Thursday, July 20, 2017

St Paul's Anglican Church: George Diocese

When we toured the Eastern Cape area a week ago, our first stop was in the Diocese of George. The evening prior to our meeting with the Bishop, Canon, and Archdeacons, Lyndon Du Plessis, our GtC coordinator, showed us around the city of George and, more especially the areas where he and he and his wife Corine work. It is mostly a poor to impoverished area...some folks live in shacks and cook outside around campfires. But we were so blessed when he took us to meet his choir...made up of people from all walks of life, none of them professionally trained...but oh! What a heavenly sound! I think even the angels were commanded to be silent and listen...

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 15

I was reminded of our donkeys on my father’s farm as we travelled back home yesterday. Speed was not their forte on the way from their place of abode…but just turn them around! The moment they realised they were headed on back to the kraal, they galloped as if a demon from hell itself was pursuing them. All this to say, we made good time on our way back to Cape Town…

We had a long way ahead of us, but we had a late start…how could we refuse a full English farmhouse breakfast with some of the dearest people we now have the privilege of calling friends? Or better still, family in Jesus. Keith and Pam went out of their way to make us feel welcomed and loved.

All of those we met these past two weeks were wonderful and kind hosts…we truly experienced Christian hospitality at its best. Thank you one and all.

Unfortunately, my Man Cold has taken a turn downhill. I now sound like a nasally Mr Toad from Wind in the Willows.  Croak.  Thankfully, Louise is still fine.

We came home to a warm welcome from those who were at the GtC office. It is always nice to know one was missed.

John Ramsdale, who had promised to do some research into Arthur’s work at Zonnebloem, had also left two photocopied pages taken from a three volume work which he found in one of the cupboards at the College. The author cites statements made by Bishop Gray and Arthur’s superior, Glover, in which Arthur is described as “a teacher of outstanding ability” and as “an energetic good man” who “shows much kindness to the boys, making friends of them as well as out of school as in school.” The author then goes on to say that “it was provident that a man of such a calibre had been chose as Sub-Warden, for Glover resigned his post in May 1869 and Lomax had the entire responsibility of superintending the College for the next two years.” I do need to see this work for myself, as the author cites letters and reports that may yet be in existence somewhere.

All in all, I must say, this trip was rewarding.  Time alone will tell how many will respond positively to our challenge to set dates for future trainings, but we trust that the Lord will water the seeds sown and provide the growth in His good time. We heard that some Anglican priests were trained by J-Life this past weekend in Queenstown in spite of our struggle to meet with our coordinators. We trust that they will now meet up with Siphiwo and together make a concerted effort to get the training up and running through the Mbashe Diocese.

Lord, in Your mercy…hear our prayer.

This ends the travel diary of our short trip to the Eastern Cape.

Stay tuned for more exciting news as the Lord opens doors for ministry through the Province!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 14

I have the Man Cold. Louise will tell you I am a miserable sod when I have a cold...I'm bad enough when I'm healthy, but when I have a cold I become a pitiful, pathetic please-feel-sorry-for-me blob. Well, maybe not quite that bad, but I do feel very sorry for myself when I have a cold.

However, I do have the ability to rise to the occasion when I have to, and as we still had two presentations today, one this morning and one this evening, I had to swallow hard and carry on. Both sessions were rather informative...the questions put to us after the presentation always reveal the pulse of the parish or diocese. Today was no different. We are surprised that so many months after the Provincial Synod's charge to Growing the Church to find a way to promote the Archbishop of Canterbury's challenge for global intentional discipleship, there are still many on the parish level that know nothing about it. This is one of the reasons we have taken to the road to inform the people in the various Dioceses of this new Disciple-making material taught by GtC...and everywhere, we have had positive responses with people wanting to set dates. But the setting of dates is not our prerogative...that has to be set by the Diocese itself...and so we can do little more than leave the ball in their court with a prayer that the Holy Spirit will lead and direct their deliberations in the future.

Both presentations today were very positive. The Plettenberg Bay Community is rather diverse with rich and poor rubbing gathering together as one parish. In the morning session, we also had a

representative from the local Community Church attending who would like to do the course with the Anglicans. Wonderful!

This evening, representatives from a poorer area came to hear about our LEAD program. They were so excited and also wanted to know when we were coming to do the training. All we can do is pray and encourage.

Tomorrow we head on home...this will be a long day...between 6 to 7 hours of driving with a stop or two. But we need to get the rental car back before 5 PM if we are to avoid extra charges. So, we push on cold or not...

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 13

Today was a driving day...that's basically all we did all day. We left East London at 7:30, admittedly a little later than we had planned, but both of us were...actually are...tired. We had no meetings and, other than Louise calling Mother's Union and AWF leaders to remind them of a breakfast on July 15 when we will introduce the LEAD material to them, we did not really do any work type stuff.

