Monthly Archives: September 2013

Post 146. The big trip to visit friends


From my journal: Jan 1997

Last day in Jaisalmer: Tony took the girls to the fort to get our cotton pants sewn up.  The crotches all ripped during the safari.

Gazi’s jeep took us to the bus bound for Jodhpur.  Jordan has been so good with all the travelling.  He has missed meals but complained very little.  He’s been sleeping a lot on the bus and train rides.  There have been times when he has been overtired and got very wound up.  Ash and Zo have been great.  The “luxury” buses have been jammed packed.  Sometimes two people on a seat and all down the aisle. 

Arrived in Jodhpur.  Gazi had organised a hotel for us.  No charge.  We had amazing pizzas and other delicious goodies.  Walked across to the railway station at 9.30am the next day to catch a train to Udaipur.  1st class made such a difference.  Slept well on wide berths and there was even a door.  Dog train- stopped at every station.  It was so slow. Jordan had chronic diahorrea in the morning.

In Udaipur we were met by Anis,  Gazi’s cousin and taken to his hotel.  Nice room and food.  Met the Cook family.  That was such a surprise.  Went shopping and looking around.  Got beautiful leather/fabric covered journals.  Such a beautiful view from the rooftops.  Jordan was VERY sick. Fever, no appetite, listless, sleeping a lot.  Poor thing.



A few days later -got on the train to Delhi.  Stayed with our friends Andries and Brenda and their children, Sarah and Simon for a few days. It was sad to say goodbye to Ben and Trace.  We had such fun with them.  Jordan better but still very lethargic.

Andries was out all day and got home late afternoon.  We asked him what he had done and his reply was, “I sent a fax.”  We laughed so much.  There were so many power cuts.


Nineteen-hour train trip to Nagpur, Central India was good.  Sunil picked us up in their jeep.  Drove four and a half hours to their home in Yavatmal.  So lovely to be with Pam, Rebekah, Anna and Jess.  Spent five days with them.  The girls got quite sick.  Jordan was still throwing up. 

Didn’t feel like another train ride, but got on an overnight one to Varanasi.   Jordan was back to normal so it was way more tiring this trip.  All over the carriage, asking for food, water, pens.  Not still for a minute. I’m not feeling too great.  Have been queasy for a few days.  A bit anxious I might be pregnant.

Ruth Benjamin (ex-Woodstock student) and her driver picked us up and drove us to Robertsganj.  Tony has been invited to share at a conference on their hospital compound.  Lovely to see Ruth again and meet her family.  We are being looked after so well.  Such delicious food and a beautiful compound.  We were able to watch a lens transplant performed on a 90 year old lady.  All manually done.  Incredible.  Also watched a caesarean section.  Wow.  They are doing such an amazing job here.  The peace of God is all over the compound.

Back to Varanasi for a few days.  Got a chronic throat infection and Jordan sick again.  Went on a boat down the Ganga.  So distressing to see people trying to wash their sins away.  Can’t wait to get home now. 

Another 27 hour train ride later arrived in Dehra Dun and got a taxi to Mussoorie.

What a trip! Rajasthan-Delhi-Varanasi-Robertsganj-Dehra Dun-Mussoorie.  Got home feeling quite wasted but happy we did it.  Tony on a bit of a downer.  Cranky and irritable; Wondering what we are doing here.  Comparing?  We’ll be fine.  Just tired I think. 

Post 145. My relationship with camels



Tony’s brother, Ben, and his wife Tracy came to visit us at the end of ’96.  We packed up and headed for Rajasthan to do a camel safari.   They wanted a real Indian experience so we went on trains, buses, elephants and camels.  Jaisalmer was our favourite place:

From my journal: 1 Jan 1997



                                                                       Jordan in the desert: Pic by Ben Johnson

What a way to spend New Year’s eve; On the cool desert dunes of Rajasthan. We rode our camels for two hours (30 kms) to the dunes, where we set up camp.  Amin and his helper were great.  Not too uncomfortable getting there but my inner thighs were sore. 

