How I kept myself busy – Italy (Dawie) 23 September 09

For the board of the African Leadership Institute ("ALI") , our family trust's trustees, my mentors, friends and for myself, I thought it would be useful if I try to summarize the 25 things that I have devoted most of my time to over the previous nine months:

  1. Travelling the world with my whole family: I have visited more than 30 major cities in 10 countries on 5 different continents.
  2. Planning the trip and keeping tight control over our tour and personal finances.
  3. Leading our capable teams back home and maintaining precious relationships (via Skype and more than 20 emails per day).
  4. Meeting with various influential world class leaders. (I also made special new friends.)
  5. Visiting various churches of different denominations and sizes.
  6. Being exposed to places of leadership interest, such as the museums of Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln.
  7. Reducing the cost of training material for ALI through sponsorships and discount on training books.
  8. Completing the English translation of the book, "Wie steel my geluk?".
  9. Acting on instructions of of our family trust's trustees of, amongst others, increasing our passive income.
  10. Advising and guiding Chrisna's book on "Forgiveness".
  11. Improving and extending our marriage seminar curriculum (workbook and follow-up seminar).
  12. Improving the curriculum of ALI (I revised existing sessions and developed new ones).
  13. Reading through the whole Bible (twice in 18 months).
  14. Reading nine carefully selected books.
  15. Resting well in body and spirit (we spoiled ourselves with two weeklong pleasure cruises).
  16. Keeping my physical body healthy and ready for a new season.
  17. Finalizing the monthly financial management accounts of 5 different entities.
  18. Completing the financial yearend procedures of more than 7 entities and preparing for their board meetings.
  19. Spending time with God (in walk, journaling and prayer).
  20. Investing plenty of quality time in my wife and three sons.
  21. Writing more than 20 blog posts and finalizing two newsletters.
  22. Selling (including negotiations and contracts) the TurnTheTide coffee shop on behalf of their board.
  23. Improving my own skills and capabilities by attending leadership seminars, computer and technology training.
  24. Reflecting on the previous 47 years of my life, dreaming and strategizing for the next season.
  25. "Wasting time" in the Lord's presense and with my family.

Psalm 16 (NLT)
1 A psalm of David. Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge. 2 I said to the Lord, "You are my Master! All the good things I have are from you." 3 The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them! 4 Those who chase after other gods will be filled with sorrow. I will not take part in their sacrifices or even speak the names of their gods. 5 Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. 6 The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance! 7 I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. 9 No wonder my heart is filled with joy, and my mouth shouts his praises! My body rests in safety. 10 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your godly one to rot in the grave. 11 You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.


Will I do a world tour again? 21/09/09, Italy (Dawie)

The practical circumstances around our family will most probably not allow us to do such a world tour again, but if I had to make the decision again, I would have no doubt what so ever to take the trip!

Through God's grace I have made a few good decisions in my to accept Jesus as my Savior, to marry Chrisna, to become a chartered accountant and to join GJ Hanekom & co (which later became part of PricewaterhouseCoopers), to have three children, to start the Rock Ministries - partnered with Transformation/TurntheTide in Namibia, to found the African Leadership Institute AND to take my family on a world tour for nine months.

Surely, there are things that I will do different if I can start all over, but they will be minor. For that I can only give God all the honor and glory. Minor things I would have done differently on this tour, would be to include the more difficult parts in the world to travel (like France and Italy), first, and the easier countries (like New Zealand, Australia, America), last.

Things that we got right were the open communication channels with our capable team back home and among ourselves, the good budget and the management thereof, the fine balance between work and travel (experience and leisure), the fantastic churches, places and people we visited, the slower pace, the more time with God and his Word and the soft & broken hearts inside us. Again all honour and glory to Jesus, Our Lord.

We have shared so many good and joyful stories on our blogs. The impression may be that we had only highlights and we are a perfect family who had a perfect time...not true! I lost part of my finger in Phuket, spent time in hospital, got a traffic fine in France, made a huge car accident in Italy, had conflict with all my family members and had to deal with tough travel and language challenges to mention only a few. I had asked my family members more for their forgiveness than ever before – just because there were so many things to forgive me for!

I am extremely proud of all of them. Chrisna as tour manager, "homemaker", doctor, principal and wife did a great job. She allowed the Holy Spirit to prepare her for a new season of more fruit in ministry. Tinus as head of technical and communication division was an exceptional servant (in various fields) throughout the period. He is now ready to leave my home for further studies and for a next phase of preparation. I have no doubt that God will use him to make a huge impact in this world. Charlie brought joy and life to the tour. He was a good friend to all four of us. He really started to read the Bible more. He is a very gifted individual and will develop into a great leader of his time. Dawie J travelled well with four adults around him all the time. He was stretched in many ways, but developed from a small little boy into a young man with unlimited potential.

The memories of the tour are awesome, the impact immeasurable and the thankfulness in our hearts towards God (and all the friends who made it possible for us to go) overwhelming.

At this time while I write this blog, my emotions are so full that the only way I can end is with Paul's words in Romans 11:33-36 (NLT):
33 Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! 34 For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor? 35 And who could ever give him so much that he would have to pay it back? 36 For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen.

A Mediterranean Cruise – 5-12 September (Chrisna)

The cruise in the Alaskan Inside Passage was a dream come true, even better than ever expected, a real blessing. If that was my first and also my last cruise, I would have been content for life. Another cruise was not part of our plans, in our schedule or even somewhere on a radar screen. When Tinus suggested it while we were struggling to find an affordable solution for our 5-14 Sept. empty timeslot, it was an exciting thought, but put aside because of the "unrealness" of it! Luckily Tinus pressed on, investigated and came with the good news that a cruise crossing the Mediterranean Sea, departing from Marseille (where we were in a home exchange until 5 September), will be of lesser amount than travelling to Greece (where we wanted to go), accommodation there and food for the week. Almost too good to be true, but true!

