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Building a Church in Africa

A blog is a daunting thing to try and write, especially when you know that spelling and grammar is a huge stumbling block in your life. I will thus pray to God that He guides me in this terrifying venture into the unknown, and pray that the Holy Spirit guides me in build up the Church.

Where to start? The first step is always the most difficult.

Today is the 13th of March 2014, it is 10:14pm and now I get the feeling that I need to start this task. I guess time and sleep are not the most important things on your mind when you feel a call to do something odd. I know that if I go to sleep now, I will just be kept awake thinking about it anyway.

Strange things happen when you decide to take a leap of faith… you get excited and nervous all at the same time, then you get prepared, switch on the computer to find a blog site you can join… and for some reason the internet is not working!

Usually I would see this as a sign that this is not meant to be, so switch off and go to sleep… hopefully you will have moved on to the usually business of the day that saturates your mind, and throws thoughts like these into a dark corner of your mind that will lie there for years to come, gathering dust and slowly fade into oblivion. This time it is different, as the events of the past few months have been more than a little… for lack of a better word, coincidental.

Where to start in the story of the past four years of my life… I guess the past two months are probably the reason for all of this, so let me start there.

On a Friday about (two months ago) at lunch time, we (my wife- Eleanor and I) were sitting at “The Ocean Basket” in Brooklyn, Pretoria - South Africa, when out of the blue she says “Look, it’s His Grace” (Archbishop Slattery).

Background point: Last year in May, we went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome with Archbishop Slattery, and hadn’t seen him since then… I will get back to that later.

Eleanor asks me “Can we ask His Grace to come to lunch with us?”, and as I am busy saying "He is a busy man...", she stands up and flies out of the restaurant in hot pursuit of the Archbishop. She returns a few minutes later and announces “He has just gone to the post office but will come for lunch with us, once he is finished there”.

Long story short… His Grace arrives, and we have a wonderful time chatting over lunch talking about a wide range of topics, from our trip to the Holy Land, to the jam packed schedule His Grace has. During the conversation, we got on to the topic of how far the Archdiocese of Pretoria stretches, and how many Churches he is responsible for. His Grace  then mentioned that the Archdiocese is needing to build several new churches, to serve the outlying areas that are fast developing with the poorer communities that have no churches in their area, and the people there have no church to attend that are within a reasonable traveling distance by car, let alone walking distance (as most of these people do not own a car, and would need to use a taxi, which most can’t afford and are not readily available on weekends).

This conversation seems to stir at something deep in my soul. The thought that there are thousands apon thousands of people that struggle to get access to clean water, electricity, food and the basics we all take for granted... then to think they also have no access to a church!

Over the next week or two, this thought, is a thought I start to struggle with. What can we do about this… what can we do to try help this situation? My mind starts swimming, and being filled with strange thoughts, and eventually I come to the conclusion that it is impossible for us to make a difference, after all, we have limited resources, and can probably donate a few bricks or two, but realistically beyond that, I guess there is not much we can help with.

The next week, Eleanor says she wants to go to ”Stations of the Cross” as it is St Joseph the Worker's feast day (1st May). While we are there and busy with the second and third station, a thought enters my mind as to how lucky we are to have our church. I start looking at the bricks in the wall, and the beauty of the church. Later, when we are facing towards the back of the church, doing the seventh and eight station, I notice a gentleman who has removed his shoes, and is kneeling in the isle of the church, doing the Station. A thought entered my mind, that there are thousands of people that would love the privilege of coming to a church like ours, a spiritual home that they could come to, to worship God, and deepen their relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Then like hundreds of pieces of a puzzle falling into place… all the thought that had popped into my head over the past four years since my conversion, seemed to form a picture that made sense.

After the Stations of the Cross, I said to Eleanor “I have an idea on how we can help get a Church built?”. We sat in the church for a short while chatting, and at the end of the conversation Eleanor said “That is a good idea”, which is strange in itself as my ideas are usually a bit out there!

I came home and thought about this idea that was getting clearer and clearer… but how would one take it to the next step, and what was that step? Tell someone else and see what they think… but who!

The next day my cell phone rings, and I answered it, expecting it to be the usual people trying to sell me something I really do not want or need.  I answer the phone in my usual straight forward way “Hello”.

“Is this Gareth?” the voice says. My reply came fast and unfriendly as I get sales calls on a daily basis that I really do not enjoy “What can I do for you!” I said in a cold voice.

“Hello Gareth. This is Archbishop Slattery”.

His Grace was calling to tell me his EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) was not working, and he was told that prehaps I can help him, as I have assisted our parish priest with his EWTN in the past.

This was the call I was waiting for, and just didn’t know it.

Eleanor and I jumped into the car, and went to see His Grace at his home and managed to resolve the EWTN problem with the aid of a contact I knew. Then we sat and chatted over some tea. I brought up the conversation about the task of Building churches and the costs involved. His Grace said that he would probably need to go abroad to try and find people who might be able to assist financially as the costs were hugely expensive, and the communities the churches would need to be built in, are very poor.

I decided to quickly test the idea I had in church, and see what His Grace thought of the idea. “That is a great idea. I must remember that, and see where we can use it” was his reply.

Second confirmation that the idea might be viable.

More to follow….



Mood: inspired
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