Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Zimbabwe Postal Service

Zimbabwe postal service has introduced a new stamp with a picture of Robert Mugabe in honor of his achievements. In daily use it has been shown that the stamp is not sticking to envelopes.
This has enraged the President who demanded a full investigation. After a month of testing a special presidential commission has come out with the following findings:
1. The stamp is in perfect order.
2. There is nothing wrong with the applied adhesive.
3. People are just spitting on the wrong side

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nativity Scene

These ceramic figures were made for me by my "American mom", Jackie Edele, the year I spent in South Charleston, West Virginia as an exchange student. Every time that I have set up this scene for the past 40 years, I have marvelled at its beauty. This year was no exception. It's not only the beauty of the figurines that shines through, but also the love and acceptance that I received from the family, and community among whom I spent the year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Born To Die

Grocery shopping is an obesity occupation, especially when freshly baked cakes are attractively arranged at the entrance to supermarket. Just savouring the odour as I pass adds kilograms to my frame. But sometimes it can be quite an intriguing experience - as it was a couple of weeks ago. On the first table, amongst other goodies, Christmas mince pies were on display, as one would consider usual for this time of year. However on the adjacent table were hotcross buns. I bought a pack of each as evidence, and to photograph for posterity. Here is the evidence. We did eat them!

So I suppose that this goes to prove that the theology of some must be true - Jesus was born to die. His life and resurrection pale in comparison - in fact, can be disregarded in the face of these two overwhelmingly important events. No wonder there are so many who come to services on Christmas Day and Easter, but we see neither hide nor hair of them for the rest of the year. Strange though, that its Jesus's death (symbolised in the hotcross buns) that is more important than his resurrection - there were no 'easter eggs' on sale. We don't see crowds at Good Friday services. Maybe 2009 will be different, seeing that the supermarkets are marketing his death so effectively.

Makes me wonder - if Jesus life is of so little importance, what about my life, and everyone else's lives? Why did I not die 'the hour I first believed'? Hmmmm.


Advent - the four weeks before Christmas - a time of reflecting on Christ's coming into the world in the form of humanity, preparation for Christ's coming again, and recognising Christ's coming in the present, daily, in all times and circumstances. In preparing sermons and thinking about the passion of John the Baptist, the forerunner to Christ; and the courage of Mary, Jesus mother - a different perspective on Advent arose. To what extent is Advent a waiting on our part for Christ to come - and to what extent is it God waiting for us to say YES to God's invitation to us to carry God's Word into the world?

A Year of Celebrations

2008 has truly been a year of celebrations.
Nephew, Phill Rodda and Ashleigh in November

Niece, Sandy Forrester and Julian in September

Son, Ian Donkin and Juliette in May

Nephew, Andrew Fath and Lara in March

Nephew, Sean Hendrikz and Tam in March

Two great nephews born, for which I have no photos.
We are truly blessed!

Natalie's Wedding

Natalie is the youngest daughter of our very close and dear friends Dave and Les Morgan. She married David Mendes on Saturday 13th December in a beautiful, happy ceremony on a farm just outside Barberton.

I don't know what it is like for a dad to let his daughter go, but Dave managed to 'keep his pose' remarkably well!

Dave, Les, and Les's mother Dora. Natalie is the first of her grandchildren to get married.

The very happy couple.

We have known them as family since their eldest daughter Kirsty was born, and our eldest son Ian was 1 year old - so they really are an extension of our family!

Sixty Years

It seems like such a long time - but when you look back it's not really. I have known my sister, Wendy, for 58 of her 60 years. Ned and I went to celebrate with her and her family at the end of November.

The combined ages of everyone in the family photo is about 547years!
The Lord said: 'Go forth and multiply' - and that is what has happened. My mother, the oldest relative alive, aged 85, has multiplied to 1078 if I add up the ages of all her children, children-in-law, grandchildren and grandchildren-in-law, and great grandchildren. Imagine that.!

