Posted by: Catherine Weston | April 3, 2009

Of books and studies

I have a particular favourite spot in the GWC library where it easy to plug in my computer. Behind me are wooden carrels for private study; to my right the first floor window overlooking the courtyard. Hung on the wall above and in front of me is a framed 19th century print of a three-masted sailing ship in Table Bay. A choppy sea is in the foreground and the unmistakable outline of Table Mountain in the middle distance. The Cape Town of 200 years ago appears as a relatively small cluster of buildings at the foot of the mountain.

The picture reminds me how this city grew from a refreshment station established by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century for ships plying the trade routes between Europe and the East. That in turn reminds me of all the history I have been learning about this beguiling country. Conversations, museums, history books, films and novels have all played their part. It wasn’t an anticipated study goal but it has been enriching none the less. Present problems and challenges are always illuminated when one understands more of the past. That is true whatever country or community we live in.

This afternoon the final lecture of term will take place and students will disperse for the Easter Holidays. It seems a good time to reflect on the study we have been able to do whilst we have been here.

“A home without visitors is a bad home,” African proverb.

We have both been challenged and stimulated by reading Christine Pohl’s book ‘Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition’. We trust it will inform and nourish our future ministry amongst international students in East Oxford when we are able to move there.

Other books to engage our minds and hearts have been ‘The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History’ by Andrew Walls and ‘Contextualisation in the New Testament’ by Dean Flemming. Of course there has also been the reading associated with the courses we have done (Hebrew Narrative, John’s Gospel and Mission & Culture) which have helped to stretch our minds and renew our spirits.

So, yes, it has been very good to come apart for a while and study and we are thankful to the Lord and all of you who have made these three months in South Africa possible – the Friends International trustees and all our ministry partners. Without you we could not have done it. We are beginning to feel ready for the next stage.

Incidentally, knowledge of isiZulu was not part of my study goals either, but my tally of useful phrases has now grown to six!

Our next post will be two weeks from now, after our holiday with Matthew and David and just before we return home. I leave you with a one sample of wildlife we have enjoyed while here.

African Penguins at Boulders Beach, Cape Peninsula

African Penguins at Boulders Beach, Cape Peninsula


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