Soul gardeners

Life is messy and not a 5 point plan! Jesus gave us wonderful metaphors to navigate the mess. We are an African couple committed to the Gardener. Our passion is tilling and working the soil of our lives and gardening with a community. We live in South Africa and we are praying for God's direction in our lives.


Ash Wednesday

We had a wonderful AW (Ash Wednesday) service. It wasn’t all fun, yet it was good. In our self-centered lifestyles it is hard to submit to periods and journeys that don’t flatter our egos and tickle our fancies. AW is the kick-off for the season of Lent. A time used for repentance and fasting, for introspection and cries of “Mercy God”, the problem with this is that I don’t like doing the repentance thing. Why? because I’m still too full of myself.

As I prepared for the evening service it dawned on me that I’m so inflated with my own pride. I’m not usually at a place where I’m wrecked by introspection. Now I know that it’s not a good thing to be preoccupied with my own wretchedness, but I usually don’t err to that side. In fact I think most of us who have lived in the corridors of faith for a substantial time, stand the danger of faking our own sinfulness. If we fake thinking that we’re sinners, then we will only experience fake forgiveness, thereby nullifying the awesome sacrifice that we’ll reflect on in forty days! It reminds me of John’s stern words:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 1 John 1:8-10

The Ash Wednesday liturgy confronted my pride and after I struggled with the prayers for a while, it deflated my ego-filled balloon. This is exactly why I love the liturgies and prayers of the church; it directs me to a new reality. I will pray through this prayer of confession during Lent, join me – but do it with care en trepidation:

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.
By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.


Kleipot’s social responsibilty.

On a flight back to Africa I realized how un-holistic I’m living. It’s so easy to profess God and keep Him cordoned in the intellectual realm of my being. I read “The Awake Project” a book tackling the issue of Aids in Africa head-on. Somewhere between Frankfurt and Johannesburg the Spirit stirred within me, awakening me to the realization of my privileged situation and therefore also responsibility. It dawned on me that I never connected the dots between my “being blessed in Christ” with the poor and destitute in Africa and specifically; South Africa.

God used different prophets to speak to me; one of them was Tony Campolo:

“The Christ of Scripture refuses to be an abstraction in the sky. Instead, he chooses to be incarnated in the last, the least, and the lost of this world. I contend that he is especially present in those who suffer from AIDS. Sacramentally, the resurrected Jesus waits to be loved in each of them. Mother Teresa once said, “Whenever I look into the eyes of someone dying of AIDS, I have an eerie awareness that Jesus is staring back at me.” Indeed, that is the case. No one can say that he or she loves Jesus without embracing Jesus in those who have this torturous disease.” The Awake project, Introduction page xix.

I’ve been a Christian and church leader for many years and somehow the social responsibility of our Christian story never broke through the confines of my own defined boundaries. Boundaries that included middle to rich white suburban people and pretty much excluded everyone else outside of my comfortable blind spot. I cried. And then I wrote a poem:

Statistics have the subtle power of seduction,
Infamous for reducing to the impersonal -
A precious child of God turned into a dollar amount,
A hungry soul reduced to an attendance figure in Excel!
I’ve lived that way far too long!
Raving and bragging about comparative statistics -
No reverence for the individual stories,
Lusting for bigger and more
Over time only .......


I want to live incarnate,
exchanging numbers for names,
Investing in the particulars not the abstract!

So you like statistics?
Here’s one that should break your heart :
Today 5000 Africans died of Aids -
If this tragedy leaves you unfazed then you are
SEDUCED ......

repent.... if you have time.

When we started the Kleipot journey we decided that our being must enrich the community around us. We covenanted together and said that if our community can’t say that it’s a better place because of our being there, then we should consider shutting things down.

Our story is a continuation of the great blessing and responsibility entrusted to Abraham:

“I will bless you and make your name famous, and you will be a blessing to many others.” Genesis 12.

A popular worship song has us singing with gusto “Open the eyes of my heart Lord.” When we sing this song, we are asking God to give us His eyes for the down and out; those thrown away by our society – the people in and around our rich and privileged neighborhoods. May God open our eyes!

During the season of Epiphany we studied Jesus’ poignant words in Luke 6, words that challenges those who think they’re ‘in’ with the possibility that they may be ‘out’ and vice versa. We embarked on a journey to live in obedience to the opening of our eyes, what follows is an outline of the journey we’re undertaking:

The Christian journey consists of an inward and outward journey; a journey towards Christ and then a journey with Christ to others. For us to live in the rhythms of these two journeys we have to allow God’s grace and goodness to permeate every area of our lives, if we don’t synchronize the two journeys we move into dangerous ground.

