Saturday, April 26, 2014

26 April 2014

This week I am going to go somewhat afield from my normal documentary memo to discuss a topic that I think applies universally to Homo Sapiens. I say that because I have noticed this, I will call it a “quirk” for lack of a better term, in many groups or individuals I have spoken to. It seems to be that it causes a great confusion to the brain as if it is foreign and mystifying; a synonymous and yet diametrically opposite concept that, when addressed, cause a stupor of thought as if it had never been considered before; and yet, perhaps should have been an obvious consideration all along.
If one was to take a survey by asking people in all countries and in all walks of life if they believed in a supreme being, the majority would answer, yes. It is true that the definition of that Supreme Being would take on many descriptions and characteristics, but whatever it turned out to be, it would define some concept of divine power and omniscience supremacy. Ultimately, this being is believed to be there to protect and bless us; to reward us for our obedience to him(?)  
As we begin teaching our classes on the principle of self-reliance, I stated that self-reliance has to be considered in reference to the spiritual and temporal point of view. It is common, almost prevalent, that when it is asked what the term “self-reliance” pertains to, the response will be that it means to be temporally reliant. That is, to be able to provide for your own food, clothing, housing, etc. It is then pointed out that, for those who believe in a Supreme Being, that, if in fact we expect His help in being temporally self-reliant, we must also be spiritually self-reliant. In other words, our spiritual life has to be grounded in that Supreme Being.
 In our particular case, because we are Christians and believe that Christ is that Supreme Being that we worship, I ask if they (the class members) “believe in Jesus Christ?” If they do, I ask them to raise their hand to signify that they do. Invariably, the entire class will promptly raise their hand. They are immediately commended for their emphatic trust and affirmation and then they are asked if they “believe Him”? Emphasis is given to the term “believe Him.”  Again, if they can affirm that they believe Him, they are asked to signify by raising their hand. It is at this juncture that the mind, in many, becomes confused. A few hands are raised spontaneously and others are raised jerkily as the individual looks around at their neighbor to determine what they should do.
To push the point, one of whom raised their hand in affirmation is asked what it means to believe Christ? The responses will vary from a definition of who He is to what He has done. Some respond that there is no difference in the question, that they are the same; to believe in Christ is the same as to believe Him. Obviously, a small amount of semi-serious thought will illustrate that that is not true. However, I believe that the majority of Christians are at that cross roads and are indecisive as to which road to take. The sad thing is that they don’t consider it important.
Let me illustrate. I can believe that Christ was born into the world, was crucified and resurrected. That is an easy step if I believe what is recorded in the bible – the written foundation of Christianity. However, it is quite another thing to believe that He can, and will, do everything that is indicated in that same book. For instance, will He really open up the windows of heaven and pour out blessings upon me “that there will not be room enough to receive it”, as is promised if I pay tithing? Or, is paying tithing a waste of my money; a whimsical, unfounded hope that I will get something in return?  Will He really bless me with all the necessities of life if I keep the Sabbath Day holy? Is your response I hope so, or an affirmative, Yes? If it’s I hope so, then you don’t “believe” Him. There is hesitation and doubt instead of complete trust that He can, and will, do what He says He will do and therefore, the blessings attached to that law are withheld because of our lack of faith, (trust & confidence) in Him. The concept is easy so why is there so much hesitancy to try Him, to prove Him?
He has created the earth and everything in it; gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf; fed thousands by His word; caused bread to rain from heaven; moved mountains, calmed storms and turned stones into light. So why is it that when He says that He will help us to provide for all our needs and even become rich, if that is our righteous desire, we don’t trust that He will do it?
My point of dwelling on this point with the class members is that if they don’t have a firm conviction in them that He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will, then He cannot help them. Why? The answer is because they will not have the determination to go forward in complete faith which is required to succeed. The position that there is no opportunity to get a proper education, there is not an adequate supply of jobs, they have no skills, or that there are no resources available to allow them to be successful, are all false. No one was sent to this earth to fail but rather, to succeed. The Lord said, “.the earth is full, and there is enough, and to spare…” He has given us the whole earth and everything on it and in it for our use – we simply have to choose how we are going to use those resources to meet our needs and desires. Therefore, if we “believe” Him, and I do, the only thing stopping anyone from being temporally self-reliant is that they are not spiritually self-reliant or that they are too lazy to utilize the resources given to them. Hence, the choice is ours. We can either be self-reliant or we can remain on the dole system allowing others to provide for our needs. And, once the handouts begin coming forth, the dole becomes an entitlement.

This video illustrates the concept of "believe Him" as discussed above.

                PURE AND SIMPLE FAITH

Saturday, April 19, 2014

18 April 2014

A Day With the Elephants

This week’s memo will begin by spinning back our saga several months ago when my bride was enthralled/enamored with her rendezvous with Gizmo the giraffe. Oh how that gripping moment catapulted her to the summit of her dream; to be able to see and touch, and be nuzzled by this creature that has been one of her prized animals for years was beyond her expectation. But barely had she come down from that summit than a new one loomed up on the horizon. It was as a speck as it peaked over into view and then, almost as in a twinkling of the eye, it emerged as if it was always there. You wondered to yourself, where did it come from, this new-found quest? Is it real? Will it be a must to be conquered?  Well the answer is, it is as real as Gizmo and there will be no peace until it is brought to its knees – an elephant will be ridden or Africa will not see Angie depart.

