Sunday, October 31, 2010

Safely Arrived

It’s always good to have family in town. Last night, a team of seven from LowCountry Community Church, my home church, arrived for a week-and-a-half of ministry with Living Hope. This morning we worshipped at two churches, King of Kings Baptist and Masiphumelele Baptist. It just so happened that the annual “Noordhoek Family Fair” was today, so we had lunch there, then the team went home to catch up on some rest after the long trip from the bottom of South Carolina to the bottom of Africa.

We’re all excited about the week ahead in Red Hill, where plans include door-to-door visits, a leadership training workshop for lay leaders in the community, construction projects, a health fair, and of course, the daily afternoon Children’s Clubs. Stay tuned – I’ll post reports and photos throughout the team’s stay.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The 11th Commandment

We’ve been teaching the 10 Commandments to the Red Hill kids over the past few months. On Wednesday I saw how it has impacted at least one precious child.

Four-year-old Emihle was sitting next to me when a minor scuffle broke out between two other kids. I broke it up and said to them, “No hitting! Do you understand? We do not hit.”

Emihle had my back. With a firm tone of authority she exclaimed, “Thou shall not hit!”

String Festivities

The annual Kite Festival came to Cape Town this weekend. I wonder what Charlie Brown would think?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Favorite Place

I have a number of favorite spots in Cape Town, but No. 1 is Kirstenbosch, the national botanical garden. Here are five reasons why:

Wide open spaces

Dazzling flora

Interesting wildlife

Access to great hiking trails ...

... leading to views like this

Friday, October 15, 2010

Serving in Anonymity

I really like these lyrics from the band FFH:

I may never be a millionaire / Funny I don't think I care / May never see the mountain view/ I guess I don't need to

I may never drive a fancy car / Or be a movie star/ But I'll be, I'll be, the light of the world

If we just do as Jesus asks, to represent Him to the world around us, there will be reward enough. We don’t even need to be “superstar” Christians. As Revelation 11:18 says: “The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great.”

Historic Challenge, Christ-like Response

Living Hope recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. It all began in November 1999, when Pastor John Thomas of Fish Hoek (now King of Kings) Baptist Church received what he describes as a “wakeup call” at a local minister’s fraternal meeting. There it was reported that 44 percent of residents in nearby Masiphumelele Township were HIV-positive. The statistic was incorrect – it turned out to be 17 percent – but John was unaware of that and he says God used it to “kick me.”

As he recalls: “I thought, how could I ever face God on Judgment Day and say, ‘Lord I’m sorry that all those people died with AIDS and possibly went to hell while, at our church just one kilometre away, we were so busy having such a good Christian party that we didn’t have time to reach out to those around us.’”

Pastor John shared his heart with his congregation and the decision was made to start an HIV and AIDS outreach in Masiphumelele. Through their relationship with Pastor Phillip Mokson of Masi Baptist (a daughter church that Fish Hoek Baptist had planted), Pastor John and a group of volunteers began meeting with local leaders to seek direction. At their request, the fledgling ministry began a curriculum of English lessons in the primary school. Another entrée into the community came when health workers advised Living Hope to open a wound dressing clinic. Because the stigma that attaches itself to HIV is so strong and pervasive, such a facility provided a safe cover for residents to learn their status in private.

Other early Masi outreach efforts included physiotherapy sessions, home visits with community health workers, and an afternoon children’s ministry at the church. All of this work was built on the Gospel message and conducted with the goals that today form Living Hope’s vision statement: “To bring the hope and compassion of Jesus Christ to the chronically sick and dying in a holistic way, and do all we can to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.”

From those humble beginnings, Living Hope today works in eight communities across the Cape Peninsula. Now operated as the Living Hope Trust, the organization comprises five departments: Living Care (22-bed health care centre, home-based health care), Living Right (life skills education in schools and communities, support groups, health counseling, social work), Living Grace (ministry to the homeless, destitute and substance abusers), Living Way (economic empowerment), and Living Services (administrative support).

In 2007, King of Kings Baptist Church was recognized with the Courageous Leadership Award, given by the Willow Creek Association and World Vision that year to honor a local church that is making a mark in history on behalf of Christ and His Church, and to further those efforts. To Pastor John, it’s simply a matter of obeying God’s call.

“Since the UN has declared HIV and AIDS to be the greatest catastrophe of human history, it follows then that HIV and AIDS is the greatest opportunity the Church has ever had in history,” he says. “We are grateful to God for this unprecedented opportunity to serve Him in this way. This was not something we chose. It is something God put in our path. Wherever He leads, we will follow.”

