Thursday, May 29, 2008


I was still at home this morning when our domestic helper, Dinah, arrived. Bess got so excited when she saw Dinah - she rushed around in circles and up and down the courtyard in great glee and anticipation. And Dinah just laughed and tried to pat her when she galloped past. What a welcome! If only we could all be so enthusiatic in greeting those whom we encounter or who come to visit us.

Balaam learned from his donkey.
I am learning from our puppy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Kairos ministry

I was part of the Kairos team to Jo'burg South Ladies prison from 15 - 18 May. This time we were ministering to 42 participants from D-section (medium-term residents). There are only 9 in the maximum section that have not yet been on Kairos, so we have to wait until there are more there before we can minister in max. The impact of the various forms of Christian work at the prison is, from what I can see, amazing. Although the residents that come on the weekend do not really know what to expect and what it is all about, there is a tangible eagerness that underlies their initial discomfort and fear when we first meet them on the Thursday evening. From the time that I first became involved with Kairos there in 2002, I am aware of an atmosphere which is cleansed of animosity and tension. It's always a WOW experience to hear how the journey that we have them on for the weekend brings deep encounter with the Living God, healing and inner release from unforgiveness and rejection. As always, the testimonies at the closing ceremony on Sunday evening were very moving, and I could see that some of the first-time team members were really finding it difficult to say good-bye and move on. This is not the end for these residents - they form prayer and share groups and are encouraged to join other prison ministry opportunities like Alpha, to attend the services that are held regularly, and to attend the Kairos reunion meetings that take place every month.

One of the outcomes of Kairos is that they move on a journey from mistrust to trust through being formed, from the beginning of the weekend, into families (each with the name of a significant woman of the bible, like Lydia, Elizabeth, Hannah etc). these 'families' become prayer and share groups (in the outside world we call them cell-groups!!) and the residents begin supporting and caring for each other in a way that was not there previously.

Not everyone, of course, fully participates but there is always a change. One of the ladies that I 'sponsored' (i.e. welcomed to the weekend, paid special attention to, and kept checking how they were doing through the weekend) was quite open with me about how she isolated herself and would continue to do that - she gets up, when the cells are unlocked she goes to the library where she attends to her studies through Unisa, and at lock-up time retires to her bed and keeps to herself. She is intent on keeping a low profile and not causing any disruption in the hopes of an early parole. I really don't know if I could envision a sentence of say 10 years doing that. My prayer is that she will see the value of fellow Christian support and be a human amongst humans. Isn't that what being human is all about? - communication and community?

I pray that I have added value to that community beyond my ordinary labour.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Persecution of the Church - Zimbabwe

Before we left Zimbabwe in 1980, there was much talk amongst Christians about the persecuted church behind the Iron Curtain and in China. Richard Wurmbrand's books, and his experiences of persecution and imprisonment, were still being widely read. The book 'You Can Trust the Communists (to be Communists)' by Dr. Fred Schwarz was being widely circulated, as well as another which I cannot find on my bookshelf today, yet know that we have it, titled 'The Underground Church' which gave helpful directions on how to establish an underground church. What we see happening to the Church in Zimbabwe today is directly in line with Dr. Fred Schwarz writing. Even though the Berlin Wall was razed to the ground in the 1989, and the end of the Cold War between non-communists and communists ended with the 'Iron Curtain' also being 'downed' - that did not end communism. It has been alive and well in and continuing it's influence. It is common knowledge that Joshua Nkomo (of the ZAPU party) was backed by the Russian communists while Robert Mugabe has been backed by the Chinese Communists. The eradication of Nkomo's support base in Matabeleland by the North Korean army in the 1980's was Mugabe's first step in removing opposition. Now it is his plan to eradicate all other opposition to his power that has arisen over the past 30 years. Not only are the MDC under attack from his forces, but also any other body that is not directly under the control of his party and its heirarchy. Hence the persecution of the church. The following is a report of what is being experienced by the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe:

Zimbabwe's Rulers Unleash Police on Anglicans
Published: May 16, 2008

JOHANNESBURG — The parishioners were lined up for Holy Communion on Sunday when the riot police stormed the stately St. Francis Anglican Church in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital. Helmeted, black-booted officers banged on the pews with their batons as terrified members of the congregation stampeded for the doors, witnesses said.

