Monday, 27 November 2017

South Africa 2017 - Day 9 – 26th November

A busy day today!  The churches in South Africa do like to start early on a Sunday morning!  Haven’t they heard of having a lie-in on the day of rest?  Godfrey and I were down for breakfast at 7am as we were being picked up by Andre at 7:45.  The breakfast wasn’t quite as good as the day before, the bacon was a bit dry and the sausages weren’t as good.  Perhaps it God’s way of telling me to stop eating so much fatty food on the road as I doubt it’s doing my expanding waistline any good!  There was granola cereal though, which they didn’t have yesterday, so that made up for it.  I love cereal.  A lot.

On Saturday John, the pastor, accidentally introduced me as Nigel to someone and only the next time he did it did I correct him to Phil.  We all had a laugh about it and it’s become the running joke of the weekend with him referring to it a couple of times.  I guess Godfrey’s just relieved to not get called Geoffrey all the time!

Andre picked us up in his really rather lovely 4.2l Audi A8 and whisked us off to ACF.  His wife wasn’t with him this morning as she is a very keen runner and was doing a short 15k run that morning!  I’d die if I had to run 15k.

The band at the church did three songs at the start of the meeting at 9am then Godfrey shared his talk and as usual absolutely nailed it.  The crowd responded enthusiastically to the good news we’ve got, in words and songs!  It’s heartening that in all kinds of church settings you can pretty much guarantee that the gospel will go down well no matter the style of church, the theology they have, the traditions they have or whatever.  People love to hear the good news that they’re in, that God is not disappointed with them and they are precious beyond measure.  So many folks were obviously having a free revelation of this foundational truth and came and told us so at the end.

Andre and his brother Marius and his family took us for lunch at a nice restaurant with John & Bev.  I had steak for the first time on this trip and it was a good one with an excellent pepper and cream sauce.  Godfrey was pretty tired as it’s been quite a long morning and he needed to sleep before tonight’s gospel party so Andre took us back to the hotel.  My right shoulder had started to ache and it’s definitely down to the electric drum kit, you just don’t get the bounce-back you do on acoustic drums and cymbals so there’s a lot more work for your muscles to do, especially when playing faster songs like ‘Gospel Train’ and ‘The Wine Is Alive’.  Hopefully a couple of hours rest will sort me out and if not I’ve got paracetamol and ibuprofen with me!  A very smartly dressed young black lady got in the lift with what initially looked like a large oddly shaped suitcase when we go to the hotel, but when she got off on the sixth floor I realised it was a massage table.  The hotel does have a fitness centre, not that I’ve been anywhere near it, so they must also offer massages in your room.  I thought my shoulder could do with some of that but I would be far too weirded out getting a massage in my room from anyone, man or woman, unless Mags was there too.  Maybe I’m more prudish than I thought.

Andre picked us up again at about 5pm to get to the meeting which starts about 6pm and Godfrey wanted to just double check the words on their system and put ‘Wild Goose’ in there, as several people had requested it.  It’s not a song he or I have played for many years but it is a lot of fun so he’s keeping it in reserve.  When we got there we were delighted to see that Chereen and her husband Vian and her dad Gordon were there with a lady friend of Gordon’s who I think was called Daphne.  I was so glad to meet Vian having heard some of their story from Chereen and he’s a lovely man, very easy to like and we chatted about motorbikes for a while.

The church band were going to start with three songs so I went to sit at the back and watch and they did an improvised jam to start which was really good and I filmed a little section of it with my phone and whacked it on FaceBook, then they did their songs.  It’s good to be in a church where although the songs were unfamiliar to me they were at least New Covenant songs and not all about pleading, and striving!  Who needs to sing about that nonsense? The church needs to sing songs of how great our God is and who we are in Christ to remind ourselves as we forget so easily.  As most people in a church get their theology from what they sing it’s important to sing the truth not a load of either theological twaddle or Old Covenant do-do.  Most folks can’t remember a damn thing the preacher said five minutes after they’ve left the meeting, no matter how good she/he was but they’ll remember the lyrics to the songs and sing them at home or in the car, so we need to reinforce the gospel not the lament! (Rant over!)

