Friday, May 27, 2016

Dealing With The Destitute

The destitute turn to the Church. I have had a lot to do with them in ministry -- particularly urban ministry. But they are not by far "the humble poor" as one hymn puts it. Typically they are hardened, often they are intrusive and aggressive, even criminal. Often I got tough with them. Often I (had to) send them away with nothing. They didn't seem to understand then, with their abusive responses. But they did -- looking back. I am welcomed with great warmth now when they see me, week by week. What made the difference is that I ministered to them, counselled them, buried them, stopped for them in the street -- and cared for them. They do appreciate a "sensible" approach. OBSERVATION: And they are worth getting to know. One obtains a far richer view of the world through them.

Storms River Bridge

I took this picture of wife E. earlier this year at the Paul Sauer or Storms River Bridge. Designed by an Italian, it was built in 1953-1956. Its construction was unique. The two halves of the arch were built vertically, then lowered into a horizontal position. It lies just at the other side of the Eastern border of the Western Cape. OBSERVATION: From about here on, one begins to smell the Eastern Cape. One would know it blindfolded.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Saved By The Tape

Yesterday I blogged about Elon Musk's revealing blogging. Here is some of my own. It is a small sample of a bigger picture, and it will be worth focusing here for a moment. Following the close of my urban ministry in Cape Town, the police summoned me to meet with them in their board room in Sea Point -- which is four police officers, one of whom the police chief. Two of them turned up -- officers Bartholomew and Pool -- but not the chief, who sent me his apologies. Here's what happened after that meeting:
• An elder of a neighbouring Church, Christian Life Camps Bay, wrote to me that I had made a false statement to the police, in that meeting, concerning his minister (see the e-mail above right -- you may click on it to enlarge). One can be criminally charged for this -- which means me. But I had not made such a statement, or ever mentioned his minister to the police. I asked my attorney to get the elder on the line, and his minister, to arrange a meeting -- but tell them that this was without prejudice. Which is, we would hold nothing against them. The attempt foundered. 
• At about the same time, without my knowing it, one of the two police officers, too, wrote that I had made a statement to the police, in that same meeting, concerning Christian Life Camps Bay's attorney, accusing him of a crime. This claim turned up in Sea Point docket CAS 206/02/15, as Affidavit A.7. But there was no such crime, and I had not made such a statement. How could I now escape two accusations, by two people, indicating that I had made two false statements to the police in that same meeting in the board room? 
My suspicions had been aroused before the meeting. I walked into the board room "wired" -- and got the whole 58 minutes and 51 seconds of it "taped". My audio records were seized in a raid then -- I don't know who did that -- but the critical audio escaped. It is secure. OBSERVATION: The elder and the attorney were the two people principally involved with me in my payout from my old Church, and the police officer who filed a false affidavit was previously involved with the attorney, in connection with failed charges against me. I show an extract of the e-mail here. In principle I could show all of it -- in which the Christian Life Camps Bay elder further accuses me of being "wanton, malicious, or in deception".

Production Again

Yesterday I learnt that another electronic concept of mine is to go into production, in the United States. But this one has a complex history. It isn't all mine. My late father, once a professional conjurer, showed me an advertisement for an expensive conjuring trick -- a bank of lamps and a bank of switches. He asked me whether I could reverse engineer it. I think it was the original Wellington Enterprises' Magic Switchboard that he saw (pictured), now on sale for $450 (R7 000). I succeeded in reverse engineering it -- and added a whole new dimension. In the original, one could swap the lamps around. In my design, one could swap the switches around, too. My concept is still on the Internet today as the Combinational Conjuring Trick. The parts cost, at most, 5% of Wellington Enterprises' product. But companies are manufacturing it all over the place now, generally for around $300 (R5 000), likely off my published design. So the fact that my concept is now going into production in the United States is, in a way, hardly news.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Abuse Of Ministry

This morning, I read about the famous Elon Musk's penchant for putting information (evidence) on his blog. My own blog has been tame, considering the information that I have. I am thinking today of abuse of ministry in particular. There is something almost unspoken in the Church. A minister will be abused and he (or she) will never speak. This does not merely lie within my own experience. It is proved by research. Researcher Marcus Tanner states: “Everybody knows this is happening, but nobody wants to talk about it.” It is secret. Yet in the USA, there may be more than 150 000 ministers who experienced such intense abuse from “a small faction” in their Church that they had to leave. OBSERVATION: The trouble is that, by treating abuse this way, as a secret, it repeats. That, too, is proved by research. If you don't deal with it the first time it happens, you could be fuelling an inter-generational problem that will hurt a lot of people for years to come.

Sick (Tick) Wife

For the first time since we are married, my wife has been sick. It was a strange getting-to-know-you for us, because our relationship was arranged in the beginning. It was a cold start. I knew her then as a very quiet, humble, thoughtful, modest, self-effacing woman, as did everybody else. I didn't know the other side of her. Since we were married, I got to know her personally. She is a storm, a hurricane -- in the best kind of way. Now suddenly she is sick -- and quiet. She had chills and a fever, and she saw the doctor today. The doctor says it may be African tick bite fever. We thought it might be flu ... but not really flu. Or a bite ... a spider or a tick.

