Monday, May 22, 2017

Sherlock Holmes

At the close of my city ministry, I was handed severe threats, typewritten, on a white sheet of paper. There were no identifying marks. Or were there? I sought to have a fingerprint analysis done. The document had been handed to me with bare fingers. But checking fingerprints wasn't going to be practical in Cape Town. What else would tie anyone to a document? Typeface, maybe. We went through every typeface that I or the Church had ever received. We found one person who used that same typeface, and only one. OBSERVATION: It didn't come as a surprise who it was. But I doubt that anyone ever proved a case on the strength of a typeface. Eventually, however, a more compelling clue surfaced. Someone had referred to the typewritten sheet in an e-mail. (It is a strange post, this, but it happens to come to mind).

Better Torch

In 1994, I was caught in a frightening cyclone on a remote island, at dusk. Then my torch / flashlight went dead, and I lost my bearings. Determined not to get into such a situation again, I developed a torch with a fluorescent neon indicator (examples pictured) and reflector. This was about as bright as the moonlight, but it worked -- and it worked for days at a time off a set of AA batteries. OBSERVATION: Soon after, useful white LEDs came on the market. I copyrighted the first wind-up LED torch, which somebody else then patented! (US 7019492). I still use a prototype regularly.

Ministers As All-Rounders (Not)

There is often the expectation today that ministers should be strong all-rounders -- to the extent that there is no shortage of jokes about it. I don't think that this is healthy, normal, or reasonable -- or spiritual. In fact many ministers may have weaknesses which apparently make them ill suited to ministry, or ineligible. There are many examples in the Bible, and many examples in Church history. I have seen such examples myself. Yet God uses such people, and delights in using them. That is in fact the key to it all: where a minister is anointed and called by God, God overrides their weaknesses, or gives them a season as the person uniquely suited to a special task or emphasis. OBSERVATION: Once one knows that divine anointing and calling is critical, the next question is: how are a minister's anointing and calling established? That is what matters, not any lesser considerations. In fact the desire for an all-rounder may reveal the spiritual blindness of the critics.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

USAF To Missionary

I took the photo this morning of the CEO of Creation Ministries International in South Africa. He served for ten years as an officer in the US Air Force, then he was sent to Africa as a missionary. He married a local, and they have a little girl. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Familiar Company

I was surprised this morning, on attending a city Church, to find eight people at Church (if one counts me, too) who had attended my old Churches. It was entirely by chance -- or perhaps not. Perhaps we all gravitated towards the same kind of ministry, or the same kind of atmosphere. OBSERVATION: One of the people I saw this morning once fell asleep in one of my services, toppled over, and hit the Church's wood panelling with a bang. It's funny what we remember people for. This morning he was looking smart and fresh.

Death Of An Elder

Sadly, one of the elders in wife E's family passed away yesterday. He lost his wife last year, and he was approaching 90. When I saw him at Christmas, I specially took some photos of him. I asked him what he would advise me as a "young man". He said: "Take pleasure in your wife. And remember, it's all just a joke." You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Pandanus Trees

I was surprised to find two pandanus trees in Cape Town's Company Gardens today. The colourful pandanus fruit was a favourite of mine in the mission in the Pacific (they are bunches of fruit, which are almost too big to carry). But these local pandanuses (pictured) are truly flimsy by comparison. I have only once seen a pandanus tree in South Africa with fruit on it, and then it was shrivelled and inedible. OBSERVATION: The smell of them stays in my mind, as thatch and mats in the mission were made of pandanus leaves -- and so were rolled cigarettes.

Church Guesswork

They say that an awful lot depends, in ministry, on correct guesswork -- and it's not the kind of guesswork that detectives make, or mechanics, or dealers, where guesswork yields fairly early results. In the Church, it may be five or ten years -- and what if the guesswork was wrong? Some ministers live in fear. OBSERVATION: Typically, the guesswork lies in vision-casting and strategy, in the Church leadership courses. But looking back on my own ministr(ies), I have placed little emphasis on vision-casting or strategy -- rather on things of a more "present" nature, like the spiritual and charitable -- and by and large, this has led to thriving Churches. The "guesswork" isn't all the minister's, though. In a Congregational Church, the Church's future lies in the hands of all. "Guesswork" isn't the word either, where one acts in faith.

Downloading Fonts

I was searching yesterday for informal fonts for my net-book computer -- which runs Linux. One can download a very nice variety with the Linux Synaptic Package Manager. But beyond that, one can download (free) any one of "zillions" of TrueType fonts off the Internet. I myself download them, extract them, then install them manually. So I claim superuser privileges at the Terminal, then I move the extracted .ttf files to where one finds the rest of the .ttf files, which on my computer is in /usr/share/fonts. Then one reboots the computer. Here are some example fonts (pictured). They are "tame" compared to some.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Privacy (Not)

Westerners are very much used to privacy, in various ways. From the earliest age, they have their own baby room. They have secluded bathrooms and toilets. They hide certain body parts, let alone speak of them. They have rooms with doors. They call things "mine". They consider it an affront for someone to snoop in their things. And so on. In Africa -- if one truly enters Africa -- there is a different sense of privacy. Here's one example. One is continually surrounded by children -- squeezed by children. Often I have turned my camera around -- as I did here -- to snap one of them peering over my shoulder to see my camera screen.

Misspent Courtesy

Last year, there was a heist on my property. It was different to others, in that the police, in this case, made an arrest. Then the evidence disappeared, and the case was struck from the roll. So the prosecution sent the case back to the police. The police took the investigator off the case, and appointed a new one. But before the first investigator departed, he called me up. He said that the prosecutor had removed the evidence. It was a recorded call. I kept it to myself. I thought I would let them sort themselves out, and I would just tag along. Until my property took a few more hits. I thought, who am I doing favours, for what? Yesterday I wrote to the prosecutor: the investigator said it was you, you removed the evidence. OBSERVATION: What is really the case, I don't know.

POSTSCRIPT: In fact, on the surface of it, there is an offence. But South Africans have become dull to offences, and that is part of our malaise.

Pumpkin Payment

What prettier picture than wife E carrying a pumkin. There is a story behind this. I had installed two electric lights for a farm labourer, as a gift. When he saw how nicely these worked, he asked me for a third. When E heard it, she said: “You have already put in two for nothing! For a third he must pay!” She set off over a dirt track through the bush, to claim my payment. Here one sees her triumphant with the payment on her head (one carries things like this in Africa, of course).

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Big Baby

This is a Church worker (left) in the Evangelical Anglican Church in central Cape Town -- holding a big baby. Some babies are big, and so was I.

Murder Trial

There is, at the moment, a high profile murder trial under way in Cape Town, where a young man is accused of murdering his family with an axe. Today they played a call he made to an emergency centre. He was calm, focused on getting his location across, and just a little emotional. The question is, was this normal? I myself, once in my ministry, received a call from a suspect in an attempted murder (I do not know whether it was finally classified as attempted murder). The suspect was calm, with a machine-like calm. The man in the news at the moment was more emotional. OBSERVATION: As for me, when I get into a situation of great distress, I may become speechless!

Clifton Sunrise

I took the photo yesterday morning at sunrise. One sees Clifton's Fourth Beach on the left, and the shadow of Lion's Head on the right, falling on the morning mist. The sun strikes a mountain range called The Twelve Apostles, of which Table Mountain is (I think) the first, just off the left of this photo.