Dion's random ramblings

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Africa has a way of making EVERYTHING look better. It must be the nutrients in the soil - just look at these pictures.

I was looking through some photos in iPhoto this afternoon. My eye was drawn to a photo that was taken of one of my students, Vuyelwa Sebolao, and myself. Vuyi, as she is fondly known, is wearing the traditional orange dress of a married Xhosa woman, I on the other hand am wearing the traditional red doctoral gown of the married nerd person....

The point is this, doesn't Africa have a wonderful way of livening up even ordinary occasions!? I have been to quite a few academic ocassions across the world.... The plain black fur lined hoods and gowns of Cambridge, the three barred tassled gowns of Northwestern University in Chicago and the bright red bath robe that I get to wear!

Wessel (pictured in the back, on the right in his red bath robe... He has a nicer hood than I do - purple, mine is porno gold...) and I often joke and say that the red of our gowns is actually the blood that was squeezed to earn the degree... Ha ha!

Just to prove that everything truly is more beautiful in Africa - here's picture of my wonderful family, taken on our lawn this afternoon. Liam, Megan, and Courtney - aren't they just wonderful?

Here's a photo of little Liam, enjoying the feeling of the African sun, on his African skin, as he sits on green African grass... A good African son!

Who would have thought, 11 months ago, that he would be so healthy, happy and perfect? I tell you it's the nutrients of the African soil!

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An evening prayer (from Durban).

Megie, Courtney, Liam and I have taken three days together in Durban. After almost 6 weeks apart we cherish times such as these! I wish I could take more time to be with them.

Many who know me, know that I never travel without my copy of "A guide to prayer for all God's people". For anyone who is looking for a truly superb guide for their personal devotions, this is one of the very best resources out there! It follows the common lectionary, has daily scripture readings from the Old and New Testaments, well written prayers, and superb reflections by well respected scholars, authors, and spiritual parents.

Since the 17th of September I have had the prayer below on my lips - it carried me through the Conference deliberations, and now replenishes my spirit, and my love for my family and my vocation. This little prayer reminds me that I must not fear too much work, nor having to take on tasks that are far greater than my limited abilities, it reminds me that I must not recoil from conflict, or be too concerned about how God will care for me and others - it reminds me that I must simply and courageously seek to ask the question "How will I faithfully follow Christ in this situation?" Whether it is engaging in mission outside of the Church, or mission within it, what Christ requires is faithfulness. Perhaps the prayer may be of some use to you?

If I have wounded any soul today,
If I have caused one foot to go astray,
If I have walked in my own willful way -
Good Lord, forgive!

If I have uttered idle words or vain,
If I have turned aside from want or pain,
Lest I myself should suffer through the strain -
Good Lord, forgive!

If I have craved for joys that are not mine,
If i have let my wayward heart repine,
Dwelling on things of earth, not things divine -
Good Lord, forgive!

If I have been perverse, or hard, or cold,
If I have longed for shelter in Thy fold
When Thou hast given me some part to hold -
Good Lord, forgive!

Forgive the sins I have confessed to Thee,
Forgive the secret sins I do not see,
That which I know not, Father, teach thou me -
Help me to live.

C. Maud Battersby

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Home where I belong, and feeling postliminal (if there is such a thing)...

It is incredible to be back home!

If I was not so jet lagged I would have mustered all of my creative juices to write something as poetic and profound as my friend Pete did about his return home. All I can say (like many of my first year students do), is that I agree with him, and with what he said, and I wish I could say it the same way. Megie, Courts and Liam - I love you, and coming home to you is the best possible feeling in the world!

I arrived home just before 8pm last night after being on the road for 28 hours... The coach, the tube, an express train, two aeroplanes, a few airport buses, and the car home. Whilst I didn't ride a single Vespa to get back, I did wear my favourite Vespa T-Shirt! The trip was great, and even with missing my family, and having to travel so far, I would do it all over again. I have been challenged and stretched to grow.

I slept well last night. I didn't mind getting out of bed just before 6am to make breakfast and coffee for the family. I had daydreamed about that simple act of service, one of my daily routines, quite a few times while I was away. After taking Courtney to school - and having a good chat about her party, her friends, and her recent conquests in Shrek (on her gameboy) I rejoiced to worship in the College chapel. The idiom of worship was truly African, we sang, danced, played the bell and the beat, and used many of our 11 official languages to do so.... and I knew that I was home!

