Friday, June 30, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 8

I have a confession to make. The signs indicating the road to take to get to Grahamstown from Port Alfred were one had removed them. Louise and I were so busy discussing what we were doing and who we were meeting we simply didn't see them. So, forgive me road workers...

Today has been mostly a driving day. The only exciting things we did...except nearly get wiped out by a speeding taxi overtaking an oncoming car in our lane...was stop for breakfast and stop for lunch.

Birah Cafe...cheese and bacon pie!
We seem to be doing a lot of eating on this trip! A necessary evil, I suppose.

The views along the way were stunning...what a pity one couldn't stop to take photographs because of all the road construction! The aloes were magnificent! The mountains, the rolling hills, the deep river gorges, and the gentle ploughed slopes made one want to burst forth in praise.

So, we had Faure do that for us...yes, it was a requiem, but his interpretation of the Pie Jesu just seemed to fit with what we were seeing and experiencing.

Mthatha is an interesting place...bustling and busy, just like Addis Ababa. The traffic is just like Addis Ababa too with a fair bit of Cairo and India thrown in for good measure. Those of you who have had the misfortune of driving in those places will know what I mean. In most places in the world, the front passenger seat is the seat of honour. In Cairo, according to Bishop Mouneer, it is the seat of horror. A few times I have had to "do my Ethiopian thing" and push my nose into endless traffic to cross over or have had to go through a very red light because no one from the other side stopped. Nerve-wracking fun.

My great-grandfather, Arthur, was the first principal of St John's College here back in the 1880's. Apparently this is still a very good school and only the best pupils get to go there. Way to go, Arthur!

Bulie and Louise.
Our contact here, fondly known as Bulie, came to get us and we went out on the town...not exactly...but we went to a local restaurant and talked about the Diocese and about future possibilities for LEAD training here.

She told us that Rooted in Jesus Junior is a great hit here, and that she is sure that Rooted in Jesus (Adult version) as well as the LEAD program will take off as well. But, as we saw in the Diocese of George, we need to look at translating the material in other languages such as Afrikaans and Xhosa. It is just so much more effective to learn something in ones heart we have our work cut out for us!

We found out that we are in the wrong B&B...YIKES! So we will have to move rest for the weary. Sigh.

On the road to Mthatha.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 7

We got lost today...well, not quite lost, but we did miss our turnoff because the dear folk doing the road construction had removed all the signs on our side of the road. So, we blissfully drove on until we got to the mouth of the Fish River. Stunning views, but way off course...but we did get to see a family of Vervet monkeys on the way, so it was not a total waste of time!

Once on the road to Grahamstown, it was a straight shot...well a curved straight shot through Bathhurst. This is the bastion of 1820 British Settler territory and we drove past farms with names like Lyndhurst and Waters. Many of these farms are game farms so we spotted a few zebra and various antelope like Springbuck and Blesbokke. This is also hill country and the views along the way are breathtakingly beautiful. Many aloes grow here as well and their blooms are particularly bright red this year.

The Cathedral of St Michael and St George
Today we met with the Rev Dr Claire Hunter, the wife and co-worker of the Dean of the Cathedral (see here: who is away in Stellenbosch attending the funeral of his godmother who recently passed into the arms of Jesus.

Dean Andrew Hunter and his wife Revd Dr Claire Nye Hunter
Claire is an educationalist and was so excited to hear about the new LEAD program of Growing the Church...we were so excited she was excited, so you can only imagine how much fun we had over coffee and delicious home-made cakes. We look forward to training with her on board as GtC faculty in the future.

She told us that the Cathedral was one of the best integrated churches in southern Africa. If you look at the pictures on their website, you can see why she says so! A wee glimpse of heaven...every tribe, nation, tongue...together worshipping our one Father. Bliss...

