Tag Archive: philadelphia


Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
Yeah, they were all yellow.

tbV and i have been home [back to South Africa after a three year journey in Americaland starting in Philadelphia and ending up in Oakland, outside San Francisco] for just over a week now.

after a really frustrating trip involving two and  half hours of fighting to try and get me on to the plane i had a ticket for, having to leave a box of paintings behind in SF, having the airline leave a bag of ours behind in Washington, losing movie capability for the last 8 hour flight after the refuel in Dakar…

and after a fairly frustrating week of disconnection in terms of trying to get phones and internet unlocked and set up and working [which we still largely haven’t, besides my dad’s old doesn’t-even-have-predictive-text-capacity Nokia which we have managed to get some air time on]…

we had the most excellent 5 year anniversary celebration at a place called Monkey Valley, which looks something like this:

but even more specifically, something like this [containing my very special someone]:

mv3

while there was both good and bad [and fun and difficult and crazy and amazing and ridiculous] about our time in Americaland, one interesting thing that stood out to me in both Philly and Oakland was the lack of stars… now i’m sure Americaland has stars [and i DEFINITELY got to see them in boatloadsfull on the houseboat trip i got to do on Lake Shasta] but i remember every time i came back to South Africa [which was twice during our stay] it was the biggest thing that stood out to me [besides the edible and tasty mayo, of course] – the fact that i could see a whole lot more stars than when i was over there.

i imagine it had something specific to do with the two places in Americaland we ended up staying, but it was one of the things that i remembered missing a lot when we were over there. and so it is so good to be back – and this weekend was ridiculous because we were high up on a hill and had a huge window next to our bed and so could lie in bed and see an amazing array of stars.

i have my own star constellation called ‘The Horse’ [because it looks like a horse, duh!] which a few of us discovered about 15 years ago on a youth camp [beyond ‘The Horse’ i seriously know Orion, the Southern Cross and on a good day can maybe point out the Big Dipper so not big on the constellations] and as we arrived back from our meal Friday night to the house we were staying in, i looked up and immediately saw it, and even better, the beautiful Val [tbV] looked up and spotted it straight away too.

just so good to be back. still not connected or plugged in or properly transported. and those things might take a while to get right. and missing a lot of people from Americaland for sure. but the stars are back. and so everything seems just a little bit more alright.

It’s true,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine.

Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And all the things that you do.

 

apart from having one of the greatest full names known to personkind [say Lara Harler Lahr out loud or sing it to the tune of ‘Deck the Halls’] Lara and her husband Chris and their daughters Alexa, Moriah and India are good friends of ours that we met in Philly in our previous season of life…

having made some very similiar decisions to Nigel and his family in the previous post and demonstrating some true inspiration of what incarnation is really about and how perhaps more of us are called to live like this, here is Lara Harler Lahr…

from left: Moriah, Lara Harler, India, Chris, Alexa

from left: Moriah, Lara Harler, India, Chris, Alexa

We started raising our kids to be world changers before they were even conceived. The day we returned from our life changing summer in  India in 1997, we decided to live differently. It was that experience that led us to name our first daughter Alexa, which means defender of mankind. Soon after, we moved from Wilmore Kentucky to Philadelphia PA. We sold everything except what we could load into our van and bought a house in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Philadelphia 13 years ago. I knew that bringing an almost 1 year old to the ghetto of Philadelphia made no logical sense to our family or much of our friends…and there were days that I thought we were crazy as well!

Our next door neighbors fought a lot. I remember fearing for the woman next door and for those sweet boys of hers. As the screaming went on for hours on end, all we could do was pray…or so we thought…. We started talking to our neighbors a little here and there and eventually decided to take down the little gate between our two back “yards.”  We went in halfsies and bought a baby pool.  I never had any deep conversations with them during that first year, and never pried into their problems. One day Chris was on the front porch hanging out when he saw our neighbor talking to other neighbors. Afterwards she came to Chris and said “Did you see that?! I just talked to a neighbor!! I never talk to neighbors, but I have been noticing you and Lara talking to neighbors and I decided I shouldn’t be the neighborhood bitch anymore!” Then she went on to say that she had noticed our relationship and it really brought hope for a healthy marriage!!

