The recent news that Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature caught most people by surprise. It certainly did us and, it seems, Bob as well! We had previously intended to structure this letter around books, but in celebration of his achievements, we have instead selected some of his song titles that encapsulate different events in the last three months.
‘Like A Rolling Stone’
Our trip to the UK in July and August certainly rolled by quickly. In fact, it felt like a whirlwind at times with us sleeping in a total of 9 different beds in 27 days. However, it was wonderful to catch up with family and friends and we were encouraged and blessed by the fellowship we experienced from our supporting churches. After a busy year in South Africa we appreciated the opportunity to press the ‘off’ button and step back and view life from a distance. Since then, we have made some changes to help recalibrate the balance of our lives.
‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’
One of the things Lizzy has put on hold is beginning her Masters thesis in Education. This has been helped by the fact that the universities are currently in turmoil so getting to campus to register is difficult and her tutor is preoccupied. She hopes to sort this out in November. At the beginning of October her school held an Open Day and Lizzy set up a Roman Feast and regaled parents with how the Latin words for food relate to the English ones. Joseph and Zoë took a great deal of interest in the display, mainly encouraging Mummy to bring back as much food as possible and not to let the visitors eat it. We enjoyed a chicken ‘patina’ with ‘asparagus’ and ‘caseus’ on Saturday night, much to their delight. St John’s has had its challenges for Lizzy with a number of powerful voices dominating the narrative of what is good for the school and she has struggled to know where to engage or sense that her voice is still valued. At the same time, she has had some encouraging conversations around the gospel with one of her Latin groups, which have helped her to perservere.
While they won’t stay young forever, Joseph and Zoë certainly have plenty of energy and curiosity at the moment. They had a great time in the UK interacting with all the children they met. Zoë enjoyed Grandad Nesbitt’s farm and feeding Granny’s calves, while Joseph rose to the challenge of chess with Grandpa Wenham and Zoë helped Granny make jam (and eat it). They are currently learning about explorers, and Joseph is particularly excited by Christopher Columbus. We have successfully steered him clear of the Titanic, after his obsession with it last year. He is looking forward to his birthday at the end of October and a visit from his godmother. Both of them are captivated by the books of Patricia St. John and have selected The Tanglewood Secret, a beautiful telling of the gospel with the imagery of the Good Shepherd, as their favourite book.
Marley and Me
Ginger, however, has opted for a book, because we couldn’t find a Bob Dylan song that summed up his good news so aptly! On returning to the UK we found that a seven year old cocker spaniel named Marley was looking for a home. She even came for free. The gender of her literary namesake is misleading: this Marley is a girl and definitely not a Labrador. In fact, on her first night with us she nipped the black Labrador, Cocoa, (see last prayer letter) living on our property and sent her running off. This raised Ginger’s esteem for her no end as he was previously so scared of Cocoa he wouldn’t go into the garden without one of us. The spaniels are enjoying top dog status on the property again.
‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’
Interspersed among the blessings of church at St. John’s have also been marks of lethargy and sluggishness. While we were in the UK we reflected on our need to pray as the way of asking God for the lasting growth and change we want to see. We returned to find our minister, Ian, had been thinking along similar lines and so we had our first monthly prayer meeting in October. Although it was just the three of us, we were really encouraged. We trust that in time more will come and that it will be God’s means of bringing His word to life within His people.
‘Gotta Serve Somebody’
The final term of JBC finishes in November and most of the students have finished strong. Glenn has been paricular impressed by the four men graduating from the Soweto campus who have hardly missed an evening this year and grown enormously. As another group of diverse students head off in their various directions, we pray that they continue to serve the Lord with passion and faithfulness. Looking ahead, we are busying recruiting for 2017 and working on how to structure the course for acceditation. As for the new site in Soweto, the perimeter fence is now up and building work on the classrooms and offices will begin in January.
‘A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall’
After an average of a centimetre of rain per month for the last five months, we are really hoping that persistent and heavy rain will fall soon so that the devastating drought will break. At the same time though, plenty of ‘hard’ rain is falling down on South Africa. There are daily protests at the universities over rising fees. The currency has fallen as a result of politically motivated charges against the finance minister and further incidents of the President’s corruption continue to surface. With institutions under pressure, we really need strong and courageous leadership and God’s mercy.
Thank you for all your prayers and support. Please pray for:
- Lizzy’s faithful witness at school, paricularly to a spiritually hungry group of boys, and for trust in God in the ups and down of college life
- Joseph and Zoë to enjoy a deeper knowledge of the Good Shepherd’s love for them and for open conversations together as a family about the truths of the gospel
- For spiritual growth at St John’s Church through our prayers
- For the graduating JBC students to serve the Lord with passion and faithfulness and for the recruitment of a good group for next year
- For God’s mercy on South Africa in terms of persistent rain and strong and courageous leadership
With love and best wishes
Glenn, Lizzy, Joseph and Zoë