The kids went running all over the dunes.  Took pictures of the sunset.  Had fun racing on the soft sand.  The stars were brilliant.  Lay on our backs, watching satellites and the seven shooting stars Tony prayed for.  It was an amazing world of lights.  Tony played the guitar and we worshipped while the camel guides cooked rice and vegies over a little fire. After dinner we sat around the fire and laughed and chatted.  Amin made up our thin cotton mattresses on the sand.  Wee’d like a camel after holding it in for ages.  We lay awake for hours watching the constellation move across the sky.  Drifted in and out of sleep the whole night.  Crept into Tony’s sleeping bag.  

When the moon appeared it was so incredibly bright and beautiful.  It was so bright it woke Jordan up.  He watched it for a while from his cozy sleeping bag.  Then he pointed and whispered “Moom.”  I heard something big flying across the dunes.  Sounded like a tyrannosaurus.  There was also a little goat bleating in a nearby bush. 

All woke up early in the morning.  Ben pulled his cotton pants out of his sleeping bag.  Whole crotch was blown out.  He laughed and said, “You thought it was the camels farting all night!”  Amin made chai and handed out Parle-G biscuits.  After packing up and a light breakfast, we set off on our camels again.  By mid-morning, I was in agony and in tears.  My bum and legs were burning.  My camel man was offended that I found his camel uncomfortable.  He informed me that his camel was “the most comfortavle camel in the whole of Rajasthan.”  I tried to assure him it was me and not his camel.

Amin took Jordan on his camel and within two minutes he was fast asleep. Stopped in a small village in the middle of the desert to water the camels.  The ladies made such a fuss of Jordan; Very keen to know if I was still feeding him.  Stopped under a small cluster of trees.  We lay around while Amin and his helper made lunch.  I was beside myself just thinking about getting back onto the camel.  I had cried quietly but solidly for hours.  I was in such pain.


We rode on again to Amin’s village.  Just before we got there, about twenty children, mainly boys, were waiting to greet us.  Someone had told them a little boy was coming and they were frantically looking for him.   When they finally saw him on Tony’s back, they clapped with joy.  They ran ahead of us shouting, “The boy is coming!  The boy is coming!”

Children surrounded us when we got off our camels. Ash and Zoë were wearing little pink sunglasses for the glare and the children thought they were blind.  They couldn’t stop touching their blonde hair and white skin.  There was an obvious absence of little girls.  The women were so naïve and childlike.  Wish we could have spent a night or two with them.


Rode to where our jeep was supposed to be waiting.  It was nowhere to be seen and we were in the middle of the desert.  There was no way I wanted to spend one more minute on my camel.   Kept riding until sunset.  It was such a relief to see the jeep racing towards us along a sandy village road.

Got back to Hotel Golden City and had a HUGE tandoori chicken dinner; Rs 1,000 later.  So nice to have a wash and get into bed.  My butt and thighs were so sore.  I think I might just walk like John Wayne for the rest of my life.  We were on those creatures from sunrise to sunset. I never want to go on one again.

Post 144. Jaisalmer


Journal: 1 Jan 1997


Sleeping under a sky of stars

Lying on cold desert sand

Reminded of the creativity of our Creator

Lying close to the man I love

More than anyone else in the world:

God’s love

Watching our three gorgeous children playing on the dunes:

God’s life

Fascinated by the hilarious camels:

God’s wild sense of humour

In the early hours of the morning

Watching shooting stars:

God’s fireworks

The silence of the desert:

God’s peace

All of this for us

And us for Him:

God’s pleasure

Knowing the Creator

Being known by Him

Realising again

That He loves me more than anything

Post 143. Dark night of the soul


We called it our “bed of nails.”  Rigby and Sue called it their “dark night of the soul.”  Whatever we called it, we knew, that what was meant for evil, God meant for good.

In 1996 their circumstances changed.  They handed over the leadership of Waverly Church and moved to Cape Town.  Ryan and Leigh were in their early teens and were finding it hard to find their feet spiritually.  They weren’t happy about the changes.

The Wallace family arrived in Cape Town to start all over again.  The relationships they thought were forever, seemed to have been cut off.   There were very few who walked with them through their shadowy valley.  We got on a plane as soon as we could.  It was a month later.  Terry and Linda Fouche and a few others were also there with them.

