Thanks to all my friends for 1014!

In a little over 2 hours time it is South Africa’s time, together with Jerusalem and Moscow, to go into the new year. Yes, I know, it is a man made time line, and it is just another rotation of the earth around it’s axle, and another rotation of the pale blue dot finished on it’s journey around Helios…

BUT… like the service intervals on a car, some measurement of the passage of time is still needed sometimes. We need to close one chapter of our lives, and move forward to a new chapter. I need new beginnings, new challenges, new opportunities… and maybe so do you…

In 45 minutes I have to go to our church to prepare the music and the lighting and sound for our midnight sermon. We start at 23:15 and end at 00h00. I am finishing a sermon series based on Psalm 23, which started the first weekend of December. Tonight I talk about the last verse- “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me…”

So, my dear friends- Christians or Muslims, atheists or Spaghetti Monster worshipers- thank you all for being a part of my journey in 2014! Thanks for all your visits, your comments and the good wishes and prayers when 2014 was sometimes a dark year…

So when the sun turns around it’s axle, and a new piece of time is delivered to live fully, my prayer for every one of you is that you may be blessed, be happy, and have peace, wherever you are! And whatever that may mean to you…

May the best times yet be in our future!

Peace!

Ewald

Remembering…

I am not an American, I have never been to the USA.  But today I want to bow my head in silent remembrance to those people losing their lives on 11 September 2001.

I also want to bow my head in silent remembrance to the victims of terror attacks all across the world. All those people dying for other people’s ideas and systems, without ever having a choice in the matter.

And finally I want to bow my head in silent remembrance of Reeva Steenkamp. Her death was echoing  all across the world in the Oscar Pistorius court verdict today, as broadcasted on all the major news channels like CNN, BBC, Sky… Not guilty of murder- the rest to follow tomorrow…

As a Christian I would love to live in a world without violence, in a place where one would also respect people with different cultures, opinions, religions, races, creeds. A world where people even love their enemies.  A place where everybody can feel safe at night. A world without fear? Maybe that is not possible in this world. But that is what I believe in.

So tonight, no fancy words, no photos or graphics. No jokes.

Only a silent prayer for a world without hate… I still dream of a world where love would reign supreme…

And (apologies to Mr Lennon):

I am not the only one… 

Separated for Holy Service…

I posted my Afrikaans blog entry on this one by accident this morning. And the translate function usually does not convey the true meaning of words. So let me share my heart this morning in English too…

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It is Monday Morning. Half past nine. I am supposed to be out there, visiting all the sick people in our church. Afterwards I have to work hard, on the presentation of tomorrow morning’s Bible Study. I have to try and explain Romans 9- why God loved Jacob, and hated Esau. My mobile phone is supposed to be switched on, I have to answer all the complaints about yesterday’s sermon, why the music was too hard or too soft, too fast or too slow… Somewhere in the fields there are still some cattle that must be attending our church fete in September, somebody still has to ask the farmers for some more contributions to the meat section…  Steaks for Jesus!  There are still a thousand people waiting for their yearly House Visitation. A Pastor must visit them at home, so that they can know and serve the Lord, with that choice piece of baking they prepared and serve on a Royal Doulton cake plate, with their grandmother’s little golden cake fork.

It is Monday Morning  twenty five to ten. I am the sick one. My wife has confiscated my mobile phone. The doctor has booked me off for three weeks. I may not even drive my car. I am just sitting here. Three weeks is a long, long time! I miss my mobile phone…

It is Monday Morning twenty to ten. The phone does not ring. Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #1 in C Major, Opus 15, Largo is playing loudly on my hifi in my Study.  Behind the clear notes of the piano there sounds the most beautiful notes of violin and clarinet in the background.

