Thursday, August 31, 2017

Gauteng, Swaziland, and Beyond! Day Eight.

“You are now in the Kingdom of Swaziland. You do not speak until your elders have given you leave to do so.” A quick lesson in cross-cultural ministry…

I was, of course, watching the clock and when it indicated that we were already half an hour late and all our trainees were still not present, I dove in and began teaching. But thankfully, I am not completely thick and I stopped to ask what I had done wrong…I was supposed to wait for the Bishop to welcome us and give us her permission to commence with the classes. But she was so gracious and loving and kind. She said my zeal was commendable and so I was forgiven.

I successfully suppressed the urge to hyperventilate and mentally instructed my nerves to behave themselves. But oh, I do tend to say the stupidest things when I am anxious and after the word of welcome I asked the dear Bishop to open us in prayer…but please, not in English but her own language. I thought the archdeacon was going to fall off his chair laughing.  This is why I love St Peter so much…change feet, insert deeply, and bite!

Our group is made up of Deans, Archdeacons, and Priests…one of whom is currently working on her PhD. But the LEAD disciple-making course is a great levelling field because it is biblical and practical…even though the actual content appears to be elementary, the concept of making disciples as Jesus made disciples is profound to most Christians who have grown up in attraction model churches. As we begin to show from the Gospels that most of Jesus’ earthly ministry was not done in the Synagogue or the Temple, but rather in the fields, the market places, people’s homes, and public gatherings, the idea that we might not be doing ministry the most effective way begins to emerge. From this point on, everyone is listening attentively.

Food here is in abundance…so I will not be returning home a few pounds lighter. Swaziland is obviously doing well. There are multiple construction projects going on all over the city…a city that is relatively clean. Louise and I went for a walk up the steep road in front of the conference centre for a bit of exercise before stuffing more delicious food down our gullets, and we could see over most of the city centre. We watched some children playing football in a field below us and had a chat with a “Reformed” Christian who came up and introduced himself to us. Perhaps he thought we were likely candidates for his church.

We had a few good responses around the dinner table tonight...always good to hear that.

Gauteng, Swaziland, and Beyond! Day Seven

The power came back on the middle of the night, but the Internet did not. So, for those who thought we had dropped off the face of the earth, we did…but only the cyber planet…a catastrophe for some, but just a minor hiccup for us…especially since so many are being displaced by natural disasters in Bangladesh and Texas…

We left the loving embrace of Christ the King and took the road headed for Swaziland. Once we were out of the city environs, the traffic was far less and we could relax and enjoy the countryside…and what a beautiful countryside it is. From the open plains we moved into rolling hills, but as we drew closes to the Swaziland border the terrain became more and more mountainous with deep canyons and ravines between the high peaks.

Crossing the border was a very positive experience. On both sides of the border the employees were friendly and courteous and very efficient. True, there was a long line of people waiting to get into the country, but we moved quickly and soon we were driving in Swaziland…a new country for both of us. Unfortunately for us, our phones immediately ceased to function and we could not use our Google maps to get us to the church conference centre. So we had to stop a number of times to ask directions…and every time we learned that the Swazi people are very, very friendly and helpful.

We finally found the centre and checked in. We are in a large flat that we will be sharing with Thokozani, our son in the faith who helps us teach. Again the graciousness of the people here is deeply moving. We are welcome.

After a scrumptious hake dinner, we retired…still no Internet and so we retired early…

We have Internet today, so we will be posting blogs again!

Gauteng, Swaziland, and Beyond! Day Six.

Louise and I hardly ever have arguments…and the only times we do the subject is nearly always either our children or our finances. Today we discovered a third subject. Directions in downtown Johannesburg traffic. Trying to navigate with a GPS that wants to take you to a non-existent destination with cars, taxis, buses and people all around you and nowhere to stop to get your bearings – and even if you do you don’t know where you are so you have no bearings to begin with – is a recipe for marital agitation. Twice…and I kid you not…twice we stopped at the same gas station to ask for directions for two different locations at two different times of the same day without realising it until after we asked.

Bravely – I must say – we did venture out yet again after these ordeals to have dinner with the husband of a dear cousin (now with Jesus) and his son. Tony has become a dear friend in a rather short space of time and we love spending time with him whenever we are up here. He has the same sort of daft sense of humour I have and we talk about just about everything under the sun. His longsuffering son and my dear Louise sit and smile throughout the scrumptious meal without ever saying much.

