Monday, September 30, 2013

Some Garden!

It may be significant that G^d created a garden for Adam and Eve's home.  There's something about a garden, and Cape Town has a very good one, Kirstenbosch Gardens.

Rather than say a lot, I think the picts will speak for themselves.  Take a look:

And this is only a tiny fraction of what we saw. 

Why so much beauty?  Why so much variety?  Why is G^d so generous and merciful, and good?

I don't know, I am just glad He has done that and that He is.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Miles and Miles of...

Traveling the N-S length of South Africa, and then considering the same for Botswana, one truth is striking.  Both countries are sparsely inhabited.  Before we came to Bots we were aware that the population is small, only about 2 million; but the area is large, about the size of Texas.  South Africa has a bit more space and a lot more people, but it still has miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles.

On our driving trip acorss South Africa, we were again struck by how much it resembles the vast empty plains of the western part of the USA.  You cross mountains or hills, and suddenly the horizon is distant more than 20 miles away.  In most of both countries, there are acres and acres of brushy scrub land with no trees.  In the distance you can see hills.  Here are some scenes shot from the car.

I once studied, briefly, the immensity of the cosmos.  We are but a small blue dot in the midst of our galaxy, which in turn is a small speck in the billions of objects in the vast cosmos.  Why so big, why so empty?

I think G^d is sending us a subtle message.  We are indeed insignificant, no matter what we think.  Yet, despite our insignificance, individually and corporately, G^d chose to love us enough to die for us.

Thanks be to G^D!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Passing Cars In South Africa

We have been blogging about our long drive to and from South Africa.

We were told before we left that the SA drivers will pull over on the paved shoulder to let you pass, and then you should flash your lights as a "thank you".

We had first seen this done in rural Texas, specifically on the road between Round Rock and Tyler.

True enough, most of our route was on very nice, but two-lane roads.  The shoulder (or verge) was nice, free of debris, and used by many drivers.

Apparently in SA the trucks are restricted to 100 Km/hr, whereas cars can go 120.  This makes for a LOT of passing.

Fortunately, the roads have lots of long straight-aways and only occasional hills.  Let me assure you, the auto drivers take full advantage.  They pass when it's safe, they pass when it is not safe.  They pass when nothing is coming, and they pass when a car is coming.

I am not kidding.  I have seen drivers pass a vehicle with an oncoming vehicle clearly in sight.  Usually the oncoming vehicle pulls over to the verge and the pass is safely completed.

In over 1500 miles of driving, we never saw an accident, except one finder bender in Cape Town.

This system works well, and I quickly joined in, to Brenda's horror.

Courtesy counts.  Drivers seemed pretty courteous, and the system worked well.  Seems a clear illustration of Philippians 2:4, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

Wow, what G^d says actually works.  Now if I will only practice a bit more in obeying what G^d says.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Old Man and the Sea

Brenda and I made a stop to a Cape Town district recommended to us.  It was Mariner’s Warf in Hout Bay.  As soon as we stepped out of the car we saw the sign for “antiques” which is always appealing.
The old gentleman behind the counter hit the button to open the lock and let us in.   The sign said a maximum of 10 people could enter at a time, but Brenda and I were about the only tourists for several miles around.

The shop was much like a museum with stuff from around the world in jumbled heaps filling the smallish shop.  Most of it was related to seafaring.

In addition to seafaring sextants, hats, anchors, buoys, crab pots, and miscellany, he had some neat fossils.  Brenda really wanted some fossilized leaves, and I honestly tried to get her to buy them, but alas they were in a pretty big slab of stone, that would have eaten up a lot of our baggage allowance.

He also had scrimshaw for sale, which is now illegal for inter-state commerce in the USA.  Scrimshaw is blackened carvings in whale's teeth, usually of the sperm whale.  I bought some years ago in the Azores, when it was legal.

I asked the old fellow if I could take a photo of him but he decline "due to security", he said.  Despite the many interesting artifacts, the most interesting thing in the store was the man himself.  He had worked in many places around the world.  He was friendly, talkative and had a lot of stories.

