A Family Thing

I'm loving how Joel has taken to boxing and the impact it has had on all of us as a family, and it makes me proud to know that although I came to the sport late, Joel is now the third generation of boxers beginning with my Dad.

What I love in seeing Joel box is his desire and passion for the sport, but also the changes it has brought to his life, physically and emotionally, it's really boosted his confidence and outlook.

I love a freebie, especially when it's a quality book.

I've had my eye on this one for a while and can't wait to get in to it.

Thank you Discovery.

Women Of Worth

A good friend posted this great quote from Wesley on Facebook yesterday with this scripture from 2 Timothy 1:5 - “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also”.

There is so much truth contained in there and when one considers how the Word teaches us that we should instruct a child in the ways of the Lord it makes infinite sense.

In the book of Ezekiel it says: "I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing" - Ezekiel 34:26.

Today has been a true showers of blessing kind of day as I went with Joel to Simon's Town to meet up with Shaddie at My Father's House kitchen where they are doing a stunning job of feeding the neediest and most vulnerable in the Simon's Town area and beyond.

Contraband

We find ourselves in a ridiculous situation here in SA.

As part of the ANC government's many irrational rules governing our lockdown, the sale and transportation of alcohol is prohibited (it was originally banned, then unbanned and then banned again which is where we find ourselves). So with our stock dwindling we used a contact or two and this morning (along with a lot of other very happy people) we drove out to an unmarked location and collected our order of 18 bottles of wine.

Cowboys & Gates

Ever since our gate was installed it's been a problem and unsurprisingly the company that installed it have long since gone bankrupt because they were a bunch of cowboys and were truly rubbish!

Recently, the gate got so bad at opening that it actually jammed open halfway on Monday. On inspection I discovered that the bearings in the front wheel were shot. In fact one bearing had totally disintegrated! (see left pic)

Having stripped it down and got the bearings out I dashed off to a local bearing supplier only to find on arriving at 3:01pm that they closed at 3pm. Nice work if you can get it! So having been back yesterday morning for replacement bearings I was able to refurbish the two wheels on the gate and get it working nicely. The gate now opens and closes a little bit quicker than before and is a lot quieter too.

R.I.P. Grandad

Most of you probably know by now that Dad/Brian/Grandad passed away yesterday morning. It wasn't totally unexpected though we didn't think it would be quite so quick. He was battling leukemia on top of dementia, so in many respects it was a blessing to see an end to his suffering, especially knowing he was a Christian and his place in eternity is assured, but we're still heartbroken by the news.

He was a dearly loved father, father-in-law & grandad and we're very sad at the thought of never seeing him again.

My heart is sore for the beautiful land of Zimbabwe and her people.

When Mugabe was deposed in 2017 and Emmerson Mnangagwa became President there was genuine hope for the future. But sadly, it appears that the old adage about leopards never changing their spots remains true.

Mnangagwa was the person responsible for the Matabeleland massacre (known as Gukurahundi) in '83 & '84 in which thousands of Nbelele people were slaughtered, estimates range between 2000 and 20000 murdered with countless others raped and tortured.

This massacre was orchestrated by ZANU-PF the ruling party of Zim and it was lead by the man who is now president of Zimbabwe.

Swing Seat

I have to confess to the fact that I am really struggling not to write a ranty piece about the ineptitude and inconsistencies of the SA govt and their ham-fisted approach to the coronavirus, but I shall resist and rather talk about our garden...

After neglecting things for far too long I finally got around to some serious pruning and a number of other jobs over the last few days, including moving our dilapidated swing seat from the front garden to the rear.

This amused me no end this morning as I went into the drawer to get the scales.

I admire Paula's faith in her message, but knowing how the gut on legs that is Joel is around food, I hold out little hope of this message being heeded. 😂

Face Masks

Yesterday was a day of blessing as we finally took delivery of a small consignment of branded face masks for The Gathering and some sweatshirts for Paula & I, all of which was very nice.

Whilst we were blessed with these, we were able to bless the community Neighbourhood Watch with some more boxes of the peanut paste sachets (see our posts: Blessings & Sunset & Blessings).

We know the Neighbourhood Watch will make sure the sachets are distributed to the neediest and it's great to continue working in partnership with them.

