Grant, let’s begin with the one question on everyone’s mind. Who’s taller, you or Tim Black?
I must admit that I am really not sure, but I guess that I am taller than he is. It usually stands out to me when I meet someone taller than I am – not that Tim isn’t an outstanding guy (and my boss)!
With the silly stuff out the way, let’s get into something more serious…beards! Does your wife Joanne approve and how many years have you been growing this one?
I hate shaving! As soon as the ‘hipster’ trends brought beards back into fashion I jumped on the bandwagon. At first Joanne wasn’t committed, but she has come to embrace it over the six years I’ve had it.
Okay, no more silliness. We’re pretty sure Joanne knows you best after 16 years of marriage. What are some words she would use to describe you?
Carpenter. Adrenaline seeker. Almost a dancer.
We are all experiencing the effect of the spread of the Coronavirus. How has the Covid-19 virus impacted you and the family, and how are you processing this ‘new normal’ through your faith?
The impact on my family is similar to most – parent-led home schooling, household chores, gardening and probably too much screen time for the boys!
Quiet honestly, for these few months the ‘new normal’ is living with uncertainly and moving goalposts. I don’t think I can ever get used to that! We are just managing worry and concern by holding tightly to things that are sure – family and faith (and Zoom!). And we are holding loosely to the things that are changing rapidly – return to schooling, work programs, seeing friends and family, and freedom of movement. God is the only one who can bring us true peace, as Philippians 4:5-7 and 10-13 tells us – whatever our situation he is faithful.
Sharing our personal story of coming to faith in Jesus Christ remains a powerful form of evangelism with youth. Can you share some of the key highlights from your faith journey?
As a child I went to Sunday School on a weekly basis but it was in standard 8 (yes, I am that old) at a Scripture Union Rondebosch Holiday Club evening program that Andrew Bateman took me aside to explain the gospel to me. At the time he was really enthusiastic and I was a bit overwhelmed but I remember going home that evening and lying on my bed and confessing my sin, asking for forgiveness and putting my faith in Christ.
I didn’t feel tremendously different, but in my heart I knew that God was calling me to live for him and serve him with my whole life. Since then is has been a slow, steady journey of growing in knowledge, practice and love.
You are father to Seth (13) and Ben (11). Raising boys comes with many challenges. What are some you’ve faced and how are you navigating your way through them?
Firstly, my two boys are wonderful. Each is uniquely lovely to me and I really enjoy the privilege of being their dad – I wouldn’t change my boys for anything!
One of the challenges I have faced (not unique to boys) is spending quality with them. The speed of today’s lifestyle often means that they don’t get the best of me. I continually have to reprioritise – the things that the world tells me are important are often not the most important.
Another challenge is knowing when to allow what into their lives. Children are exposed to so much and we live in a permissive society. The challenges are numerous – everything from mobile phones and radio station content to Fortnite and Netflix! We have found that open conversations that involve them in the decision-making process are invaluable. As parents, we still draw the boundaries but we are training them in evaluating and making good choices (and it helps having a wife who is a pro at these things!).
Scripture Union South Africa has a significant history with past generations. As the new Western Cape Regional Director, how will SU Western Cape continue to respond to the many new challenges facing youth and children in the region?
The year has really started off with a bang. I don’t think I could ever have predicted that, within my first three months, the nation would start a 5 week lockdown. Over and above the other challenges that young South Africans face, the impact of COVID-19 is the most pressing.
Our staff relies on face to face contact for effective relational youth and children’s ministry. Zoom meetings and WhatsApp calls are great but they have their limitations. We are missing the camps, holiday clubs, training sessions and schools work that usually make up our fun-filled gospel ministry. In the meantime, we have written and recorded devotional material. We produced a 7-day Easter family devotional. We are recording audio and video content for daily devotional engagement with youth people in podcast and IGTV formats.
Young people are also contending with deep questions because of COVID19: Is it fair that God allowed this to happen? Where will my family get food? I’m fearful about catching up the school year? I miss the friends and family who have died from Corona. How can I live with the unfairness I’ve seen in society? So, SU is preparing material for post-lockdown that can be used by school groups, churches and parents.
We are also planning a “chaplain in every school” campaign by partnering with the local churches to place an individual (volunteer or full-time) in every school in South Africa to support teachers and learners in dealing with the physical, emotional and social impact of COVID-19.
SU has always valued partnership with the local church. Having just stepped out of leading in the local church arena how do you think SU is positioned to work with the church?
SU wants to partner with the church in several ways: (a) encouraging bible engagement for children, youth and adults. We have several different kinds of resources (printed and electronic) and we want to help Christians to have a wholesome relationship with the Word of God where they are being well fed every day; (b) we want to partner with camps and holiday clubs. SU still offers Teen and Mini camps in which youth and children can participate. We also produce a comprehensive holiday club manual for churches to use in a week-long holiday program. But over and above any program or event, we offer the inter-denominational banner under which children from different churches and backgrounds can learn and grow together. These kinds of opportunities are still crucial in our South African context.
Grant, a last few quick-fire questions.
A book you recommend everyone should read.
Besides the Bible… it would have to be “Discipline of Grace” by Jerry Bridges
Favourite coffee place.
In my office sipping a cup of Ground Up – Learn to Earn have their coffee trailer parked at 14 Park Road.
One activity still on your bucket list.
Buying and restoring an 1971 Opel Manta.