Saturday, July 31, 2010


Tomorrow morning Junction, the church we have belonged to since coming to Africa, will move into our new building on William Nichol Road, the road that slices through Northern Johannesburg like  Tracy Boulevard, Watt Avenue, the Esplanade and VanWyk Expressway slices through your own cities.

It is an amazing work of art, our new building, resembling a work of Frank Lloyd Wright, the American Architect who insisted buildings should be one with the surrounding landscape.  No wonder, our architect and designer friend, Roger Boden loves Wright and mixes his style into all he does.

If God spares us through our sleep. Mario and I will join the rest of the church as we walk from our old building (a container-configuration that has been Junction's home for eight years) to the modern, beautiful multi-purpose center that will become our new place of worship.

It is amazing.

A 700 meter walk that represents  "crossing over into our promised land" will be amazing.  We will have to cross the dreaded William Nichol and have police and vested escorts to help us all through.  Mario has assembled a team of Junction's most formidable guys that I have affectionately called "The Brute Squad" to stop traffic and guard the path as the 300 person congregation crosses over.

We will be two who will cross.

The reason I am amazed is for one reason:  Mario and I have helped every church we have been a part of move into new buildings, but have never attended the opening ceremony or "Welcome Service" for any of them because we have moved shortly before the day was celebrated.

When we first became Christians we joined a beautiful American Baptist Church that became our family, our support, our wisdom in the early years of raising our blended family.  With the charismatic lead elder, Rick Bergstrom, we met regularly to talk of building "our own building" that the church could occupy instead of renting the local school multi-purpose room.  With a team of church members, we began a building fund and a project that made my head spin...and occupied a lot of our time.  We ended up purchasing an existing building, wooden and spacious, for our new church.

A month before the building was complete, Mario began a new job in Sacramento, and we sold our mountain home and moved to a cement jungle.  As we left, the church sent us off with their whole hearts, and lots of tears...and moved into their finished and redecorated building.

We eventually found our new "church home" - the Vineyard Sacramento, which went through changes as soon as we arrived.  Vineyard endured planting other churches, changing venues, and an eventual separation from Vineyard International.  We later changed our name to "Journey", and appropriately sought God with each step we took.  Our prophetic lead elder, Rick Martinez  later met a team of apostolic/prophetic guys from South Africa, called New Covenant Ministries, International (NCMI).  We began a relationship with an international team that would change our destiny; and changed our name to Capital City Church International, or CCCI.

We also began praying about "something greater" than a church building-- a community center that would reach several layers of our communities, and bring people together.  We looked at a few buildings, but eventually decided on 1901 Del Paso Blvd., and named it "The Artisan", CCCI's (eventual) new home.
The gutting and building out of our new building was exhausting, challenging, but familiar...and we shouldered in to do the work that bonds families together: building our new "home".

The Artisan became a multi-purpose building that was an incredible sharing of a theater, a coffee shop, an art gallery and a mutli-purpose room (our new meeting spot) .  The center won the attention of Sacramento magazine, who awarded our new building "Best Creative Convergence" of 2006, the most fashionable meeting center I had ever seen.

Two weeks before our opening service, we moved to Johannesburg.  Our church sent us with their whole hearts, a great party and lots of tears, and we went off to start a new adventure: full-time ministry in Africa...something we had prayed about since our first trip to Malawi in 2000.

There is a portion of Exodus, the Bible's second book, where Moses is told by God that the people he was leading into the promised land would see it, but that Moses never would.  I can imagine the sinking feeling in Moses' heart...and his disappointment at never seeing the land he would lead the Israelites into.  All that work...all that prayer... and now I don't even get to go in.

Joshua, the man who Moses raised as a leader, led the Israelites across the Jordan River and into the promised land.  Moses died in the desert.

Tomorrow we will cross the Jordan... or rather William Nicol, and follow our charismatic/prophetic lead elder, Craig Elliot into our "promised land".

We know a building is just a building... but we pray that it will affect the community the same way the other buildings we left behind are doing now.

