Thank You!

Thank you to all of you who contributed financially, in kind and prayerfully to The Gathering's Soup Kitchen Christmas Lunch, we really couldn't have done this without you.

It was an amazing day and we feel tremendously privileged to have been a part of it and we hope & pray you're blessed too.

Thank you Lord!
Wow, what a day that was!

For me it was the most exciting day of the year and a tremendous privilege to be a part of.

It was amazing to see how the seed of a crazy idea planted just over a year ago came to bear such incredible fruit.

It was also an amazing testament to unity, between local churches and the wider international body of Christ. The Gathering couldn't have pulled this off without the love and support of Father's House in Simon's Town, nor could we have done it without the amazing local volunteers and financial blessing from a range of other churches. And we definitely couldn't have done it without the incredibly generous blessing from various UK churches and Christians. You know who you are and we are truly thankful to God for your partnership!

Merry Christmas

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

We hope you're as excited about what God is going to do in 2019 as we are.

Have a fantastic year!



When I was in the UK earlier this year I was really excited to talk about two future plans we had for The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen.

The first one was our Christmas Lunch for 120 of our regulars and the second was taking our soup up from 70lts to 100lts, but we were really going to need some miraculous blessings for these to happen.

Well, just a few days from our Christmas Lunch on Sunday and the blessings poured out on the planning and preparation are immense. We are totally blown away by God's goodness! The lunch has been more than covered in terms of financial gifts and goods and the blessings are so overwhelming that the Christmas Lunch is helping to provide for the next step in taking our weekly soup up to 100lts.

Load Shedding

I can't quite believe that I've never blogged about this farce issue before, especially as it's such a regular occurrence due to Eskom's incompetence mismanagement corruption breakdown in supply infrastructure and its inability to manage its affairs.

Load shedding is where our loathed state monopoly beloved electricity supplier cuts power off to certain areas at certain times for about 2½ hours in a desperate bid controlled manner to reduce electricity consumption and therefore bring stability to the power network.

Eskom have schedules for when each area will suffer experience load shedding but the reality is that their timings are similar to Microsoft's when doing an update or transferring lots of files.

South Africa's electricity tarrifs are already very high and the thieving gits Eskom have just applied to the govt for a 15% increase in tariffs. Grrr!
This is a week overdue but it was great to celebrate another fantastic year of The Gathering's Homework Club last Friday 23rd as we held our now annual Awards Ceremony.

It's always a joy to celebrate the kids achievements and to show their families just how well they're doing, and some of our kids are doing incredibly well.

It was a privilege too to have Mark & Jo join us, they set up and run Green Shoots and we really value their support!

Giving

***Rant Alert***

As we head in to the Christmas season and get excited about giving and receiving gifts, consider this...

Give only that which you would like to receive.

This has shaped our giving for many years now and is why when we give, we give of our best. For example, we make the best soup we can possibly make for our weekly Soup Kitchen and ensure that it's a soup we would want to eat. Yes, some of our customers are homeless and some are very poor, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't give them our very best and if we're not prepared to eat it why should anyone else?!?

You would be amazed and appalled by some of the attitudes we encounter around giving and donations, often from seemingly pleasant enough scenarios where we're given jigsaws with "only one missing piece" through to some people seeing charitable giving as a way to offload their rubbish rather than driving to the tip.

We've pretty much seen and encountered it all, but  three clear incidents left us quite shocked and have shaped the way we give (and receive).

City Elders

A few months ago I was invited to join a regular Wednesday morning prayer group for City Elders and intercessors. So having jiggeled my day around I've been going quite regularly for the last few months and have grown to really enjoy the group and the nature of prophetic prayer and the unity amongst the many ministries in the Helderberg.

But my biggest joy has been getting to see the different ministries, stand with them in prayer and to celebrate their outreach within their communities. It's really exciting to see what God is doing amongst us here in our little corner of South Africa.

Decisions, Decisions...

Decisions, decisions, decisions....