Aunt Alice is on the far left.
Claire was also able to point us to the Cory Library where an exceptionally helpful young lady by the name of Louisa...good name...helped us find the baptismal record of Southwell Anglican Church. Lo and behold, there it was. Pages filled with my great-grandfather's signature as he baptised baby after baby after adult...yes, adults too...after baby. Folks didn't have television or cell phones those days and the winters are cold. Three of these babies were his own children. Clara, John (my grandfather), and Alice, who later became an Anglican nun and served at a mission in Rusape, Zimbabwe. This was an amazing find. The librarian was so excited she hugged me goodbye!

John Lomax, born on 3rd October 1882 and Baptised on 19th November 1882 by his father, Arthur Lomax.

We spent a lovely cozy evening with Pen, her sister, Carol, and her Rector, Cynthia...thankfully, Carol's Staffordshire Terrier is male, otherwise I would be totally outnumbered! We had a marvellous time and Cynthia is convinced the LEAD Disciple-making course is a necessity for their parish...if only people knew how life changing this course really is! To follow REALLY follow Jesus, is to make disciples...and what could possibly be wrong with that? And to follow Jesus is to embark on a journey that will take you deep into the very heart of God...

All in all, this has been a fantastic day! Thank You Jesus!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 6

Port Elizabeth is know as the "windy city" and boy did it live up to its name today! We had hardly started our presentation when we heard this howling sound...everyone else seemed quite unperturbed, so we raise our voices and carried on.

It was a wonderful and encouraging meeting - in fact the most engaging meeting we have had thus far. Everyone was engaged...asking questions, making statements, discussing ideas, dates and was so exciting that Louise and I completely forgot to take any photographs...not one...sigh...

From Port Elizabeth we headed on up north towards our next destination...Port Alfred. This became a destination because of an enquiry I had made about my great-grandfather who had served as Rector and Principal of the church school in nearby Southwell. Pen is a priest in the area and I got her name and email address from the church website. (see here: But, as always with a great God like ours, this seemingly casual encounter turned out to be a divine appointment for us and we spend a wonderful, God-filled, Spirit-led evening with her, encouraging her and praying with and for her. She is a brave woman with an indomitable spirit and someone we have come to admire and respect over a very short period of time.

But prior to our arrival in Port Alfred, we made the long awaited detour to St James, Southwell, to see this tiny church in the middle of what would have been nowhere at the time when my great-grandfather and his brave wife and children laboured for the Lord out of love for the people who lived here.

It was here, at Southwell that my grandfather, John Lomax, was born and raised for the first seven years of his life.
John Lomax.

The Altar area. 

The baptismal font in which my grandfather was baptised.

Inside St James, Southwell.

The old Rectory and school.

The Mission Church.
The kitchen...I wonder how many meals Mary Ellen cooked here!
The list of Rectors...Arthur Lomax is 4th from the bottom.

Arthur's signature is on the top right.
It has been a long day and tomorrow we are off to Grahamstown for more meetings...who knows what the Holy Spirit has in store for us!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 5

The devastation caused by the fire in the Knysna area was evident soon after we left George today. The Garden Route was black and ashen instead of luscious and green. But I am ahead of my story, so allow me to back up a bit.

This morning we met with Bishop Brain Marajh and his Archdeacons. Alright, I admit I was completely intimidated, but the dear Bishop quickly put me at ease with his constant teasing and joviality. Louise and I presented the program to the group of men and answered their the time we left, everyone was on board and eager to set a date for training. We are all anticipation...

When I was a child, my parents would come down to South Africa from Namibia every year to spend their vacation in a hotel called the Van Riebeek in Gordon's Bay. But part of this annual ritual was a trip to Holy Trinity, Belvidere, a small chapel connected to the estate of the Duthie family back in the 1850's as well as the grave of George Rex.

I still don't really know what the connection was back then. This time the small chapel meant a lot to us. You see, the raging forest fire that caused so much sorrow and loss throughout this area, came right up to the gate of the church but went no further. We met with the local priest, a young man by the name of Jerome, who told us how he stayed behind while his family was evacuated. No one thought the fire would come over the mountain...but it did...with a vengeance. He saw his neighbour struggling to douse the flames in her backyard and so he ran to help her, but a tree went up and flames at the side of the house and fell onto the roof. He told us how he had to physically drag her away as she watched her house burn to the ground. He knew the church could be next, but he had to get her out..."people are more important than buildings," he said. So he fled with her to a nearby hotel.

