Tuesday, July 26, 2016

South African Business

A well known company put up burglar bars for us last week. A company representative gave us first class service. Then came the installation. They forgot the ladder. They forgot fuel. They ran out of mortar. They fudged the measurements. There was significant cosmetic damage. And so on. It's a South African thing, and I suspect that it originates not so much in the workers as in the way that companies operate. The people who really run the operations from day to day do not have an interest in the business, and those who do have an interest in the business do not really run the operations from day to day. Not down to a level where it really matters.

Electronics Editor

I was quite good at electronics. At one time I designed for seven magazines, as a hobby. I still have some feel for it. At that time, I met electronics editors on three, no four continents. One editor (pictured) -- perhaps the most eccentric of them all -- set aside a week in which we had some wonderful adventures together in the north of England, while his aged mother prepared cordon bleu meals for us for our daily return. This was 2003, on the Humber. OBSERVATION: My paternal grandfather farmed on the Humber.

Publication Portal

Early last year, I was part of the re-launch of a publication, after it changed hosts and publishing platforms. It has been quite successful since. Yesterday the editors (which includes me) agreed to a bold experiment: a democratically created portal to the publication. This would change nothing of the publication itself. Rather it would create a separate 'door' to the publication, for anyone who might wish to give it a try. If readers should prefer more of this, less of that, a format like this, a format like that, whatever, it would be a democratic process on the portal. 'Watch this space' as they say.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Student Y Pastor

I put up a photo on Facebook recently which has quickly become popular (on the right). It is an American missionary in Cape Town, who works for the Student Y at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. One hears testimony again and again: it is crucial work. OBSERVATION: Although he is an American, he is much loved by Black and White alike, old and young. He has a gift of presenting the gospel simply and plainly in (that curious form of) English. You may click on the photo to enlarge to 90k.

Controlling Pain

A few years ago I had a spinal anaesthetic, for an operation to my foot. It was interesting that I could wiggle my toes, and feel people's fingers touching the foot -- but I didn't feel the surgeon's knife -- or the removal of any bone, which is what it was all about. The anaesthetist -- a burly, friendly man -- proudly claimed that this was the mark of a first class anaesthetist. He explained that there are various kinds of nerves, and the anaesthetic had specifically blocked those which feel pain. OBSERVATION: Pain control is said to be one of the triumphs of modern medicine. Sometimes there is a problem, however, in applying the knowledge and skills in Africa. In ministry I see -- or I hear of -- terrible pain sometimes, which could be effectively controlled. Most recently this month, a (Black) niece of mine was crying in pain, day after day, with less than efficient help from the hospital.

Ups And Downs Of Life

My blog statistics make "interesting reading". My readership is cyclical, as will be seen. There are reasons for that, which I think are not difficult to discern. The slump at the start represents the death of my wife (I don't have a few years of statistics before that). The first big rise happened as it became known that I had a friendship with E. Her presence permanently lifted my blog. The huge drop near the end, I attribute to my openness about adversity, before I had much to say in my own favour. The huge rise after that, I put down to the turning tide. OBSERVATION: It seems quite useful to me to observe the reasons for blog trends -- insofar as one can discern them truly.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Unexpected Testimony

I often attend an Anglican Church. This morning I was surprised when this young woman gave a testimony, speaking about finding the meaning of her life as a Christian. Someone said: "That wasn't planned." It probably was not. It was heart-warming to hear this, though, which for me is a staple diet of Congregational Church services. I miss it in Anglican Church services. The congregation, too, was hushed listening to her speak. OBSERVATION: Such testimony is a key, I think, both to unity and maturity in the Church.

The Grip Of One's Past

As a fairly ordinary citizen -- yet with some special insights, through ministry, into what is happening in society -- it is a little disturbing that I would know enough about corruption potentially to have a handle on fairly important people. Now if I know that much, how much do others know? Add to that evil intent, and one has quite a situation. It is a sobering lesson, too: be open, stay clean. OBSERVATION: And how should a society ever rid itself of such things? One would seem to need a general amnesty, or a total revolution, or people will ever be in the grip of the corruption of the past. Or, they would need to have power over truth. But then there is, too, the way of reconciliation with God.

Cartoons Editor

One of my lesser known claims to fame is as a cartoons editor. Actually, it is the cartoonist who has the claim to fame, a young Korean man, with cartoons about "social fiction" (pictured). The cartoons might seem daft sometimes, but they are there to entertain -- and they are always thought-provoking, even memorable, works of genius. A new one was published this morning: Silence is Offensive.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Brothers-In-Law Roll Into Town

Two of my brothers-in-law rolled into town this evening to watch the rugby -- the Stormers (South Africa) vs. the Chiefs (New Zealand). The photo says it all. Whenever family members come to town, wife E. (we) make sure that they are very well provisioned when they leave. It is a culture of giving, generously. OBSERVATION: They drove all the way from the provincial town George to watch the match, which is 440km / 225mi east of Cape Town. They were looking cheerful ... before the match. (There isn't a result yet).

Theological Education

Theological education is in great need, and is of great importance, yet often "slips under the radar" of Churches. Under my ministr(ies), I have encouraged my Church to support theological education as a part of the missions budget. OBSERVATION: I recall receiving an excited call from the secretary of a Bible seminary. Our Church had donated a goodly sum of money to support students at the college. She asked me whether there were any special requirements from our side. I said, have the students write to us and tell us something about themselves. And they did.

There's No Plan Like No Plan

This is a special story of grace, and shows how God works in His Church. In my urban ministry, we had a small youth group for "seniors". This wasn't for "youngsters". But one day, three youngsters came to the Church’s big steel gate, asking for Youth. It was 5:00 pm on a Friday, when nothing was happening. We said: "There is no Youth." But they continued to hang around at the Church gate. We said: "There is no Youth! Go home!" The next week they came again, at the same time. Again we sent them home. The next week they came again. The third time, a leader of our "seniors" said: "All right, come in. Let’s have Youth." Within months, there were about 40 youngsters on our Junior Youth roll. Interestingly, within weeks, the Senior Youth disintegrated, for perfectly natural reasons -- studies, jobs, moves, and so on. OBSERVATION: Author Ray Bakke calls it "God's surprising interventions" in the inner city. In fact, I don’t see how the notion of planned ministry can ever work in the inner city. One needs to shift to a sensitivity to God’s opportunities. It's a "file photo" of the Junior Youth at devotions.

Friday, July 22, 2016

An Old Man's Company

I like this photo. I took it earlier in the week. An 80-year-old man clearly enjoying the company of his birthday guests, surveying the scene. There are a lot of young guests here, too, for his age. That is quite unusual. You may click on the photo to enlarge to 140k.

General Appeals (Not)

This post is a short one, but an important one. I find that ministers and office-bearers in the Church are often disappointed and discouraged by the lack of response to general appeals for help in the Church. It is true that general appeals often don't yield a good response. However, many people are ready to help. I discovered early in ministry to ask people personally. In that case, one finds great good-will, in fact (in my experience) mostly yes responses -- unless people really can't take something on.

The Two Of Us

A bishop's wife took this one earlier this week. A rare photo of wife E. and me. You may click on the photo to enlarge to 180k.

POSTSCRIPT: I'm trying to decide what has made this post so popular. I can't think of much. Can you? (Or perhaps it is our notoriety).