As the year winds down towards the summer holidays it would be nice to have a bit of breathing space, but as ever that's rarely our experience and once again we find ourselves having to make some pretty major decisions ready for the new year.

For those of you who get our prayer letters, you'll know that we have had to make a big decision about Joel's last two years at school. We're thrilled that in January he'll be returning to a more formal High School set up, though it will still be informal with a Christian ethos, but at least he won't be being home schooled and self-teaching anymore, which will be a huge blessing for Paula!

Homework Club

We've not posted much about The Gathering's Homework Club for a while, despite posting loads of stuff about the Soup Kitchen, so here's an update on things....

As the school year winds towards the end we've had a few kids drop out of the Homework Club, some have moved away from Firgrove and some just think they're too cool for school, so we're down to 28 kids from 32, but those that are committed are seeing great improvements in their overall schooling, and we're loving the privilege of walking with them as they achieve the best they can.
I was so blessed yesterday by my Grade 4 kids at Firgrove Primary School.

I have been reading with them once a week all year and have absolutely loved the experience. I have learned so much, and they tell me that they have also - so that can only be good!! I was asked to come in today to receive a token of their appreciation.

On arrival a small group of the 170+ children came to give me a certificate, a card and a lovely plant to say thank you. One of the learners addressed me beautifully in English and expressed how they all feel about my help.

I am humbled and can't wait to start back again in 2019.

 It's so good to build relationships in our Firgrove community!
This brought a smile to my face this morning....

...two easy riders on their bespoke choppers.

This is a local guy in Firgrove who decided to turn his welding skills to bike making and produced these two prototypes.

He learnt a lot along the way and has some great ideas for refining his next bikes.

I wish him all the best and hope he makes a decent living out of this.

Daisy

I'm not quite sure how this happened, but recently Paula was seduced by the idea of getting a second dog. Having been resistant to the idea for so long, I was amazed because this is something I've been trying to do for ages and have previously attempted to sneak a puppy into the garden. Sadly I was busted and the puppy was banished, albeit to a very good home.

Anyway, just before we left for holiday Paula showed us all a picture of Daisy and it snowballed from there. So having been approved by Animal Welfare and having passed their home inspection, they neutered her over the weekend and said we could collect her this morning. So we did.

Now Rosie and Daisy are spending some uninterrupted time getting to know each other and sorting out their stuff as dogs do. Having introduced Rosie & Daisy off the lead in a neutral environment they now seem to be getting on OK, though I'm sure there will be some issues along the way, but for now it's all quiet on the western front.

Holiday

For the first time in 14 years we actually managed to string a two week family holiday together. Actually it was 13 days but we'll let that slide.

It was great to be back in Montagu (though we missed Greyton) and trying some new accommodation. Paula found this little gem online and we had a very peaceful two weeks with great views and were only a five minute walk from the town centre.

Montagu has some great restaurants, a fantastic secondhand bookshop and a lovely Saturday market so we got to do lots of what we love to do, chill, read, eat good food and sample great wines all whilst reconnecting as a family. What a huge blessing!

I've been meaning to post this for a while so here it is.

One of the costs of an overseas life in mission is missing the conveniences of home, such as free schooling and health care, two things that take up a lion's share of our budget.

This week we're missing the dear old NHS and the fact that if we were in Blighty Eli's current infliction would have been treated for free, but as it is we're in a land with no real welfare net and so our pockets are feeling the squeeze.

Please pray for him, he's got a double chest infection and is burning up with fever. So on Dr's advice we're trying the non-antibiotic route first and hoping it will do the job. Thankfully we also have who is lending us a nebuliser.

Almost Over?

September 1st is known as Spring Day down here and I always think that this is one of the Cape's cruelest jokes, though to be fair  it was a warm sunny day. However on Sunday it gave way to more rain which is due to return with a vengeance this evening.

So after an average August and a wet start to September, with the promise of a lot more rain over the next few days, our dams now sit at a respectable average of 65.9% full.

