Monthly Archives: September 2013

Post 136. Off the edge

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It had been our toughest year yet and we had a feeling life was going to get tougher.  The challenge was, were we prepared to let go completely and trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God to catch us when we let go.

Tony’s favourite place to worship and pray was on the rock on our roof.  He could look over onto the Doon Valley and down on jungle and forest.  When we first moved in, it was a bare rock with a sheer drop on all sides.  We were all upset when our landlord sent workers to build a cement wall around it.  It looked so ugly and it lost its natural beauty.

For some reason, known only to God, Tony was clamouring around on the outside of the wall.  He somehow lost his footing and slipped.  He reached up and grabbed the wall, which hadn’t been there a few days before.  It may have been ugly, but it saved his life.

During his time with God, he had the thought that living on the edge is not risky enough.  It is only when we jump and live a life outside of our control that we are really fulfilled and satisfied.

When he told me about his experience, I wrote down some words, which he put into a song.

Off the Edge:

I’ve been living on the edge

Preparing to dive

Toes hanging over

Looking to the skies

I’ve cut all the ropes

The fall is steep

I’m tired of waiting

Almost falling asleep

Take me off the edge I’m willing to die

Holding your hand

Head held high

Achieving the impossible

You with me

Take me off the edge

I’m flying free

Arms outstretched

Sun in my eyes

Soaring with the eagles

Running through the skies

Secured by your love

Held by your hand

I’m living off the edge

I’m a free man

Post 135. Jordan, Moses and friends

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Jordan was a pleasure of a baby.  He was very sociable.  During meetings he was handed around and came back when we were about to leave.  Once we went to a concert at Woodstock School.  Some of the high school girls from our community took him to show him off to their friends.  He came back with different coloured lipstick kisses all over his chubby face.

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He seemed to be born with a sense of humour and a love for music.  If he ever got cranky, Tony would play the guitar and sing to him.  He would listen and stare for ages.  It was one of his favourite things to do.

He loved the community he was born into.  Rebecca Roka was his first best friend.  Jessica Sardar came next, then Zarina Masih, Michaela Shiels and Kezia Hoffman.    He got on well with everyone.

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One day we heard a group of men talking really loudly on the road.  We looked over the balcony to see what was going on.  They told us they had found a monkey.  I went down to look and sure enough, there was a tiny langur lying on the road.  It was squealing and thrashing around. Its knuckles, tail and head were scratched and its eyes were blood shot.  It looked very weak.  I found some cloth and took him inside.

We named him Moses.  He was the cutest thing, next to Jordan, that we had ever seen.  We guessed he must have been the runt and abandoned by his mother.  We wiped him down and tried to feed him.  He slept in a big cardboard box in the lounge. He squealed the first night, woke up once the second night and slept through the third.   He seemed to get stronger every day.  He started to cling on which was a good sign.  The girls had duties to take care of him and they loved him.  When we found him he had four teeth.  By the fourth day he had six.

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Jordan and Moses

Jordan had an issue with Moses.  He was used to being the centre of attraction.  Suddenly, out of the blue, this monkey had come off the street, taken his blanket, his golly, his bottle, his Cerelac, some of his toys and our attention.  We had to watch him.  On a few occasions, we caught him throwing his books and wooden toys into the box.  Not to share, but to try to get Moses back for using his things.

Moses was doing well.  We had discovered how to use the tiniest balloons on the end of a syringe to feed him.  He had been with us for about two weeks when a well meaning friend of ours got over-excited about feeding a langur.  She overfed him.   The next day, Zoë woke up to find him choking in his box.  He had milk coming out of his mouth and nose and he couldn’t breathe.  We were beside ourselves.  He died a few hours later.

We cried our eyes out.  The girls missed a day of school because they were inconsolable.  We were inconsolable.  Jordan seemed relieved that he was not going to have to grow up with a langur as his twin brother.   I’m not sure what we were thinking.  What if Moses had survived?  What if he had grown into a 15 kg,  75cm long adult?  What would we have done with him?  He would have taken over our house, our lives, eaten all our food and no doubt slept in our beds.