We were scheduled for yet another cruise! That is a special spoil, blessings running over, and I tasted what Jesus meant when He spoke the words in Luk 6:38 " Give, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom." What we are receiving is so much more than what we ever have given, so much more. But yes, that is the God we serve and worship: the So-much-more God!

So it happened that on the 5th of September 2009 we boarded the MSC Fantasia, excited and ready. We looked forward to the new adventure, because although it was also a cruise, it was on a different ship, cruising different waters, stopping at different ports. This was also not "freestyle cruising", which meant that we had routines concerning our dinner time, place and dress-code.

The wonderful thing of a cruise is that no one in the family has any planning, organizing, deciding or working to do. The food in the buffet-cafeteria is ready for breakfast when we wake up, it is again ready when we are hungry or coming back on board at lunchtime and it is ready at 19h00 in the fancy restaurant. The dishes are taken away and washed by someone else after the meals. The boat is in a different port every day and is usually there already when we wake up. (It also happened once that it arrived at the port while we were eating breakfast. We loked at people tying ropes and working hard to get us docked, and we did not have to do a thing.) Whenever we are ready, we leave the ship to go ashore and come back, usually many hours before departure. Again, we will be lying on a sunbed or playing cards, and we feel the boat starting to move and hear the horn blow. We are off, and we did not have to do a thing! We did not have to pack, or hurry to get in the car, we don't have to find the road or even make the decision that it is time to go. We just sit, minding our own business and we are departing! That is fantastic! That is to taste and feel the spoiling you are privileged to experience. (You will understand this spoiling of "doing nothing" and not concentrating at all, better, if you understand how "doing everything while absolutely concentrating" was part of this past year!)

We visited Genoa and Napoli on the Italian west coast and then Palermo on the island of Sicily. All 3 very Italian and very old, but very different. We walked for kilometers, just exploring the cities, admiring the old castles, churches and piazzas - open plains or squares next to massive buildings, which succeed in creating a feeling of space in the midst of all the cluttered buildings. And when we're fulfilled...back to the gigantic ship along the seashore. A strange observation is that none of these places have well kept parks or green areas in them. If there are plants, they grow in pots and the parks we did see, was parks decades ago – now they are empty, dusty areas with sorry trees. On the Monday in Napoli, we saw 10 brides posing for pictures in front of different old buildings, most probably due to the lack of green, leafy backgrounds. We speculated whether it was Wedding-madness-Monday, or why so many marriages late on a Monday morning?

On 09-09-09 we set foot on African soil again – the first time in 8 months and Tinus especially, had a noticeable happy face! We visited Tunisia and could go into town, to the market, for 1hour after standing in the passport control line for 2 hours. All the places we have visited so far was old and dirty. Tunisia was also old and dirty, but also neglected. Yes, we were in Africa. But we knew with a sureness: this is our continent, this is where God wants us – in Africa. We surely are Africans.

The next day Palma, on the island of Mallorca was on our itinerary. This is not only Raphael Nadal's hometown, but also the playground for many very rich people. Although it has it's fair share of old buildings, the city was clean, the roads wide and the traffic orderly. Must be a combination of money and good leadership in the municipality that leads to this pleasant difference.

There is one thing that Namibia and Mallorca has in common: the gecko! Wire, metal, glass and cloth geckos are for sale everywhere. We found ourselves actually having a strange longing for the friendly, mosquito eating geckos in our house on the farm!

On 9/11, the day America remembered the tragic day 8 years ago, we docked in Barcelona, Spain. (This was our last port before arriving back in Marseille again.) It was a public holiday in Spain, and the whole of Barcelona was on the streets, browsing through the many street markets. We marveled at beautiful old buildings and the architecture of Gaudi, which differs so much from the rest of the European styles. Once again the walking fitness we gained throughout the year, like so often before, served us well. We walked far to reach the city, but saved many Euro's that way by not taking a shuttle bus or taxi!

That is a summary of the ports visited and the "free excursions" we planned for ourselves and enjoyed tremendously.

Another thing I would like to mention to make sure that I do not forget it in the future, is the evening meals. It was fancy and we had to dress for the occasion! We had our own table where we sat every evening, looking out over the vast mass of water, and with a personal waiter, Gede from Indonesia. He is working for his 10th consecutive month of this year, that is without 1 day off ever – 7 days a week, non stop. This is his 5th year working like this. He gets 1 month per year off, when he goes home. He does this because there is not work opportunities back home. Every one on the boat works like that. They never strike or call on the unions. They all just appreciate the fact that they do have a job and an income and then they work, 12 hours a day. We pray that he will find a good job in his homeland when he goes there in December, he wants to be with his wife and children now and feel it is time to return.

Back to dressing for the occasion: Strict rules apply – only long pants and no jeans allowed in the evenings. Luckily we knew this beforehand, and bought a pair of brown pants for each of the 2 young men (who has only 1 jean each on the tour.) What we did not know, was that the captain decides when it will be "informal dress", meaning the long pants and a shirt with collar, or "formal dress" (a tuxedo and bow tie will not be out of place!) Obviously we could not reach those standards, but boy, did we gear up! We laughed and joked that other people won't think we look too formal, but they did not know that we were wearing the topclass of what we had in our suitcases, that we made effort with our appearance – it was the best we ever looked the whole year. Tinus and Dawie each bought a long sleeved shirt on a sale in Michigan City and Charlie received a "too small shirt " from one of the BC boys in NY and that was what they wore: the brown pants with the black long sleeve shirts and very important, they had a "formal attitude" in their eyes and posture. Dawie J was even better! He had his only long pants on and a black shirt of mine, which sleeves I folded and sewn in place. He combed his hair real neat and had the same posture as his brothers. I had my (only) best blouse on. We were accepted. It was definitely the posture and confidence that granted us entrance, and not the clothes. Yes, the Fouries can gear up with what we have if it is needed! You guessed right that we looked exactly the same on both formal evenings.