Friday, December 5, 2008


That was the license plate on a golden, low-slung Jaguar that was driving in front of me this afternoon. I couldn't read the model number. Well, I thought about what the owner was saying on the license plate, and I decided - no, I do not envy him/her. I do not envy the cost that it would be to maintain such a vehicle, or what would be spent in fuel on that vehicle. If someone were to jump a red robot and crash into it, it would sustain similar damage to any other crashed-into vehicle, and cause just as much grief and inconvenience as anyone else would suffer. It probably would not be hi-jacked - but then neither would mine as mine is not a sought after make or model. I am content with my car, and very happy with the 5.5L/100Km that it gets on a long trip. No, that Jaguar is NOT 4ME2NV at all.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Next Adventurer

Yesterday Richard began his journey to Semonkong (Lesotho) to join missionaries there and lend a hand with whatever they need him to do. He arrived this afternoon. I cannot say that I was not a bit anxious and 'motherish' as he was getting together the things he needed (like food!) and making his travel plans. But then I got to thinking: he is 23 years old. At that age I emigrated to Southern Rhodesia as the first step in my working my way around the world. My plans didn't get much further as I met Ned there and that was the end of far-away travels - we did spend 5 years in the Transkei though, leaving for Pretoria when Richard was 2 months old!
I wonder where Richard's adventures will lead him? He is planning to be in missions himself in time. The where, when and what are yet to be revealed......

Adventure is part of our ancestry - on both Ned's and my side. "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players..." Blessings on you, my son, as you spread your wings - or direct your wheels!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Dark Side of God?

I was reading the other day from ‘Wrestling with Grace’ (Morris R.C. 2003) about the Adversary not always being Satan, but that God challenges us through trials, tests, adversity, challenges etc. Which led me to reflecting on the past Kairos weekend and how the ladies at our ‘table family’ saw God’s hand in their imprisonment and through the injustices they experienced.
- no. 1 was arrested and imprisoned on a charge of robbery by her boyfriend’s other girlfriend when she went to collect her things from the house that she and her boyfriend had bought together. The boyfriend denied that he knew her (although they had been together for a number of years) and later said he had known her for 6 months. The magistrate said that she could not have bought all those goods in 6 months and because she did not have the evidence/ receipts, she was sentenced. But she says, she came to salvation in prison, and is acutely aware that the Lord has an assignment for her while in prison and that is what she is focusing on. She has become an intercessor.
- no.2 has a 10 month sentence for fraud, and sees her imprisonment as an opportunity from the Lord to break free from an abusive relationship and to start afresh in a renewed relationship with God in the present and to prepare for a new life in the world
- no.3 has a 20year sentence for embezzlement of money half the value of no.2. She recognizes that she needed to be removed from her family because of her dominating and controlling ways and the negative effect that had on her children and husband, and on her self in her obsessive drive for perfection in her world.
They see God as the one who removed them from ‘outside’ and who challenges them in grace to draw closer to God and let go of the darkness within themselves.
I can pray with them for God the Challenger to meet them in their situations of struggle, pain and darkness; and in the quietness of God’s presence to ask if there is anything specific the Lord wants to say to them, and to keep listening until they hear in their hearts.

Kairos #4 Pretoria Ladies

Thursday evening. 42 Residents - anxious, not really knowing what it's about, shame, stories to shock, biscuits and coffee/ tea, talking to 'outsiders'. Will it be just like church - preaching, praying, singing? Not sure that they want to be there - and yet they do. Conflict. Avoidance.
Sunday evening. 42 Residents - knowing God's forgiveness and love, freedom from self-rejection and self-condemnation, freedom from anger and aggression towards others, burdens shared, friends discovered, support welcomed, knowing that 'we are not alone', walking with heads up, renewed, a sense of purpose and call, peace and joy, tears at bidding farewell to the 'outsiders'.
All this in just three days.
God is good!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Almost absolute silence. Richard's computer has been humming in the background in my study for months and months doing simulations for his 4th year electronic engineering project. He moved it out of his room so he could sleep undisturbed. Now it is silent. The first draft of his project is due tomorrow (Wednesday). It is a bit late in being handed in because of his slow typing. Not only is his right hand affected by the focal dystonia, but his left hand developed arthritis a couple of months ago which makes it painful for him to type. Thank God for the blessing of one of his friends and fellow students who spent a day here a week or so ago doing the typing to Richard's dictation and got through a lot of work that way.

