Category Archives: South Africa

Post 181. Val moves on

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Val was never one to sit still.  She was happiest when she was doing nice things for people.  She was a member of the Montclair Methodist Woman’s Auxiliary and visited a senior citizen’s home once a week.  She practised her hairdressing and toenail cutting skills on them.  It was the highlight of her week.  She was a good friend who listened and laughed easily.

A year after dad died, Val joined the Senior Citizen’s BINGO and Bridge club.  It helped her to get over Wilf’s death and filled in the loneliness gap.  It was at this club that she met Albert.  He had recently lost his wife to illness.  They hit it off and within a few months, we got the news that they were planning to get married.

I couldn’t imagine having another dad and it was weird that my mother was going to have another husband.  It was always Wilf and Val.  Now it was going to be Al and Val.

Tony and I weren’t able to make the wedding.  Rig and Sue had “checked him out” and found him to be a nice guy who really loved our mom.  They said she looked really happy too.  He was a carpenter and had converted his garage into a carpentry shop.  He owned a small house up the road in an area called Montclair.

When Mom called to tell me she had to sell 28 Rolleston Place*, I cried.  I loved that house and that neighbourhood.  I wanted my grandkids to sleep in my old room with me.  I wanted to show them how to go down into the drainpipes and under the road.*  I wanted them to play rounders in the park with my friend’s grandchildren.  I felt SO sentimental about it.  It was ridiculous.  I wanted to keep it in our family forever.  That place was full of memories.  OUR memories.  Some other family was going to move in.  For them it would just be an empty new house.

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BUT, it wasn’t my decision to make; it was mom’s.  It was her life.  She had to move on and make it a good one.  Besides, I only visited once every couple of years.  It was also very unlikely that my grandkids would ever be there with me.  Even if they were, by the time they were the right age to climb into drainpipes, I would be sixty something and probably not in any condition to go underground with them.  I had to give it up.

Val got married to Al and moved into his place.  We met him once, about four months into their marriage.  Val was overly protective of his weak heart and our kids had to tiptoe through the house, but he was a lovely man.  I hadn’t seen my mom so happy in years.  Her and dad had become used to each other.  She had lost her sparkle.  Al put it back into her eyes.  It was all very sweet.  She had someone to take care of and Al was as happy as Larry.

A few months later, we got a call to tell us Al had been hospitalised.  His condition was critical.  They were having a barbeque in their garden and Al lit a mosquito coil.  He suddenly had a coughing fit and breathed the smoke into his lungs.  He contracted a form of Hepatitis, which poisoned his system.  Al died two months later.

Val was devastated.  I felt awful I couldn’t be with her in her grief.  She stayed in Al’s house for a few months then moved into a small granny cottage in Pietermaritzburg.  Peter and Char and their daughters, Kendall and Kelsey, lived just up the road.

Their marriage was short but it was happy; they were happier than they had been in years.  They were determined to not let this one get old and stale.  They were going to do things differently.  They were going to keep the romance alive, have fun together, not take each other for granted, speak kind words and make sure they never went to bed angry.

For eleven months, that is just what they did.

PS reader :  I would so love you to read some of my childhood stories.  They will help you to understand my ridiculous emotional attachment to our house and our neighbourhood.   You will have a good laugh too. Go to Archives in the right column: February/March 2013

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Post 177. Goodbye Great Grandma.

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Grandma with me

When we asked Grandma why she didn’t have any hair on her legs, she insisted it was because she had worn stockings all her adult life.

The last time we saw her, she was a hundred and four.  One year short of her last breath.  The doctors wondered what she would die of.  Her heart was strong.  Her vital organs were all in perfect condition.

She had grown up on the diamond mines of Kimberly, lived through the great depression and seen the invention of the telephone, aeroplanes and motorcars.

We loved playing with her wrinkled hands and thin greying hair. We would lie across her lap to have our backs tickled with her bent fingers.  She loved to sing.  Our favourites were, “Poor Babes in the Wood” and “Chibbaba, Chibbaba.”  Her voice trembled and shook but her pitch was perfect.

She gave her heart to Jesus and got baptised when she was ninety years old.  The next fifteen years were lived just wanting to be with Him in heaven.

She lived with her only surviving daughter in Johannesburg, but would come to Rolleston Place to stay with us when it got too cold.  David teased her non-stop about having a boyfriend.  Rigby called her Granny Grumps and “Frilly-Brooks.”  She did have some interesting underwear.

