There is one

When I am alone

Drowning in sadness

The music of unrequited love

Throbbing through my mind

There is One whose arms fold gently around

When fear overwhelms

In owl calling night

There is One whose wings beat

Away the demons of fright

Allowing me to welcome the dawn

And give voice to the morn

When cruel words

Burn deep in my soul

There is One whose love

reaches out to make me whole

When I am confused

Unsure, seeking, which way, how, why

There is One whose word reaches

Out and gently teaches

When I collapse in despair

Shrieking panic into the silent air

There is One who Comforts

As, with repetitive assurance

He says

Trust, believe, I Am He,

I Am the great I Am

Walk in my ways

And all will be well with your soul

Review: Deception Point

Deception Point by Dan Brown

Conspiracy theories, how I thrive on them!

Dan Brown has delivered a fabulous holiday read, a distraction from the mundane in Deception Point.

Set in the freezing wastelands of the arctic, the gales blow from murder to murder as the plot unfolds. I was duped, quite sure I knew who the villain of the piece was only to be astounded along with the rest of the crew when the true culprit stood up.

That is the gift of a master story teller as Dan Brown surely is. From the first sentence to the last the reader is taken through a series of hoops, given fascinating insight into the natural world, the scheming of politicians, the concerns of the intelligence agencies entrusted with keeping the avarice of industry in check.

A fabulous romp when and if you need an escape for a few hours.

Tobacco wars

Tobacco Wars by Johann van Loggerenberg

Tafelberg, an imprint of NB Publishers

It is said that books unravelling South African politics and detailing the antics of those in positions of power are better than any fiction. This is certainly true of the revelations by Johann van Loggerenberg in Tobacco Wars.

Initially I found my mind flailed by too much information, having to stop for breath to uncramp my thoughts, and wondered at the intelligence and derring-do of the author. What an officer the South African Revenue Services have lost, how much has South Africa lost by him and other honest officials so summarily dismissed.

The format was a hard to follow in the beginning, traversing the time line as van Loggerenberg does. My head was spinning as I was sent back to the early teens, then brought up to today, and sent back to the mid-teens. The story is so complex I realise he has no choice but to guide us through the merry dance as best he can, and the page came where I was happily a part of the time line, understanding where I was in the sequence of things.

I found the same with the players. I had to concentrate to get each cartel, each group of players established so the narrative made sense.  Once I had that all sorted the story overwhelmed, gob-stopped and infuriated.

This is not the easiest of reads, well though it is written, even for someone who loves crime and mystery fiction, because of the complexity of the deception and dishonesty. It is hard to believe that what is being told is unembellished truth, facts that left me breathless with disbelief.

A must read for anyone with a stake in South Africa today, or indeed in the tobacco industry.

A New Season, a new decade.

Towards the end of November a question was posed: As you near the end of this year, what are the highlights for you of the second decade of the 21st century?

My first reaction was to avoid the issue, a familiar sinking feeling of failure, of unmet goals, rising up like flotsam on the tide after river floods threatened to overwhelm. But the question lingered and as I went back to 2010, and slowly wound my way through the next ten years, the ‘teens’ as a friend calls them, slowly my emotions changed and I was buoyed by the result.

I really did not do too badly in the achievement stakes as I am sure you did not.

2019 was a year of mixed blessings. Healthwise it was challenging, but in many other ways it was an exciting year, and I find myself skipping over the nasties and focusing on the positive emotions, the general feeling of happiness that I experienced through the year takes precedence over the negativity, and that I will take forward into the next decade.

I believe this life is about stretching forward towards that goal, that prize of which the apostle Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 9 vv 24 to 27, and again in Philipians 3 vv 13,14:

Brethren I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forget those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

A new season begins. May it bring all that is positive and uplifting to each of you, to my family and to my friends far and wide, a season of hope, of joy.

Happy 2020!

Happy days!

Sticks and stones …

“Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me” is possibly the most fallacious defence mantra taught to children.

Words create life and they bring death, hence the need to warn against their power.

A couple of months ago a young friend, with the best of intentions, confided to me that a faction in an organisation of which I am a part refer to me as “The Bitch”. It cut, and it cut deep. Try as I might ‘The Bitch’ rattled around my psyche taunting me, tainting me. That is its purpose: To demean, to undermine, change my perception of myself, doubt my identity, my intentions, even my purpose.

Silly, you might think. Shrug it off. And you are right.

But it is easier said than done.

