Sunday, December 15, 2019

My Madness

Some years ago, I was assaulted in Church. A doctor wrote it up in his clinical notes -- but when I asked him for a copy, he had changed his notes. I lodged a complaint with the Health Professions Council. I don't think that anyone said I didn't see the notes -- rather that I imagined that I saw them -- which is, I saw them in madness. That was the defence -- and the Council accepted it. But having studied psychology, it was clear to me that those who had handled this defence did not have the most basic training in psychology -- or had forgotten it all. I made various attempts to address the matter. Most recently, I filed legal requests for the qualifications of those involved -- six people in all. Last week, the Health Professions Council refused to reveal the qualifications of three of them. The other three, I now know, were not qualified. The refusal is unusual, as the Council sets a high priority on issues which have to do with doctors' qualifications, and these are their doctors. OBSERVATION: The matter is taking an awfully long time, but my priority is answers, not the amount of time it takes. I have lodged a legal appeal for those qualifications.

George Eastman's Order

I obtained this photo from one of my friends in the Pacific. It is a Church I attended in my youth -- however this is a recent photo. My mother joked that one sees Eastman in this photo. George Eastman was a Congregational missionary who liked to keep things regimented. A hundred years later, his regimentation lives on. One of the elders of Beru told me that Eastman would inspect houses (typically wooden structures on stilts), to see that there was order. If he found a house which was disorderly, he would strike it with a stick, and it was burnt down.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Xhosa Initiation

A Xhosa nephew completed his initiation into manhood today. This is a proud moment for the family, who celebrate with joy. What happens in initiation is classified. Wikipedia states: "Details ... are not supposed to be disclosed to females or non-initiated males." I have learned some things about it, through my family. It is a time of severity and isolation in nature, under the sun and the stars. It includes circumcision, and teaching about Xhosa manhood and heritage. The photo of initiates is from South Africa's Mail & Guardian.

Finger-Wagging Teen

There is a great deal of controversy around Greta Thunberg's youth. For example, David Harsanyi writes: "Who better than a finger-wagging teen bereft of accomplishment, or any comprehension of basic economics or history, to be Time magazine’s Person of the Year ..." Michelle Obama, on the other hand, wrote to Thuberg: "Don’t let anyone dim your light ... Know that millions of people are cheering you on." The controversy surrounding youth is relevant to Congregationalism. The position of many Congregational Churches is something like this (I quote from an official document, in fact adopted by my own Church): "The young in years and spiritual experience are as free to share as those who are aged and of long experience in the life of Christ." OBSERVATION: Both old and young, in years or experience, bring things to the life of the Church which are vital. So long as one understands the respective strengths and weaknesses.

What Friends Are For

It's a photo of friends straightening out wife E at her graduation in May. This was after the official photographs -- but they wanted her to look good for "happy snappers" afterwards. E obtained a BTh.

Friday, December 13, 2019

An Unusual Find

I received a most unusual e-mail this morning:
"We found an item this morning, possibly belonging to you outside our Provincial Traffic Office in Mossel Bay.  It is a green coloured album documenting your engagement to your late wife Mirjam."
Firstly, thank you to the provincial employee who found me. I should work on a coherent theory to explain this ... though no guarantees it will ever be found! I know the album well -- a bulky record of Mirjam's and my engagement celebrations in Switzerland. Mossel Bay is a town about 400 km east of Cape Town, known chiefly for one of the world's largest gas-to-liquids refineries.

My Parish From the Sky

This is a satellite photo of my country parish -- at least, its centre. At the exact centre of this image (the yellow dot) lies my Church -- and just across the road, with a white roof, a decommissioned synagogue. One notices a few things in this image. After five years of drought, the dams are completely empty. I don't know what keeps the circular crops going. The town is stagnant -- one sees no expansion. One sees a township on the right -- removed from the village, as is often the case.

South African Truck

I had a typically South African situation this week. I was supposed to meet a truck as it arrived at my house. The truck didn't turn up.  I obtained the truck driver's number and gave him a call: "Where are you?"  At the house, he said.  I said: "Where?"  He described his surroundings -- and described just what I saw.  I said: "I am at the house.  There isn't a truck here."  Silence.  He said: "I am there!  Thirty kilometres!"  I turned to someone next to me, and joked that he was 100 km away (which he might well have been, judging by the time it took him to reach me).

