Johannesburg--2nd entry for today

Trip Start Jan 07, 2013
Trip End Jan 22, 2013

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Flag of South Africa  , Gauteng,
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I thought I'd start a new entry for today because there are so many things to say and it would be better to just keep one city on one entry and our events of this day on a new entry.

To backtrack a little, I want to say a few things about our new pastor in Malawi, Gracious Mpilangwe. He was ordained by Aaron Dean and Howard Davis at the last Fall Feast on Lake Malawi.  I believe that we have finally found the kind of leadership we're needing that cares about people individually, but also has vision to develop further leaders for the future of the Malawi congregations. He is organized, has a good job in management and thinks clearly and constructively.  His wife is a big helper and clearly a leader among women. She was one of our ultra-successful scholarship students receiving a masters degree and now a competent teacher.  I should have said these things earlier when I wrote about meeting with him in Zambia a few days ago.

I loved being with everyone so far.  I feel so badly that have to be 8,500 miles apart from one another, but it's so necessary to have these personal meetings to give guidance, provide encouragement and support for the churches, both ministers and brethren. I am looking to find a way to move a minister to live in South Africa who could also oversee Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  This person would provide pastoral support for South Africa and be a one and a half to two hour flight to the countries of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  We are developing local leadership, but we really need an experienced pastor and wife to be closer.  It is a LONG way from here to visit Africa and very demanding.  These are some of the thoughts that I am considering in my daily prayers and asking God  to provide the right person for this challenge. It would have to be a person with the right temperament and sensitivity to various African cultures. 

I had an uneventful flight on British Airways from Harare to Johannesburg. Neil Wallis picked me at the super Johannesburg airport.  His pickup have ps the LifeNets logo prominently decaled on it. He took his "bakkie" (pickup truck) on a road rally in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique a few months back. Several dozen took part in this rally, the purpose of which was to promote the notion that it is safe to travel by road in these countries.  Part of the purpose was also to encourage tourism from South Africa to these countries instead of having people go to Europe to vacations.  Also,  the purpose was also to be charitable.  They brought lots of shoes for children that they distributed as part of this event. They all returned safely....proof indeed that it is safe to travel in these parts!  

I am staying in a guest house here in Pretoria. At times I've stayed at the Wallis's and Websters, but their guest houses are occupied, so they arranged for me to stay a friend's guesthouse the Avalon which is between their two houses. I'm  no further than a mile from either of the Wallis's or Websters.  

We arriived at the Webster's shortly after 6 pm.  it's a beautiful summer evening with the temp in the high 70's. It is clear and gorgeous as the Webster's yard is full of greenery and plants and bushes of all sorts.  The main attraction was Jason and Monique's newborn daughter Kayla...a spunky little girl. They have three children now, the other two being the delightful Tahlia who will be 5 years old on Feb 6 (my wife's birthday) and Daniel...who is ALL boy.  

We had a bbq dinner outside.  Present also were Neil and Isella Wallis (parents to Monique Webster), and the Wallis' other daughter Monette (recently married) and Leoni.  Also present was Marit, Isella's mother. Many people know her in the US as she was an ABC student several years ago.  

I gave greetings from many in the US, particularly Jorge and Kathy de Campos who lived here for many years.  They all fondly remember "Uncle Jorge" and miss the family... and their children and families.  Also, from Scott Lockwood, Len Martin and others who have visited here.

We talked until after 8 pm and then we had a LifeNets board meeting.  These are the new trustees. Before, the trustees were mostly from Durban, but since most of the trustees became cogwa members, we were hoping that we could have a change in trustees...since much of the money is supplied by, through and for members of the United Church of God.  They were all cooperative and resigned and we reconstituted the trustees here in Johannesburg.  We have left with good relations and I expressed gratitude to them for their service to LifeNets since 2000.  In that time they have done a lot of good in fairly distributing aid in the form of scholarships, boreholes, wheel chairs, youth camps and more.  I miss them, too.  But, now we now operating from Johannesburg with new trustees who will carry on the excellent spirit of our previous work which amounted in dollar terms, about $10,000 a year.  The local trustees are particularly useful in that they provide the transfer of funds to Zimbabwe for the scholarships that we have there.  It's been a great relationship.

In our board meeting Monday night, the 15th we talked about SA and ZIM projects.  Some are for UCG members benefit, but others are community projects.  We have a strict LifeNets policy that we don't pass on funding to other charities. If people want to do that, they need to do that directly. What projects we do we do are hands on.  There were two proposed.  Monette and her husband operate a guest house outside Kruger National Park.  Close by is a school for children in a very poor area. They say it looks terrible.  A coat of paint would really make it look nice and provide a cheerier environment for children.  Monette, her husband and friends would do the painting.  For about a $500 this project could be completed and lift up the spirits of these teachers and kids. Monique brought up another local J'burg project in which she would work directly with distressed children one on one. This would hardly involve any money, but could provide a model for others to work with children similarly and be a distinct LifeNets program.  Also, Neil Wallis would like to do another road rally through the same countries as last year promoting the LifeNets brand and spirit.  We feel that we could actually bring IN sponsors from automotive and other interested supporters. One of their requirements are that daily tweets be made mentioning their brand.  When I get back to the US, I'll post a story on our LifeNets website about Neil's road rally of 2012.

Again, we are grateful for how LifeNets continues with the new trustees.  This is totally opposite the case in Zambia, however.  Their breakaway leader refuses to relinquish the use of the LifeNets name, logo and brand, even though we have an affiliate agreement with them which calls for us to terminate a relationship with 60 days notice which we have given twice.  We do not want these elements representing our reputation, legacy, associations and relationships that LifeNets has earned over the years.. All we want is for these elements to give up the use of the name and go away. 

We have had a successful cattle program that has given a 100 plus herd of cattle to extremely impoverished people in Zambia since 2000.  Now, the breakaways have used the LifeNets name take away cattle from people who remained in the United Church of God. They cling basically to last vestiges of their crumbling support by intimidating those who are beneficiaries of our program with the prospect of confiscation of cattle, (which is their lifeblood) if they remain with UCG.  We have pointed out to them the wonderful spirit of the people in LifeNets, Southern Africa and that they should follow suit for everyone's benefit.  So far they have snubbed us with obfuscated legalese. We know that God is not mocked.  We are seeing the worst of the dark side of Africa and know that there will be relief....   Unfortunately, the people who have left UCG were stampeded out with fear warnings that UCG would be bankrupt in two years (the time has passed and that has not happened) and that we would change doctrine.  Didn't happen either. We ask for THINKING and discerning people to see that they were deceived and that they are welcome back with open arms.

We are still operating LifeNets support projects as much as we ever have been in Zambia.  We just want to do it with reputable trustees.  

Long day today.  I have a few easier days coming up in Johannesburg.


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Peggy Moss on

Loved hearing about your trip. Will pray for success and that God will root out the tares as needed!

Basil Kopey on

The problem is that those in Zambia who have left UCG still use the UCG name and the LifeNets name. This is dishonest on their part and misrepresents the truth. I think it will be easier for all to "move on" when those folks "move on" and stop pretending to represent organizations that they are no longer a part of. Although no one is perfect, I think Vic is doing a fine job of representing UCG.

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