It was such a joy to reopen The Gathering's Soup Kitchen again this evening.  My hear was so sore when we had to stop five weeks ago, so it was pure joy to be back tonight!

We knew the need was there and growing as a result of our harsh lockdown and as a result it was another busy evening serving the community we love so much.

It was also a great way to get together with a few of our faithful Gathering family, though we were responsible and kept a social distance 😉

It was also good to partner with the local Neighbourhood Watch as they did a bit of low key marshaling for us.

Tonight we served a delicious 70 litres of homemade Cream of Chicken Soup and it was greatly appreciated. So all in all it was a raging success and all of our regulars expressed their thanks for reopening, and that alone makes it all worthwhile.
I'm so excited about The Gathering's Soup Kitchen returning tomorrow, it's been sorely missed by our regulars and the need is greater than ever.

Also thanks to a generous neighbour we've been able to buy a bit more chicken than usual so together with these beautifully roasted onions it's going to be a delicious soup!

We've also made a responsible plan for how the Soup Kitchen will operate to be compliant with rules on social distancing and crowds gathering, so it should be a great time serving the community again.


A post for my praying friends...

My lockdown fitness programme was going really well until Wednesday last week when I managed to trap a nerve in my back which sent my left leg into a state of frozen agony.  The Dr suspects that one of the lower disks in my back has partially slipped which trapped the nerve which is causing the pain.

This is the worst pain I have ever experienced, it's worse than when I smashed my wrist a few years back and far worse than when I cut the sole of my foot and had to have several stitches in it.
Today in South Africa we celebrate Freedom Day one of our many public holidays.

Freedom Day specifically celebrates freedom and commemorates the first post-apartheid elections held on that day in 1994.

This year however it feels a little surreal celebrating something that we have all been stripped of for the foreseeable future.
Since writing this yesterday the President has addressed the nation. However my opinion remains unchanged and unless genuine tangible action is taken to help the vulnerable this will end very badly!

I have to confess to a growing sense of anger over our lockdown.

I know the lockdown is the right thing to do, we need to protect the most vulnerable and flatten the curve to make it safe for all, I truly get that, I do.

What I don't get and am struggling with is the apparent lack of foresight and planning that has gone in to the situation, leaving the most vulnerable in dire straits.

Here in South Africa the President was lauded for his swift and bold stance, but quite quickly it became apparent that some of his ministers were far less capable. Sadly as time has gone by the whole govt are looking shambolic and the "swift and bold stance" is starting to look like a panicky knee jerk reaction that has led to a scale of suffering that is unprecedented in this land.

Food Hampers

This morning we had the privilege of delivering seventeen food hampers (in the form of grocery gift cards) to some of the neediest families in Firgrove.

We got fed up with waiting for govt to come through with their food parcels and decided to get the ball rolling ourselves.

So it was pure joy to be able to bless each of these families on behalf of The Gathering and our friends who so generously contributed, both locally and in Blighty.  This was a drop in the ocean, but as they say; oceans are made up of drops.

The reaction was the same each time; one of deep gratitude and a hurry to get changed to get to the shops. We were particularly moved by the mums who just want to buy milk/nappies/food for their young ones. It was great to bless 2 of our elderly soup kitchen goers - each one telling us how much they are missing their weekly soup!

We have been so incredibly blessed this morning!

Our Gathering was an awesome time together in God's presence and it was amazing to think that as a church we were scattered from Firgrove in to Macassar, Mitchell's Plain, Somerset West and the Eastern Cape, but we still Gathered in one accord and worshiped in spirit & truth.

The church cannot be stopped!

We were also blessed by one of our Gathering family members who sent us a photo of the food she had prepared for four of our Soup Kitchen regulars who live close to her.  You know that your church gets it when they are serving the neediest and most vulnerable out of their own limited resources.

Thank you LORD!
After last week's disappointment of discovering that the GPS sensor my Heart Rate Monitor can't cope with my run around the house, I decided to just do my 57 laps anyway knowing that regardless of Polar telling me I had I only done 3.84ks I had actually done the full 5 ks. When I did my first 5k run around the house two weeks ago I actually ran just over 7ks!
Here we are in day 21 of what was a 21 day lock down but which was extended into a 35 day lockdown, so we're well over halfway there (and living on a prayer), and I have a confession to make... I'm loving it!