A Silent Presence has come with me into my study. Peace. Rest…

I don’t have to do anything. I may just… BE…

And that is good enough…

Afgesonder vir diens…

Dit is Maandagoggend half tien. Ek is veronderstel om die siekes te besoek. Daarna hard te werk aan more se Bybelstudie oor Romeine 9- dat die gemeente kan verstaan waarom het die Here Jakob liefgehad, maar Esau gehaat. My selfoon is veronderstel om aan te wees, ek moet al die navrae hanteer oor die onduidelikhede in gister se preek. die klagtes oor die musiek te hard was, of te sag was, te vinnig was of te stadig was…  Intussen loop daar erens op die vlaktes beeste rond wat eintlik by die kerkbasaar hoort- Steaks vir Jesus! Daar is nog duisend wat wag vir huisbesoek, dat hulle die Here kan vind en dien…  deur die koeksistertjie vir Dominee te gee, keurig aangebied op die Royal Doulton bordjie met ouma se goue vurkie…

Dit is Maandagoggend vyf en twintig voor tien. Ek is die sieke. My vrou het my selfoon afgeneem. Die dokter het my drie weke lank afgeboek. Ek mag nie eers kar bestuur nie.   Ek sit net hier. Drie weke is darem maar hel lank! EK mis my selfoon!

Dis Maandagoggend twintig voor tien. Die foon lui nie. Beethoven se Klavierkonsert no 1 in C Majeur, opus 15, Largo speel kliphard in my studeerkamer. Agter die helder note van die klavier klink die mooiste klarinet en viole in die agtergrond.

‘n Stille Teenwoordigheid het saam met my in die studeerkamer ingekom. Vrede. Rus.

Ek moet niks doen nie. EK mag maar net… wees.

En dit is goed genoeg…

 

 

Today- 20 Years Ago

Spoiler alert: CHURCH story- move along to another blog if you do not like church stories… 

Today 20 years ago was a very historic day in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was inaugurated on this day as the president of the new South Africa.

That would be what everybody was thinking about, reading the heading.

But: on the same day me, my wife and a 10 month old baby daughter moved to a town we had to locate on a map, to begin our fulltime ministry in the church.

This is the church that called me to their ministry:

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My photo of the Dutch Reformed Church of Waterberg in Nylstroom.

Our calling to this church was at a desperate time in our lives.  In our church, we have to do 6 years of university training, including ancient Hebrew and Greek. Six years at university is a long, long, long time… and very expensive. After I finished university, being a pale male, I had to do compulsory military service, in the second last group of men that had no choice (except 4 years jail and a criminal record). I was a chaplain in the South African Army, Engineering Corps. After I have finished the army, I was unemployed. It was bad. Nobody wanted to give me a job, because I am “overqualified…”

Our church had 200 too many pastors, ministry posts was very scarce. I had a part time pastors post with a very small salary after 3 months, a very temporary arrangement until I got a “Calling” to a church as full time pastor. In these times in 1993 the political situation in South Africa was really bad. The interest rates were sky high, and I had a huge student loan. The bank was really breathing down my neck, and I was sinking to nearly the point of no return debtwise…

During 1993 and 1994 I applied for 67 available posts in the church nationwide. I went to 7 interviews, on one occasion on the other side of the country, and that time they did not even give me a cent for travelling costs. We also had our first child in these desperate times. It was really, really bad. After 6 years at university I was only trained for 1 “company”.

Then, shortly after the first democratic elections on 27 April 1994, I sat on my bed one evening. My wife and I hit rock bottom. We were losing the temporary post at the church we were at. We had to move out of our dilapidated railway house we were staying in. We had a child to raise, a lot of debt, and it felt as if the church did not care…

That Sunday evening my phone rang, and the good people of Nylstroom were on the line. The voice on the other side asked if I knew who was talking, and I said I did not. He said he is my fellow- pastor (medeleraar in Afrikaans). I replied I do not have one. He then said that they had a meeting earlier that evening, and I came up as the next pastor in their church. I had to look Nylstroom up on a map, I did not even know where it was.

It was so good to become a full time pastor at last. I was 27 years old when I earned my first full salary check!

The sad was: I was only in this church for 11 months. In that year the good bigger church of the region decided that this congregation was too big, and the neighbouring congregation was too small. So, with a lot of church politics involved,  I with 1/3rd of the church was passed over to the neighbouring church in the same town.

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And here I still am, 20 years later in the same town.

We came to town with the Beetle, some borrowed furniture, a very young pastor and his lovely wife and fiery redhead baby daughter.

20 Years later- in this 2o years we got 3 sons added to our family, and a lot of jokes of not knowing where babies come from. We had some extremely sad times, sometimes I even felt suicidal… But we also had amazing times, with great joy, great friendships. great experiences.