Unfortunately, the CD player and radio in the car has a rather bad we couldn't listen to music. We talked a lot...about our children and grandchildren...about our ministry...about the Lord...we spoke to the Lord a lot too.

And we did not take a single photograph. We enjoyed the scenery...this really is one of the most beautiful parts of the world...we saw quite a few wild animals...we enjoyed lunch at a Greek Restaurant a stone's throw away from the beach at Jeffrey's Bay...and we enjoyed meeting Keith and Pam Berning, our hosts for tonight and tomorrow night in Plettenberg Bay.

We spoke to Pam at length about the LEAD program, we spoke about prayer, healing of memories (desperately needed in southern Africa!), we spoke about the churches in the area and their struggles, and oh so many other things.

We are about to enjoy a lovely dinner Keith has prepared for us, so if I don't have anything more to say, I will not return to this blog until tomorrow.  

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 12

One of the favourite games Louise and I have played on this trip is the game of dodgem...dodgem taxis, dodgem people, dodgem animals, and, our all time favourite, dodgem potholes. We left Molteno at 7 AM, which doesn't sound early, but it is still not quite light at that it was hard to spot potholes until you were right on top of them...unless, of course, some thoughtful person had painted a white line around the kidding. They erect signs warning you of potholes and they paint around them with white paint, but they don't fix them. Go figure...

I can well understand why our ancestors wanted to settle in this area in spite of the awful winters. -1 this morning! But the landscape is simply stunning...the valleys and the hills...the flora and the fauna...add in the mist over the dams and lakes and rivers...add in the golden hues of pinks and lilacs of sunrise...and you have magic.

Our first stop today was in a town named after Queen Victoria...Queenstown. This is one of two Dioceses in which we have struggled to get appointments, but a dear gentleman by the name of Siphiwo requested to see us today...which, in turned out, was his birthday!
He wanted to know what we were doing so that he can pass on the information to the Bishop and the rest of the Diocese...but, more importantly, he wants us to train his parishioners how to disciple others. We did the introductory presentation with him and the Diocesan secretary and prayed with them. He showed us around the cavernous Cathedral of St Michaels and All Angels. Gorgeous building...and really interesting decor...among the typical stained glass windows and stone carvings, they have a brown Jesus behind the altar.

Then we had to push on to East London for our first meeting at St Mark's, Cambridge, at 12:30. East London is part of the Diocese of Grahamstown, but these folks are chomping at the bit...they are so ready for the disciple-making training, the only repeated, almost urgent question was when do we do this? There were 24 at this introductory session...other than Mthatha, this was the largest group we have addressed. They are all excitement and so we set a tentative date, subject, of course to the approval of their Bishop.

We then went to the Guest House where we will spend the night. The building belongs to a member of St Mark's Church, but he is a St Thomas Christian from Kerela. They trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the First Century. How fortuitous that we should be staying in a house owned by a man who is a Christian today because of the obedience of one of Jesus' original make disciples of all nations...even if that meant crossing land and sea and cultures and languages to do so...not to mention, lose his life in the process.

After a short rest we returned to St Mark's for the second session.
This was not so well attended, but some key people were there with key ideas and key questions. It really only take one or two...that's the beauty of disciple-making. You don't need huge numbers, huge budgets, huge buildings, huge just need huge hearts filled with love for God and for people. It is that simple...

Tomorrow will be the longest drive it is time to find a pillow and get some shut-eye. Nighty night world...

Monday, July 3, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 11

We had quite an early start today as we had quite a way to drive! But...we didn't take into consideration how long we would have to wait at roadblocks...the particular road we travelled on today was under construction - all the way! The only thing worse than sitting waiting for the STOP sign to turn to GO is doing the job must be brain numbing to stand hour after hour waving a red flag to unsympathetic motorists or turning a sign over or pulling the plastic roadblock out of the way. We always greet everyone with a wave and a smile and they respond with the same every time.

As we have been going non stop since leaving Cape Town, we rewarded ourselves by taking the day off today. So we headed down memory lane, stopping off at another mission my great-grandfather had on his list. Dortrecht. The church in which he served as Rector is now in a sad state of disrepair...but the rest of the town doesn't look all that hot either. Sad, really.

Next, we headed off towards Molteno, a tiny town in the Eastern Cape where Louise's Dutch ancestors were friends with my British ancestors three generations ago. At the time, the British and Boers were not that happy with each other and a huge battle was fought right on Louise's grandfather's farm, Klipfontein.

Old man van Zyl thought thieves were trying to steal his sheep so he let rip with his rifle...unbeknownst to him, the trespassers were British soldiers trying to get some sleep in his barn - their mistake was that they didn't ask his permission first. When they heard the gun shots, they thought they were surrounded by Boer soldiers and they ran for the hills. In the end, it was a Boer victory, so maybe Old man van Zyl could take a pat on the back.

