by Reingard Knausenberger and Shirley Marais
Having completed their tasks in Port Alfred, Shirley and Hennie are now part of the Afrikara Community living on the Hoekiesdam Farm in the western Cape. Afrikara (meaning ‘Spirit of Africa’) is a bio-dynamic training facility for student farmers wanting to learn sustainable agriculture and food security. Their training includes bio-dynamic principles, according to Rudolf Steiner, which are practiced on this farm.
Surrounded by conventional large-scale farming for the export market, Afrikara in contrast puts effort into healing the earth, improving the soil and not putting strain on existing resources and serving the local market.
In Port Alfred Hennie worked as a journalist for 15 years, first in mainstream media and then ran his own highly successful digital (online) newspaper for seven years. He shut that down last year, because he needed an operation on his shoulder and his surgeon banned him from using a keyboard for at least six weeks. He had been seriously considering making wooden toys and creating an online shop for anyone making toys and other things, and that is one of the things he is currently setting up, also with the aim of providing woodwork training to the agricultural students at Afrikara.
Shirley started off working as a journalist, with Hennie, mainly writing travel and entertainment articles and doing the language editing. This led to her becoming the chairperson of the Forum for Astronomy, Science and Technology, and doing various other miscellaneous things. She completed a Master of Arts Degree in Creative Writing at Rhodes University two years ago and started teaching creative writing. She also qualified as a Life Alignment practitioner and will continue doing all those things at Afrikara, as well as managing the spaces and accommodation there.
Hennie has taken charge of maintenance for the Community. Both are also involved in various aspects of training and supporting the Afrikara ideals. They also focus on expanding the non-agricultural earning potential of the Afrikara Community, such as creating holiday cottages and a backpacker facility.
The farm also hosts children and high school camps and volunteers, and is also currently training three student farmers, one of whom is Jason Higgins, who are registered with the Bio-Dynamic Association.
The farm is also an incubator for the Breede Valley Rehabilitation Initiative, particularly addressing the water crisis.
by Rev. Reingard Knausenberger
Derek (*13.12.44) met the Christian Community at the time his 2 young children were going to Kindergarten and primary school. When his wife became ill with cancer and then died, leaving him with the children, he found a strong support in the church community. As a civil engineer specialised in noise impact assessments in road and traffic engineering, his work projects took him away from home for extended periods. He did a lot of ground-breaking work, e.g. for the Gautrain project by setting all the standards for the contractors. Until recently he was still running his own business, together with his wife Erica. After a series of operations, which have taken their toll on him, he has closed his business and has a very reduced radius of mobility. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 22 years ago; he is now in the constant care of two carers and his loving wife at their home in Pretoria. His sense of humour and quick wit are still his signature when one meets him. And his interest in people and events in the community a constant life-thread of connecting.
He is very grateful for the prayers and good thoughts from the community and of not being forgotten.
by Leila Kuhlmann
Cindy Spencer suffered a stroke in the early hours of Friday, 26th April 2019 at her home in Merweville in the Great Karoo. She was only found in the late afternoon on Friday and arrived by ambulance at the Mediclinic Hospital in George at 04h30 on Saturday morning. By then it was too late for early intervention treatment for stroke victims. Cindy is paralyzed on the left side of her body from a stroke that happened on the right side of the brain. She spent most of May 2019 in a Spescare rehabilitation home in George.
Cindy remains a fighter and is getting stronger, but the doctors say that she will need frail care with 24-hour nursing going forward. Her speech has already improved greatly and she is mentally strong. Her cognitive abilities have not been impaired by the stroke. It is going to be a long road ahead and life changing for her and us as a family.
Cindy’s sense of humour is also still intact, and she has been working hard with her physiotherapists and occupational therapists. She has had three hours of therapy a day. Cindy says that after the stroke “it’s like being in prison in your own body”.
The family is preparing to bring Cindy to Johannesburg where they are looking for a suitable frail care home. Paul, Leila and the family are shattered by this event as it was the last thing one would think would happen to Cindy. Cindy was happy and well in Merweville and had planned to live there till she died. Now she will not be going back to Merweville, which she loves and where she is happy, unless a miracle happens.
