Monday, April 26, 2010

My Big Dream is to Live in a Tool Shed

In Ocean View there is a lot of talk about “Wendy Houses.”

For a long time I thought people were saying “Windy House” – since it looks like the wind could have its way with this house – although I thought “house” was a big stretch.

This week I learned it’s a WENDY House – named after Wendy in Peter Pan.

Apparently there is some part of the original story where Wendy is injured after arriving in Neverland and Peter Pan builds a small house around her where she had fallen.

Is it me – or does no one else remember this from the story? At least no one else that relies on Disney not to edit out crucial cultural axioms in their movie cartoons?

Essentially it’s a play house... a wooden shed. In the US – these are usually found in the back yard – accompanied by happy children (who most likely have also seen the cruelly deficient version of Peter Pan and have no idea they have their very own Wendy House) or garden tools (who remain mute on this point).

In the “haves” part of Cape Town – as in the US - these are pre-fabricated timber sheds which are delivered by a small truck and erected in the back yard as either a play area for children or tool shed.

For the “have nots” in Ocean View – these are luxury homes they could only hope to afford in another lifetime. In short, their big dream is to live in a tool shed.

I’ve come to learn a smaller Wendy House is aound $400 and a larger one is closer to $1,000. Sometimes they come with electricity and a few rooms.

Housing is the big deal in Ocean View.

A very big deal.

Years ago the government built “flats” (apartments that look like the “projects” in an urban US city) and these go for a mere $40 a month (or $6 if you prove you can’t afford that). Most people in Ocean View could afford one of these flats. The problem is not the rent – it’s the WAITING LIST. People have been waiting YEARS (some up to 10 years) for one of these flats. There are none available. This is why adult children, with their 3-4 children, never leave “home.” There is simply no place to go.

The women I know in Ocean View live in horrible situations with alcoholic, abusive parents who don’t want them there.

They would give anything for a Wendy House...a place to call their own. They want jobs – to pay for the Wendy House – but these are difficult to find.

They want a life – just like you and I - but forget about the vacations and new clothes and nice cars – they simply want with a job that pays the bills, food on the table every day (not every other day) and place they can call their own.

They want to fly.

From the 1953 Disney Movie….

Wendy: But, Peter, how do we get to Never Land?
Peter Pan: Fly, of course.
Wendy: Fly?
Peter Pan: It's easy! All you have to do is to... is to... is to... Ha! That's funny.
Wendy: What's the matter? Don't you know?
Peter Pan: Oh, sure. It's... It's just that I never thought about it before. Say, that's it! You think of a wonderful thought.
Wendy: I'll think of a mermaid lagoon, underneath a magic moon.
John: I'll think I'm in a pirate's cave.
Michael: I think I'll be an Indian brave.
Peter Pan: Now everybody try.
Wendy, John, Michael, Peter Pan: One, two, three!
Wendy, John, Michael: We can fly! We can fly! We can fly!
[the children all fall to the ground]
Peter Pan: This won't do. What's the matter with you? All it takes is faith and trust. Oh! And something I forgot.
Peter Pan: Dust!
Wendy, John: Dust?
Michael: Dust?
Peter Pan: Yep, just a little bit of pixie dust.
Peter Pan: Now, think of the happiest things. It's the same as having wings.

Friday, April 9, 2010

God Likes a Big Party

I love a party. I really do. Colors, themes, food, and FUN are a must. Festivity is everything and the more people the better!

This year for Emme’s second birthday we had a "tea and cakes" party for her and invited EVERYONE.

On the day of her party, as I looked around the café – un upper room filled with about 50 people – I saw all walks of life:

- business owner,
- doctor,
- nurse,
- teacher,
- aid worker,
- pastor,
- professional soccer player,
- counselor,
- house keeper,
- adoption specialist,
- artist,
- student,
- IT manager,
- mother,

...and people from Ocean View (a township) where work is hard to find and lives are desperate.

All had gathered to celebrate two years of life for our sweet little girl with Down syndrome.