As I ran into the house last week after my ladies group to grab a quick sandwich and coffee before beginning the "afternoon busy-ness" of my day I clearly heard the Father say to me, "how many of your ladies can do this right now?". This stuck with me all week and right through the weekend.

It's true, we had had a fun and exciting morning together, plenty of laughter, conversation and a few tears with our sharing and prayer time, but I could see that many were in typically tight situations, and once again, one had come back very shame-faced after everyone had left and I was washing up to ask me if I didn't have something for her to eat.

New Chairs

As we step out in faith and see The Gathering's Soup Kitchen and Homework Club growing, so we're also seeing growth on Sunday mornings which is a huge blessing!

As The Gathering grows and is blessed, so we need to step out in more faith trusting that we will see the Kingdom extended in Firgrove, South Africa and beyond.

So recently we stepped out in faith and bought 50 new chairs of which we received the first 25 this morning.

They're much sturdier than our existing chairs and quite a bit more comfortable too which is an extra blessing.  Hopefully these ones will be more resistant to the rigours of our Homework Club and Soup Kitchen.

The dream is still to take The Gathering's Soup Kitchen up to 100lts each week but we've decided to ease into that with a 20lt step up to 70 litres.

It turns out that there were a few more issues involved than just doubling the quantity of ingredients and so it made sense to address a few issues and take a smaller step forwards....for now.

One of the main issues we've had has been washing the 50lt pot in the sink, basically it's too big to fit under the cupboard, so rather than just raise the cupboard, we decided to move it to the other side and then install some shelves where the cupboard used to be. This will allow us more space above the sink which we'll need with the new 70lt pot, though we still need a plan to figure out how it will fit in the sink (see below) 😂

The story of growth for The Gathering's Soup Kitchen continues this week and we're really excited about it.

Stay tuned for more news later in the week.

I'm thrilled to see that The Gathering's Homework Club has 15 winners in the first competition of Term 3.

Our kids are progressing nicely and are becoming quite a dominant force in the termly competitions held online by Green Shoots.

This is a real encouragement and I can't wait to hear how each of our kids has done at the end of the school year.

Ten Books

I was recently challenged on Facebook to participate in the Ten Books challenge, but partly because I'm rebellious and partly because I'm trying (and failing) to spend less time on FB, I'm posting my ten books here.

Also, the FB challenge says not to give any reason or any other information about each book, so again I'm going to be rebellious.

I have to say that having over 700 books in the house has made this very tricky and I have chosen not to include any Christian books, maybe sometime I'll do a Ten Christian Books post.

So, having whittled it down to ten books that have had a massive impact on me, it seems only fair to start with the book I've known and loved the longest of these ten.

Charlotte's Web was first read to me as a 6 year old and I fell in love with it immediately. I've read it more times than I can recount and loved reading it to both of my sons. I really love this book!
In a nation in which 40% of men physically assault their partners each day (that speaks nothing of the emotional and sexual torment many women are put through on a daily basis!), it’s essential that we not only celebrate our women but shout from the rooftops just how much we value them.

So today The Gathering with help from Father’s House in Simon’s Town celebrated Women’s Day.

We hosted a free event in which we invited local women to come and be pampered and treated like the million dollars they truly are in God’s eyes.  Or as Paula put it on Facebook: Helping women understand that they are "the apple of his eye" (Zechariah 2:8).

I last blogged in this series about five years ago, but just had to revisit it in the light of yesterday's fantastic celebration of Linda's graduation.

Each of my previous posts were anonymised, but today I'm naming, proclaiming and celebrating Linda for her faith, her perseverance and her never giving up, even when it would have been easier and more comfortable to do so.

Studying part time for seven years is never going to be an easy undertaking, but add in to that the loss of one's own business, one son being hit with a degenerative illness which remains undiagnosed, three family members mistakenly murdered in a gangland shooting and two abusive family members who just want your money and whatever else they can take from you, and the recipe for failure looks to be well set.