Life is tough - especially when it's one of your kids that is struggling.
But I am appreciating the silence!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Missed Opportunity

I went to the funeral of my sister-in-law's mother last week. She was a Catholic. When the minister went to give Liliana her last communion just before she passed away, my sister-in-law was there. As the priest didn't recognise her, he asked if she worshiped at their church - to which she replied 'no'. Thereupon she was told to move out of the way because she could not partake of the 'host'. How sad that assumptions are made (and perhaps there are expectations behind them) without taking the time to listen and probe carefully. If he had taken the time to speak to her, he would have discovered that she had indeed been baptised and confirmed in that self-same church to which her mother belonged, and was, indeed, one who 'qualified to partake of the host'. He missed a great opportunity for ministry to one who was in the process of saying good-bye to her mother.

That led me to thinking - during the service in which we were told that Catholics could come up for communion but all others were requested to respect their tradition and not come up - that the thinking behind who can and who cannot receive communion in their tradition is a bit up the pole. I know that dispute arises over how they view the bread and wine (as being transformed into the real flesh and blood of Christ) - that doesn't phase me particularly. What I do wonder about though, is: if this is the real body of Christ, how can they justify keeping it away from those who need it? Jesus in the flesh never turned away from the marginalised, unclean, despised and rejected. On the contrary, those who touched him and who were touched by him were healed/ made clean. Jesus welcomed all who came, and was never concerned about being defiled by them because he knew that to be an impossibility.


One of our worship team leaders ended up in hospital with what was at first suspected kidney stones, then perhaps pneumonia. How can such diversity tie up? Well, it comes down to the area of pain which is where diagnosis begins. Thank goodness for other medical tests! It was determined that he actually had a pulmonary embolism. He had originally thought that it was a 'stitch' (intercostal cramp) and had jumped up and down a bit to try and sort it out - which incidentally could have ended up killing him. When in hospital he was not allowed to move from his bed - not even to the loo - because walking could be life-threatening. Eventually the staff allowed him to get into a wheelchair and get to and from the loo that way.

The alarming thing was that he said he felt fine. When he breathed in deeply there was pain in his upper chest, but otherwise medication kept that under control. He just had to lie in bed while his blood was being thinned and the embolism dissolved - even though he 'felt fine'. Just goes to show how what we feel does not reflect reality.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Goat Conference

Our reason for going to Mexico really was for a Goat Conference. Ned has attended them in various parts of the world every four years since we have been in Pretoria and since he became involved with Saanen milk goats. It stands to reason that goats would also attend a goat conference - and here is the proof!

Of course, Saanens are the best - in my opinion anyway.

Flamboyant Entertainment

A group of colourful musicians serenaded us during the traditional dinner served in the evening of the first day of the conference. The tabourinist jumped and danced around, displaying a high level of energy - I became breathless just watching him! I was surprised at how high the guitars were held against the shoulder.
Note the goat banner in the background - leaves one in no doubt that it is an International Goat Conference that we were attending.

Danza Conchero Chichimeca

This statue depicts the dance of a Chichimecan warrior. Note the rattles around his ankles, which traditionally may be rattlesnake rattles and seed pods. They also accompany their dance with an instrument made from the carapace of an armadillo (hence the word conchero)

Chichimeca was the name applied to a group of semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer peoples, of varying ethnic and linguistic character, who lived in the northern part of Mexico, and became the dominant people in central Mexico. They resisted the military colonization of northern Mexico by the Spaniards during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Templo de Santa Clara

This church is one of the loveliest in Mexico with ornate gilded carvings.

A feature of the churches in Mexico that belong to the Roman Catholic denomination, is the number of side altars and alcoves dedicated to various saints, heroes, Franciscan monks & nuns, and rulers of note in the history of the nation. Here is an example of one. Not all churches have such ornate dedicated areas.

The grounds that originally were a part of the convent cloisters have been opened up to public use. This section is a memorial to one of the heroes of the revolution that ended in independence being gained for the nation in 1810.

In one corner of the plaza, a church service of a different kind was in progress - where the people are informally gathered and are listening to a preacher in the open air.

The fountain in the centre of the plaza is, for me, a reminder of the living water that is available to all, whether they attend the more formal traditional Catholic worship services in an extravagantly artistic surrounding, or whether they are exposed to the gospel in an informal setting under trees that are carefully manicured and maintained in a non-ecclesiastical environment.

