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Cape Town

Table Mountain over Cape Town

I spent my last week in Africa in beautiful Cape Town. It was a real treat to be in such a magnificent place. The majestic mountains, turquoise seas, and unique wildlife create an awesome setting. Also, it was wonderful to have time with my friend Jean Downing and her family. Jean and I lived in Belgium together and I had not seen her since we both moved four years ago. It was wonderful to be with her and her family again. This week was more of a vacation in the midst of my travels. I got to be a tourist for the week and Jean did an excellent job of showing me around the Cape Town area. Also, I did speak to a group of teenagers at a home school academy where Jean works a few days a week. The teens are home schooled but also meet together once a week. I talked to them about my experience in Zambia as well as being open for the opportunities that God places in our paths. I had never planned to live in either Belgium or Zambia, but found myself in South Africa visiting friends from Belgium for this week!

With the youth at the home school academy

I would like to share my experience in Cape Town with you through my photographs. I enjoyed visiting with my friends, the natural scenery, and the city itself - what a great way to end my time in Africa. I hope you catch a glimpse of this amazing part of our world! 

Cape Point at the Cape of Good Hope


Jean and I at the Cape Point lighthouse


An afternoon in the winelands - Stellenbosch and Franschhoek


       We did a wine & chocolate tasting at Waterford and had lunch at Tokara 


Saturday morning at the Old Biscuit Mill market


Old Biscuit Mill had many wonderful food stalls


Whale watching at Hermanus


Whale tail! 


Penguins at Stoney Point


Here they come!


Cuddles


Hello?


With some curious penguins


A funny little critter, a dassie (rock hyrax), whose closest living relative is the elephant


Baby dassies


Table Mountain from the Cape Town Waterfront


Thanks for a great week Jean!


Posted October 25, 2012
Springs & Nigel

I spent my last few days in the Johannesburg area with Rev. Rodney Brits and his wife, Sonia. Rodney is a minister in the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa (UPCSA) and serves two congregations in small towns that are about 20 kilometers apart – St. David’s in Nigel and St. Michael’s in Springs. On Sunday I visited both congregations.

Worship with St. David's

St. David’s in Nigel was a small, mostly older congregation. We gathered together in the cozy sanctuary and I was welcomed so warmly. Although I only had a brief time with this community, I could sense the love and care they have for one another. At this church they also have simple housing for retired folks, which was a great idea. There were sweet one and two bedroom cottages for members of the church with beautiful gardens.

Worship with St. Michael's

From there we dashed back to St. Michael’s where they were having a special confirmation service. Four of their youth were being confirmed and I had the privilege of praying for each of them during the service. Springs is a bigger town than Nigel and that was reflected in the UPCSA congregation there. St. Michael’s is a very vibrant church and it was wonderful to be with them for such a special Sunday.

Confirmands at St. Michael's

After being in Johannesburg it was a change to be out in these smaller towns. They developed along the gold mining area and were primarily mining towns in their heyday. Now most of the mines have closed down and the towns are closing down as well. I was surprised about how similar these towns were to the towns in America that have fallen on hard times as well. Much of the population is older as the young people have mostly moved to cities or overseas to study and work.

One of the old mines, no longer working

I also had time to spend with Rodney, Sonia, and a few folks from their congregations. Rodney and I had good times to talk about the challenges and joys of ministry in this area and he even taught me about the sport cricket one evening. I also had a wonderful evening out with a couple from St. Michael’s, Caroline and Jimmy. Please pray for these communities, Springs and Nigel, for the UPCSA churches there, and Rev. Rodney Brits who serves them. 

A lovely evening with Jimmy and Caroline


Posted October 16, 2012
South African History

In front of the South African flag in the Constitutional Court

During my time in Johannesburg I was also introduced to the recent, turbulent history of South Africa. From the conflict between the Dutch settlers (Afrikaners) and the British to claim, colonize, and settle this part of the world to the struggle brought by Apartheid, there was so much to learn about.

Cottage at Liliesleaf where several folks from the liberation movement were arrested

I visited Liliesleaf, a farm where secret meetings were held by a resistance group against the Apartheid government. Nelson Mandela spent some time at this farm, but was arrested elsewhere before the group at Liliesleaf was discovered. In 1963 there was a raid on the farm and several people were arrested. At that time some of Nelson Mandela’s documents were found which tied him with the group. Many of the people arrested at Liliesleaf, along with Nelson Mandela, were then imprisoned on Robben Island.

