Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

We are going away for 10 days to the Kgalagadi Park, Northern Cape, South Africa

This is one of Africa's great parks. The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (South Africa) and Gemsbok National Park (Botswana) have been formed into a transfrontier park of over 3,6 million ha. This is a rugged wildlife sanctuary with 3 rest camps & abundance of game.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Empress has no Clothes

She suspended him from practicing medicine for a month for daring to throw her photograph in a dustbin. She is a political flunky, while he is a medical doctor. To add insult to injury she called the police to arrest him for damaging government property.

While this might sound like some banana republic, it raises issues about respect for a superior, personal dignity, and the place of ego…….
Dr Mark Baylock, the chief medical officer of Manguzi Hospital, trashed the official photograph of the provincial Minister of Health, Peggy Nkonyeni, when she told a meeting at his hospital that rural doctors “do not care about people. It is all about profit”. She was responding to the news that he had raised donor funding to supply rural women with free AZT to prevent them passing on the HIV virus to their babies. Nkonyeni, of course, was only following the official line of her national health minister, who does not believe that HIV/AIDS is a virus, and advocates the use of garlic, beetroot and the African potato as effective ways of preventing the illness. (The only thing she needs to add to this is banana - to truly become a banana republic Minister!).

The difficult issue at stake is how to manage grievance processes. Dr Baylock showed clear disrespect for his superior – and probably from her perspective she might have been tempted to colour this in racial and gender terms. From the point of view of Dr Baylock, his frustration is understandable: he could choose to work much more comfortably in private practice without the political interference. But he has chosen to commit himself to the rural poor, and probably finds it hard to be criticised for his dedication.

So is her picture more important than a month’s worth of health for rural people?
I doubt it. I believe that more sensible ways of resolving the issue could be found. But then, powerful people are often less than sensible. It is often the practice of political leadership to have their pictures placed prominently in public. And it is not long before these pictures take on an aura that is larger than the person. And suddenly I begin to understand the motivation for the commandment that speaks about “Worship no god but me … Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth

Pray for all those dedicated doctors who choose to honour their patients with self-sacrificing service.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The way the truth the life...

This past Sunday’s Gospel reading included the following text:
Joh 14:6 Jesus answered him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me”.

So what do I do with this verse?

1. Did Jesus mean to say that all other religious beliefs are false and that only Christians get to God? Some Christians think this is so, and have been known to say things like “Christians are saved and all other beliefs / lack of beliefs are not” or “Christians need to get the world saved because otherwise you will not know God, and then you go to hell”.
2. Did Jesus mean that while all people have some kind of understanding of God, Christian people have a unique understanding of God as Father.
3. Did Jesus ever say this at all? Is it not perhaps words attributed to Jesus by the writer of John’s Gospel at a time of vigorous religious debate and search for a Christian identity between Hellenistic Christians, Jewish Christians, Gnostics and other competing religious positions? These words are thus used to reassure the Johannine readers that they are on the right track.

Personally I believe that Jesus would never have said something that sounds like people can be “shut out” of God’s presence if they do not know the right formulas or observe the correct form of religion (in fact Jesus criticised the spiritual leaders of his day for doing such a thing). It is far more likely that this is a reminder of Jesus’ teaching that it is possible to discover a personal/ intimate relationship with our creator akin to a father-child relationship.

Sadly – many Christian people have not understood this and have used this text as a way of suggesting that only Christians are the beloved of God. I recently discovered a preacher by the name of Angus Buchan who gathered 40 000 Christian men on his farm this past weekend to reinforce the idea that they were right. In the words of Buchan : “I believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost: they that are saved - unto resurrection of life – and they that are lost - unto resurrection of damnation”. Pity about the homosexuals, and the Buddhists, the alternately religious.... and whoever else does not fit this White Anglo-Saxon Protestant brand of faith.

The loving Grace of God is not constrained to a particular brand or format. Let God be God. And let us be open to be led by God’s Spirit wherever the journey takes us.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On Being a Pastor

Last night I had an appointment for a marriage counselling session ... but the couple never arrived.

So I dropped in on the meeting of the Women’s Auxiliary.
It is a pastoral thing: go to see the ladies once in a while, keep them happy, and they will not complain too much when I do or say things they might not find comfortable – like the stuff we do with street people, or my support for gay and lesbian people.

So I dropped in and discovered my friend Peter showing pictures of his epic motorcycle trips: one across America on Route 66, and his adventure from Cape Town to Lusaka on an old BMW, and his recent trip from Holland to Czechoslovakia. And I thoroughly enjoyed Peter’s narrative – which can only be described as eclectic. He showed photographs of small town gaols alongside diners and pubs. He juxtaposed WW Two Concentration camps with cheerful beer full bikers’ gatherings. And I realised that this is really the nature of life: an unplanned adventure, where we try our best to survive each day without falling off, and we attempt to grasp a moment of happiness amidst the struggle to keep going.

