the very beginning is that our meeting space has more than doubled and we still have space for the kitchen/office at the back, which will also double up as our kids space on Sundays.

Last week I met with the landlord of the vacant shop in Firgrove and we shook hands on the lease and this morning we've met with his lawyer and have signed the contract, so from the 1st of July The Gathering has a new home.

Thank you LORD!

We're really excited by this opportunity as we move slap bang into the heart of the community. The opportunities for service and ministry will be far greater and we're believing that this will be a big step forward in The Gathering impacting the community and growing numerically.

Can't Vote

Once again it's election day in the UK and once again we're both excluded from voting.  I get that we've lived outside the UK for too long, but here's what I really don't get: South Africans living in the UK who meet the residency criteria (that's lived in Blighty for more than three months) are eligible as Commonwealth citizens to vote in the UK, but there is no reciprocal agreement, meaning that despite living out here for 14 years and being a Permanent Resident for 5+ years we cannot vote in any South African elections!

I really think it's time this was stopped.  Where there is no reciprocal agreement there should be no vote in the UK!

A Random Post

Here are a few random photos from the last week or two which I wanted to post but didn't get around to.

The first couple are of our Soup Kitchen which is growing massively now that winter is here. The fact that we were regularly feeding 40+ people through summer was quite something, but now we're feeding 70+ and still more new people are coming each week. It's great to see so many folk, especially our regulars and it's a real blessing to be able to serve the community in this way.

The South African Weather Service has put out a severe storm warning as they predict the worst storm for 30 years is about to slam in to the Western Cape.

The municipality has ordered all schools to be closed for the day tomorrow and people are generaly being advised to stay at home. So sadly we're cancelling our Homework Club tomorrow afternoon and our home group in the evening.

One has to hope and pray that those in the townships and informal settlements are OK during the storm and aren't flooded.

Having been at the Firgrove Shell for just over  two years we've been given notice to quit the premises and so The Gathering is on the hunt for a new home.

The Shell Garage is undergoing some massive renovations beginning in July and they need to move their admin back upstairs, and so for purely business reasons they have asked us to move.

After the initial five minutes of being shocked, we really hadn't seen this coming, we are really excited about what God is doing and how things will change for The Gathering as we move.

We hope to make an announcement in the next few days as we've identified a potential property to rent, so please stand with us in prayer as we seek to seal the deal over the next day or two.

When I saw this Facebook post earlier today I couldn't help but respond knowing that The Gathering serves soup and sandwiches every Thursday in the Firgrove community.

Having invited the poster along I wasn't really expecting her to turn up, but it was a pleasure to meet her at tonight's Soup Kitchen and to be able to serve her and her grandchildren.

I love that we radically impacted her and her expectaions of the community just by doing what we always do.

Two Gentlemen of Verona

Or in this case, Two Friends via DHL.

We know you wish to remain anonymous but we really want to thank you for your faithfulness to God!

Thank you! 

Thursdays

It's a real joy to see our new Homework Club spaces filling up.

This is our early group from 3 to 4pm on a Thursday, they're such a calm group which is a welcome contrast to the crazy bunch on a Wednesday afternoon! 

It's also working really well having our Soup Kitchen running just half an hour after the second session has finished and it's great to see so many of our Homework Club kids coming for soup.
Planting a new church is never easy and doing it from scratch is tougher still, and at times it's easy to feel down and like nothing is going to plan. Those negative feelings can be especially tough to deal with when growth is slow and commitment of some is sporadic at best.

However, as one persists and remains faithful in prayer, things begin to turn and whilst I don't think church planters ever have that feeling of "we've done it" things do seem a lot more positive through faith and prayer.

Golaccio!


Finally after a few weeks I managed to get hold of a big enough piece of netting to finish off Eli's football goal and he's really pleased with it.

The completion of the goal nicely coincided with him finally getting his new De Beers football shirt which has his name and favourite number on the back and if I'm honest, he's a little bit more excited by the kit than the goal.

Oh well, I tried!

Paula & I had the privilege of attending Green Shoots 5th Birthday Celebration last night.

For those that haven't kept up, our Homework Club at The Gathering runs Green Shoots Maths@Home online programme.

Our Homework Club is a complete joy to run and as an extra privilege last night I was asked to share a little about the impact Green Shoots has had on our learners and the wider community.