Manela's room at Liliesleaf

I also went to the Apartheid Museum to get a sense of what life was like during this period in South Africa. Like segregation in the States, there were different schools, bathrooms, water fountains, everything, for Whites and Non-Whites. With all of the different cultural heritages in South Africa it was not just Africans who were classified as non-white, but also Indians, Asians, and colored peoples. Even the entrance to the museum reflected this segregation (which is the meaning of “apartheid”). It was sad to see, but I was glad to have the opportunity to learn more about this time in South Africa. Today many of the communities are still living with the effects of Apartheid. Even though they have more opportunity now to interact on a daily basis, the different groups of people continue to live within their own communities for the most part.

Entrance to the Apartheid Museum

I was also impressed by the diversity of people who fought against Apartheid in South Africa. People of all cultural backgrounds – African, Indian, Colored, and European – worked together to bring the policies of segregation to an end. Please pray that a new generation of leaders will be raised up in South Africa who can now unite these diverse groups into one South Africa.

The Constitutional Court (with the name written in all 11 official languages)

Finally, I visited the Constitutional Court. This is a very important place as it is this body that upholds the constitution of South Africa. There are still many problems in the South African government and this is one of the few places seen as unbiased and just. The court itself was empty, so we were allowed to go inside and Paul, my guide for the day, even got to sit in one of the chief justice’s chairs. I was glad to visit these places to begin to learn about the recent history in South Africa. It has inspired me to learn more about both South Africa and our own struggles in America. 

Inside the Constitutional Court 

At the feet of Nelson Mandela


Posted October 15, 2012
Johannesburg - St. Columba's

St. Columba

I have spent the last week with the wonderful folks of St. Columba’s Presbyterian Church in the Parkview neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa. I have learned so much about both the ministry of their congregation and South African history. In this post, I will update you on my experience with St. Columba’s ministries – stay tuned for a post about my encounter with 20th century South African History.

With my wonderful hosts, Ruth and Peter

First of all, the hospitality and openness of St. Columba’s were remarkable. I was welcomed warmly, stayed with gracious hosts, and was even welcomed into the St. Columba’s staff. Each morning the staff begins the day with a short meeting – time to read Scripture, discuss what is happening in the church, community, and world, and finally finishing with prayer. On Tuesday, the first day I was around, I got to know the staff and attended a funeral that was being conducted at the church. In the evening I attended a beautiful choir and organ concert. It was the first time I had heard an organ and that style of choir in over a year – it was magnificent. Tuesday afternoon I also went to Liliesleaf, then Wednesday was a day of outings at the Apartheid Museum and the Constitutional Court (more on that in the next post).

Love one another as I have loved you

On Thursday I got to go along with Penny, who is active in many of the outreach ministries of St. Columba’s. That particular morning she was going to the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital. She had a bag of blankets to drop off and also toothbrushes and toothpaste for the kids. We went through two of the hospital wards handing out the toothbrushes and toothpaste. One ward was for pre-teen kids, the other for babies. Some of the kids were sleeping, while others greeted us with smiles. Penny was great with the kids, chatting with them and even sharing a few jokes. Then we visited the Kangaroo Ward, a ward for mothers with premature babies. These babies need to be kept warm, so the mothers keep them in just a diaper, wrapped next to their body (usually on their chest) most of the time. For a mother and child to be placed in this ward, the baby must be under 1.7 kilograms (3.75 pounds) and otherwise healthy. The rooms were very nice, with a bed, chair, and side table for each mother. Penny works very hard to serve the community and spends many hours sorting though clothes, delivering supplies, and visiting folks all around Jo’burg each week. She has a few helpers but could definitely use more. Please be praying that Penny will be encouraged as she continues this ministry and that others would be call to work alongside her.

A mother and her baby in the Kangaroo Ward

On my last day with St. Columba’s, Friday, started early. I was at the church at 7.30am to help with the soup kitchen that runs Monday through Saturday. Members of the church take turns preparing soup and simple sandwiches for 20-30 of the homeless folks in the area. Then after the morning meeting with the staff, I visited the Sinenhlanhla Support Group in Soweto. This is a support group for people living with HIV/AIDS. There is still stigma associated with HIV/AIDS here and people are often ostracized from their families and communities if they come out that they are HIV positive. This support group seeks to be a place where people with HIV can share their struggles and encourage one another. The group is run by an amazing woman, Phindile, who is HIV positive herself. She was in a support group that met at St. Columba’s and felt called to start a support group in Soweto, which she did. The group has about 20 people who meet on Wednesdays. Phindile has an amazing story and is a great example that people with HIV can lead long, meaningful lives when they take care of themselves and one another. In a place where announcing your status means being cut out of the community she is a brave voice and an encourager to others living with HIV/AIDS. When I asked her what the name of her group, Sinenhlanhla, meant she said, “We are lucky to be alive.” For the generations before, HIV was a death sentence. Now HIV can be managed by ARVs and a healthy lifestyle. Phindile is helping those living with HIV to realize the blessing of their lives and fighting against the stigma of HIV/AIDS. 

