This week has been one of the most difficult weeks in the history of the world. The tragedy that Haitians have had to endure and are currently suffering cannot adequately be described in words. It is a difficult thing for us to quantify what the world has lost. It is hard to begin to even begin to try an understand how the citizens of the country must be feeling. The number of families that will never be the same again, the number of loved ones who days ago walked this earth but are now buried in rubble. As many of us watch this catastrophe unfold from the comfort of our homes, it is not easy for us to truly grasp the reality of the disaster in Haiti. Figure such as 50000 or 60000 dead are little more than just numbers but to those who are there the pain is real, the air is dusty and a dense sense of helplessness fills the atmosphere. It is truly one of the world’s darkest hours. It took only 60 seconds to change the course of an entire nation

I am not at all suggesting that we stop everything and be suspended in a constant equilibrium of despair and mourning. I am however wishing to highlight the fragility of human life. Late last year I lost two uncles tragically and not far apart. It suddenly dawned on me, perhaps

not as clearly as before these events happened, that we do not know the time or the manner in which this life will end. I cannot describe to you the anguish and the distress that gripped our family in those dark times. We have absolutely no control of earthquakes or floods, but we do have an opportunity while there is breath in our lungs to choose life.

It is my desire that we would all take time out to ask the very real question in our own hearts tonight, IF I WERE TO DIE TONIGHT, AM I SURE BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT WHERE I WOULD GO? If you are out there, and you do not know what would happen to you, the bible says” For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood

.” (NIV) Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV) Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV) Romans 10:8b-11 “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”

If you want to know for certain that you will enter into eternal life pray this prayer below, and then contact a friend who is a Christian and let them know of your decision or contact a local church and find out how you can know more about the man who gave it all that we might be able to have eternal life.

“Heavenly Father, I humbly come before you now confessing that I am a sinner. Father, I repent of my sin and I ask you to forgive me. Father, I believe in my heart that Christ Jesus is the Son of God. I believe that you raised him from the dead. I now declare that Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I believe that through His blood, I have eternal life. Dear Lord, please come into my heart, save my soul, direct my steps, and fill me with the Holy Spirit. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen!”

PLEASE GIVE TO HAITI DISASTER FUND THROUGH THE RED CROSS AT http://www.redcross.org.uk/emergencysite/default.aspx?id=88916

Impact- Youth Ministry

January 16, 2010

Pathias Maigurira is a man I have know for over 9 years now. Our association began in 2001 when I began my career at Peterhouse and through the years it has developed into a wonderful friendship. He is a man who loves God and who has a heart for youth ministry.

On my visit to his place today I found him hard at work on his graphic design company but he had time to chat to an old friend.
Pathias told me that their Youth Ministry “IMPACT” is on the move. The work I interrupted was his action plan for the next year as they prepare to raise up leaders to spread the Gospel in their various areas of life. He told me that there is such a hunger for God among the youth and one of the ways they are having success is through one on one meet ups after their youth events. These meet ups are followed up by a mentorship programme that ensures that the youths are invested into heavily with the word and through relationship. He was very proud to tell me that through their mentorship programmes they have managed to raise 2 Headboys, 2 Deputy Headboys, A scripture union president and various other leaders in the field of sport.

Impact is a ministry that is effectively touching the lives of the youth in Harare. Even my sister Pamela told me that in the last week that she was at school, IMPACT were there to share the gospel and it was awesome!

Challenge your containment

December 8, 2009

If you can see the invisible, you can do the impossible

It is a well known fact that in relation to their body size,  fleas can jump very high. An experiment was conducted in which a number of fleas were placed in a container. The natural reaction of the fleas was to jump out of the container. The lid of the container was then replaced on it, and it was found that after several attempts to escape from the container, the fleas stopping jumping as high as the lid and only jumped to just below the lid so that they would not bang their heads. This, in its conception seems wise as it is the application of wisdom, which is knowledge gained through costly experience, and in this case, painful experience.

It was then however observed that when the lid was removed, the fleas continued to jump to a height just below that of the container lid and did not leave the container. They were stuck in the containment even though the lid was removed.

A new flea that had not been in the container was introduced into the system and it jumped out and it was only at that moment that the other fleas realised that the container was open. This is an example of what containment can do in our lives. It can keep us trapped trapped in the limitations of yesterday and stop us from realising our potential. It will stop us fro rising to our true heights because we are afraid of hurting ourselves on the lids of our reality.  Containment breeds statements like; ” I can’t do it, it’s very hard for me”, or : “I think my family won`t accept it”, or “Is it possible? Nobody has ever done it”.

