Sunday, December 28, 2014

28 December 2014


It is 7:00 in the morning the day after Christmas, 2014 and we are beginning our accent up Lions Head Peak located in Cape Town, SA. The weather promises to be clear, cool and sunny. All of those elements were important to us as we wanted to get some good photographs of the area from the summit.
Since we have moved to Cape Town, we have made us our own “Bucket List” of things we want to do prior to leaving South Africa. One of those was climbing Lions Head Peak. I frankly was quite surprised when Angie agreed to undertake the task, not being particularly enamored with such events and the fact that there is no shopping mall nor restaurant at its summit. However, on a clear day there is a spectacular view of Cape Town and the surrounding shipyard industry from there.
The trail at the beginning is wide, smooth and fairly gentle,(as seen in the photo) about a 6% grade.

As one progresses up the trail it progressively gets steeper and narrower until the last 25% of the hike you are climbing ladders, climbing over boulders and scaling up vertical rock with only the rock to grab onto. You start to think you are being sucked into something you are not prepared for, but when you look up and see the summit, you say to yourself, “I have come this far and I am not turning back now.”
Angie was a trooper and her only utterance that may be conceived as negative was, “I am going to hate going down.” You can get her to climb a ladder but getting her to come down is the challenge. At one point, she gave a victory salute which was somewhat premature as we had not gotten to the steepest part yet.

It gets worse from here!!!
Not far from that point on the trail, we came to a metal ladder anchored in the rock wall to assist us in getting up the cliff. And then the trail got extremely narrow which required you to really suck it in to allow anyone going down to pass by you. The vertical cliff on the off side was about 200 feet high and I was amazed that there was no safety rail as would have been required in the States. But I was glad it was absent as it added to the roughness aspect of the trail. (Of course, if you want to make this hike to have any semblance of a wilderness venture, you had to really concentrate to keep that mental picture as this was the holiday season and there were an abundance of others taking their scenic hike as well.)
We are on the summit and the view is great although obstructed somewhat by haze. Photos of the surrounding area were hampered as there were enough clouds to cast shadows and prevent bright pictures to be taken.

Downtown Cape Town from Lions Head

Scenic views from Lions Head

 However, none of this dampened Angie’s enthusiasm. She had reached the top and she was excited. On the highest point on the summit of 669 meters (2007’), was a rock pillar about 5 feet tall. I encouraged Angie to get on top it for a picture.
YIKES! I can't believe I did it!!

 Again, getting her up on the rock was the easy part; I thought for a moment I would have to call in the fire department’s rescue team.

 The decent took its toll on our legs and we were both glad that we started as early as we did as it was starting to get warm. As we reached the trail head and looked across the valley at Table Mountain, which is twice as high as Lions Head and a lot steeper, we agreed that we would take the cable car when that item on our list is undertaken.  

Post Script:  Yes, we actually made it down safely.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

19 December 2014


This is the Christmas season of 2014 and we are spending our second Christmas in Cape Town South Africa; Last year we were in Port Elizabeth at this time. The weather in South Africa, at this time of the year, is warm - 75 – 85 degrees. The day-time temperatures have been on the increase for the last 6 weeks and with the warming of the days have also come the spring foliage and blossoms that beautify the landscape. Hence, for individuals that are from Montana who are accustomed to a reverse temperature trend as Christmas time draws near, it is hard to “feel” like Christmas is next week. However, there is another element prevalent at this time of the year here in South Africa that, if you are not careful, will subdue the Christmas spirit as well and that is the entire country goes on a month long “holiday”. This is vacation time for them. Many businesses go into hibernation mode, schools are shut down, and people seem to evaporate and not reappear until mid-January. Most stores with the exception of the big malls, have very little, if any, Christmas decorations or music. Very rarely is there a house with lights and external decorations. Therefore, for someone used to lights, festivities and a general atmosphere of Christmas all about, it just does not feel like Christmas.

However, as I have reflected on these feelings concerning Christmas it has made me realize once more that Christmas is not about what is going on in the world around you but what is going on inside your heart and mind. A few moments of reflecting on why we celebrate Christmas should quickly revitalize our joy and gratitude of the gift that is given to each of us and keep Christmas alive in us.

I recently read of a survey that was done with a group of about one thousand youth. They were asked to react with the first thought that came into their minds after they were given a word. The word was "Christmas." Ninety-four per cent of them, of nearly a thousand teen-agers, responded with words such as "presents," "snow," "reindeer," "lights," "trees," "Santa Claus"-94 per cent of them. Two per cent responded with irrelevancies. One boy, for instance, responded with "broken leg." That had been his experience for Christmas the year before.  But there were only 4 per cent, just 4 per cent, who responded with words such as "Bethlehem," "Christmas carol," "wise men," "shepherds," or "Christ," or any word that might even remotely be connected with the real story of Christmas.

It is not my intent to review the whole birth of Christ story to refresh our minds as to the real meaning of Christmas. However, there are many stories that could be told that illustrate the spirit of Christmas. The one that best illustrates for me what should be in our hearts and minds, not only at Christmas time but throughout the year, is the story of the “Christmas Guest”. As you read it, let your mind focus on those you can help to have a brighter day and then reach out to them.