At the end of R U Ready I did a little drum break on the snare and Godfrey said ‘Nigel’s such a good drummer’ and then the crowd started chanting ‘Nigel…Nigel’ over and over.  It’s good being in a church that doesn’t take itself too seriously and can have a laugh.  We did do ‘Wild Goose’ right at the end but it was not fun to play on the electric kit, that song requires some complex floor tom work with quiet ghost notes and then suddenly some crashing power and the electric kit simply cannot respond well enough. 

After the meeting we had some food from the ladies in the church kitchen and said our goodbyes to everyone.  There is currently a plan for Godfrey, and hopefully me, to come back in May next year to do the worship at their conference and if that can work out work and dates-wise that’d be brilliant.

When we got back to the hotel we popped into the bar for a quick beer and both of us got propositioned by ladies of negotiable affection, one very subtly and one right out in the open as bold as brass.  You’ll be unsurprised to read we politely but firmly declined and decided to beat a hasty retreat to our rooms!  I was quite surprised that a quality hotel like this wasn’t a bit more on the ball about allowing that on their premises.  It’s sad though to encounter people in that situation, I don’t imagine it’s anyone’s first choice of a way to earn money.  Desperation can take people to some dark places.

Tomorrow we fly back home at about 8pm in the evening, arriving at Heathrow about 5:30am I think.  Then it’s a drive up North to where Mags will meet us to pick me up.

It’s been an amazing trip and I’ve met some wonderful people.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

South Africa 2017 - Day 8 – 25th November

So judgement day has arrived, the four horsemen are heralding the apocalypse, my doom is upon me, all my nightmares are come true; I am sitting behind an electric drum kit!  But before we get to that lets rewind to a happier time, a time of innocence, a time of blessing; breakfast.  Breakfast was good.  Sausage, mushrooms, beans (clearly not Heinz though), bacon, cups of tea, cereal.  Ahhh hotel breakfast I do love you so.  I will never cheat on you with a greasy spoon café, I shall remain faithful and love you always.

Ok now I’m in my happy place reminiscing about hotel breakfasts I can face the trauma.  We were picked up by JD about 9:35 and it was only a short drive to the Airport Christian Fellowship’s building which is undergoing considerable expansion work.  The guys in the band and doing the words/PA were there to great us and were lovely friendly people.  The pianist, keyboard player and guitarist had clearly worked hard to learn the songs and really didn’t need much rehearsing at all just a few prods in the right direction for when to dial it down and when to build it up which always makes this process a lot easier.  One of the guys helped me move the electric drum pads into slightly more comfy positions for me and helped with programming the ‘brain’ to make a sound somewhat similar to real drums.  Helga the keyboard player is apparently their regular drummer and she hates the electric kit too and calls it ‘the plastic drums’.  Barend was playing lead guitar and showed us a nice solo in R U Ready?  It’s a bit odd not to have a bass player when there’re two sets of keyboards but we didn’t seem to really notice the lack.  The electric drums are, as expected, execrable.  No subtlety is possible, the triggers in the cymbals are awful and only trigger every other strike unless you pound them, which kind of misses the point.  The snare and kick sound pretty good but the toms sound completely fake, nothing like real toms at all.  I must have had a face on like someone chewing a wasp during the rehearsal because JD came over and asked if I was OK!  I assured him it’d be OK and that I’m just not used to electric drums as I’ve no idea how to get a good sound out of them.  I presume if you’ve loads of experience with them you can fiddle with the ‘brain’ and get a good sound but that’s not me. As I always say I’m not really a musician ‘I just hit things with sticks’.  The thing I miss the most is real cymbals, electric drums can sound adequate (they’re never good or even a close second to real acoustic drums) but electric cymbals are complete and utter pants.  You’d be better off hitting dustbin lids.  You get one sound, ‘ting’, and you can vary how loud the ‘ting’ is a bit by hitting it harder but I use brushes, beaters, tips, ends, edge of sticks, my hands everything on cymbals and you can get a dozen different sounds out of one reasonable cymbal.  You can add some atmosphere and background to the quite moments, you can build a crescendo or choke a crash to a dead stop for dramatic effect with even cheap real cymbals.  With electric ones you can go ‘ting’.  Yay.