It was explained to me that the Protestant Church is growing in Mexico for the following reason: Those who prefer to practise their faith for one hour on a Sunday - and that's enough for the week - remain Catholics; those who want to get divorced, become Protestants, because the Catholic church does not sanction divorce. That wasn't my limited experience of Catholics! In all the churches I visited there were worhippers present and praying at all times of the day. The wonderful thing is that the churches are never closed (locked) - something that we in South Africa ceased to have many years ago, because of the increase in crime and theft. What an indictment against us that is!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


The best way, we were told, of getting into town was by taxi from the hotel - who would drop us in the historical centre from where it was easy to get taxis back again. So our first visit had us being dropped at Jardin Zenea - one of many plazas which are generally characterised by having a statue to some hero, a fountain, a variety of stalls, benches and trees. These 'shoe shine' stands caught my attention immediately.

I haven't seen the likes since I was a child and went shopping in Johannesburg City Centre. That brought back fond memories! However, I doubt that the local inhabitants suffer pangs of nostalgia from that informal business operation . Their's would more likely be from the various statues continuously reminding them of their history and their independence.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Convento de la Santa Cruz

The convent of Santa Cruz in the historical centre of Queretaro is a 16th century church and monastery that served as the headquarters for Emperor Maximillian (previously Archduke of Austria until he became emperor of Mexico with Napoleon III's help) and his forces, and later as his prison before he faced the firing squad in 1867 after being betrayed and deserted when the French troops were withdrawn.

This statue depicts the conversion of the indigenous inhabitants to Catholic Christianity. The plaque on the base of the statue reads 'IEL ES DOS!'

A Franciscan monk, Fray Junipero de la Serra, is said to have planted a miraculous tree in the convent by thrusting his staff into the ground. The tree is alleged to be the only one of its kind in the world to have cruciform thorns. Look closely at picture to see the shape of the thorns. The thorns are sold in varous ways - plain from the branch, or enclosed within plastic crosses etc. This is a close up of the branch - a type of acacia tree.

I'm glad I didn't live in that place during those times!

Hotel Mission Juriquilla

Our hotel was the closest we managed to get to any of the historic missions in Mexico. The missions were established by Franciscans, and consisted of a chapel/ church with adjacent and connected buildings housing the monks, and situated in a square around a central courtyard, all enclosed by a high wall ( for security?). The hotel is built on the same plan.
This is a picture of the chapel - obviously an old building - baroque, dated from the 18th Century.

The inside of the chapel - consisting mainly of altar area, closed off from the public, with a few benches where visitors may kneel to pray. There was a wedding on the Saturday (30th), and the guests sat on chairs on the porch. The barrier in front of the altar was removed for this ceremony. Note the pink skirt that Jesus is dressed in on the cross. This is a feature of the crucifix in the churches that we visited - a skirt, but not necessarily pink, adorns the Christ figure - for modesty??

The entrance to the hotel complex is like the entrance to a Mission - only one. Unlike the Missions of yesteryear, the main entrance to the hotel is not gated up and closed off during the night - although other entrances are locked at night.

This is a view down the outside of the square around the courtyard - our room has windows opening onto this lane.

A view of our bedroom - spacious with two double beds, a desk and chair, coffee nook, inbuilt couch, dressingtable area, TV, leading through to a shower, loo, washbasin area, and an entrance hall with cupboard. Lots of place to rest and recuperate from whatever!

The passages emulate the spanish colonial style of street with doors leading off the street into an oasis of peace that you would not expect to find judging by what you see from the street.

We were certainly very comfortable here!

Missing Baggage

What do you do when you arrive in Mexico City after a 2 hour flight from London, a 4 hour wait in the air terminal at Madrid, and an 11 hour flight from Madrid - and find that your suitcase did not arrive with you - even though your husband's did and they were booked on at the same time? The answer is - nothing much! There is nothing you can actually do except report it to the powers that be - who confidently informed me that the luggage would be delivered to my hotel when it arrived. Yeah, sure, I thought - in your dreams and mine. And so we continued our wait for 5, which became 6, hours for our flight to Queretaro -arrived there close to midnight, and were transported to our Hotel Mision Juriquilla Queretaro - to collapse into bed at about 01h30.