But forest fires are treacherous, and, as the wind had turned, they were all forced to flee once again...but this time on foot...poor, wealthy, sick, and injured together across the beach sands to safety. As they sat and waited for the fires to be put out, news came that Holy Trinity was no more. But he refused to believe that.
Once they were allowed to leave, he walked back across the sands to where he had left his car. They had to remove trees and fallen telephone poles  before they could get out of the hotel parking lot. As he approached the church all he was watching for was the roof...and there it was. Not a roof tile was touched. The neighbour's house was but a shell. His own rectory which was next door untouched.

We found George Rex's grave as well...I felt I needed to do that for my mum. It seemed to be in a better shape than when we last saw it, but still...for the founder of Knysna, the state of the grave is rather a poor reflection on the community.

We had to push on from this point as Post Elizabeth was still quite a way to drive. Once again, we have a wonderful B&B to stay in tonight.

We also received great news as we drove into the city.

We are grandparents again! Hanno and Lauren have had another wee girl: Constance Advent. So we found a local restaurant to celebrate...

What a wonderful way to end a perfect day...

Monday, June 26, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 4

The majestic grandeur of the scenery along the route we are taking to George is indescribable. It will take poetry or a grand symphony to explain what we have seen today. Miles and miles of farmland rising up to the fantastic heights of the mountains all around us...landscape dotted with animals of varying species, both domestic and wild...ostriches, sheep, cattle, Bontebok, huge flocks of Guinea Fowl, Cranes and Egrets, even two Elephants...Elephants? Yup, there are a few small game farms along the way as well.

Once the sun was up and the folks of the small towns were visible, we stopped for apple pie and coffee. This particular bakery is known for its pies, but, being health conscious as we are, we reluctantly passed by the rest and bought two small buns instead for a quick picnic along the road...but that would have to wait as we were now approaching the town of Swellendam and we needed to have a chat with the Anglican Priest there about our work with GtC.

What a wonderful couple! Mario and Hester Hendricks lead four churches, the largest of which is over 300 strong. They immediately wanted to know when we can come to do the training! Well, as with all hierarchical churches there are hoops and loops through which one has to manoeuvre before anything can get done...but where there is a will, there is a way, and we will work it out. One of their parishioners, Rob also showed up and we had a lovely chat over coffee.

By the time we left Swellendam, the sun was just beginning to make its presence known and a good bask in its warmth was just the thing we needed to thaw the winter cold and get our fingers moving in the right directions again. So we stopped again, for a quick bite...ah, the open road...nothing like it.

We then drove straight through to our destination for today...George...a place that used to be a quaint town 20 odd years ago, but that is now a large city in its own right. Here we met Archdeacon Lyndon Du Plessis, a man I met last year December up in Johannesburg. Lyndon and his dear wife, Corine, met us at an upscale Mall...not quite what I was expecting to find here...and took us to Mugg and Bean for a bottomless Hot Chocolate. much hot chocolate can one drink in one sitting? But it was delicious and the fellowship sweet. These are hard working folk. They told us that when they got here, their church was dying...literally...a few older folks clinging on for dear life. But now their church is vibrant and filled with young folk too...over 3000 strong! But the majority of the parishioners are poor and struggling to make ends meet. That is a story one hears a lot in Anglican circles here...

We are staying overnight with parishioners who have just started up their own B&B...what a lovely little place and so nice to be staying with folks from the church. Tomorrow is the big day when we meet with the Bishop and his council, but there is still much that needs to be done tonight!