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The future of Moses (pic not mine)

We buried him near the rock on our roof.   We talked with the girls about it and came to the conclusion that life would never have been simple or satisfying for him, living with us.

Post 134. A ramble and a rant (1995 journal)

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We have chosen community over isolation.  Discomfort over comfort.  Inconvenience over convenience.

The way of the cross is a lonely road.  Jesus walked it.  He could identify with those He walked with, but none could identify with Him.  He was misunderstood and no one stood with Him at the end of His road.  He who was such a good friend, died alone.  

Love is honest, truthful, challenging and kind.  Jesus preferred truth to popularity.  There was nothing in Him that didn’t love.  Even when He spoke the uncomfortable truth, He was love.  His love was unchanging. 

Since when did we choose unity over truth?  So much “Brother, brother let us love one another,” and so much compromise with it.  The love we are called to chooses truth first.

Do we love enough to speak the truth?  Do we love enough to confront sin?  To strengthen weakness?  To speak about irritations?  To talk about unhealthy stumbling blocks?  Do we value our friendships enough to take the risk?  With that risk, the deep hope that our friendship will go deeper and become stronger.

Why are we so edgy, so sensitive?  Where is the toughness of spirit?  The meatiness of emotional muscle?  Why at the first, tiniest bit of uncomfortable truth, do we crumble and feel unloved? 

Why do people feel rejected when challenged even in the gentlest of ways?  Confrontation is not about rejection.  Confrontation is for growth and change.  If we reject confrontation we remain small.  Weak. Immature.  If we receive it, and all the love that comes with it, we will grow up.  We will be disciplined.  We will be strong.

So many believers are edgy.  Being with them is like walking on egg-shells.  We feel we need to tip toe and keep everything soft and cushy.  The slightest bit of difficult truth and we don’t see them for weeks.  Or, they disappear without a trace.  Without a goodbye.  Without an explanation.

Overly sensitive people live behind an invisible wall.  People keep their distance.  They know they can’t get too close or say too much.  They choose their words carefully and avoid subjects that may cause an upset.  They watch for a change in facial expression.  That is the sign they have stepped over that invisible line.  They have no idea when that may have been. 

Super sensitive people wonder why people don’t engage with them.  Why their growth is stunted or change is so slow.  They have no idea their prickliness is keeping people away.

Is it possible they were not raised that way?  Were their parents the “free spirit” types who never pulled their kids up on anything?  Let them do their own thing, their own way?  Never challenged them about their behaviour or manners or how they treated people?  Didn’t love them enough to prepare them for the toughness of adulthood?  Let them manipulate and dominate every relationship that came their way?  Never confronted their weaknesses and sin? 

“Iron sharpens iron.”

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”

Reminded of this:  When difficult words are spoken, listen for truth.

People may come and go. They may want to walk away from me, but we’re not going anywhere.

Friendship for us is like marriage.  We are in it forever. 

  

Post 133. Intimidation

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By the end of that year (1995) things really started hotting up.  There were protests all over Uttar Pradesh.  Many felt the state should be divided in two.  Some felt it shouldn’t.  There were so many “bandhs” in Mussoorie it was hard to know when the shops were closed and when they would be open again.

It was October and we had a team from South Africa with us.  Bruce Richter, Wally Gersmeier and Ralph Cawood were among them.  We had planned an outreach at the Naaz Bar.  For some reason, we went ahead and had our meeting even though there was a bandh on.  We did some “silly” things in our enthusiasm and zeal.

I stayed home with the kids during the first evening meeting.  Everyone was worshipping like there was no tomorrow.  There was nothing unusual about that.  The hall was packed.  Right in the middle of the worship a lady guru walked in with a group of her men devotees.  She was heavily made up and was obviously the boss.  Her men started pulling some of the coolie labourers out of their chairs and pushing them outside.  There was a lot of shouting going on. Bruce’s old bouncer instincts almost got the better of him, but he remained calm.  Tony was leading the worship time and felt that everyone should raise their voices and give a loud shout.  It got louder and louder and there was a lot of clapping and cheering.  When the leader of the group saw we weren’t intimidated, he looked around and joined in the clapping.  The evening was intense but it ended well.