We realized at that point that having a healthy marriage and a healthy relationship with our kids does change the world!  Especially in the area where we live…where hardly and kids have a two parent home!!

Fast forward 13 years to today. We have three daughters who go to a local charter school. We have been part of a local church in the heart of the “Badlands” of Philly.  They witness the reality of poverty, drug addiction, prostitution, incarceration, shootings, and other violence. We have had to listen to our girls share heart breaking stories that they have heard from friends at school. My younger ones love to play homeless like most kids like to play house! This is just the world they know. Because my girls are exposed to such difficult and seemingly unchangeable circumstances, we put a lot of energy into teaching them to pray.  We have had morning devotions every morning for several years now and we are teaching them to pray and believe.

Two years ago we were able to travel to India to visit with our friend and her 48 kids and the child that we have been sponsoring for years. I had been in a car accident that left me with a settlement that covered our trip, and I wanted to go there more than do anything else so that my kids could witness and be a part of the faith of these kids in India. I could go on and on with stories of how much faith these children have and how God answers their prayers. I want my girls to know that closeness with God and to have that kind of faith. My girls hearts were changed. They are being molded more and more every day by their experiences which give them love for people and a deeper reliance on the power of prayer that does change the world.

[For another exciting story on raising children as world affecting people, click here for the story of Lisa Scandrette and her family]

lahr

 

Another week, another fresh challenge… and this time that is exactly what the photo challenge is: FRESH

And if it was up to one image to capture the heart of the whole theme and send me cascading past the rest to break the finish line in the first position [assuming this was a competition, which it’s not, it’s a challenge… an honour even to be nominated, even though we know that however good our pics are Kanye West will think Beyonce’s were better] it would be this one:

Fresh1

Say no more… but because we are not contained to just one picture, and because they say a picture is worth a thousand words, i took it upon myself to share four more thousand words with you [fortunately in picture form, cos in the words of Gob Bluth, “COME ON!”] and so here they are.

First up [although technically second up and because there are two of them, second and third up] here are two pictures of me and then me and the beautiful Val all fresh and ready before we started the 5km Color Run in Philadelphia last year [and before they started throwing paint on us at random intervals, and by “random” i mean evenly spaced at 1km apart, but because we’re in the US of A where they deal in miles, we should stick with “random”]

Fresh2b Fresh2

Notice the looks of “We’re so fresh, we probably think this race is about us, don’t we?” on our faces…

If you’re thinking ‘Fresh’ [and we all are by now, right? It’s the theme, people, work with me here!] then the next image that coms to mind must be paint… especially cos me using the word right there probably helped it gently into your brainmind and so what best than a bunch of freshly painted tyres that are about to be used to transform a dull and listless empty lot into the beginnings of a colourful boundaried park for the local kids in the Kensington, Philadelphia community to be able to play in…

FreshpaintAnd then finally, how would it be possible to have the word ‘Fresh’ without invoking the image of ‘getting fresh’ or making out [or whatever you call it in this country, in my country and maybe twenty years ago, it at least used to be called ‘Getting Fresh’] and although most of the images of me kissing my beautiful wife Valerie at our wedding have been used countless times for these challenges, here is a *cough ‘Fresh’ one of us getting fresh just above the fresh creation of a 3D chalk design, this time in downtown Philly centre:

FreshgetIf Mr Eastwood was naming this Fresh Collage, I like to imagine that he would go for a title something along the lines of ‘Every which way but Fresh’ which would be a nice try, Mr Clintwood, but kinda missing the point dont’chathink? Sigh. Back to the talking chair, Mr Clint, back to the chair.