And this is the way it really is.  People matter, stuff doesn't.  People are immortal, nothing material lasts.  People are more interesting, of far greater value than any possible competitor.

Now, to keep that in mind.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Flamingos, They’re not Just Yard Decorations!

One of my friends in the USA played a trick on some other friends by going by their home and planting two plastic flamingos on their lawn.

We were coming into the north side of Kimberley, RSA, and we looked over, and I asked Brenda, "What is that?"

There was a large lake there and in the water was a few big birds.

Then we noticed that farther out in the lake, there were HUGE pink clusters.


Nah, but what else could it be?

Flaminigos indeed.

We couldn't get close enough to capture the scene, but flamingos formed huge pink herds in the distance.  They number of them was staggering.

Why flamingos, particularly thousands of them, were in Kimberley was a mystery until I researched it.  The lake, Kamfers Dam, is full of algae which lesser flamingos eat.  Furthermore a couple of local groups built a breeding island, and the birds established the first lesser flamingo breeding colony in all of Africa.

They were certainly amazing to see the vast pink flocks.  Why did G^d make so many flamingos, and pull them all together in Kimberley?  Who knows.  G^d's ways are beyond our ways (Isa 55:9).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Not Even a Sparrow Falls...

Scripture tells us that...

Jesus once mentioned (funny context for this word, but purposeful), "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[a] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."  Matt 10:29-31.

In traveling across Botswana and South Africa, we have seen a LOT of birds.  Ostrich are abundant, and we have decided are the most seen wild animal along the roads.  This may be because they are easiest to spot.
We've also seen thousands of weaver bird nests, perhaps for the same reason.

This makes Jesus' statement even more remarkable to us.  We are struck that there are a LOT of sparrows out there.  Plus I don't think Jesus was restricting Our Father's notice to just one class of animal.

Again, G^d is clearly beyond our simple comprehension.  Clearly if G^d notes the sparrow, then "I know he watches me" as the old hymn says.

G^d is love.  G^d doesn't miss a thing, even a simple bird.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fruit of the Vine

The Republic of South Africa is a very agriculturally rich country.  In our visit, we saw hectare after hectare of vineyards, orchards, sheep farms, cattle farms, and even one Ostrich farm.

We stopped and bought a big bag of oranges via the "honor system" on teh side of the road.  We were supposed to leave 10 rand (kidding, we paid for the oranges, really we did) which is about $1.10.

We stopped at a neat little store and bought some dried fruit and Brenda found some antique forks.  Was a neat store that was playing "Amazing Grace" whilst we shopped.

We saw pecan orchards on this trip, the first we have heard of since our arrival in Africa.  Most of our food in Botswana, beyond beef, comes from South Africa, so seeing the production shouldn't have been surprising.  Nevertheless it was still quite pleasant.

Fruitfulness is an attractive trait in land, and in people.  ""Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham."  says Luke 3:8.

Sadly today, I think we have so sold over-sold "free grace" that we have forgotten the virtue of fruitfulness.  Maybe we ought to just do what the verse says, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we ought to bear fruits.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Forgive Me for I have Sinned... Twice in One Week

As the leader of our family and the driver of our rented vehicle, I was a bit stressed setting out on an unknown road in two foreign countries heading for two locations which I had never visited.

I got the rental car early Friday, swung by the apartment, picked up our luggage and Brenda and headed out.

Just before we got to the South Africa border post, the Botswana police caught me in a speed trap.  Speed traps are VERY popular in both countries, I discovered.  They position themselves just over the crest of a hill where the speed quickly drops from 120 to 100 and then more quickly to 80 and about 100 meters later to 60 (37.2 mph).  They were very nice, but i got the speeding ticket anyway.

Lesson learned.

At the end of our trip in Kimberly, it was Saturday night and the streets were near empty.  I pulled up to a red light and stopped.  I assumed you could make a left turn on red (equivalent to a right turn in USA).