They told us we were not to meet on Sunday.  We knew then,  the protests weren’t political but religious.  The men let us know they had handed pamphlets out to the community telling them to meet outside the Naaz Bar.  They were going to drive the foreigners out of Mussoorie.  T

They were leaving after the service anyway so that wasn’t a problem.  There were all kinds of threats.  After lots of prayer and discussion with our local leaders as well as the visiting team, we agreed we should go ahead with the meeting.   We felt if we gave in to intimidation once, it would be the beginning of the end of the community.  We had to win that one.

The staff and students of Woodstock were called together for a meeting on Saturday afternoon.  They were told they were no longer allowed to attend Community of Nations Church (CNC).  It was banned and out of bounds.  The principal felt we had put their lives in danger by staying open during a bandh.  Doctor Barton and other teachers said they were ready to hand in their resignation.  They loved the church and did not appreciate being told they couldn’t be part of it.  The students felt the same way and got permission from their parents to keep attending when things settled down.

We all felt a bit nervous getting ready for church the next day.  I wondered if I should stay at home with the children in case things got ugly.  Tony wasn’t sure what was going to take place.

The bazaar was really quiet and all the shops were closed.  We arrived at the venue excited but uncertain.  We were ready for anything.  The hall was full.  No one had stayed at home.  No one wanted to miss out on the action.  Our young ACTS students were energised by the attack the night before and felt it was the best thing that could have happened to us.

The meeting went on as usual.  The worship was loud and wild.  A few people gathered outside.  The group leader was there, fiddling with a few pamphlets and looking very sheepish.  He was standing at the entrance, so people shook his hand as they walked in.  He became our welcomer.    He kept looking up and down the bazaar for more people to join him.  No one came.

Post 132. Wild and jungly (Leaving it all behind)

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Our meetings took on another form of life.  We started pub hopping.  We grew out of the Tavern and moved into the Naaz Bar.   It was an old, smelly drinking hall behind a small restaurant.   The wooden floorboards creaked and the roof was always threatening to collapse.  Men would literally crawl out before we moved in for our Sunday meetings.  We had to go in early to clean out the bottles and cigarette stubs.  Dr. James Barton took it on himself to wash the red pan spit marks off the walls.  It was a challenge BUT it was a hall and we needed a hall.  We moved in and things took off.  The hall was right in the centre of the bazaar so people could find us easily. 

By that time we were known at Woodstock School as “The Bizarre (Bazaar) Church”.    There were the more traditional Christians who really didn’t like us.  They gave us more grief and heartache than any one else.  We had made friends with local shopkeepers and restaurant owners and they loved us.  They got lots of business from the groups of people who came out to see us.  We would often be stopped by them and asked, “So when is the next outreach?”

The church was looking more multi-cultural than ever.  Garbage pickers, people from the snake tribe, porcupine hunters, monkey trainers, students and staff from Woodstock School, Nepalis, Biharis, Punjabis, Tibetans, Germans, Irish, South Africans and on it went. 

There was no protocol, no religiosity and no formality.  The poorer families would come in with their naked-bottomed babies who would poo and wee all over the place.  They would sit and de-lice each other (and us) in the meetings.  In the middle of a preach they would walk in and greet everyone loudly.  Whoever was preaching would stop.  We would all wave and return the greeting.   The kids were jungly and had never been told to keep quiet.  A finger on the lips and a loud “SHHH” meant nothing to them. 

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The house at Lake Mist

Our trips across the mountain to Lake Mist were interesting.  We would pack any vehicles we had to full capacity.  Our little jeep would sometimes have fourteen people in it.  We would often have people on the roof rack.  Those who couldn’t fit in vehicles would be packed into taxis.  It was a lovely cottage in the hills, owned by Anil Kapoor of the Brentwood Hotel. He was a good friend of ours. 

