10K Muni Ride

 

I managed my longest ever Muni ride this morning, riding a little over 10ks in just over an hour and I'm very happy with that.

It has been great to get back to some level of normality recently, though having said that, life still remains vastly different to how it was pre-Covid. 

However there is a degree of familiarity reappearing and to be honest it is very welcome.

Life was very tough under Lockdown. Levels 5 to 3 were quite unpleasant as we endured one of the toughest lockdowns in the world. 

Valedictory

We had the joy and pleasure of attending Joel's High School Valedictory this morning and were pleasantly surprised by the awards he picked up, which included a Silver Merit for Mathematics, though the real shock of the morning was his commendation for his Afrikaans oral. Anyone who's walked the road with us over the last few years knows that this has been a battle royale for Joel, so we're super proud of him for that!

It was a strange event given the restrictions due to Covid, but False Bay High did a great job of honouring the Matric Class of 2020.

I once said that The Forsaken by Tim Tzouliadis was the most frightening book I have ever read. Well now it must be relegated to the second most frightening book I have ever read.

Midnight In Chernobyl is an extraordinarily detailed and graphic telling of the catastrophic events at  Chernobyl nuclear power plant, looking in detail at the events leading up to the meltdown and the years of fallout (no pun intended) that followed.

If you want to be scared senseless this Halloween, read one of these!

The Gathering's Soup Kitchen returned to some kind of normality last night as we were finally able to allow folk in to enjoy a cup of soup whilst taking a load off.  A total of eight chose to sit inside and it was clear that they were enjoying being able to be back inside just as much as we were all happy to have them back in again.

I was manning the door with the sanitiser and thermometer and only allowed those inside who were also wearing a mask as we are operating a strict policy of "no mask, no entry" to comply with the health & safety protocols put in place by govt.

We've been planning to get The Gathering open again in Firgrove for a while now and just before SA went in to Lockdown Level 1 we said in faith the we would reopen on Sunday 4 October.

So it was pure joy for that faith to become reality as we Gathered again after almost seven months of being unable to.

Thank you LORD!

I'll happily take this as a very welcome birthday present!

After several years of persistent and sometimes frightening drought, Cape Town's dams sit at a collective 100.1% full with Theewaterskloof our biggest and most important dam sitting at 100.5% full. Given that it was down to just under 20% just over a year ago that is an amazing turnaround and a huge answer to prayer.

This winter has been the wettest and coldest in all our years here and there's more rain predicted which is fantastic.

Hopefully our drought can finally be banished to the dustbin of history.

This may just be my weird sense of humour, so you may want to scroll on by for this one...

I'm always on the look out for a sign that can be misinterpreted or has a spelling mistake in it, or something that's just a bit odd, so I was thrilled to come across this error notice on the screen of the ATM in a local shop.

Whilst we were waiting to be served Joel and I happily wasted a fun few minutes discussing what might be wrong with the ATM's throat and indeed where its throat might actually be. In the end we concluded this one was lost in translation.

Muni Ride

I managed my longest ever Muni ride this morning and am feeling great for it.

I've never previously been fit enough or strong enough to go far on it before, but thanks to all the boxing training riding 5kilometres on my Muni was far easier and more enjoyable than it's ever been

On the strength of this I'm looking forward to speeding up a bit and going further on future rides. 

Blessings

Recently one of the families we gave a food hamper to suffered a catastrophic house fire and lost everything.

So it was good to be able to respond as a church and bless the family with another food hamper as well as some good quality clothes and some toys for their children which were donated by local Christian friends.

You have to love it when Christians stand together as the church and bless those in need.

"For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish." - Jeremiah 31:25

It's good for the soul to get away, especially at times like this when the world looks and feels so uncertain. We didn't think that our annual holiday would happen at all even just a few weeks ago, but thankfully after six months of serious lockdown, SA is beginning to open up again and traveling within the country is now a permissible activity. 