We enjoyed the evenings, the special service, the food which we ordered from a menu and especially the conversation. We spoke for hours about many different subjects. Outsiders must have thought that we saw each other many months ago and that we had some catching up to do on the talking! What a blessing. Yes, it surely is a blessing that we love and like each other so much and enjoy our fellowship and being together to such a degree. I thank and praise God for this regularly.

All too soon we arrived back in Marseille and it was time to leave the ship. We agreed that we made the right decision in taking this cruise. It was really fantastic and usually the expensive part of a cruise is to get there at the port of departure, if you come from Africa. But we were fortunate enough to already be in Marseille. We just realized once again that inviting God into your plans, right in the beginning of the planning, is the wisest decision that one can make, because God sure makes good plans. Excellent plans as a matter of fact and we simply say: "Yes, we will go ! Thank you, thank you very much."

Yet another story on the blessings of the Lord. We are grateful for all that we may enjoy and experience. May God's blessings flow through us to those whose roads we cross...

The miracles of keys in Marseille – 1 September (Chrisna)

The problem with falling behind on journaling and also blogging, is that you must summarize a whole period into one entry, and then it quickly becomes too lengthy, so you shorten your writing and obviously shrink your memories and learning opportunities. Another unfortunate result is that you also forget some key elements of what has happened and the life lessons accompanying them. This is exactly what has happened with my reporting on Marseille – I did not include a few (3, to be exact) key elements in my blog. Luckily I have enough time to reflect and think back again, to remember and write again. The problem is just (and this is now a short interrupting lesson for myself), that back home, while on the run and busy, there is not always time to re-reflect and to re-write. That way valuable lessons might fall on the ground and not in the heart. The lesson for me now, is to not postpone, to stay on schedule and to do it now and do it right! (sounds as if I read Tinus's blog on lessons learnt in Germany!) The only way to do this, is to plan and do, plan and do – never think that I will have time tomorrow, because tomorrow will be full of tomorrow's stuff, so do today's stuff today! Woa! That was not planned when I started with my blog on keys, but somehow God managed to take my thoughts there and re-taught me a valuable lesson, as if preparing me for what awaits me back home.

Back to Marseille and the key elements that I've missed on my first round. It is all about miracles God performed there with keys. Not once, but 3 times!

Miracle nr.1 : Arriving at house nr. 1, we found a young French boy there, mowing the lawn and getting things ready for our arrival. He also had the key to the house, but there was a problem: the key was stuck in the lock. It did not want to move and the door was unable to open. We could understand from his signs that he has tried everything, but with no success. We all tried, different tricks and ways, but the key and lock was stuck. There was no way to enter the house. After 30 minutes of struggling, we stood together and prayed. We asked God that the key will unlock the door, will come out of the lock, so that we can unlock the second lock on the door as well. We tried again, simply turning and pulling the key. It worked! It did exactly what it was suppose to do – unlock the door! I still do not know who of us or the Frenchman was the most surprised, but I do know that our voices said: "Praise the Lord!" and he said something that I could not understand. We had to agree, God is also Lord of stubborn keys. And we had to repent for trying such a long time before asking specifically for His help. The evenings prayers included many thank you's for unlocking the door for us!

Miracle nr.2: Our house had only one door, with 3 locks. The one on top in which the key was stuck, which we never used again. Another lock at the bottom on which that same key worked which was the only lock we used. The third lock, in the middle. was a jail lock (that you can lock from the inside without a key) for which we did not have a key, so obviously we did not use that lock. The first afternoon excursion happened a few days after our arrival in Marseille. We took special care to close all the windows tightly. It was a team effort to try to maneuver the car from the garden into the narrow street in which 4 family members took part, while the other was locking the door. We had a special afternoon visiting the Church on top of the Hill, the church where over centuries, seaman went to give thanks for safe journeys on stormy seas and ask for protection for the next journey. We had a blessed time. Back home we unlocked the lock that is the only one suppose to be locked, but the door did not want to open. Then we saw that the middle lock was locked! How is that possible?! We tried all the keys, but we definitely did not have the key for that lock. Then the locker realized that he was not concentrating earlier and did lock the lock from the inside, before pulling the door shut – the lock was locked. There was no other way into the house, except for breaking a window, which we obviously did not want to do. By now, we have learnt our lessons and everyone was praying for a breakthrough – or shall I say a break-in. The next moment the door opened and Dawie stood there with a piece of wire in his hand and a smile on his face. He has unlocked the lock with a piece of wire! I guess by now you know our shout: "Praise the Lord!" Again we had to agree, God is Lord of locks as well, and He can and wants to help, even if it was our own mistake which caused the problem. The evenings prayers included many thank you's for unlocking the door for us – once again! We know that God not only protect those on the stormy waters of the seas, but also in the normal storms and unsteady waters of the every day life.

Miracle nr.3: We moved to house nr.2 and had to phone the neighbor, who you guessed right, speaks French, to organize with him when we will be at the house. We said we will come on the Sunday some time after 17h00. The cleaning of house nr. 1 took longer than planned for and the traffic right across the city was a nightmare, so we reached the new house only after 18h00. It was securely locked with no one in sight. The neighbors spoke only French and were not helpful at all. We did not have a phone to call again and no other plan of how to enter. Charlie and Dawie J walked up the street to see if the house has a back side, but it did not. By now, we were all praying: "Please get us into the house?" An old Frenchman came walking to us, scolding in fluent French, pointing to his watch. He has the key to the house, and someone phoned him to say to be at the house at 17h00, and when no one was there then, he went back home. His house is way up the road. He by accident saw the 2 boys walking past his house, talking a strange language and he thought to see where they are going. He found us at the locked house. We apologized for being late and he gave us the key. Yes, we all said: "Praise the Lord!" Again we had to agree, God is Lord of locks as well, and He can and wants to help, even if it was our own mistake which caused the problem and even if other people are involved. The evenings prayers included many thank you's for unlocking the door for us – once again!