OK, now I’ve vented my spleen about how utterly, utterly, utterly, utterly pitiful and inadequate to the task electric kits are (and for the price of a reasonable electric kit you could buy two acoustic ones) I shall move on.  Honest.

The pastor, John Wasserman, arrived and chatted with us before taking us for lunch at a nice place nearby.  We had a good time and were joined by a guy called Andre and his friend who were going to be doing some stuff at the meeting that evening.  I had a chicken, mushroom and pasta dish and Godfrey had prawns.  I felt like I usually do when eating in a restaurant with Mags, I should’ve had what he had!  Mine was good but his looked spectacular.

We got back to the hotel quite late so only had an hour and a bit to rest before being picked up for the evening meeting.  Our key cards had both mysteriously stopped working on our doors when we got back, but fortunately we didn’t have to go all the way back to reception from the eighth floor as a lady with a master key happened by just as we set off and she let us in. 

When we were leaving the hotel it had gone quite cold and there’d clearly been a lot of rain and there was more on the way.  Perhaps this is God’s way of acclimatising us for getting back to England in November! We both needed our coats to go outside.

When we got to the meeting the Pastor did some welcomes and introductions and handed out some of his teaching DVDs and anointing oil to the visiting pastors in the room and included Godfrey and me in that. Then he introduced Godfrey and me and we took to the stage with the band and got the fun started.  The crowd was lively and enthusiastic and seemed to love the songs, both older more familiar ones and the newer ones.  The words, as often happens, seemed to get a bit scrambled at one point and wouldn’t come on for one song, technology eh?  I felt sorry for the person operating the words and bet it worked fine when they tested it earlier!  It didn’t matter much though really.  According to those present the electric kit sounded OK out in the auditorium but it seemed a bit quiet to me, and also the cymbals and some of the toms seemed to cut out occasionally and not make any sound when hitting them.

After Godfrey had finished, the pastor and the visiting guy Andre prayed for and ministered to quite a few people then we did a couple more songs to finish off including ‘Outrageous Grace’.  There’s NOTHING for the drummer to do in that until the last word of the last line of the last verse and then it blasts in for that and the final chorus.  It’s amazingly effective to remain silent up to that point and then suddenly arrive.  I’ve not played it for over ten years I guess.

There was food after the meeting and it was great.  They have on-site cooks and I had a burger sized meatball thing with a name I can’t remember and probably couldn’t pronounce with a fantastic salad with feta, avocado, lettuce, cucumber, tomato plus some potatoes cooked in creamy sauce.  Man it was really good. 

We got a ride back to the hotel and had a quick drink in the bar to chat and unwind before heading to bed.  We’ve got an early start tomorrow.  The meeting starts at 9am so we’ll need to have breakfast at 7am as we’re being picked up at 7:45!  Wow I love the fact that Pioneer (our local church at home) meets about 10:30 and doesn’t start until 11am.  How very civilized.  By hey, this is Africa and they love an early start here!

More fun to come on our last day of meetings tomorrow I think.

South Africa 2017 - Day 7 – 24th November

I was up about 7:30am packing my suitcase and rucksack ready to head to Johannesburg a bit later this morning.  Somehow despite only buying one t-shirt while here my case seems to weigh twice as much as at the start of this trip!  We had a good breakfast with Chereen and her father Gordon then loaded our stuff into Gordon’s huge Toyota as our stuff wouldn’t fit into Chereen’s little VW.  Godfrey gave Gordon one of his CDs as a little parting gift; I hope he listens to it.  He’s a lovely man and Chereen would love him to grasp the message of his inclusion in the finished work of the cross.

Chereen drove us the hour and a half or so the Premier Hotel (not a UK style Premier Inn – a nice hotel) which is right next to the O R Tambo International Airport. She and her father have looked after us so wonderfully.  I'm so grateful for people like that who can put you at your ease in their home and make you welcome.  

It was quite uncomfortable for me to have people take my bags off me and put them in one of those baggage trolleys you see in the movies and show us to our rooms, I’d rather take my own bag but I guess these guys have a job to do and a tip to earn.  My room faced directly into the airport and you could see the planes taking off and landing, Godfrey’s was directly opposite and only had a view of the end of the runway so we swapped as he loves plane watching.