I have about 18 years left before I have to retire at age 65 from full time ministry. Looking back, I am really thankful. But I also would really want to know what difference, if any, I made in peoples lives in the past 20 years. I know I have helped many people over the years. But I also know I have not been able to help everybody. Like everybody else I have also made enemies along the way. There are people who will sing that song “What a friend we have in Jesus!” when I one day get called to another town.

Meanwhile- I am here to stay. I have nowhere else to go. I am happy most days (not every day…)  I really love this church, this town, this region of our country.  I am willing to go another 18 if that is the script for my life. But some evenings I lay awake and worry about the lots and lots of empty pews on a Sunday morning…

Today is a rather huge mile post in my journey of life. Thanks if you have longsufferingly read up till here… 🙂

 

 

Today I voted. And Rode.

What a day!

Today is a public holiday in South Africa. We are having our 5th election for everybody. I am glad.

So a lot of my biker friends went for a breakfast in Bela Bela. My wife rode with, she loves the new bike.  We had a great time.

Then we voted.

Then my son and I painted the Beetle some more.

I tried to take a nap this afternoon.  I heard another man of our church, which I admire a lot, is dying in Pretoria, our capital. I threw a few clothing articles in a small suitcase, and went to the hospital to visit him.  This really hurts to do, but it means a lot  to people. Nobody should die alone!

Now I am in a student watering hole near the university campus.   It is dark, the music ia loud, and the food is good and cheapm What a place! I am double the next patron’s age! BUT I now need the aliveness and mood here. And the food.

What a day. I am knackered. The student next to me is putting some Italian herbs in a newspaper and lights it. The smoke smells sweet and funny. Purple turtles are flying around my head. What a LEKKER place… I wonser how Basil in a newspaper tastes? The Jalapeno steak for about US $ 7 is awesome. Peace out!

Today my heart broke again…

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I am staying over with friends in Cape Town after the Word Riders tour. Their church had an outreach to a local squatter camp. They took food and some entertainment, with the gospel.

It is bad seeing people living in these conditions. And still there are a lot of babies born into utter poverty and desperation. These people are of all the races of our country. Some politicians tell the people that there are no poor white people in South Africa. Well, stuff the politicians, poverty knows no skin colour. People are people, and they all have some basic needs.

My heart break for the childrem born into this without a choice!

But how do you get the adults to get some hope, to get some self respect? How do you get them to just clean  their living area a little, and not drown their sorrows every evening with poisonous concoctions?

We brought a little joy to the children today…

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We fed them for one meal. 

By now they are hungry again. And when the sun sets, this must be an extremely dangerous place. Specially for the children…

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Why?

The end of Word Riders 2014 for me…

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This morning we had a final session at a school in Bredasdorp. Most of the group continue until tomorrow. But I had to leave with some friends to get my motorbike on the trailer north…

I had an amazing time! Last Saturday a few old friends from last year’s Word Riders, and a lot of new strangers came together at the Bible House in Bellville. We rode nearly 2000 km together, and visited 61 schools, giving out 3200 Bibles.  Most of the schools we visited are in rural areas, where the social needs are many, the alcohol abuse and other evils abound.

Strangers became good friends, and we had an amazing ride! In total since leaving home I rode about 4000 km. This morning, from Struisbaai to Sir Lowry’s Pass was an amazing ride, really one to put on a to do list of Biking routes in South Africa. The ride through Cape Town’s industrial areas were not that great… So: why do we do it?

We ride to these areas, in partnership with local churches all the way, to bring hope and love to communities in need. The church and Christianity has a bad name in some peoples eyes, and I know sometimes it is deservedly so. But there is also another side that is not often mentioned. In South Africa the churches are the biggest role players in social upliftment, and material help to hungry people. The churches also brought most universities and hospitals into being in the 1800’s in our country, and still plays a huge role in education in rural areas.

We rode to bring hope and help. To people like them:

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And to him, and his friends:

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May the children of South Africa have love, life and peace! Every one of them!

Thanks for reading!

Work- Ailsa’s Weekly Travel Theme

http://wheresmybackpack.com/2014/02/21/travel-theme-work/

While Ailsa is asking about work, let me share a small view of my work with you…

Well, I once had the chance to visit Turkey on a work related trip. I love your country, Uncle Spike!  Here I am hard at work… (or not…) at the ruins of Ephesus, near Selcuk…

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Sometimes we get to dress funny in my work…

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I even get to ride my Bike in the rain sometimes as part of my work!

