Monday, 30 March 2009

SA Navy Festival 2009...

This past weekend was the annual SA Navy Festival at Simon's Town, a coastal town nestled on the False Bay side of the Cape Peninsula, half an hour from the City of Cape Town. Simon's Town is also the main naval base for the SA Navy. And it is this weekend that the naval section of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is on display.

There are tugboat rides in the bay, tours of the SA Navy's brand-new Valour Class Frigates and new submarines, as well as other ships. There are also cannon firing, firefighting and dog show displays. The public are also treated to search and rescue displays and many exhibitions on the history of the navy.

Being a fan of anything maritime I decided to head out to Simon's Town yesterday. It was a family outing as my parents came as well, along with a couple of their friends from the Island of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean. It was great to be back amongst ships and the sea. Here are some photos from this fun day trip.

SAS Protea, the navy's hydrographic survey vessel. She is known as the "White Lady" of the fleet and is a very pretty ship.

SAS Isandlwana and SAS Mendi, two of the four Valour Class Frigates.

South African Air Force (SAAF) Super Lynx helicopter as carried by the frigates.

Tug showing its firefighting skills.

South African Air Force aerobatic team Silver Falcons in action.

Simon's Town and the naval base from across the bay.

Monday, 23 March 2009

The church as a 'mercy ship'...

The other day I was sitting in church and our pastor put up some pictures on the screen of the Titanic disaster. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Hundreds of people (1,500) froze in the cold North Atlantic while half-empty lifeboats lay bobbing nearby. The people in the boats – with one exception – were too paralysed with fear to return. They feared being swamped by the struggling masses and thus neglected the cries for help.

Whilst they sat in fear and shock, a rescue ship was making full-steam to the Titanic’s last reported position. The small Cunard liner Carpathia. She went through the ice-infested waters showing no fear, dodging icebergs in her dash to answer Titanic’s SOS call. The Captain of this ship had public rooms made ready for the survivors. Blankets and warm clothing were donated and hot drinks and warm food were prepared. And all the while Carpathia sped through the night. Heating in passenger cabins and hot water were turned off, all in an effort to get as much speed out of her boilers and engines as possible. There was a clear urgency in her approach. She arrived as morning broke, too late to save those in the frigid water, but she did rescue the 705 souls in the lifeboats.

So which approach is the church taking? Are we urgently reaching those drowning and in need of rescue? Or are we sitting back? Perhaps too concerned for our own safety to care about those drowning. Too afraid to take a step and reach those in need.

Are we sailing in this ‘mercy ship’, this ship of hope, as we each fulfil a unique role as we strive for a higher purpose? Or are we silently watching the world go by – oblivious to the overwhelming need?

I’ve made my decision. I’m not going to sit on the sidelines. Have you made yours?

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Cape Town Burns...

A rather different piece today, but it relates to Cape Town so I better write about the events happening here over the past 24 hours.

Late last night, as I was sitting at my laptop online, a fire broke out on Devil's Peak, the mountain that towers above my house. This is on the other side (the Southern Suburbs) from the world-famous view of Table Mountain and Devil's Peak. But as the wind was strong last night, blowing from the south-east, the fire quickly spread around to the city side of the mountain, threatening lives and property.

Oblivious to the fire raging a couple of kilometres away, I headed to bed. Only to be awoken at 00h30 by my Dad who told me to get my camera and come upstairs. Rather groggy, I roused myself from my bed and went upstairs, to be met by a sight that is both inspiring and scary. There were flames going all the way up the mountain from Rhodes Memorial (near the University of Cape Town) to the summit at 1,000 metres (about 3,000 feet) above sea-level. Also visible were the red flashing lights of numerous fire trucks on the mountain, fighting the flames. If a fire of this magnitude broke out during the day, helicopters with bambi buckets would be dispatched. However, due to the hazards of flying in close proximity to a mountain at night, they had to wait till first light at 07h00.

During the night houses in close proximity to the blaze were evacuated while firefighters battled to save property. But their battle was successful as no homes were destroyed. Although sadly a homeless couple who were sleeping in some bushes were seriously burned and the man later died in a Cape Town hospital.

The fire is not yet under control and Cape Town Fire Services are closely monitoring the situation. If the wind gets up or changes direction things could get worse. Driving back from cell group a few minutes ago (22h00) I could see all the embers and fires still burning on the slopes of the mountain, and the tiny fire engines rushing around, lights flashing. I am so thankful for these brave men and women who risk their own lives to save others. They are heroes.

The photos above are of the fire (as seen from my upstairs window) at 00h30 last night, and then again at 06h30 this morning when I woke for work. The photo below is from the front page of a Cape Town newspaper, and really gives you an idea how huge this fire is. Part of the city is in the foreground.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Official "Cycling for Mercy" Story...

Please click on the following link to read the story I wrote for Mercy Ships regarding my cycling campaign. It is on the Mercy Ships Alumni site, the official site for past crew members to connect.

Enjoy it!

Monday, 9 March 2009

2009 Cycling for Mercy...

"Hey, you're cycling for Mercy Ships!" This was what a fellow competitor in the Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour exclaimed to me as I cycled past, with a Mercy Ships flag blowing proudly in the strong south-easterly wind. I looked back and said, "Yep, have you heard of them?" To this she said, "For sure! I plan on joining them next year!"

This conversation was one of the highlights on what was otherwise a really challenging 2009 Tour. There was a storm-force wind gusting at up to 160 km/h (that's 100 miles/hour) and many cyclists were literally blown off their bikes and unceremoniously dumped on the tarmac.