We had a light lunch in the hotel bar and spent the afternoon relaxing.  I did some more reading and watched a couple of shows on Netflix, oh how I’ve missed a fast unlimited WiFi connection to the internet. We met up mid-way through the afternoon for a swim in the rather cold outdoor pool, sadly the sun wasn’t out as it was cloudy so it was too cold for a long swim.

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant which has a buffet/carvery arrangement.  It was OK but not brilliant.  I think we’ve been spoiled with the quality of the food we’ve had with our South African hosts in Hartbeespoort and Stilfontain!

I managed to have a good long chat with my lovely wife via FaceTime in the evening before going to sleep.  Tomorrow will be a lot busier.  We have rehearsals with the band in the morning then the evening meeting starts at 6pm.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

South Africa 2017 - Day 6 – 23rd November

Chereen, our lovely host cooked us a wonderful breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, avocado and a fine selection of fruit.  We have no meetings today but it’s a good day to visit a few folk.  Our first call was into a psychiatric hospital in east Pretoria to visit the daughter of a lady who’d been in the meeting at Church in the City in Brits the other night.  I’m not going to name any names or give many details to preserve her privacy but suffice to say she’s had a hard time in the last few years and has struggled with mental health issues to the point she needed admitting recently.  I presume the unfair stigma faced by those struggling with their mental health, as opposed to physical health, is as bad in South Africa as it is in the UK, if not worse.  Godfrey has a gift for sharing the unending, unchanging, unrelenting love of Father God for people who find themselves in such a situation and although he couldn’t get an acoustic guitar to go in with we went into the hospital anyway.  It was like “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest”, bare lino floors, painted concrete walls and high ceilings, steel bars on the windows and old fashioned jail-style steel bar doors.  The noise was appalling, not wails or screams just the amplified and undamped echo of every word spoken, every footstep and every rattle of every door or window.  You could hardly make yourself heard at the ward reception desk or in the dining area where we were to meet the young lady and her mum.  After a few minutes struggling with the sound we were moved to a more private TV room that was still noisy but at least we were the only ones in it.  There was no TV either, thankfully.  Godfrey sang two of his songs to the young lady, “Do you believe what I believe about you?” and “I am not disappointed in you” after explaining that they were Father God’s words to her for her and about her, specifically.  She seemed to understand and she chatted with him for a while and he encouraged her that her future was going to be different to her past.  Her mum was very touched that we’d taken the time to go in to see her and frankly it was a privilege to do so.  I can’t imagine how hard it must be as a parent to see one of your children suffering and struggling like that.  But she has hope for the future.  Godfrey gave the mum one of his CDs that has the songs on that he sang to her daughter which she'll keep safe until she gets out, which hopefully won’t be too long.

We then moved on to the other side of Pretoria to another hospital this time to see a lady called Tilana who was the person who invited Godfrey to Brits when she found out he was coming to South Africa.  She is Pastor Wally’s sister and has been fighting cancer for eleven years.  She managed to come to the meeting on Tuesday night despite not feeling well and needing treatment; she was determined she wasn’t going to miss it as she loves Godfrey’s music so much.

I have rarely seen anyone so fully alive and glowing with enthusiasm let alone someone who is so very ill.  She is a remarkable lady and we spent a wonderful hour with her chatting about Godfrey’s music, her journey of faith and her determination to be well.  She and her husband are planning on going on the Religious Detox cruise in the Mediterranean next September plus she’s hoping to be released from this round of hospital treatment on Sunday morning which means if she’s strong enough and well enough she may be able to come on Sunday night to our final meeting of this trip here in South Africa.

After we took our leave of her we headed to the mall opposite to meet a friend of Godfrey’s called Gerben who was the Worship Director at a huge church of 8,000 people in Pretoria when Godfrey came over about ten years ago.  He’s still in a leadership capacity there and shared with us some of the monumental changes going on at their church, all of which sounded exciting and very much in line with how I would love all churches to be; focused outwards, serving their community, deconstructing and closing things that are no longer relevant, trying to remove the consumerist culture from the meetings of the church.  It’s almost unheard of for a church of that size, with a large number of full-time staff to attempt such a shift.  Even small churches find that stuff difficult.  I hope they succeed.  He is also a drummer and an extremely accomplished musician in several fields.  He was someone you could immediately warm to and I liked him immensely.