Look around you. So much of the anger and aggression we see stems from someone whose identity has been perverted, changed into something unpleasant, unwanted. Race is a good starting point. We call people names, we associate characteristics with people groups, the uglier the better: big nose, fat lips, slit eyes, the list is endless. The laughter that goes with these epithets is cruel and uncaring.

Experiential belief is entrenched and so much of the verbal abuse that manifests as insecurity in later life is handed out when we are children and have no yardstick by which to measure its veracity. We believe what we are told, it becomes a part of our persona.

How then do we deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous words?

Paul adjures in 2 Corinthians 10 v5:

“..Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into the captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

That’s a mouthful but it makes sense because as we take every thought captive unto Christ, His truth washes away the lies and replaces them with truth, His truth based in love and acceptance.

John 10 v 10: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Mathew 11 vv 28, 29: “Come unto Me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

29. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

In the mighty book of Isaiah the voice of the Lord rings loud and clear, over and over again as He reaffirms His love and commitment to us:

Chapter 45 v 3: I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel.”

Chapter 49 v 16:    “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands…”

And Chapter 51 v 12: “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid….”

And so on and so on.

Until I curl my woundedness around the foot of the cross of Christ, and listen for that still small voice of comfort, I am at the mercy of darkness, a shallow man tossed to and fro in my unbelief!

It is only at the cross that I can begin to shed that putrid skin of shame and start believing that I am who I am and not who others say I am. I hear the Voice that whispers: ‘Dear Child, know who are, who you are in Me, yes, but far more importantly, know Whose you are!’

And slowly my head comes up, my eyes lighten as I grasp that eternal truth: I am my Father’s daughter, I am a child of the living Christ, and His banner over me is Love, the love that brought Him humbly to this earth as a man, One in whom no sin was found.

And a cry of worship is pulled out of me as I am filled with incomprehensible joy, and I am able to say: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know You!”

As we look to commemorate the birth of this man called Jesus, I pray we can look beyond the piles of shredded paper and carelessly tossed toys to the manger, to the One called Emmanuel, God with us, and allow Him to be the gift He came to be.

Wishing you all a peaceful and joyous Christmas.


On this day 57 years ago my father died, leaving a void far greater than I have understood for most of my life.

Mark Warburton was a policeman. A good one by all accounts. He had a great sense of humour, was an accomplished actor, a good cricketer, fisherman, loved the bush, and he was my Dad. He was the sun that this moon revolved around for nine years, until one day shortly before Christmas he fell, downed by a massive heart attack at the age of 49.

For many years I refused to believe he really was dead. I comforted myself with the thought that he was MI5, working undercover, that his death was a ruse, and one day I would look up and there he would be. The febrile imagination that is born of wanting a world not of make believe, but of don’t believe.

Recently I attended a counselling course, which presented an interesting take on Family Trees. Out of the blue I returned to that day so long ago and was astonished at the anger I felt. Not at God, not at anyone but my father.

He had been ill, had a heart condition brought on by pleurisy from fighting multiple fires in Mbabane one particularly bad winter, and been told by the cardiologist that he had to take it easy. Did he listen? Oh no! He was a Brit, and Brits don’t give in to anything or anyone. He was about duty, about stiff upper lip and carrying on. He was a product of the war so tough it out was how you did it.

And so he died.

What of us? My Mum and I? How were we supposed to deal with this?

As my thoughts focussed on that time I realised that my emptiness when I looked for him was not so much about the physical loss, but about the sinking feeling that we were not important enough for him to make the effort to live. Ouch! His duty, his pride, his determination to show no weakness mattered more than his wife and daughter.

This man whose memory I loved so much, because I didn’t know him. Most of what I know about my dad is from other people and the odd memory, odd feeling of safety that lingers. How could I have such traitorous thoughts about him? This person who I had enshrined in my heart for so many decades.

I knew I had to deal with this, and fast. I needed to unpeel layers of hurt, of deception, of unforgiveness from my heart.

In Hebrews 12 vv 14,15 Paul writes:

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:

Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God: lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”

This is to do with forgiveness, allowing the hurt to dissolve into the love that Jesus the Christ offers, and walking forward in freedom. Any root of bitterness, the nascence of which is always in hurt, in blame, in sin, defiles not only you, but those with whom you come into contact, so it is important to check regularly, make sure you have released anyone and anything that might linger in the shadows of your heart, putting you in unholy bondage.

Be blessed this day as you make peace with your past.

A Dark and scary place

The hours of the night blurred in the dark, the glow of hospital lights a faint beacon in the miasma of pain and nausea.