Within 3 weeks, we experienced how God performed 3 miracles with keys. Yes, even something as practical and real as a locked door is not too difficult for God. The lesson to take away? God is almighty and can do anything. He is faithful and loving and He really cares for us. He not only can help, but wants to help in all circumstances. He wants us to ask. Why, if He in any case knows what we need? He knows it will grow our faith if we ask and see a prayer answered, He knows that it is good for us to realize how dependant we are on God, He knows that small victories can lead to bigger victories later, He is God.

I am so glad that I know Him. May my life bring glory to His Name!

New York – blows you away! (11– 18 Aug) Charlie

So much has been said about the Big Apple. Not only from my other family members, but by the rest of the world. Always when I hear about a movie, money or business, I think of New York. I wonder how many movies are shot in New York? Everything about it just shouts out size and speed. The first thing I realized when we drove in the taxi from the airport to our South Orange New Jersey house, was the haste in all the people's eyes and body language. Everywhere In NYC it seems as if everyone is always late and has got something better to do. Even in Central Park, where the idea is to relax and find a haven in all the chaos, there are New Yorkers running and racing, not jogging or cycling! A 40 hour day would not be enough for a New Yorker!

For us, New York was an experience of overwhelming pace and size but it was also an experience of soulful calmness and grace. Our whole Trip dictates that the times when we were not the ones leading and knowing, were the times that God lead us to truthful joy.

When we were still at the mountain cabin in Georgia, we had a big meeting about the coming weeks. We unfortunately still had a lot of places where we did not have accommodation, so this meeting was to fill in some gaps. By the grace of God, we could fill a lot of these gaps. One on the other hand, still eluded us, New York. We decided to book a hotel with a cheap rate for early booking. After that day, a few weeks went by and while we were still in Chicago we got a mail sent by Patty Brown-Christenson. After reading the mail, we were once again astonished by God's love and grace. She gave us her house for that week. A beautiful, huge, amazing house! We immediately rejoiced and thanked God. After that we made work of it to quickly try and cancel our other hotel. Only by grace that they were full- we could cancel the un-cancelable booking!

So we were on the plane headed towards a beautiful New Jersey house close to NYC. I knew we were headed to New York when we got in a mid air traffic jam! We finally landed and got to the house without too much hassle… The house was even better than on the pictures and we knew that we were in for a great five days. Immediately we decided to stay there the whole time and just go in to NYC when we have to go to another, closer hotel.

The time at the house was fruitful and relaxing. We enjoyed every element of the blessing. From the huge T.V. all the way to the lovely pool. Me and Tinus also made use of their weight room (gym). It's weird, but I love exercising, especially doing weights and this was just perfect. It was also nice to have my own room. It was lovely to have a bit of solitude when trying to work, because when in a small apartment, finding solitude can be quite a challenge. It was lovely to be able to see the big city lights at night, but also be able to see the stars. This house was a perfect blessing to us and I want to thank God and the BC's for being such lovely, loving neighbors. Now I know what " love your neighbor", truly means – even love your neighbors 10 000 km away!!

The Sunday while we were still at the BC house, we headed toward another church picked out by Dawie Sr. We took an interesting drive to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church . As always, we were blessed by the beauty of God's love and faithfulness. The Grammy award winning choir was one of my many church highlights.

It was sad when we had to leave the house. Not only because of the great house, but also because of the beautiful people we were privileged to meet. I want to thank them as well for treating us like family. From the other blogs you can see that they were truly blessings to us. We were headed back to a small hotel room, but we took with us the excitement of seeing NYC in the morning.

The next day, we became part of the ever running and busy New York city. We took a train to Penn station from the Brick church station near our hotel. From there we took the (classic) New York Subway! All the way down to the harbor. The plan was to walk from Lady Liberty to Time Square. I took in the immense size, speed and grace of the city. After the lovely Liberty, I began to see the story of a city that was more than money and power. I saw it as a refuge of love, taking in fledglings from afar. During the boat trip we glanced a look at a few memorable islands, Wall street and the Brooklyn bridge. After the Liberty boat trip we knew a bit more of the city. We then decided to take on our long walk to Time square, taking Broadway all the way. We passed a few hundred stands selling I love NY t- shirts before reaching Broadway.

From the moment we first set foot in Broadway, we began to see the real picture of NYC. The walk up Broadway from Lady Liberty to Time Square was one full of joyful, heart-ripping and mouth-dropping sights.

We past Wall street and the Trinity Church. It was beautiful to see the center of the Financial world topped off with a picturesque church. It just tattooed the fact in my mind that God is in money as well and does not want His children to fall short. We kept on walking and experiencing the very essence of the city. It was beautiful to see all facets of human difference gelling together in perfect harmony. For example: There were people literally of all races, people of all classes and people of all religions. There is truly something beautiful in all of us, for the One who made us is truly perfect and lovely.

The sight we saw next was one that took our breath away. Not because of beauty, size or architectural brilliance, but because of grave tragedy… The piece of land once occupied by the World trade center was definitely the biggest shock to my system in a long time. It's definitely the biggest impact "nothing" ever had on me. I walked around the large piece of land and couldn't even imagine the splendor of the buildings or the horror of 9/11 itself. As it was 9/11 2009 a few days ago, I want to extend my deepest apologies to all whom lost something or someone. I also want to encourage everyone to see 9/11 as a learning curve for all of us. Life will knock us down sometimes and it is okay to fall, but character is seen in those who dare to stand up and complete the race!