Her eyesight started to fail and arthritis got hold of her hands.  In every other way she was still very much alive.   She had an amazing sense of humour. When she started to fall and hurt herself around the house, her daughter put her into an old aged home.  On one of our visits we asked her if she had found a boyfriend yet.  Her reply was, “ Oh there are plenty, I just can’t catch the buggers.”

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Grandma with our girls.

She never used anti-wrinkle cream or foundation.  She ate well and never bothered about how many calories there were in a slice of bread. I never saw her jogging.  She had eleven children and buried ten of them (one baby in a shoe box) one after the other.  She lived to the ripe old age of almost a hundred and five, then fell asleep forever.

My great grandma on dad’s side lived to a hundred and one.  On her hundredth birthday,  a Queen’s representative presented her with a tree to plant in the forest of her choice.  At the ceremony a man started digging the hole.  She grabbed the spade from him and said, “Step aside young man, this is MY tree and I’m going to plant it.”

So much of who we are is genetic; hereditary.  Our mannerisms, personality, way of speaking and our physical make up. That includes how wrinkled we get.  So many hang-ups and addictions are passed down to us from our parents and grandparents.  So are many of our gifts, talents and strengths.

Before we got married, I told Tony about the longevity in my family.  I told him I might be around for a long, LONG time.  He didn’t seem to mind.

I don’t have much hair on my legs.  I have never worn stockings.  Grandma didn’t have any hair on her arms either.

I was always curious about that.

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.

Post 121. EEEEEEEeeeeee!

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Zoe- photo by Terry Kreuger

The girls and I were in the bazaar so I popped into the pharmacy to get something for my nausea.  I had been feeling sick for a while.  We seemed to live with those feelings so it wasn’t really a big deal but Tony was away in Australia and New Zealand and I didn’t want whatever it was to get worse.  I was also feeling really tired.  We had visitors every month and life was full on and I needed to be well.

Our Tibetan friend Sonam and Vijay Masih were in Australia with Tony.  He wanted them to meet our friends from NCMI and see that we were part of something bigger.  We were so grateful for the many friends we had made in South Africa.  Many of them had visited us and helped us to get the community up and running.  It was an exciting, fast growing movement.  After we left South Africa there had been an explosion of community planting all over the world.

A couple of years before that, we were stuck.  There were international sanctions against South Africa and we were an “unwanted” people.  The world wanted us to change our racial policy; a fair request.  Things started to change when Nelson Mandela become the first black president of South Africa.  The world loved us again and we became the “Rainbow Nation.”

In the late eighties our prophetic, eccentric friend, Malcolm Du Plessis, prophesied, that in a few years we would be bumping into each other in international airports.  Many of us took it with a pinch of salt, having no idea how that could possibly happen.  From May 1994, our prison doors opened and we were free. Then we were everywhere.

Many left South Africa for safety reasons.  They wanted their children to have a quality of life.  Many left because they were racists and couldn’t stand the idea of being ruled by a black political party.  Unfortunately they took their racism with them and struggled with people of colour wherever they went.  Many were fearful.  There were prophecies that there would be a blood bath.  It was a miracle there wasn’t.  White South Africans had been dominating the majority for generations.  They had no idea how the majority would treat them now that the tide had turned.

There was also a prophetic word that the nations would call South Africa.  She would be a lighthouse to the nations who were still struggling with racism.  South Africans had been there and done that.  They had fought the apartheid system and won.  It was a miracle and no one could deny it.  Tony was in Australia for one of the first NCMI conferences with excited, wide-eyed South Africans carrying brand new suitcases.

The girls and I got home and I unpacked my packet from the pharmacy.  I asked the girls to come with me to see what I had bought.

It took me ages to get hold of Tony in New Zealand where he was visiting his family.  International calls were always a challenge.  When he finally got on the phone, I didn’t ask him how he was.  The girls were shrieking and jumping around.  Through all the crackling and chaos, I shouted, “I’m pregnant!”

Post 115. Treasure

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It was good to be with Wilf and Val again.  Nothing had changed in Rolleston Place except that a few houses had been re-painted.  No one had died and there were still lots of children everywhere; there were also lots of grandchildren.

The Lowe family

The Lowe family

The girls were made to sing and perform for everyone just like we used to*.  There were muffled giggles at their accents and their Indian head wobbles.  Dave and Bev brought their three boys Jonathan, Cameron and Mitchell around and there was lots of dancing and jiving in the lounge.  Peter and Char had little Kendal and Rig and Sue came with Ryan and Leigh.  No. 28 * was brimming with life again.  We spent lots of time in the pool and soaked up all the sun we could get.  We had come from another cold winter in Mussoorie.

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Wilf was so surprised with his gramophone.  He got really tearful and even more emotional when it actually worked. It was amazing to hear an old vinyl playing with all its funky crackles and scratchy sounds.