I couldn’t focus in the mists that swirled in this foreign place. Five nights I thought. Five nights of agony. It’s supposed to be over now, the procedure’s been done.

‘Lord,’ I cry soundlessly.

No answer.

Earlier I had thrown my toys, demanding my pain be attended to.

“It’s a ten,” I kept telling them. I couldn’t read their thoughts as they watched me, unmoving. At last a doctor. “You have to give me something for the pain. It’s a ten.”

He was more focused on telling off the nurse. “It’s a ten,” I told him again. “And if you aren’t going to give me anything to relieve it, then bring a bullet.”

That got his attention. But nothing helped. The pain drilled on. And on. The nausea overwhelmed. I asked for a bucket. The only way I could find some measure of relief was standing against the wall, my elbows resting on a high windowsill, my companion a bucket that boasted the scant evidence of a lunch I had tried to eat.

The misery continued. I had to refuse one of the pain meds because that was causing me to heave fruitlessly at the swill that mocked at me from the floor.

Where was my Lord, my Father, my God?

I was so knocked on my back by this physical attack that I really was not sure I would come back from it. I was more scared than I had ever been, sad beyond words, wandering in no man’s land, feeling utterly abandoned by God.

The future was as huge a wilderness as any tract of uninhabited land and I had no idea how I was going to live in it, what my Lord wanted from me, or for me. In all the dark places that I have been in my life I have always seen a shimmer of the path I am to follow, but not this time.

The pain finally abated, but not the nausea. That continued for another four days. Days in which the thought of food, let alone the sight or smell of it, had my stomach in total revolt.

How do you live the aftermath of a chronic attack? When you have looked death in the eye and not been able to stand and fight as I have done for 65 years? Too wracked by pain and nausea to want to live – where to from here?

Yet, in that barren desert, far in the distance I heard His whispers. I knew it would take faith such as I had never experienced to creep close to the place where I could hear the words of those whispers.

I found these words in my journal: I can’t walk this next part of my journey. If I am to do it, I need some answers and assurances that I am unlikely to get, knowing God as I do. It has to be by faith, blind faith. That’s all. *“Though the Fig tree may not blossom” kind of faith. And I don’t know if I have enough energy left for that. Maybe that is my answer? It is not energy that is needed, but simply resting in the knowledge that troubles will come, no amount of prayer or “right living” will keep them at bay.

The Lord is never silent for long, and one of those mornings as I opened my bible the marker was in 1 Samuel 2. I had not put the ribbon there. I hadn’t been in 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, in fact anywhere before Psalms for many months. It is the story of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, of her need for a child, a need which the Lord finally met. Hannah then returns her son to the Lord, and she prays her release.

The first gem came in verse 1:

“I smile at my enemies,

Because I rejoice in Your salvation.”

No matter what the enemy does, how afflicted we are, how desperately lost and abandoned we may feel,  we are secure in Christ’s salvation. I wondered if I had really grasped that fact. I read on, and then came the big diamond, the rock of many carats:

“He will guard the feet of His saint,

but the wicked shall be silent in darkness

For by strength no man shall prevail.”

I had tried and failed to deal with my illness in my own strength. It is what I had always done. Brave, tough Glenda! So I got up, sick as I was in the face of amazed opposition from my son, and blurred off to do a job I was totally unfit for, and fell hard. In that falling I did exactly what I was trying to circumvent, causing great inconvenience to those who had to cover for me.

Are you seeing what I finally saw? The pride? The ‘Look at me! No matter how sick I am I will get up and do whatever’ kind of pride?

Oh the mortification of that realisation! Of my arrogance.

A couple of days later, the Lord answered my cries. I didn’t dare listen, I just allowed my hand to write as the Holy Spirit directed. It was a few days before I found the courage to read the words He had given me:

When are you going to stop fighting? Striving? For who knows what? When are you going to learn to simply rest, and be, in Me? You agitate for that which you can’t attain. I have it all, here, waiting for you and as much as you don’t want to hear this, you are not ready for any of it.

Yes, you went through a barrier, to a place beyond where you have ever been, and I had to cut your loose to go there. cut. You. loose. To confront you. to help you understand that “by strength no man shall prevail”. So what has until now, been platitude: in your weakness I am made strong, becomes reality. It changes, and morphs into faith I can use.

You saw all those books, pages, paragraphs, that was Me, showing you your destiny. You will write the words I have sealed within you. don’t ask, ‘what then?’ Write. Write as if your life depended on it. That is MY will.