By then it was about 3:30pm so it was time to head back to Chereen’s house before we got too caught in the rush hour traffic.

Tonight Chereen and Gordon treated us to a fantastic meal of Snoek, an amazingly tasty meaty fish, grilled on a barbeque with roasted vegetables, and a salad.  It was wonderful meal.  Godfrey and Gordon sat out on the terrace sharing a tot of each of their favourite whiskies while Chereen and I talked inside.  She told me some of her amazing life story, which as it’s her’s not mine I won’t be sharing here, but it was FULL to the brim with the grace and goodness of God in what at times must have been incredibly hard situations.  She is a remarkable woman and my only regret is not getting to meet her husband as he was been working away all week and gets home tomorrow after we’ve left.

Tomorrow we’re heading for Johannesburg itself and this time we’re staying in a hotel near the airport instead of with members of the church.  We have a meeting on Saturday night and two meetings on Sunday.  Apparently I’ll be playing an electric drum kit which I’m not looking forward to.  I don’t like them even if they’re expensive and fancy ones.  Partly that’s because they lack the sensitivity an acoustic kit has and partly it’s just it pushes me out of my comfort zone!  I shall get over myself and do my best on it and I’m sure it’ll be dandy!  What’s the worst that could happen?  Tune in to Saturday nights blog to find out!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

South Africa 2017 - Day 5 – 22nd November

This morning we were up at seven to get to the meeting for about half past eight.  I’d brought a bag of low-sugar cereal with me and opening it this morning to have for breakfast as Wally had said he’s sort a brunch out after the meeting.  We took a different route into Brits which seemed faster than the route via the dam but was still about half an hour.

There was only a very small crowd this morning fifteen or so at the most however we had a good time doing some different songs from the night before and then Godfrey spoke a bit, expanding on some of the things we’d spoken about the night before and then he threw it open for some Q&A.  Wally, the pastor, asked some good questions and I got an opportunity to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way in this exploration of the finished work, inclusion and our identity in Christ.  It really seemed to help some people having a time to conversation and questions.  Churches are often scared to death of questions but I love them.  How can we learn without examining what we believe and questioning it?  We finished off with ‘Do you believe’ and ‘I am not disappointed’  as those had particularly touched Wally.

I was asked by a lovely lady called Gladys about forgiveness and how she could forgive someone who had stolen money from her.  I explained as best as I could that forgiving them was not the same as saying what they did was OK but it was about your own peace of mind and ensuring you don’t end up reliving the hurt and pain of the theft again and again until you end up embittered and damaged.  That forgiving someone was often more about you than about the person who had wronged you.  I explained it was also a choice, not a feeling and even if she didn’t feel like it she could chose to say ‘I forgive’ and that it would get easier.  Leave the person who had done the theft to the authorities and to God to sort out.

I had a delicious brunch of scrambled eggs, bacon, chips and a south African sausage called Droe wors I think.  Godfrey had a fish and vegetables dish.  Wally questioned us quite intently about our beliefs but not in a critical way but in the way of a man wrestling with a fresh revelation and trying to square it with things he’s believed or been taught that seem not to line up.  He was especially concerned with hell and judgement but he knew that the focus was to be Jesus and let such things sort themselves out in the their own good time.  Sometimes the good news does look too good!

We then headed for the cable car to go up to the top of the nearby mountain.  Our host Chereen manages the gift shop there so she took us along with Wally and his wife Rosie.  The ride up was super smooth and quick and the weather was glorious.  We had an ice cream at the top then took the cable car back down to visit a beautiful supermarket full of the most amazing produce.  There were fruits and vegetables the like of which I’ve never seen plus a surprising number of things exactly the same as at home!

We bid our goodbyes to Wally and Elisabeth and Chereen took us back to her house where a thunderstorm started about half past two with very impressive flashes of fork lightning and heavy rain in the distance heading towards us.