I also got to chat with one of the other pastors in the community about what they're doing for church, they're still meeting on Zoom  and it appears that most local churches are continuing to meet online. It's good to know that we're not the only ones not yet gathering in person, though we long to.

Night Shelter Artistry

The video below was put together by the Somerset West Night Shelter team and we think they have done and are doing a fantastic job serving and protecting some of the most vulnerable people during the lockdown and it's worth singing their praises.

We love what they do at the Night Shelter and were thrilled when they opened their Family Shelter, many of The Gathering's Soup Kitchen regulars have been there for the duration of the lockdown and it's comforting to know they are safe and cared for so lovingly there.

I love that on Facebook Paula has posted a black & white photo of herself as part of the current awareness campaign around gender based violence (GBV).

 Here in South Africa the statistics on GBV are truly horrific with many men apparently thinking that using violence against women and especially against their wife/partner is simply a regular form of discipline within their relationships. It beggars belief!

As a man and a husband who has never been violent towards his wife (or any other woman), I really do not understand why some men choose to be violent to the one they're supposed to love above all others.

This morning was a little bit different as I went in to Cape Town to pick up another 12 boxes of emergency food rations. Thank you My Father's House!

These peanut butter sachets are proving very popular with our homeless Soup Kitchen regulars, so it's good to know that we'll be able to continue to bless them for a while yet.

Each sachet weighs just 100g and they are packed with goodness and calories, providing an adult with all the nutrients they need in a single meal.

There's a great line in Over The Hedge (the best cartoon film ever) where Vernon tells RJ that miscommunication is something that families do well. I was reminded of this this afternoon when Paula told me I was doing a boxing session for Joel whilst cooking garlic mushrooms. That wasn't the conversation I had with Joel, but hey, I'm only dad/husband so I know when to do what I'm told. LOL!

Worship Sunday

From time to time at The Gathering we give our gathering over to a Worship Sunday, in which we ask members to choose a song which God is speaking to them through at present and give a short testimony with the song.

This morning we took our Worship Sunday on to WhatsApp for the first time and it worked really well. During the week members sent me a link to their choice of song (which I downloaded) along with an audio message with their testimony of how God is speaking to them.

The thing that always amazes me is how the songs always flow and link together and today was exceptional. I hadn't listened to any of the audio messages ahead of time, and apart from deciding which song should close our Gathering the songs were in random order.

Since restarting The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen just before the nation moved to Level 4 lockdown, our numbers have been noticeably down on their pre-lockdown levels, and whilst we have no definitive evidence as to why this might be, we do have some good ideas as to why this is the case.

One of the clearest reasons is that a number of our regulars have been staying at the local night shelter for the duration of the lockdown and as such simply can't make it to Firgrove and back in time and as such we won't see these guys until this is all over, whenever that is.

We also know that a large group of regulars spread across two makeshift squatter camps are too scared to leave their lodgings after dark for fear of losing everything, so we only see some of these guys at the start of service before it's dark. Sometimes one or two will venture out later but they've had to make a plan to keep things safe whilst they're away.

We find ourselves in an uncomfortable time in South Africa. Lockdown hasn't worked and is not working.

The coronavirus is on the rampage in SA which is now the worst affected country on the continent, whilst certain communities within the country have been hit far harder than others, leaving the authorities with little choice but to take some fairly drastic action.

Yesterday (Sunday 19th) was Mandela Day in which all South Africans are encouraged to give 67 minutes of their time to serving a good cause.

However, I find it odd that given how passionate Madiba was about education, we have a government that doesn't appear to value it at all.

Following a great Gathering on WhatsApp this morning in which Paula shared brilliantly from the life of Gideon, I have spent the remainder of the afternoon reading a few chapters of my book followed by spinning some records on the turntable.

Life doesn't get much better than listening to a bit of Jeff Beck, the sounds that man can get out of a guitar are mind boggling and an utter delight to behold.

A Time Of Exile

We do love a bit of Tom Wright, so excuse us for taking a look at this recent article about him and his new book (God and the Pandemic) on Time.

Exile is classic biblical language and is appropriate for this time under the coronavirus pandemic in which our church buildings were forced to close. The Israelites experienced a number of periods of exile, the two best known being their time in Egypt and their time in Babylon, which most people will know from Boney M's 1978 song version of Psalm 137 "By the rivers of Babylon...".