I spoke briefly about two boys who had both been written off by their schools, with one of them doing Grade 3 for the third time because he failed the year. However after just one term on the Maths@Home project both boys have done really well at school, with one of their teachers asking his mum about what was going on at home because his whole attitude and work ethic had changed massively.

New Pound Coin

The Suffolk Gazette is a brilliant satirical news website (which the powers that be and those lacking in any semblance of humour would label as fake news) which has even fooled Sky News into reporting on one of its articles, much to the hilarity of those of us that love the Gazette.

However, today, in celebration of the new Pound coin being released they've accidentally wandered in to the realms of real news as they posted an article entitled: "New one pound coin worth only 58p after Article 50 triggered tomorrow".
This has really made my day!

Jayden is the first Competition Challenge winner from The Gathering's Homework Club and we are thrilled for him.

Thank you Green Shoots for being such a brilliant partner to us. 

The good news keeps on coming... as of next term we're moving from three to four sessions and this will allow us to serve 24 kids rather than just the 12 we can presently.

Thank you Lord for your favour!

This is a question that has been bugging me for a long time and hopefully my response to it might stir some discussion.

I used to think that question bugged me because I lead a small church, but on reflection I've come to realise it's more about the kind of people that ask the question and the hidden motive behind it.

Not so long ago we were at a Hillsong Leaders Network meeting and the speaker posed a question to each pastor present: "If your church was to close down tomorrow, would anyone notice?". Now obviously the members would notice, but that wasn't what the question was about. The question was about how involved in your community is your church and how genuinely are you serving the community?  In the light of this, ask yourself the question again.... It makes you think doesn't it!

Happy Birthday

I'm posting this a day late, but want to wish Joel a very happy 14th birthday.

Paula said it best on Facebook: "Today this amazing human turns 14! Happy birthday Joel! The courage and integrity with which you face life constantly inspires and challenges me and those moments when you "hit gold" and you laugh and find such joy are priceless. Keep on being all the young man that God made you to be and I pray that you blossom, flourish and fly high this year!"

Happy birthday son!

"On Friday 3 March 2017, a local disaster was duly declared and promulgated in the Provincial Gazette".

Finally the City of Cape Town is getting serious about our two year old drought!

It's good to know too that they are now targeting the highest water users and visiting their properties to issue fines. Sadly however, it's all too little too late, they should have been taking serious action six months ago.

Recently a list of Cape Town's top 100 residential water guzzlers was released and one property alone uses over 700,000 litres of water a month. In the Helderberg the top user guzzles over 230,000 litres a month. To put that into context last month we used 4880 litres.

Random Stuff

So here are a few random pics of things that we have been blessed with at The Gathering and things that we have done in the last few days.

Some of this is very random. You have been warned!

Having just passed our second year in our current premises we thought it was time to install a mirror in our bathroom, and having sought a quote from a local glass company (Lens Glass) they blessed us with the mirror for free.

A mirror might not seem like a particularly big deal, but having gone two years without one in the building, and with a few of us having been caught short with unfortunate marks or dirt that a quick glance in a mirror could have sorted out before any embarrassment occurred, we are very grateful for this blessing at The Gathering. Thank you Len & Jenny at Lens Glass!


Scorchio!

When we started our soup kitchen almost two years ago we received a lot of unhelpful and downright negative advice which I'm happy to say we totally ignored.

One of the more ridiculous bits of advice was that: 'you won't need to open in summer because no one wants soup when it's hot'. Well today was the hottest day of summer so far with the temperature indoors hitting 34°C and yet we served 50 people and our soup was all gone in fifteen minutes. So clearly there's no need for soup in summer, but I'm really happy to waste my time in such a brilliant way.

We've just had a 48hour flying visit from Colin & David from Christians Abroad and have to say it was a great visit! It was pure pleasure to entertain them, to show them what we're busy with in our ministry and to introduce them to The Gathering and some other dear friends, including one or two old friends in Chris Nissen Park.

On Wednesday morning we spent time with Lionel & Rose of Key Ministries (our covering organisation locally) and in the afternoon Colin & David threw themselves in to helping with our Homework Club, assisting some of the kids with their maths. In the evening they got to meet some of our church members at our homegroup meeting where it was good to share a meal over conversation.