One of the joys of what we do is getting to spend time in places like Chris Nissen Park and Broadlands visiting our many friends there. It's especially fun and joyous at this time of year as we get to take some amazing blessings in to them, particularly our HOPE ladies, who have been blessed by so many friends in Blighty.

However we were shocked by L's living situation. L is an amazing lady who never grumbles and is always a genuine ray of sunshine despite the seemingly continual knock-backs she takes.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This scripture is the guiding principle of The Gathering's Thankful Thursdays, and sometimes it's easy to forget about it, so it was good to be reminded of it so starkly yesterday, a day of phenomenal blessings and heartbreak.

The blessings had begun on Wednesday when I drove over to My Father's House in Simon's Town to collect a very generous food donation from them.

In the words of Skipper the Penguin: "Smile and wave boys, smile and wave". 

Sometimes it's all you can do given that shooting people (especially politicians) is frowned upon.

Unseen

There's quite a bit that goes unseen in the preparation of The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen and I thought it might be good to look at a little bit of it for a change...

Since we've taken the Soup Kitchen up to a minimum of 100 litres each week our consumption of the basics has rocketed meaning that keeping on top of it all and ensuring we have enough to prepare and serve the soup each Thursday has become a bit of a mission in itself.

Baptism

The last thing Jesus told his disciples was to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

We are so happy that Joel is being discipled by some quality folk at The Bay Christian Family Church here in Somerset West, and it truly warmed our hearts that he chose to get baptized with them today. It's been a joy to watch him plug in to a local church and explore his faith on his own with a church he feels safe in.

I love coming through in the morning to make a pot of tea only to discover that one, or both of my boys have been playing their instruments late in to the night and maybe even had a jamming session together.

This pic is of Joel's personal pride & joy; his PRS, and what really blesses and excites me about knowing he's once again picking up his guitar to play is that  his desire to play is born out of his time spent at church and with his youth group. We just know that in that environment he is being constantly encouraged and it warms one's heart.

Not For Sale!

"Is your unicycle on Gumtree yet?"

This seems to be a common question amongst those that I've seen since breaking my arm just over a week ago, and the answer is very simple: "No they are not!" (yes I have seven unicycles) and nor will they be until such time as I'm physically unable to ride, and even then I'd be reluctant to get rid of them.

Someone even gave me a small lecture on extreme sports and how they're not of a very healthy mindset, and how at my age I don't need to prove anything anyway.

The thing is, the question and the mini lecture both miss something crucial, which is why I unicycle and why in the last 18 months I've become a lot more intentional in my unicycling, often taking my 36er out for 2+hour rides. 

Safe & Secure

I'm feeling a lot happier since speaking with the Surgeon over the phone about my cast and removing it. 

The cast (if you could call it that) was a bit Heath Robinson in its construction and felt very loose on my arm leaving me feeling quite vulnerable, so after chatting with the Surgeon about the wrist support I still have from when I shattered my wrist 10 years ago, he agreed I could remove the cast and use the wrist support instead, especially as it has a metal insert the full length of it for protection. This is far more comfortable and feels a whole lot more secure.

Firstly, thank you for all your prayers and kind wishes, they're much appreciated!

So there's good news and there's bad news...

The first bit of good news is that the Muni ride (Mountain Unicycling) on Saturday was a lot of fun with a great crowd of people who were also a massive help in sorting me out once I'd broken my arm.

Pearl

Today is our 30th wedding anniversary which traditionally is Pearl. Now I can't afford to give Paula a pearl necklace and she wouldn't want one anyway, but what I can do is share a pearl of wisdom...

Paula has already written the most beautiful post over on Facebook, so there's not a huge amount left for me to say, but if I could offer one tip for longevity in marriage it would be this: keep God at the centre of it!

It was a horribly wet and cold evening last night as the latest cold front slammed in to the Cape. Winter might be on its way out but it's not going without a fight.

Given how wet and cold it was, it was even more of a blessing knowing the The Gathering's Soup Kitchen had more than enough to make sure that no one went hungry, and everyone could have as much as they needed.

The 140 litres certainly went a long way and it was one of the few Soup Kitchen's in recent times in which we've not had to turn anyone away because the soup was finished.

Our Soup Kitchen is always a chilled and laid back affair, but everyone seemed to know there was more soup than usual and so our regulars were more than happy to take their time over being served, even if it meant standing out in the wet and cold for a bit longer than usual.

140 Litres

This morning I drove through to Cape Town to pick up a second 70lt pot for The Gathering.

So this Thursday will be quite a monumental one as our Soup Kitchen moves beyond our dream of serving 100 litres of soup each week to serving 140 litres.

It feels so right to be expanding in this way to help meet some of the need amongst the more vulnerable members of our community and we hope & pray that this is a real blessing to those that come for soup on Thursday. 