Meanwhile to the rest of you, thankx for vibing a fresh vibe with me – what interpretations of the word ‘Fresh’ can you come up with – show me the links…

i don’t cry a lot. not because i don’t want to, i just don’t. i have spent many prayers through the years asking God to make me cry more and for the most part He doesn’t. there was a moment on a bench outside of a Simple Way retreat last year where the tears came and my wife was around to witness it and it was short and very much linked to God and worship and just being still and knowing. the time before that i remember was the second time i watched the Passion of the Christ when i was by myself in the little Knysna cinema while promoting New Song fest – i had been around a bunch of people i knew the first time i watched it and so the tears didn’t come but for some reason there by myself, just taking in the sacrifice of Jesus… instant water action… i think that was something like ten years since my previous cry – not that i haven’t felt sad or really sad or moved or even broken inside for various reasons at other times during that time period, but it just never culminated in a lot of crying…

the ring or one like it.back to this morning and my beautiful wife Valerie [tbV] is about to board a plane by herself [well with other people] to head for Americaland for a conference in Philly before heading to Oakland, California where i will meet up with her later if all goes according to plan… likely to be gone for two to four weeks before i see her again and no that is not what made me cry. we were sitting at the Spur [no!] with her family [not that either] and suddenly she does her little magic trick where she lifts up her hands from her lap and her wedding ring is missing. oh wait, she doesn’t have a trick like that? not good. chaos reigns supreme – everyone searches the Spur and i am sent down to look at the ticket desk where there is no chance it is and bags are searched and eventually we just sit and wait for our food and are very sad. we figure the best chance is that it came off in the pool where we are staying. we managed to get Yuliswa, the house cleaner, on the phone and she look in our room and has just cleaned our on suite bathroom – nothing – so we say our goodbyes and i head to go search the car and then gun it home to see if i can search the pool before her flight leaves- we are running very fine…

ring not in car. car has 40km of petrol left it in and i have about an hour and ten minutes so time to get home, search for ten minutes and get back in time before she boards… after driving 60km/h [ish] all the way home re-interpreting a few road laws on the way i dive into the pool fully partially clothed and search the whole bottom of the pool and check the creepy filter – nothing! head up to the bedroom and pull off all the covers and look behind the bed – nothing. do a quick sweep under Val’s side of the bed and come up with her wedding ring [which is actually her engagement ring which we replaced after the big engagement ring steal/loss of three weeks after arriving at the Simple Way] in my hand…

[surreal moment of realisation that i have the ring and much happiness and joy and then suddenly snap out of it with a moment of]

I SHOULD GET THIS TO THE AIRPORT…

haveyouseenthiswomana drive of indeterminable speed later and getting the sister to phone the airport to get the call for Veleni Andersen [i have the piece of paper to prove it] to start happening and arrive and park and run and see information guy and get pointed to security entrance and look for my wife and see as the lift door opens and there she is and will the security lady let me through [no!] and will she let her through [no!] and so she takes the ring and gives it to her [did i mention i carried it in my mouth for most of the drive – would have been super bummed if i’d swallowed it but was also scared it would get stuck on my finger and was in a bit of a hurrylike] and then she eventually lets Val come through and kiss me and…

i cried! and it was great cos she did too and we were both busy hugging so much that she couldn’t really see but it was the really big difference between a horrible two days of flight to Joburg – Washington – Philadelphia and an amazing happy tear-filled i-am-loved-by-my-crazy-speedster-husband flight to Joburg – Washington – Philadelphia. what a way to send your wife off.

almost wish i’d planned it. but no.

and so yay what a good cry. and thankful to God and Bron and info man and security lady and all the people on the roads who for the most part got out of the way and let me past really quite nicely.