The Christmas Guest

It happened one day at the year's white end,
Two neighbors called on an old-time friend
And they found his shop so meager and mean,
Made gay with a thousand boughs of green,
And Conrad was sitting with face a-shine
When he suddenly stopped as he stitched a twine
And said, "Old friends, at dawn today,
When the cock was crowing the night away,
The Lord appeared in a dream to me
And said, 'I am coming your guest to be'.
So I've been busy with feet astir,
Strewing my shop with branches of fir,
The table is spread and the kettle is shined
And over the rafters the holly is twined,
And now I will wait for my Lord to appear
And listen closely so I will hear
His step as He nears my humble place,
And I open the door and look in His face. . ."
So his friends went home and left Conrad alone,
For this was the happiest day he had known,
For, long since, his family had passed away
And Conrad has spent a sad Christmas Day.
But he knew with the Lord as his Christmas guest
This Christmas would be the dearest and best,
And he listened with only joy in his heart.
And with every sound he would rise with a start
And look for the Lord to be standing there
In answer to his earnest prayer
So he ran to the window after hearing a sound,
But all that he saw on the snow-covered ground
Was a shabby beggar whose shoes were torn
And all of his clothes were ragged and worn.
So Conrad was touched and went to the door
And he said, "Your feet must be frozen and sore,
And I have some shoes in my shop for you
And a coat that will keep you warmer, too."
So with grateful heart the man went away,
But as Conrad noticed the time of day
He wondered what made the dear Lord so late
And how much longer he'd have to wait,
When he heard a knock and ran to the door,
But it was only a stranger once more,
A bent, old crone with a shawl of black,
A bundle of faggots piled on her back.
She asked for only a place to rest,
But that was reserved for Conrad's Great Guest.
But her voice seemed to plead, "Don't send me away
Let me rest awhile on Christmas day."
So Conrad brewed her a steaming cup
And told her to sit at the table and sip.
But after she left he was filled with dismay
For he saw that the hours were passing away
And the Lord had not come as He said He would,
And Conrad felt sure he had misunderstood.
When out of the stillness he heard a cry,
"Please help me and tell me where am I."
So again he opened his friendly door
And stood disappointed as twice before,
It was only a child who had wandered away
And was lost from her family on Christmas Day. .
Again Conrad's heart was heavy and sad,
But he knew he should make this little child glad,
So he called her in and wiped her tears
And quieted her childish fears.
Then he led her back to her home once more
But as he entered his own darkened door,
He knew that the Lord was not coming today
For the hours of Christmas had passed away.
So he went to his room and knelt down to pray
And he said, "Dear Lord, why did you delay,
What kept You from coming to call on me,
For I wanted so much Your face to see. . ."
When soft in the silence a voice he heard,
"Lift up your head for I kept My word--
Three times My shadow crossed your floor--
Three times I came to your lonely door--
For I was the beggar with bruised, cold feet,
I was the woman you gave to eat,
And I was the child on the homeless street."
Helen Steiner Rice

May each of you have a Merry Christmas as you reflect on the eternal gift that is given to each of us because of the birth and atonement of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.

Lee & Angie

Thursday, December 11, 2014

12 December 2014


Keeping watch

After 16 months of serving our mission in Port Elizabeth (called Eastern Cape), we were asked to move to Cape Town(Western Cape) to serve in the Mission Office until our departure for home. It was not anything we requested or desired but there was a part of us that was desirous to spend some time in this part of South Africa before we left which helped to make the transition more palatable. There are always pros and cons to any undertaking in our lives. The pros we use to enrich our lives and the cons we can learn how to adapt to them so that they too become a positive influence. 
In the Spring, these trees have profuse blossoms.

Our new assignment requires us to work in the office most of the time but there are also many things that need to be done outside of the office which allows us to see the city and countryside. The couple that we replaced in the office left a month before we arrived so that there was no chance to get trained on what and how they did things. Hence, a lot of time is spent trying to piece together what needs to be done – kind of like reinventing the wheel. Hopefully the reinvented wheel is more advantageous than the old one. I am thankful that Angie is able to work in the office also as she is my much needed techy when it comes to computer programs. It is not that she has a great deal of training with the programs but the Lord has blessed her with a lot more patience to wrestle with them until she gets them to work than I do.
One of our first assignments was to inspect some of the missionary flats in the area. Missionaries come from all walks of life. Some have been raised by mothers who taught them how to cook and keep their surroundings clean and neat while others have apparently had no such training; if they did, somehow it has all gotten deleted, erased or buried so far in the recesses of the brain as to be irretrievable. As a consequence, one has to demonstrate how and then stand back and monitor their application of the training (at times the process requires multiple cycles). Some of the elders with good mechanical aptitudes allows them to figure out solutions to fairly routine tasks of everyday life while others struggle. For example, the other day I got a call from an elder who said they needed and wanted me to bring them a clamp. I asked, “What do you need the clamp for?” “The washing machine leaks”, was his response. “Where does it leak? Is it a hose that is leaking and if so, where is it located? How big a clamp do you need?”, I asked. “I don’t know”, he said. “If you don’t know, how do you know that you need a clamp?” “I don’t, I just thought I might” he said.  This sort of dialogue continued for a while longer until I finally got out of him that they had laid the washing machine on its side before it started to leak. An inspection of the machine showed that they had broken a seal in the process which allowed water to run out of the drum. All of this as a result of asking for a “clamp”.  However, these kinds of challenges spice up ones day and cause you to wonder with anticipation what tomorrow might bring.
As we have had an opportunity to travel around Cape Town, we have taken a few scenic pictures to illustrate the beauty that is here. There is much more to see which we will share with you later as we discover it. It really is a picturesque place to be.
Canal Walk - Angie's tranquilizer
  Cape Town is also the home of a very large shopping mall which erases many, many, many of the “cons” for Angie. (Except I hardly ever get to go there.)

Table Mountain

Carry me Mom!!

Fish Hoek Bay

Miniature Light House

Boats in Simon Town Harbor

Retired Submarine in Back Ground

Home of The Best Fish & Chips in SA