Tomorrow there’s the possibility that we’ll go to Pretoria to visit the sister of a lady in the church who is in a secure psychiatric unit so Godfrey can sing some of his songs there and we’ll also visit the lady who invited us in to the church in Brits.  She’s Wally’s sister and she’s very sick with cancer.  She was at the meeting last night but had taken a turn for the worse.

In the evening we had a lovely meal of chicken and smoked trout that Chereen's dad Gordon had caught on one of his fishing trips.

South Africa 2017 - Day 4 – 21st November

The three hour drive was actually only just two and half hours.  A lovely guy called Dion drove us in Annalise’s SpirtWord minivan.  She was unable to come after all due to some speaking commitments.  He was a really good driver and I felt very safe in his hands.  The scenery in Stilfontain is very flat with scrub and only a few trees and a lot of dust but as we got closer to Brits we passed through rich green farm farmland and the hills in the distance got closer and closer.  Dion said we were heading up into the hills as Brits is surrounded by hills.  At one point as we passed a farm a whirling funnel air containing grass and plant debris came out of the field and intersected with the car clattering against the windows.  It was a dust devil I guess. It wasn’t big enough or powerful enough to be a tornado by any means but it was probably a similar phenomenon, but don’t quote me I’m no meteorologist!

We arrived in Hartbeesport Dam, at the most secure looking gated community I’ve ever seen, around lunch time.  The walls are high and are topped with outward leaning electric fence wires.  The entrance has car-park style barriers for the day time with a guard hut between the exit and entrance lanes manned by armed guards in pseudo-military uniforms.  At night there’s a solid metal gate that rolls out of the wall to block the way.  We followed the path round to a house owned by a lady called Chereen who was out at work but her father, Gordon, was there to greet us.  There was a spare room in the house and a separate basement room with its own entrance at the side.  Godfrey took the one inside and went down below.  The room was quite cool being partially underground and had a large firm double bed in the centre and a small shower stall, toilet and sink area at the entrance behind a sliding door.

Gordon took us to the clubhouse on the estate, which is home to a nine-hole golf course, with a terrific view looking over the reservoir and parts of the golf course.  The greens were all dry and dead as someone had made a mistake fertilizing it earlier in the year and killed the grass on the greens so they all had to be dug up and re-turfed at the cost of many thousands of Rand.  I had chicken schnitzel with chips and Godfrey ordered a chicken and prawn curry without the chicken accompanied by rice.  Unfortunately the chef messed up Godfrey’s meal and put chicken in it too, so when the waiter pointed this out it had to be re-cooked so Godfrey got his meal a good few minutes after us.

A lady called Stella picked us up around four pm and we headed to the Church in the City via the dam and a tunnel under one of the hills.  It was about a half hour drive into Brits itself.  The church meets in a shopping mall.  It’s mostly empty of shops as a smart new mall opened up a little further away and the shops moved there.  The church has a café and coffee shop out front and a meeting room at the back which I guess could seat two hundred or so.

There was a really nice acoustic six-piece drum kit to use and it wasn’t behind the usually ubiquitous Perspex screen!  The PA guys were really helpful getting monitors for us and sorting out the cabling.  The room was almost full by the time the meeting started at seven o’clock.

The local worship team wanted to do three songs at the beginning, so Godfrey decided to speak first before doing any of his songs as their style was completely different and the two sounds wouldn’t really complement each other at all.  He did a great job of bringing his usual message and the people including the pastor, Wally Scholtz, loved it.  People were very moved by his testimony and story of playing in secure mental health units back home in the UK.  We then did our songs and the crowd seemed to love them.

Afterwards we had a meal in the café of roasted veg, creamed spinach and a most delicious fish called Snoek.  The flesh was firm and meaty and was almost the texture of chicken but tasted like fish. It had clearly had spices cooked into it and it was the best fish dish I’ve ever had, by miles.  I had a very interesting conversation with the guy opposite me and was able to encourage him with the good news of his inclusion and perfect standing with God.  He asked loads of questions, most of which I hope I answered reasonably well.  I also had a good conversation with a young lad who plays keyboards and had been given a prophetic word about writing and releasing an album of worship songs and he said he didn’t know how to start.  I explained that it was good to hold such words lightly and not to struggle to fulfil it himself, but to just work on his skills as a musician and song-writer and shared with him the excellent advice I’ve heard Godfrey give about owning the songs you write.  To never say ‘the Lord gave me this song’ as then you put yourself in an unteachable place, how can you receive constructive criticism if the song is God’s, but to say you wrote this and acknowledge that God inspired you, prompted you etc but you wrote it.  That way you can develop as a songwriter.  He seemed happy with this.