Take each day at its own value. Do that which I ask of you. nothing more, nothing less.

I am God. I am your God. I will not leave you or forsake you. But I will demand your best for My service. That is love.”

Tough words. Words through which God showed me powerfully what it means to ‘rest’ in Him, a glimpse of the consequences should I not surrender my innate resistance to trust in His all-encompassing love.

I had a constricted bile duct in my liver, and had to have a stent put in to open it. The procedure could not be done here in Mbombela, so I was referred to a surgeon in Witbank. The stent was not permanent and had to be removed after six weeks, which meant I would have to return to Witbank on a Sunday, spend the night in order to be admitted first thing Monday morning.

This was the second flare up in my liver, and with all the blood tests and x-rays I have blown my Medical Aid allowance for laboratory, radiology, and consults. Now I would have to find the money for a night’s accommodation for me, and a friend, as I would need someone to drive me home after the stent removal which would be under another anaesthetic. More expense, money I really didn’t have.

So I prayed for the Lord to remove the stent, for His healing. It was my first tentative step towards trusting anew. I had been scheduled for a CT scan a few weeks after the procedure to check how my liver was healing. The surgeon called with the results, sounding somewhat puzzled. The scan looked good, he said, no swelling, no sign of stenosis, infection gone.

Just one little issue –they couldn’t see the stent!

Halleluia! My God reigns and He hears the prayers of His children and He had answered the prayer offered up in my newly refreshed state of faith and trust very clearly.

This happened a few months ago, in June. It has taken time for me to heal, to get back to a routine, and to understand that this is a new phase, a new season, in my journey with Jesus. One in which I look to Him first, consciously determined to include Him in all of my life. I don’t get it right every day, but He is patient and gracious and I am at peace in a way I have never been before.

I am learning to stop, and ask, and listen to what it is my Father is asking me to do. I am learning that faith is simple, if we don’t complicate it. Above all, I am learning to rest in Him, to take each day as it comes.

May the blessing of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost be with each of you.

*Habbakuk 3 v17

Of Living waters and rocks

I am back at Praia do Chizavane in Mozambique after a three year absence. This was my home, my place of refuge for a number of years, and I cannot understand how I have allowed so many months to go by without being here.

I am sitting on the verandah of the restaurant at Nascer do Sol Lodge, watching lazy whales sidle by.

I am always inspired here. I love walking on the beach in the early mornings, and find ideas and words flow like nowhere else. I see the Master’s hand so clearly here, in the dramatic sunrises, the slow signing off of the sunsets, in the waves, the rocks, the trees, the birds everywhere.

Yesterday the tide was low enough for me to walk to part of the reef. It is mid-winter and while the days would be considered hot in the northern hemisphere, here we are conscious of the chill in the wind, and water temperature that might be normal elsewhere is definitely cold here. So swimming out to the reef at seven in the morning isn’t an option.

As I looked for familiar gems in the rock pools, I noticed a miniature Victoria Falls look alike, water pouring over oyster encrusted rocks. A small wave broke over the far edge, a white edging of foam creeping towards the ledge nearest me. Small as the residue of wave was, it created a fall that tinkled and refreshed the pool, an overflow that tinkled on, and on.

I thought of Jesus, how He invited us to drink of the Living Waters He would provide, and wondered at how far a tiny dose of His grace goes. One small drop of the Saviour’s blood is enough to cleanse each and every sin! Here, a tiny wave produced many litres of water, refreshing and filling the pool in the beach.

I always have to photograph these moments, so out came my cell.

I find it challenging taking pictures in the open air, the light drains all definition from the screen. So I aim in the general direction of what I hope to capture and shoot away.

As I took aim, a large wave flung itself over the reef, causing a cascade of foaming waters to wash over the rocks, my Victoria Falls in full fall! Living waters! Washing and caressing the solidity of the reef, the rocks immutable as protector of the beach, of the treasures contained therein, ensuring my safety.

It was only when I got indoors that I saw that I had one of those once in ‘a blue moon flukes’ – a picture that not only had the wave breaking, but its clear reflection in the rock pool. The composition would have been better if I had been half a step further back, and got the reflection of the rocks in the foreground more fully (it would also have applied the rule of thirds better) but it is a beauts pic nonetheless.

Christ again. This time in power. The waters seen by Ezekiel flowing out from the Temple, first ankle deep, then chest deep and then overflowing all. And through it all, the rocks unmoving. My Saviour, my firm foundation allowing me and all His children the delights of His kingdom, not least the washing and empowering of His Living Water!