As a severe weather warning goes out around the western Cape this afternoon, I thought it would be good to revisit the issue of the Cape's three year drought and what it actually means for those of us living here.

Our drought seemed to be a popular source of conversation in Blighty as I was asked countless times about it, especially as it had hit international headlines a few months ago as Day Zero was scheduled to happen within days of that news breaking.

Day Zero is the day that Cape Town stops being a world class city turns the taps of to all homes and businesses in the municipality except for the CBD. Day Zero has now been pushed back to February 2019, which was just another ridiculous example of the pathetic mismanagement of the drought by the local government, but I won't get started on that.
It's great to be back and getting in the swing of the life of The Gathering again.

This morning has been largely about getting a few of my UK purchases up and running which will hopefully make church and especially our Homework Club run a little better.

In Blighty I managed to pick up a ten port USB hub so we can charge all of our tablets in one hit without having to scrabble around for cables etc. I also picked up ten good quality USB cables (with aluminium connectors) which will hopefully last better than the rather nasty plasticky ones that were supplied with the tablets.

Whilst on the tablets, thanks to a very generous gift I should be picking up two new tablets later this week to replace the broken two we currently have.👍

Adopted Son

It seems like a long time ago that Paula dropped me off at Cape Town airport to fly to England, but just three weeks later I really can't wait to go home!

I've had a fantastic time, reconnected with many good friends, and spent time with school mates I hadn't seen in 35 years. I had the privilege of spending time with some truly inspiring fellow pastors & ministers and can't believe that a few of them even let me preach in their churches (I'm sure one day I'll be found out 😂 ).

But the greatest joy has been spending time with family, and this last week has been special as I've never spent so long with Paula's sister & brother-in-law on my own before. All I can say is that my love and respect for Lisa & Stephen grows exponentially each time I see them and realise just how much they quietly get on with as they serve and support others around them. I really love you both! XX

My last post was about coming to Blighty and the sense of expectation that is attached to a Roadshow tour around England. Apart from one last engagement this Sunday in Oxshott (which I'm really looking forward to) my trip is all but over and my thoughts have naturally turned towards home and seeing my peeps again.

It has been a great time, but it has been quite tiring, and the first two weeks were a bit of a whirlwind as I caught a train from London to Stockport, spent a few days there then got a train to Sheffield where I spent a couple of days before getting a train to London where I spent a few days in Wimbledon -which included a train ride out to Witham in Essex- before getting a train to Abingdon, and then finally a train to Weald to spend the last week or so with Paula's family. I have to say, it's nice to be able to hang a few shirts up rather than grabbing bits out of the suitcase!
Dean will be undertaking a Roadshow Tour on his own this year, from 16 May until 5 June.

Quite simply we cannot afford to all come and the boys can't miss school like they once could. 😭

So, if you are in or around the Manchester, Sheffield, London or Sevenoaks areas, please come and say hello at one of my Roadshows or Church Visits, the dates are in the image to the right.

For the Sheffield and Wimbledon Roadshows, please save the date and I'll confirm the venues ASAP.
For the last few weeks I've been using less milk in The Gathering's soup , preferring to use Amasi, a local milk product that is totally gross unless you grew up with it.

I first encountered Amasi in '97 in Tanzania, where one morning I joined the workers for their morning break at the project where we were serving, and they thought it highly amusing to watch me being grossed out by it and almost vomiting. Amasi (or Maas in Afrikaans) is in essence curdled milk and unless your stomach is used to it it's very hard to deal with.

I had one of the saddest and most frustrating conversations of my life at The Gathering’s Soup Kitchen last night.

Frustrating because it was of a theme that keeps rearing its ugly head, and sad because we the church are responsible.

Towards the end of the Soup Kitchen there were a few regulars who had arrived late and we were chatting, when one of them, a mum of one of our Homework Club kids, asked if he was actually attending? Knowing the lad is a bit of a tear-away I got the register to show her just how regular he really is. She was thrilled and from there the conversation really opened up until she asked about Gathering Ground, our weekly ladies’ gathering and she said she would pop in one week. I assured her she would be welcome and encouraged her as much as I could to give it a go.