Val took me shopping.  What a traumatic experience.  She needed to do a big shop so I took half of her list.  I had no idea where anything was.  I hadn’t been in a supermarket with a trolley for two and a half years.  It was BIG.  It took me ages to get the goods and I made my way back to Val.  Everything I had was the wrong brand.  In Mussoorie we had no name brand sugar, flour and milk.  They all came in clear plastic bags.  As Val started to take things out and put them back, I started crying again.  I told her I would meet her outside.  I didn’t want to go near another supermarket.  Not ever.

I had changed.  Everything in me had been shaken up.  My worldview was different.  I shuddered when my family still called their house helpers “girls” no matter how old they were.  They still called their gardeners “boys” or “John” even though they had names.  There was so much I didn’t like and I had to constantly remind myself to not be critical.

Being with my family again made me think.  How often we lock people up in the boxes of our past.  We presume they are the same as they were a year ago or even a few months ago.  There is an expectation for them to behave a certain way and when they don’t we are taken by surprise.  That holiday together helped me to let people out of those boxes I had put them in.  He is like that, she is like that or even I am like that.

We change.  We are flexible and adjustable.  We can go from one culture to another and adjust to it.  It may be difficult but it’s not impossible.  I may not like it or agree with it, but I can be happy in it.  If I look for the good and not the bad, I will find it.  If I have to use a microscope I can do that too.  There is so much good in people; SO many kind, lovely people in the world.

A poor man looks through the rubbish to find treasure.  How often I have found myself standing in a pile of treasure, looking for rubbish.

* Post 5.  Honky Tonk

* Post 7.  Smoking banana leaves

Post 114. Reverse culture shock

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Being in South Africa was strange.  Rig picked us up at the airport and we drove to their place.  The girls weren’t happy being tied down by seat belts, but were still able to look out of the windows.  We asked them what was different.  Ash asked where all the animals were and Zoë wondered why there were no people.

Rig and Sue had moved into a beautiful house on the school property where we used to live.  There was so much space and the girls enjoyed walking across to “Little Lambs” pre-school to play with the kids.  They didn’t remember much about it but Ash recognised a few people.

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We spent a weekend at Waverley and so much had changed.  We hardly knew anyone and very few had heard about us.  When I stood up to share about our journey to India, I got really emotional.  I suddenly realised that Waverly wasn’t my home church anymore.  It felt more strange than comfortable even though we were looked after so well.

Rig and Sue took us out to a new mall for lunch.  I was so weepy.  I sat and watched and cried my eyes out.  There was so much money everywhere.  So many people carrying so many shopping bags and looking so empty as they did it.  I tried to enjoy my lunch but it got stuck in my throat.  I kept thinking about our family in Mussoorie and how hard life was for them; how little they had and how happy they were with so little.   In that mall were so many who had so much yet seemed so unhappy.

That week Tony and I did some shopping at Pick ‘n Pay.  We were looking for things we needed for our time in South Africa.  We went up and down the aisles and just couldn’t make decisions about anything.  Tony stood in front of the razor section for over ten minutes trying to decided which one he could get blades for in India.  The price was a problem but he knew that if he got a cheapy, he would have to buy another one.  The negotiations went on and on.

I walked up and down and got totally overwhelmed with all the choices.  I cried walking past the toilet paper section.  There were so many types, colours, designs, embossed and even perfumed.  My thought was, “No butt deserves such pampering.”  I couldn’t get myself to walk down the pet food aisle.  That just finished me off.

My innards were struggling with everything.  I was trying not to be judgemental or critical but I was very aware that those things were in me.   I had seen such poverty and had almost forgotten how the other half lived.  Being back in it was hard.

Tony kept reminding me that there would always be someone richer or poorer than us.  Anyone who had a motor bike, would look at our jeep and think we were rich.  If we got a motorbike, a man on a scooter would think we were rich.  If we got a bicycle, a man who walked would think we were rich.  Very soon we would be walking everywhere and not ever use public transport.

That was just the beginning of our time in South Africa.  We were heading to Durban, Margate, Southbroom and then back to Johannesburg.   Terry and Leonie offered us the use of a car.  They gave us a choice: BMW or VW.  We chose the VW and were so glad we did.

Post 71. Deliverance

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The next morning I asked Tony if he knew where my Bible was.  He nearly fell out of the bed.  Neither of us had seen it for about 2 years.  We both knew then that something significant had happened.

That day he spent time with a friend who poured out his woes for hours.  A lot of it was unhelpful.  Tony came home feeling awful and fed up.  He was on to lead worship the next day in our Sunday meeting and he didn’t want to do it.