So, before her leaps of determination overcame the laws of gravity, we filled up the gas tank and headed for Addo Elephant Park. They do not offer rides on these 5 ton beasts, however the motivation of taking her was to attempt to bring a sense of calmness to her until a rideable queen could be located. However, if such a thought was in anyone’s mind it was only in mine and I soon realized my mistake was not to have gotten several tranquilizer darts for her before we went. I am confident that there have never been so many admiring superlatives used in any one day on these lumbering, flat- footed, five toed pachyderms that somehow survived the dinosaur era.
Fortunately, almost immediately upon entering the park, we encountered the prize; not one, but three or four herds of them. They had just gotten done prettying themselves up for us by visiting their favorite beauty parlor called “Mud Hole Solon.” They passed within 20 feet of the car to show off their glistening bodies all dolled up for the modeling. There were all ages of these gals with their young all like-wise slicked up for the show. Even the very young, that appeared to be only a month or so old, and who could easily walk under their mother’s belly, were paraded in front of us. Noticeably, missing in the affair were the adult males. They were found in solitary seclusion, as if oblivious to the proceedings, gently and, with great agility, navigating their trunk as they gathered in a bite to eat. 
We have included a “few” of the pictures taken as we drove through Addo and admired the local residents.     

Water Buffalo
Wart Hogs - so ugly they're almost cute.

Happy Easter to all of you!!

Friday, April 11, 2014

11 April 2014


This has been an interesting week, a little too much traveling but it has been very productive. We traveled to Cape Town (about 10 hours driving from Port Elizabeth) to meet with a new Senior Couple and train them in the Self-Reliant Initiative by teaching several Career Workshops with them. In addition, we met with the ecclesiastical leaders to train them in their duties.
One of the workshops involved 3 missionaries who were going home in a short while. The idea is to help them consider the options of schooling and employment when they arrive home. For missionaries from North America it not as difficult a transition to go from daily teaching the gospel to going to school or working, as it is for black Africans who, for the most part, have not had the opportunity to receive but a moderate education or to have ever had a job. It seems foreign to the mind to imagine growing up and never having had a job. But stop to considerate if this was the case with you. You would not understand the concept of being punctual, having a specific task to accomplish and to be accountable for it, how to make sure that you have dependable transportation, or even the proper dress for the job. You would never have developed the fundamental skill of addressing and responding to a boss, how to conduct yourself in an interview, or even how to get an interview. Again these things seem natural to us who have been raised in an environment where these things are taught and fairly well understood, but for someone raised where shoes are a luxury, anything but ground-corn for a meal is unheard of, having a bed to lie on was reserved for the elite of the tribe, and washing your clothing with anything but a scrub board is, somehow, not proper, they are concepts that have not ever occupied the brain cells.
Hence, one of the purposes of our workshops is to help bridge the two cultures. On one hand, the African missionaries are anxious to go back home. However, on the other hand, they don’t want to leave this new comfortable life where they have a room to shelter them from the elements and an assurance of food each day. They have become accustom to riding in a car or riding a bicycle wherever they have to go. Prior to their mission, walking was done without a second thought about it even if it meant walking all day to get what they needed.
Somewhere along the spectrum of success, there are individuals who peer out of the townships into, for them, another world; a world that they want to participate in; one that holds for them an opportunity to rise above their poverty stricken environment and they are willing to sacrifice whatever is needed to acquire it. The question in their mind is what do I have to do? And how do I do it?  As in any culture, there are those who will never achieve their dream for a variety of reason. But there are also those whose minds are brilliant, searching, and hungry for knowledge and who are born with the determination to climb over any obstacle that gets in their way. When we have one of those in the workshop, we are immediately aware of them. You can detect their brilliance cloaked in a mind that has not been exposed to intelligence. They grasp at knowledge and potential quickly, understanding that the road to success has been exposed to them. Their thirst for knowledge, independence and, therefore, the ability to be self-reliant seems unable to be quenched. These moments are memorable, sparking within one the desire to search even harder for these, yet undiscovered, diamonds.
For virtually all missionaries, being released from their mission brings a host of mixed emotions. On the one hand, they are anxious to see and embrace family and friends; to just be back home. It is fascinating how home becomes so important to us even if it is much less than the picturesque image the term conjures up in our mind. Most often, it is where our roots are. It is where our childhood memories were generated. Life was good even if we did not realize it really wasn’t.
On the other hand, they, the missionaries, also face a time of reality check. The world they are about to return to is not always pleasant, forgiving and understanding, but is often very unforgiving, harsh and demanding. Therefore, it is part of our responsibility to help them be prepared to face this world head-on, not only to enter into it, but to enter into it with a determination to conquer it, to subdue it and carve out their niche. The earth is full with enough and to spare. It is only our inability to exercise our choices properly that keeps us from harvesting what is ours to have.  

This exemplifies one of the variety of tasks we take on. This particular one is making German Bierochs (bread dough rolled thin and filled with hamburger, which Africans call  mince, and cabbage) to serve at the Conference of 28 Missionaries.  They were a hit.