A policeman swung his stick in vicious arcs, striking matrons, a girl and a grandmother who had bent over to pick up a Bible dropped in the melee. A lone housewife began singing from a hymn in Shona, "We will keep worshiping no matter the trials!" Hundreds of women, many dressed in the Anglican Mothers' Union uniform of black skirt, white shirt and blue headdress, lifted their voices to join hers.

Beneath their defiance, though, lay raw fear as the country's ruling party stepped up its campaign of intimidation ahead of a presidential runoff. In a conflict that has penetrated ever deeper into Zimbabwe's social fabric, the party has focused on a growing roster of groups that elude its direct control — a list that includes the Anglican diocese of Harare, as well as charitable and civic organizations, trade unions, teachers, independent election monitors and the political opposition.

Anglican leaders and parishioners said in interviews that the church was not concerned with politics and that it counted people from both the ruling party and the opposition in its congregations. Yet the ruling party appears to have decided that only Anglicans who follow Nolbert Kunonga — a renegade bishop in Harare who is a staunch ally of President Robert Mugabe — are allowed to hold services.

Over the past three Sundays, the police have interrogated Anglican priests and lay leaders, arrested and beaten parishioners and locked thousands of worshipers out of dozens of churches.

"As a theologian who has read a lot about the persecution of the early Christians, I'm really feeling connected to that history," said Bishop Sebastian Bakare, 66, who came out of retirement to replace Mr. Kunonga. "We are being persecuted."

Church leaders say the struggle in the Anglican diocese of Harare is not only over its extensive, valuable properties, but also over who controls the church itself in a society riven by political divisions, especially since the disputed elections of March 29.

Mr. Kunonga, who broke with the church hierarchy late last year and recently called Mr. Mugabe "a prophet of God," is known in Zimbabwe as an avid supporter of the ruling party and a proponent of its seizures of white-owned commercial farms, often accomplished violently. In fact, he appears to have benefited richly from the policy himself.

While such strong allegiances have clearly played a role in the attacks on parishioners, Anglicans beyond Zimbabwe have also taken steps likely to have enraged Mr. Mugabe and the ruling party, known as ZANU-PF.

The worldwide Anglican Communion issued a statement in January expressing "deep concern" about Mr. Kunonga's close ties to Mr. Mugabe. Then on April 21, amid the postelection intimidation of opposition supporters, the communion called on all Christians to pray for Zimbabwe's rescue "from violence, the concealing and juggling of election results, deceit, oppression and corruption."

And three weeks ago, an Anglican bishop in South Africa persuaded a judge there to halt the delivery of Chinese-made ammunition to Zimbabwe's military — bullets the bishop warned could be used to repress Zimbabweans.

This is not the first time that a church has felt the ruling party's fury. Last year, state-controlled television showed photos of one of Mr. Mugabe's most ferocious critics, Archbishop Pius Ncube, a Roman Catholic, in bed with a married woman, effectively neutralizing him as the leader of the clerical opposition to Mr. Mugabe's rule. This month, the state-run newspaper, The Herald, reported that the woman had died "lonely and miserable after being abandoned by Ncube."

Now Bishop Bakare's followers, who include most of the city's Anglicans, say that Mr. Kunonga has falsely told the government that they are politically aligned with the opposition — an accusation the ruling party seems to be taking seriously.

Despite a High Court order requiring that Anglican churches be shared among the worshipers, church officials say that only people who attend services led by priests allied with Mr. Kunonga have been allowed to pray in peace.

This week, the Supreme Court dismissed Mr. Kunonga's appeal of the sharing order, but church leaders say they are far from sure that the law will be enforced.