But in Botswana, a ticket is the start of your penalty.  I hate owing money, so I headed out Monday to pay my fine.  I know of ONE police station in Gabs, but it is in a convenient location, and I needed to get my passport copy certified, so off I went.  Got the passport copy stamped, and went to pay my fine. 

"No can do." said the policeman.  "Our receipt book isn't here.  Might be here tomorrow afternoon, maybe Wednesday."

Where Can I go to pay this?" 

"Go to the police station down by the small bus station."

"Where's that?"  No help here.

We set our in search of the police station.

After asking two folks we find it in an unmarked decrepit building.

"Nope, we don't have the receipt book.  You gotta go to the Urban station.  Go down three lights and turn left."

At least we got directions.

After some searching, and only asking one guy, we found another building, no sign, but similar to the second one.

Finally our fine is paid.  Don't recall ever being so happy to pay a fine.

Prov 28:13 "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy."

Consider me to have forsaken speeding (for while at least).

Now you slow down too!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Shepherds and Bankruptcy

In the Karoo, we had lunch with a man named Johan, who was a retired IT guy.  Johan was anything but retired.  He and his wife run a sheep farm, small orchard, and bed and breakfast near Montagu, South Africa.

John tells us, orchard farms are surest way to bankruptcy.  I wish I had asked him to elaborate, but the conversation was moving too quickly.  In other conversations I learn that the labor-intensive nature of orchards makes them tough.  Trees ahve to be pruned carefully and accurately.  Trees have to be fertilized, fruit has to be sprayed to combat insects and diseases, and fruit has to be harvested and cleaned.  Every orchard needs the same things at about the same times, so competition can be fierce.  Labor in all countries, seems to be hard to hire.  But I mean good labor.  We need people who will show up, work hard, return when needed, and do things correctly.  Plus we have to have managers to manage those people.  

One complaint is that the managers don't want to do anything but manage.

Scripture speaks of laborers and harvests.  
"And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

Aha, so it seems the problem is universal.  It is hard to find laborers regardless of the harvest.  But point the finger leaves 4 fingers pointed at me.

So, let us pray and labor together.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Shanty Towns

Botswana has some poor people, but not anything like South Africa.

We first noted the slums on the outskirts of Vryburg on our way to the Cape.  we had seen a little on our first trip over towards Johannesburg, but nothing as impressive as this.

The shacks were about 10x12 feet, made of corrugated galvanized steel.  The flat roofs were covered with stones, presumably to hold them on the houses.  Some of them had small outhouses, some did not.  The houses were packed together, they all seem replete with trash.  Fortunately, despite our efforts, we have no pictures of this.

Seeing these elicited a profound sadness.  These neighborhoods, if you can call them that, are huge.  Thousand of people live in these slums.  They are full of kids, who had nothing to do with where they were born, or under what circumstances.

It's hard to keep in mind what really matters.  A child can be born into such dire circumstances, endure the poverty, endure the ill conditions, and still be a CHILD of THE KING!  What matters in the end is not our physical circumstances, be they good or ill, what matters in our relationship with the King of Kings.

Regardless, join me for a moment in praying for these people.  Maybe better, ask G^d what you can do to change the world for His Kingdom.  But in the meantime, please pray.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Penquin Playground

On our way to Cape Point Park, we stumble across a Penguin Park.  For a small fee, we enter, and there are penguins everywhere!

It is great fun to see penguins in their natural habitat (these were a species called African penguins) nesting, feeding young, and waddling around in their penguin style.

Guides point out that the young penguins are easy to spot with their gray feathers and fluffy look.  The guides tell us that they baby down is not waterproof and the young will have to fully fledge with adult feathers to go into the water to feed themselves.

Brenda asks me the very astute question, "How do the baby penguins know not to go into the water?"

I'm stumped as to the particulars of this question, but that raises other issues.  How do those weaver birds build those wonderful nests?  How do the young of most animals learn to do the myriad of things necessary for survival?

"Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand:the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a virgin." Prov 30:18-19

If I don't understand these simple things, how do I expect to understand the G^d of the Universe, who created all this with a single breath?  If I don't understand G^d, isn't that what I should expect?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Another Driving Scare

As you know, we have had 18 visiting CRU Summer Project team members visiting us here in Botswana.  Brenda and I have been hauling around a subset of this group.

Brenda, in her kind, considerate matter was turning around to chat with some of the people riding with us.  Of course they are freshly arrived from the USA where everyone drives on the right and where the steering wheel is on the left side of the auto. Here, the steering is done from the RIGHT side of the vehicle.

But the CRU visitors automatically assumed Brenda was driving, being on the left, and was turning around to chat.  They got quite a scare.

I can empathize.

We often misinterpret what we see people doing.  To the viewers Brenda was the driver, although I was actually doing the steering.

We often misinterpret what we see G^d doing.

Two lessons I have learned from this:
1) My interpretation of what other people are doing may be more a function of my misinterpretation than their actions. I ought to consider this before I jump to conclusions.
2) My interpretation of what G^D is doing may be more a function of my misinterpretation than HIS actions. I ought to consider this before I jump to conclusions.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

No Fork, No Spoon, No Problem

We have been participating with the CRU Summer Project students at a "feeding station" in the Gabs neighborhood called, "Old Naledi".  We pull in each day at around 1300, and we play with the kids until 1400 when the meal is served.  This happens most days so they have the system down well.

The three ladies begin cooking a bit after 1300.  The food, usually two items, is spooned out on to plates.  The children gather, have a song or something, pray then line up to wash hands.  The smaller kids are first.

After a good hand-washing the kids go to an open window and pick up their plate full of food.  They go to one of the tables nearby or sit on the ground and eat.  There are NO utensils.  Kids eat with their fingers, hence the need for good hand washing.

They think nothing of it.  They have always eaten this way, at least at this location.  The lack of forks means nothing. Amazing to us, who would be totally stymied.

Just goes to show.  Of the material things of this world, we can get by with a lot less than we might think.  We hare conditioned to having stuff, so we think it is a necessity.

I am guessing there are a lot more "necessities" that truly are not necessary at all.

What is truly necessary?  It sure ain't a fork and spoon.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


The plural of mongoose is...??  Who knows?

I am not sure, but I find the mongooses (mongeese?) here very interesting.  In Gabs and around BOTS we have seen the stripped mongoose.  On our trip to South Africa, we see three more species.  The first one I spot is up on Table Mountain, the great landmark of Cape Town.  It is getting dark, and I see what I first think is a dark grey squirrel running alongside the sidewalk.  Its fur is very dark, and although the size is right for a very big grey squirrel, it looks a bit different.  I see two or three more, and decide it is some species of mongoose.

Over the next few days I ask a couple of locals, who should know, about the mongoose that lives up on Table Mountain.  They both seem skeptical and ask if I was confused about a rock hyrax.  Nope, I know a mongoose from a hyrax.  They are no help.

A google search reveals that what I am seeing is a Cape Gray Mongoose.  Ahhh, victory!

That's a Cape Gray right in the middle facing away.  It's about the size of a gray squirrel.  They are pretty tough to photograph.

Later, we seen several more types of mongoose, as we drive towards Botswana on very rural roads.   A red one I still can't identify, but the others include a Grey mongoose (bigger than the Cape and not so dark).  I never knew they were so numerous, but they are in northern S Africa.

Mongooses are interesting.  They are fast, small and quiet.  Probably they are best known for killing king cobras.

Each animal is unique.  G^d created a great variety.  I am overwhelmed.  But isn't that what you would expect from G^d?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Salt Pans

In talking about Meerkats, I mentioned the Magadikgadi Pan, the  12000 square km mineral area that is the fossil of a huge lake formed when tectonic shifts dammed up three rivers flowing across central Botswana.

The pans are pretty much featureless and dead flat.  To illustrate several things, our guide blindfolded us and had us try to walk to a point a mere 50 steps away.  Brenda did a great job, only missing the target by a few steps.  I didn't do so well, missing a target only 50 steps away by... 31 steps!!  Amazing.