When the oldest (and wisest) dog knows when and where the only available sun will be...

Rosie Dog is as sharp as they come, whilst Daisy Dog was blessed with a different set of tools and hasn't worked this one out yet. Bless her.

Times have changed at The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen but thankfully some things remain the same, but more on them in a moment...

It's sad that for now we can't allow our regulars to come inside, take a load off and enjoy a cup or three of warm delicious homemade soup, but we are trusting that this time of exile is limited and some day soon we'll be able to sit together again as friends and family, sharing stories, laughs and prayers.

For now, we are forever pursuing clean yogurt pots and the odd ice-cream tub to serve our soup in, as well as sanitising everything constantly. And it still feels wrong to be giving folks a pot of soup and asking them to go straight home with it. We miss the interaction with our regulars so much, but again, we hope and trust that this will draw to an end one day soon.

Lockdown Reflection

When strict lockdown Level 5 began in South Africa 110 days ago, I think we all felt a very real level of "now what?" in relation to church life.  Our soup kitchen and Homework Club were thriving, going from strength to strength and I was excitedly preparing my Gathering Ground ladies group with training for a big year ahead. The Gathering had been consistently receiving prophetic words and pictures from God about expansion and birthing pains and getting ready for all the new that was to come. Lockdown certainly did not seem to fit at all with any of this, and I personally spent a lot of time initially asking God, had we heard Him wrongly? and, what are you doing in this Lord?

Unfunny Comedy

If people weren't dying, the comedic quality of South Africa's degenerating handling of the coronavirus might be considered amusing, but sadly there is an all too real human cost to this fiasco that keeps it from being even slightly amusing.

South Africa has a history of weak leadership, but the current crop are really showing themselves to be in a different class to those who have gone before them. The president appears to go AWOL during a pandemic, addressing the nation once a month if we're lucky, meanwhile his lackeys make up random, bizarre and inconsistent regulations¹ governing the nation's lockdown that have left the economy on its knees and the people scratching their heads.

Genesis



If you've followed FTM for any length of time you'll know that we're big fans of N.T Wright, and this just makes us love him even more.

Enjoy...
Having talked a brave talk about taxis having to cooperate and reduce their occupancy to a maximum of 70%, President Ramaphosa bottled it and said they can be full as long as they have "some of their windows open", then they wonder why Soweto, South Africa's largest township is the worst affected part of the country.   #facepalm

Having seen & heard nothing of the President in over a month, I don't think anyone anticipated the nation taking such a backwards step last night.

Previously South Africa moved to Level 3 Advanced (whatever that was) Lockdown and last night President Ramaphosa berated the nation for "reckless behaviour" and punished us all for his lack of leadership. So I'm calling this new amendment Level 3 Backwards.

Also, I think I shall rename him President Absentphosa.

Elisha's Bones

I was so fed up with this yesterday!

After a couple of days of non-stop rain I had checked the local weather forecast and it said the rain had finished, so I hung the washing out, only for the heavens to open and leave the washing saturated.

I was not amused!

There was no way I was going out in that to get the washing in again, and so most of it ended up on the airer being dried by last night's fire, so I guess I shouldn't grumble.

Then this morning, the storm has cleared and we are blessed with wonderful clear blue skies, and we now have two loads of washing out on the line drying, which means we're fully caught up with the washing load (let's not mention the ironing pile).

Been there, done that... the young & stupid bit, and am still waiting for the payback of being old & wise.

It's been an interesting 24 hours, from taking the car to be checked for a grumbling wheel bearing, a dog jumping in my grave and an appointment with a Chiropractor (proof that I'm getting older) to start some treatment for my herniated disc (slipped disc is so far from the right description!). I came out of the appointment feeling beaten up and the acupuncture needles he stuck in my bum really hurt when they hit the nerve he was looking for. This herniated disc is the most pain I have ever experienced in life, and I've had some nasty injuries in my time.

Please keep praying for total healing, I'm so fed up with it now, and to add to my misery, the Chiropractor told me to stop boxing until it's healed, so that's my fun just gone out the window.

Sweet Sixteen

It's Facing The Mountain's 16th birthday or Blogoversary today.

Who would have thought that when we started this back in 2004 that we'd still be in South Africa, never mind still running this blog!