so the next step in the brett fish & the beautiful Val next americaland journey has taken place… after three great official times [as well as many unofficial times comprising many drinks of coffee, milkshake and tea or variants thereof] of sitting down with people we love [and vice versa] and talking through some of what Relational Tithe/Common Change is about we put together an invitation email to gather a group of friends and family who want to be some part of our journey – from simply receiving our newsletter to committing to keep us in regular prayer to offering financial support through either a once off donation or else to be part of the roughly $1000 we need for monthly living costs for the eighteen months we have committed to being there [starting March]

we had an incredible gift from a friend which has enabled us to purchase the air tickets – where we are on that is trying to get Val’s in the next 24 hours so that she can leave on the 18th and make it to the Justice Conference that is happening in Philadelphia which looks to be incredible – and then she will stay in Philly for a few days, doing some scholarship stuff she is still working on for the Simple Way and then fly to Oakland, California and look into finding us a place to stay and starting to settle in it…

i will be holding off on buying my ticket til about ten days later and then we will assess the support we have had come in and, if close enough to what we are looking at needing, will buy my ticket and leave to get there around the beginning of March, flying straight to Oakland, California where we will be living and working.

we sent the email to those who have expressed interest and attended the meetings but if you are interested in receiving the initial one and deciding if you want to be in one of those areas of support of us then please email me at brettfish@hotmail.com and i can send it to you.

where we currently stand is close to 20% of the needed support and so a bit of a way to go but excited by the people who are showing interest and support in a variety of ways. we have been completely spoilt by so many people in terms of place to stay [Duncan and Megan Houston] and car [Duffields] and many meals and drinks and even tickets to the cricket [Muscle of John] and so incredibly thankful for the communities and networks we are part of. and for everyone we have got to connect with and catch up with… there are a lot of pretty amazing people in and around our lives and we appreciate you so much.

onwards and kingdomwards…

brett fish and tbV

simple way

Wow! 19 months flew by, just like… well 570 days, really.

June last year, after about four months of weekly Skype calls with our present and to be future bossman Darin Petersen, the beautiful Val [tbV] and i arrived in Kensington, Philadelphia, Americaland to live and work at the Simple Way non-profit as part of the first batch of an internship program [which was later upgraded to a residency program when they saw our skills, or something]…

[a fun fact is that i was born and raised in an area called Kensington in Johannesburg, South Africa, the country and so in one sense it was a return to my roots but not really]

We joined Erica [aka Amy Winehouse meets activism], Aaron Condo…n [aka Monkman, master, my lord] and Beth [aka Beth or the Doodler, or quite possible milkwoman, altho we never called her that] who was doing a shorter three month internship and we became known as ‘The Village People’ [the house we stayed in was called the Village House, we did the YMCA a lot less than you would probably imagine]. The first internationals to be invited to be part of the program, so quite a bit of a risk really. Shane Claiborne and his new bride Katie Jo lived a few houses down the road, Darin and his wife Meeghan and their kids Just Ice [as i called him, because i wanted to give him a little space] and Madix… and then a handful more people who lived in other places but worked with us in the office… and later Sueihn Lee and Dan Brearley were added as Erica, Aaron and Beth [twice] moved on…

This is the passage that indirectly got me there, that i had been wrestling with when i chanced upon Shane’s book, ‘The Irresistible Revolution’ 6 years before, which resonated with a lot of my struggles with how church looked like now compared to then – ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’

and tonite we fly out… season over… back to South Africa to hang out with friends and family and watch some live cricket dressed as a Hobbit and hopefully get some hockeying and improv in and meet my new nephew Joshua and get to see if i was telling lies about South Africa mayonnaise for the last 19 months and have some braais and my mom’s secret birthday dessert she makes for me once a year and possibly pool party and hopefully get my dreads touched up and get some rest and relaxation and reflection and more…

before a new season begins. which will be with the same boss, different no-profit [Relational Tithe, or as it is about to be more commonly known Common Change] but the absolute same task of following Jesus [or trying to] and seeking to be a part of His kingdom growing here as it is in heaven.

and so the big question i guess, as we enter one of those reflectful times of both the end of a life season and the end of a calendar year [sorry Mayans, the Romans were right!] is how was the time? Good, bad or ugly? A combination of all, perhaps? Was the way simple?