I asked Colleen, one of my friends from Ocean View, “Have you ever been here before?”

She said, “No, I used to work at the restaurant across the street and often saw this café.”

Her friend Claudine piped in and said, “It’s nice to finally be inside a place we’ve only looked at and always wanted to go in.”

I felt so privileged to have my new friends there and I was reminded…the Kingdom of God is a party.'s true! God likes big parties.

Claudine, Julie and Emme

Colleen, Julie and Emme

Here are the words of Tony Campolo – who wrote a book on this topic (The Kingdom of God is a Party).

According to Jewish law (Deuteronomy 14), every year all Jewish families came to Jerusalem. They brought with them one-tenth of all the money they earned that past year. Can you imagine, one-tenth of the gross national product of the entire nation was gathered on Mount Zion! What were they going to do with all of that money? Were they going to feed the poor, clothe the naked? Were they going to build an educational extension onto the temple? No, none of these things.

One-tenth of all the wealth earned in Israel in the past year was brought to Jerusalem and (you're going to love this) it was blown on a party! That's right. A party. It must have been the most awesome party you could imagine. Everybody was invited — the lame, the blind, the halt, people who didn't have any means of income, the widows, the orphans. Everybody was there. There was singing, dancing and a lot of food.

The scriptures say, "Food and drink is ordered." It was a blow-out party to end all blow-out parties. No wonder the children of Israel said, "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord." Who wouldn't want to go to church if church was a party?

God wants all of us to know what kind of God He is. He is a God who loves parties.

When Jesus came on the scene, it was the same way. They asked Jesus point blank, "Tell us, what is the kingdom of God really like? What is this kingdom of God really all about?" Jesus' answer was, "The kingdom of God is like unto a wedding reception." A wedding reception? That's right.

He was Jewish, which is pretty close to being Italian. I don't know if you have ever been to an Italian wedding reception. If you have, you know of what I speak. They bring on the food. The father usually mortgages the house, takes all the money out of the bank, and throws this banquet to end all banquets and feasts. There is singing, there is dancing and there is celebration. It's a wild time.

Have you ever been to an Italian funeral? The only difference between an Italian funeral and an Italian wedding is that there is one less person at the Italian funeral. We are people who are into celebration. We are into joy; we are into partying.

I really feel that’s true. I want a party lifestyle – God’s joy, grace, generosity, hope – extended to all I meet. This is why the Kingdom is so exciting.

Religion is empty, hard, and meaningless. Nobody wants my religion.

People want a God who sees them and knows them…a God who loves them enough to invite them to His Party.

See "Happy Birthday Song to Emme" video:

More Party Photos:

Friday, April 2, 2010

7 Strange Things We Say….

Here a few things we thought we'd never say...

#1. Where did you put the internet? (You wouldn’t think it would be easy to misplace the Internet on a daily basis – but our internet connection is a little “flash drive” thingy that functions like a wireless cell phone connection to the internet – we can never remember where we put it!)
#2 Did you hide the computer? (since security is always a concern, when we leave our rooms, in addition to locking our door – we hide the computer too)

#3. Man it’s hot – about 35 degrees today! (35 degrees Celsius about 95 degrees Fahrenheit)

#4. Oh don’t worry about that…it’s just the rat living in our ceiling (HUGE rat that is…sounds more like a German Shepherd running around up there –more strange than a rat living in our ceiling is the fact that we don’t think much about it)

#5. Uh-oh – we forgot to get milk and now it’s 6:02 pm and the grocery store is already closed for the night. (6 pm is the normal time it closes - everything shuts down SO EARLY here).

#6. Yes, I would like a bag. (at the grocery store a bag is optional and it costs a few cents extra/ I guess some people carry their items out in their arms)

#7. Unleaded petrol please. (That’s what we say when we pull up to the gas station. Want to pump your own gas here? Forget it! All gas stations are full service and no one calls it “gas” – everyone says “petrol”)