I didn't have my pjs - so wore a T-shirt of Ned's. At least I did have a change of clothes in my back-pack that I carried on the plane with me. The thought crossed my mind that this may be the Lord's way of giving me a new wardrobe of clothes - also in my dreams perhaps!! We ventured into Queretaro by taxi later that morning (Saturday 30 August) to see what I could get to better clothe myself - and managed to get a couple of items to tide me over - for how long we did not yet know.

Surprise surprise - reception phoned on Sunday morning to inform me that a phone-call from the airport indicated that my baggage had arrived at 03h00 that morning and would be delivered. That too I thought might be the subject of dreams and decided to wait and see before becoming excited. And would you know - on Monday morning my suitcase was waiting for me at reception, having been delivered during the night!

Forgive me Lord for my cynical scepticism - and thank you for returning my belongings to me. Amen.

Oily Chart Company

This is not the D'oyly Cart Company - not at all. But it is a company of people who love Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and produce one every year. The company consists of Ma's Boys (a group of 12 gentleman? who sing negro spirituals, madrigals, barbershop etc type songs under the direction of Margaret Rodseth for fun and to raise funds for various causes) plus a variety of friends. family and like-minded enjoyers of music and acting.

The operetta is cast and produced in six weeks (one practise a week) 'from scratch' with much enthusiasm. This year the production was The Yeoman of the Guard. Ned could not take part because we were overseas for four weeks, but we did attend the performance on Saturday night. Great fun was had by all - especially the performers. I found that the show improved dramatically after interval, after I had consumed a couple of glasses of red wine!

Bless the Lord for shared interests, opportunities to have fun, and the fermented fruit of the vine:)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Wonderful Friends

There is nothing that beats relationships that last and continue where they left off no matter how long the intervening space of time has been.
On 27th August we departed Redhill and drove up to Ipswich to be with Brian and Julia Webb, Becky, Andrew, and Tasha (Julia´s niece, daughter of her younger sister Jenny). Dave and Liz Grant came to supper that night and it was great to catch up on their news as well. What a blessing it was for us to be cared for and ministered to by the Webbs at this end of our journey - which has been pretty hectic all told.
On the 28th (Wednesday) we strolled around the village of Nacton where they live - in the country which is really a stone´s throw from the city of Ipswich. Ned took many pictures of the ´free-range pigs which were almost adjacent to their cottage. His main photo taking is of ´possible teaching material´!! Once a teacher, always a teacher! In the afternoon we had tea with Terry and Kate Robinson - long-ago neighbours of Ned´s family in Bulawayo - and wandered around Christ Church Park nearby- Plenty of history - going back to King Henry VIII and his disputes with the monastery and others in this area. Saw a memorial to 9 martyrs from 1538-1556. Hard to believe in our lives that there was such persecution - we are certainly sheltered from it, but it is certainly still alive and well in the world - and may even become a threat in England as the adherence to Islam continues to increase aggressively as is happening in the cities.
Before leaving Ipswich we drove down to the local Nacton picnic site which is on the river that ends at Felixtowe. Nacton is across the river from Pin Mill of Arthur Ransome (Swallows and Amazons) fame. I must read the books again now that I have a picture of the area where they were written!

We spent a few hours with Steph and Joop van der Toorn at Brantham - shown around the two parishes that Steph is vicar of (excuse bad sentence construction!). Once again, two old churches dating in part from the 12th Century.
Leaving them we moved on to visit cousin Phil and Corinne in Colchester. Had supper with them before moving on to London to deliver the car and sleep at the Holiday Inn briefly before continuing our journey on to Mexico.

It has been a wonderful two weeks - well worth the talking, driving and navigating and disagreements about directions, sharing photos (ours of Ian and Julz wedding which contain pictures of the whole family), lack of sleep, and enjoying each other. We have ministered and been ministered to. We have shared joys and struggles and prayed for each other.
We are truly blessed!

Living a Double Life

29 August was a long day´s nite. We arose at 03h00 to get ready to catch taxi to Heathrow for 06h40 flight to Madrid, then wait for flight at 13h00 to Mexico City. This time we got it right to book our baggage straight through to Mexico. The journey took 11 hours to travel 4 and a half hours, arriving Mexico at 17h30 local time. So while I was snoozing, wiggling my feet, walking up and down the aisle, waiting for time to pass, I was also landing in Mexico, going through passport control, collecting baggage (and finding my suitcase missing!), waiting for connecting flight to Queretaro, travelling to the hotel and booking in. (Minus my suitcase, which the lady in the baggage area of the airport assured me would be found and delivered to the hotel).