i guess you will have to take me out for coffee [or a rack of Spur Ribs with extra basting] when we get home and you can ask that in person…

i can tell you it wasn’t easy. well, not all the time, some parts were really easy. Val and i love Kensington. we absolutely love Philly. we love so many of the people we got to meet and hang out and do life with.

i can tell you we would definitely make the same decision to do it all again – good, bad and ugly.

but it is time to go. and so later today i think we will.

i do still very much love Jesus and am hungry to see His kingdom come.

after years and years of loving Him [or trying to] and serving Him [ditto] i have found that His way, although simple in concept, is very rarely simple when you actually try to actively live it out. [fortunately He never leaves you to do it alone…]

so a new year, a new location, a new mission…
but still the continuing overall theme of ‘Love God, Love people… and all the rest is commentary!

so for friends back home there have been hints and allegations [a loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires and baby] and subtle innuendos as to what might be pertaining to the future for the andersons after this year…

for those of you who have been following semi-closely, the beautiful Valerie [tbV] and i have been living, working and ministering with the Simple Way Christian non-profit organisation in Kensington, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Americaland since about June of last year and altho it has been one of the more difficult years of our lives it has also been a great year and an exciting one and one where we had no doubt at all that God had called us to be in this place at this time and so that really helped during some of the tougher times and so we will definitely look back at 2011/2012 as a good time of growth and challenge and hopefully transformation, for both us and also the Simple Way and the area of Kensington we lived in and all those we came into contact with.

“but what next?” i hear you ask. well i don’t, really, cos that would be creepy, but i am going to imagine someone asked it, so that i can give a little bit of a glimpse into the future that we are facing [sorry, Mayans! – yes, being cocky about the predicted end of the world is something anyone who is doubting it can feel free to do because if you’re wrong then who gets to rub it into your face? score!]

so our time here at the Simple Way runs until the end of the year – the office winds down around the 23rd of December and then we have just booked tickets South-Africawards for the 30th [arriving home 1 January 2012] where we will be for a month to a month and a half if all goes according to plan [which will include a trip to Durban to visit my sister Dawn and her husband Glen and our new nephew Joshua and also a bunch of our friends] and then sometime in February we will head back to americaland, but this time settling in Oakland, California where we will be working once more with our Simple Way boss, Darin Petersen, but with another non-profit called Relational Tithe [soon also to be known as ‘Common Change’] for around 18 months and beyond that we are trusting that God will direct once more…

when we are home i hope to be playing lots of TheatreSports, hopefully some hockey and drinking a whole lot of coffee with friends and family as we catch up and hang out and refresh and catch up and prepare for the next part of our exciting life journey together. [Val will be testing out the beaches and cocktails and making sure they continue to meet Cape Town’s high standards]

one of the obstacles we face is the task of finding finances to firstly return to americaland and then to be able to live here [in a somewhat different context to Kensington] for the eighteen months that follow. support-raising is not something either Val or i flock towards with open arms, but the work we are returning to is something that excites us in terms of the potential it has for life, community and church transformation, that we may have to be willing to swallow our pride and have some interesting conversations with some of you. neither of us like the idea of being tricked/manipulated into giving to even something that is a good cause and so i wanted to be up front with what will have to somehow be a part of this trip. so more of that to follow.

but mostly we are looking forward to people [not all of the people we want to see will be there – some are in the UK and Switzerland and Australia and a host of other places] and being able to tell stories and share a glimpse of what these last 18 months have meant to us and share some of the anticipation of what the next part of our journey will look like.

and probably in one of the strangest aspects of the whole trip, i, brett fish anderson, will be looking forward to mayonnaise, because no offence americaland, but you SUCK at making it…

much love and thrilled anticipation
brett fish anderson [brettfish@hotmail.com] and the beautiful Val [and of course No_bob]

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