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The Lovely Lemon Tree

Jun 05, 2012 -- 8:30am

I am till trying to get my self together after some beautiful time in South Africa.  One of my host families, the Kellys, live in a charming development that is flush with fruit trees and birds.  The plant life is not shabby, either.  In their yard stands a lovely lemon tree. Now, I have seen peach trees, apple trees, fig trees, pear trees, coconut trees, and pecan trees, but never a lemon tree.

            Of course, I know lemon trees exist!  As a child, my friends and I would take it upon ourselves to test the neighborhood fruit trees bounty to see if the fruit was ripe and sweet.  How many times on a July morning did I calculate how we were going go on the offensive to claim the prized fruit located at the tip-top of the tree where nether squirrel nor adolescent dare go?  Did we need a ladder?  Who could be trusted to hold the ladder steady and true while my Converse Chuck Taylor’s maintained a tenuous grip on the bark that would scrape my tender skin like a cheese grader should my balance become lost?

            For the fruit of the lemon tree, I wondered one morning, who would casually walk up to the tree and tug at the awaiting oval of sour treasure?  After all, there is no sweet victory in the lemon.  There are some who eat the lemon without contorting their cheeks and jaws.  Others, I imagine, would concoct the perfect martini only to garnish the glass with a freshly cut lemon peel from the fruit of the lovely lemon tree.  My roommate, Mac, found comfort in having a glass of lemon juice and water to help balance his biological system.  Yet, the lemon tree is not the giver of a casual treat, but rather the beacon of hope for the creative.

            See, the lemon tree reminded me about life.  There are many reasons for a person to use the lemon tree and its fruit, one must see the potential and value in this jewel of agriculture.

            First, lemon can add a tangy flavor to whatever one is cooking.  Fish and lemon comes to mind.  How about lemon flavoring in cake?  I adore pound cake and some cooks glaze the top of the pound cake with a little lemon drizzle.  How about lemon meringue pie?  Or, a little lemon in your barbeque sauce? 

            Secondly, lemons are also used in cleaning products.  That lemony smell signals to me that a home we have entered is ready for guest.  Notice how the advertising of many cleaning products tell us how the power of the lemon should tell us a house is clean? 

            Lastly, I finally figured out why the lemon tree and its fruit are such a jewel.  Our lives are truly like lemon trees.  Our lives are beautiful to look at with the ability to bear the fruit of our works and deeds; both good and bad.  Our lives are every changing and growing, but sometimes one’s life may shrink and become unrecognizable.  That is where a lemon comes in.  While it is sour to the taste, it still has enough vitamin C to keep us well.  The real beauty in the lemon tree is not how the raw fruit is consumed, but rather how the raw fruit is utilized. 

            The lovely lemon tree! 

Your Heart Is Transformed

May 01, 2012 -- 2:21am


South Africa’s history has led the Rainbow Nation to its present.  Once “One Man, One Vote” was achieved, the real work began.  After so many years of brutality and lies, there had to come a time of healing.  Or at the very least, a time for those White South Africans to align themselves with the rest of the nation in the belief that all people are equal and should be treated as such.  That is where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission can into existence.

 Nelson Mandela, the charismatic leader and first Black president, never speaks of the mental or physical torture that endured while he spent 27 years in prison for being, what the government called, a terrorist.  However, he did understand that there were countless stories that must be told by the people of South Africa.  The story of an event has three sides; the side, or view, of both parties involved and the truth.  The question is how close to the truth are each person’s view. 

The TRC was designed to allow victims and perpetrators of crimes against the people of South Africa to come and tell your story as a way of cleansing your soul.  This idea was supported because if some pathway of healing were not taken, then there would be the potential for revenge to take hold of people’s hearts.  If you research Steven Biko, a lesson in how the people who operate your government can cover-up wrongs to maintain their power over you will be taught. 

As a result of the TRC, many White South Africans were able to sympathize with what Blacks and Coloreds endured through the Apartheid.  From a Christian standpoint, hearts were transformed. 

See, television was not available in South Africa until the 1970’s.  Even then, television was controlled by the government.  This control of the flow of information meant that the government spin on the Black uprising led many Whites to believe that the Blacks and Coloreds were rebelling against a good and just society.  Trough the work of the TRC, we now know that to not be true. 

Members of our partner congregations are hosting our missionary team.  That means we are living with our partners and learning from them as they learn from us.  A missionary is charged with, first and foremost, of sharing the love of Jesus Christ.  One of my hosts on this trip has done just what Jesus asks us to do.  Glenys and Robin, who are White, met me when they journeyed to the US two years ago.  Both are very active in their church and preach the word whenever asked.  Robin shared with Mac and me his testimony on why he still worships at his church, St. John’s.