My Pastor has been teaching from the word of God that containment traps us and stops us from living the lives that we COULD live if we just dared to take that step of faith. The bible says;” Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that you may ask or think according to the power that is at work within you.” Its time to challenge those situations that contain us with the word! Its time to replace ‘I cant’  with I CAN! Its time to substitute ‘its impossible’ to  NOTHING SHALL BE IMPOSSIBLE TO HIM WHO BELIEVES, its time to shift the opinion from ‘its too hard’ to I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO GIVES ME STRENGTH!!

Think on this: IF GOD CAN ONLY DO WHAT YOU CAN THINK, THEN IS HE GOD?

Abraham Nduru was a husband, a father and a friend to many, but to me he was uncle Abe. I had known uncle Abe as long as I have been concious of my own existance. He was tragically killed in an accident on the 14th of November. He was a man of great achievement and was able to pack a great deal of purpose into a short space of time. I am mindful my auntie Lindani and the kids, I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am for your loss and how desperate I am to be with you to comfort you at this time. Uncle Abe taught me to challenge my containment and to dream beyond the borders, becoming the first black african to qualify as an actuary and inspiring my father to do the same. I am truly honoured and privileged to have been part of your journey uncle Abe. The General Secretary of COSATU in South Africa had these words to say about ucle Abe and I just wanted to honour his memory with these thoughts.

Address by the COSATU General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi at the funeral
of Abe Nduru , 21 November 2009

Lindani and your two kids as well as to your family and friends

The parents, brothers and sisters and the family of Abe Nduru

His colleagues and employees

Friends and Comrades

Today as we gather to bid farewell to

Our friend, comrade and confidant!

A husband to Lindani

A father to his kids

A son to his parents

A brother and a family member of the Ndurus and Nogxina family

A Pioneer,

A towering intellectual,

A warrior for the rights of retirement funds members,

An agent of change,

And a man of purpose,

An unassuming man who freely interacted with workers and their bosses
without adjusting his manners and or attitude to fit these different
classes

A man who broke the glass ceiling in South Africa by becoming the first
Black person to qualify as an Actuary. This he did with honours.

His entrepreneurial flair which started when he was young, and he kept
on growing and blossoming. Those who worked with him in the former
Southern Life will testify to his thick voice of an assuming
intellectual equal to his task.

I have known him since the early to mid 90s. He started working with
COSATU during the negotiations on a legislation to distribute pension
fund surplus to former and existing members of retirement funds. He was
part of our negotiating team during very tough negotiations in NEDLAC.

He further worked as a member of the trustee of the Metal Industries
Provident Fund, assisting them in dealing with the distribution of the
Surplus in that Fund. The experience proved invaluable for future
progress in the Employee Benefits Industry.

August 1996, Abe at the insistence of Graham Kerrigan, joined Alexander
Forbes Negotiated Benefit Consultants as the Chief Actuary of the
Negotiated Funds and Financial Director of the Division.

He was pivotal in establishing NBC Holdings as an independent and
autonomous company in April 1998 and ensured with his team that all
clients had the best service.

He retained the confidence of all clients who were in the main union
negotiated funds and became a pillar of this Black owned and managed
Employee Benefit Company.

Abe showed his great concern for the interests of the members when he
highlighted and exposed the subtlety with which reserves were hidden in
actuarial reporting during the transfer of the employees from Colgate
Palmolive to CINPF which is a CEPPWAWU Fund.

Our own union team worked with Abe in this fight and ensured that the
correct benefits were transferred for members.

During the period 1999 to 2000, Abe was part of another change in South
Africa, The Pension Funds Amendment Act.

This Act dealt with the surpluses that were due to members and former
members. He and Nicky Howard from Cheadle Thomson & Haysom worked
tirelessly as advisors of COSATU team led by our  policy unit, in
formulating Labour’s input into this new Pension Amendment  Act of
2001. This Act changed the landscape of the retirement funds industry
completely.

I may add that they did so at no cost to the Federation.

In 2001 changes in NBC led him to resign. He operated for while out of
Veon Bock’s office from where he launched SA Quantum in September 2002.

He then, with a few staff members and against all odds developed a
vision that created a successful business with a staff compliment in
excess of 100.

Abraham was a fighter who did not know the meaning of taking risk. He
was bold and had guts to always take new initiatives. No one can dare
contradict us when we call him a pioneer. As an African, Abe has gone
where no one in the Employee Benefits Industry in South Africa had gone
before.