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Jordan’s dedication at Lake Mist with Shaun Cox, Graham Jones, the Hawthornes, Chandra and everyone else.

There were lovely walks and a pool where we could swim and have baptisms.

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Observers on the bridge

We had some interesting baptisms.  On one occasion, we were all standing around the pool.  There were people squishing up on the little bridge to watch and about ten people waiting to get baptised.  They had never seen a baptism before.  The men, who were just in their underpants all shouted and jumped in.  Fortunately it was shallow.  They started splashing around and dunking themselves under the water.  Someone called for order and they got out.  We were laughing so much.   They were like very happy kids. 

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Still clothed and in their right mind

One after the other they shared their stories and why they wanted to be baptised.  Anil had come from a very rough background.  When he came up out of the water he got so excited that he swam “Indian e-style” across the pool.  In his zeal he jumped out of the pool and sat on the edge.  Everyone screamed and the girls closed their eyes.  The cameras were put away and the video stopped.  Anil had left his underpants in the pool.

 

Post 130. Funny angels

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Dad’s memorial service was at the old Montclair Methodist Church.  There were a few familiar faces but most of the people we had grown up with had either died or moved on.  Our neighbours from Rolleston Place were all there looking very sad and shocked.

Wilf had been one of the healthiest seventy year olds we had known.  He jogged well into his sixties, only ever had All Bran for breakfast, loved salad and fruit and hardly ever ate junk food.  Every now and again he would spoil himself with a chocolate.  I never saw him indulge in anything.  A couple of years earlier, he had a mild angina attack but because he was so healthy and strong, it didn’t do much damage.

Dad had mentioned a few times over the years that he wanted a Dixieland band to play at his funeral.   We got in touch with some of his old jazz-band mates and they were happy to dust off their instruments to play for Wilf for the last time.  They walked in slowly, playing, “Oh when the saints go marching in.”  They looked so old compared to how dad had been.  They were coughing and wheezing and could barely blow their instruments.  I wondered how dad could possibly have gone before them.

It was interesting to see how differently my siblings responded to dad’s death.  It was clear by our speeches that each of us had a unique relationship with him.  Sue and Dave knew him before his conversion, I saw him during his conversion and Pete only really knew him as a Christian dad.  There was quite a bit of “damage” done with Sue, but much healing and forgiveness had taken place between them.  He had been overly protective which had come across harshly.   Dave was shocked to hear that dad had been married before.   He found that out on dad’s deathbed.  It took him a while to let that go.  Pete was the baby and “mommy’s boy.” Sue and Dave called me “dad’s favourite”.  I could never understand why they thought that.  Maybe it was because he loved me because I was the “good” one. 

I had given my life to Jesus when I was thirteen so I hadn’t given him trouble in my teenage years like they had.  When he died there was a sadness I couldn’t explain.  I knew I would miss him, but it was more than that.  There was a quiet realisation that his subtle “favouritism” may have been based on my goodness.  It started to feel that it had been conditional.  That feeling made me think that maybe God’s love for me was also conditional.  Was it because I had been a “good girl” and stayed on track?  Did that have something to do with God’s love for me?  Would dad have treated me the same if I had been a “bad” girl?  I needed some time to settle those things in my heart.

Mum flew back with us to India to stay for six weeks.  She didn’t want to stay by herself in No 28.  It had been so rushed and chaotic getting her a visa and cleaning the house up.  We arrived at immigration in Delhi and I was so relieved to be home.  Tony and the girls were waiting outside for us.  It seemed to take forever to get to the front of the queue.

My passport was stamped and the officer opened Jordan’s.  He scratched and searched for ages.  He looked at me over his glasses and asked, “Madam, where is visa for baby?” In all the chaos and rush, it hadn’t entered my mind to get an Indian visa for Jordan.  There was a big tamasha with lots of officers discussing my case.  Fortunately I had his birth certificate which,  they finally agreed, proved that he did actually belong to me.   The officer stamped Jordan’s passport with the proviso that he was registered within five days.  What a relief and what a miracle. 