Much has changed over the years, especially with this blog. We used to post via dial-up internet so had to keep posts short and generally without photos. Today we have a decent fibre optic connection and have no concerns about the size of what we post. Probably the biggest change to the blog though was the name change in 2010 (I've previously posted about that here).

I don't know how lockdown is going where you live, but here in South Africa things have gotten a little strange and seemingly out of control.

What started well with apparently strong leadership has disintegrated in to a situation where lockdown is all but over - unofficially - whilst certain lockdown rules and regulations remain in place.

We moved to Level 3 on June 1 much to the relief of many, as now most non-essential businesses could reopen and the economy could start up again. This was desperately needed! Then on June 18 President Ramaphosa made one of his now rare appearances and told us we were entering Level 3 Advanced, in which a whole load more businesses could reopen.

Happy Birthday

I want to wish my lovely wife the happiest of happy lockdown birthdays.

It was a bit strange going out for a post-workout breakfast without Eli who was at school but the rest of us had a fun time at Dinner for 20  where we were spoilt rotten by the lovely hosts.

Tonight a bottle of bubbly will lose its cork as we continue to celebrate under these bizarrest of circumstances.

I Do Not Box...

Being able to box regularly again is worth celebrating, especially when I get to do it with Joel, so here's a post about our love of boxing...

There's a whole raft of reasons why I took up boxing.

Mostly it was about my health and fitness, I knew I couldn't (and didn't want to) do regular gym life, and having given up cycling I needed to do something to shake off the excess baggage that was gathering around my waist.

Joel and I were back boxing 🥊 with our coach this morning and it felt really good! We have missed being with him so much, and whilst we've had some good sessions in the garage with our home equipment, you simply cannot beat face to face coaching. Not only for technique and style but also for pushing yourself in a way that is almost impossible at home.







If the coronavirus was a plant...

Joel and I are super thrilled to finally have a 45kg punchbag installed in the garage. We've been after one since just before the lockdown began and on the last day of freedom before it started the local sports shop was stripped bare of all but the most basic of equipment, so we had to make do with our old 12kg bag which just didn't cut it.

I know that taping music back in the day, and downloading it from the web today are both illegal, but... I do think there is a discussion to be had here.

Let me explain... Today, I own six of Joe Bonamassa's LPs, but until a few years ago I had never heard of him. Then one day I was at home alone for a weekend as I was tasked with swapping Joel's bedroom with our office which involved a lot of decorating, installing shelves &  moving furniture etc.

Whilst busy with that, I was streaming a UK rock station, and in the middle of one of their 30 minute non-stop segments I had to stop and just listen to one particular track that blew me away.

It's been a while but it's nice to see that Facing the Mountain has once again been featured on Missionary Blogs's Blog Watch as part of a feature entitled "Small Blessings?". Our featured post was Rough Night which we posted about some of our homeless Soup Kitchen regulars.

It's always a good feeling when one of your posts gets picked up in this way.

I'm not one for conspiracy theories and would side with David Baddiel who says conspiracy theories are "how idiots get to feel like intellectuals", and I certainly do not lean towards trump and his ridiculousness. However... I am beginning to wonder if there might be something in this Huawei stuff.

Now bear with me here as I explain...

We stream all of our TV and we do it on my PC in our office and cast it with Chromecast on to our living room TV.

Paula received this from one of our church members this morning, she is a teacher in a local primary school in a poorer community.  It is one of many similar WhatsApp messages from her over the last three weeks about the appalling circumstances at her school.

The government are supposed to have given each school the necessary resources and training to enable them to open safely in the midst of this pandemic, as well as putting clear protocols in place in the event of any Covid-19 infections

Sadly the truth is something else as teachers like this are actually providing their own PPE, cleaning their own classes in their own time, as well as helping the children cope with the frightening reality of it all.

It's been a little while since my previous post Lockdown Reading Part 1, but in that time I've red some great books.

I picked up Austerlitz in the second hand bookshop in Kalk Bay (sadly it closed down) and I wasn't disappointed. The subject matter is something I've read lots of; a man impacted by the Holocaust seeks to find the truth. The storytelling however, that's a whole different thing. No paraphrasing, no chapters, long sentences; one running to seven pages and all narrated by the author. A bit weird but an eminently good read!

I had never heard of Sebald before but I'll definitely read some more of his stuff based on this, though it's sad to learn that he died in a car crash in 2001.