A widowed mother of five who sings with the choir at St. Francis Church in Waterfalls — and who was too frightened to be quoted by name — asked despairingly this week where she could seek solace now that her church was no longer sacrosanct.

"I go to church to talk to the Lord and feel better," the woman said. "Now, I don't know where to go."

Neither Mr. Kunonga nor his spokesman, the Rev. Morris Brown Gwedegwe, has returned repeated calls seeking comment.

When Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka, a police spokesman, was asked about police assaults on Anglican parishioners, he said he was unaware of such episodes and asked for the names of those complaining. "Give me names, because without those I will not comment," he said. "Thank you and bye." Then he hung up.

At the heart of the conflict with Mr. Kunonga is more than property and power, but also some of the church's core values. Mr. Kunonga told Anglican officials last year that he was withdrawing from the mother church because of its sympathy toward homosexuals, they said. By October, the Anglican Province of Central Africa said Mr. Kunonga had "severed" his relationship with the church.

Bishop Bakare said Mr. Kunonga had preached hatred of gays and lesbians, contrary to the Harare diocese's stand. "We believe in a church that is inclusive, a church that accepts all people," Bishop Bakare said.

But even a spokesman for an alliance of conservative bishops who oppose "the ordination of practicing homosexuals as priests," distanced them from Mr. Kunonga. Arne H. Fjeldstad, head of communications for the alliance, the Global Anglican Future Conference, said in an e-mail message that Mr. Kunonga was not part of the conference, but "rather that he's one of Mugabe's henchmen."

Mr. Kunonga appears to have gained much from that loyalty. In 2003, the government gave Mr. Kunonga a 1,630-acre farm outside Harare and a seven-bedroom house that sits on it, according to Marcus Hale, who said the farm, bought by his family in 1990 for $2 million, was confiscated without payment.

Mr. Kunonga's influence has been felt in church after church in recent weeks as well. Anglican parishioners said they found themselves shut out or driven out by police officers who claimed to be acting on orders from their superiors to allow only Mr. Kunonga's priests to preside.

At St. Paul's Church in the Highfield suburb of Harare, the congregation refused to budge and kept singing "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" when a dozen policemen entered the church on May 4. But the commander radioed for backup, and soon more than 50 riot police officers arrived, the church's wardens said.

Hundreds of parishioners were then drummed out of the church to the deafening beat of baton sticks banging on pews. People began taking out their cellphones to photograph the policemen who had forced them out.

The officers then charged into the scattering crowd, batons swinging. "Even myself, they hit my hand," said a stunned seamstress. "They said, 'Go back to your homes. You are not supposed to be here.' "

A journalist in Harare, Zimbabwe, contributed reporting.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Gingerbread Man

Today I ate the left leg of my gingerbread man - now he can't run away.


Monday is supposed to be my sabbath day. So what does a typical sabbath hold for me?
  1. Doing the washing and hanging it out to dry (there being no rain, that is - otherwise it gets spread around the house to dry)
  2. Going to the gym
  3. Doing the weekly grocery shopping
  4. Running other errands - like fetching the post
  5. Watching a movie - if there is one that appeals to me
  6. Answering emails
  7. Fielding phone calls - especially if I've forgotten to switch off my work phone
  8. Reading the newspaper
  9. Bringing in the dry washing and folding that which does not get ironed
  10. Advising the cook of the day about what to prepare for supper
  11. Checking out facebook and my blog
  12. Putting my feet up with a book - preferably a novel, otherwise something work related that is grabbing my attention or interest
  13. Tidying up my messy, crisis-laden desk
  14. Visiting a friend while Ned practises with Ma's Boys (the barber-shop singing group that he is a part of)
  15. Going to bed too late!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day 2

I am truly blessed!!
Another sms from Allan on his way to visit friends in Potch. I didn't see him today because he was still sleeping when I left for church, and he was on his way before I got home. But there was his message.