Like Audrey Bell. Who came to the meeting tonight to say farewell to her friends. She has been attending this monthly meeting for more than forty years. These are the women who accompanied her through the years of child-rearing. These are the women who got her through the unexpected death of her husband. And these are the friends who filled the loneliness of the years since then. But now she is old, and can no longer live on her own. So she has sold her has her older brother, and a cousin. And they are moving together to a gated complex further than is possible for her to drive herself to this church.

She explained it all to me like this: “I never wanted to go to an old age home. But now we have created our own” And she chuckled. And we drank tea together. And I kissed her goodbye.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Reflection on God and Government

We all have watched the elections of Zimbabwe with amazement and disbelief. The people of Zimbabwe have clearly rejected ZanuPF as a vehicle for their political wishes. But President Robert Mugabe and the generals of the military and police are finding it very difficult to let go of power.

This is nothing new. Throughout history people have tried to keep political power. We read in the Bible of Saul who would not give up being King of Israel when David was anointed by God’s prophet; and of many succeeding kings of Judah and Israel who tried to hang onto political power. The words of Jeremiah are pertinent to political leaders of every age: “The Lord spoke to you when you were prosperous, but you refused to listen. This is what you have done all your life;(therefore) your leaders will be blown away by the wind…because of all the evil you have done.” (Jeremiah 22:21)

Robert Mugabe take note. And also all others who seek to cling to power.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The New Bike

Yesterday morning I rode my bike out to Tulbach for a wedding. Approximately 180km into the countryside to a pretty farm chapel set amidst vineyards and rose bushes.

The couple were “friends of a friend” and I had agreed to officiate at their wedding. They came to the marriage preparation classes I run and I enjoyed getting to know them, and knew that I would enjoy the morning. The guests had booked in to local accommodation for the weekend, and had already spent Friday night getting acquainted. So they arrived in a relaxed mood – with all day to spend in celebration and laughter.

And I thoroughly enjoyed the wedding, with really good voices singing a duet, a wonderful silver trumpet for the Trumpet Voluntary, and a lovely couple getting married. All of which contributed towards my mood as I left Tulbach to return home.

So there I was: riding my BMW GS1150 from Tulbach towards Bain’s Kloof at an easy 120kmph, with “Stairway to Heaven” ringing in my headphones. It was a sunny midday sky, with the prospect of a tight twisty pass over to the sleepy Boland town of Wellington... this was definitely as good as it gets.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Farewell to the Tiger

Here is a photograph of my Triumph Tiger.

We spent many, many happy hours together in and around Cape Town, transporting children to and from school, visiting congregation members, and riding with the Iron John Bike Club.

We also had some epic trips further afield:

• We visited Port Elizabeth, winding up the beautiful garden route – choosing to do the Grootrivier and Blaaukraans River passes instead of the bridge overpasses. I spent a wonderful week with my dear friend Charmaine, and then rode back down Route 62, enjoying the hospitality of Cherrill on the way.

• We spent one mad winter’s day riding 1000km from Cape Town to Kimberly. My friend Alex and I took our respective Tigers to his family farm. We left Cape Town in the dark and braved the misty cold of the Hex River Valley and the chilly Karroo wind. When we returned a week later we decided to accept the warm Beaufort West hospitality of my colleague Rod. The following morning we rode a consistent 160kmph to Cape Town with the rising sun at our backs.

• We visited two Buffalo Rallies, joining thousands of other roaring, swearing, drinking, posturing bikers. And amidst the thousands of Japanese and German bikes there were a few unique British bikes: my Tiger proudly strutting its stuff.

So I bid farewell. And this is all that is left of the bike. This will make my bank manager very happy, because my credit card has suffered a painful financial hole since I have purchased my BMW GS 1150.

And a new biking chapter begins for me.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

.... the Enemy

Steven is an old Xhosa man who lives on the streets.
He used to live and work as a well respected member of the community. But alcohol has taken its toll on his life. His wrecked body carries the odors of hard drinking and vagrant living. He is without many of his teeth, has rheumy eyes, and a gaunt skeletal frame.

I sat down next to Steven after praying a general prayer for those gathered for the weekly Tuesday morning coffee and bread gathering. “Thank you for the prayer” he said, “it gets me through the week. When I do not come, I am unlucky in the week.” And so we struck up a conversation, and I learned about his family. His daughter is married and living in comfort in Gauteng. His extended family own land in the Eastern Cape. They are all involved in the Methodist Church - which is the brand that I belong to+.

“But Christians are the enemy” he continues. “They do not like drinking, and will not speak to me because I drink. And their pastor has banned me from their church”. And so Steven has abandoned his family and his roots, and lives in Cape Town.

And comes to my church every Tuesday for a prayer.