 Brenda describes the pans as a "moonscape".  She said if she were faking a moon landing, you'd be hard pressed to find a better surrogate location than the salt pans.  I agree.

The baobabs are apparently used as landmarks in this area.  None grow on the pans, only a few small patches of parched grass, but they do line the protopans- the fringe around the pans.  Being featureless, these must serve as beacons for those crossing the pans on foot.

The pans weren't as exciting as seeing a leopard, a lion or a hippo, but they were something to behold, and we are very glad to get to see them.

But we were reminded that even the most barren places harbor life.  The guide told us that submerging a piece of the crust of the pan would yield living brine shrimp.  We saw more than that:
We marvel at G^d creation.  Surely He can do anything, including handling my little problems.

Praying for Rain

Batswana are much more open to talk about Christianity, religion in general, and prayer than most folks around the world.  Batswana are also interested in rain, and national calls for prayer for rain are not unusual.

The 2013 rainfall has not been very high.  We have mentioned that we lose water one day each week, and right now we have no water, even though it is not our usual day to lose it.

Yesterday, near the end of our Summer Project ministry time, it clouded up and there were even a few far-off lightening bolts.  The Summer Project students said it looked like rain to them.  The locals, and I, laughed and said, "it never rains in Botswana in July."   We said it with all sincerity, we said it with confidence, and we said it wrong.

It poured rain.

I had assured Brenda that her laundry hanging outside was NOT threatened by rain, because it wasn't going to rain.

It brought to mind this verse, James 5:17, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth."

 "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours..." NOT!  No way  I am anything like Elijah.

Vs 18 says, "Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit."

Well, there shall be Showers of Blessing indeed.  The Tswana word for rain, money and blessing are all the same word, "pula".

James' point in those verses is that we ought to pray for one another.  We doubt that prayer is effective so we fail to pray.

But now I have to go and wring the water out of the laundry that wasn't going to get wet from the rain.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Record Toilet

In an earlier post I mentioned the confusion I contributed in describing a toilet as a "bathroom".  Well, newly educated, today let's take a look at... toilets.

Fortunately, unlike some places, there are many toilets available in shopping centers, at the Uni., and in most public places.  and, except in Francistown, they are usually free.

In my 4+ months here I have only seen paper towels maybe 4 times tops.  The toilets vary from very swank, to barely tolerable.  I did see a new Guiness Book of World records for toilet deodorizers in the student restroom at the Refectory.  It was so impressive I had to take a picture (only after carefully noting that I was the only person around).

Wow, was that a sweet smelling urinal?

I am clueless as to why they chose to drop hundreds of these little tablets here.  About 150m away is a faculty men's toilet that hasn't seen one of these in several years, I'm guessing.  I can't imagine that 600 of these is more effective than 4-6 of them.

Which brings up the question of why do we act the way we do?  I understand the fallen nature of man, I am one.  I understand temptation, greed, lust, etc.  I am one.  What is harder for me is to understand total waste of stuff.  Vandalism, destruction, excess.

But then I remember the times I have vandalized, destroyed, wasted my time, energy and resources given by G^d.  When I see it in others, I can't understand, but when I see it in myself I rationalize.

L^rd deliver me from wasting your precious gifts to me.  Help me to good stewardship.  Amen.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fear, Fear Not

We welcome the 18 Americans in town for the CRU summer project.  The first night the leader, Ramsey, asks them to go around and talk about what they hope and what they hope not.

Fear is a common topic.  They fear illness, injury, not doing something right, not being fervent enough.

The next morning I will get the opportunity to speak to them briefly.  I pray.  G^d give me direction.

I read that morning Phil. 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

I begin my brief talk confessing that I had experienced a LOT of fear in Botswana.  I have done some crazy things in helicopters, Navy jets,  and submarines.  

We once had a major fuel emergency in a Navy turbo-prop at 30k feet.  I went to sleep while we found a place for an emergency landing.  I was powerless to do anything about it.  Might as well enter heaven well-rested, I thought.