So the night that I was living was not the tomorrow it should have been but the last night that I´d already lived! Just goes to prove that I am not as old as I thought I was. Or perhaps I´ve fallen into Narnia?? Only time will tell!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday 25th August

Today was a bank holiday. Eve invited Ivan and Di Moorhouse, as well as Bruce and Sue Stephen, to join us all for lunch. Wendy Naish (Eve and John's daughter) was also here - whom i haven't seen for 34 years! What a lovely day it has been - catching up on news and seeing photos and solving the problems of the world! We truly have been spoilt with hospitality and love.

Sunday 25th August

Wake-up time today was 08h30 - in time to get ready and have breakfast before church at 10h00. Not that our other mornings have been early! - breakfast generally seems to be at about 9 or 10a.m. - because the people we have visited so far have been retired, or on summer vacation, or over a weekend!

The church we attended with Derrick and Mary is an 18th century Georgian building - about 265 years old. The inside was refreshingly different from the churches we have visited so far. There were stained glass windows along the sides, but the walls inside are plastered and painted white - making for a much lighter, brighter look. There was a worship team consisting of painist, clarinet, two guitars, small drums, and vocalist - who lead with contemporary songs that were more 'British' than American - very refreshing! Ther order of service with prayers and songs was displayed on a screen in the front of the church above the altar area. A modern touch, tastefully installed! As it is still summer holidays, the service was a family service and included a baptism. There were a lot of children and young people present which was good to see. The church obviously has a large number of young families. I particularly enjoyed the order of baptism and plan to use it in future at home - particularly in the more contemporary services. It was good to experience how the whole service was conducted with the families and children in mind - something that i have certainly learnt from. Tea/Coffee was served afterwards in the church hall over the road - a busy buzz. I also appreciated the arrangements of the graves at this church. On entering the church grounds, the graves were not obvious as they were shielded from view by hedges, and there was a reasonable size garden in the front of the church where people could gather and chat without falling over tombstones. Much more to my liking!

On the way back to the house we drove past the river Avon and stopped at a sight from which one could see the old original suspension bridge crossing to Wales, and in the other direction the sea where the river enters it.

We departed Bristol and headed for Redhill to be with the Moxhams - a journey which took about 2 1/2 hours.

Bristol - Saturday 23 August

After a lot more talking on friday, we left the Wellands after lunch and continued on to Bristol to be with Derrick and Mary Sheppard. The journey took about 1 1/2 hours from Uffington. We hadn't seen them since they paid a fleeting visit to us in Pretoria about 15years ago. Ned saw them when he was in England in 1988 - a visit that Paul their son remembered as he and Mary had gone with Ned to visit a goat farmer and he had seen a kid being born. I was pretty tired from all the talking we had already done, and so did not contribute much to the conversation that night!
We took a drive to Westonbirt National Arboretum - a very large tree garden (large garden and large trees!) It was so peaceful to be walking amongst the trees - so many varieties, well placed and spaced, with contrasting greens, and some already turning with autumn colours. The dogs were in their element as well - running with abandon, fetching sticks, and greeting other dog visitors!
If we lived in the area I would hope that I would make time to visit often! One of the sights was a 2000year old lime tree grove; and another was a huge Cedar of Lebanon - one that I'm sure King Solomon would have coveted for a building project if he had still been alive today!
That weekend there was a tree festival in progress, part of which included people carving trees into various and amazing shapes using chain saws. This was one of the 'sculptures' that I liked.
We had dropped Paul off at his blacksmith's workshop on the way, and so collected him again on the way back - first inspecting his work place and seeing his creations. What a talented young man he is - with great musical abilities too.

It was a very relaxing day, and I was much refreshed and rested at the end of it.

Uffington - Wed 20th to Fri 22nd August

We left the Pillingers at about 16h00 and continued on to Uffington to be with Martin and Anne Welland. Martin and Ned were together in Conex (in Zim in the 'old' days). Once again we received a very warm welcome.
Ann, Beryl, Martin - looking at photos of Ian's wedding. The last time they saw Ian was when he was a baby 28 years ago!

