Monthly Archives: September 2013

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

Standard

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. 

Image

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. 

Image

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.

Image

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. 

Image

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 131. Immovable

Standard

The majestic snow-capped mountains were there

But mom couldn’t see them

It was the monsoon and they were covered in cloud.

No matter how much we tried to describe their beauty

She didn’t believe.

Whether she believed or not

Whether we believe or not

It makes no difference

Cloud or clear skies

Those mountains are immovable.

Post 130. Funny angels

Standard

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

Standard

Image

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.