I had a smoking, swearing “angel” with me all the way to South Africa, and there was a Hindu one waiting to help me at the Indian Immigration counter in Delhi.  How funny.

Post 129. Goodbye my lovely dad

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I was shaken but the steel in me refused to bend.   I knew then why I had been so strengthened by God.  I was going to need all the strength I could find.  A few phone calls to South Africa, confirmed dad’s critical condition.  Tony booked Jordan and I on the first flight out of Delhi.   I packed my bags and we did the eight-hour drive to the airport.  My stomach was in turmoil the whole way.  There was no way to keep in touch with Tony or my family in South Africa once I left the house.  I kept wondering if dad was still alive.

I said goodbye to Tony and prayed there would be someone to help me with Jordan on the way.  I wasn’t sure how I would manage with my suitcase, bag, nappy bag and Jordan.  What if I needed the loo?  I got to the check-in and a man travelling from Delhi to Durban started talking to me.   He was a “typical” South African man.  He smoked, talked about rugby and the meat he couldn’t wait to eat.  He had no idea he had been chosen by God  to be my very own angel.  When I needed to change Jordan he looked after my bags, he kept me a place in the queue and held Jordan when I checked in.  When I got on the plane, there he was in the seat right next to me.  I told him about my dad and he was concerned when I cried on and off throughout the flight.  Fortunately Jordan travelled amazingly well.

When we touched down, I was shaking.  My “angel” helped me off the plane and walked with me into the arrival area.  I could see my family waiting for me.  They all looked pale.  The first thing I asked was, “How’s dad?”  He was still alive but it wouldn’t be for long.  I handed Jordan to my mom and my legs collapsed under me.  I shook for about five minutes.

Everyone made a fuss of Jordan.  He was just over three months old and a real cutie.  We went to Rolleston Place to freshen up and then headed for Entabeni Hospital.  Dad looked awful.  He was black and blue.  It was a shock to see him hooked up to pipes and breathing apparatus.  He was weak but so happy to see me.  The nurses felt he was still alive because he knew I was coming.   I was told to keep him calm. When he held Jordan, his heart rate went up and we had to take him away.

We had a quiet conversation. In a very weak voice he expressed his last minute doubts about going to heaven.   I assured him that his simple prayer of surrender to Jesus that many years ago had secured his place in heaven.  Jesus had taken away his sin and in that instant, he had been born-again.  He was a new creation.  The old had gone and the new had come.

He also talked about his dreams and morphine hallucinations.  He could see himself in a huge warehouse full of wood, then on a stage surrounded by musicians and people and then in a bookshop.  On the shelf was a book about his life and his family, written by me.  He asked me if I could do that since he hadn’t got around to it.  I didn’t make any promises.   I realised that all the things he was thinking about were the things that he loved; wood, books and music.  Those were his passions.

I was with him when he took his last breath.  I had never seen a person going from being alive to being dead.  Gone.  Just like that.  In one second, my lovely dad was gone.  There was such sadness but as we were leaving the hospital, someone said, “It must be so bright in heaven.  I hope dads got his sunglasses.”  We laughed until we cried and then we cried until we laughed.

Going through his cupboards was hard.  He had no worldly wealth to speak of.  He had lived a simple, contented life.  He left the house to mum and his entire jazz collection was sold to the Natal University Music Department.  They got the best end of the deal.  It was awful watching it go. I got his old typewriter and his tartan bomber jacket, which he got in his early 20’s. I also got his diaries.  The earliest one was from first grade.

When I was going through his things, I was amazed at how sentimental he had been.  There were boxes of photographs and reel-to-reel movies of holidays, births, weddings, relatives, babies, cousins and every family get together.  There were neatly stacked piles of all the cards we had ever made for him and every letter we had written to him.  He hadn’t left us with any “inheritance” to speak of, but such wonderful memories.  It sat well with me.  That was the kind of inheritance I wanted to leave my kids.