My first post about WUCT (as in ‘bucket’) the Westlake United Churches Trust, was far too long. Touched with (very) dry humour, faint cynicism, and scholarly pretension, it described the history of the land that became Westlake Village and surroundings up to the point at which the trust was launched.
But now – as I sit at my desk, with the painstakingly, lovingly compiled WUCT scrapbooks lying open before me – my cynicism is gone. Instead, I feel awe. I hear St Paul’s words echoing, reflected in the tiny slice of Christian history the scrapbooks represent:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience…COL. 1:9-11
That is what these scrapbooks bear testimony to.
They contain local news articles, painstakingly cut and pasted, curling, ragged at the edges; bundles of reports; fading photographs; agendas.
How can I convey this content to you? There is far too much!
I am sorry…
I will mention only the things that catch my eye as I turn the pages. And I apologise to those whom I leave out – there are so many names. So many stories.
Your names are written in heaven.
On stapled pages lying loose at the front of the file, James McGreggor, first Chair (and manager) of WUCT writes about the acquisition of the Commando Hall where the trust is based: the Westlake developers charitably asked for a purchase price of only one Rand when they sold the vandalised buildings to the Trust – who then discovered that the City of Cape Town was owed fifty-thousand Rands in arrears. A congregant from one of the Trust’s founder churches provided an interest free loan and by March 2004 they were able to move in and begin fixing things up.
(Ah yes…the participating churches – a miracle of cooperation in itself: The Church of the Holy Spirit, St Martin’s Bergvliet, Tokai Methodist Church, Bergvliet Methodist Church, Bergvliet Congregational Church and Trinity Presbyterian Church in Bergvliet.)
The Trust was then able to house a number of services to the community (at the time: community advice, second-hand shop, HIV/Aids programme, sewing, bead-work). The Emmanuel Educare, already in operation since February 2002 under the formidable leadership of Eleanor Lawrence also found a home.
Paging on, I come across an extraordinary photograph – Mary, a homely kitchen worker at Emmanuel posing with her letter from Queen Elizabeth the Second. She writes:
…toe kry ek DIE BRIEF [then I get THE LETTER]. Die brief kom van BUCKINGHAM PALACE, van die Koningin, the QUEEN [this letter comes from BUCKINGHAM PALACE, from the Queen]. Ek was baie opgemaak gewees [I was very ‘made-up’]. Dat ek ‘n antwoord van haar gekry het [that I got an answer from her]!
Well…celebrity always has cachet.
And paging further…
Ah, ha, what’s this? ‘Remembering Outreach in Westlake’? I recognise Gillian Wilson’s style – from The Church of the Holy Spirit, in her 80’s now, still bright as a button, and still serving. She writes:
‘There were many hilarious moments with Patrick and Angus sorting through ladies’ unmentionables in the “Lingerie Department”, and an occasion when Joyce’s brand new golfing anorak was given away by G to a needy soul on a wet, wintry day. Plus, the day we naively kitted out three men with slacks, shirts, jackets, shoes, only to discover half an hour later, when the police arrived, that they were released prisoners from Pollsmoor, who then went into the neighbouring complex and burgled three flats.”
The twists and turns of distributing charitable donations!
And I could go on…
There are so many names.
Many of them are no longer with us. They sleep, waiting for the call of the last trumpet to wake them.
The tradition of WUCT continues. James McGreggor, the first Chair and de-facto manager in its early years never truly retired. He received the Inyathelo Award for Lifetime Philanthropy in commemoration of his work in 2013, and passed to be with his Lord in 2014. Dave Barnes had been appointed Manager in 2006, and in 2016 left behind a solid and thriving organisation run on godly principles. He was succeeded by Richard Saner, who sacrificed himself for the poor: Richard refused to seek treatment for (or even admit to) the medical condition that eventually killed him early in 2020 lest it derail his mission to live out Christ’s love.
A hard act to follow.
But Veloshni Baker, now acting General Manager is bringing her own inspired, yet practical touch to running WUCT, stepping up to the demands of caring for the poor of Westlake during the coronavirus crisis.
Read her ‘Word on Westlake’ to see what is happening.