After the learning walk of 9/11 we continued with our mission. We walked past a few lovely, small parks and a few interesting buildings. The Empire state and Chrysler building being two obvious favorites, but not my favorite. My favorite building in NYC was the Flatiron building.

It wasn't the largest or the most spectacular, but it was flat and simple. It looked like a Mac book Air from the side and like a triangular prism from the front. What also makes it nice, is that it is built on a fork in the road. It just uses the very little triangular space the fork has created, making most of what it has.

As we came nearer to our destination, the sun had almost dove behind the horizon. It grew darker very quickly and we were soon headed toward a shining beacon of light! Just before we arrived, we decided to have a light NYC dinner. We purchased a few hot dogs from a hot dog stand and a few slices pizza from a pizza restaurant. We sat outside on a few chairs in the middle of the road. The meal was wonderful and a great preparation for what was to come. The moment I first set foot in Time Square, I was astonished. All the lights and signs was truly spectacular. I think I stood standing there, standing still, mouth open, for about five minutes before I blinked!

The night air that mingled with all the lights and people created a wonderful, exciting and soothing atmosphere. What was also memorable was the Toys R Us experience. Being the biggest in the world, it was admirable. It put the toys in Toys R Us.

From there, a day ended in glorious style, we took the train back to our hotel again.

The next day was the day we left America. We all had mixed feelings, but most of us felt like we used every second we had in the US well. WE ended our NYC and USA experience with Central park. Truly a haven in all the chaos

At the end, I see a beautiful miracle and lesson that this big city opened up in us. As an African, New York seemed like a fabled place. A place where hard work and a keen mind to make money is king. At the end, I saw a city that has power and prestige in earthly terms, but I also saw a wounded giant that lost a lot through tragedy. This wounded giant though is busy standing up and working together to rebuild a better future. What happens in life is sometimes hard, very painful, but God lets everything work out for the good for those who loves Him. He is always there, calling, waiting for us to make Him our number one!

I also want to thank America and the Americans that made our time memorable!

What I’ve learned in Singapore (17 September 2009) Tinus

I reckon I have but a few days on tour left to record that which this experience has taught me. Reclining, laptop on my (guess what) lap, I thus continue with Singapore.

I must admit that as soon as I start thinking back at Singapore, I am overtaken with nostalgia. I really enjoyed and profited greatly from my time on that island state. Our sixth floor apartment in Building B of Normanton park, provided a private workplace for all in the family. I remember with great joy my two tables set up around the corner by the window in my bedroom. On those tables I coughed blood! (Figuratively speaking off course...) You see, my grandmothers arrival brought with it my UNISA work. The problem was that exactly 2 weeks after her arrival, 4 of my Math assignments were due. That's a whole terms work I had to do in a fortnight! And, to make things worse, I only learned when she arrived that I needed two textbooks! Well, long story short, I spent a lot of time at those two little tables by the window! (By the grace of God alone did I meet my deadlines, if you're wondering J ) At those two tables and lying in my bed in the same room, I also shared great moments with my God. It was late one night, after a little joyless reading, that the Lord spoke to me about what I'll soon share.

I also remember what went on outside that window I so often looked out of though. For one, it seemed to rain constantly when I was inside (yet strangely enough, rarely when I was outside). That outside I remember fondly. The park adjacent our complex, with its endless paths and many benches. The large swimming pool with water at the perfect temperature. The soccer field where I helped get Charlie ready for his rugby. (P.S. Oom Piet Coetzee. Oom skuld my vir al my sweet, bloed en brakefluid wat van Switserland se bulte tot Phuket se strande en Singapoer se modder in sy fiksheid ingegaan het.) The city and all its subways and sights. The shops of SimLim and the Funan centre where we went tech-shopping. And the list continues...

I really enjoyed Singapore tremendously.

It was also in Singapore that the Lord taught me the one thing that has probably made a larger impact on my life this year than anything else. It is this that I wish to share, both as a reminder to myself and in the hope that it might also provide to someone else even a glimpse of the value it did to me. Ready? Here goes:

Apply your mind.

The Lord has blessed the human race with this incalculably valuable gift and yet we seem to ill use it. Its like receiving a U$10 000 gift certificate (non transferable, not redeemable as cash and valid for a day) for a shopping spree at, say Wal-Mart, and for some reason only buying a pack of peanuts! We don't apply our minds. Or, at least I can speak for myself and confess that I am often too lazy to really think.

Yet, really thinking is what gives birth to understanding. And understanding is the foundation of effective action. Understanding schoolwork leads to good grades. Its not mere talent, but the ability to fully use that talent that sets successful people apart. Utilising greater portions of our potential not only puts food on the table, but a Porsche in the garage. Thinking on (or, to state it in biblical terms, meditating on) the Bible transforms us into Christ-likeness. Applying our mind gets the results we want in our lives. So, why don't I do it more often?!

Well, because it's hard. It's a lot easier to mindlessly memorise a bunch of formulas that understand where they come from. After a year, though, memorised formulas are forgotten, but understood ones, stick. It's easier to play a chess match move for move, but the ones who think ahead, seem to win. Listen to this: It is easier to hear the Word of God from the pulpit than to struggle through that which you fail to comprehend with just the Bible and the Spirit ("with just the Bible and the Spirit" does anyone else see how funny our reasoning often is?) to help you. But it is the latter that produces in you a spirit akin to that of Christ's.

More often than not, however, once I started applying my mind, I realised that it seemed harder than it actually was. What also always holds true, is that the profit gained from the harder road of applying your mind is entirely worth the effort. Christ said we are to count the cost of following Him. It's hard. Yet, He said that His yoke is easy. It's not too hard for you to bear. And finally, His road leads to everlasting life in paradise. The other road land you forever in the pit of burning sulphur!

