In August 2016, I spent almost two weeks at a UPCSA Post Academic Training conference near Stellenbosch; a week on placement at Mowbray Presbyterian church in Cape Town and finally a weekend with Clarence Tungunu in Johanesburg. Below are some thoughts from this time:
Part 1: Conference, Simonsberg Christian Centre near Stellenbosch (8 - 19 August)
- Eddie's first session of the conference set the tone. We were pushed to go beyond the superficial in discussion about scripture.
- Shingi, who I enjoyed sitting beside all conference, volunteered me to the role of conference timekeeper. This meant getting all of us to sessions on time and ensuring that speakers kept to their allotted time. I think this is a good idea to consider for conferences in Scotland.
- Singing would start without warning. It was usually the Zimbabwean contingent who would begin. I can picture George singing and dancing to "Get ready for Jerusalem." How nice it was.
- Dave Smit did a great job providing a wide range of visits throughout the Cape Town area. Trips to the townships were especially memorable. Sometimes, however, I would have preferred the speaker speaking for a shorter time allowing us more time to look as well as listen.
- In the evening, most people either sat round the fire, in the lounge or preparing their contribution for the next day. One evening I was preparing for leading worship the next morning. I told Sam that I wanted to use a South American song - Somos del Senor. Within a minute or two, the whole room was practising the song. A fond memory.
- I realised something important about my ministry. I previously envisaged working in a church building that is busy with activities throughout the week (like JL Zwani church in Guguletu township). However, after listening to various speakers including Robert Steiner, I realise that I am probably more suited to a ministry that is mainly out in the parish during the week instead of based at a church. A "street-based" rather than "place-based" ministry, as Robert put it.
- I think we would have benefited from slightly more free time. More time to spend together or indeed time just to absorb what we were experiencing. One day, a session finished early, and Peter, Garikai and I climbed up a nearby hill during a break. It was a bonding experience.
- There were many excellent speakers of which Dave Hunter was one. I took many notes during his session...ask yourself when reading the passage before a sermon what the good news is for you in the passage, for how can you tell others the good news if you have not worked it out yet for yourself...make a discipline of getting up early and reading the Bible...it is in our immediate family that we live the good news first, otherwise it is rendered incredible everywhere else...laughter is internal jogging...
- What a great trip towards the Cape of Good Hope on the Saturday. Southern Right Whales spotted by Francois...penguins up close...the curious looking rock rabbit...and even Christine having to fight off a snake!
- If Saturday was nature day, then Sunday was township day. First the two-hour long church service then being driven around various townships by a joyful man called Vireme.
- Franklyn gave an unsettling talk about his time in prison - especially his experiences of sharing a cell. I later recalled this when we visited Robben Island and stood in a dormitory cell.
- I sensed a desire amongst many people to bring down barriers between cultures despite the challenges of history, prejudice and economic disparity.
- I felt sad at the end of the conference because I felt like I was only getting to know people. I remember this feeling acutely when bidding Alfred farewell at the bus station as he set off on the long journey back to Carltonville. I hope to stay in contact with this great group.
- I am glad that Peter Sutton from Scotland was at the conference with me because when we meet up we can share great memories...Father Nicholas and his Greek Orthodox enthusiasm...wildlife spotting from the minibus...late evening biltong with Cecil and Kokkie...trying to get to the nearby wine tasting in the lunch break...how welcome we were made...and watching the sun set over distant Table Mountain.
Part 2: Placement, Mowbray Presbyterian, Cape Town (19 - 27 August)
It took me a while to re-adjust to the pace of this placement in the suburbs of Cape Town after being surrounded by many people at the conference out in the vineyards near Stellenbosch. However, it turned out that there would be many highlights from this week and here are some of them:
- The retired couple I lived with were brilliant. Dick was wise and his wife Charlie was hilarious.
- I went with assistant minister, Nigel, to a youth event that first night. What stays in my mind was dropping young people off at their homes in the townships after dark. I felt both shocked at where these young people were living and a little scared.
