Saturday, November 3, 2018

It's hot, hot, hot! 29.10.18

Started in Matlosane, but now writing on Saturday 3.11.18, having run out of time there, travelled home and sorting myself out here in Prestatyn!

My last full day here and it’s been 35o. As from tomorrow it gets cooler, but still not much sign of rain. It is so badly needed.
I had a good night’s sleep with the help of an electric fan, but was still awake by 6.30 so wrote the previous blog entry then! I also chose my seats for the flights home and was delighted to see that it is one of the big planes for both flights.
This afternoon I went to Matlwang to see what the church is like now. The village of Matlwang is between Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp, and the Church is one of the outstations of the Cathedral, having a service once a month. They have put up new metal doors this year, but they are not very good. They don’t shut easily or properly.
The area around Matlwang, and some of their goats.

The old water supply, and the new water tank on the horizon, from which water is pumped to the stand-pipes around the village. This is the water tower that can be seen from the main road, some miles away.

But the welcome was warm. As I got out of the car a voice from the house next door asked if I needed help. It was the teenagers of the house, and they came with a key and let me in. The older one of the two remembered me from November 2013,and the younger one sort of did. I wish I could remember their names but they were Xhosa names and unfamiliar to me.

Inside the church , and outside with their home in the background.

The inside of the church has changed so much since I first saw it. As well as changing the doors earlier this year, they are now in the process of sealing off the roof. It will make it so much cooler when the sun shines. They are also going to replace the plastic chairs with wooden benches with backs to them - pews in other words. The reason for this is that in the heat the plastic soon becomes brittle and the chairs unsafe! But if the two young people I met are anything to go by, the Church, the people are in good heart. 

All too soon it was time to say Goodbye, and be told that there would always be a welcome for me at the church. Talking later to the Dean, he told me that that is a typical African welcome. If a stranger turns up, they may not have much but the host will give the guest the best of what they have, however little that may be. It has certainly been my experience that I have been received with love and generosity.

(Sat)  As Dean of the Diocese, +Steve and another Bishop have to accompany the Archbishop to the Consecration of the new Bishop of St Helena next weekend, on the island of St Helena. (Church Law says that there must be three consecrating Bishops.)  The problem is that there is only one flight a week onto the island. So they all fly in next Saturday, do the Consecration on Sunday 11th, and then travel around the island for a week while they wait for the next plane on Saturday17th!  

Tuesday, +Steve took me to the airport. It was the end of a wonderful three weeks. It was sad to leave while I was still getting used to having my own place in the Diocese, as well as continuing to be a visitor from 'Lichfield', but good to know that my health had held out and I can plan future visits!! I was also good to get back to the fresher autumnal air of the UK!

Deo Gratias!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday 28th October 2018

Oh what a day! Having spent Friday at Bona Bona to write my sermon, I was increasingly not happy with it through Saturday, and at 4am on Sunday was awake with a new one in my head. So I got up made a cup of coffee and went back to sleep. When the alarm went off at 6 I got up and made some notes. By 6.30 I was happy, listened to Taverner's 'Celtic Blessing' (Deep peace of the running wave) which has been played at every significant occasion in my ministry, and just entered afresh into the peace and serenity of Bona Bona and God's peace. And that never left me - so thank you to everyone who had or was praying.

Just after 9 the long procession made it's way into the Banqueting Hall, which was rapidly filling up as people arrived from all over the Diocese, for some a 4 hour journey. Around 9.50 I got up to preach, and gulped as I saw all the people in front of me, standing room only by this time. I took the microphone in hand so that I could move easily to engage everyone. Canon Guma then gave a short translation of the sermon.

Now it was time to take a deep breath. There had been no rehearsal so I had no idea what was to happen, or what I would have to swear in the Oaths. But the Dean, the Very Revd Christopher Seupe came and led me by the hand to the centre of the staging, where he the citation, stating why the Bishop and Chapter had decided to confer the Canonry on me. Fortunately I knew what was coming as the Bishop had asked me to check its accuracy and English the day before!

Then it was  over to the Bishop for the legal part of the ceremony and the swearing of the Oaths of Episcopal and Canonical. I, the Bishop and the Dean had to sign the paper but they also had to be witnessed. It was especially appropriate that the Bishop's Chaplain for the day, the Revd Aaron Maleke did it as he was one of the small group that met me at the airport the very first time I came.

 I then had to kneel - fortunately there was a prayer desk for support! - while the Bishop read out the official document making me a Canon. He held both my hands and the document, and I eyeballed him. A very special moment. Chris then put the cope around my shoulders and the Bishop prayed for me and for my family, and then formally blessed me using the words of the Celtic Blessing as an introduction. Another special moment. 

Then the Bishop led me to the front and presented the new Canon to the Diocese.
(They have their own way of pronouncing Canon - Ca-non! I'm getting used to it!)
I was so much happier than I look in this photo, but its the only one I have.

