Sunday, November 23, 2014

Stunning Exodus

I've posted on this before -- however the trends have accelerated. Within this year, about 60% of active members of our Church in the Karoo have permanently left town. This is a stunning exodus of English speakers, not least for its impact on the only English-speaking Church in town. Another minister, with bilingual services, now fills the Church, while I remain consulent minister on paper. I cannot imagine the reason for the exodus, other than a change in the political landscape.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

NG Kompleks

My photographing of local Churches continues. This is the Nederduits Gereformeerde (Dutch Reformed) Kompleks in Jeffrey's Bay, a large and thriving Church on the south coast of Africa. It would seem to me to be a pleasant cultural sanctuary.  At the same time, it aspires to "making a difference" in the community, and has a powerful ministry of compassion. Dutch Reformed Churches are traditionally Calvinist: a Calvinism which historically developed a special local character. You may visit the Church on-line at

Friday, November 21, 2014

Best Public Services

As a minister, I have had a fairly wide experience of public services in South Africa. I consider that some really shine, and I'll name the police services, the municipal services, and home affairs in particular. While I could name others, it would be on the basis of fewer experiences. At the bottom of my list are the postal services and (the worst) the health services. However, with regard to health services, I consider that it is the services which are wanting, not the personnel. OBSERVATION: There is great variation within South Africa. My experience will by no means be the experience of all. And in most things, one needs patience. South Africa is not as efficient as some parts of the world.


It has been a week as seldom has been. Among other things, my personal papers were searched. The police called it a "gentle" intrusion, two large bolts having been expertly dismantled. An estimated one-thousand personal papers were taken, in a briefcase. An estimated one-thousand personal papers besides, also in a briefcase, were sifted and landed in a river (see the photo). A box of personal letters was searched, but not taken. Papers of my late wife, stored next to mine, were left alone. Valuables were opened up, too, but were left alone: for example, a CD collection, and a compound microscope. OBSERVATION: In a case like this, one opens a case with the police. This means that, if papers surface somewhere (or information contained in them), people will have some explaining to do. Sometimes police will hesitate to open a case, due to (next to) nil value of the goods, but it is essential.
NOTE: Thanks to a blog reader who notes that I should give thanks -- meaning I think that God's blessing is in the midst of such things.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Poorly Son

Son M., for some time, has been poorly, and this morning underwent an operation -- in a hospital just a few blocks from my home. He is able to whisper the word "elephant", which means that all must be fine. I should be taking him home tomorrow, as all has gone according to plan. Here he is -- as we once knew him (click on the photo to enlarge to 60k).

Part IX: Pseudo Ethics

I handed in Part IX today, on schedule, of A New Metaphysics. In the nature of things, this will in due course be seen as a mere draft. It is widely taken for granted today that it is impossible to derive an “ought” from an “is”.  The philosopher David Hume's (supposed) insight has taken hold. Yet what does one do then for value? One grasps for fact. Yet fact cannot provide value. Part IX sketches, I hope, the dynamic. OBSERVATION: This has had a lot to do with theology. At the core of Bishop Lesslie Newbigin's theology lay the realisation that "It is a world of facts without value, and a world of values which have no basis in facts." This affects, in particular, the Theology of Community, which has rubbed off all over the world, without necessarily taking root. (I do not follow Newbigin's approach).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Dop (Tot) System

I have close experience of the demise of the dop (tot) system on farms in South Africa. It might be more true to describe it as payment in commodities, since it was not only the dop. The evils of the system are plain to see. At the same time, many labourers grieve over its passing. Paradoxically, a restructuring of wages, intended to propel farm workers into the present, has brought discontent.  Everything is now calculated, tabulated, assessed: accommodation, water, transport -- even the old commodities. OBSERVATION: I think that much could be remedied by a little kindness, to make up for the sense of loss.

Resignation Pending

It seemed simple, to me. Last year I resigned from urban ministry, subject to the fulfilment of agreements. In keeping with this, my resignation was undated, and we filed memoranda that I was to "resign on condition all finalised". After this I was presented with several "final settlement agreements" (see the image). However, none of these agreements was signed (one of them was signed only by me). "This condition (for my resignation) was not met," wrote an attorney last month. And the Department of Labour advised: "Explore civil proceedings". I have not done so, although it has been difficult. See also My Resignation, posted last year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dangerous Solar

I was working today on a regulator for a large solar panel (which "evens out" the voltage which is tapped from the panel). For some of us who grew up with solar cells, we remember when these were electronics not electrics, so it is easy to forget how things have changed today. It is downright dangerous to play with solar power now the way that one played with it then. The panel I was working with today has a sign on the back: WARNING Electrical Hazard.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Earthed Professor

I was asked in a group last week: "Who had the greatest impact on you, spiritually?" It would be so easy to do someone injustice for the impact that they had, yet the person who first came to mind was a professor, Herbert Jantzen, now 92. One finds him on Wikipedia. He taught us Christianologie -- yet lecture after lecture, he came down from the intellectual heights to challenge us on the heart level. Have you experienced the conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit? Have you trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation through faith?

Elephant Bird Egg

This is a rare photo, not only of son M., but of an elephant bird egg compared with a chicken egg (needless to say, the chicken egg is on the left). Elephant birds became extinct comparatively recently, during the age of exploration. They looked like giant, stocky ostriches. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Urban vs. Suburban Ministry

Someone asked me today the difference between sustaining an urban Church and a suburban Church. My answer today (it may change) was that the turmoil in African urban people's lives is such that a typical suburban ministry will not adequately address the urban need. Therefore one cannot smoothly transfer a suburban ministry to an urban Church. OBSERVATION: However, the same might apply in reverse. Urban ministry might "come on too strong" for a suburban Church. But notice the "Catch 22" here. A Church might be a mix of urban and suburban people.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

City Bible Study

Tonight I conducted a Bible study for a group in the city centre called TNT (Twenties 'n Thirties). The text which was assigned to me is arguably the most difficult in the Bible. Hebrews 6: those who cannot be brought back to repentance. Usually this is interpreted as those who were part of the Church yet "missed the boat". There was some good input.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Desert Road Difficulty

Just for fun, here's a 23-second video of me negotiating a desert road after rains, in my old Indian three-wheeler, a Bajaj -- at Gannabos, near the ghost-town Brandkop. The first time I encountered this, from the other direction, I walked it first, to decide how I'd get across.


One of my weaknesses as a young minister was distraction. I would have purposes in mind, from which I could be completely distracted, particularly where emotional events were involved. Decades later, while I still blame myself for some distraction, I have the ability to forge ahead no matter what the (potential) distraction. OBSERVATION: What brought about the change? This is hard to say. What comes to mind is a deeper understanding of faith.