What a moment! What a dramatic revelation of His word displayed in His creation! What joy!

Peace filled my soul as I continued walking.

God is in His Heaven, and right now, all is well with my world.

Privilege? White, Black, Anyone’s?

People look at me in amazement when I confess that I love Twitter. I do. I love Twitter. I love the freedom of thought, the discussion, and yes, even gasping at some of the insults.

One person who always manages to set Twitter a-tweeting is Helen Zille. Like her or loathe her, she stimulates thought and discussion. That is the best part of living in South Africa as against my home land of Eswatini. The vibrancy of discussion, the controversy, the provocation. You are made to think, to look into yourself and find what your beliefs really are. Almost anything goes.

Helen Zille’s latest foray, initiating an intense argument about white versus black privilege has done that for me. My first thought was, yeah, she has a point. Maybe. Bit of a long shot. Then I read some of the responses from all sides of the divide and began to really think the question through.

Without doubt I grew up in a totally different environment to my Swazi neighbours. I am not sure how different, because there was little fraternisation. I know I loved the food they ate from locusts to sour porridge to imbitfo to lekusha. Lifestyle was simply the way it was. We lived the way we did, ‘they’ lived the way ‘they’ did. There was no overt condemnation, or in retrospect, concern at the distinction. This is the mind-set of privilege.

 It was a no-brainer that I would start school as close to my fifth birthday as possible, while my Swazi peers, who knows? I certainly didn’t. Although I do remember when the first two Swazi children came to St Mark’s Primary School in Mbabane in 1964, or was it ‘63. It was a big deal for all of about five seconds.

I know we did not have electricity, but somehow I was still put into a hot bath. We had a paraffin fridge, a radio, I slept in a comfortable bed. Were those facilities the same in the police houses adjacent to ours? I doubt it, but cannot say for sure.

We had a motor vehicle. I had a bicycle and a horse too.

Are these criteria for white privilege? Or is it only about money, how much one has, regardless of how one came about it?

Is it that simple? Is the divide that neat?

Our forebears are decried for looting and taking land and riches that were not theirs to take, and for this reason we whites must forever bear the shame and blame for the ignominy and cruelty of the apartheid years, for colonial horrors the world over.

Do we deserve this acrimony? Again, I am not sure.

What I do know is that I love history as much as I love Twitter, and so my thoughts, whenever I allow them to chew on a delicate question, tend to trundle back in time. I recently watched Braveheart, a tale of dreadful tyranny and oppression of the Scottish people by the English. I read a book recently that outlined repercussions for many as a result of the Irish troubles, I think of the internecine wars that have inked a bloody trail through Europe’s history, and, incidentally substantially changed the tribal boundaries of that continent.

Oppression and colonialism go back to the dawn of time, across every land, every continent of the world, from Babylonian and Egyptian times to Alexander to the Picts, Angles, Jutes, Huns, Vikings, the list is pretty long and I haven’t left Europe yet!

Against this backdrop, Africa cannot hope to be the exception.

The first settlers to be dropped off at that fair Cape were not in search of domination at that point. They were cast offs, people exported from their own countries to the furthest reaches of the known world for no reason except expediency at the behest of their rulers. Australia was a boot camp for criminals, a life sentence of separation from their native lands and families. Can you imagine what it was like being dumped in a foreign land, totally different to anything you have ever experienced, tropical diseases, an inclement climate, vicious animals you have never heard of let alone seen.

These displaced peoples lived a life of oppression and blow all privilege in Cape Town, and so they set off for pastures greener. They had nothing to lose. At this time, blacks were living free, and believing, I guess, they were privileged if they thought about it at all. They themselves fought their enemies to take possession of land they wanted, raided for cattle and wealth in exactly the same way as there paler brethren to the north had done for centuries.

Then came the gold rush. Why did none of the black tribes rush for the goldfields. Prospect for their share of the metal. As far as I can establish they were not prohibited from doing this. Or were they. Or did it not fit into their idea of wealth, and so they didn’t get caught up in the fever.

I have the same question for the Indians in North America.

There were blacks who benefited in California, although they were in the minority, according to Blacks in Gold Rush California, published by Yale University Press. An interesting and telling excerpt:

On a September day in 1848 a black man was walking near the San Francisco docks, when a white man who had just disembarked from a ship called to him to carry his luggage. The black cast him an indignant glance and walked away. After he had gone a few steps, he turned around and, drawing a small bag from his bosom, he said, “Do you think I’ll lug trunks when I can get that much in one day?” The sack of gold dust that he displayed was estimated by the white man to be worth more than one hundred…

South African History on line, when telling about the discovery of gold in 1886, mentions that “blacks had mined gold hundreds of years earlier.”