Thursday was a leisurely day spent talking a lot, continuing from the lot of talking we began on Wed. night! We had a look around their church - tombstones dating from the 1100's.

As with the church at Fawley that we visited with Andrew, I find it strange to see the graves and tombstones all around the church. I wondered if the yard would ever be 'full' - but Martin assured me that they reused the same grave areas - newer ones being just on top of the older ones.
On the way to Thame to see the Pillingers, we stopped at a church at Whitchurch - also dating from the 1100's - the first vicar was Peter (no surname) in 1189.

Some of the wooden pews were obviously very old and probably dated from that same era.

There was still a sundial on the tower of that church, as well as a clock that would have been installed much later. The church in Uffington had evidence of the old original markings of it's first sundial, plus a later sundial, as well as the newer clock. It is very sobering and humbling to realise that generations of people have been worhipping in that building for nearly 1000years - all the life experience that has been corporately and cumulatively lived is almost tangible. The concept of 'the communion of the saints' comes alive; as well as the reality of God's faithful presence and action among his people through all those generations and many more both passed and yet to come. With the very real threat of Islam gaining a foothold in England contrasted with the millenia of Christianity that has seeped into the land, as it were, I wonder if Islam really has a chance of surviving?? But then, paganism was the order of the day before Christianity took root. I suppose nothing can ever be guaranteed, can it!

From the church, we went to visit the White Horse and the remains of the old Roman fort/ garrison just down the road from the farm on which the Wellands live. The White Horse is a chalk construction on a hillside (formed by glacial movement aeons ago). It has been archealogically discovered that a trench was dug and chalk blocks moved in and put in place about 3000 years ago. There is of course much speculation about whether it had religious significance; and there is a flat topped mound which is believed to have been a place of sacrifice.

The white curve in the mid-foreground is part of the white horse. The mound is off to the left of the picture.
So much ancient history - and we think we know how they might have lived but we don't really. And in 1000years from now I suppose others will also speculate about our lives - and probably get it all wrong! What we do know is that they were people probably much the same as us, with their concerns and problems and joys and griefs - and they probably lived their lives as best they could according to their beliefs and perceptions. Do we?

Thame - Wednesday 20 August

We left the Gibbs' at about 09h00 and made our way towards Thame - not a long drive at all - to visit the Pillingers. Steve is with Wycliffe Bible translators. They were in Kenya for many years, working with the Rendille nomadic people, learning the language, developing the written language and primers for literacy, and of course translating the scriptures with the help of local people. Steve was at university with Ned - so that was the original contact. Being based in England now, Steve uses his linguistic skills more than when he was working with just one language group, and is busy on a number of projects including teaching of typesetting skills to those whose material is getting ready for the printing stage. Johanna, his wife, has her own ministries of prayer and support for missionaries.
Steve, Johanna, Jenny, Beryl

What a blessing to hear about the work and their children and how they have been guided by, and used by, and provided for by the Lord. We had a great time catching up. It is different talking about things from just reading about them - more personal and real - and one can get a greater sense of how to pray for them in the future.

Buckingham - Tuesday 19 August

How lovely it is to be with friends!
Charys vacated her room to accommodate us for the two nights we will spend here. This is Malcolm's last day of leave; Heather still has another week of leave left. We went into 'the village' with them to get a few things - Ned needed a cough mixture to ease his bronchitis. Right in the centre of the village is the old gaol - now a museum!

The village market was in full swing - plenty of stalls selling everything from fruit and veges to clothes, CD's, nick-nacks, and money-waters. Amazing this tendency to sell things on the street. They probably have their regular customers though - the market is here twice a week and moves around to other villages as well. Don't think that I would choose that way of making a living - obviously I haven't!

John and Jill Knight came over for supper - Jill and Heather being sisters.
Jill, Ned, charys, John, Heather, Malcolm

Ian, Allan and Paul have all passed through the Gibbs household on their travels to the UK - only Richard still needs to visit. It is good for the youngsters to renew contact. We spent time together when they were little - them visiting us in the Transkei; visiting each other when they lived in Klerksdorp and we had moved to Pretoria; and then meeting up at the same holiday venue when we were camp-parents on a Scripture Union camp and they were just on holiday at Barachel on the Hartebeespoort Dam. Their children ranged in age from 15 to 10 when they moved to the UK, so contact was only by irregular letters from our side! It is wonderful to have friends that, when you meet up after a long time, it is as if the intervening years were hardly there. Relationships are truly precious.

