So – was the singing too slow at the meeting today? Or perhaps the meeting was noisy? Or should we bring up our unhappiness regarding the colour of the curtains, and maybe even throw in how dirty the carpet is; the taste of the wine; the quality of the bread? Did we remember our Lord today – or were the peripherals too much of a distraction?
We met with our Congolese brethren in
this afternoon. They rent ½ a lounge of an apartment/flat on the fourth floor of a fairly poor area of town. The lift doesn't work – so it's a 72 step climb. As you climb you are assailed by a variety of smells – washing hanging over balcony railings smelling like washing powder; rotting rubbish stuffed into different corners along a corridor; some porridge burning and the faint whiff of urine as you go up the stairway. Does anyone complain? No. We are only too grateful to have a fixed place to meet and share some fellowship. Pretoria
7 people were at the meeting today – Brethren Paul, Paderi and Djuma ; and 4 students – Selemane, Wabo, Pascal, Shelolo. All of them are battling with finding fixed employment. In fact only Paul has fixed work at the moment. Paderi's contract ends in January and Djuma is a pavement hairdresser – with plenty of competition. None of the students are employed. There were actually enough plastic chairs for everyone today – no-one needed to sit on the floor and try avoid the cockroaches. Lucas dealt with 2 questions – "Why do we only read of baptism in the Name of Jesus, and not in the name of the Father, son and Holy spirit?" and "What is the role of women in today's church?" There is only 1 single low wattage light bulb lighting the room – so it makes reading quite difficult – but every reference was looked up and studied. I can understand now why our Brethren and students want Bibles with white pages – and not light brown or any colour for that matter. The white at least reflects some of the minimal light available and the contrast of black and white makes it easier to read.
While Lucas led the studies I prepared the emblems for the breaking of bread. The cupboards in the small kitchen are bare – of crockery, cutlery and food. Oh except for a piece of something which had a fair number of cockroaches and ants scrambling all over it – but I didn't spend time investigating. I am not an insect person. There was not even a slice of bread in the flat. Fortunately there was a loaf in the car – so down 72 steps – and up 72 steps – and then to find a knife to slice the bread. Shelolo found a buttering knife somewhere which he rinsed under a most interesting tap. In actual fact – there is no tap. You open the handle – and then water spurts out of a pipe. Takes some aiming to wash what you need to wash. And to dry? Well – it was a play-off between Shelolo's shirt or the only cloth squashed right on the top of a kitchen unit. Not a very clean cloth. Quite dirty in fact. After a quick glance in my direction – displaying sheer horror I think – the dirty cloth won. Before hacking at the bread I gave the knife a quick wipe on the plastic bag over the bread praying that most of the germs would be removed. Quite an interesting challenge to cut a neat slice of bread with a smooth buttering knife. Try it one day when you have some time. With hind sight I should rather have just torn a chunk of bread out of the loaf. This is called living in poverty and in a flat occupied only by men. No easy amenities. Just subsisting . . . surviving. Oh how we need our Lord to return.
The next challenge – to sit with your feet just off the ground. Not a gym exercise. Rather to avoid giving the cockroaches – today there were only 3 – the opportunity of finding a place to crawl up your legs. I did ask Lucas to squash a fairly large one – and it did seem quite dead – but then just when we were going to leave it seemed to revive. Horrors. How I feel for our brethren. They sleep on mattresses on the floor and the cockroaches are a never-ending problem – and there is no money for insecticide. So what do you do? You live with it. You kill where you can; avoid what you can and then live with the rest. And then as the meeting progresses - you forget about it. Interesting discussion; a zeal for learning the truth; sharing life experiences; singing with gusto; remembering our Lord – and truly longing for his return – seeing the need, the desire and hope for a better life all around you.
Today we brought food parcels for our brethren and students – and isn't it a wonderful God moment when you have brought 7 parcels – and there are 7 persons present. Do we dare bring 20 parcels next time – and hope for the same 1:1 ratio?
So – just a practical tip if ever you should be visiting a poor area for a breaking of bread – please take a drying cloth, sliced bread, extra Bibles, wine, bottle of water for washing cups/plate. Oh – and the title of this piece – it was said in the prayer for the emblems. It just brought home to me how often we go to remember our Lord –and then even there lose focus so quickly. " Lord I am so sorry. My thoughts have strayed . . . yet again. I am a sinner – forgive me as I come to remember your son."
With abiding love from the Ignite2020 team in Kempton Park