We went out with Lyndon and Corine to look at their church and the area in which they serve. It is a large and very diverse area with some very, very poor folks living right on their doorstep. We stopped at their church, St Paul's, and met with their choir and were blessed to hear them sing...outstanding! We finished off a wonderful day with a meal and fellowship...dear blessed saints, they are.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 3

Cold, cold, cold...but I told Louise a long time ago that when I complain about the cold winters here she must remind me of the 63.8 degree Celsius weather in Gambella. So, I let her do the complaining and I simply nod in sympathy.

This morning, the preacher used the image of a desert rose as an illustration of the nominal Christian...beautiful to behold, but nothing more than fossilised soil. For those who don't know what a desert rose is, here is a picture of one.

There could not have been a better confirmation for what we are seeking to do as Growing the Church. The reality of non-productive church goers is something that needs urgent attention. The horror of successfully Christianised nations committing atrocities beyond human nightmares such as the genocides of Rwanda and South Sudan remind us that we simply cannot do church as we have in the past. Something must change.

In our recent application to SAMS-USA for a project to fund a scholarship program to assist those who simply cannot pay for the disciple-making training, we pointed out the fact that numerical growth does not necessarily bring about the type of change one seeks for those being added to the Kingdom. The LEAD program, however, teaches disciple-makers to walk with their disciple(s) through a process from unbelief all the way through to maturity.

Schematically thus:

The LEAD program teaches disciple-makers how to win the lost for Christ...then how to build up the new Christian in their new-found faith...then how to train that person to make disciples themselves. All three of these lead quite naturally to the final phase, that is multiplication. But the important thing is to write the concept of multiplication into the DNA of the new believer right from the start...a far easier thing to do at the beginning than to try to ignite that passion at a later stage.

And now, I must disappoint you all...we did not braai fact we did not braai at all today. It was a quiet day in this peaceful country town and we spent it peacefully together with everyone else. We had pancakes (American crepes - well, sort of) and chicken soup and now we are gathered around a lovely warm fire.

Tomorrow...ah...we are so excited...


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 2

It was -2 degrees Celsius this morning...needless to say, we did not emerge from our beds with the roosters...actually, even the roosters decided to keep a lid on it as we didn't hear any until later. There is one here whose crow sounds a lot like a rooster we had in Gambella..."Oh what shall I do?" he ever gives an answer.

It suddenly dawned on me that our dear American friends and family will not quite understand our reluctance to crawl out from under our duvets...we do not have central heating (or cooling for that matter) and the cold out there is the cold in here as well!

But in spite of a late start, we did get quite a bit accomplished. We worked on our itinerary and our scholarship fund project application and got a few items we still needed for the road. Louise cooked a few ready-to-pop-in-the-microwave-and-eat meals for the Queen and we ended the day with family, doing what our family loves to do...braaing...which is not exactly the same as American Barbecuing.

Right now this is what the next two weeks will look like.

Monday June 26 - Swellendam and Mosselbay - sleep over in George

Tuesday June 27 - George (Bishop's Council 10 AM) - sleep over in PE

Wednesday June 28 - PE Meeting at 11 AM - sleep over in Port Alfred

Thursday June 29 - Grahamstown - no meetings set up yet - sleep over Port Alfred

Friday June 30 - to Mthatha
Saturday July 1 - Mthata
Sunday July 2 - Mthatha - Celebration service 

Monday July 3 - to Molteno (Day off)

Tuesday July 4 - to East London for meeting - sleep over in East London

Wednesday July 5 - to Plettenberg Bay - sleep over there

Thursday July 6 - morning and afternoon meetings in Plettenberg Bay - sleep over there

Friday July 7 - head on home - we may stop over in Villiersdorp if we feel it is too far for one day's drive.

The map below shows more or less the way we will be driving except we turn off to go to Mthatha (which here is spelled Umtata). We will also be going inland to Molteno, a small town where Louise's Dutch family and my British family lived three generations ago. In spite of the Boer War raging all around them, these families stayed friends which only goes to show it can be done in Jesus!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 1

We left Cape Town too late...the traffic was simply absurd. But, as we have a rental, we also have music, so Brahms and Mahler helped calm the nerves and got us safely to our destination.