Rigby opened “Second Chance Wearhouse.”  He sold good second hand jackets and coats.  It was stretching and it was their only source of income.  They were in business for six months.  It was the longest six months of their lives.  All they had known was ministry.  Selling second hand jackets seemed a far cry from what they were called to do.

A deep, refining work was done in their lives in those six months.  We recommended R.T. Kendall’s story of Joseph,  “God Meant It for Good,” which had really helped us through our testing fire.  They found it quite funny that Joseph, the first man they employed at the warehouse, wore a bright pink shirt to work every day.

When the business had been running for six months, a pastor Paul Jones, walked into Rig’s office.  He had just resigned from his church and there was no one to take it on.  Rigby and Sue knew it was the right time and the right thing for them to do.

They started meeting with a small group of fifty or so people.  They called it Friends First. (if you are curious about what has happened Google: Common Ground Church Cape Town)

I couldn’t be there for Sue, but I wrote her a letter.  It got to her just before I did.  This was it.

To my best and most gorgeous sister, Sues,

My heart is just breaking and I am desperate to be with you.   To follow you around wherever you need to go in these next weeks.  To hold your hand when you need to feel brave.

On the other hand I know I would contaminate the holy and great thing God is doing in your life; a work that hasn’t been done before.  My interfering and meddling hands would get in the way.  They would try to soften the blows, ease the pain and stop the hurt.

The fire that hurts so badly is the baptism that we read about.  It is so deep and so painful until not one bit of us is alive.

When all accusations have been made, all hurtful words spoken, all life drained out, all truth revealed (from both sides) there is freedom.  There is great freedom ahead for you, Sues.  Freedom you have never known.  I am so glad you have stepped into it.  I am crying for you and praying for your deliverance to be quick.  Mine would be immediate, but God’s is only when the complete and holy work is done.

When all the harsh and untrue words come, hear God.  Hear God.  Hear God.  Somewhere in the muddle of human words, God can and does speak.  You will come out as pure gold.  You are pure gold in my eyes, but the purest of gold comes through the fire; the fire of God’s holiness and love.  His incredible passion-filled love.

I SO want to be with you.  Sometimes I feel it is cruel to be so far apart at a time like this.  Tony and I have been through the deepest of valleys, where there was no sun to make shadows, but God was there.  Accused of the hardest things, by brothers who should know better, but God was there.  Working on us, changing us, moulding us and making us.  He uses all and everything to bring us closer to Himself.  His ways are sooooo different from ours.  We don’t love like He does.  We don’t see like He does.  When no one else is with us, every faithful friend has chosen to leave, ministry is taken away, God asks, “Will you be happy just with me?”

Sues, I don’t know what to say.  I want to sit on the bed with you, hug you, hold your hand and just be with you.  I can’t be and I hate that thought.  BUT I know that the greatest comforter and strengthener, who has comforted and strengthened us in times of deep loneliness and despair, is with you.  I am deeply grateful and happy with that.

I love you Sues,

Run to the fortress that won’t collapse.




When we saw Rig and Sue, we knew instantly that their dark night of the soul had done wonders.  There was such humility and a profound awareness that their future was going to be very bright.

Post 142. Called to all



Visiting Chandra and Champa in their village in Solan

There wasn’t one specific group of people we felt “called” to.  Whoever came to us we welcomed, loved and poured our lives into.  We didn’t care what their background was or where they came from.

Asha and Zoë had no awareness of caste or colour.  They were colour blind.  We were glad they were.  They were also unaware of the caste system.  Everyone was treated the same and no one was any better than anyone else.

There were a few people who pushed our buttons when it came to the caste system.  A brother and sister came to join in our training.  They made it very clear they were Brahmins.  We were reminded often.   Tony also reminded them quite regularly that it didn’t take any more of the blood of Jesus to take away their sin, than it did to take away the sin of a dalit.  They didn’t really like that either.  The trainees were rough and ready for anything.  There was little or no money to spare and they seemed to enjoy the challenge of that.  The brother and sister did a lot of complaining about not having new chapples.  They didn’t stay for long because they were treated the way everyone else was.  They weren’t used to that.  We were sad to see them go.  They were lovely people.  Just not the kind we could accommodate in our community.