I love being at home and not having to go out, I love having Paula around and I love having my boys at home.

Of course there are things I'm missing; I wish we could continue with our Soup Kitchen, especially knowing how many vulnerable and needy people there are out there. I wish we could go to the gym or go for a run, and I really wish I could go out for a meal with Paula, but at the end of the day I am truly blessed and thankful that I can exercise at home, have enough to eat and my peeps are safe.

How will it all end?

I can see two things happening and I can see them happening in tandem under certain conditions.

Firstly, I think we'll get to a position where governments are almost demanding people go back to work because the world's economies simply cannot take such a massive hit.

Secondly, people will rise up and demand an end to things, especially if extensions keep being added. Enforced lockdowns will fall apart.
There have been protests over the Government's promised food parcels in Mthatha and a mini riot in Mitchell's Plain.  Hands up those who didn't see this coming.... anyone?..... no-one?  Of course not, such actions are inevitable (but wrong) when people are given hope and then let down.

The Government promised R53m for food parcels to be distributed by the Department for Social Development, the same Dept that administrates NPO registration.  So as a registered NPO The Gathering made an approach to the Dept offering to be one of the organisations that would undertake the needs assessments and then distribute the food parcels.  And we've heard absolutely nothing!

Has the govt reneged on the R53m? Do the food parcels actually exist? Are the govt dept inept? Who knows!?!

New Beginnings

I spoke on Sunday about new beginnings, but how sometimes we have to go through storms before those new beginnings, and looked at Jeremiah 29:10-12, Matthew 14:22-33 and John 16:33 (If you want to know how I used those scriptures you can watch my message in yesterday's post). The great thing about these examples of storms is that they all contained promises of God and in each of them God is with his people. So now we're having to get through a storm but when the storm is over we will be in an amazing time and place of new beginnings.  We truly serve an awesome God!

This got me to thinking about how church is being conducted on Sundays around the world...

Something I have kicked against for a long time is the seemingly diminishing role of the congregation in Sunday meetings. We have been part of churches where contributions are either managed by an elder with a microphone or worse, they are just actively discouraged.  There's a set list for the worship, the whole meeting is planned out and there's little to no space for the congregation to contribute.

Easter Sunday

Just like every other church The Gathering had to be creative in how celebrated Easter together and how we celebrated communion on this most special of all days in the Christian calendar.

Once again we took to WhatsApp and once again it was such a joy to be able to Gather knowing we were united in God's presence, whether we were in Firgrove, Macassar, Somerset West or the Eastern Cape.

It was a joy to worship our risen Lord Jesus together and to share communion, and I had pre-recorded a word I felt God lay on my heart during the week. I have to confess to feeling a little uncomfortable with the idea of pre-recording but it seemed to go well and was well received. The crux of it was that God has led us into extraordinary times and once the pandemic is over God will lead us into new beginnings, we just need to stand firm on His word and His promises in faith knowing the victory is already won.

Familiar Face

This warmed my heart today.

I've been wondering where some of our Soup Kitchen regulars are and how they're coping during this time when life for those living hand to mouth is almost impossible. So to see Roderick's picture suddenly pop up on the Facebook page of our local homeless shelter was brilliant.

This also means that if Roderick is in there safely until the lockdown is over, then at least a few others of our Soup Kitchen regulars are too, because he always travels around with the same small crew, so whilst we can't see them, we know that at least a few are safe.

If for nothing else, I'm truly thankful for this piece of great news!
BBC News are running an interesting piece on South Africa's Covid-19 outbreak and why our numbers are so low in comparison with other nations, particularly more developed nations with superior healthcare systems.

I think many of us on the ground know full well why our numbers are low and it's because the government took decisive action very early. South Africa's lockdown was one of the earliest to be implemented in terms of the numbers of coronavirus infections and it's one of the most draconian lockdowns outside of China.