Getting There

The Gathering is gearing up for reopening on Sunday October 4th and we're busy making sure we have all the necessary health & safety protocols in place to enable us to gather safely on Sundays.

It's an exciting prospect being able to gather again with our Gathering family and we can't wait!

There are a few more things to do before the 4th but we're confident that it will all be fine for the big day.

It will be one amazing celebration! 

Oh Happy Day!

After what seems like an age, but was in fact a tad over a month, I've finally bottled my home brew!!!

It should have been ready for bottling around the 25th - 28th of August but it didn't stop gurgling until a couple of days ago. The guys who supplied the kit said this was fine and encouraged me to leave it for as long as possible before bottling, so after a mammoth wait it's a case of job done.

All I have to do now is wait for three weeks for the last bit of magic to occur in the bottles and it will be ready for drinking.

Good News!

We have some great news about The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen...

As of Thursday 8th October we will be reopening our venue for sit-down Soup Kitchen. Hallelujah!

No more serving pots at the door and asking people to go straight home, now we can allow folk to linger a while, take a load off and spend time in a safe and secure environment.

New Normal

So there we have it, from midnight on Sunday 20th South Africa moves to Lockdown Level 1 which according to the President is our "new normal" and won't be going anywhere anytime soon. 

The restrictions around Level 1 remain inconsistent and irrational but we should be used to that by now so I won't focus on them. Rather, there is some good stuff in there which makes for good news and more encouraging times ahead. There's more info on the government website.

The first bit of good news is that churches can reopen properly and are now limited in size by the venue rather than by numbers, meaning that we can as long as we don't exceed 50% of the venue's capacity all is okay.

Blessed Day

Today is a blessed day as The Gathering finally got a decent computer with a working printer.

The old laptop was seven years old and was so slow it was frustrating to work with, whilst the printer we had just never worked properly no matter how many times it was added & removed, switched on & off or rebooted.

It's great to know that at long last church can do its own printing without having to bring everything home to print. Hopefully our home printer won't run out of ink quite so quickly anymore.
Today we celebrate 29 years of marriage which means we're getting old and yes, Paula deserves a medal for putting up with me.

Personally, it's been an awesome adventure with some incredible experiences along the way and I wouldn't trade a moment of it for the world.

I love you more than ever Paula!



Here's to the next 29!
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I've never heard of either the author or the book but it's a topic I'm interested in and the reviews are excellent, so given that it's yet another free book it's simply too good to miss.

As ever, thank you Discovery.

We've had a fun and blessed morning delivering food parcels in Chris Nissen, Broadlands and to a rather chuffed car guard at the local mall.

One of the true joys of what we do is to be at the coal face of blessing people, and seeing the delight and gratitude of recipients never grows old.

We're very excited to be able to deliver twenty food parcels this week especially so soon after the last lot we distributed towards the end of August (see: Food Parcels).

This time we've worked in partnership with St. Andrew's, Kinson in Bournemouth in the UK who have blessed The Gathering with a substantial gift allowing for these food parcels with quite a bit left over for our planned Soup Kitchen Christmas Lunch in December.

Paula did the shopping yesterday and managed to get 17 items for each parcel to which we've added two bags of soya mince and some soap, making them some very nice parcels.

We have earmarked ten of them for folks we know are in need and the other ten will be delivered by church members to people they know in the community who are in need.

It's great to be able to share the blessings of God in such a way!

Jade Plant

I went on to our garage roof in the pouring rain to check on a suspected blocked drain pipe and was amazed to see this little fella growing in between the roofing sheets and the waterproofing (which clearly isn't doing its job!).

He has now been re-homed and will grow in to yet another spectacular Jade plant to join the many others already growing in the garden.

I do like the variegated nature of this one, the contrast between red and green is quite striking.

Read more about Jade plants here: Jade plants and Trees.
This is great news! Cape Town's dams are sitting at an average of 91.3% full and are at their highest levels in six years.