Gladys and Phindile at Sinenhlanhla

I had a great time with St. Columba’s. In many ways it is similar to MAPC. These folks who have much and are seeking to follow Jesus Christ are using what they have been given to bless others. I was inspired by this congregation and was sad to say goodbye so soon. Please pray for St. Columba’s, that they will continue to serve their community and be drawn ever nearer to our God. 



Posted October 13, 2012
Harare

I had a wonderful last week visiting with CCAP pastors and congregations around Harare, Zimbabwe. On Monday and Tuesday I spent time with Andrew, Claire, Libias, and Grace. We had some time to relax, visit, and walk through a few of the markets in Harare together. We also visited Mbare congregation to see the church and the centenary plaque. This year CCAP in Zimbabwe celebrated its 100th anniversary and it was great to acknowledge this milestone while we were together.

Claire, Grace, me, Libias, and Andrew at the Centenary plaque

On Wednesday I went to stay with Susan and Pattison Chirongo at Mufakose CCAP. This was the first church we visited with the MAPC folks in April, so it was fun to be back. On Wednesday night we went to the church’s prayer meeting, which was held at the home of one of the congregants who had just died. We gathered to sing hymns, pray, hear the Word, and be in fellowship with the grieving family. Then on Thursday I attended the Women’s Guild meeting with Susan. Every Thursday women in every CCAP congregation meet, sometimes in their own congregations and sometimes joining together with others. This week they were having their meeting locally at Mufakose. This meeting included beautiful singing from the choir, a devotion, and even a lesson on how to clean a stove. This group offers support to women in many aspects of their lives, encouraging them to put their faith into action with their families and communities as well as providing practical advice on things like housekeeping, childrearing, and ways to serve their communities.

The Women's Guild Choir

Greeting one another after the Women's Guild meeting

Friday I spent the day with Stella, who had been my hostess in April when I had come to visit with MAPC. It was great to see her and catch up. We walked together to the hair salon, shared lunch at her home, and enjoyed spending time with one another. At the hair salon we met another woman and got to talking about what God is doing in Zimbabwe. She commented that there is a lack of compassion in Zimbabwean society today, especially among the younger generations. Everyone seems to be looking out for themselves and doing what they can to get themselves ahead. I said we have a similar situation in the States and we talked about how one of the ways we as Christians can live out our faith is by simply putting others ahead of ourselves and showing compassion in our everyday interactions.

The woman we visited with at the hair salon

On Saturday I had the opportunity to see some of the other projects of the CCAP. We returned to Rock Haven, where some pastors from Australia had been conducting a preaching course for church elders. Pattison and Libias helped conclude this program by presenting certificates and encouraging the elders to use the training they had received to serve their congregations.

Pattison speaking to the elders at the preaching workshop 

Preaching workshop participants

Then we went to visit Nyabira school on Saturday afternoon. This school is run by the CCAP and has over 900 students. It was great to see their facilities and meet the headmaster. The school keeps growing and growing and they are working on several projects. They have a new toilet block that is almost completed, they are building new homes for the teachers, and they are hoping to add a library. Please pray that they will be able to continue providing a good education for the children there and that God will provide for the ways they are seeking to improve the school.

Nyabira school

Finally, on Sunday I preached at Mufakose congregation and Susan lead the liturgy for the service. It was fun to see some familiar faces from April when we had lead Bible studies there. They also had several great choirs including the kids’ Sunday School choir. In the afternoon and evening I had time to relax and chat with Susan and Pattison as it was my last day in Zimbabwe.

View from the pulpit on Sunday 

With Go-go (grandma) Chirongo and Susan after church

I had a great visit with our partners in CCAP Harare Synod. I especially enjoyed getting to know Libias and Pattison better. These men work very hard serving God, CCAP, and their congregations. Harare means “the one who never sleeps,” so they are fitting partners to NYC – “the city that never sleeps.” After spending a couple weeks around CCAP, I nicknamed Libias and Pattison “The Harare Brothers” because of their busy schedules and devotion to their work. The time flew by and I was sad to leave when I boarded the plane to Johannesburg yesterday.

The Harare Brothers - Rev. Pattison Chirongo and Rev. Libias Boloma

Please be praying for our partners – the CCAP Harare Synod – and also for Zimbabwe as a nation. With elections probably coming next year, there is the possibility of confusion and violence. Please join the church in Zimbabwe in praying for true rugare (peace) both in the election process and for the country as a whole. 

Rugare - this vegetable whose name means "peace" - is growing in gardens all over Zimbabwe.  Please be praying that rugare will also be growing in the churches, government, and society.


Posted October 9, 2012
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