3D Printing

This may well be a case of 'little things pleasing little minds', but I'm rather pleased with myself today.

I've been battling to get a small bag to fit on my unicycle for a while now. I used to have one mounted on the handlebar but it broke and they don't make it anymore. So I was pleased to find a thread in the unicyclist.com forum (yes there really is such a thing) on the topic of saddlebags and unicycles.

Uni-Hockey

I've wanted to try Uni-Hockey for a long time so it was cool to finally get a game yesterday with some fellow unicyclists in the Cape Town area.

It was fast, hectic, just a little chaotic and I was rubbish at the hockey part of it, but it was great fun and I really want to do it again!

Massive thanks to Donna at Oddwheel for organizing these monthly unicycling events.

Winter Warmth

On days like this we're really thankful for our wood-burner and the heat it provides.

Winter is in full swing down here at present, and our wood-burning stove in the lounge is the only heating source we have in the entire house, so it's a joy to see the fire roaring inside it on days like today.

We've just got it going for this evening and in about an hour's time the lounge will be nice and toasty for the evening.

#blessed

In our August update (available here) I wrote: "It’s not easy to communicate just how hungry many people are now, and it’s not just our old faithfuls, we’re seeing many new people coming for soup and asking for food".

Last night at The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen I think we might just have found a way to communicate the levels of hunger...

For some time now it has been a dream of mine to increase The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen to 100 litres so that we can be even more generous with our soup than we currently are. Most weeks we have been serving 70lts and sometimes just 50lts depending on how close we are to the social grants having been paid.

Over the last few weeks we've just been using our 70lt pot and a couple of times we've had to turn folk away because we had run out, and that never feels good.

So it was great to be able to be our usual generous selves and then some, as we had plenty to go around tonight and by the time the queue had fizzled out we had just a single one litre pot and a cup left.

Firstly, for me the the Sani Pass was the highlight of our recent roadtrip around SA. Sure game viewing in the Kruger & Kgalagadi were amazing experiences, but the magic and beauty of the Sani were something I had never experienced in quite the same way on a drive before. As such, I would wholeheartedly recommend you do it at least once before they have finally paved the entire thing.

Joel & I have been home for just over a week now and whilst we're both very happy to be home and to be back with the ones we love most, there's a small part of us that's missing the busyness of the adventure a roadtrip of this scale provides.

We covered 7710.6 kilometres (almost 4820 miles) in twenty days and drove through eight of South Africa's nine provinces. We camped for 10 nights and stayed in accommodation for 9 nights. We wild-camped twice, both in the Eastern Cape where it was very cold. Our coldest night was -4C in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, our warmest night was 14C in the Kruger National Park.

One of the unintended consequences of the pandemic and lockdown is our involvement with other local Soup Kitchens.

We never intended to get involved with any others as we were quite happy focusing on The Gathering's own outreach.

However it has been a joy and a privilege to be able to serve and build a relationship with two local Soup Kitchens being run by two amazing ladies in Macassar.

Three years ago today I had the privilege and honour of attending Linda's graduation ceremony. It truly was an honour and a privilege to be invited knowing just how hard she worked for this and how hard life was for the seven years in which she sacrificed so much to pursue the dream God had given her.

Next month I will have the absolute pleasure, privilege, honour and joy of walking Linda down the aisle as she marries Mongezi (a great guy!) and begins a whole new chapter in her journey of faith.

I truly am blessed beyond measure!

That was a morning well spent as I picked up a trailer early before going to get Errol so we could go through to some friends in Gordon's Bay to collect some old furniture and household bits that they no longer need.

Amongst everything, there was a really nice DVD player which I just had to drop off at Michael's in Chris Nissen on the way back to Firgrove. Michael has been asking for a DVD player for ages so it was great to be able to bless him.

Video Update


We recently sent this video out to friends and supporters but reworked it to include subtitles so as not to exclude any one.

We hope it blesses you

Blessing Our Sisters

This is a little mentioned part of The Gathering's ministry to the neediest women & girls in our community.

For a few years now we have regularly been collecting sanitary pads and other sanitary products to give to the neediest and most vulnerable women in the community.

Initially this was aimed at the older girls attending our Homework Club because so many teenage girls simply miss school when they're menstruating because they have little or no access to the necessary products to help.

I'm really enjoying my unicycling and loving going for longer rides over 10ks, especially since I've had to stop running due to my back.

Yesterday morning's ride was just over 16ks and I got to enjoy seeing the sunrise reflecting on Table Mountain which is always a treat. It's nice to be riding so early too because it means there are few people out and about so I don't have to dodge so many pedestrians.