I have Australian repelled, been very close to black bear. I have been in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.  But I have had more fear here than anywhere.

I tell them that Scripture tells us to fear G^d and fear nothing else.  Easier said than done I tell them.  I ask who knows Phil. 4:6-7.  It is one of Janna's favorite verses, so as soon as I start it, she quotes it.  The verse tells us to pray, I tell them, so I pray for all of us.

" L^rd we confess our fear, we ask for your protection and keep us from fear.  L^rd through these experiences, deepen our relationship with you."

And so I continue to pray, for me and for you.

Friday, September 13, 2013

More Scares from the Left Side of the Road

As most of you know, we have a CRU summer Project team here now.  It is a wonderful group and we are helping transport the crew of 18 around town.

Yesterday some of the girls confessed to me that Brenda gave them a real fright in the car on Friday.  They were truly scared.

Sweet, dear Brenda was engaging them in conversation.  Being so courteous she was making eye contact and turning around to speak to them.  She was, of course, sitting in the front passenger seat, which here is on the left side of the auto, where the driver typically sits in the USA.

Being newly arrived, their minds were telling them that she was driving.

If she is driving, why isn't she lookint at the road?  Dangerous, you bet!  Except of course, I was driving and Brenda was merely riding, and it didn't matter that she wasn't looking at the road at all.

There are many morals to this story, but perhaps for us the biggest is, that things are NOT always as they seem.  The world, which seems so solid and permanent is NOT.  These people who seem so ephemeral (at times) are the permanent things.   And that has serious implications.  Think about it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Students are...Swell

 It took a long time to realize it, but I love working with students.  They are energetic, interesting, with tons of potential.

Now to be honest, students can also be a source of major frustration.  The fact they are in the university means they have advantages denied to many, yet they so often fritter away the opportunity.

Students are the coming leaders, parents, custodians of the world.  If I can have even a small impact, that may get multiplied many-fold.  Many are hard working, a few are grateful for the opportunity.

Student behavior is a good magniifier for adult behavior.  When I see the best in studnets, I realize the greatness of many of the people who surround me.  When I see the worst in students, i realize this is a view of the worst in me.

Some students fritter away their opportunity for a good education.

Yes, and so many of us fritter away our opportunity to live in the Christ.  I know I do.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

When Missionaries Come to You!

Well, now the shoe is on the other foot.  We have missionaries come to visit us here in Gabs.  Yesterday Brenda and I went to the Airport to pick up a CRU (Campus Crusade) Summer Project team of 14 students and 3 staff.

Several weeks ago, our pastor announced that our congregation was sending a missionary to.... IOwa (emphasis on the O).

Now we have a full crew evangelizing us!  I am deliberately misrepresenting this a bit, but maybe you get the point.  Our team is young Americans visiting Africa.   In a few years it will likely be young Africans, or young Latinos, or most likely young Koreans visiting the USA to reach this un-reached people group for the Christ.

How soon that happens I do not know.  But, this is a young, energetic, enthusiastic group of Christians who have spent time and effort already in just raising money and getting here.  I pray this experience will change them in a positive spiritual way. I pray they will never be the same.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

When Helping Hurts

The end of Church services on Robben Island (famous prison of many anti-apartheid political activists) came about in an unexpected way.  According to our guide who had been incarcerated for 5 years there, in the early years of Robben Island maximum security prison, the prisoners selected a denomination to invite over each Sunday.

One Sunday, the prisoners noticed that the visiting minister had brought a newspaper to the service in his briefcase.  When he wasn't looking the prisoners stole it.  Any news from the outside world was highly valued by the prisoners, at least one of which was a thief as well as a politician, but I repeat myself (adaptation from a Mark Twain quote).

Another visiting minister realized the prisoners' desire for news, and so would deliberately place his briefcase in such a way that the paper could be readily stolen.  The newspapers were then discovered in searches by the wardens.

The wardens then marked a newspaper brought in by the minister.  After the church service the wardens searched and found the marked newspaper, and knew its obvious source.  This led the prison administrators to ban the use of the outside ministers and replace them with prison chaplains.  The prisoners strongly protested the change, and boycotted the services, thus effectively ending organized worship services for the next 20 or so years.