We used Isaiah 58 as a basic text for the journey towards the opening of our eyes. Isaiah 58:11-12 is what I’ll call my commissioning verses, for the last twelve years I’ve written them down in the front of my journals:

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

The verses paint a powerful picture of hope and expectation, a picture of adventure and new things, but these two verses find themselves in a larger context. Those two verses on their own claim the blessing and conveniently leave out the responsibility. In Isaiah 58 God challenges Israel because they claimed to live the inward journey. He shows them the folly of their actions and directs their attention to their negligence of the outward journey. Here’s a list of the people and groups they neglected, the very people God wanted to “open their eyes toward”.

(List compiled from the Message translation)

Break the chains of injustice
Get rid of the exploitation in the workplace
Free the oppressed
Cancel debts
Sharing your food with the hungry
Inviting the homeless poor into your home
Putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad
Being available to your own families
Get rid of unfair practices
Quit blaming victims
Quit gossiping about other people’s sins
Be generous with the hungry
Give to the down-and-out

Now this list should not serve as a legalistic checklist or to-do list. But this list must inform our imagination and open the eyes of our heart to our own situation and rhythms. The list cannot be ignored and must be applied to our Monday to Sunday lives; it must intersect with the particularities of our lives as individuals and a community.

Our involvement can be shown as different circles of involvement. Even though this is a very static and limited representation – it can give us some pointers for the journey. The journey will involve our “personal” selves and is thus the starting point of our journey. Our first responsibility is to live with our families, friends and neighbors. It’s here where Paul challenges Timothy:

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8

The journey will also include those who are part of the Kleipot community. If someone has need in our immediate community, then we have the responsibility to help with what we have. This gives a practical expression to all the “one another” commands in the Bible. John’s words come to mind:

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 1 John 3:17

Our journey will also join forces with the local people of Berario and Johannesburg, and eventually South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world.

As a group we decided to live the personal journey with intensity in the next month and then regroup for a time of storytelling and to ask for God’s direction in the other dimensions.

Here are some principals we discussed for the personal journey:

- Isaiah 58 talks about “being available for our own families”
- We should rediscover the ancient discipline of “neighboring”; do we know our neighbors? In what ways can I get involved with their lives?
- As we conduct our daily affairs we should remember that every person has a story … Take time to listen to their story and ask God to give you His eyes for the person in front of you.
- Ask God to show you the “filters” that you’re using to decide whether someone is in or out.
- Give people what they “need” not what you want to give or think they need.
- Most people in South Africa have domestic workers. Respect them as equal in God. This should reflect in the way we talk to them, give them instructions and pay them. (Imagine what could happen if all Christians in South Africa would treat their workers with respect).
- Strategic consumerism. Instead of feeding a global movement wherein people are reduced to numbers let’s shop strategically. Instead of always going to the big stores where no one is known, let’s try to build relationships with the people at the grocery store and wherever we shop.

What are some of your ideas?

You can post them on our website:


“Everything that needs numbers in order to become significant is by that very fact insignificant. Everything that can be arranged, executed, completed only with the help of numbers, the sum of which startles people in amazement, as if this were something important – precisely this is unimportant. The truly important is inversely related, needs a progressively smaller and smaller number to implement its completion. And for the most important of all, that which sets heaven and earth in motion, only one person is needed. And what is most important of all? What interest angels and demons most is that a person is actually involved with God – for this one single human being is enough. Kierkegaard, p.242


God is building a community!

Yes, you’ve read it, God is doing some amazing communal things in the daily relationships of our community. The neat thing about it is that we’re not initiating anything specifically – God’s the author of all of it. Let me share just one neat thing that happened in the last few weeks:

Schalk is our friend who lives in Mozambique. A few Wednesdays ago a few of us prayed together and he shared that he needed a specific amount of funds to keep up his development work. We all prayed together. On Sunday of that week, a couple in our community gave him a check – apparently the husband woke in the middle of the night; he woke his wife and told her that he felt they had to give a certain amount to Schalk.

We were all amazed! God wove two independent stories into one beautiful chapter … He’s doing some other beautiful things too.