We were in our bedroom and he was pouring it all out on me.  I asked him if I could pray for him.  He looked at me with a,  “Who are you and what have you done with my wife?” look in his eyes.  I stood next to him and put my hand on him.  As I started to pray, he fell onto the ground.  It was the last thing I expected and there was no one to catch him.   He lay there for a while and then got up and prayed for me.   Before we knew it we were both lying on the bed next to each other being covered by the blanket of grace.

That was a first.  It was the most intimate moment of our married lives together.  We got up refreshed and so happy.

The next day was Sunday.  I was shaking all over, knowing that I was going to share what God had done in my life.  During the worship time I got up and said, “Today I am in church for the first time in two years because I love God.  I have been coming for all the wrong  reasons; because I am an elder’s wife, because I have wanted to be a good example and because its what Christians do.  But today, I really want to be here.  I have been like a dried up stump.  Something had died.  I did everything I could to make it come alive again, but nothing worked.  Just two days ago, I surrendered to the grace of God.  I gave up.  Abraham and Sarah were like dried up stumps.  They had nothing in them that could possibly make life happen.  They were as good as dead.  Well, I have been as good as dead.  It was just the scent of water that I needed.  Just one whiff of grace, and life came to me.

Tony then shared what happened to him and asked if anyone else felt like we had felt.  Dry, barren and dead.  He invited them to come forward.  We stood there and watched as more than half of the church came forward.

That was 1989.  We started hearing about similar things happening all over South Africa with Fini and Isi De Gersigny, Rob Rufus and others.  It seemed that some sort of simultaneous reviving of the church was taking place.  It was exciting.  We saw many of our friends touched and transformed.  There was an “Exploits” team started and we got in to hospitals, villages and anywhere else there was an opportunity to go.   Some amazing things happened.

Our businessman friend, Tony, was the most miserable wealthy person we had ever met.   As far as we could see, he had nothing to be miserable about, but he was.  One day during a prayer time, Tony started laughing.  He laughed so much that he fell onto the floor.  He lay there like a kid, kicking his legs in the air as if someone was tickling him.  It went on for ages.  Finally he managed to get up and get to the microphone and say, “I was a born pessimist.  I have been a pessimist all my life, but to day I have been set free from pessimism.”  He was a changed man.

Gazankulu

Gazankulu

We took the “Exploits” team to a little Shangaan village called Gazankulu in Northern Natal.  One of the biggest miracles was that, now-happy-Tony,  was happy to do some off road driving in his BMW along the dusty, bumpy village roads.  The villagers loved him for it.  We slept in the kraals made of mud and walked into the darkness to do our ablutions in the only long drop there was.   Meetings were scheduled to start at 5pm.  Whoever was there started singing.  People from all around heard the sound and started walking and adding to the song.  An hour later we were still singing and the crowd kept growing.  There is nothing like listening to African harmonies under a full moon.

While we were on a beach holiday that year, we tried our best to avoid people.  We needed a break and didn’t really want to get into long talks with anyone about anything.  Asha and Zoe felt differently.  They wanted to make friends.  They brought their little friends to the table to meet us and before we knew it, we were chatting to their parents.   We found out they lived right next to us in Johannesburg.  We also found out that the mother was a satanist high priestess.  She told us all about it.  It was dark and she was scared about how deep she had gone.

We shared our stories of faith with them and they were moved.  Their marriage was in trouble and they needed help.  We prayed with them and they surrendered to the God who loved them more than anyone else did.

When we got back to Johannesburg we invited them to attend some Rob Rufus meetings.  She sat through the first one doing everything she could to stop herself from strangling Rob.  All she could think of was how she was going to kill him.  That afternoon we were at Rig and Sue’s place waiting for them to come for prayer.  They drove past our gate twice, not being able to drive into the driveway.  There was a dark force trying to stop them from getting to us.   It took all their strength to get there.

There were four of us; Rig, Tony, Rob and myself.  Rob started to pray and told the forces of evil to leave her life.  Rigby was holding onto one arm and Tony on the other.  She started to speak in a deep gruff man voice, saying over and over again, “She’s mine, and you’ll never get her.”  She flapped her arms up and down, lifting Rig and Tony off the floor a couple of inches.  Rob went in to fits of laughter.  He knew it wasn’t going to be long before she was free.  When she was, she slept for two days; totally exhausted.  She woke up, a new mother, wife and woman.

These exploits went on for a year.  The more we thought about India, the more we knew we were going to need all the help we could get and we were getting the feeling that the time was getting closer for us to leave.