Over the last few days I have experienced some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life. Along with these experiences I have also had many great times of solitude, and in community with my spiritual brothers from South Africa. This combination of events has made this week one of the most memorable of this trip so far. A lot has occurred over the past few days that will not be forgotten. Tomorrow we depart from Cape Town to fly over to Durban area on the eastern coast of South Africa. It is hard to believe that this magnificent city has been my home for the last month. One day I will return.
This past Tuesday was Courtney’s birthday. The celebration began right away with his three spiritual sons from Durban singing happy birthday to him in Zulu at midnight. This was just the start of an incredible day. The morning was cold and quiet. Each day I have been waking up early so that I can go out and enjoy the beauty of the ocean that is a short walk from my house. This particular morning I decided to run instead of my usual walk. It is extremely difficult to run through the sand, straight into the wind. This was probably not the best place to start running again. Within minutes my legs were tired and I was breathing heavily. I did not stop. The air was cold, my ears grew numb, my throat aching. The run lasted about 25 minutes and then I decided to walk back. Even though my body was worn out I felt refreshed by the physical challenge.
Following this we ate another wonderful breakfast (The cooking here is just as delightful as it has been everywhere else. This is the main reason I decided to run). Soon after eating we discussed Matthew 6:19-24, a portion of the Sermon on the Mount that many Christians have trouble with today, especially in the US. It was a powerful time together, exactly what we needed to start our day. We talked about how whatever we focus our minds on is what we will talk about, do, and love. I thought about this most of the day as we went from place to place.
Our first stop was Cape Point. The drive was wonderful, filled with laughter, beautiful landscapes, and singing along to some Bethel College Chapel Band CDs that Courtney had given to our host Jeremy Biegnaar. As we reached our destination we all were excited for what we were about to see. We walked along the Cape, looking over steep cliffs down to the rough waters of the Atlantic. The wind was cool, but refreshing. Never have I been to such a place as Cape Point. I could have spent hours there, but we had to keep moving because there was a special dinner planned for the birthday boy.
We continued along the coast for most of the trip. We stopped at a place called Boulder beach where we saw a colony of South African penguins, not found anywhere else in the world. They were hilarious. We watched their antics for a while then we continued to Simon’s Town where we walked around the docks taking in the fresh ocean air. The stops were quick but it was nice to take in a lot of Cape Town in a few hours. In the mid afternoon we headed back to Steenburg to celebrate the 58th birthday of Courtney Richards (Pops/Dad/Pastor/Brother/etc).
When we arrived at our recent home we discovered a long table set for the feast, chicken sizzling on the grill, and lots of familiar faces. The guests included Pastor Clive, Pastor Alistair, Chris, Eugene, Jeremy, and, the biggest surprise, Sinebhongo from Vodocom. Seeing Sinebhongo at the party especially surprised Courtney. I cannot express the joy and laughter that took place at the Biegnaar home that afternoon. Our sides ached, tears in our eyes, throats sore. Courtney and Clive had us rolling as they picked on each other, especially when Buhle got involved. It was wonderful to see father, son, and friends joking with each other as if they had known each other all of their lives. This is the power of mentoring and discipling others. We sang the birthday song in four languages, ate some cake, and just spent time with one another until it was time to head back to our new home. The friendships that have been developed over these past weeks will last a long time, and will continue to grow over the years to come.
Yesterday was another day of exploration. I had another brilliant morning at the beach. The sunrise was stunning, the most beautiful I had witnessed yet. I stood high on a rock near the water and read some Sabbath poems by Wendell Berry. What a great way to begin every morning.
Our first stop of the day was Table Mountain. We took a cable car up to the top of the mountain and spent some time walking around, seeing the surrounding landscapes on every side of the mountain. We saw the city, Robben Island, the eastern mountains of Stellenbosch, Cape Point, and the vast Atlantic Ocean. Our time was short again, and we headed back down to eat a quick lunch and then head to Kirstenbosch gardens. This was the third time that we went there, but each time it was more beautiful.
This time at the garden the flowers were brighter and more plentiful. The colors were unbelievable. If you recall, a few weeks ago I found myself climbing up the mountain in a rush to reach the top, but in the end was not successful. When I arrived this time I was set on taking on the mountain again. I went off on my own to accomplish this task. I had to make it up Skeleton Gorge. The path was steep and rugged. The steps, which were made of rocks and wood, were high, some over two feet tall. I climbed up ladders, and even part of the gorge, stumbling over rocks and roots. I was sweating profusely, my hat and back drenched. Green was everywhere, in the trees, on the rocks, scattered all along the ground. The water rushing down the mountainside was cool and fresh. My muscles were straining as I marched up the side of the mountain.
At one point the trees began to thin out and I found myself walking in the open air. The rocky ground turned to sand, similar to being on a dune or beach. This confused me at first, but then a sensation of excitement took over. I began to run through the sand with a ridiculous smile on my face. It is possible that I even skipped a little, but who’s to say. The reason I was so overjoyed was because I knew that this sandy path must be leading to some sort of body of water. Sure enough, after rushing through the trees and sand I came upon a lake. The mountain rose up on either side and I was blinded by the reflection of the sun on the still water. I walked to the edge of the lake taking in deep breaths. I stretched out my arms and took it all in. It all felt like a strange dream. There was no one else around as I stood on this beach up in the mountains. I could have explored for hours, but again I found that I had run out of time and had to run down the mountain to meet up with my friends.
I ran down, sometimes slipping on rocks, even falling a few times. My legs were tired but my run from the other day made the descent slightly easier than the first time. I reached the garden much faster than I anticipated so I eased up my pace and enjoyed the glorious flowers. As I strolled people stared. I had forgotten that I was drenched in sweat; face red, scruffy face, dirt-covered feet. I just smiled and continued on my way. There were not many young lovers on this day, but elderly ones. And no, I did not discover any fair maidens, and I’m quite sure they would have pushed me aside because of my stench and appearance. Finally I reached the group and they were excited to see me. I forgot to tell them where I was going so they wanted to hear my story. They commented on my wearied form and we laughed as I told them what I had just done.
These past few days have been so astonishing. Friendships have grown and much has been learned. Today is our last day at the Team House, and we will spend much of our time in reflection and conversation. I’m not sure what my next living situation looks like so I’m not too sure how often I will be able to upload pictures and post to the blog. I will do my best to stay in touch. Thank you again for all you have done to allow me to travel around Africa, and all that you are still doing to encourage me as I move from place to place. I greatly appreciate each of you. Feel welcome to write questions or comments as you wish. I pray that you all have a blessed day.