Why didn’t you guys go for it in 1886? Did you sit back, thinking you were OK in your tribal customs and ways, and decide the whites were all lunatics in their quest for the gold stones, and leave them to it?

That’s where the problem began in my humble opinion. Way back then you lost out! Not because anyone stole it, or held you hostage while they helped themselves. Your forebears sat back and allowed it to happen!

I can just hear the chorus arising from the twitterati if any should read what I have written! But bear with me a little longer.

Can you imagine if the majority of those claims had landed in the hands of Xhosa and Zulu and Pedi and Tswana and other tribal hands how different the history of this part of Africa would be today?

The impermanence of a life without privilege

Who would have killed who? Which tribe would be in power, and where would they be based? How would the boundaries of Africa have changed, and what might they look like today if only the indigenous residents of the time had the same value system as those sent into exile to this strange and wonderful land?

Regardless of any supposition, however, we are where we are today. I am privileged. So are many other people. Of all colours and races. Many more are not. They live in hovels, eeking out a living in conditions I hesitate to imagine they are so awful.

The real question is what are we going to do about it? Black and white if you have to discriminate.

Jesus said:

“… for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;

I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

Mathew 25 vv 35,36

The only question any of us should be asking is: what am I doing to alleviate the suffering of my fellow man, how am I making his load easier to carry?

As important as debate is, action speaks louder than words.

So I ask again: what are you doing?

Beyond Despair

The cardboard mound is eerily pale in the early morning light. It looks sepulchral. It isn’t there by chance. It is the night’s shelter for a young man, a boy really. People ask how old he is. Fifteen. Maybe. It is hard to tell age in Africa, especially for these young ones.

Depravation stunts their growth, so twelve-year-olds look no older than eight. He could be twenty. But he looks mid-teens. He is a sad youngster. Life has robbed him of all joy and bracketed him in despair. Not even the raucous, drug induced hilarity of other street dwellers can make him smile. If he gets a smoke, he draws on it with studied pre-occupation, glaring at it as he inhales deeply.

For the rest he sits on the edge of the pavement, his focus inward. At times he finds bottles and breaks them. He uses the pieces of glass to shave his skin, slowly, deliberately sweeping the chips down first one leg, and then the other. Red stripes appear in places. He strokes through them. His arms are black with the scars of deeper cuts.

Each day I worry that he has died in the night in his coffin of cardboard. Each day I thank God when I catch sight of him. I have spoken to many people, but no one seems able to offer any solution or help for this boy. I know his name, and where he is from. He claims to have forgotten his surname.

I wonder what atrocities were perpetrated on this young soul to bring him to this place of bleak and hideous despair. More than that, I wonder what my role must be, what is the best help for him? I fear putting him into a system that might harm him more, but leaving him to the mercy of the elements seems equally cruel even if it is his choice. Reaching him will take time and patience, and wisdom.

People warn me against getting involved, believing he will attack me. He won’t. I have given him a wrap for the nights, and food. He said ‘Thank you’. I trust that the Lord has put him in my path for a reason, and it is about him, not me. I hear the words of my Saviour reminding me that whatever I do for the least of these, I do for Him.

This past Saturday night for the first time in many weeks, he did not come ‘home’. I worried all through the weekend. I mentioned his absence to an employee on Monday. He said he had seen people talking to him, together with the police. Maybe, just maybe, he has found proper shelter.

Later I saw him walking past. He had a haircut, but his left arm was pressed into his side in an odd manner. Again he slept elsewhere. Yesterday he was back. His dejection seemed more intense.

I went to him. “How are you?” he won’t answer. He doesn’t have to. The depth of misery in his eyes, the imperceptible shake of his head say more than words.

On the pole next to us are two billboards. One says “Fight back!” I think that’s the translation. The other says “Protect our Borders”. We have elections soon. how I wish there was a sign that says “We Care” and then shows that they do.

Shortly after I left him a man walking past began to harangue my boy. I went out but he left before I could stop him. The boy went and hid himself under his pieces of cardboard although the sun was still shining.

The pile has not moved. I am scared. I want to pray that he is still alive, but a little voice says ‘Why? Why would you want this life for anyone?’

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