Sometimes I preach…

My office on a Sunday…

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Sometimes I give people bread and wine…

Sometimes I marry people…

 

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Sometimes I cook for them…

Sometimes I drive people around in a bus…
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Finally, sometimes I have to bury people…

And so it is really hard to define all the different parts of my work, being a rural country pastor in a church… I love people, and love serving them in so many ways…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have confidence… Daily Prompt

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/24/daily-prompt-confident/

 

Daily Prompt: I Have Confidence in Me

by michelle w. on November 24, 2013

Are you good at what you do? What would you like to be better at.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us CONFIDENT.

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In my job as a pastor in a large rural church, this is not an easy question.  I think a lot of people wouldn’t know what we do every week, some make jokes about only working for an hour on a Sunday morning…  We are also at the receiving end of a lot of jokes, and worse, abuse.  Some pastors may deserve the bad names we are called. But most of my colleagues I know are honorable men and women who wants to live a life of love and service to their fellow human beings…

The object of this post is not to discuss the being or not of God, the sins of pastors, the huge mistakes that the Church has made over the years- I am just not interested in fighting with anyone over differing opinions. This post is just to describe what I experience and do in my daily life as a rural pastor.

There is a reason why we spend 6 years at university to be pastors in our church.  I have another 2 years of training with a Masters Degree in Practical Theology.  That is 8 years worth of my life at university! With that time spent at university I could have been a doctor, or a lawyer or somebody else rich and glamorous in our society. I chose the other way…

There is just so much to be and do for a church. I can’t think of any one person doing all the ministry tasks very good. So my answer to this question: Am I good at what I do, would be a very reserved “Sometimes…”

What do pastors do in a rural church in South Africa?

  1.  The most obvious: we preach on Sundays…  Our church has three worship services on a normal Sunday.  A morning, evening and a teenager service.  To do a sermon will take me more or less 10 hours of preparation. I am supposed to be able to read the Bible in the classical Hebrew and Greek…  (that is another long story…)  I think I can sometimes deliver a good sermon, touching people’s hearts. But the translation work- well, the Bible Society did that already didn’t they?
  2.  We teach. I have a weekly Bible study group, attended by about 50 people, where we study books of the Bible, verse by verse at a time. This year we have gone through the Gospel of John, and the three letters of John. I think I can do this really good.
  3.  We equip. I am responsible for the church’s small group material. They gather weekly at the homes of the members, to worship, study the Word, support one another, and plan how to be a good influence in somebody else in the community’s life.  I think this I am also good at.
  4.  We visit the sick, and people in crisis, to support them and pray for them.  I think I am supportive of sick people, I am not always that good with marriage counselling and especially not where people are having a hard time financially…
  5. We do “House Visitation“- We are supposed to visit every person in the church once a year. But we do have 1500 people in our church, so it is nearly impossible. I am not that good at this area of our work, as I am rather an introvert…
  6. We do weddings and funerals. I think I am good at both…
  7.  We have a lot of committee meetings and Church Board meetings.  I am not good at meetings- there are still some ADHD left in me…
  8.  We organize church functions. Here I fail miserably- I am no good at administration in any form! I run away from any church finances…
  9.  We are in a work where one telephone call can change a whole week in an instant. We deal with a lot of people’s hurt, relationship issues, happiness… we are only a phone call away day or night…   I do have a psychology degree, but not far enough to go into private practice.
  10.  We are supposed to be handymen– fixing everything that breaks. I am no good at fixing things, so I stay away from sharp objects…

What would I love to be better at?

  1. I would love to cope better with people’s expectations. I can’t be everything for everybody. I do not have all the skills needed to do everything in church. But a lot of people expect me to know everything, with all the books in my study…
  2.  I would love to be a better marriage and relationship counsellor. It really feels good when I can help people finding solutions to their relationship problems!
  3. I would love to be more sensitive to people’s needs and hurt, and way less sensitive to their criticism.

But that, I think, is enough about me…

Me conducting a wedding last year- a guest's photo...

Me conducting a wedding last year- a guest’s photo…