When we first arrived in Mussoorie, we agreed that the girls wouldn’t  wear their best clothes to church on Sundays.  They had pretty dresses.  They could wear them during the week.  None of the other kids had fancy clothes.   We didn’t want Ash and Zoë to make them feel worse. They happily agreed. In fact, when we were visiting South Africa they got really upset with having to wear nice clothes all the time.  They would complain and ask why they had to wear clothes and dress up to make other people happy.

After that trip to South Africa, we flew to Delhi via Bombay.  When we walked out of the airport, we were surrounded by kids grabbing us and asking for money.  Zoë looked around with such a happy look on her face.  She took a deep breath of Bombay air,  let out a big sigh and said, “Aaaah, rags again.”

Post 141. Breaking with taboos


We had some funny experiences with some of our young, soon-to-be married couples in the early days. 


It was two nights before Chandra and Champa were to get married.  We suddenly realised they had no clue about what would happen on their honeymoon or after they got married.  Chandra was employed and accommodated by Tony and Tsering Malik at the time.  Someone overheard Champa saying that Chandra would live in his room and she would be living with us after marriage. 

Tony got Tony Malik to help translate for Chandra.  Tsering helped me with Champa in another room.  It was so funny.  I talked with Champa as I would have spoken to my girls, except she had NO clue about anything.  I had to start from the beginning, explaining a woman’s cycle all the way to how a baby was made.  Until that day, she thought she was the only one who had a menstrual cycle every month.   She was so relieved to know she wasn’t sick.  When we got down to the details of the birds and the bees, she got the giggles and so did we.  It was hard to keep a straight face when the expressions on her face were of shock, surprise and amazement. 

Champa had grown up in the village.  She told me once,  that late one night she heard her mother groaning in pain.  Champa lay still but opened her eyes to see what was going on.  All she could see was the silhouette of her mother walking slowly out into the night.  The next day she woke up and found she had a baby brother.  She had no idea where he came from.

Tony had just as funny a time with Chandra.   While he had some idea, there was a lot he was totally unaware of.  After our talk the two of them went down to Chandra’s little room and sat on the bed, discussing excitedly all they had just learnt.  We walked past the room and popped our heads in to say goodbye.  They were sitting there beaming as if they had just been told the great secret of the universe.

Others we talked to in the nick of time.  One guy was on his way to his honeymoon when Tony realised he had left out an important part of the talk.  He took him aside and whispered into his ear.    

These things were never talked about.  Sex, marriage, husband/wife relationships were all taboo.  We were determined to change that.  We talked blatantly and honestly about sexual fulfilment for both husband and wife.  It was unheard of.  Sex was for the husband’s gratification and to make babies.   The wife was never a consideration.

In the years that followed, we never had to worry about the other soon-to-be married couples.  There was no more shyness or embarrassment around the subject.   The couples we taught were more than happy to pass on what they had learnt.  For us it was routine, for them it was revolutionary.

Post 140. Home schooling



Charmian Woodhouse, a bubbly, enthusiastic, ready-for-anything young girl from Hout Bay came to live with us.  Even though we had received such a good grant from Woodstock School, we felt we needed to take the girls out and home school them.  Ash had been there from first to third grade and Zoë just for first.  We talked to them about it and they were excited to have their school at home.

We fixed up a little room downstairs and made it into a colourful classroom.  The girls helped Charmian paint a wall mural and we got desks and chairs.   It was such a sunny, happy room.  Charmian was so good for them.  She taught them music, dance, art and really helped to build their confidence.   Her passionate love for God rubbed off on them.  They had such fun together.  We loved to hear them laughing during school hours.

Tony and the guys got a really long rope and made a wooden swing from one of the tall trees.  It swung way out and the fall was steep.  Char decided to leap onto it from the top and lost her grip.  She went flying off and down the hill into the trees.  We all screamed and the girls went hysterical thinking she was dead.  She climbed up the hill covered in sticks and leaves and grinning from ear to ear.  That was Charmian.