We enjoyed a peaceful evening dining with the Queen. 

This weekend, Louise and I will gather our thoughts, go through all our presentation material, contact more contacts, write out an application for a new project to sponsor Growing the Church trainees through SAMS-USA, and rest. More later...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Serious Intercession

Louise and I are asking for serious intercession.

We leave for a two week trip to the Eastern Cape on Monday. In many ways, we are retracing the footsteps of my great-grandfather who left Cape Town for the Eastern Cape in 1873...only, he and his family went by ox wagon and horse, not by car.

In many ways, this whole area still needs the Gospel as much as it did in the 1800's. Crime, violence, corruption, superstition, witchcraft, and any number of evils are still practiced widely. Poverty and disease, HIV in particular, plague the people. Many of our Christian brethren in these areas suffer hunger and need.

The southern most part of this area (George and Knysna more particularly) has been devastated by a recent raging bush fire and we wish to be an encouragement to these folks, not a burden. Pray for wisdom as we introduce them to the work of Growing the Church. Many people lost everything. Pray for Lyndon as he coordinates the GtC work in a Diocese which is about as big as South Carolina. 

From there we move on to Port Elizabeth - a large coastal city that is key to reaching thousands with the liberating Gospel of Jesus. The key person there is a young man who knows and loves the Lord. Pray for Ulrught as he seeks to open the way for GtC to come into their Diocese to train faculty and Diocesan teams in disciple-making.

From there we move on to Port Alfred and Southwell, both in the Diocese of Grahamstown. Pray for Pen who will be hosting us, together with Cynthia, Basille, and Carol, who all serve in different ways in the area.There is a huge Art Festival taking place in Grahamstown at this time, so we may not be able to do our introductory talk there this time round...but, we will be able to visit the historic mission station where my great-grandfather worked and where my grandfather was born. We are making some good contacts in the area for future reference. Hopefully, on our return journey we will be able to meet folks in East London, another large coastal city.

Then on to Mthatha for a weekend of celebration...apparently, the entire Diocese is gathering for a "family" day on we will get to meet a lot of people all at once! They have promised to provide us with good music and dancing...looking forward to it! Pray for Bullie, our contact and coordinator there.

On our return journey we will meet with folk in another coastal town named Plettenberg Bay. Pray for Pam. There are a number of churches in the area and people are ready to start outreaches, but many folks here are poverty stricken. Training costs about R300 (about $25) per person (that barely covers our costs to print the booklets), so we may need to start a project scholarship fund of sorts.

The return journey is more flexible as some folk may ask for us to I said, we are hoping to meet with folks in East London...but I am sure we will fill our agenda soon!

Please pray for:

1. Protection. The roads here are dangerous on so many levels...wild and domestic animals freely roam around and often cross the roads unexpectedly right in front of fast moving vehicles...uniformed persons have been known to stop cars saying they were speeding, with the hope of receiving a bribe...crazy drivers take huge risks and endanger the lives of everyone around them. Pray for our vehicle as flat tyres or other mechanical problems.

2. Persons of Peace. We need to find spiritual, influential people who will catch the vision of disciple-making and run with it in their Diocese. Please pray for divine appointments all along the way.

3. Financing. GtC operates on a tight budget and has to charge folk for the training. We do not want to miss key leaders simply because they don't have the wherewithall to pay for the training. Please pray for generous folk to step forward and offer scholarships.

4. Health. That the Lord will grant us good health and that we will not get sick.

Thanks y'all!


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Strangers in the Night

Last week we woke up in the dark…our power was off. At first we thought our electricity had run out, as have been running a dehumidifier 24/7 since our flat was mildly flooded during the Mother of all Storms…but we still had enough left on the meter. (Yes, electricity works differently here than in the States.) I waited until the bewitching hour was over and WhatsApped (is that an acceptable verb now?) our Growing the Church group to see if their power was off as well…but then it came back on again…so, we thought no further on the subject.