And we had to come to Africa to cross our Jordan.

Take a look at our new Junxion Center -- a multi-purpose building that will change the world, God willing.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Without a doubt the most coveted candy in the Rodriguez house is Salt Water Taffy.

The candy, made simply of boiled sugar, butter, vegetable oil and food coloring and flavoring is made by pulling the sticky mass over a hook or plastic tube, then doubling it back over itself and pulling again.  The process is repeated over and over again until the mixture is a spongy, doughy delightfully sticky mess.

By constant pulling, taffy becomes filled with tiny pockets of air that make the flavor more noticeable and the candy light and chewy.  After it is wrapped in wax paper and twisted into little bows, it's mixed with other wrapped colors and looks like a bubble gum machine gone wild.

Mario loves cherry and strawberry.  My favorite is coconut and caramel.  In Old Sacramento the delicious candies are sold out of barrels, all oozing with sweetness and flavor.   So, it is a (minor) tragedy that salt water taffy is not available readily in South Africa.  It makes it easy to bring back a gift for our friends here, though...and giving this is a home run with most South Africans.

Taffy is not an acquired taste.  It's sweet, it's flavored how you want it to be and it comes wrapped like a present for one mouthful.  In believing in flavor and lightness, the idea of the candy is genius.  It doesn't take a lot to satisfy you, but the sensation of unwrapping, eating and rewarding your taste buds, chewing and swallowing can all become, well, addictive.

In partaking of this, I force myself to remember that taffy is fattening and bad for your teeth and possibly overpriced. I usually remember after the sugar coma has passed.

Today is Alicia's 22nd birthday, and I'm sure my little sweetie will celebrate with her man, her baby and her "family" in Chico where she is.  Today has been filled with memories of her... and a few tears.  Vince also started a  new job in New Mexico and moved in with old friends there.  It has been almost ten days since I talked with him.  Because of these two right now my heart feels like a wad of taffy, being pulled and stretched and then doubled over only to start the process again.  Being so far away, my heart feels more pulled than most mothers do, but then that's no mystery to people who know me.

To mother a person is a hard thing.  To give too much attention, the child doesn't know how to cope without give too little attention the child, neglected, will never feel a strong connection with you.  So, as with most mothers of children, I tried to find a balance, and did my best.  Looking back, the surprising joy I feel when I think of how I raised my kids delights me.  They are all different, deep, bright, sensitive and funny.  I think if I met them as a stranger I would like them and want to be their friend.

As adults, I still want to be close to them.  I want to be part of their daily lives, especially now with grandchildren involved.  This is a little harder to do, being separated by so much distance, even in this modern age with SKYPE, facebook, twitter and youtube.  I feel myself even MORE dependent on God just to make sure that the pulling on my heart doesn't pull me away from being the woman He wants me to be, here, there or anywhere.

This week has been building to the Junction moving in to its new building,  a party to celebrate and a new adventure for us and "for future generations".  Mario and I listen to preaches about handing off the faith we have to our children, and I have to pray that God will be the torch giver for my own back in the USA.  The posterity that we have is world-wide, and involves more than our biological children...we know it.

But, God, I want them too.

And I ask with everything in my heart: a taffy-pulled, air-filled gooey sweet thing....

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Praise the Lord, my soul, and do not forget how kind He is. 
He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. 
He keeps me from the grave and blesses me with love and tender mercies. 
He fills my life with good things, so that I stay young and strong like an eagle. (Psa 103:2-5)

When I first started appreciating movies I saw one called "Tender Mercies".   Made in 1983, Robert Duvall plays a washed up alcoholic Country-Western Singer, Max Sledge, who comes upon a young Christian widow and her son.  Because of the love of this woman, and the incredible grace of God, the alcoholic is transformed to a husband, a normal working man, a mentor, and a father.  Even so, Max is haunted by his past mistakes, including his failed marriage and an adult daughter seemingly destined to repeat her father's mistakes.  In the deepest part of his despair, Max reaches out to his wife who gently encourages him, saying that her prayers are filled with "thanking God for his tender mercies..."