Secondly, I often do not apply my mind because I do not need to in order to be good enough. In our modern world the definition of good enough has been radically distorted, though. Am I good enough when I make a living? Am I good enough when I can put my kids through university? (Luckily none of my worries yet.) Am I good enough when I am better than everyone else around me? Am I good enough when I am better at one thing than those around me? Am I good enough when enough (or the right) people give me enough credit? At what point can I stop applying my mind because I am good enough?

Ask this question to any sprinter and I believe he'll laugh at you. A sprinter, though he might not be the fastest (and even if he is) will not stop accelerating till he runs flat-out!

And that is exactly what God wants of us. Our very best! And he knows what our best is! (The best way to impress this on you is to ask you to go watch the movie "Facing the Giants". Your very best!)

The third reason I often do not apply my mind or reach my full potential, is because I am unaware of what that is. Without any fancy talk, let me bust this hurdle to complete mind application once and for all. In 1 Corinthians 2:16b the Word clearly states: "We have the mind of Christ!" The mind that envisaged the universe. The mind that conjured up salvation. The mind that keeps everything spinning. That mind is in me!

Now you know your potential. Go reach it.

Apply your mind. Think things through. Keep asking questions (to God and to other people) until you understand. Trust God for the answers. It's your responsibility to understand, not someone else's. Ask the right questions. Determine where your understanding is derailed and attack that curve. Maintain your highest level of concentration. Apply your mind.

P.S. I probably should have applied my mind to furnish this post with a better conclusion, shouldn't I? Or is it that learning to apply your mind is a never ending process? That more of your mind needs to be applied as it is exercised? Maybe this post thus should not have a conclusion?

P.P.S. What do you think about that sort-of-yet-not-conclusion?

P.P.P.S. "And that's all I have to say about that." (In a thick Alabaman accent)

NEW YORK , NEW YORK ! - 17 September (Dawie J)

New York was great!

With all the big buildings and our big house we lived in, it was just great. For the first time in months we had a swimming pool and it was hot, so we swam a lot. We also played a lot of cricket.

We went to New York City and took a boat cruise on the Hudson river to the Statue of Liberty. It was nice to see this statue in real life, and not only on a picture.

Then we had a picnic in Battery Park and started our long walk towards Time Square. We saw the Wall Street bull, the Trinity Church and also the NY and American Stock exchanges. Then we went to the site where the Twin Towers once were standing tall. It felt like something was just ripped out of that spot when I saw the open space. I was wondering: Why would anyone do something like this?

We walked and walked and walked until we reached Time Square. It felt like daytime, but it was 10h00 in the evening! There are lights everywhere. We went to the big Toys-R-us. It was great seeing all those toys. Then we went home with the train.

We were in Central park as well and recently we were in Monaco. It is amazing that they are both the same size – a country and a park!

We were sad to fly out of New York, because NY was great and it was also the end of our 4 months in America. America was definitely the best stop yet.

This is Dawie J Fourie signing out from Italy – Ciao!

Mainly Mediterranean Cruise (15 September 2009) Tinus


We are truly, truly blessed!

Here I sit in the tiny backyard of our Italy home. Before me dozens of shades of green and yellow colour the small valley, at the bottom of which an unseen stream melodiously flows. Behind me, the 800 year old house that for its first half millennium of existence served as a bishop's home, proudly stands. Inside, each member of the family is busy: my mother is preparing food, my father is updating our financial records, Charlie is reading the final book in the Mark of the Lion Trilogy and Dawie is somewhere in Dawie-world. We are content!

Before I continue, let me elaborate a little on favourite emotion. It's a sense of knowing where you are, of being absolutely certain that is exactly where you want to be and being completely happy with it. It is something that is interconnected with your surroundings, yet strangely independent of them. A strange combination of overwhelming peace and overflowing joy, despite (and yet because of) everything that happens around you. (If you do not at all understand, I blame it on the fact that I am a high "C" and should therefore be incapable of effectively communicating my emotions. J)

Contentment is a way of life that enhances living. It is therefore something to be practiced ceaselessly. Yet, there are times when it just overtakes you and you cannot help but feel entirely content! These times are those that I never forget and treasure most dearly in my life. They are not necessarily the times that I learn or accomplish the most, but they are the moments that I know God just smiles on me and delivers a big box of chocolates...not to be analysed or efficiently used, but to simply be enjoyed in His presence. They are times of sanctuary.

Though most of this tour is characterised by contentment, 3 times of sanctuary I'll remember above the rest: The week at Redstone lake and the two Cruises. Though they were doubtlessly periods deemed by God to just (in Afrikaans: "sommer") bless me, there are certain things they have in common. Things I did or did not do, I mean. By highlighting these things and practicing them in my day to day life, my mathematical and logical mind tells me that I can raise the overall level of contentment (and of pleasing God) in my life. Now, understand that I might not get the result to the same degree that I receive it in times of sanctuary, but even in seasons of hard work and even hardship, I believe I have the capacity for more. More blessings. More pleasing God. More love. More joy. More peace. More contentment.

But, more on that later. Right now, I'm bursting to tell of all He's done!!!

I'll start with a quick mention of my birthday. Boy, was it blessed!!! I got up to the (not all to perfect, but yet lovely) sound of my family's attempt at singing. I enjoyed a fast-paced run beside the Mediterranean. (Please don't criticise my choice of morning pastime on my birthday. I've been looking forward to a decent run since our half marathon in Chicago.) A BIG breakfast was dished up next, followed by presents! The highlight: my Swiss army knife that was lost and now is found. A wonderful swim in the salty sea (pardon me, extremely, tremendously, enormously, particularly, exceptionally, exceedingly salty sea) preceded our journey to Vieux Port. The sightseeing and meal there was divine. There also, did I finally have access to the internet and could I quickly copy and paste all greetings and best wishes from everyone to read later.