The best part of this is that we're in the middle of a cold front which means more rain is due over the next 24 hours and there are more cold fronts expected later in the month, all of which will bring more rain and fill the dams that bit more.

Whilst this is good news, it doesn't mean the drought is over and we can go back to old habits with water. Cape Town's population has grown by over half a million people since 2015 which puts a huge stress on the water supply.

It's been a long wait since we were last able to escape together for a bit of peace, quiet and recharge aided handsomely by great food and the odd glass of vino, but we managed it.

Eli was off with a friend for his birthday, celebrating in Montagu, and Joel had his long time buddy Sean over for a couple of nights so we were able to decamp to Kalk Bay to enjoy some down time.

We have to thank The Gathering for allowing us the time off and for stepping up and leading in our absence, you guys rock!

Soup Kitchen

It's not always clear blue skies and beautiful sunsets, sometimes the weather turns hideous and yesterday afternoon this was the precursor to some of that hideous weather.

Thankfully the storm held off until a while after our Soup Kitchen so everyone would have got back to wherever they stay safely.

That was my August, how was yours?

Getting back to anywhere near my level of fitness pre-lockdown and herniated disc has been really hard work, but for the first time in a long time I feel on top of the world after a great week of boxing training. This time last week even it was a different story as I felt exhausted, so it's good to know that I'm getting back to where I want to be.

Food Parcels

It was pure joy to make up another twelve food parcels this morning to distribute to some of the neediest families in and around the community.

Each parcel contained a couple of kilograms of soya mince, lentils, maize meal as well as soup mix, several tins and a few other bits, and we hope and pray they are a real blessing to those that received them

Home Brew

The gurgling sounds from my home brew have reduced dramatically in the last day or two so it should be ready for bottling later in the week (see: Where There's A Will, There's A Way), which means it's time to be getting the bottles ready.

Unfortunately home brew supplies seem to be very thin on the ground locally so I'll need another trip out to the airport to pick up some detergent and steriliser for the bottles, but I'm sure I can combine that with another trip out.

I have enough home brew on the go for about 40 bottles of beer so I definitely have enough bottles for the job, but it was quite a commitment draining these bottles of their original contents ready for this joyous occasion. 😉

Pad Work


Hope you enjoy this short video of me on the pads with Coach Anathi

It's been a funny odd few days this week as we were gearing up to say farewell to Paula's Dad. Our routines seem to have gone to pot, but in the midst of it all some good stuff has been happening. Joel received confirmation of his place at college next year to study Sound Engineering, we're all super thrilled by this news!

The other great piece of news is that SA entered Level 2 Lockdown.

Farewell Dad

Today we said farewell to Dad/Brian/Grandad and it was hard to do so from such a long way away, but that's one of the harsh realities of these strange times.

Rev Mandy from St. George's did a great job in leading the service at the crematorium and spoke so well about him and his life with genuine grace & wisdom. Thank you Mandy!

We had to decamp over to The Gathering's home in order to live stream the service given that loadshedding was due to begin at 12pm at home and it was lovely to be joined by our dear friend Annatjie.

We did have the privilege of recording a video tribute by Paula and a Bible reading by Dean, so though we were over 6000 miles away we were there in spirit as well as the live stream.

It would be too easy too poke fun at our government and rant about their failings, so rather, I thought it would be far more entertaining to share some specifically South African memes instead.

Enjoy...

Very occasionally a Facebook advert pops up that is actually worth taking note of and recently I had one such advert.

This one was from a local brewing company selling their Brew-In-A-Box as a way of circumnavigating the current ridiculous and irrational ban on alcohol (not that that has stopped anyone buying any!).

So this morning with a bit of time to spare, I set about getting my 20L of home brew up and running and I have to say it looks and smells fantastic. Hopefully in a few weeks from now I'll be able to enjoy a crisp refreshing beer.

Nearer the time I'll get my bottles washed etc in eager anticipation of the happy day.

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.