The line (and the title) moved me.  I wasn't a born-again Christian at the time, but I was aware of deep pain and terrible turns life can take.  Later in my life, growing in the habit of reading the Bible, I found the term "tender mercies" appearing over and over again.  It made me think of the movie.

The term refers to the beauty and grace that God chooses to shower on His children...whether they deserve it or not.  What some people call good luck can also be called a "tender mercy" of God.  Because of His nature to be beautiful and also be our Father, we are given these every day.

On the hardest days I've had here in Africa, He gives me close, close friendships, words of encouragement, a husband who loves me (genuinely loves me) and a calling that He continues to renew and refresh.  In the quiet of my sorrow, things like sunsets... red and fiery and brilliant; birds that drop down in front of me so I can admire their painted beauty.... all seem like kisses from Him.

Because of this world and its unpredictable habit of surprising us with joy or flattening us with sorrow, I need Him.  I need to "notice" His tender mercies...all day, everyday.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


The first time I rode a horse was with my friend, Carol, who owned two: Lady and Vixen.  She was a real cowgirl and I was town, pretty feminine and unfamiliar of such animals.  I admired their beauty and admired Carol as she rode them, becoming one with "her babies" as she called them.

Her sprawling property was a treat for me to visit, and once when I was grooming her babies with her she asked if I would ever want to go on a ride with her.  I said yes, of course!!... and she willingly saddled for me the more docile of her two babes, Lady.

I mounted the horse with great ease and felt so natural as we trotted off the grounds and headed out to the open roads that surrounded her place.   Carol rode over to an apple orchard that neighbored their property, and Lady took off down the road in a fast trot, in the opposite direction.  I yelled for Carol, who didn't hear me.  I yelled again, and "Lady" broke into a gallop, her hooves rumbling against the soft pavement under us so fast that I panicked and grabbed the horn of the saddle for dear life, dropping the reigns.

Apparently Carol figured out what happened, because suddenly she was like the wind, next to us on Vixen, galloping alongside of her runaway horse with her blonde hair blowing and her face focused on the horse I was on.  She looked like a superhero... and rescued me by grabbing Lady's mane and pulling it against her and Vixen as she slowed to a trot, then a walk.  

We were both exhausted and breathless when she corrected me "Janet...never...shout..on..a horse... It just...makes them...go faster...."

And so I never did again.  Shout on a horse, that is.  

It wasn't until I was twenty nine that I decided to mount one again, at a dude ranch where we vacationed with our kids.  The horse was old and worn, but I shook as I rode, remembering my wild ride.  After the old nag, I was confident again that I could be able to ride a horse under the right circumstances.  

In the Urban dictionary, the term"Get back on the horse" has two meanings:

          1 (verb) To attempt the same challenging action after failure. 
          Apparently derived from an old adage: "You have to get back on the horse that threw you." 

         2 (verb) To get back into a habit. Traditionally a good habit. 

I am officially "back on the horse" of blogging.  

Nothing against the World Cup, but blogging became a duty...and my last post caused so much concern for me by well-meaning friends and family that the brazen princess was more of a wilted child after my last post.

Still, my habit of writing is a good one.  God created me to tell stories, I think.  I think I have confused being a good story-teller for being a good teacher, something I have always said I was.  As I get older, I want to be known.  I want to tell the story of my heart and tell it in such detail that it draws others in.  I want to write in a way that endures time and space and culture-- besides spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is my greatest wish.  

In the last week I have either been to busy or too distracted to write.  Events.  Sadness. Life. I have felt like the picture of Iniesta has haunted my dreams... There has been no resolve, but there is hope.  There has been little change, but knowledge of the One who is my definition.  

Today I write after failing to do so for a week.  I dropped the reigns... and now, rescued I get back on the horse and attempt to tell you all that I am back.  I want to tell the story of my heart.

Will you listen??

Sunday, July 11, 2010


The cup is over, and the victory belongs to Spain.