One of the main reasons we wanted to have the girls at home, was for them to be totally involved in our lives and community.  It was important that they knew what we were doing and the people we were doing it with.  The students at Woodstock didn’t seem to have friendships with “local” people.  We didn’t want our children to grow up with any kind of superiority complex.

We also felt that much of our energy was going into the undoing of things we didn’t approve of.  It was tiring enough putting the good things in.

The best part was that we didn’t have to fit in with school terms.  We loved surprising the girls in the early hours of the morning with, “Get up, we’re going for a long drive.”  It suited our busy, organic lifestyle.


While home schooling worked perfectly for us in our situation, we weren’t “home school evangelists”.  We could see it wouldn’t work for everyone.  Having young girls like Charmian living with us and schooling our girls was just the best.

Post 139. Community of Nations


CNC in the town hall. Early days.

The owner of the Naaz Bar decided he wanted to make more money.  We arrived one Sunday to find he had built some rooms in the hall we were meeting in.  The walls were made of plywood and didn’t go all the way to the ceiling.  We could hear everything that went on in the rooms, including the clearing of nostrils and throats.  In the middle of our meetings, someone would shout out for “chai!” or “garam pani!”   The hall was way too small with the additional rooms.  One Sunday, when it got really bad, Tony announced, “I’m not sure where we will be next week, but we aren’t coming back here.”

During that week, we met Ajay Mark (Head of P.E at Woodstock School) who introduced Tony to the Mayor of the Town Hall.  He gave us permission to use it on Sunday mornings.  It was old, dusty and HUGE!   We got in there, painted it and made it look nice with banners and flags.  Our first meeting was a real celebration.  We had so much room to dance around and we loved that the overhead projector didn’t bounce up and down when little Bhimla did her bouncy bunny dance.  There was just one restriction, which we kept forgetting about.  When we danced in the back right corner, debris would fall into the room of the lady who lived below.  She would come up during the worship, quite irate,  with her head covered in dust and tell us AGAIN not to dance on her roof.

A few Sundays before we moved,   James Barton (Doctor of Science) and Chandra (a “coolie labourer” with one year of education) were ordained into eldership.  It was amazing.  It was a beautiful picture of  God’s call being on level ground.  Education and background had nothing to do with it.  Both were qualified in character and call and we were thrilled.  It was the beginning of a wonderful eldership team.

” Community of Nations” was growing in number and in passion and it was looking like its name.  We had no idea where the people were coming from.  It wasn’t just unusual to have so many nationalities together.  It was more unusual to see people from different castes of India, loving each other with no barriers or bars.   The rich and privileged served those who were untouchables and those from much less privileged backgrounds served with no sense of obligation.  It was amazing for us to watch.

Something we learnt very early in our journey together was this : The only difference between the rich and the poor,  is money.

Post 138. Young men of destiny


Bhagat and Puran

Champa’s younger brother arrived from their village in Solan.  He was small built and had a thick head of hair.  He couldn’t speak a word of English.  When he was asked a question he would just click his tongue and shake his head.  Chandra and Champa had asked him to come and help them with Rebecca.  When we first met him,  Tony asked him his name.  When he replied, “May Bhaghat huu,” Tony heard, “Bhaktu.”  As far as the community was concerned, that was his name.  It wasn’t until years later that we discovered it was Bhagat.  He was too shy to tell Tony that he hadn’t heard correctly. 

“My name is Bhagat Pun.  I was born in India, of Nepali descent. I was born in a Hindu family and grew up on a farm.  I did not like waking up early in the mornings and having to go into the fields to water the crops. We were a poor family of eight people. When I was eight-years-old, my brother Amar and I left home and decided to earn our own living.  It was the only way we could buy our school uniforms, pay for tuition and schoolbooks.  We got a job in a bakery and the owner was really good to us.  In payment for our work, he took care of our education.  My parents liked the idea at the time, thinking that it would only be a temporary arrangement. Little did they know, that I would never return to live in the village.  I liked being in the city. My mother would always regret that decision.” 

