Welcome to the latest instalment of the chronically late Chronicle: a year or two in review. Lately it’s increasingly weighed on me that two years have already passed since the previous Chronicle. So much has happened in this time, but here’s the highlights package.
After working more than three years at GivenGain, i decided early in 2007 to leave. Though i had enjoyed the company of wonderful colleagues and the interaction involved in providing support to non-profit organisations who use GivenGain’s online platform for their fund-raising, i was becoming a bit disenchanted with looking after computer systems administration and processes. i felt it was time to leave IT behind for a while, perhaps to explore some other interests, and to have a bit of “me time”. (Perhaps the heading above is a bit more descriptive of how i really felt about my state of mind!)
The guarding of the change
i didn’t have any particular plan when i left GivenGain. Initially i imagined i would take a break for a month or so to clear my mind, and then look for something new. That month stretched into two, then three, as i considered work in other areas such as writing and editing. i did a little Web-related work for the Christian Medical Fellowship and a few associates, but it was only in July that i finally found a suitable position. Since then, i’ve been doing ad hoc transcription typing work for a local agency. i receive audio and video recordings and transcribe the speech. It’s hard work (in that it demands quite intense concentration sometimes, often at long stretches to very tight deadlines), but does have the benefit of flexibility of working hours and location (i work from home and can plan more-or-less how much work to take on day-to-day, which makes studying through Unisa a little easier). The rapid turnaround of work also seems better suited to me than many-months-long projects, and helps lift the work out of the mundane. From time to time i’ve transcribed interviews with Nobel laureates, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, international conferences, etc., and these are usually quite interesting, though the more run-of-the-mill stuff (market research focus groups, TV talk/”reality” shows, etc.) can get a bit much.
The transcribing work went very well for the first couple of months (the first million-or-so words), but towards the end of 2007 i started developing carpal tunnel syndrome (pain and numbness in fingers, hands, wrists and arms, caused by inflammation pinching the nerves). It’s taken most of the past year to improve, and along the way it’s turned out that i’ve developed rheumatoid arthritis – which is usually progressive – but hopefully i can keep up with the work and the condition will not deteriorate. The RA is probably also partly responsible for my earlier knee trouble, so maybe there’s a chance that will improve now that the cause is being treated. At any rate, i can’t wait for our resurrection bodies! :)
A house on the hill to hang my hat
After a great three years in one spot, sharing with my friend Ryan, and latterly with his sister, Wendi (who also studied psychology and education – many engaging conversations!), i moved at the end of 2006 within Stellenbosch to a house at Die Rand. Staying with Pete (post-doc ecologist) and with Archie and James (both ecology Masters students hailing from Zimbabwe), i learned so much from them of their fields and of Zimbabwe. It’s been a really blessed year sharing with them.
Missing my mates and mountains in Matieland
After seven years in Stellenbosch, though, i’ve now moved back with my parents in Bergvliet, Cape Town. It’s a big adjustment for me (and no doubt for them, too), but it’s relieved some of the angst over work (especially with the spectre of RA and carpal tunnel syndrome which has overshadowed the past year), and it’ll save some cash and provide a base for further studies starting in 2010 in Cape Town. There’s so much about Stellenbosch i’m going to miss. It’s been an idyllic paradise for me the past few years as i’ve enjoyed the mountains and freedom, whether in hiking boots or on my bike or just gadding about town on my own terms. i’m eternally grateful for the friendships established during this time, which i hope will endure beyond these brief years.
When i moved to Stellenbosch in April of 2002, it was with the promise of a job nearby assuring me of better prospects. When that job fell through after i’d already moved, i was bitter and confused, but i began to learn better to trust God and His better prospects (the returns are out of this world!). There are many who’ve helped me grow in that direction, and i thank God as much for the tough times as for the good times.
One of my earliest recollections of Stellenbosch is of entering Stellenbosch Baptist Church for the first time one Sunday evening and immediately being received warmly like old family. That’s been my experience there throughout these seven years, as well as at the student Bible studies at St Paul’s/TBT during the past four years, and it’s deeply impacted my understanding of what “Church” – that is, the family of all who put their trust in Jesus – is: certainly not something perfect, but rather a family being perfected in their fellowship with God and with one another. (Sadly that’s often not how it’s perceived, and Francis Schaeffer‘s writing, especially his book The mark of a Christian, has influenced me in this regard.) i thank God for working through friends and pastors at SBC and TBT, around campus, on camps, and in so many other ways, to draw me closer to Him and challenge me to live for Him.
“It is better to be learning than to be learned” – Clem Sunter
By this time next year, i should have concluded my present studies in psychology and linguistics, which have dragged on a bit because of work demands and a change of second major. i’ve gradually become more focused over time, which is great, but also benefited tremendously from the diversions and tentative forays into other areas along the way. Academically, this past year (during which i’ve focused on linguistics) was my most successful yet, which was encouraging. i am looking forward to finishing, though.
Over the past few years, i’ve been repeatedly challenged to consider more formal study of theology with a view to formal work teaching the Bible. It’s taken me so long to accept that challenge partly because i’ve resisted the often unwittingly perpetuated false dichotomy between “sacred” work and “secular” work, and the attendant misuse of terms like “full-time ministry” (we are all, as Christians, engaged in full-time ministry, no matter what our vocation). My interactions this past year have been very encouraging in that respect, though, and i’m planning to start studying theology formally in 2010. The details of what, how, and where are less clear at this stage, but i’m hoping to study full-time, probably at George Whitefield College in Muizenberg, and hopefully to post-grad level.
i haven’t enjoyed as many adventures as previously (just a few short hikes and caving expeditions around Kalk Bay), but i have been fortunate to attend several camps during the past two years. The Young Adults’ Easter Conventions of 2007 and 2008 were fantastic, further stimulating in me the desire to do similar work in the future. My friend Ryan came down from Jo’burg for the 2007 YAEC, and we were able to do a bit of hiking and caving while he was down. i also joined some old school friends at their church’s young adults’ camp at Mizpah, which is set in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve near Grabouw. It was good to meet up again with old friends and also to meet new folk. In August i attended the Stellenbosch Baptist Students’ camp one one last time at Wortelgat, near Hermanus – an old favourite campsite with many fond memories from past camps.
Then there were 2008’s Mid-Year Conference, a forum for training in Bible study, and the CrossWord Cape Youth Camp, which i attended as a trainee leader. This was the first time i’d been to either, and they were stimulating, profitable, and greatly enjoyable. The CrossWord camp saw around 500 high-school pupils, and leaders and trainee leaders, joined once more by guest speaker Luke Tattersall from Australia, around the book of Hebrews. The talks, “Shadow to Reality”, were solid and engaging, but what made the camp most memorable for me was the group times and meeting and chatting and praying together with several of the campers, seeing them grow during the week, and hearing since of their desire to keep growing and to return next year: this was at once hugely encouraging and humbling. While i’d started the week-long camp tired and wondering if i’d survive 500 kids, i finished the week wishing we had another week.
Some things change; some stay the same
So much change has taken place in the past year, and at the start of a new year one thinks much about change: new jobs, new places, new studies, new year’s resolutions and, perhaps increasingly, new uncertainties as the volatility of world markets and changes in world and local politics start to touch our daily lives. i am encouraged, as i consider this new year, to know that while so much changes, some things stay the same. i am reminded of Jeremiah’s words in the book of Lamentations:
“The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all i have, and so i put my hope in Him.”
Simple truth and a simple prayer to see us through 2009.