After this the service progressed on its merry way, eventually finishing around 1.15, yes that is 1.15, and not a mistake for 11.15!! Outside the temperature had risen to 34, and as all the doors in the Hall were open, it wasn't far off that inside. We were all melting and downing bottles of water

At the service were many friends, but among them were Canon Guma, Pulane and Mpho who came to stay in Clayton parish in 2004. It was good to be together again, even if only for this photo. It was also good to get back to the AC of the Bishop's car and eventually home to a change of clothes.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing with some of the Bishop's friends, and receiving their congratulations. By the end of it I was absolutely shattered, but have had a good night's sleep thanks to the electric fan that Brenda provided and which ran all night!

Today it's back to earthly things, and all that I need to do to get ready to leave tomorrow. I gather it's cold in the UK, but I cam e armed with a thermal vest, thin teeshirts, a long sleeved jumper and a fleece. So hopefully I shall be warm enough!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Thursday 25th and Friday 26th

Thursday morning, just after 9, I met up with my friend Mpho. She stayed with me in 2004 when St James, Clayton hosted a group of three visitors from Matlosane, not long after my first visit here. I stayed with her for most of my sabbatical in 2014. Her husband has just bought a farm with three other men, so officially she is a farmer's wife, but anyone less like a farmer's wife it would be hard to meet. In her youth she was a beauty queen, hence her nickname, Queen. However, she is taking classes in cheese and butter making and hopes to go into production in the New Year. We chatted away till lunchtime and then I set to on the blogs I produced yesterday which took till supper time!

Today, Friday , I designated as a quiet day to be spent at Bona Bona Game Reserve, which is only 30 minutes drive away, and one of my favourite places. It has been the hottest day so far today so I was glad of the chance to sit and think about my sermon. But there was also some animal watching - but nothing like Pilanesburg. Some animals - giraffe, rhino, various bok - all roam free, but the predators - lion and other big cats, wild dogs, hyena  - are all kept in large enclosures, and are part of a conservation programme. I noticed that both the lake and the water hole near the restaurant were very low on water. Despite the heavy rains of two weeks ago, a lot more is needed.


The rhino put in a proud appearance. At first they were in the distance but later they came right up under the balcony, three adults and one baby. It was noticeable that one adult kept well away from what was presumably the family unit. I saw a sign that said 'Viewing platform' and went to investigate. There was literally a sheet of glass between me and the rhinos - hopefully toughened glass!!

So now it's full steam ahead for Sunday. The service here begins at 9am, which, if the clocks have gone back in the UK, will be 0700 GMT. The first part of the service should run smoothly, with no long chorus singing bits (only if you've been here can you truly understand what that means!!). So I anticipate it will be around 7.45 / 8 that the actual canon making bit will happen. So for most of you reading this, I should do your praying on Saturday night!  Or, as God is outside space and time, do it when you can, and he will use it in his own inimitable timing!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

"We went on a lion hunt" - Part 2

The after breakfast drive, for which +Steve did the driving, proved as spectacular as the one we paid for. So often by then it is too hot and there are not many animals around. Not so yesterday. This magnificent creature held us up, a reminder that this is his territory not ours! The 2 below were part of another group we saw later. It is sometimes very difficult to see the animals because their camouflage is so good. The land had recently been cleared by fire and zebra stripes against blackened bushes were particularly difficult to see.

Pilanesburg is set in a weathered volcano crater. One of the things I wanted to do was to stop somewhere away from people and just bathe in the silence. So +Steve took me to the place below. It isn't an enclosed area so therefore under the "Do not get out of your car" instruction. But there were a couple of benches there, and the best way to stand in awe and wonder is to be outside. So I got out of the car - Steve didn't! The pictures do not do it justice - although much wider, it was reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. There is also another photo missing which goes between these two. As I got back into the car two more parties arrived - but I'd had the better part. 

As we drove away, +Steve said he had been scared going up there. I thought he was referring to the hairpin bends all the way up. But that wasn't it. There is no mobile reception in the park, so if you break down you are reliant on word of mouth getting to the Rangers who can communicate with their walkie-talkies. He was afraid that we were the only ones there and we would be totally stranded if anything happened. The arrival of others held his fear at bay.
We saw so many animals it is impossible to post them all. Here are a Kudu, hippo

Late on in our drive we came across these resting lions. My heart missed a beat or 2 when, trying to take a photo, +Steve accidentally leant on the car horn. The lioness just opened one eye, took a quick look and shut it again. Whew!

 This was one amazing sight. We saw a group of 10 elephant, led by the matriarch, walking along together, which in itself was extraordinary. But they were joined by 11 others, all of differing ages. Then, scurrying along trying to catch up were another 10, mostly young, but with the old man in the rear. He decided he was going to go up the hill. So the second group ran back to get him, and the last we saw was all 31 heading off in the same direction. All the time the matriarch had her gaze fixed on the direction they were headed. Says a lot about families and corporate responsibility.