The start was difficult to say the least. Just 100 metres after the start line we emerged out of the relative shelter of the business district of Cape Town and were slammed by the howling south-easter. Most cyclists, myself included, had to dismount and push for several metres before being able to get enough momentum to get back on the bike. It was very scary. A mere five kilometres into the race, the effects of the wind were clear. People were abandoning, turning back to the comfort of their cars, parked in the centre of town. However, I pushed through the tough first half of the race, as the route wound its way out of the city and through the picturesque coastal towns of Fish Hoek and Simon's Town, towards the Cape Point Nature Reserve. As cyclists made the gradual climb of Smitswinkel up towards the reserve's main gate, the wind went from being a terrible enemy to a best friend. Here the route turns towards the other side of the Cape Peninsula and the wind is an immense help as you speed down past halfway and through the beautiful conservation villages of Scarborough and Misty Cliffs. My time at halfway (55 kms) was three hours. About 45 minutes behind schedule due to the wind.

But the second half of the ride whizzed by, despite the climb of Chapman's Peak Drive, a breathtaking coastal road that winds itself hundreds of metres above the Atlantic Ocean before heading down to Hout Bay. The final climb of Suikerbossie (Afrikaans: "Little Sugar Bush"), which climbs steeply up from Hout bay, went much better than usual and then the final fifteen kilometres along the Atlantic Seaboard down through the upmarket suburbs of Llandudno, Camp's Bay and Clifton went really well. I usually struggle over the last part of the ride, but this year I dug deep and found some much-needed adrenalin. I finally arrived at the finish in Green Point, under the shadow of the brand-new 2010 Soccer World Cup stadium construction project, to complete my 19th consecutive Argus Cycle Tour.

Despite the wind some 25,000 of the 35,000 entered cyclists completed the race. My time was officially 5 hours 12 minutes, placing me at position 13,000 of the 25,000 riders. I will happily take that. After all, it is not everyday you get to do the sport you love and combine it with creating awareness for the global charity that you're involved with - Mercy Ships - and not to mention cycle 110 kilometres of some of the world's most scenic roads in the world's largest-timed cycling event!

Friday, 6 March 2009

It's Argus time...

This Sunday is the Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour, which I've mentioned a lot in my recent posts. I will be cycling this 110 km (that's 68 miles for American readers) race to create awareness for Mercy Ships.

Yesterday was Day 1 of the Life Cycle Expo, which is a huge cycling and fitness exhibition held at the Good Hope Centre, Cape Town, in the week before the race. The Expo is where cyclists entered to ride on race day pick up their race packs (with race number and important information) and can get their transponders (timing chips) checked. There are also hundreds of exhibitors with stands advertising anything from top-of-the-range bikes to bandanas. There are also free samples of anything from breakfast cereals to massage oils. And if you know me well, you know I like my freebies!

Last night I went to the Expo and so here are a few photos from this fun event.

This is the main hall of the exhibition (above).

With my nephew Rhyenn (above).

My Dad and Rhyenn (above).

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Blessings from above...

Another slightly different view on the challenges and adventures that lie ahead... The dark cloud hovering overhead may seem ominous, threatening to unleash a wild storm. Yet it is out of this dark cloud that God sends down blessings from above - in the form of rain. All it takes is a shift in perspective. This is going to be a positive experience - with many opportunities ahead.

Climbing mountains...

In the next few weeks and months there are many challenges that need to be sorted out, from visas to airfares and travel insurance. You could say it's like I'm standing in front of a huge mountain. I'm the hiker who has to conquer it. It's a great challenge - no one said it would be easy - but it is also a really big adventure. And God is the architect of this mountain. He knows what's in store for me as I make my ascent. And He goes with me - no matter where the path may lead or how dangerous the route is.

"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13: 5)

With His hand holding mine, together we will summit this peak. Whilst the world may say it's insurmountable - "It cannot be done. You're crazy!" they cry - we'll prove them wrong. Together this mountain will become a molehill.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Career Interrupted...

I watched a great message last night by Louie Giglio, one of my favourite speakers. It was called Career Interrupted and dealt with how serving and glorifying God is very much a part of your employment and career. You cannot compartmentalise God. And how when your plans change, see it as a way God is leading your life in another exciting direction. A man may plan, but God is ultimately in control. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps" (Proverbs 16: 9 NIV).

Giglio concluded his message with four key points that really hit home to me, especially as I prepare to return to Mercy Ships (and also in this interim job that I have now). They are worth repeating.

1) Choose a path and pursue it.

2) Be the very best at whatever you do. Have a good attitude, be dependable, loyal, and a hard worker. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" (Colossians 3: 23 NIV).

3) Remember the plan is you. The process of building character is much more important than the job itself. Your usefulness is in the Kingdom, not in career achievement. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8: 28 NIV)

4) Look for His plan and His leading and trust in Him. Nothing can stop Him from fulfilling His plan for your life.

This also ties in with the previous post and "fixing" my eyes on Jesus. I was also chatting on Facebook to a good friend who was on the ship and I was telling him about my life and plans and he told me to pray about my future and follow where God leads. And that, really, is the crux of the message.

Keep your eyes fixed...

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith [...]" (Hebrews 12: 1 - 2a NIV)

This is a great reminder to me to keep focused on Jesus as I run my race... or rather, cycle my race :-) My eyes should be "fixed" clearly on Him - not merely glancing at Him every now and then, but focused in on Him at all times. Whether I'm working or driving or cycling or serving - whatever I'm doing - may it always come from the heart and give God glory. That is my prayer.