Some images of Cindy's life in Merweville
The labyrinth and spiral (see the town's church in the background)
Update in June 2019
by Leila Kuhlmann
After visiting many homes with frail care, the most pleasant and suitable home for her is The Village Bryanston. She has her own private room and bathroom and little garden, sunny bright and light. It is a pleasant place to visit, not reminiscent of a hospital at all. It feels like home. It has been furnished specifically for her. She moved in on Wednesday, 19th June. Visitors are always welcome. Cindy will be needing a lot of visits and attention as she has lost her life in the Karoo. She is still paralysed on the left and trying her best to walk with help.
LINDY SOTHERN will be celebrating her 90th birthday on 2nd June 2019. She moved from Maxhaven a few years ago to live in community with her son Phillip, daughter-in-law Elizabeth and grandson Stuart in Blairgowrie. Other than not being able to drive and read so well with weakened eyesight, she is very much the Lindy we have always known and loves meeting and chatting with everyone when she comes to church. This has become more rare, though, as she is dependent on lifts. To contact her or visit, please phone the office and Celia will give Phillip’s number.
JACQUI WHITE moved at the beginning of April 2019 from north to south Joburg. Her flat in Linden, where she had lived for a long time, inseparable from her two little dogs, is well-known to generations of children who received painting classes there. Now Jacqui and her dogs have all gone into retirement, sadly into different homes. In her new home Jacqui is with eight others, which makes it more like an extended family. Still adjusting, she nonetheless has started geometry and planetary seal drawing sessions with everyone, as well as initiating Easter celebrations. She certainly knows how to ‘make something of nothing’, being the creative artist and teacher she is. She expresses her gratitude toward the community members who helped her with the move, which would not have been possible without them. It was good to see her on Good Friday. Her new address is: 20 Holmdene Rd, South Hills, at KweziZola.
ROSA HODNETT, here with her granddaughter Megan, who has a special place in her heart and daily life. Even though she has had to reduce her radius of activity step by step, nudged on by signals the physical body sends, Rosa retains her inquisitive probing mind, and will not be stopped from sewing and to continue embroidering new, ever more challenging projects, all the while ensuring the garden flourishes under her directive. She has made the words of Gandhi ‘The Seven Blunders’ her evening contemplation, fascinated how each sentence leads to deep insights applicable to world events and daily life. “One has to really think about them!” She lives in her own flat with her son David’s family in Fourways Gardens and will be celebrating her 85th birthday on 19th May 2019.
ROSWITHA GROTH, born 14th February 1933, with her husband Werner (died 2006), were part of the Camphill movement in Scotland. When Renate Sleigh, who had already moved to South Africa in the 1960’s with Julian, said to her: “it is easier to find Christ in South Africa than in Europe. Traditions fall away and you have to find Christ from within and the cosmic Christ in your work”, she struck a deep chord in Roswitha’s heart. To find and serve Christ was her calling. So, the Groth’s decided to have a look and came to South Africa. Quickly it was clear, apartheid was not going to work for them, so they travelled further north into Botswana, one of the ten poorest countries in the world at the time.
To their surprise, circumstances converged to give them a starting point outside a village between Lobatse and Gabarone, a run-down abandoned farmhouse. They returned soon thereafter with their nearly five small children and began to take in mentally disabled children as part of the family, financing themselves. Rankoromane School for disabled children was founded in 1974.
In the 1980’s the need to extend opportunities for the children led to the founding of Motse Wa Badiri (Village of Workers) for adults and finally Legodimo (Paradise) for youth.
From the beginning to this day, the Children’s Service and Youth Service (as given by Rudolph Steiner) are celebrated every week in Setswana by a dedicated group of teachers; The Act of Consecration of Man has also been celebrated from the outset 3-4 times a year by a visiting priest from Johannesburg. We are each other’s closest neighbours. Roswitha retired from the school after Werner died, and moved to Mokolodi nearer to Gabarone into a cottage close to her children. She is still active in giving spiritual backing to the school and always is there for the Act of Consecration. The school and Roswitha are well worth visiting if anyone ‘happens to be in the area’.