Today was a good day, in spite of it all. We got a lot accomplished at Witts, met briefly with the Bishop of Christ the King - the dearest man - and got our rental car (from a place downtown Johannesburg) for the trip to Swaziland, Klerksdorp, Kuruman, Kimberley and on…

My body is actually quite sore tonight…and Louise has already gone to bed.

We leave tomorrow…which was yesterday…I could not post this as the power was out in the building here. We had to move around the flat by candlelight…romantic I hear you say? Indeed…

Monday, August 28, 2017

Gauteng, Swaziland, and Beyond! Day Five.

I am cross-eyed.

We decided to use today and tomorrow to do a number of things we need to do here in Johannesburg before trekking off to Swaziland…one of which was to go to the University of the Witwatersrand to see if we could find any references to my great-grandfather, Arthur Lomax, by sifting through the many letters and reports to and from the SPG. Unfortunately, the period we are looking at includes the theological fisticuffs between Bishop Grey of Cape Town and Bishop Colenso of Natal…so there’s a lot of material to look through!

But getting to the university was an equally frustrating ordeal. Our dear Miss America GPS does not always know that some roads are one ways…and she certainly has never driven in Africa! Who stops at a red light here? One learns to weave through cars, and taxis, and people…thankfully we have not encountered any livestock on the roads…yet. Our nerves were shot by the time we got to the University gate. Thankfully everyone was super friendly and super helpful.

But starring at microfilm after microfilm on a small screen…turning the reels by hand from frame to frame…straining to read the scribbles from yesteryear…scribbles made worse by poor copying…really took the wind out of me. Of course we hit the rush hour traffic on the way back to St Benedicts…why not throw that in for good measure? So, we may return tomorrow…but for now, we are in recovery mode…

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Gauteng, Swaziland, and Beyond! Day Four.

Nothing like being in a hurry to get to church only to find that the gate to the compound is closed! Louise and I were afraid that if we get out of the car, the anti-high-jacking device would go off again, so I turned the car off and proceeded to open one of the gates. The guard, obviously startled out of a deep slumber, came staggering out of the guardhouse to lift the boom so we could be on our way. Much to his chagrin, I now had to go through the motions of getting the car started again…what a way to start a Sunday morning.

As I have said before, Christ the King is a large church that could easily seat about 600 people. The problem with that size building is that when 400 hundred show up, it looks as if the church is empty. However, Fr Erich’s parishioners are all extra friendly and we soon felt part of the family.

I preached on the life of Peter for a few reasons. The most obvious was that Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ was the Gospel reading. Another reason was because we teach through the life of Peter in the LEAD training to demonstrate how Jesus made a rocking disciple-maker out of a rock of a fisherman. In it we show how Peter, the erstwhile reluctant follower, became Peter, the (bordering on boastful) brave…but as such he relied too much on his own, personal rocklike abilities. He had to learn that taking his eyes off Jesus would bring him more than just a sinking feeling…it would almost bring on the total failure of his life as a disciple-maker.

After his humiliating denial of Jesus, Peter returned to that which he knew best…fishing for fish…not people. Jesus reinstated him by giving him a few visual reminders of how he first was called to follow. The all night fishing failure, the miraculous draught of fish, the coal fire, the three-fold question of allegiance…but it is Peter’s final response that we want our disciple-makers to comprehend. It is no longer the self-assured Peter that replies from the basis of his own firm footing…it is a humbled and surrendered Peter who confesses that Jesus alone knows the unknowable and unpredictable. This Peter is now ready at last to face the uncertainty of a Church left without a Master because the ascended Master had replicated Himself in Peter. Peter no longer relied on his own abilities and expertise…on his being the one identified as the Rock…no, rather he relied on the same three resources available to Jesus and us all: the Word, the Holy Spirit, and prayer. By the time we get to the book of Acts we see a very different Peter…

Obviously, the sermon was a wee bit longer than Fr Erich had anticipated, but Group One had a refresher, Group Two had part of their class-to-come completed, and the congregation had a small taste of what the LEAD training is all about.

In spite of a late start, we did manage to get through the rest of the material by lunchtime…and Fr Erich’s wife who had once again made a delicious curry spoilt us rotten.

Folks here are asking when we will return to teach this again…personally, I think our Gauteng Faculty are ready to do an assisted training and then to take the plunge and fly solo. Every time we have come up to do training in this area, we have been thoroughly blessed…we have family here now...please keep them all in your prayers.