But last night, we found out what had really happened. As you can see from the photographs, our block of flats has an electrified fence all around it with electric gates that work with remotes.

Louise at the main gate...the infamous power box is behind her.
The security camera that revealed all...
But, that did not stop two possible gang members from getting over it. It’s not hard to see why…there is a tree right next to a street lamp…even I, admittedly with some difficulty, could get over there. Apparently, one of our visitors scaled the walls of the building itself and attempted to enter our neighbour’s flat via their porch…but our neighbours woke up and foiled whatever plans he may have had…they sleep with the porch door open as they, like us, are on the second floor.

From the video footage they could see that the other visitor walked around the base of the building and then towards the gate where he found the main electrical switchbox and…yes, you got it…turned off the mains. Why this box was not locked remains a mystery, but there you have it. He then got over the electrified fence without any discomfort to him or his friend.

Gang activity in our area has apparently escalated of late and we have been warned to become increasingly vigilant. This is so sad as leads to profiling. For us, the only way forward is to treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of whether they are digging in the trash or dropping their children at the school across the road off in a Mercedes Benz…but to be wise and not put ourselves in harm’s way. So, no more late night strolls unless we are in a group…sigh…this world needs Jesus…
Our flat is in the centre on the second floor...the neighbour's porch is to the left in the is relatively easy to scale that wall because of the wood slats.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Report - June 2017

Louise and I boarded flight 110 to Johannesburg on June 8 together with our newfound friend and mentor, Jeremy Koeries of J-Life. We were heading back to Johannesburg to follow-up with those we trained the beginning of May as well as to train a new batch of trainers.

We stayed in a lovely Convent by the Name of Koinonia, in an area known as Bezuidenhout Valley.  

The training, however, took place in an area known as Sophiatown….one of the oldest racially mixed communities in Johannesburg which was destroyed in 1955 when over 2000 policemen forcibly moved people to different areas according to their ethnicity. Almost all the buildings were demolished, but the suburb was rebuilt, renamed Tromf (Triumph) and zoned as a whites only area, until the name Sophiatown was reinstated in 2006. The training centre itself was one of the few structures not destroyed by the bulldozers. It used to be an orphanage, but is now the Diocesan Headquarters for the Diocese of Johannesburg. Sophiatown was also home to the much loved and respected anti-apartheid activist, Father Trevor Huddleston. Jeremy, Louise, and I managed to visit a centre named in his honour as well as the church he shepherded and where his ashes have been buried.

On Friday, 9 June, John Abrahamse, the international director of J-Life, met with our May group for follow-up to see how they had used the material they had learned previously. He also wanted to show them how to coach their own disciples and how to teach others to coach their disciples. All the training materials are designed to create a multiplication effect in the Parishes, Dioceses, and the Province. To quote the Apostle Paul, we seek to train those who “will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2) until every member of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa has been trained or equipped to do the work of the ministry.

Unfortunately, as it was held on a working day, a number could not participate, but we have encouraged them to form small support groups among themselves and to teach and coach each other as well as to hold each other accountable. The J-Life leaders have also graciously made themselves available should our faculty or teams need assistance. 

On Saturday, 10 June, we started training a new group, made up of representatives from the Diocese of Johannesburg and the Diocese of the Highveldt. Some will become Growing the Church Faculty for their respective Diocese, while others will become Diocesan Team Leaders who will serve to train Parish leaders who, in turn will train parishioners. 


Jeremy, Louise, and myself did most of the training, but five of our previously trained faculty returned to participate as small group facilitators as well as trainers. They did so well and we are very, very proud of them! I think Paul, Peter, Erna, Thenjiwe, and Thokozani were all encouraged as well…sometimes one just has to take the plunge and teach…one often knows more than one thinks!

We returned from Johannesburg on BA flight 6407 on Sunday, 11 June, tired, but joyful. It was a wonderful training event that we will remember for a very long time.

                                                       God Bless Africa,
Guard her children,
Guide her leaders,
And give her peace.