In sleepy little Knysna where nothing ever happens
by Simone Abawat
In March two years ago I left Johannesburg for Knysna. It was a difficult decision: I was leaving Joseph behind because he was well into his first year of training to be a chef at the Swiss Hotel School; I was suspicious of my own motives because somewhere inside I wondered if I was running away; it would mean moving (back) in with my mother; I was unsure if I’d be able to find work and I feared I might be burying myself in this little town where nothing ever happens. What actually did transpire, though, was that Joseph rose up into his adulthood; he finished his chef training in Johannesburg and has now begun a 12-month chef internship at The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs in the USA. I bought a car wash business and have become financially independent for the first time, and the night after I landed in Knysna I met Stephen Twycross – widower, business-owner, humourist, golf enthusiast and the kindest soul imaginable – and we’ve been together ever since.
From my little office overlooking a busy street in central Knysna I can see the whole of life reflected in the passing traffic. Weddings, funerals, school holidays, lunchtime and payday – all there in plain sight. We have our resident homeless, victims of alcohol and drug abuse, and most possibly of other abuses too somewhere else in their lives: There’s Marius who tries to sell us the free local newspaper every Thursday, and who regularly survives stepping out into the middle of traffic without ever looking left or right, Michael who routinely picks our pavement on which to have an epileptic fit so that we have to call ambulances to come and rescue him, Sean who tries to sell me the same cookery book every week that he found at Hospice around the corner, and Martin who somehow manages to find the best lemons and avocados I’ve ever eaten.
Our little car wash team is also something that I sit and watch from my cubby hole – a group of five that I’ve grown to love and respect and whose humanity arises afresh every day in a familiar warmth. Kenny, charismatic salesman par excellence whose daily ambition is to extract as much money as possible from every pocket - including mine. He’s elusive and unknowable, the car wash phantom who’s there one moment and gone the next, like smoke. Funny, witty, protective Sly who watches every move and makes sure I’m never in trouble, and who responded once when I asked why I was the only one sweeping with: “I don’t know. I thought you liked sweeping”, and Washie, Nico and MCleod who are warm and dependable and caring and involved. They’re kind and protective over my mother, their favourite Gogo, and Joseph, their brother.
So, in sleepy little Knysna where nothing ever happens, I’ve learnt to breathe and to care, to pay attention, and I’ve gleaned something of being in relationship with other human beings – aspects of daily life that have always been obscure to me. There isn’t a Christian Community here and I miss it – terribly – but attending the Africa Seminary throughout the year goes some way towards filling that void and helps to keep a connection to what nourishes, and to the community. For many years I’ve grappled with questions about truth and illusion, with trying to understand what is morality, really, and with seeing where in our lives do these questions wait to be recognised. Here, there is the space to try to follow them more deeply. After work in the evenings my mother and I fix the world from her little lounge at the Amble Ridge retirement village where she now lives, and then I go home and make supper with Stephen. In Knysna, where nothing ever happens, I’ve found life and love and home.
by Rev. Reingard Knausenberger
The Blankers family have been an integral part of our community for decades, Christine and Carel with their five children building strong core strength for and with the community. Their commitment carried the services and festivals and manifold activities of our community life, often initiating ideas that still live with us today as our ‘Joburg tradition’. They stand for all those in their generation, who now have expanded their horizons beyond Johannesburg, yet remain unforgotten here where an essential part of their destinies have been woven together with ours.
Christine-Maria has been working in the area of international humanitarian projects in Stuttgart and Geneva. More recently she has been directly involved with the migrant issues that have arisen in Germany. She lives in Stuttgart, is married and gave birth to a very special little boy last July.
Batya has an internet presence that is well worth taking note of, which highlights her extraordinary entrepreneurial talent and empathetic heart. Look up Chancen International, especially about an initiative in Rwanda. She is based in Berlin, Germany.
Almost exactly nine years ago Carla moved to Germany after she matriculated at Michael Mount Waldorf School. After first finding her feet in the new surroundings as an au pair and from being told that she didn’t qualify to study at a German international university, she obtained her BA degree as an educational scientist from the University of Tübingen two weeks ago. In this time she married, worked part-time at a psychiatric clinic with children and youth, and received her beautiful little girl Eloise Sybil in May 2018. She and Christine-Maria live close to each other in Stuttgart.