He introduced self insurance in the Mining Sector Funds. Through this he
saved members and trustees hundreds millions of Rands. He was a true
innovator. No problem was too big for him and with Abe there was always
a solution.

Abe commanded the respect of his clients, his peers and his staff. He
was a person whom especially workers could relate to because of his
ability to talk in simple language to everyone. Never did he boast about
his accomplishments.

He was an extraordinarily capable man, extraordinarily unique. The idea
that all people have value profoundly influenced him.

The death of Abe few days ago is a hard blow, to his family, the labour
movement, his friends and the retirement fund industry. Without any
doubt it deprived us of one of the most gifted and capable person.

One of Abe’s most wonderful and striking qualities was his capacity to
think “Out of the Box”. He had a way of turning the problems of this
world around and examining them from what was often the most unusual
perspectives.

It was as if he had the gift of seeing things in ways that most us
simply didn’t.

How must we face this loss? What would be Abe’s opinion if he had to
make a judgement on this matter? I guess he would rather want us to
celebrate his life and not mourn.

He would want us to move forward to a “Better life for all!”

I am saying so even though I have no clue how we would move ahead
confronting new battles without this young giant. It was too soon and
completely unfair on all accounts. We’ve lost a friend; we’ve lost a
champion, and it is going to take some time to adjust to this reality.

Abe your presence will be missed!

HAMBE KAHLE ABE!

zimbabwe_zebrasIMAGINE a situation where money suddenly fits into wallets! You do not have a lot of it but you can buy some food from a note or two in your wallet. That is the situation in Zimbabwe since the introduction of multi-currencies”. This is a political term used to mean the official dollarisation of the economy.
There is one buzzword that is common across sectors of the economy. That word is hope, and it is shared by many. However, there are a number of obstacles.
The political situation remains fragile. While basic freedoms have been restored, the confidence of the general population is still very low.
International capital is slow to flow in as there are issues about human rights and rule of law yet to be dealt with. The implementation of the transitional political agreement is fraught with problems.
That said, the situation in Zimbabwe is offering hope. The shops are full of basic commodities. Although the hard currency is scarce, especially the small denominations, anyone who is able to sell labour can get some US dollars to put food on the table.
Across the population there are two different resulting scenarios.
Rural-based government employees who do not have the worries of rentals and urban utility bills are faring better, with their US$150 per month on average.
Their urban counterparts are not so lucky. They still have to contend with bills for electricity and other utilities, which makes their income too low. However, even that is not comparable to seven months ago where a whole salary could not buy a loaf of bread.
Thus the outlook for the country is beginning to brighten. Given this background, there are several challenges facing actuaries.
Pensions schemes are going through the process of converting their benefits from Zimbabwe dollars to US dollars. At face value the conversion looks like a very simple calculation.
One can first take the ratio of a member’s share of assets in Zimbabwe dollars at the conversion rate and determine that member’s proportionate share in US dollars.
But this simple calculation often produces results that are not very practically useful. The allocated benefits in many cases are too small to be significant. Second, the method does not take into account many historical issues in respect of how the assets being shared were acquired.
Most of the assets owned by the funds, in shares and property, were acquired well before the last years of hyperinflation.
However the contributions made recently in hyperinflation when salaries could increase weekly tend to dwarf the contributions made many years earlier. Trustees assume that the scheme actuary has all the tools and skills needed to unravel this puzzle. This is easier said than done.
The approach taken has been to be as pragmatic as possible. Actuaries in Zimbabwe (there are four of them) have continued to give advice based on the situation of each fund and the requirements of the employer.
In a typical defined-contribution scheme, one cannot redistribute the assets once they are apportioned to the members. However, the situation is unique as follows:

  • The asset values have a potential to double or even triple as the economic recovery takes shape and;
  • A final distribution of the assets may now prejudice some of the members, given the potential uplift.

This presents a situation where trustees are making their decisions in small stages. The first stage is to deal with pensions in payment.
In cases where the pensions calculated are too small and the employers cannot immediately fund pension increases, full cash commutations are allowed for those small amounts.
Some of the members do not accept this and are putting together efforts to sue their funds for dereliction of duty. In cases where the employer can fund immediate pension increases, minimum pensions of between Z$20-30 a month have been set.
This is seen as the best way in terms of both the reputation of the industry and the profession and avoiding abject poverty.
The next step is to distribute the assets to active members bearing in mind that some of them are also very close to retirement. One has to make sure that the treatment of such members is not too dissimilar from that of pensions in payment.
The profession is in a very interesting position in Zimbabwe. There is still a fairly large number of students in relation to actuaries. It is my hope that we are beginning to emerge from the woods. –– The Actuary.

