Dear Family of St John’s

It happened on the 4th February, a Sunday morning. I wasn’t home, fortunately. I first found out about the incident when I checked my phone for messages while having coffee between our two Sunday services.

Our family WhatsApp group, The Phabulous Phour Phelps’, was going crazy with photos and messages. One message jumped out at me, before I’d even had a chance to look at the photos. It was from my youngest son who wasn’t home at the time, “Is my piano okay???”

What had happened?!

Well, when I looked at the photos and videos, I was confronted with images of guinea fowl in our home… sitting on top of the piano, waddling down the passage into our bedroom, huddled on the windowsill, perching on the rafters high up in the double volume entrance hall.

There were four of them. A mother and her three teenagers (gender undetermined). Why they chose to invade our home, I don’t know. I suspect it was because of my eldest son. Birds don’t seem to like him.

The Pigeons of Potch have taken out a ‘hit’ on him, we suspect. It’s a long and complicated story but let me just say that they have (according to him) attacked him in his home, invaded his office, caused him to break an office desk and spill coffee all over his maths notes. Since then, they leave random feathers lying in his flat, as a warning of what might come.

A few days before the guinea fowl invasion he also had an incident with a hadeda. It decided to play ‘chicken’ with him in the road.

Hadeda – 1, Son – 0.

Birds of a feather seem to flock together when he’s around, with the common purpose of making his life difficult. So, I suspect word went out amongst the feathered folk and they planned the invasion while he was still home.

Nevertheless, the invasion needed to be dealt with. And the ‘dealing with’ rested on my husband, eldest son and his girlfriend. The house was becoming fouler by the minute as they left deposits wherever they fluttered and walked. I believe it smelled appalling! They also left feathers everywhere they went. With every flap of their wings, feathers fell.

We have had quite a few sparrows fly into our house over the years. They are easy to scoop up and release using the pool net. No harm and minimal fuss, or mess. Guinea fowl are much bigger and far less cooperative.

My husband’s strategy involved:

• Watch and wait, hoping they leave of their own accord. They didn’t.

• Record the incident with photo and video, so that the wife appreciates the level of drama that needed to be dealt with.

• Call in the reinforcements – the eldest son and his girlfriend.

• Discuss and assess. Establish a plan of action.

• Arm yourself with beach towels and scoop up the teenaged birds, hoping the mother would follow them out of the house. Deposit the birds on the open field across the road. (Two flew back towards the house, proving the disobedience of teenagers across all species)

• When it becomes clear the mother isn’t following, bring in the ‘big guns’ – the pool net and extra towels. All the while dodging the deposits all over the floor and giving thanks that you removed the carpets when you did renovations and have wooden floors.

• Eventually gather up the mother and release her with the rest of the flock in the open field.

• Start clean-up operations. This might have been the longest stage of the whole process.

The guinea fowl invasion reminded me of how often life throws us curve balls we don’t expect, can’t predict or plan for, and just don’t know how to handle. We’re left feeling a little shell-shocked and reeling from yet another problem that needs to be dealt with.

Do you ever feel that way?

Well, my husband’s method in dealing with the fowl invasion can also teach us a few lessons.

Firstly, if we wait a little, the problem might sometimes resolve itself. We don’t have to enter panic mode straight away, observing and thinking a little does help.

Secondly, call on your friends, family, and church community for assistance. Dealing with any problem is easier when we have support.

And finally, there will be a time to clean up the mess and set things straight again. Often that takes the longest. Lent is a time where we deliberately focus on the areas of our life that need cleaning up and resetting.

In our Lent Bible Study course, we’ve been reminded over the last two weeks of God’s steadfast faithfulness. We’ve seen how Jacob and Moses didn’t get things right the first time (or the second or third), and yet God was always there for them.

He’s there for us… again, and again, and again. He’s there to lean on when life throws us these unexpected curveballs. He’s there to give us guidance and support. He’s there to help us clean up. He’s always there to love us.

May you be encouraged, in whatever you’re facing, that the Lord is there with you. He is steadfast, even when we feel the world around us is shaky.

With love
Your friend and rector,