Today I spoke to my friend Jacques about this and he offhandedly made the comment that it’s amazing all we had to do was destroy some of the structures that don’t allow people to relate to each other and then watch God work! That’s it – He is the builder of His church.


Thanks for the prayers on behalf of Francois. He is back home at the moment and will spend the rest of next week recuperating. We really appreciate all the support and love.

Our friends Tom and April are parents

Tom and April are the new parents of Ethan Ryan Hook. Tom wrote some awesome thoughts on the pregnancy stage:

Do you know what I think is amazing? God shows us so many things about himself through life's cycles and situations. Why did God desire that a woman be
pregnant for 9 months? He could have made the woman in such a way that she gets pregnant and delivers a baby in a week. Why not, He can do anything He wants. And yet, I think He was trying to give us an example of our spiritual lives,
our sanctification process. Not only does pregnancy hurt, but it strips you of
what's comfortable. You now have to think of more than just yourself when you
eat, when you sleep, when you walk, when you do just about anything. One day
you feel great. The next you can't hardly keep yourself from crying. Being
pregnant can be a long trial. And yet it is filled with so much excitement,
anticipation and love. At the end of a 9 month period, all the work and labor
pains result in one of the most amazing miracles. A life. Doesn't it remind you
of our walk with God in about a million ways?


Please pray

Please pray for my brother Francois, he is in hospital and is in desperate need of sleep. When you go to bed tonight please pray for a sweet rest for him. Thanks

A morning with the senior citizens.

Our church’s gathering is in a community center where all kinds of people meet during the week. Pottery classes, Boy – and Girl Scouts, Belly dancers, Ballet, Gymnastics and many other groups use the facility. We love being a part of the local community. One of the groups meeting at the center is the Senior Citizens. They invited me to kick their year off with a few words from the Bible and a prayer.

After I spoke and prayed, the hostess introduced two other speakers. The first was the leader of the Girl Scouts. She championed her cause to the seventy year old ladies hoping to get their grand children involved. A pretty harmless idea, or so I thought. In the back sat a mammoth lady, the creases and contours of her face showing many a victory in life’s battles. Getting visibly agitated by the Girl Scouts leader, she stood up and challenged the poor speaker. “Why do you want Girls Scouts if we already have Girl Guides?” she shouted. The Girl Scout Girl told her that the scouts are more adventurous than the guides and rehearsed a list of all their activities. “I’ve done all of them when I was young”, the sage responded. (I couldn’t believe it, the list included flying, river rafting, bungee jumping, rock climbing and adventure sports galore).

“I’ll tell you why we have Girl Scouts”, the old one said, “It’s because American have them and we want to copy them in everything!!!!” The Girl Scout girl survived her presentation and I felt like giving her a pin or something. I realized that it was a tough crowd, I saw nothing yet …

Next up was the local police chief. A man in his late forties, ready to give some neighborly tips to the older ones. After telling them how understaffed they were, and giving reasons why they can’t have a Bobby on the beat, he opened it up for questions. A tiny old lady with a shaking voice asked the first question:

“Officer, if there’s a man on my lawn and I point a gun at him can I shoot him on the run?” .

Pretty aggressive question don’t you think? The officer told her that she can only shoot if her life is in danger, and therefore if there’s a witness they’ll have to testify to the endangerment of her life.

“If there are no witnesses, remember: you’ll have to shoot to kill.”

I tried to imagine the little lady unleashing Rambo or Terminator style – what a picture – try that Quinton Tarantino.

Never underestimate the Senior Citizens folks!


We had a fabulous Lord’s Supper at our community yesterday. When we started the church we decided to bring the meal back to Communion, Wolfgang Simson said:

“Church tradition has managed to "celebrate the Lord's Supper" in a homeopathic and deeply religious form, characteristically with a few drops of wine, a tasteless cookie and a sad face. However, the "Lord's Supper" was actually more a substantial supper with a symbolic meaning, than a symbolic supper with a substantial meaning. God is restoring eating back into our meeting.”

Eating back into our meeting …

Our community sat around tables and everyone bought something. The air was filled with wonderful food fragrances and the cadence of community filled the atmosphere. Christ was the guest of Honor and we took a few hours to Remember and Anticipate his coming and coming again.

During our time together we showed five verses on the screen and asked each person around the table to share with which one they identified most. One of the gals shared that her journey took a significant change of direction earlier in the morning. She told us that she hid from God for the last few years, trying to run away from him. “I guess this morning I am allowing myself to be found”, was her words to us.

God is good…