In the end, the game was not the game of the cup... it paled in comparison to other dramatic finishes we have seen in the past three weeks.  It was defined by “almosts”, being "almost" this - "almost" that.  

At any time any team could have won. Spain (hungry and talented) was pitted against Nederlands (steady and skilled) for the final that was what most final games are: an anticlimax after the victories that led up to it. 

 For the actual game, I stayed home to grieve... family concerns back in the States have me grieving today.  Mario went across the street to Terry and Bonnie's to see the big screen game with a crowd.  It was followed by a fireworks display from Soccer City in Soweto that could be seen in Northern Joburg...

This is the first time Spain has been in the finals, let alone clenched the "Holy Grail" of soccer... and the ocotpus was right.  Spain defeated the Netherlands by a score of 1-0 to win its first World Cup title. Andres Iniesta scored the winning goal in extra time. 

The game defining goal (a long-awaited pay-off) ended the nail biting apprehension of sudden death shoot-outs, like Ghana vs. Uruguay, was scored by a mid-fielder, Andres Iniesta... an unlikely hero, especially unheard of in comparison to the superstars that came to South Africa (Drogba, Reynoldo, Sneijder, Kaka) that could not deliver the cup for country in the end.  Iniesta broke free inside the penalty area near the end of the game, took a pass from Cesc Fabregas and put the ball just past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg. 

Inhiesta, in Spanish, means “ entangled, perplexed”  which could sum up the play all through the game... the game of no absolutes.  Two great teams, two worthy opponents, asking great questions in their pay: Whose ball is it??  Whose foul?  Whose Cup?  Who is more worthy?”

As I sat watching the game, my mind was preoccupied.  We were meant to host a Cup-end party at our house tonight, but we had to cancel because of devastating news we received from home this morning.  The news (which is the kind of family news we cannot share) derailed me, and we almost didn’t make it to church (NEVER before skipped since we moved here). 

On the couch with my miniature Pinscher asleep beside me, I gazed at the TV, stumbling in and out of interest.  The news from home made me vulnerable... it made me scared.  It made me not want to be around people asking questions like “Are you okay?”, or “Is everything okay at home?”...questions that require a light two-minute answer that can’t be manufactured on the spot. 

Should we be here in South Africa??   Are we meant to be home in the States? Where are we the most valuable?  Is God really wanting us here?  These are the questions that were running through my mind tonight... the ones that perplex me.  The questions that make me realize that I am asking a question that has no simple answer. 

I am inhiesta, or perplexed about everything meaningful tonight.

Beyond that, I am happy Spain won.  

Thursday, July 8, 2010


God (in His mercy) has given us this work to do, and so we do not become discouraged.

Living for Jesus exposes your motives constantly.  This is why when times of discouragement come to me, I HAVE to go back to what God has told me.  My most important definition of who I am lies in Him...and my focus HAS to be on what He has given me to do.

Whenever I mess up (and I do..a lot) I always think of a saying --"Losing my religion", to describe what I act like in moments of selfish wisdom or even an all-out tantrum.

Am I losing my religion??

In reality, when I walk with Him, focused on Him I am reminded that we put aside all secret and shameful deeds; we do not act with deceit, nor do we falsify the word of God. In the full light of truth we live in God's sight and try to commend ourselves to everyone's good conscience.

For if the gospel we preach is hidden, it is hidden only from those who are being lost. They do not believe, because their minds have been kept in the dark by the evil god of this world. He keeps them from seeing the light shining on them, the light that comes from the Good News about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

 For it is not ourselves that we preach; we preach Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.

The God who said, "Out of darkness the light shall shine!" is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God's glory shining in the face of Christ.

Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us.  I have a feeling that I have too much clay, too much crumble.  Maybe I wasn't mixed right.  Maybe I'm leaving myself in full sun too much!!  And this is when I get discouraged.

When people misunderstand my heart it hurts the most.  When I feel betrayed, misquoted, lonely, haggard... I have to remember the encouragement of God's love...God's word.