St. John’s has been in existence for over 100 years.  The congregation of the church was once 100% white.  Recently, the congregation of the church started to change and is now 80% Black and Colored.  White flight may even occur in GOD’s house.  The easiest thing for Robin to do would have been to find another White church to attend, if he was so inclined.  Robin was raised in St. John’s and has worked had in its service.  For a while, Robin drove 30 km each way to attend morning and evening services.  This had to take its toll on him.  Yet, Robin said GOD spoke to him and told him that St. John’s is where he should be.  Following GOD’s will is powerful.  So powerful, said Robin, that it led him in ways he had no ides existed. 

For instance, Robin said he was at a gathering in another land and the crowd was mixed.  Whites, Blacks and Coloreds were fellowshipping.  Robin said that everyone was hugging each other when they greeted one another except him.  Looking back on that fact, Robin says he was not taught how to do that.  Well, the Lord took care of that.  Robin is the biggest hugger I have ever seen in my life!   He has truly allowed GOD to transform his heart.


Peace and LOVE!!!!

The Rainbow Nation

Apr 30, 2012 -- 12:21am


The nickname for South Africa is the Rainbow Nation.  SA was nicknamed by Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Some of you may not know the history of segregation in South Africa.  A form of legal segregation call Apartheid was the law for several years.  Back in the early 1900’s, an effort to separate the different ethnic groups from each other was begun.  Through many laws passed by the Parliament, people of South Africa were split into, ultimately, two groups.  Whites were permitted to own land and vote.  Blacks and coloreds (Indians from India, Asians and others of mixed heritage) were not permitted to own land, hold office or vote.  In this extremely condensed version of events, the outcome was that in 1994, South Africa held its first election in which everyone could vote.

In the good old USA, we have taken the right to vote for granted.  On our visit to the Apartheid Museum, there were several striking displays.  One in particular was a photograph of the first Parliament that was elected after “One Man, One Vote” was adopted.  The sea of representatives was made up of every color imaginable.  How cool was that? 

The second display was a photograph of a polling station taken from the air.  The line wrapped for almost a mile in a circular fashion around the building.  How precious is your right to express your opinion at the ballot box?  Americans have become numb to the avalanche of political ads with each party trying to out American the other.  The amount of money raised on the campaigns could easily go to feeding the poor or protecting the elderly, or finding and sharing a cure for cancer or some other disease.  Yet, our system of democracy is a farce to what it is intended to be.

Instead of exporting true democracy around the world, Americans have given the world sagging pants and the “B” word.  At the hostel we stayed at in Capetown, there was this dude from Israel who was wearing his pants around the bottom of his buttocks.  Now, I understand teenagers. I was once one myself.  Remember when we wore long hair and T-shirts with sayings on them? “I’m with Stupid?”  “Kiss My Grits”

The world takes us seriously when we have an i-phone in our hands, but not when it comes to having good sense.   When the most recognizable people are athletes and entertainers, but not political figures, we are in trouble.  Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa recently called for his country to examine their democracy to see if it is addressing the needs of all of the country.  When we try this in America, people talk about how America is being taken away and how we are becoming Socialists. 

How about doing your talking at the ballot box?  Stop yapping about what is not right until you go vote?  How about going further than that?  How about taking someone with you to vote?  That, however, seems too much like right.

I asked a 14 year-old on our mission trip if she thought being discriminated against was fair and what would she do about it.  The stunned look on her face told me that we have a long way to go as a country to live up to the hype we like to sell to the world.

Travelling Around Johannesburg

Apr 29, 2012 -- 4:50pm


I received a message on Facebook asking for pictures of South Africa.  Where there not enough photos on my page to suit their fancy?  Perhaps, the photos did not depict the stereotypical images some of us have of Africa?  For the uninformed, please allow me to educate you.

            South Africa is one of the world’s largest economies and the largest economy on the continent.  The Dutch played a major role in the development of the country with the founding of Capetown.  European tradesmen were looking for a route to the East.  The beauty and ease of approach made the farthest most Southwestern part of the continent attractive to explorers.  There are several stories one may find out about from an encyclopedia (What’s that?) or Google.

            The Rainbow Nation was the host country for the World Cup of Soccer/Football in 2010, the first time the event was ever held on the continent.  As with the Olympic Games, large investments were made in the infrastructure of the country.  Soccer stadiums, hotels, bus and train lines and roadways were just a few of the benefits added to the landscape that are now enjoyed by the citizens.

            My photos depict a fast-growing nation with a skyline that mimics any found in America.  The jungle, or bush, does not reside in the city or townships.  Please see my Facebook page in future days if you want to see the poverty that exists.  Do people want to see poverty?  Will that make you feel better about your station in life?  Go around the United States for that.  In South Africa, many have a goal of lifting all the boats from poverty by assuring everyone has a fair chance at success in life. 

            In travelling around, we are treated to super highways, as well as, roads congested as any you may find in America.  If you should choose to drive in South Africa, please obey the speed limit.  There are traffic cameras located throughout the city and the police will chase you down.  Tickets are still cheap, as my boy Paul will tell you.  Speeding is about a $20 fine.  There is not a penalty for accumulation of too many tickets, so Paul pays for about 2 tickets per month.