A few hours playing Tradewinds back home (again, please don't criticise my boyish taste) and a last couple of hugs from the family ended the day (for them at least.) With the family asleep, I went through everyone's greetings and wishes and was I blessed! Finally, I sat in the small courtyard by our front door, gazing at the full moon and praising the Lord to the tunes of the African Children's Choir till 12.

Thank you to everyone who made my day so GREAT!

That was Thursday. On Saturday, we embarked on our second cruise of the tour. This time cruising the Western Mediterranean aboard the MSC Fantasia.

The ship is one of MSC's newest - and largest – vessels. Her 18 deck, 333,3m long bulk has curves at all the right places and is by far the most beautiful ship I have ever laid eyes on. Decks 7, 14, 15, 16 and 18 are public decks, decks 8 to 13 (and 17) cabin decks and decks 5 and 6 a little bit of both.

Deck 14 from stern to bow houses the brilliantly decorated L'Africana and Zanzibar Cafeterias, the out- and in-door pools, as well as the spa and fitness centre (Looking out the front windows of a 150 ton ship does motivate you while you're pumping iron or raking in the miles). Decks 15, 16 and 18 (the solarium) are mainly speckled with sunbathing beds. Deck 15 astern is the no-noisy-children allowed "zen-zone".

Deck 16 is the sports deck, with ping-pong, squash, fussball, shuffleboard and a small soccer field. It also contains the poorly located disco. Why an area used only at night (and closed during the day) is located on the one place on the ship with the best view of both the ship itself and the oceans she cruises, I fail to understand. But that's Europeans for you. J

Time to venture down below. On deck 7 the L'Insolito Lounge takes up the stern. Nestled between it and the ships atrium a little forward is a speciality restaurant with a red wine feel to it, a tex-mex restaurant and the photo shop.

The atrium is directly beneath the outdoor pool. It is an open space from deck 9 to deck 5. On deck 5 are the reception and Fantasia bar, where the music in the evenings consists of either violin, piano or an extremely popular Spanish trio. Up the Swarovski stairs another green bar graces deck 6. Up yet another flight of crystal steps, deck 7 contains a cappuccino bar.

Further to the front on the same deck, the portside sports bar and starboard side Manhattan jazzbar are to be found.

After them are the Il'Atlantico bar and the L'Anguardia Theatre. The theatre consumes the bow from deck 7 to 5. Walking backwards on deck 6 from the theatre, you pass through the casino, shopping island, atrium and dual-deck Red Velvet Restaurant.

Our evening restaurant, the Something-something d'oro (all those Italian names confuse me) looks out the stern of deck 6, but can only be accessed via deck 7. The ships library and business centre is between the Red Velvet and atrium on deck 5.

And that is the MSC Fantasia in a nutshell.

Now, as far as I can remember, this is where I stopped in my recollection of our Alaskan Cruise. Keeping to tradition, this shall be partly true now. This time round, however, you are most certainly going to get a Med Cruise Volume 2. As far as my mention of contentment is concerned, I shall elaborate in my "What I've learned" post on Marseille. (Which should not be too far in this future, since I am already drafting Singapore...)


Loud and messy – 18 September (Dawie J)

Once again we landed in France. This was the place where we have been before, but not on the French Riviera. This was completely different.

We had a wonderful house with a small vineyard. I had a water gun with which I shot at the many stray cats. It was strange that they kept on coming back – maybe they were also hot.

I won my 2 brothers and mother in table tennis. That is what I call "sweet victories". We could also play on the mini pool table. In that game I never won. We also drove to a beach and swam there. It was lovely.

We went to the French countryside and drove through many old and dirty towns. It was cool to see all the places. On another day we went to Cassis and took a boat to the Calanques. We were on a small boat that went up and down over the waves. We got soaking wet, but it was worth it to see the beautiful nature. Afterwards we swam in the sea at one of the pebble beaches.

Then we moved to another house. This one was very small, but close to the sea. It was not a beach. We swam every day jumping straight in from the rocks. The people in that street talked lots and very loud till late at night.

Tinus had his birthday there. It was a special day. We went to Vieux Port and the oldest part of Marseille. It was very dirty there. We had supper in a street cafe which I enjoyed. We also visited the Notre Dame De La Garde. It is an old church on top of a hill, from where we could see-in all directions.

Many French people smoke. I wonder if they do not know how unhealthy and stinky and messy it is!

Although the people are loud and not so friendly, and the towns are not so clean, we still had a great time. I was glad that we could include the French Riviera in our tour around the world.

Marseille – 20 Aug-5 September (Chrisna)

In America it is: The bigger, the better. In France it is: The smaller, the better. That mainly includes cars. The best car to have in Marseille – or any other French town – is a Smart. The streets are so narrow, that even the smallest of cars must fold their mirrors away, that's if you still want them. The streets were built in centuries before cars were the mode of transportation and when politeness was a quality that everyone demonstrated.

The other thing very striking of France, is that it is old. The history of previous centuries comes to life before your eyes. It is wonderful that buildings, 100's of years old, are still in full use and standing strong. Unfortunately it is not just very old, but very dirty - everywhere. While driving through Provence and all the towns, the following saying is true: Beautiful from afar, but far from beautiful, when near. Yes, from a distance, everything is picture beautiful. It's the one puzzle-picture or postcard-image on the other one. I was totally trigger happy(that is with my camera). But... if you get closer, you see how dirty everything is. The streets, the buildings, the pavements... Whenever you take a picture, make sure not to include the ground, because it is covered with cigarette ends and beer bottle caps.