John will be leading a pilgrimage in a couple of week's time, in Spain. This entails walking 225miles in about 12 days over the Pyrenees. they walk about 20 miles per day, and sleep in rudimentary hostels each night. He keeps walking fit through the year by going for a 20mile walk each week. I cannot imagine myself doing anything like that. But then, I guess John never imagined it either until he actually went on the first one last year. Just goes to show - you never know!!

Scunthorpe - Monday 18 August

This morning was an 'up early' morning - 05h30 - terrible if one is on holiday! However, all in a good cause. We went in to Heathrow with Andrew and 'his' taxi. He was flying to Edinburgh and we were collecting a car at terminal 4 - a Peugot 308 - very nice! We then motored up to Scunthorpe (near Doncaster) to visit Jean Dobie. there was a bit of rain on and off as we drove, but not cold. Ned had not seen Jean in 20 years and I had not seen her in 30 years. We had lunch with her and her friend Pat Smith. Pat is the lady through whom we email Jean - lives just down the road from Jean. It was good to meet face to face the person whom we had only imagined before. We had a lovely time catching up on all the news. Jean has a collage of our family pasted onto her sittingroom door - it was one that I sent up in about 1997/8, when Ned graduated with his doctorate and the boys ranged in age from 16 to 9years old. Quite something. She prays for the boys regularly. What an honour and blessing it is to have prayer warriors faithfully keeping lifing one up to the Lord. Brings home the importance of regularly communicating with one's friends.

We left from there at about 16h00 and made our way to Heather and Malcolm Gibbs in Buckingham.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Henley-on-Thames 17 August 2008

Having got to bed well after midnight, we arose late and leisurely. Andrew had been cycling with friends and was due back at noon. We trundled off to the local Waitrose supermarket to purchase lunch making items, trusting that we would remember the way there and back again! We got back to the apartment to find Andrew was back, and proceeded to prepare and eat lunch and carry on our previous conversations.

After lunch we went for a drive around the area, stopping at the college through which Andrew did his MBA, then on through Fawley. There we stopped at the church to have 'Tea on the church porch'. This is a local Sunday 'event' - serves as a community gathering affair and also as a fund raiser! It was quite strange to see various people sitting on folding chairs on the grass amongst aged tombstones and granite blocks having animated chats. We wandered around the church, which dates back to 1100's and maybe earlier, and then down the lane, across a field and back again to the car.

These ancient buildings really are a great expense to try and maintain, and the worshipping communities are not very big. So, what's new??

London - Saturday 16 August 2008

Today we met Kirsty Morgan and Stuart Fath at Hyde Park after spending a short time at St James parish church, Sussex Gardens. A Huge building - seats about 1300 - with magnificent stained glass windows. I love the atmosphere in these big old churches - although this one is young, having been built and rebuilt in the 1800s. I am so aware of the generations of worship that have been connected to a particular place - the 'cloud of witnesses' becomes almost tangible!

Stuart, Ned and Kirsty

We had a light lunch together at a tea garden, then wandered further until saying farewell to Kirsty. After that Stuart led us to a place in and around Bayswater where Ned obtained a local sim card for his cellphone. This will cut down our costs of phoning - I have international roaming but am using my phone to sms rather than phone. We will use Ned's to phone from at a cheaper rate than mine.
We wandered past Buckingham Palace and the statue of Queen Vic on the way to St. James Park. I shall be sending a photo of Queen Vic to Dawn Reynecke - they look so alike (!!!)

At St James Park we came across the 'Avon Fire and Rescue' brass and woodwind band, and listened to them for a while - enjoyable although some of the instrumentalists were a bit lacking in confidence. However the crowd present appreciated their efforts.

We left there at about 17h30 to get back to Victoria station, said good-bye to Stuart, and caught the train to visit Jean and Giles Wakeling (and daughter Catherine) whom we have not seen since leaving Zimbabwe 27years ago. We talked - and talked and talked - through supper and coffee and dashed off at 21h45 to catch the 21h50 train back to Victoria station, then Paddington and on to Henley-on-Thames via Twyford.

A lovely day, weather amenable, spent with people we love.
We are blessed.