Getting There

Ever since the beginning of lockdown well over a year ago, and then particularly when I herniated a disc in my spine, I've been battling to get back down to my pre-lockdown weight.

During the lockdown I hit a high of 95kgs (15 stone), but I know this was a result of depression connected directly to my back and the fact that I couldn't run or box. It was a deeply frustrating time and one I have no wish to repeat.

Free Books

There's much that can be frustrating about life out here, but when your health insurance starts giving you free books it makes the world a much better place.

So I was very happy to swing another voucher from our them last night to get my third free book in a month.

Firstly, it's eight years since I last participated in the Challenge. Quite why left it so long I'm not really sure, though some of those years were quite lean in terms of blogging. Sadly Facebook became my main thing followed by Instagram. Things came to a head in 2019 with a record low of just 13 posts for the whole year. At that point I seriously thought about giving up on the blog.

Thankfully the blog survived, Instagram was culled and I made an effort to use FB a lot less, sadly I keep failing in this but I do keep trying to reduce my time there. I have at least removed the app from my phone so I'm on it a bit less these days.

Z Is For Zebra

Z is for Zebra

I could have painted some black stripes on my car to make it look like a Zebra, but actually, this post is not about Zebras at all.

Truth be told I couldn't think of anything better and it seemed like a good way to say a bit about my upcoming adventure with my oldest son...

Joel turned 18 in March and as part of the celebrations of this event, we (he & I) will be going off on a three week off-road wild camping trip right around South Africa.

Y is for YouTube

Really, this should be W is for worship, but I only thought of that after the event, so here we are with Y for YouTube.

At The Gathering we're not blessed with any musicians that can lead us in our worship, so we use worship videos downloaded from YouTube, and then we sing along to them on Sundays and any other event where we would like a time of worship.

X is for eXercise

In early January 2019 I made a life changing decision to get fit and healthy and had no idea just how timely and beneficial that decision would turn out to be. In fact, without meaning to be melodramatic, I'd go so far as to say that decision saved my life.

I had stopped all forms of exercise several years earlier, I used to cycle a lot and do a few other bits, but for a number of lame excuses gave it all up and became a couch potato piling on the weight. Because I'm quite tall I appeared to carry the weight well and no one ever said anything about my expanding beer gut.

W is for Washing Machine

Why do washing machines do this?

I guess I should be happy because at least there's one sock that's not gone missing, but seriously, with all the tech that is packed in to the humble washing machine these days, why does this nonsense still happen?

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This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2021.


V Is For Vinyl

V is for Vinyl

I love vinyl!

I think my main reason for loving it so much is the fact that playing a record is an occasion in itself. In our digital world it's too easy to pop some music on as background noise and then skip through songs without really giving it a second thought.

U if for Upside Down

Before I started this year's A to Z Challenge, I did say my theme would be random, so just in case things haven't been random enough so far...

Several nights ago I woke up just after 5am needing to wee, but for a moment or two as I lay on the bed I was a little disoriented because as it turned out, I was upside down on the bed. Apparently I had been that way since at least 1am when Paula got up to wee (oh the joys of being in our 50s!).

I have absolutely no idea how I ended up in that position on the bed or why, but it got me thinking about being upside down.

T is for Thankful Thursdays

I know it's Friday today, but sadly April hasn't been too cooperative with its alignment of days and letters.

Ever since we planted The Gathering we have encouraged the church to join in with our Thankful Thursdays in which we focus on giving thanks for all that God has done and is doing in our lives.

S Is For Spine

S is for Spine

Knowledge is power goes the adage, and the whole point of having an MRI was to gain the knowledge needed to make informed choices for treatment and prayer.

Today we know definitively what is wrong with my back, and now we can make informed decisions about where to go from here.

Firstly though, the good news is that I have no cancers or other unwanted tumors etc lurking in my abdomen, my spine is in good condition with good bone density and good alignment all around. All my internal organs appear sound with nothing untoward going on with any of them, so I'm very happy with that news!

R is for Resources

Or rather the lack of them. 

Jesus told his disciples in Luke 10:2 that: "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few".

Q is for Question

I have a question...

What if all this bluster about the European Super League is actually just another of the big clubs smoke screens to get every one wound up so that when they announce it isn't happening we all pretend to like them and don't mind when they demand a bigger slice of the Prem's riches in return for binning the idea?

P is for Philip

Anyone who knows me well will probably be a bit surprised by this post given how anti-royal I am. 

I'm not going to rant about my feelings on the matter here (there's a time and a place for that and this isn't it), but rather doff my cap to someone I actually have a bit of respect for in one aspect of his life; his marriage. 