Hoto heads Altfin Holdings in Zimbabwe.

By Douglas Hoto

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As I was just thinking upon what God has done in my life I came across an old notebook that used to write in in high school, and in there is a poem that I wrote to God. I haven’t read it in years and I’m astounded by some of what is written because for the best part of my high school years I was an alien to the body of Christ. As we begin to acknowledge and honour the fact that HE saved the day, I want to share this poem with you because its so personal to me and reminds me that even when I was still flirting with the idea of servng Him, he had begun a work in me. I hope this blesses the men!

If you had not loved me so much,
Had I not felt your loving touch,
If I, your love had not found,
I would be lost, maybe six feet underground,
Father you showed me that I am precious,
Your mercy, your kindness, you’re so gracious,
You showed me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made,
That I should be free for the price you paid,
Each time I meet you I’m amazed,
So broken, so unworthy, yet so blessed,
What am I that God should be mindful of me?
Thank you Father, for without you what would I be?
You’ve dried my tears and you’ve calmed my fears,
Looked after me so carefully for all these years,
I want to honour you with my life, my soul,
My body, my actions, my speech, my all..
When they need a worshipper, let them call my name,
I’m after you Father, not glory or fame.
To be continued….

I never finished it, but I am now fully persuaded, I KNOW, that HE SAVED THE DAY! God pulled me out of the clutches of hell, out of alcoholism and fornication, out of depression and into HIS joy! I am able to fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ today because he was willing to pay the price. HE SAVED THE DAY!!!!

Homeless in Exeter

July 20, 2009

DSC01930Exeter is home to the 5th highest number of rough sleepers and homeless people in the UK. You have probably seen them on your way to Arena or Timepiece lying on the side of the way. Some will have blankets, some have a dog and layers of clothing on, and some will have nothing. One of the organizations that work tirelessly in Exeter to see the homeless resettled is a charity called St Petrock’s. St Petrock’s works with former prisoners, the homeless and the socially excluded. In 2008 alone St Petrock’s worked with over 1700 clients, helped 593 people into accommodation, 142 people into full time employment and saw 1774 ex-prisoners resettled. In their studies they found that 86% of the people they work with have complex needs such as mental health problems or addiction issues.

Initiatives such as “Soup on the run” which is a joint venture involving some local churches in Exeter provides food to the lost and desperate members of the Exeter society. Speaking to one of the gentlemen who does soup on the run it was painful to discover that every few weeks they hear of the death of one or two more right there on the street. They left this world cold and alone with no one to care for them. The most recognition they will get for their existence is that they will be recorded as a statistic. There was huge out cry form the homeless community after a man was discovered dead last year in Northenhay Gardens. The police report stated that the deceased had been sleeping rough. One 22 year old man was quoted as saying that death on the street was natural and that people come and go a lot on the street.

In a bid to try and understand the culture of the homeless in Exeter, I left my house just after midnight with the sole purpose of meeting the citizens of our streets. It was an experience like no other. I spoke with some of them, I sat down with some of them and watched people walk past without even a glance or maybe occasional “Get a job!” To those who were hungry I brought food and understood what it is like to be out in the cold with nowhere to go. I saw in the faces of Paddy ad Kev and many others, I saw in their faces a hope and remembrance of what they had wanted to be and the bitterness of how it turned out.

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Some argue that the homeless deserve to be on the street and that they made choices in life that lead them to that point. This may be true. There is well documented evidence to support the notion that some abusers of illegal substances, some are alcoholics and some are criminals. Others are ex-convicts who know no other life except to be behind bars and the release into the world is both frightening and challenging. Some served many years in the army and came back to their country and found that no one was waiting. They found that life had moved on and they didn’t know what the next move was. As we’re sitting outside McDonalds, Paddy tells me that he was in Zimbabwe once upon a time, he did some obstruction work back in the day and now he lives on the street in Exeter. He speaks with agony over the loss of his daughter to a drug overdose when she was on the street. Listening to him talk I felt very fortunate to have the support and care of a loving family and friends who are concerned with my welfare.

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It must be the most difficult thing to wake up and know no one really cares. Doug expressed how hard it is, and how he sometimes he feels like he is alive because he hasn’t died not because he has something to live for. It was apparent that the subway I shared with Doug was a momentary relief from his way of life, because we both realised that I cannot go there everyday and he will not always be there when I go.