Glorious Rain

Suddenly the clouds rolled in, the sky went dark and an almighty thunderstorm unleashed itself right above us.  Thank you Lord!

After a few minutes of messing about in the rain enjoying its cooling touch (it was 35°C just after lunchtime), we grabbed every available bucket and got busy harvesting as much rain as we could. In the end I reckon we got about 200Lts, which isn't a lot but it will keep the loos flushing for a while longer.  😃

It was fun to watch Eli reveling in the rain and even funnier to see him get pelted by the brief hail storm.


At The Gathering we're acutely aware of the water crisis afflicting Cape Town and have been trying our best to save water wherever possible, but there's always something extra one can do.

So today I finally got around to changing the plumbing in The Gathering's toilet so that we can harvest the grey water from the sink and use it to flush the toilet.

In doing this The Gathering is no longer wasting valuable drinking water to flush the loo and that is a win win situation.

Every little bit helps as we try our best to avoid Day Zero, the day that the City of Cape Town turns off its taps and loses its status as a world class city.

We've had the honour of hosting a few visitors at The Gathering's Homework Club over the last few days and it's always a joy to talk about it and to share our story and how we got to where we are now.

It's been quite a journey from not having a clue what the Homework Club would look like to now being a growing and confident outfit, and we're always happy to share the journey with others.

Today we welcomed Jo Swart and her team (Sean & Beben) from Life Church in Somerset West. They're looking to do something very similar to our Homework Club in an impoverished community they're involved in, and we're more than happy to share our experiences and knowledge to help them get going.

Finally, 2018 gets going.

The New Year is a strange thing out here in that it falls in the middle of the summer holidays, with industry shutting down for a few weeks, so most people don't go back to work until the second week of January. Schools only went back last week and so The Gathering's Homework Club only just started this week and won't do a full week until next week.

Wednesday and Thursday were brilliant as The gathering's Homework Club kicked off again and welcomed 11 new kids and 21 returnees. The Homework Club is full now and we have quite a waiting list which is great.

Having learnt a few lessons last year, we started the year with a few ground rules and boundaries which seemed to go well, I guess time will tell.  The big difference though is that we now have eight kids per session so Precious (our facilitator) can't sit down, so she was constantly walking around the table and that kept things a lot more orderly.

Twenty Years

It's twenty years ago this month that we made our first move in to overseas mission as we went to Tanzania for an initial two year stint.  Just under a year later we resigned out in the field, were treated appallingly by the organisation we were serving with and ended up staying with some Catholic Fathers at a nearby Seminary.  The last group of people I expected to be genuinely Christian turned out to have a greater concept and handle on Christian basics than the organisation we had served with.  Still, that's a long time ago and much water has passed under the bridge since then.

The most valuable thing to come out of our year in Tanzania was the lessons we learnt. We finally realised what neo-colonialism is and how to stridently avoid it. We learnt how to treat people well so that they respond positively. We learnt a lot of other stuff too, and not least had our misunderstanding of Christian calling shaken to its roots. It really was a great experience!

Homework Club

After a day of Homework Club admin, it's great to have 32 letters about to be delivered to various families in Firgrove telling them that their kid has secured a place for 2018.

It's been a great journey since we set out in January last year with 12 kids and not really knowing what the Homework Club would look like.  Here we are a whole twelve months later and we're setting off with 32 kids and looking to expand it to 48 sooner rather than later.

Please stand with us in prayer as we believe that The Gathering will grow through this outreach into the community.

Day Zero

Day Zero is looming and is set for the end of March.

No we're not talking about the rise of a new Pol Pot or Jacob Zuma suddenly pulling a rabbit out of his hat and saving his political career. No, we're talking about the day that the taps run dry here in Cape Town.

Things are so serious that even the BBC are asking the question: Will Cape Town be the first city in the world to run out of water?

Firstly, let's be clear, this could have been avoided!