Philip married Elizabeth in 1947 and would remain married for 74 years which is an amazing achievement for anyone. On Elizabeth's accession to the throne in 1952 Philip renounced all of his own Royal titles and patronage in order to be subservient to the one true love of his life; his wife. Philip was a man with a stronger royal lineage than the woman he married but he was a man who chose to give up his name for hers and follow two steps behind her for the remainder of his years. 

O is for Outreach

The gathering has been running a Homework club for a few years now and it was an effective programme in terms of assisting local kids with their mathematics and seeing their grades rising across all subjects. Most teachers and educationalists will readily admit that when a pupil is confident in Maths it generally reflects on the rest of their schooling, so it has been great to be helping some of the local kids. It was also an effective piece of outreach in that it allowed us regular contact with their families and we loved serving the community in this way.

N is for Numpty

Paula & I were away for a few nights sans enfants (they're big enough and ugly enough to fend for themselves!) and were really enjoying the long overdue break when we got a rather desperate call from son #1.

M is for Marshmallows

I was hoping that M might coincide with Monday, because these little marshmallow chicks seem to capture the essence of a Monday quite nicely and I would have had two Ms for the price of one, but never mind, they'll suffice on their own for today's M post.

I first saw this pic on FB where a friend had posted it, and it genuinely made me chuckle, so I hope you enjoy it too and I hope it brightens your day a little.

L is for Lie Back And Think Of England

L should actually be for MRI but tomorrow's M is already taken and this seemed to fit quite well, despite the coarse nature of the original meaning of the expression, so apologies for that.

On Monday I went for a Lumbar MRI and after all the prep for it I had a panic attack and had to be pulled out quite quickly.

I was quite cross with myself for my reaction, especially once I had calmed down about an hour later and thought rationally about it. I realised that my head would be going no further in the tube than it had been at the beginning, so there wasn't anything to get excited about, I just needed to calm down and lie back and think of England.

K is for Kilograms

Actually, that would be 6000 of them as The Gathering took delivery of six pallets of the peanut pastes we've been busy giving out lately.

Once again it was a total blessing to be able to receive such a huge food delivery and it's an even greater blessing knowing that we have already allocated all 432 boxes and they will be gone by Friday afternoon. 

J Is For Jesus

J is for Jesus

Well it be rude not to given that we've just celebrated Easter and I am a pastor.

So Easter has just been and gone and I had the joy of speaking to our church on Easter Sunday about the evidence for the resurrection and picked it up again this Sunday just gone, but looking more at the evidence that Jesus was physically/clinically dead, which really underpins the resurrection. After all, if he wasn't really dead then the resurrection didn't really happen. Only he was dead and it did happen and the evidence is overwhelming.

I is for Indecision though arguably it should be for Déjà vu.

I couldn't come up with anything for I so I'll go away and hope that J might come along to rescue me.

I is also for I'm a few days behind and trying to catch up. LOL!

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This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2021.

H is for However...

After yesterday's post, today I had a rare day in that I took the entire day for myself and simply hid away. I ignored my phone, stayed off social media for most of the day and went for a long walk on the beach before finally re-emerging and joining my lovely wife for a drink in a local wine bar followed by a curry.

So occasionally I might feel like giving up, however, I carry on because such moments are rare and times like this evening are what make life worth living.

G is for Give Up

Actually that's wrong, G is for Don't Give Up.

This is not a pity post or one of those FB posts seeking attention, rather it's just an honest expression of the fact that occasionally, despite the encouragements and amazing things we experience in our ministry, there are times when I feel like giving up.

Thankfully I haven't so far, and I don't intend to because I love what I do, but also, I'm only human at the end of the day

F Is For Farts

We get some real crackpots associating themselves with the church here in South Africa and the competition to see who can push the limits the furthest appears quite intense at times.

One recent crackpot was labelled the "Prophet of Doom" because he sprayed his congregants with Doom (a local fly spray) in the belief it would heal them. He was later found guilty of assault. Enough said!

But now we have a clear winner in Pastor Christ Penelope who according to a local news article "farts on people to heal them".

E is for Encouragement

Life can be tough at times and quite often it's hard to see what impact we might be having on the world.

So today it was such an encouragement and a blessing to be approached by a well respected member of the community where our church meets and be thanked for all we do for the community. I particularly loved it when he said "I know you're not full on Sundays, but what you do during the week is really appreciated".

I've always believed that church is about what we do from Monday to Saturday so it was great to hear it's working in practice.

D Is For Dams

D is for Dams

Ever since the first drought we experienced here in the Cape back in 2004 I've kept a regular eye on the levels of Cape Town's dams. I like to note how much the levels have gone up or down and get a feel for what might be happening with the next round of water restrictions. Our latest drought began back in 2016 with a normally dry summer followed by a very dry winter, a pattern which repeated itself right up until winter 2020 when the local dams finally hit an average level of 100%.