Broom Child

I took this photo around the New Year of a girl cleaning a broom. Rural children especially, from a young age, will diligently sweep their house and surrounds. I remember this, too, in the mission, in another world far away.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bringing Age Down

A characteristic of both of my major ministries was a significant drop in age -- speaking of age by attendance throughout the week (including Sunday). The graph shows age groups under my ministry in 1994 and again in 2007 (the same ministry), according to research I did for Fuller. The colours represent (from the bottom): children, youth, young adults, middle aged, and elderly. When I started in 1994, there were only a handful of people below forty-five. By 2007, it was half the Church -- again bearing in mind how we did the count. OBSERVATION: Some considered that we should have achieved more. Others asked us how we did it. The short answer as to how: it was through the priesthood of believers, which I think of above all as spiritual ministry by all. Yet one should not undervalue the elderly: for who they are in themselves, and for the reason that research shows that a proportionate representation of the elderly is important to Church growth. Or to put it another way, Church growth is impeded if the elderly are too thin on the ground (which I have from the 1998 English Church Attendance Survey).

Fortunes Of The Force

Last week I received a letter from a high ranking police officer, which I thought to indicate a police breakdown -- I need to think before I reveal anything. But it leads me to this post. Police numbers in South Africa are not too bad, taken simply as a figure. But their well-being, to use a word of our parliamentary Opposition, is "catastrophic". Earlier this year, our Deputy Minister of Police revealed that 89% of police officers are depressed: HIV and Depression Stalk SA's Police Officers. Now consider that depressed persons may work at 20% of capacity: SA is Stressed Out and Suicidal. Given that both of these figures are true, the police are working just above one-quarter capacity -- and they need to do what they need to do to work at that capacity -- to fit their condition. I don't think that too much of what I call police breakdown should be reduced to levels of crime, and I don't think that too much of it should be blamed on levels of corruption. I suspect it is human collapse. But then one needs to ask what brings about such human collapse. OBSERVATION: Being a veteran counsellor myself, I think I see some obvious things. But I don't think it is likely that I shall be appointed as special advisor to the police any time soon.

Missions Debriefing

This one's just for interest -- a glimpse into the life of the Church in South Africa. Two years ago, eleven Churches teamed up to do missions in the Orange Free State and Lesotho. I took this photo of a debriefing after a long day. As will be seen, this was a very mixed team -- one of two teams. One sees here that it was bitterly cold. OBSERVATION: It is not a small thing to have such a diverse team together. We were together for a week, which I felt was just right -- not too short, and not too long.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Crossing The Line

Today I referred my former doctor's attorneys to the Human Rights Commission, in terms of Section 9 (3) (4) (5) of the nation's Bill of Rights, for their behaviour in representing him (representing him what for is another subject). I considered that they had crossed the line with regard to religious prejudice. Behind the scenes, attempts at a resolution had borne no fruit. OBSERVATION: In terms of Section 13 (3) (a) of the Human Rights Commission Act, it is typically a three-step process. One makes a submission to the Commission, they judge whether "there is substance" to it, then they "assist one in securing redress". I have made four submissions to the Commission in the past. All four were judged to have substance.

Brother-in-Law

I took this photo recently of my brother-in-law and his wife. This is the man who comically misadvised me on bride-price negotiations a few years ago. I also appointed him as my representative for the negotiations, but the elders rejected him as belonging to the younger generation. Their oldest son just started teacher's training. Both of them bear office in the Congregational Church, and both work at a major sawmill in the subtropical forest of Tsitsikamma. OBSERVATION: He introduced me to Xhosa humour, which is to dupe someone with a poker face, and watch. He is a brother-in-law in African kinship terms. She is my wife's cousin, in European kinship terms.

Optimism

Thinking on optimism (a post yesterday): a few hours before my late wife Mirjam died, a woman from Hospice entered the room with a clipboard. She said to her: “We'll try to speed up the process of admission to Hospice.” Then she turned to me: “Only until your wife is quite well again, of course.” I was annoyed. I know death. I walked into the passageway -- where I bumped into the renowned Prof. Jacobs. “With her permission,” he said, “we'll begin radio therapy immediately.” I said: “You know what I know, Professor. She's dying.” He said: “Anything is possible. If I were not an optimist, I wouldn't be in this job.” OBSERVATION: And this, I think, distinguishes two kinds of optimism: a timeless optimism, an abiding attitude like Prof. Jacobs', without which life cannot go on, and an optimism which is time-bound as it were. The timeless optimism of the Christian is coupled with trust in God.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Friday Night Photo

The photo is one of me on Friday night last week. Perhaps I am looking so buoyant because I am picking up wife E. (one sees the seatbelt over my shoulder). OBSERVATION: Serious-minded on the one hand, a secretary once called me a Pollyanna, which is I suppose something like a cork that won't go under. In fact, it is faith. Pollyanna was a best-selling novel of 1913.

POSTSCRIPT: A reader notes that a Pollyanna may be defined as an overly optimistic and therefore apparently naive person. I would prefer "steadfast".

A Missionary's Perspicuity

Tonight I thanked a missionary for the "simplicity and power" with which she speaks about the gospel. This is a treasure in a world where things are usually not too clearly seen. When someone has the spiritual vision and clarity, one feels: "Of course! That is indisputable! That's exactly how it is! It's the only way to see our world."