- The next day Dick took me to his lovely tennis club to play. The people we played with were friendly and the atmosphere was so relaxed. I couldn't help but contrast with the night before.
- Talking with the kids at the Sunday morning service was a fond memory.
- Percy later told me how, during apartheid, he would get the same train home from work as his dad. However, because his dad was white and he was coloured, they could not sit together.
- I preached at the evening service. The communion service led by Dave Smit was powerful. All of us round the communion table.
- I visited the waterfront by myself and, in one tourist shop, thought about buying my son a cuddly penguin toy for 160 rand. Later I walked walked back to the bus station with a man who had just finished his shift as a security guard. He lived in the township of Phillipi and it would take him about an hour to get home by train. It would be much quicker by a minibus taxi but he could not afford it. His monthly train ticket was 160 rand - the same as that cuddly toy.
- By coincidence, Mowbray's annual Scottish dance evening was due to take place the Friday evening of my visit. However, due to the dance leader falling ill it was going to be cancelled at short notice. However, I was able to lead the dancing and so on my final night I had the pleasure of teaching Scottish dances. I especially remember watching the same young people I had met at the beginning of my time at Mowbray, now dancing the Pride of Erin Waltz with such elegance.
Part 3: Clarence Tungunu, Johannesburg (27 - 29 August)
- I knew Clarence from his visit to Scotland earlier in the year, and I was really pleased that we could spend the weekend together. It was good to build on our friendship.
- I had brought with me a sewing machine and associated equipment for the women's group in Clarence's church. This had been organised by Clarence's many friends in Belhaven.
- We visited a nature reserve outside the city; ate Zimbabwean food; went shopping for a football for his church team and all the while talked about our lives and respective ministries.
- He gave me much news about himself and the church in Eiffel Flats to share in Scotland where I was about to return to after almost three and half weeks away.
Part 4: Final Words
I would Iike to thank the Church of Scotland for giving me this opportunity. I hope it is obvious from this report that I consider it a great experience and would happily recommend it to others. Thank you also to the UPCSA for allowing me to join in with your conference. Thank you to Christine for being so on top of things. Thank you to Eddie for being inspiring. Thank you to Dave and Nigel at Mowbray for filling our time together with generosity and wisdom.
PLEASE PUT ITEMS IN THIS SUITCASE FOR GRAEME GLOVER TO TAKE TO EIFFEL FLATS.
SMALL CLEAN LIGHTWEIGHT TOYS.
PICTURE OF YOURSELF WITH A NOTE.
MESSAGES OF SUPPORT.
PRAYERS OF SUPPORT.
BORN 9TH AUGUST 1989: THE YOUNGEST OF 4 BROTHERS AND 2 SISTERS: IN THE CITY OF MUTARE, ZIMBABWE.
LOST HIS PARENTS IN 1996: LOST HIS ELDER BROTHER/ CARER IN 1998 AND EVERYONE ELSE LEFT TO LOOK FOR WORK: BECAME A STREET URCHIN.
A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY TOOK HIM IN AND PAID HIS FEES TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL AND ALSO TO JOIN THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. HOWEVER HE DID NOT HAVE A GOOD TIME AT SCHOOL AND ALSO IN 2005 HE LOST ONE OF HIS SISTERS WHICH MADE HIM QUESTION GOD AND EVERYTHING. HE DID NOT DO WELL AT SCHOOL.
HIS MENTOR PERSISTED WITH HIM AND HE WENT TO A REFUGEE CAMP SCHOOL WHICH MADE HIM REALISE THAT THERE WERE PEOPLE WORSE OFF THAN HIM, AND HIS ATTITUDE GRADUALLY CHANGED.
HE BUCKLED DOWN, MADE NEW FRIENDS, DID WELL AT SCHOOL AND STARTED TO APPRECIATE THE MESSAGE OF CHRIST TO HELP THOSE WHO HAVE NOTHING.
