Category Archives: Stories

The bear who stepped up – a little preview


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Yesterday was the first anniversary of the death of James Thomas, a close friend and father figure to me here in Cape Town, who was killed in the Nairobi mall terrorist attack. It was a tiring, emotional and beautiful day as friends gathered to thank God for his life and to share our grief and hope. I miss him so much.

I wrote a story about ‘the bear who stepped up’ after his death and this past week have finally got round to doing the illustrations. Once I’ve finished the paintings I will share the story with you but here is a sneek preview. It’s been hard but therapeutic to paint these… I hope they will be a blessing to others too.


A thousand stories


St Augustine says, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” But when we do travel, the pages fly. Each moment a new story, each day a new chapter. And without each one, the book is not complete. And so I soak up every word, every face, every name. Each pair of eyes I look into is another line written in my book and another way I will never be the same again.

Burundi was many things. It was Love in a glass of water. It was Peace in a litter of piglets. It was Hope in a marketplace being rebuilt.

Fiona Lynne


I want to continue to share with you a few posts by friends who traveled with me in Uganda and Burundi. Mostly because they write so beautifully but also because I haven’t managed to write up as much as I had hoped yet and I don’t want you to have to wait too long before hearing about our experiences.

So here is a post by Fiona Lynne about the many people and stories we encountered in Burundi.

The beauty of sharing your story

Photo by Idelette

Photo by Idelette

For the Burundi part of my recent trip I had the privilege of spending time with a wonderful group of ladies, all of whom write blogs and write really well. I will blog about my experiences when I can but I also want to share their beautifully written accounts of certain aspects.

As a group we spent a lot of time listening to each other’s stories. It’s an incredible experience having a group of people lovingly, encouragingly, supportively listen to your story. Not just the short summary, little snippets or neat testimonies but the long version. The round the houses, progression over time version. There is something about being really heard that secures you, validates your journey, feeds your heart and swells your soul. It truely is holy ground.

How often do we ask people open questions, invite people to tell their story and have the patience and kindness to listen for the long answer, not rushing on to the next thing but really settling into the moment and into the thread of their life’s journey? The highs and lows, the emotions and learnings, the times when they wondered where God was and the times when they knew clearly what he was teaching them.

I know I don’t do this enough. But after experiencing what it felt like to be truely heard in Burundi I am determined to create that space for others.

The blog post below is from one of my new friends, Leigh Kramer, who shared that experience in Burundi.

“I hope some day you sit in a room full of kindred spirits and rest in the knowledge of their love. I hope you share your story and have it mirrored back to you with grace and understanding. I hope you have a glimpse of the saints spurring you on. I hope you have people who remind you of who you are when you’ve all but forgotten.” – Leigh Kramer

You can read the full version of her blog about ‘The beauty of sharing your story’ here.

Personal Story from Manenberg


Following on from the last two posts about Manenberg and the work of Fusion, I wanted to share this fabulous short film about the life of one young man whose life was turned around by God, through the committment and love of people at Fusion and The Warehouse.

I Dream Manenberg from Richard Bolland on Vimeo.

Dowayne is a 19 year old teenager living in Manenberg, South Africa. Caught up in drugs and gangs from the age of 12 Dowayne as well as many of the teenagers living in Manenberg have a compromised hope for the future. His father left when he was born, his mother is a drug dealer, he witnesses violent crimes on a daily basis and has been involved in numerous crimes himself. Through the help of a few dedicated individuals Dowayne has pulled himself out of the cycle of abuse and is working towards a new hope: To be the spark in his community of darkness. This is a story of Dowaynes life and his dream for Manenberg.

The Pessimist’s Pot of Gold



(Written last Spring, when the weather was less reliable!)


All week anticipating.

Anticipating being wet

And cold

Trapped in a tent.

My friend tells me there’s severe weather warnings.

Not really that excited

In fact positively unexcited (if that’s possible).

I’m normally ridiculously optimistic

But this time it’s waning.

The drive out of Cape Town

In the torrential rain

Doesn’t bode well.

Ok we’ll grin and bear it

It’s our friend’s birthday

So we can’t chicken out.

During the drive we get a call.

I haven’t heard my friend sound so ecstatic for ages

Maybe ever.

We have a cottage after all

Someone else must have chickened out.

So we arrive

Run in through the rain

And sleep

Grateful, so grateful

For beds and ceilings.

The morning brings a surprise

That none of us were prepared for.


Blue skies and sunshine.

I’m shocked and realise

My packing has reflected my pessimism.

No suncream

No swimming costume

And worst of all

No camera.

It upsets me so much

Being in a beautiful place

With nothing to capture it

So I have to resort

To my memory and words.

We head off to walk up the valley

Scrambling over

Potted and weathered boulders

Of orange streaked grey.

Pushing past stark scorched protea trees

And spiky plants

That are generous with their tiny spikes

on my trousers.

Every so often I pause

To glance back at the view

Getting more stunning with every step

Looking back past the rocky walls

Opening out to the beauty

of the green patchwork below.

Every time I take in the view

The distance between me

And my super-fit friends


Maybe I should mind

But I don’t.

We arrive at a stunning waterfall

Sparkling water

Coloured by the tannins of the soil

Cascades dramatically

Over the burnt coloured rocks.

A calm and inviting pool

Collects at the bottom.