Carla with baby Eloise is centre with Ingmar behind and Carel to her left. To her right is Christine-Maria in the wheelchair, Michael Preuß with baby Elias, Batya kneeling, Christine and Batya’s partner behind. To Christine’s right Bernadette with dark hair and Beatrice in blue dress. On the left of the photo some of the Lampson family
And now the twins have begun their individual journeys after always having shared their life together until December, when they left Stellenbosch University, Beatrice with Honours in Social Work and Bernadette with a B.Com Honours degree in environmental sciences.
Beatrice has just boarded a plane to take up a job in London.
Bernadette began work in January in the Cape Town office of an international environmental company.
Mother Christine is loving her class at the Michael Oak Waldorf School in Cape Town, as well as being a grandmother, friend, advisor and much more to the many souls connected to her heart.
And Carel, whom we see faithfully on Sundays, well, let’s see what the year will bring him as he travels around visiting his truly vast family between South Africa, Germany and Holland.
One year on…... with warm Greetings to all of you from Vienna
by Christine and Malcolm Allsop
One year on since leaving Johannesburg – Michaelmas, Michaël Merle`s Ordination and the next Advent Fair already looming – and since our landing here in another new home, this time a smaller city but living much more in the hustle and bustle.
We have four tram routes on our door step, (to and over the Danube, to the city centre, or out to the Wienerwald) and a bus that goes directly past the city centre Christian Community address.
We also walk quite often, (when the bus isn't due) and continue to enjoy the charm of the 19th Century architecture and the efforts to integrate the new as well. Just the garden is missing, but herbs in pots are taking over the kitchen window sill at least.
As a second congregation gradually established itself in one of the suburbs, and finally a small church could be build there a couple of years ago, there was the fear that the old Wien-Mitte congregation would suffer, even expire, but it hasn't been the case, rather the two centres are existing alongside each other, sharing the three priests, the festivals, programme highlights and finances. In short, a healthy development. As in Jo`burg, the congregational life nurtures a good mix of cultural events (the arts) and “content” (talks, discussion, study groups). Just no puppet theatre!
A feature that has developed here over the years is a good working relationship with other, predominately Christian groups. (Others – Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, etc. - appear sporadically at meetings and events.) It's refreshing to experience the genuine tolerance and openness towards us, and to have the framework in which to reciprocate. With the Catholic Church – traditionally the strongest denomination here – we also meet on a bi-annual basis, to compare and contrast our understanding of Christianity and how that manifests in their and our Sacraments.
In the Summer Break I had the long overdue opportunity to visit friends in Scotland, (no longer so very far away) and look in on Peter and Judy Holman who were just settling into new routines in Edinburgh. Lots of walking and nature, from dingy dells to rugged hills, canals and coastal routes. Then Christine and I explored some of our still new surroundings here; the mountains and lakes South of Vienna towards Slovenia and circling back North along the Hungarian border. The proximity to these Eastern countries is very tangible; family names over generations, Austrian menus full of recipes from the East, musical influences and holiday destinations, e.g. Croatia, Czech Republic.
Europe, this luxurious corner of the world, wrestles with its own problems. How to unite a very varied mix of nationalities (from Dutch to Greek, French to Polish) and also do justice to the uniqueness, strengths and weaknesses of each land. Inevitably the demands of a “Brexit” are exhausting vast reserves of time and energy for all concerned, notwithstanding the worry that other countries might follow suit.
A word of consolation too regarding corruption; the diesel scandal here in flag-ship car manufacturers, for example, reminds us that it’s a learning curve, a long learning curve, when it comes to using our freedom and honouring our fellow human being's space, and rights as well.
The dust settles, I find my feet in the German language little by little, (grateful for the fortnightly practice Saturdays in Dover Street), breathe out as Christine also builds her network of contacts and clients, and with the first shades of Autumn feel the completion of a year. (Oh, how stunning the Autumn colours were in the Norwegian woods just after leaving South Africa.)
Therewith too, pictures of places and people from our four years in Johannesburg gradually re-surface, and smile.
Where are they now?
Members of our congregation move away from Johannesburg. Whenever they visit us they feel immediately at home. In part this is through receiving our monthly newsletter. We too would hope to remain connected through these posts and learn something of their lives and where they are now living.