“ IT HAS TO BE DARK FOR US TO APPRECIATE THE BEAUTY OF THE STARS “
STARTED WORK AS AN APPRENTICE ELECTRICIAN TO GET FUNDS FOR HIS EDUCATION BUT IT DID NOT FEEL “RIGHT”.
IN 2008 HIS MINISTER TOLD HIM THAT HE FELT THAT CLARENCE HAD A CALLING BUT HE RAN AWAY AND FELT CONFUSED.
HE STRUGGLED WITH THIS FOR 2 YEARS BUT THEN CHRIST FINALLY CALLED HIM AND EVENTUALLY AFTER TRAINING HE WAS SENT TO EIFFEL FLATS FOR HIS PROBATIONARY PERIOD IN 2015.
THE PEOPLE THERE HAD NO WORK, VERY LITTLE FOOD AND HAD LOST HOPE. SOME CAN READ AND WRITE BUT THERE IS VERY LITTLE EDUCATION. THEY POURED OUT THEIR HEARTS TO HIM AND HE BUILT UP A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM.
BY 2016 CLARENCE HAD TO LOOK FOR A FULL TIME POST (PAID PREFERABLY) BUT, PERSUADED BY HIS READING OF LUKE 4: VS 18 “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE HATH ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR…” HE DECIDED THAT THE POOR NEEDED THE GOOD NEWS MORE THAN OTHERS AND AGREED TO BE THE FIRST MINISTER ORDAINED AND INDUCTED (AND UNPAID) AT EIFFEL FLATS PREBYTERIAN CHURCH.
THE CONGREGATION REALLY APPRECIATE HIS HOPE AND ENCOURAGEMENT BUT THEY NEED OUR HELP AND PRAYERS.
THESE FIRST 2 BOXES FROM ROTARY INTERNATIONAL AND SMALL TOYS, PICTURES AND MESSAGES FROM US WHICH YOU CAN LEAVE IN THE SUITCASE, ARE JUST THE START WE HOPE AND PRAY.
THEY WILL BE ACCOMPANYING GRAEME GLOVER TO SOUTH AFRICA IN AUGUST.
Since Clarence visited us earlier this year much has happened to Clarence Tungunu.
He returned, completed his studies and was ordained as Minister in the Presbyterian Church in South Africa in charge of his flock at Eiffel Flats.
They are a very poor community and cannot pay him or barely support themselves. We agreed that Belhaven Church would see what we could do and we raised over £ 400.00 at a fund raising event recently.
At our last Kirk Session it was agreed that we continue this support and Grahame Jackson agreed to act as liaison.
Clarence was asked for and has now sent a “Wish List” and a draft 5 year plan to help build a Christian Community of self - help amongst the people who live there – there is no work, little food and no prospect of much improvement in the foreseeable future.
We are in contact with Rotary International and other Aid Agencies and, in the meantime, Graeme Glover our trainee Minister is due to visit South Africa on exchange in August so he may be able to find out more whilst he is there and then report back to us.
We will keep you informed of progress on a regular basis.
Please pray for this project, for Clarence and for the people of Eiffel Flats to give them hope.
We are sending two TRADE AID boxes with Graeme Glover in August. These are provided through ROTARY INTERNATIONAL.
1. The TEACHER BOX contains satchels, exercise books, skipping ropes, cricket set, tennis set, calculators, etc– SEE BELOW
2. The TAILOR BOX contains sewing machine, work bench and everything necessary for sewing including an assorted pack of materials – SEE BELOW
There are boxes for MECHANIC/ CARPENTER/ ELECTRICIAN also but we will wait until we have done this first trial run before we talk to Clarence and the Eiffel Flats congregation later this year.
After Clarence’s visit with us earlier this year we had a lunch for Eiffel Flats which raised approximately £ 460.00.
Each box costs £ 425.00 delivered so BELHAVEN CHURCH are paying for one box and DUNBAR ROTARY have agreed to fund the other.
If you have any MONEY RAISING IDEAS like ANDREW BROWN’S 1KM OF 1P’S AND 1KM OF 2P’S WHICH COULD RAISE £ 878.71, then put a note in the suitcase or