I have often felt that liminal feeling, common to many white Africans, of being too white to be truly African, but too African to be European. However, this morning I knew that I belonged. These are my people - I am, because they are. Here it is not because of my race that I belong. Rather, it is because we are a community that I feel truly human, located, understood, appreciated, and loved.

Here's one of the last photos that I took before leaving Christ Church in Oxford. From left to right are myself, Dr Mercy Amba Odoyuye, Dr Richardson, and Dr Colin Smith. Auntie Mercy is one of our mother's in the faith. She has done so much to highlight the concerns and struggles of African Christians, and in particular the concerns of African Christian women. She is one of the most prophetic and Christ-like people I have ever met - gentle, yet just. Colin is a circuit Superintendent from the UK and was one of the co-chairs of the Oxford institute. I learned so much about the kind of calm leadership that is required to manage important processes, and people who sometimes imagine themselves to be more important than they are. He handled the institute with such dignity, respect, and care. It is with much thanks to him that we got such good work done over the 10 days in Oxford.

Now, of course, I need to get my head around what I shall be sharing in Malaysia at STM. The presentation and preparation for the Church conference is all but done. Most of the preparatory work for the seminary is also done, and so now it is just a matter of putting the final touches to it.

This is more or less what I am going to cover at STM:

Methodist Church in Southern Africa's response to oppression, violence and abuse before, during, and after apartheid. I will speak about:

- The effects of the missionaries, and English colonization, on Southern African church and society.
- The heresy of 'apartheid' and the effects of that ideology on Southern African society. I will chart the Church's response to this evil using the work from my paper for the Oxford institute together with papers written by Henk Pieterse, Ted Jennings, Joerg Rieger, and Ivan Abrahams, as well as some information supplied by Demetris Palos (this will probably be the Lion's share of the discussion).
- The challenges of reconstruction and development in post-apartheid Southern Africa (here I shall focus HIV / AIDS, economic development, crime and violence, racial reconciliation. In particular, I will address how the Church has sought to deal with these issues through its mission strategy, and through the training of laity and clergy).

Here's another memorable moment for me -

In this photograph are Aileen and Randy Maddox. Aileen was also one of the Institute organizers. Randy calls her his better two thirds! If that is the case she must be truly remarkable! I look forward to getting to know them much better in the future. Randy should be well known to most Methodists - he is a prominent Wesleyan scholar who now teaches at Duke Divinity school. My students will know him since his book "Rethinking Wesley's theology" is one of their prescribed books. By the way, for those who haven't yet read it, Peter Grassow (referred to above) has an oustanding chapter entitled "Wesley and revolution: A South African perspective" (Chapter 12). It is well worth reading.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Good times!

I have had three of the busiest weeks that I can remember in a while.

In these three weeks I have arranged a Conference, written and delivered an academic paper, arranged, and attended, our denomination's education meetings, written numerous reports, attended more 'regular' meetings than I remember, planned for the new term, been for surgery, preached and spoken on more than 10 occasions, marked (graded) over 100 papers, written a book review (Wes, you know how I do it ;-), taught regular classes, traveled to two other provinces, watched 'Amazing Grace' (it was great! I cried), and managed to eat, sleep, and still fetch Courtney from school when I was in town...

The pace has meant that I have not had even half a day, let alone a whole day, off in over a month. Today, however, I was free! It felt great, I lay in bed until after 8am, got up, watched a bit of TV, read a little, and then hopped on my Vespa for a ride! The weather was great, the Vespa is orange, and so is my leather jacket. What could possibly be better!?

Isn't she a beauty!? I always feel SO ALIVE when I am on this bike (perhaps that is because her breaks are so bad that I am constantly close to death!)

Megie, Courts, her friend Tamika, Liam and I went to Menlyn Park to play tenpin bowls! It was great!!! I am blessed with an incredibly patient and loving family! Thank you guys, I love you! They understand that I love to work, that I love God and want to make a difference, they understand that I don't sleep, and that not sleeping makes me grumpy, but they love me anyway.

Then we went and had some lunch at Mug and Bean.... This is what Liam thought of my conversation with him over lunch (we discussed Boethius' amendments to Augustine's traditional 'just war theory'):

Ha ha! Dad, you're a scream Dad! Don't make me laugh I may just... Ooopps too late. Have you got a clean nappy!?

Tonight we will be showing the Bono (from U2) interview with Bill Hybels in our evening service at Bryanston Methodist Church. It is set to be an incredible evening. I am looking forward to being there with my new friends from Cambridge who are visiting us for a while, Michael and Barry.

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