            Which reminds me.  The national currency is the Rand.  7.4 Rand equal 1 dollar.  The buying power is significant, and merchants do take dollars like in most parts of the world.  As Chris reminded me, taking care of your passport is paramount.  You cannot leave the country or get into the United States without a passport.  If you are a citizen of the United States, please obtain a passport.  Never mind a driver’s license, a passport is the way to go.  A joy in life for me is showing my passport to someone in America and hearing them say, “Ain’t you got a Driver’s License?”

            I then say, “No. Why? That proves who I am and where I belong.”

            Folks just lose their cotton-picking minds!

Lost In Jo’burg

Apr 27, 2012 -- 3:31pm


Travelling in another country can be very stressful.  Heavy bags, passports, trying to comprehend a language not your own and exchanging currency all lend to elevated heart rates and tense moments.  We were quite exhausted coming from Capetown as we were so involved with taking in every good tourist attraction and buying African art that tempers got a little short.  Understandable, especially when a person battles jetlag and decides to stay up way past their bedtime. 

 We were to continue our South African mission in Jo’burg.  We wanted to take in as much as possible in Capetown, so our flight was scheduled for an early evening departure, which would put us on the ground about 10:30pm.  The cool part was being greeted by our driver with a clipboard that displayed “North Alabama”.  I might as well have been a Hollywood star.  Incidentally,  Denzell Washington’s movie, “Safe House’ was filmed in Capetown.  Tom Cruise has a house there, as well. 

 We loaded up the “kombi”, SA for a van, and headed out to our overnight destination.  If something is too good to be true, it probably is not.  The driver and his partner had driving directions, but could not follow them.  Had not these brothers heard of a GPS?  Mapquest?  We were lost on the interstate, the M2.  Of course the driver called someone to get him to the proper exit.  Once on the exit, the challenge was now which direction to go.  South Africa is trying to implement the automatic pay toll system.  Your vehicle would have a tag in the windshield, which would be detected and then deduct from your account the proper toll amount.  The system is under court challenge because many people feel that it is a way of segregating the rich from the poor.  More on those issues to come.

The Lost Driver and Robin now were looking for someone to ask for help. The women in the kombi were happy he stopped at a gas station.  Ladies, the gas station is not always the best place to stop.  The gas station attendants pointed us to the right area, but not to our destination.  That was left to the next gas station we went to.  Only, they could not help us either.  Where is the cell phone my friends gave us?  Let us call our American contact for help.  Sorry, no answer and no call back, either.  A call was placed and answered by one of our SA contacts and my friend.  He tried his best to help the driver to no avail, either.  Crap!!

Just then, a police car rolled in front of our path.  I have never chased a police car before. Usually, I am running from them, just kidding!  GOD once again intervened in a dilemma and the officers got us to our destination. 

Why did Meta World Peace get suspended?  I know how he felt right before that elbow flew.


            Peace and Love!!

Christian Worship in South Africa

Apr 25, 2012 -- 11:12am


 In America, we like to think that the praise and worship that goes on in our Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Church of Christ etc. Churches is energized.  Americans will compare hymn singing churches with the “new” gospel churches and claim one is better than the other.  Well, our team was treated to a three hour worship service that, please excuse the phrase, kicked but!  Not only was the spirit in the church, the congregation was giving the Holy Spirit lessons in how to encourage us Americans how to let loose.

 The service started with the pastor, Rev. Faleni, introducing the missionaries from North Alabama and then instructing the choir to lead us in song.  Even though we could not understand Xhosa (one of the 11 lamguages spoken in South Africa), we could feel what they were singing.  The church did not have a piano, so the hymns were accompanied by hand clapping, tamborine shaking, bell ringing, djembe beating and pum pum beating.  What are djembes and pum pums?  Djembes are drums.  Pum pums are rectangular pillows stuffed with various scrap materials covered in pleather that has a resonance as to provide a bass drum fell to a song.

When the instruments interact witht the voices, the spirit causes all types of movement.  We then saw dance steps that the average person may think belong in a nightclub, but the steps were the Christian soldiers marching along.  Circles of worshipers were rotating throughout the sanctuary. 

 After an opening hymn, Brother McAlpine then led us in prayer.  Another hymn was offered, then the announcements of the day were given.  After the announcements came the scripture reading.  Mark 16:1-5 was read by the pastor. 

 After the scripture, the pastor intrduced me as the giver of the sermon and then we listened to a hymn of medidation and a reciting of the Nicene Creed.  This was suddenly becoming a worship service, spoken in Xhosa and English, that was familiar to us missionaries.

My heart was beating hard as my soul was being opened and connected to GOD as I was mentally preparing to deliver the morning message.  The scripture that I was led to preach from was Habakkuh 2:1-4.  This verse had been on my heart for the last two years when my agent, Ingrid, told me to write down my life vision so all could read it.

 More about my sermon tomorrow. 

 Peace and Love!!

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