I also think that many people understood from the beginning that South Africa has a very large and vulnerable population in terms of HIV and those with TB, and that any lockdown would be about protecting the most vulnerable. Yes the lockdown is annoying, frustrating and irritating, but it's not about me, rather it's about saving at least 8 million very vulnerable people.
So there we have it, 14 days in and we've just been given another 14 days taking us neatly to the end of April.

May promises to be a month of celebration, but before we get there you have to wonder just how many of the most vulnerable people are going to struggle through starvation, lack of income and no prospects of anything good on the horizon.

As for small local businesses one can only guess how catastrophic this will be for them.  SA's economy is already shot and this is going to make a bad situation a whole lot worse.

Time to get on our knees and pray (as if we weren't already).

I was so happy this morning to be able to pop in to Firgrove. I managed to issue myself with an Essential Services permit and then go and deliver some grocery gift cards to our more vulnerable church members.

It was also a great joy to bless them with the gifts but an even bigger joy to actually see some of our guys, even if it was just for a few moments to hand over the cards and say "Hi' through their gates.  Having seen no one from The Gathering for a while it really blessed my soul to have just the briefest of contact with a few.

Hopefully the cards will help them all get through this week and then we can think about how we can help again next week.  For those that we gave the cards to today they have no income or received the paltry grant just over a week ago and are struggling financially.

Please pray for The Gathering's more vulnerable members who struggle at the best of times.

I guess none of us are living what we might like to think of as normal lives, even if you're classified as an essential worker, life will still be far from what was once normal. 

Things are far from any semblance of normality here and we can only look on from a distance as family and friends in Blighty keep posting pics of a trip out or a walk they had in the park, at least y'all still have those privileges.

Whilst we're cooped up we've been a bit more in demand than we might normally be, and have been asked to contribute to a few ongoing video projects as well as attempting to prepare the odd bit of video for use with The Gathering over the Easter weekend.

It's all good fun and I have to admit to enjoying being a bit nerdy when it comes to playing around with various bits of digital media, it may well be my way of staying on the correct side of the camera.

Exciting Times

Until this afternoon I had only been out once during our lockdown and wasn't expecting to go out this afternoon, but I'm so glad that I did!

It all began earlier today as I was praying and lamenting the closure of The Gathering's Soup Kitchen. I suddenly had the thought to approach a friend of Paula's whose husband is an MP and ask for his help in registering to be one of the NPOs that would distribute the Government's pledged R50m of food parcels to the neediest during the lockdown.

Thought for the Day 16 from St George's Church on Vimeo.
Following on from Paula's Thought For The Day on Thursday, I shared a thought about life under lockdown from a local perspective.

Today saw the inaugural Bizweni ParkRun under a magnificent clear blue South African sky. The crowds (two dogs) were full of excitement and expectation for this new event.

We should at this point thank our unofficial sponsor Covid-19 without whom this event would not have been possible.

The runners took off as the gun signaled the regular ParkRun start at 8am.  The full 5kilometres involved some 57 laps around the house and garden and despite good conditions the finishing times were a little disappointing, however these are attributed to a combination of tripping over two excited dogs and the number of tight bends the runners had to negotiate.

All in all it was a resounding success and we expect there to be at least two more editions of this ParkRun.

Reality Bites

South Africa is a pretty lawless place at the best of times. If you don't believe me try driving in to Cape Town one afternoon or pretty much driving around any urban area and pretty soon you'll realise that red lights mean very little, Stop signs are advisory and speed limits are merely suggestions.  It goes further with traffic cops regularly being seen using their cell phones whilst driving, regularly failing to obey the rules of the road and generally setting a very poor example for others to follow, and I'll not get started on the police being used by gangs to transport drugs...

As such it's no real surprise that in the six days of our lockdown the volume of traffic outside our house has gradually increased. On the first day we had maybe a car an hour driving past, today there's a car going past every couple of minutes.  It may well be that each of these journeys are genuine, but even as a non-gambler I would be prepared to wager that the majority of them are unnecessary.  Paula has been out to our local supermarket for our weekly groceries and said that the shopping centre was heaving.