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Food Fun

I’ve seen plenty of Cape Town’s impoverished side. Today I got a look at its rich yuppy side. The Old Biscuit Mill is a Saturday market where the city’s beautiful people go to see and be seen. I felt like I was at the Heritage golf tournament on Hilton Head, with women all dolled up in their best sundresses and guys trying to look cool while trying not to look like they were trying to look cool.

People watching aside, the Mill is a great spot to sample a variety of culinary styles – South African, of course, but also Greek, Italian, Spanish, Portugese,  and so on. It’s a bit overwhelming. There’s so much to pick from, and mostly at reasonable prices, you don’t want to order one thing and then regretfully wish you had opted for something else.

While on the topic of food, I must note there are a number of American products that one misses while living in a foreign country. Even in an urban area like Cape Town, certain things are hard to come by. Like Kelloggs Pop Tarts, for example.  Occasionally one of our American friends will get a package sent from home and it’s always a cause for celebration. So it was with much amusement that my friend Danielle discovered a local grocery store that sells Pop Tarts. The only catch – they’re priced at R50 a box, which translates to about $7 U.S. I love Pop Tarts – but not that much.

Disobedient and Directionless

A few months ago I took a Sunday-afternoon hike in the mountains near where I live. It was a perfect sunny day and I really enjoyed myself. But on my way back, I missed a turn and walked far out of the way – so far that I ultimately had to hike down to the highway below and call a friend to come pick me up, as dusk was coming on. The problem was, I had not paid close enough attention to my map.

At least I didn’t get lost while using a GPS unit. Oh wait – I’ve done that too. Back in June 2009, just before I left for Cape Town, I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque’s dominant landform is 10,378-foot Sandia Peak, which can be accessed via an aerial tramway, on foot, or by automobile. On my last day in the city, I had a few hours to kill before my flight home, so I decided to drive up. I had a GPS in my rental car and figured I could easily find my way.

I didn’t even have to type in an address because Sandia Peak was already included in the unit’s listed area attractions. Easy enough – just hit “enter” and go. But the trouble began when I didn’t listen to the first instruction (“turn left”) and went the opposite direction on the freeway. When the GPS recalculated and told me to turn around, I thought to myself, “But it makes more sense the way I’m going now. The mountain looks closer this way. I’m sure the GPS will still lead me there.”

I passed exit after exit, with the GPS informing me it was “recalculating” each time. Eventually I must have passed some unseen point of no return, because it began giving me a new route in the direction that I had insisted on going. That route turned out to be 25 miles to the other side of the mountain and ended at a rough gravel path. It was not a surface my lightweight compact car could endure and certainly not the accepted tourist route up to the peak.

By the time I backtracked and tried to go the original route, time was running short and I was due at the airport soon. I was extremely disappointed in myself for making such an easily avoidable mistake and missing a great opportunity to see one of Albuquerque’s scenic attractions. But if we’re to learn from our mistakes, I figured there was a good lesson in this one. Clearly it pays to follow the directions of an expert, even if it’s from a pocket-sized gadget that speaks in a computerized female voice.

So it is with God’s commands. A lot of people tend to think our heavenly Father is out to spoil our fun. But the fact is, His instruction is given with our best interest in mind. Throughout the Bible we are exhorted to obey. King Solomon, a renowned possessor of great wisdom, wrote, “He who obeys instructions guards his life” (Proverbs 19:16). And Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28). The message is clear: Obey the One who knows all and you’ll never be lost.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Language Arts

Pastor Jeff Cranston of LowCountry Community Church, on a recent trip to England, made some interesting observations on his blog about different terms Brits and Americans use for the same things. The same holds true in South Africa, where there is much British influence. But South Africans also have their own uniquely South African terms and phrases. Here are a few definitions:

Bakkie (pronounced bucky): Pickup truck
Braai (rhymes with fry): Barbecue, cookout
Bru: Brother, friend
Howzit: Common greeting, sort of like, “How are you?” e.g., “Howzit, me bru?”
Just now: Soon. “I’ll be there just now.”
Now now: Immediately (sooner than just now). “I’m leaving now now.”
Lekker: Nice, cool, pleasant. “Have a lekker day.”
Pitch up: To arrive or show up. “He pitched up 30 minutes late.”
Is it: All-purpose response used in any conversation where “Really?”, “I see,” etc., would be appropriate. “I’m feeling really tired.” “Is it?” (I know, it really doesn’t make sense.)

Well, that’s all for this post. I’ll write again soon. But maybe not just now.