As a follower of Christ , I have to remember that we are all in the same boat.  We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies.

Throughout our lives we are always in danger of death for Jesus' sake, in order that his life may be seen in this mortal body of ours. This means that death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. The scripture says, "I spoke because I believed." In the same spirit of faith we also speak because we believe.

We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus to life, will also raise us up with Jesus and take us, together with every other Christian, even ones we came here for and sacrificed so much for...  into HIS presence. All this is for His peoples' sake.

As God's grace reaches more and more people, (maybe even through us) they will offer to the glory of God more prayers of thanksgiving. For this reason we never become discouraged.

 Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day. And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble we see right in front of us now.

Is it possible I can't mess up what's inside of me?? Some days my discouragement over a certain heartbreak, a certain discouragement... a certain person breaks my heart in half.  I am easily distracted from my main focus: HIM, His Kingdom, His light, trapped in this foolish vessel.

And so I remember that I need to fix my attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Tonight the mighty German team has fallen to Spain.  To say that I'm pleased is an understatement.

The girl who could care less about soccer (me) is elated that Spain has taken out the best team in the cup.  Germany is more deserving of Spain to be in the cup... That's right , I said it, and I recorded it in black and white.  Spain (in my opinion) is the next best thing to the USA winning, being exciting and filled with hopes against power teams highly skilled and trained.

Today the roads in Northern Joburg were closed because of a practice run on the freeway...practicing transporting dignitaries for the final game on Sunday here.  The police lined the entrance of the Indaba Hotel, a posh Northern Joburg place, with a dignitary bus in the driveway.  We thought the police were routinely stopping people, and readied ourselves.  No such (bad) luck.

Spain, the team, is very exciting - having such great players - and are European!!  The winners of past cups have been primarily South American.  Even so, among European countries, Spain's team has always been a "second team" to the superstars of Portugal, Germany and Italy.  In all respects, the Spanish are the underdogs of the whole tournament.

Spain is a country with soccer as its main sport.  The kids (all speaking perfect Spanish) are related by blood to the balls, goalposts and grass.  The only other sport that rivals it is basketball ( fast rising since ten years ago).  They have qualified for the World Cup twelve times since 1930.  Their best finish has been fourth place (1950).

Holland (the Nederlands) has its most popular sport as soccer (football) followed by field hockey and volleyball.  Deeply athletic, the country has sports clubs like America has churches, with  35,000 sports clubs in the country. About two thirds of the population older than 15 years participates in sports weekly - it's almost a religion.  In fairness, Holland has never taken a World Cup either, but have fought it out twice in the finals in 1974 and 1978 -- both lost to the opposing teams.  

Needless to say, both countries are going crazy.

Apparently, there is a certain octopus that can accurately predict the winners in this year's World Cup...he has never been wrong.  Paul, the psychic octopus predicted the Spanish win over the fierce and strong team that Germany produced this year... and there have been death threats on him, poor guy!   Apparently the octopus is going to be captured and fried up with garlic and white wine.

The fever surrounding the cup here is amazing.  Street vendors were selling only German, Netherlands and Spanish flags today.  Tomorrow, there will only be Netherlands and Spain.  

Two teams with hunger, desire and talent will duke it out on Sunday. Drama, falling down, cheering, vuvuzelas...ahhhh, this is our moment!!  

Monday, July 5, 2010


Nederlands                                                                                       v.  Uruguay

Tomorrow night my most excellent friends, Manny and Terry are being ordained onto eldership at Junction.  I confess I have never been this enthusiastic about anyone being appointed to eldership, mainly because elders are placed into the role before I have them in my head as fulfilling the role.  I'm sure people said the same about us.

The truth about Manny and Terry is that they are humble and genuine leaders.  Greek by birth, we jokingly call Manny "The Junction Concordance" because he is fluent in the language.  His knowledge of Biblical material is almost hidden inside of his love for God and others.  Terri is a friend and a sister, who really loves her man and their son, Calvin.  They have walked a hard road together lately, with Calvin sick and hospitalized for various concerns.  The devil is a liar....