The brave and the beautiful

(those whose optimism permitted them to pack costumes)

Tentatively enter the icy waters

Swam up to and even behind the waterfall.

Now I’m cursing

My pessimistic packing

It looks fun.

But I make myself feel better

By feeling how freezing the water is.

After the walk I sit on the stoep of the cottage

And breathe in

The incredible

And constantly present

Scent of the orange blossom

From the field

Of flowering orange trees

Just a stone’s throw away

In front of us.

The sweet, thick smell

Intensifying as sunset approaches.

Long deep breaths

Filling my lungs with beauty.

Wanting to hold onto it somehow

To contain it, to bottle it, to cherish it

And knowing it’s impossible

The realisation of every exhaled breathe.

Like sand through your hands

Grasping at it only makes it run faster.

Appreciate the moment

Without trying to archive it

Or save it for later.

The surrounding ridges are covered

With piles of precariously balanced boulders

Making intriguing chiselled sculptures

Standing out as silhouettes against the sky.

Weathered rocks

Formed into bunny rabbits

Gorillas, dragons, hippos.

Idle time whiled away

Identifying hidden creatures.

As the sun sinks behind us

The low ridge beyond the orange trees

Starts to glow

Like molten gold oozing over the slope.

Then the whole higher ridge

And its rock sculptures

Are flood-lit

With breathtaking pinky-orange warmth.

Then as if that wasn’t enough

A rainbow appears

But not any ordinary half-hearted rainbow

The brightest and sharpest rainbow I’ve ever seen

Not content with the usual range of colours

It bursts its banks

With additional and repeated colours

On either side.

The spot where it lands

On top of the lower ridge


As if winking at us

Telling us that this time

The pot of gold

Is no myth.

A reward for the optimist

Grace for the pessimist

Just like the beauty of this weekend.

Flying to Paradise – Part 5 (Final part)


The girl was angry and frustrated while she was in the grey city. She tried to keep off the conveyer belt but kept falling back onto it.

Finally, after many months, the white coated general looked inside her belly and found that the huge horrid hungry slug had totally gone. Even he was surprised by this. He didn’t know that secretly the girl’s invisible best friend had been reaching inside her belly every night to gradually kill the huge horrid hungry slug.

So the girl flew back to paradise, with her hand holding tightly to the hand of her invisible best friend: over the grey buildings, over the green hills and out to sea – over the splashing waves and the bubbling foam, over the seas; over the many seas, until she could see God’s banqueting table with the sun rising over it, dressed with a clean white table cloth.

Her heart leapt when her feet touched the ground and she was enthusiastically welcomed by the bear and the dancing meerkat, and by all her friends in paradise. She felt at home. She felt known, loved and safe.

She was excited to find that there was no black cloud of fear on her shoulder and no stabbing pain in her belly. She couldn’t wait for all the adventures she knew would be ahead, walking with her invisible best friend in paradise.

She turned to her invisible best friend and decided never to let go of his hand again.


As the grandmother’s story came to an end, the two granddaughters smiled sleepily. They loved that story so much, even though they had heard it so many times before. She kissed them each gently on the forehead as they snuggled down under their blankets.

As she stood by the door to the room, she smiled at her invisible best friend. He smiled back, knowing that she was thanking him for helping to kill the huge horrid hungry slug, because if he hadn’t these beautiful granddaughters would not be here.

She invited her invisible best friend (who was still more real than she was) into the room to gently stroke the girls’ hair and quietly sing to them as they slept.


All original writing and illustrations are Copyright © Hilary Murdoch 2012

Flying to Paradise – Part 4


Then one day, when the bear and the dancing meerkat were away, she was alone and she became afraid. A black cloud of fear as thick as soup appeared on her shoulder and she had a stabbing pain in her belly. In order to hold her belly, she let go of her invisible best friend’s hand.

She didn’t notice it as first but as she let go of his hand, the black cloud of fear as thick as soup, grew bigger on her shoulder, and the frequency of the stabbing pain increased. Wherever she went the black cloud followed her, down the street and even into bed.

She was told to her dismay that she must return to the grey city in order for the stabbing pain to go away. She told her friends she’d be back very soon and took her invisible friend’s hand to fly to the grey city, with a heavy heart and a stabbing pain in her belly.

She went to see an army in white coats in the grey city. They could magically see inside her belly and were shocked to find a huge horrid hungry slug which should not be there. They were very surprised and warned the girl that the slug could eat any baby that might grow there one day. The girl was very sad because she so dearly wanted to have babies of her own and didn’t want the slug to eat them. All this time, it seemed, the huge horrid hungry slug had been feeding off the dark cloud of fear as thick as soup and getting bigger and bigger each day.

Her invisible best friend (who was more real than she was) led her through the army in white coats to a very special senior general who knew exactly how to remove the slug. Only her best friend could have led her to the general because he knew everyone.

The general told her that she couldn’t return to paradise when she wanted to but would have to stay in the grey city for a very long time until they were sure the slug had gone. She cried. ‘You don’t understand. I can’t stay, I must go back!’ she said through the tears.

The girl was distraught and pleaded with her invisible best friend to fly with her back to paradise. But he just hugged her and held her tight. He laid her head on his knee and stroked her hair. He told her to be patient and they would fly back to paradise before long.

TO BE CONTINUED..> [the next one is the last installment!]