After returning from lunch with our Society Stewards and Themba Mntambo, the minister who will be joining our team at the end of this year, I discovered that Richard and Paul had been baking. There was a gingerbread man baked specially for me!

When I see my sons doing for me what I did for them when they were younger, I just know that they will be great husbands and fathers!!

Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day - and it is also Pentecost. A friend's daughter was singing in a choir at a church - in which Mother's Day was celebrated as well as the Global Day of Prayer. Not a mention was made of Pentecost! I know that in the USA Mother's Day is a very high profile celebration - but I wonder whether it is really justified in taking priority over the celebration of Pentecost?!! Just goes to show how the world encroaches on the church and calls the tune instead of being the other way around where the church provides the prophetic voice to the world.

I was blessed by receiving an sms from Ian and Juliette in Bali where they are honeymooning. Didn't know it was possible to sms here from there - just goes to show how un-techno-savvy I am!! Our Women's Auxilliary handed out bookmarks with a poem about the virtues of mothers, and we thanked God for mothers (and mothers-in-law!) - but apart from that our services were a celebration of the fulfilled promise of God in sending the Holy Spirit to dwell with and in us - to enliven and equip us for God's work in the world.

Come, Holy Spirit. Amen.


If you have a look at my book list you will see that I have been reading Gerald Schroeder's books. He is an MIT-trained (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) scientist who has worked in both physics and biology, and who is one of the most accessible and understandable writers in the area of science and religion. He first reconciled faith and science as different perspectives an a single whole in his "The Science of God"; and in The Hidden Face of God shows that science, properly understood, provides positive reasons for faith. If you want to get out of Darwin's mode of thinking ( which in my opinion lacks depth - probably because of ignorance of the complexity of complex systems), then I recommend you dig into Gerald Schroeder's works.

Not only does he have deep insight and knowledge about physics (nuclear physics in particular) and molecular biology, but he has a firm grasp of Hebrew and the Hebrew scriptures - which he refers to authoritatively in his writing. What struck me a few times in his books, is the translation of the scriptures that he refers to - and which shows how inadequate translation from the Hebrew via Greek Septuagint via Latin Vulgate to eventually English has led us to think along lines that are not exactly accurate. One that I marvel at is what he writes about Genesis 1:1, and I quote from The Hidden Face of God: Touchstone 2001, pg.49:

"Genesis 1:1" is usually translated as "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Unfortunately, that rendition, which the entire English-speaking world has heard repeatedly, misses the meaning of the Hebrew. The mistake stems from the King James Bible, first published in 1611, based on the Latin Vulgate attributed to St. Jerome in the fourth century and the Greek Septuagint that dates from some 2200 years ago. "In the beginning" is thus three translations down-stream from the original.

The opening word, usually translated as 'in the beginning,' is Be'reasheet. Be'aresheet can mean 'in the beginning of', but not 'in the beginning'. The difficulty with the preposition 'of' is that its object is absent from the sentence; thus the King James translation merely drops it. But the 2100-year-old Jerusalem translation of Genesis into Aramaic takes a different approach, realizing that Be'aresheet is a compound word: the prefix Be', 'with', and reasheet, a 'first wisdom'. The Aramaic translation is thus "\with wisdom God created the heavens and the earth". The idea is paralleled repeated in Psalms: "With the word of God the heavens were formed"(Ps.33:6). "How manifold are Your works, Eternal, You made them all with wisdom" (Ps.104:24). Wisdom is the fundamental building block of the universe, and it is inherent in all parts. In the processes of life it finds its most complex revelation.

Widsom, information, an idea, is the link between the metaphysical Creator and the physical creation. It is the hidden face of God"

The question that arises for me is - if more accurate translations are available of words and phrases - why are they not being incorporated into the many 'new' translations and editions of our scriptures? Greater accuracy leads to deeper understanding.
Any comments??