Here's an older post from 2018 about books: Ten books

Another Book

You've got to love a freebie!

Courtesy of Discovery and my rewards points for exercising, I scored a freebie today from Exclusive Books. It should have cost just over a tenner so I think I'll help myself to another one next week.

Sweet!

The premise of this one caught my attention, it's about an unrepentant aristocrat in the time of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, he is placed under house arrest but has to live in the attic rather than the whole house.

I\m looking forward to reading this.



Going Solo

Wham once famously sang "Wake me up before you go-go, Cause I'm not plannin' on going solo".

At The Gathering we've tried working in partnership with the government, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), the Department of Social Development (DSD) and the South African Council of Churches (SACC), and each time we've been excited by the prospect only to get dragged down by slow moving cumbersome organisations with onerous expectations and criteria for any partnership.

It's no wonder churches choose to go solo. It's sad, but it's also very understandable.



If you only listen to or watch one thing on Black Lives Matter, listen to our good friend Dave speaking about his own experiences in the UK.

As white people we will never need our lives to be verified in the way that Dave and so many other black people have experienced at some point. That is why we are privileged and black lives matter.

#BlackLivesMatter
On Saturday I had the privilege of taking Joel through to Stellenbosch to my boxing buddy Conrad's studio where they were hosting a live concert to stream on Facebook.

Conrad is a well known and very gifted sound engineer as well as a performer and all round great bloke and he's helping Joel get a taste for sound engineering which is Joel's preference for next year.

Let me tell you a story...

Pink Floyd announced the release of their Later Years ensemble late last year saying it would be released on November 29.  Exciting times!

My lovely sister-in-law and family agreed to get it for me for Christmas and so began an almost 9 month saga that finally ended today when a courier handed me the parcel containing the LP.

Fathers Day

For all the dads out there...

No matter what your earthly father was like, your Heavenly Father is awesome.
Project Restart couldn't have gone any better for Palace as they comfortably saw off Bournemouth at the Vitality courtesy of a sublime free kick and a beautiful team goal.

My Palace made me proud as they supported Black Lives Matters on their shirt sleeves and their backs in place of their name,s and I love that they all took the knee in solidarity.

Soup Kitchen

It was such a stunning evening in Firgrove last night serving delicious butternut soup to our Soup Kitchen regulars.

There was a great vibe as kids ate hungrily and adults took their takeaways after lingering for a quick chat. We made lots of deliveries tonight too.

Last night President Ramaphosa addressed the nation to let us know about the reduction in regulations to Level 3 of our lockdown.

At this point you have to wonder why we're bothering given that the government have once again caved in to the loudest voices and shifted the nation to an alert level somewhere between Level 2 & 3 but not fully one or the other. And in the midst of the confusion dear old Cyril wants  South Africans to take personal responsibility for curbing the transmission of the coronavirus. Like that's going to happen! 😀😏

My inner nerd doesn't come out to play too often but he was given free reign over this one, which was just as well because it took quite some time to resolve.

The Contact page on the blog had stopped working and so I had to remove it and insert a new one. A simple enough task once one knows which bits of HTML to edit (there are plenty of blogs out there with useful instructions too).

Anyway, having got the Contact page back up and running, the "Submit" button was really bugging me because it was too wide, but worse, the text was partially obscured.

As the prosecutor in The Trial on The Wall by Pink Floyd said: "This will not do!"

It took an age to work it out (I couldn't find any help online), and it led to many unusual looking contact forms, but eventually I hit upon changing most of the values from 100% or 100px to auto, et voila. Perfection!

Black Lives Matter

We have laid our cards on the table and come out clearly in support of the #blacklivesmatter movement.

For us as a family it's really very simple. Our lives in mission have for the last 22+ years been about working in various African countries, and for the last 15 years we have been a multiracial family. As such we shouldn't really need to express a view through words given that our lives speak volumes, but sometimes it's good to back up actions with reasons for those actions.

There are two main reasons why we support this movement. Firstly, as a family we have experienced some shockingly negative responses to our just being. Being in a restaurant, being on public transport or just being in other places, we have experienced prejudice and it's not pretty. Secondly, this impacts too many of our best friends for us to just ignore and leave. We see friends being discriminated against on a daily basis and it's heartbreaking and just plain wrong.