Louise's father was also born in Molteno in a small house just off main street - because there was no hospital back then. He also went to school here and ought to have inherited one of Old Man van Zyl's farms, but...well, it is a long and convoluted family story. There were coal mines here at one time, but after the war, they discovered that the grade of coal was inferior, so they closed the mines...the town had a brief boom period, but it quickly declined as residents left seeking their fortunes elsewhere.

One such resident was my great-uncle Ambrose Lomax. Ambrose was a chemist and amateur photographer. We visited his old shop today which has been converted into a Magistrate's Court, a library and a wee museum. In the museum we saw a photograph - a self-portrait - of Ambrose as well as a newspaper from April 1910 in which my grandfather is listed as having won a tennis match. My great-grandfather, Arthur, died in December 1910...I wonder if he was present when his son won this match?

We did visit the grave sites of both my great-grandfather and my great-grandmother Mary Ellen as well as Louise's father's grave...the former in Steynsburg, the latter in Molteno. Always strange visiting grave sites and wishing one could somehow tell them what is happening in our lives and hear what they had to say about that...maybe that is better left unsaid and unheard.

 Tonight we are staying over in a lovely Guest house called Olive's Cottage. On our way today, we received a call from the owner to say her husband had had a heart attack and they were in East London - he was having emergency heart surgery...but we could still get into the Cottage via a kind neighbour. We told her we would be praying and we called her just a wee while ago to hear how he is doing. Apparently everything went well...he is in recovery. Thank You Jesus.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day. From Molteno we drive to Queenstown to meet with the coordinator of GtC in the Kahlamba Diocese. We meet him at 8 we will have to leave a freezing (literally) Molteno no later than 7 AM. Then on to East London for two meetings at St Mark's Cambridge, the first at 12H30 and the second at 17H30. So, it is an early night again tonight for us!

What a has been a trip down memory lane and it has been fun.
Ambrose Lomax's Chemist and Photographic Studio

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 10

Close your eyes…you might just think you are in Cambridge or Westminster or King’s College…but no, wait! The words are not English, but Xhosa. Open your eyes and you are looking at roughly 5000 people crammed into a tent. I think to myself: “My great-grandfather did not build churches. These people. They are his legacy.” According to the SPG in London, Arthur was here to train indigenous missionaries…indigenous…that’s what this church is now. While it is a perfectly sound Anglican service, it is all done in isiXhosa…the Prayer Book, the Scripture readings, the Hymns, the service music…and all are indigenous people. Just the way Arthur would have wanted it to be.

We were told to be at the church at 8:30 AM, but by the time we got there crowds were already singing lustily in the tent…cars parked everywhere…and wave after wave of procession marching up the street from Ebenezer to the tent. I was there just in time for the very last one…with all the Canons, Archdeacons, the Provost and the Vicar General. Eish! Whatever happened to Africa time? 

I walked alongside the Chancellor of the Diocese…a good man to know! He and I chatted about the LEAD program and he is sold. One more on our side! Thank You Jesus! The tent was actually overflowing when we processed in and more people kept arriving throughout the service. As guess I managed to get a seat on the stage because I was with this final procession…it helps being late sometimes!

The service was amazingly organized. The choir was magnificent. As I said to one of the Archdeacons, today even the angels were silent. I hope I can buy one of their CD’s as I would love to hear these spectacular voices again. As neither Louise nor I speak or understand Xhosa, we were at somewhat of a disadvantage, but one of the great things about the Prayer Book is that even though it is in a different language, one can figure out what is going on from time to time.

These chaps do like their incense, though! The acolytes were so well trained and to watch them…their serious little faces…was a treat. The Eucharist is probably the largest I have ever attended with Chalices and Patens galore…the Vicar General kindly asked me to serve the bread – I loved every moment of it. Every man bows and every women curtseys as they receive the elements in upraised palms…precious brothers and sisters.

As this is a “Family Day” celebration service and everyone from the Diocese is present, there were reports to be given and gifts to be received. From the entrance of the church came the loud sound of dancing and singing as a group of enthusiastic young folk dragged in two sheep…a ram and ewe. As we did not understand what was being said or sung, we wondered…independently as we were not seated together…what was going down. Was this some OT scapegoat type ritual? The sheep were shoved onto the stage and made to sit at the feet of the Vicar General. My curiosity took over and I asked the Archdeacon next to me what was going on. He told me they were gifts from the Diocese to the Vicar General as a token of their appreciation. He was told that this was the start of a flock for him and his family…not to eat, but to multiply. They gave him an envelope with money for food…just to make sure. Sweet.