A Handshake

If someone from outer space were to watch people on earth conducting this strange ritual of two people facing each other, grasping their right hands, then moving them up and down together, I wonder what they would think?! We humans really have some strange practices. But I suppose they are not so strange if you know what they mean or what they are about.
Paul came home the other night after a faculty dinner to say that he had 'received a handshake'. I was tempted to say 'so where is it then?' But I did wonder what it was for - meeting someone, saying goodbye to someone, entering an agreement or what? Maybe he had met a fencing companion - but he is not fencing at the moment and so does not carry his weapon around with him. Or maybe he had met a fellow scout, and they shook left-handedly, as scouts are wont to do.
But the questions were soon answered when he told us that one of the professors had shaken his hand because he had attained an over 80% aggregate for his first year medicine last year. Upon hearing that news, we hugged him - wouldn't want to sully the handshake in any way. So this particular handshake was offered in congratulations - and he also received a certificate, and a small bursary (about R4000) for the current year. As he says - the University is paying for him to attend. He, very humbly, said that he doesn't know how they worked his aggregate out because he didn't think he had done that well.
What blessings all our sons are. We praise God for all of them, and for the heart that He has grown in each of them. They truly serve Him in profound and unique ways that I certainly didn't when I was their ages.
I am truly blessed!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Ian & Juliette's Wedding

Saturday 3 May at 15hoo. The day was overcast and getting cooler. The cold front that had been promised by the weather bureau had arrived - and brought rain with it as well. We measured 34mm for Saturday. But that did not detract from the happiness of our celebration - rather we saw it as a blessing for the couple who were beginning a new adventure in marriage together. Here are a few photos - note the smiles on everyone's faces!

A radiant Juliette arrives at the chapel

Juliette and Emile before entering the chapel
Meet Dr Ian and Mrs Juliette Donkin

Emile & Jane - happy parents of the bride

Proud parents of the groom - Beryl & Ned
Beautiful bridesmaids - Claire & Heidi
Surgical skills being applied to a most delicious traditional wedding cake.Rev. Dave and Mrs Les Morgan. We have been family friends since Ian was 1 year old. It was a great blessing to have Dave conduct the marriage ceremony.Marc - brother of the bride. Happy to hand her over, or to gain a lot of male support?The Best Men now have a sister.
Richard, Paul, Allan behind the bridal couple.
Cousins: Lara Fath (Andrew's wife), Paul Donkin, Derek Donkin, Richard Donkin, Liesel(Richard's girlfriend), Allan Donkin, Stuart Fath, Andrew Fath - behind Ian and Juliette Table centre flower arrangement

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Night Before The Wedding

I don't know what I imagined we would be doing the evening before Ian's wedding. In fact, I don't think I imagined anything - not having done this sort of thing before. The eldest child is always the one one learns from!

In the afternoon we had the rehearsal at the venue. Our friend Gwen had already been there for quite a long time, with her helpers (husband Jan, and friend Claudette), arranging the flowers and table centres. What a blessing that it was a public holiday - takes the stress and rush away from the wedding day. It was all looking beautiful already. Then the sound equipment for the worship team was checked in the chapel, and the procedure practised and final adjustments to the programme made. I took some photos with my cell-phone, but the trick is how to get them from my phone into a computer - any computer!

Ned rushed off to his brothers and nephew to practise the songs they'll be singing at the reception, and took the borrowed keyboard to set it up and see how it worked - unsuccessfully!
While he was off there, the rest of us had supper - the young men were rather hungry! Allan opened a bottle of wine that was left from his friend's wedding a few weeks ago - and a chatty time was held around the table. Ned came home, ate, and then Alec - the owner of the keyboard - came to show us all how to set it up.

Ian, Allan, Ned, and Paul spent a fair amount of time working on their speeches for The Day, and Ian was also busy with emails. Richard seemed to be busy with varsity work. Cameras were all put on charge. I glanced through the mind-map that I had drawn up for Sunday night's sermon - but was not in a frame of mind to concentrate on it! Some of us sat and watched a mindless comedy on TV, and then started drifting off to bed.