That is the one really sad thing of France – the smoking. My guess is that almost 70% of the population above 15 years of age, smoke! That calculation was made counting people who smoked/did not smoke on beaches, in restaurants and on the streets. I must admit that it was not a very scientific calculation, but sadly very close to the truth. Even sadder is that they not only cause other people to smoke with them with the 2nd hand smoking, but they also pollute the ground with cigarette ends. Not good...

However, if you look past the smoke and the dirt, it is beautiful. While driving through Provence, up and down tree covered hills with one small town following the other, we treasured the beauty from afar. We saw the already harvested lavender fields and the hectares full of dead sunflower heads and could imagine just how even more beautiful it will be in June/July – when all is in full bloom. We admired the vineyards loaded with grapes ready for harvest and olive trees in neat rows. We had picnics in forests and on mountain tops and next to rivers. We explored, photographed and travelled Provence and thoroughly enjoyed it.

One thing that is obvious from the years gone by, is that many battles have been fought. I don't know whether everyone always knew who they were fighting against, because the battles were so many, but they could fight. They also tried to keep the enemy out with very high walls – some still standing strong to this day! (In Namibia we try the same technique with the thieves! I'm not sure who has the most success.) At least, if you count all the churches, you also realize that they knew where their Guidance, Protection and Power came from. The battles are different in this century, and Guidance, Protection and Power is still needed, but I'm not so sure where it is found. The churches are either monuments, with visitors taking pictures, or if it is operating as a church, those attending church services are old people. Whenever entering a church, it became a habit to pray for all people entering the building, the same prayer as what Jesus prayed in John 17: "That they will Know God".

Although we cannot speak their language, we managed well with a friendly smile, "merci", sign language and Afrikaans. Please do not speak English, they are not very helpful when you do.

During day time, the pavements are pavements, but at nighttime they all become street cafes. The French people love to sit in a cafe on the pavement on chairs all facing the street. It seems that they always have time and energy for a few hours with friends at the nearest bar. They definitely put a lot of emphasis on their social life. May we also always put great effort into maintaining special friendships and make time to create special memories.

We had 2 very different houses while in Marseille. We were really blessed to be able to have these different experiences. Both houses, as I think all houses in Marseille , were in neighborhoods where the houses fit in like Lego blocks, or like pieces in a puzzle.

Our first house had a wonderful backyard, complete with a vineyard canopy and a fig tree. We had all our meals out there in the shade, and enjoyed the French life with fresh grapes daily.

We were woken every morning at 4h00 with the baker next door opening his safety door and chatting in "high volume" with who ever was with him. It surprised us only the first night, and there after it became a comfortable pattern. Although the house is in the main street, it was quiet and peaceful during the daytime. The house also provided comfortable workspace for each one of us and good internet. Another big fun provider at our Rûe de Rabelais house, was the table tennis that filled the passage in front of the house. We had tournaments and play outs and I can officially say that I am ranked nr.5 in the Fourie family. Luckily my self esteem is not tied to my table tennis rating!

We also had a car while we lived there. Remember that I said a car has to be small? Well this one fit the regulations. It's a Renault Kangoo, very small body, but surprisingly spacious inside. My family even tried to convince me that this must be my next car if I buy a new car! We drove all over Marseille and Provence, a few days even without a GPS, and was grateful each time that we arrived back home. One day we went to Cassis, a small town east of Marseille. We went on a boat to see the Calanques, massive fjords that protrude from the land into the sea. The water is turquoise blue and the scenery was(again) like on postcards. The sea was rough and everyone sitting on the front of the boat, got soaking wet. Although there were about 20 people there when we started, it was only the Namibians who stayed there the whole time. We had so much fun! We were wet to the bone and when we dried, we were like salt pillars, because the water is extremely salty!

Afterwards we had a picnic on the beach, where we were the only ones wearing hats. Everyone was just lying in the sun, trying to look like a over baked cookie. Another observation is that the ladies wear only one-piece-swimsuits: only the bikini pants!(Somewhere, some one must have many bikini tops for sale) In any case, we had a wonderful day and no one was burnt.

Our second house was right on the other side of Marseille. We all drove there, with our luggage, in the Kangoo. We unloaded and Dawie and Charlie went back to house nr.1 to leave the car there. Then they walked all the way back to us. It was 16km, of which most of the way was not pleasant or good for pedestrians. All 5 were very relieved when the doorbell rang. (they saved more than E40, enough for food for a few days!)

This house is in Rûe de Bouderesque, very close to the sea. This is a very busy, noisy neighborhood, with people moving and talking till very late at night. The street is wide enough for only 1 car, but it is a 2 way street. It is a real art to move in and out of that small, but busy corner of Marseille. We were glad that we did not have a car while living there. We walked everywhere we wanted to be. We went for regular swims, either in the harbour or in the open sea, where you jump in from the rocks. It is special to look at the city from deep within the sea.

We celebrated Tinus's birthday while we were there, but much have been said about that special day already. Although we did not have internet or workplace for everyone, we still managed to do what was set out for us in our goals. We could also take nice long hikes next to the sea on the path with the longest bench in the world. We loved watching the full moon through the balcony door of our bedroom! Although the moon was always up there, we did not see it so often during the past 8 months and really enjoyed to see it this time.

Another wonderful thing was, that when we left for our boat cruise, we could pack only 2 bags and left our other luggage in the house and when we returned to Marseille, we had a house to go back to(for 2 days), before leaving on our last leg in this tour around the world.

Yes, we were blessed with both our houses in Marseille. Yes, we were blessed like all the previous times. We agreed once again, that home exchange is a win-win way to enjoy your holiday. What makes it special for us, especially this year, is that we become "locals" the moment we move in. Then we plan what we will do in this new place(never too much) and we become "slow paced tourists" for a few hours every now and then. The rest of the time we are "home", working, playing, talking, laughing - We love it!