Then came my turn to address the crowd. I had prayed fervently that the Lord would give me the right words. Of course, at gatherings like these, there are many to address prior to saying anything…the Vicar General, the Provost, the Canon, the Archdeacons…and so on. But when I spoke, I told them what a blessing it was for us to be here on their family day as I am part of their family in a sense. I then told them about Arthur being the first principal of St John’s College…at this point people applauded and cheered. I had wondered how they would react, but it was very positive indeed. I told them all about GtC and the LEAD program and that I would be meeting with their Vicar General to discuss dates, times, and venues. The expectation is palpable…they want this training.

It was all over too soon…then there was lunch. Lunch? No, a feast worthy of the word celebration. Chicken, beef, lamb, rice, samp, butternut squash, spinach, salad, and dessert…these folks can eat! When it was time to say goodbye, the Vicar General said he would see us before nightfall…

And, in spite of an unbelievably busy schedule, he did! We had a wonderful chat over some light treats – who could eat anything heavy after today’s lunch? He is going to check on the Diocesan calendar, but is tentatively thinking of having us come up to do the first part of the training in October. Whoohoo!!!! We may be able to get some folk from the other Diocese to join in the fun too!

Long day…time to find a pillow.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 9

I have been through several storms in my life. To me the most exciting part of nature’s show of power is the anticipation…what some have called the calm before the storm. That is what today has felt like to me. While many around us have laboured long and hard for the “Family Celebration” service that will take place tomorrow, we have been spectators…watching…waiting…wondering…

We had heard last evening that we were in the wrong accommodation. The Diocesan Secretary had made provision for us in the Diocesan Guest House, but he had told no one prior to his leaving for East London. Once he returned, we had to move.

On the way over, we first fetched Bulie and took her with us. She was going to serve as our guide and principal “introducer”…a job she did very well, I must say. On the way we stopped to see the Cathedral Church of Mthatha, thinking that Arthur might have served there, but it was only built in 1901 and the Lomaxes lived in Steynsburg at that time. We then went on to our new temporary home…

For us, this was a very good move as we are now close to the Vicar General’s and the Provost’s homes and…get this…we are a short walk from the first church built in Mthatha as well as the first school. While there is still no obvious clue to Arthur’s presence here…no plaques bearing his name or anything like that, St John's church and St John's College stand as a testimony to his dedication to seeing local missionaries raised up to serve their own people. Rather progressive for his time.

Bulie introduced us to the Diocesan Secretary at the Guest House and we chatted about the LEAD program. Everyone is hungry for teaching on disciple making…and he is no different. Lord, please, lead on! Bulie served at Ugie at St. Barnabas…a gorgeous, well-maintained church. Then she was posted to where she is now. It is not exactly a rural area as it borders on Mthatha, but it is a far cry from the picturesque place she was before!

She told us a story of when the great storm of early this year raged through Mthatha. That day, many churches in the area lost their roofs…but Bulie stood her ground in the church building praying: “Oh God! Your people here have nothing…spare them the expense of having to rebuild this church!” And the Lord hearkened to her prayer…in spite of the fact that the church is poorly built and rickety at best, it is still there as testimony of God’s grace and mercy.

After we had moved our belongings into the Guest House, we went to check out the place were the celebration is to be held. A super tent on a hillside, strategically chosen to send the shockwaves of the Gospel sung and preached into the valley and up the hill beyond. The topography serves as a natural amphitheatre.

The area is a hive of activity…the women of the church have been slaughtering chickens…23 per parish, so well over a 100…but these are no regular chickens! They are huge…Louise estimates each one weighs about 6 pounds! 

Huge black, three-legged pots dot the Ebenezer church grounds and everywhere women, gathered in huddles, sat peeling potatoes and carrots, while other were chopping away at what would go into the pots with the chickens. It will be a feast, believe me! 

While there, we met with a Canon and several Archdeacons. One of the Archdeacons took us to the tent where we prayed for the service tomorrow. I plead the blood of Jesus wherever I go…the blood that speaks better things than that of Abel…the blood of reconciliation that alone can wipe away the ancestral call for vengeance…that alone can bring reconciliation and peace between God and Man and Man and Man. We asked the Holy Spirit to begin His work now already, preparing each soul who will hear the messages tomorrow, including those who will bring them.

We…as I said before…are all anticipation. The calm before the storm.

The rest of the day has been fairly quiet. Louise has caught up on laundry. We walked about the grounds…visited St John’s Church and looked at the land where Arthur must have taught. There are new buildings now, as the original buildings were no doubt mud brick buildings, but a plaque at the entrance confirmed that this was the College started in 1879…strangely the same year Arthur was sent on to take over the school and church in Southwell. My only guess is that he served as a pioneer and once his job was done, he moved on to the next. The SPG Office in London said that he was the first headmaster here, but that he trained local missionaries, not children. So did he raise up local teachers and leadership to do the work of the ministry? Were Arthur and Mary Ellen trainers of disciple-makers…like us?