(Please see Post 102 – Meanwhile, in a Remote Village)

Bhagat was full of smiles and wanted to learn everything he could.  He was naturally gifted in music and it wasn’t long before he was playing the guitar and leading worship with the trainees.  Tony would spend hours with him.  He became like a son to us.  Service was no problem for him.  He knew there was destiny on his life so he didn’t have a problem doing the most menial of tasks.  That destiny was obvious to us all.  He was delightful to have around. 

Champa’s brothers all reminded us of King David.  Each sibling we met had such a heart after God.  They were all multi-gifted and all loved to worship through music.  As they came, one after the other, we were more and more impressed. 

Amar arrived a few months later.  He was energetic and outgoing.  There wasn’t a bit of shyness in him.  He also picked up the guitar like it was a long lost friend. He was playing it in no time.  Him and Bhagat always worshipped like there was no tomorrow.  They learnt English really quickly and were amazing at translating songs into Hindi. 


Bhagat (standing) and Amar

Having these two young boys and others like them in our lives,  energized Tony.  He knew that a big part of his calling was to give everything he had to them.  It wasn’t long before they started to look like Tony replicas in the way they passionately played guitar, sang and led worship.  It was his dream come true. 

Post 137. What if?


Back row: Amar and his brother Bhagat
Front row: Peter, Rita, Hira, Anil and Bhim

Our second batch of trainees were ready to start.  The cowshed wasn’t available, so we moved everyone into the flat below our house.  Graham, Kay and boys had moved down the hill to Clement Town to meet with some new believers there.  We loved visiting them and having sleepovers.  There was always lot of fun and laughter. 

The new trainees were young and full of energy.  Peter and Rita was a couple from Nepal.  Rita was Puran’s sister.  They had two young girls, Ruth and Esther who were Asha and Zoë’s ages. We would hear the four girls chatting away in a mixture of Hindi, Nepali and English.  Somehow they understood each other perfectly well.  Ruth and Esther had never been out of their village so everything was new to them.  Esther was terrified of the toilet and preferred to squat on the toilet floor.   

Things were tight financially.  There were months when we completely ran out of money.  The church we had come from in South Africa had a change of leadership and they felt we had been supported for long enough.  We really appreciated the support we had received, but we had NO idea how we were going to survive.  Early on in our journey we made the decision to never ask for financial help for ourselves.  There were going to be no “furloughs” where we took our kids around the world to ask people to support us.  If people asked, we told them.  The challenge now was that it was no longer just the five of us.  There were lots more mouths to feed,  a church to run, trips into villages with the trainees, rent of the hall as well as our house, education for our children and the list went on.  

It was good for the trainees to see that we all had to trust God together.  There was no, “us” and “them.”  There was no money coming from anywhere and our faith was being tested.  We all cried out to God every day, praying for provisions for our community.  We were eating together and somehow the dal and rice kept coming.  One day, we ran out of money and we really got desperate. 

That afternoon we got a call from a dorm parent at Woodstock.  It was the end of term and the students had left bags of excellent clothing and shoes behind.  Did we want them?  Did we WANT them?  Tony jumped in the jeep with a few guys and by the time they got back, we had a plan.  We were going to have a sale on our roof the next day.

We sorted out the clothes and everyone was in charge of something.  It was all laid out on bed-sheets on the ground.  We weren’t sure where people were going to come from, but come they did.  By the end of the day, we counted up the money.  There was so much shouting and happiness.  We had made Rs 10,000. We could eat again!

The best part of the story, was that Chandra had called a young Nepali man from the road, to come up to the sale.  He didn’t buy anything, but Chandra told him his story.  He told him how much Jesus loved him.  There was no time wasted. He prayed right then and there to give his life over to the one who loved him more than anyone else ever could.  The young man’s name was Hira.  

What if we hadn’t run out of money?   What if the dorm parent hadn’t thought about us?  What if we hadn’t been on the roof that day?  What if Chandra hadn’t looked down on the road at that moment? What if Hira had refused to come up?  What if Chandra hadn’t been courageous enough to tell his story… what if?