I am sure the erring minister had the best of kind intentions.  But, the law of unintended consequences is so often at work.  What the minister intended as a help to the prisoners effectively hurt their spiritual fellowship opportunities, at least the organized ones.

A wise friend gave me a book a few years ago titled, When Helping Hurts.   The book gives many practical examples of efforts to help that end up hurting.  We need to think about this.

We ought " do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share," I Tim 6:18.  But we also ought to be wise about it (Prov 1:5

Monday, September 9, 2013

Feeding 5000 (or maybe 150)

One of the CRU summer project is feeding a bunch of kids at the Old Naledi neighborhood here in Gabs.  The idea is to ensure one good meal a day for these kids.  Some have tow parents, some one parent, some have none.

Every day when we pull into the the large open Church yard to prepare, we are swarmed with eager kids.  They really, really enjoy having folks come in.  The CRU team plays with them, helps with the feeding and then does a short Bible lesson, then more play.  Sometime we sing with them.  It doesn't seem to matter much, they are happy to have us.

Feeding them is a well-oiled system.  Two or three ladies cook all the food in a small, very basic kitchen.  They always fix two items:  Pap (fine grits) or Samp (corn mush) and either beans or chicken necks.  After washing hands, the kids go to the window and get their pre-loaded plate.  Small kids and big kids get the same amount of food and eat every bite.

After eating they go over to a large basin of water and rinse off the plate.  Then they get a cup of water or juice.  The crew inside quickly washes the plates, because most days the number of kids exceeds the number of plates.

The amazing thing to me is that the whole feeding process, exclusive of prep time, only takes about 30 minutes.  Wow!  They start eating at 1400, are basically finished by 1430 and by a bit after 1500, the kitchen is ready to close down.

Jesus fed the 5000, but He used a slightly different system.  Nevertheless, the system at Old Naledi is pretty impressive.  Matt 25:40 tells us, ""The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

It's nice to feed the King.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

67 Minutes

We were in Cape Town south Africa when Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday occurred.  Amazingly and coincidentally his birthday fell on International Nelson Mandela Day ;).

The day was observed by almost everyone in South Africa participating in the campaign called, "67 minutes".  The 67 came from the 67 years of Mandela's public service.  Everyone was encouraged to spend 67 minutes that day doing some service to mankind.  Many people were proud to tell what they did.  One lady proudly reported on a major radio station that she had spent 67 minutes on facebook and tweeting about environmental issues as her observance.  Hopefully, many people's service was a bit more substantial, but maybe I underestimate her impact.

The degree of participation is a tribute to Dr. Mandela.  He has become legendary here, even before his death, which I expected some days earlier.

But several people raised the issue, why does it take a national campaign to get people to serve others?

Mark 10:45 and other verses tell us that we OUGHT to be continually serving one another, not just one day, not just 67 minutes.

But at least that's a start.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

What's in a Name?

Over here in the Republic of South Africa (and no one but me ever says "Republic of"), Nelson R Mandela is most commonly known as "Madiba".  His birth name, given by his father was, "Rolihlahla" which means pulling on a tree branch" and is used as a term for a "troublemaker".  Little did his father know...

The name "Nelson" was reported to be given by his missionary first-grade teacher.  English names are commonly given to supplement the tribal name because they are easier for us foreigners to say and remember.  The name, "Madiba" is the clan name of Mandela and refers to a former chieftain.  Using this name is the highest honor since it associates the person with all his predecessors.

He is also commonly called "Tata" which is the Xhosa word for "father".  The reason is obvious.  Likewise he is sometimes called, “Khulu”, for "great or grand" and is also short for "grandfather".

What's in a name?  G^d seems to think there is significance.  He changed the names of many.  Paul, Abraham, Israel, and others received names from G^d.  As I mentioned many posts ago, we will also get a new name from G^d.

Check out Rev. 2:17, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.'

Wow, that's a name indeed!