We were back at the house around eleven o’clock and I crashed out straight to sleep.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

South Africa 2017 - Day 3 – 20th November

A day off today before a three hour drive to the town of Brit tomorrow and some meetings there.  It was quite strange waking up alone in someone else’s house as Terence, Vicky and their two kids Lucien and Caitlin had all got up early and left the house before about 7:30 to get to work or school.  Vicky had shown me where all the breakfast things were so I enjoyed a leisurely start to the day which was beautiful and sunny, again, but quite windy.  You could clearly hear things rattling and trees moving outside and the odd strange creak or door opening and shutting as the air pressure in the house fluctuated.

I spent the morning finishing ‘Jesus and the undoing of Adam’ and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who wanted to know more about the incredible work of the trinity to achieve the eternal purpose of uniting man and God in loving relationship.  The majority of the western church has been so wrong-headed about this topic! The common ideas that Jesus was turning away or absorbing the punishment of God that was intended for us and that God turned his face away from Jesus at the cross and did forsake him are exposed as the product of a thorough misunderstanding about the nature of the trinity and God’s plan for humanity.  It’s beautifully written, scholarly, Biblical and easily understandable.

Godfrey wasn’t feeling too well today.  He wasn’t sure if it was something he’d eaten or bug he’d picked up, but he felt quite sick.

In the afternoon after a hamburger lunch provided by Johan and Tarryn Godrey and I went off with Terence and Vicky’s two kids to to visit a lion breeder nearby with Johan’s mum Annalise.  They raise lions there to sell to animal parks and other places.  They have a huge property with massive fenced in areas, bigger than a zoo’s, for the adult lions and some smaller enclosures for the new born cubs and the older ones.  We were able to pick up and hold some four week old lion cubs that were already the dimensions of a large family cat but much bulkier and heavier.  They seemed quite content to be held and snuggled up to get comfy and opened their mouths to chew on your fingers toothlessly.  Their mother was outside the enclosure the whole time behind a steel door watching and she seemed content that we meant her cubs no harm but the owner did advise us to keep well away from her even though she was behind a door.  We then went to see some other types of wild cat the names of which escape me and then went into an enclosure with a much larger young lion that was a few months old and was the size of a medium sized dog.  He was very strong and quite mischievous. He constantly tried to bite my hand and claw at me, but definitely in a playful rather than aggressive way.  He didn’t put up with the handling for long and soon got bored and jumped down.  His mother had come over to the fence of her enclosure to watch what we were doing to her baby and clearly was less than happy and vocalised her feelings quite plainly.  While I was filming her on my phone she moved and snapped suddenly, yards away behind a strong wire fence, and it was scary enough for me to nearly drop my phone.  Looking at the size of her paws, claws, teeth and jaws it’s easy to believe just how quickly she could catch and kill you should you be stupid enough to not have a fence between you!

Godfrey was really feeling quite poorly by this point so we headed back to the house so he could lie down and rest.  The folks from the church were very kind and extremely concerned and offered multiple medicines that may help and were happy to head out to get anything else he might need.

I spent the rest of the afternoon reading, chatting and napping then we all went to Annalise’s house for a meal prepared by her two daughters-in-law and Vicky.  It was delicious, a beautiful salad, a lentil vegan curry and a chicken dish with rice amongst other things.  By then Godfrey was, fortunately, feeling a lot better but he didn’t eat anything other than a small amount of watermelon so hopefully whatever it was will be out of his system completely by tomorrow after a good night’s sleep.

We returned to our hosts and I spent a happy couple of hours chatting with Terence and Vicky about life, kids, parenthood and any other topic that bubbled up.  While we certainly don’t agree on everything that isn’t a requirement to like, respect and love someone.  They are a quality couple in every way that matters and it’s been a privilege and a delight to stay with them and be a part of their family for a few days.