  A final view of the natives of the Park - but a different family to the one above. Fortunately for us they turned and walked away form the road. There were babies here too and they can be fiercely protective of the young ones.
It was a fabulous day - and one where I almost found myself saying, "O, it's only another lion!" But there have been other visits where we didn't see giraffe, or lion - so in the end it was a day to remember the command to look after the earth and all its creatures.

"We went on a lion hunt, and we weren't scared!"

Yes, the reason for the silence is that +Steve and I have been away to the Pilanesburg National Park. We left here around 3 on Tuesday and drove to his favourite guest house just outside the Park, passing the ground where the England Team had trained in 2010.It was early to bed as we had to be up at 04.30 the next morning to be a the Park by 5.15. Hence this photo of an African sunrise! Not something I see usually.
Once in the park 

the early morning colours were gorgeous. Some experienced them from a hot air balloon, which was able to come down for a closer look and then rise up again to travel. Game drives do not always produce the stuff of dreams. The animals are truly wild and not at the beck and call of the Rangers. SO I steeled myself to see a few bok and maybe some bigger animals. O me of little faith. 

Very quickly we began to see animals having their breakfast or finding a place to shelter out of the heat of the coming day - wildebeest and rhino, quite a few zebra, a friendly elephant and some warthogs.

Then came the call that there were lions about. A family of them were on the move You can see the two adults in the photo below, but there were also 5 cubs. Just off the top of the picture were a herd of bok, bellowing out a warning to other animals that danger was lurking. We drove on and came across a different pride who had just made a kill. 
And just for Margaret King, the Bishop and I said Good Morning to the giraffe!! And all this before our breakfast. 
 (It has literally taken me hours to do this - the photos don't want to play the game!) So I'll publish this and continue the 'after breakfast' saga on a different post.

Sunday, October 21, 2018


Ngata and Letlotlo both growing into fine young women. Ngata, on the left, was just 2 months old when I first came and a very sick baby. Just look at her now! She still has to have an annual check up so that they can catch any problems early.

This morning, Sunday 21st, I was at St Mary's , Potch again. Last week was all hassle, but this week was old-timer! Except that I mistook the church warden - the one who wasn't there last week for one of the men of the street. So when he came up to me as I was getting out of the car I was very cagey! I Iater discovered that he was there to protect the arriving worshippers form the men of the street!! Red face and profuse apologies!!!

St Mary's is known as the 'white' church in Potch, but is more accurate to say it is the English speaking Church. At least half the congregation this morning were black, and all ages were represented. At the end of the service I blessed two people who have birthdays this week. And then there was a very special moment as the congregation said Goodbye to Arthur. He has served St Mary's Church in many different ways since he joined the congregation in 1963. He is now moving north to live in sheltered accommodation and be nearer family.

On the way home and travelling down the N12 - the rural equivalent of a motorway.

look at the wilderness and know that a little piece of their love and my heart is up there!!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Saturday - 20.10.18

The great joy of Friday was that I managed to complete the Family Day Programme – apart from finding a photo of +Steve. I can’t remember having had it finished so early before. As +Steve had a meeting at 9 about 2 hours away I also got a bit of a lie in. The good news of the day, for him, was that Saturday’s meeting in Cape Town had been relocated to Jo’burg, so Saturday would be a bit easier for him. After work / school I had a swim with Leruo and Ngata in the house pool. It has been good over the years to see them grow in confidence in the water. We always have fun there.

Today, Saturday, I’ve almost had the house to myself. Steve was in Jo’burg, and Brenda went to the family meeting in Mafeking. This was a meeting for anyone who has the surname Diseko – a bit like Scottish clan meetings. Steve and Brenda began the group a couple of years ago, contacting people on social media. It meets once a year and it seems quite strong. This Family, as well as the closer family, were represented last year at the service to celebrate Steve’s 10 years as Bishop. Leruo, almost 16, has gone with Brenda today. I get the feeling that he is beginning to take on adult responsibilities.

On his way back from Jo’burg Steve stopped off at Potch and picked up Letlotlo, their eldest child from the university. She is at the end of her second year of a psychology degree. She is only here for one night this time, but tries to get home every other weekend, from Thursday to Sunday. It is good to see her.

Tomorrow is a busy one for Steve. The Cathedral service starts at 8 and there are over 100 confirmation candidates. Steve always takes his time over the candidates and invites family members to come and stand around the candidate as he confirms them. But it all takes time. I shall be home long before them.

It is hard to believe that I am already half way through my time here. It has taken time to get used to the thinner atmosphere of 5,000 ft above sea level – not something I’ve been particularly conscious of before. In this coming week, I must make the most of each day and do some holiday type things. Not sure what – but no doubt I shall find something.

Hope you all have a blessed weekend.
(Photos playing up again! I think it might be something to do with the strength of the internet signal.)