We travelled back to Scotland in June for a few weeks for a grandchildren binge and to see the rest of the family. We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent, especially with Freya and Sam and have learned that we, in fact know all the words to “The wheels on the Bus” and can still read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” without the book. It’s a pity our memory for more important things is sometimes not as sharp! On the return trip we returned to South Africa through Johannesburg and Lorna’s new passport was stamped at Immigration and we noticed later that the visa expiry date was wrong, but thought no more about it.
However, this has made us reach another landmark… slightly earlier than expected.
Our visa, which should have expired in mid-January 2020, now, following the mistake by the customs officer , expires on 1st December this year. We were trying to be disciplined and get our application for a new 3-year visa organised early in any event, but this forced a little more haste involving collation of documents, obtaining of medical certificates, x-rays, police checks, and biometrics. However, our application is now in and moving slowly through the Home Affairs machinery.
All of this sounds fairly routine but, of course, it raised lots of questions for us, resulting in prayerfully seeking confirmation that our future, at least in the medium term, remains here in Cape Town. It’s easy to look back on what has been accomplished, constantly frustrating though the journey has been, and talk ourselves into how important our roles here are. But the truth is that God could use anyone (beware). As a result, we know that any fruit we have seen here is His and no one else’s. Consequently, we have had to visit again the place of sacrifice and know that we are only here because God asked us to come and can therefore only stay out of that same obedience. For us, there is no doubt that call remains on our lives.
One of the main issues for us in the last few months has been the continuing spiral of violence within Sweet Home Farm. There have been further deaths during this time including of two Law Enforcement officers who were killed for their guns only a few weeks back. We heard just a couple of weeks ago that the person responsible, together with a leader of the gang in the community were killed in a shoot-out with Police, ironically on the same beach where Megan and Prince Harry were dancing with Khayelitsha community members just a few short hours later. Needless to say we still have no access to Sweet Home Farm.
However, in better news the programmes that NewDay United are delivering, and Lorna is involved in, continue to grow and develop. The current computer learning class will be finished in October a full month ahead of schedule. A team of our young people from Hluma attended a robotics competition and won Bronze. There were 19 teams from all over Cape Town and we were so encouraged as the team were the only ones from a township and were up against many other teams from much more privileged backgrounds and private schools.
The Work 4 A Living course is very challenging for people who attend but now many of the graduates have gained full time employment, some are the first people in their family to have a salaried job in generations. Part of the course is to learn about business and the students are each given a small amount of Rand to start a small business. Most of them have cooked or baked and we have enjoyed the fruit of their labour, tasting township cuisine. Our favourites have been ‘paapers’, which are the leftover bits of pastry from making samosas, deep fried and sprinkled with chilli flavoured salt; and ‘vetkoekes’, or ‘fat cakes’ in English, which are deep fried dough very similar to a doughnut filled with a savoury filling. Neither are very healthy but are mouth wateringly delicious. Obviously, we only bought these to encourage small business development…even if they are not very healthy.
After seemingly endless phone calls and emails to the Department of Health (DoH), lots of prayer for breakthrough and persistence, Lorna finally had an exciting meeting with senior representatives to discuss the potential of starting a clinic in Khanyisa . The meeting went exceptionally well as the DoH are trying to develop satellite clinics in areas where there is currently no clinic and are looking for partner organisations, also there is a new government health initiative to develop strategies for preventative health education. There has been some further developments and discussions since then and a visit has been organised on 15th October for a team of 15 to 20 people from the DoH to come and meet the NewDay Team at Khanyisa church. Streams in the desert. This is both exciting and terrifying in equal measure and has taken nearly 3 years to get to this point. However, we know God’s timing is always perfect.
Things have been more frustrating for Don. In the last blog ‘Hope in Dark Days’ we reported that two houses had been completed by UBU and members of the Mshini Wam community and that an instruction to build many more was expected. Unfortunately, an understanding with the community leadership and the fund-holding NGO of how communication should work in a more complicated larger scheme has taken longer to arrive at. We just have to respect that this process of reaching agreement is extremely important, and so we patiently wait.
Otherwise, things with UBU (Ubuhle Bakha Ubuhle) have been developing, including UBU now holding the Agrement Certificate (a pre-approval standard) for the sandbag technology we promote, and the number of projects in our ‘pipeline’ increasing all the time resulting of lots of design and costing exercises being carried out. Only next week, a classroom project for iKhalya Le Themba (Home of Hope), an education NGO based in Imazamo Yethu is due to start on site. The main problem we currently face is finding an affordable base location for UBU when our potential sites are so widely spread all over Cape Town, although we did manage to operate a successful temporary sandbag-sewing factory through a friend from our church.
Finally, we are jointly reviewing with donors, how to best use the funding originally raised to build a community hall in Sweet Home Farm. This is currently out of the question, but there are no shortage of needs that could be targeted.
Spring has at last sprung here, with the trees blossoming and the days warmer and longer, we have both been surprised by how we have struggled with the winter here as it is dark, cold and wet. Not nearly as bad as Scotland, but far less comfortable because houses are not insulated or have heating, and everything seems damp. Our one-room home was very difficult to keep warm as it is exposed on all sides, but we really love the location, open views and garden so plan to stay here for the next 3 years if our visa is extended. We have purchased an electric blanket, warm woolly slippers, onesies and a cat pillow!!! When we arrived back in Cape Town in January, we became foster parents for an animal charity, looking after cats that have been abandoned or injured and we thought this would be the perfect arrangement for us to have a pet without any of the long-term responsibility. This arrangement worked well for a couple of months as the charity are always in need of foster homes until they can find a permanent home for the animals. However, we are now officially “foster fails” as we were asked to care for Peaches, a very gentle but fat cat and just couldn’t let her go. The result is we have adopted her with the arrangement that the charity will take her back when we eventually leave South Africa. She is very happy to curl up on our laps so was an added heat source for the long winter nights.
But as things warm up, we look forward to busy days ahead…although we soon return to Scotland for Christmas, just in time for another winter.
‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.‘
Isaiah 43: 18-19 (NIV)