“Swallows in January”

 

“ At once the Spirit sent him into the desert, and he was in the desert for forty days.”      Mark 1. 12

 

Many of you will know that I was vey privileged to enjoy two weeks in South Africa at the end of January and beginning of February. It was wonderful to go from the cold of an English winter to enjoy the sunny cloudless days of the South African summer, to see swallows in January and trees in full leaf. The main purpose of my trip though was to enable me to visit the ‘Catch Project’ a charity which Beckford Group Parish has supported for a number of years. ‘Catch’ is a project based near East London, in which those living in the township of Mzamomhle are offered help to face the huge issues generated by grinding poverty and a lack of education. Among the most acute issues is a 50 % HIV/AIDS infection rate leaving many young children with nobody to care for them. The work of Sue Davies, the project’s founder and her team is quite inspirational and although some might dismiss it as being just a pointless ‘drop in the ocean’ I think it can better be described as ‘a little beacon of light.’ As Isaiah so beautifully put it: “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”  We all know that if it is pitch dark, you start by striking one match and lighting one candle. I will be sharing more about the ‘Catch Project’ and what it is trying to achieve in later issues.

 

As well as visiting ‘Catch’ my trip also allowed me the opportunity to see a small part of South Africa, a country of breathtaking beauty and huge potential, but a nation which still very much lives under the shadow of its apartheid history. The plan for our journey was to begin in Cape Town and then work our way east  towards the Eastern Cape and the Transkei. Instead of following the more well worn tourist path the ’Garden route’  which hugs the southern coast we decided to drive up into the country and cut through the Karoo a vast desert area. Deserts for me are places of great beauty but I am also intimidated by their vastness and the bleakness of the landscape. I find strange thoughts going through my head. “What will happen if we break down, or run out of water?” There is always a huge sense of relief when the next sign of human habitation emerges on the horizon.

 

As we begin the season of Lent we reflect on Jesus forty days in the wilderness, time which he set apart to prepare for the rigours of ministry and to be alone with God. It must have been a testing time in every sense, physically and mentally, a time when he could do no other than rely on God for strength. It was no doubt also a test of commitment and perseverance.

 

Following Jesus example Christians are encouraged to set time apart during Lent to pray and to reflect on how they are living out the faith to which they have been called. Fortunately we do not have to survive the deprivation of the desert, or live on ‘locusts and wild honey,’ but we are nevertheless asked to take on some small act of self discipline which may help to focus our thoughts. This Lent in the Bredon Hill Group we have a great opportunity to come on a Wednesday evening and listen to the Bishop and other senior clergy of our Diocese reflect on prayer. I am sure that it will be a hugely enriching experience and it will be well worth setting the time aside and making the commitment. Full details of this course, including times and venues are printed elsewhere in the magazine. If you need a lift to get to the different venues please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

May I wish you a holy and fruitful keeping of Lent.

 

Matthew Baynes