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Last Word From Africa

This is old information, but new. Though a few people saw it ten years ago, it is a fresh post. In 2009, I had a Canadian assistant in city ministry. In his final circular from Africa, he wrote the following about our Church:
"In reflecting on the past year there is much to be thankful for in the ministry here. It may seem a bit questionable to be thankful for money, but really our budget has been more than a bit miraculous this year. One of the best years financially in the history of the church, despite a global economic recession, immense tax threats from the government and projected shortages. Clearly the hand of God was in this. In general it was a blessing to be a part of such a good congregation, without any drama or in-house fighting and nagging. Our congregation truly seems to be a group who genuinely care about each other and giving glory to God, what more could a minister ask for? And of course I am thankful for the leadership and guidance of my supervisor Thomas as well as Mirjam [my late wife]. Both these people are such a positive presence in the church, they have truly influenced me and the type of leader I might be some day."

Thank You Notes

I was feeling discouraged in ministry, so I decided to put up thank-you notes on a big board on my study wall. In time, the thank-you notes became too many for the board. These were not perfunctory thank-yous. In many cases, they were deeply meaningful -- like this one. I took this one off the top of the pile (they are no longer on the wall).

Post About That Post

Five months ago, I posted a short post about the police -- perhaps I should say, certain police -- calling my post "self-explanatory". I thought I might be talking to myself, so to speak. However, the post went viral. It has overtaken nearly every other post on this blog in 12-13 years, in a fraction of that time (the exceptions being two posts on metal detector design). And my "self-explanatory" post is not a flash in the pan. It has been snowballing, with strong international interest. I wrote that the Department of Justice had taken note of the matter. They had, at the time, but it has not progressed since then.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Finding a Treasure

I found an absolute treasure this week, after it had been missing for years. Badly damaged, it is a book by the Congregational missionary Emily May Pateman, Myths and Legends of the Gilbertese People. It is her personal copy in Gilbertese, with notes for a second edition in her own hand, never published. According to WorldCat, there are six copies of the original around the world. May Pateman diligently recorded the myths and legends of each island -- histories, really, in a form that could be passed down. OBSERVATION: Although it is badly damaged, I think that all the text is intact. The title in Gilbertese is Aia Karaki ni Kawai I-Tungaru. Her original research is held on microfilm by the Australian National University.

Tarantula Cocoon

I took this photo on my country property. My niece planted an aloe, and a tarantula took the opportunity to hang its egg sac from its leaves. Where one sees such a sac, one may know there is a big spider nearby, aggressively guarding it. The spider's real name is "common rain spider" (Palystes superciliosus), since it comes indoors before rain. OBSERVATION: One of my more popular photos on the Internet is the spider itself.

How Fast Can a Church Recover?

How fast can a Church recover? Speaking now of any Church which would seem beyond hope. Churches seem to me to be much like nations -- except that national recovery is often assessed economically. In the case of nations, take a worst case scenario: massive destruction and demoralisation through a state of war. A country can show very significant signs of recovery within weeks, not months or years. In the Church, I have seen and experienced this: a Church that seems beyond hope may show very significant signs of recovery in weeks, though more likely months. For a shift from disaster to prosperity, I would say within, say, five years. OBSERVATION: And I hold that this is transferable (not a fluke in special situations).

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Not a Burglary?

I had the first opportunity today to view my country cottage after it was broken into with massive force (elsewhere on this blog). But I was so surprised by what I found. I could not see anything definitely missing. Not only that. There were precious valuables everywhere but everywhere, untouched. The photo shows expensive crockery and crystal glasses, untouched. As I was there, a neighbour called by. I said this is the strangest thing. He said it's sheer vandalism, it's crazy. Vandalism? I found not a thread broken, not a splinter off anything. It was all perfectly intact. The only obvious damage I found was papers which had been set alight inside the house, and burnt to ashes. I photographed it all. The police have closed the case (for now) for want of evidence.