As if their ordination is not enough reason for a bru-ha-ha... we are also having Marcus Herbert from Cornerstone Church (one of the largest NCMI churches in Johannesburg) in for training.  He'll relay some wisdom to us as we meet as leaders, brothers and sisters, fellow warriors.  Then he'll ordain Manny and Terry.

The cherry on top of the night is the semi-final soccer match.  The Nederlands (Holland) will square off against the most hated team in the Rodriguez Casa- Uruguay.

Uruguay knocked our beloved Bafana Bafana out of the cup, they also beat Mexico and knocked them out.  The latest insult was the "defeat" of Ghana, the last African team in the cup, and a serious reason for Africa to mourn.

Team Uruguay is hardly worth doing a dance about.  Suarez is a baby with so much drama in his game he should be called Julia Roberts Suarez.  By comparison, he is easier to stomach than the diva Breck Girl Diego Forlan (who is such a hot dog he should play with a roll on his back.)  I just have to pretend I don't know about a midfielder for Uruguay named Ignacio Gonzalez (My grandfather's name).

The Nederlanders are a skilled yet boring team (disallowing their star, Wesley Sneijder) but I want them to give the Uruguayans a royal Dutch kick in the ass. Right in their spoiled, priveleged asses.  Oh yeah, I said it... that's right!! (I told you I don't know much about soccer, right??)

This is no longer soccer, this is personal.

Spain is the only team left (after Nederlands kicks the Uruguayans out) that will be strong Latinos speaking Spanish.  I'm willing to root for Nederlands tomorrow just so Spain can kick their Dutch asses on the 11th.  After all, I am a Rodriguez, and my husband's family fled Franco to come to the it will be a sincere familia cheering.

By the way, tomorrow night will also be a great a catered dinner with a wonderful menu.  A local chef is cooking for us, and we will all be served (as leaders) on china and eat with knife and fork.

I didn't say so earlier, but I am in charge of coordinating the event, so it has been a rush to get stuff done, but it will be a celebration.

 That's what makes churches family - celebrating together.


Saturday, July 3, 2010


A flag flown in Rustenburg before the game, showing devotion to Jesus

We are now in the middle of the country in a city called Bloemfontein (Fountain of Flowers, in Afrikaans).  The charm and beauty of this city lies in its people; specifically our friends, Wouter and Lulu VanAswegan and their four kids: Daniel, Annie, Jack and Jessica. 

We come here (four hours south of Johannesburg) about three times a year, not only for rest, but because the VanAswegans are the closest thing we have to family here in this country, complete with the yelling and disorder that comes with a family with four kids.   We have made a pact with one another that as long as we live in South Africa we will celebrate the fourth of July together with a BBQ (a braai).  This is a different something because here, in South Africa July is very cold and the days are short.

Last night the Daniel (17) had a freind (Jed) sleep over, Annie (15) also had an overnight friend named Nerica.  This held a quiet charm of teens having conversation about the deep and the shallow, both equally enthralling, especially to be let in on their chatter.  Jack (12) also had a friend (Kent) sleep over and Jessica blended in with everyone, since she has a quality of being 10 and 30 at the same time. 

The day could not have been more unpredictable.  I got up dressed for a run and never went,. since Mario and Wouter left as soon as I woke up for a visit to Home Affairs.  I was left with the kids, since Lulu was at the dentist for a (painfully overdue) tooth extraction. 

As soon as all the adults came back we went to a Nature Reserve on the outside of Bloem that turned out to be an all day excursion and we couldn't participate in the nature walk that we had scheduled.  Lucky thing, since Lulu could not move from her seat without pain and decided to sip tea in a neighboring tea garden. 

We came back home and began the braai, as Jack and Jessica learned how to play horseshoes with me.   They ended up beating me (I refuse to hang my head in shame) and thoroughly enjoyed the game. 

About halfway through the braai Mario emerged from the house and said "Brazil is OUT!!" meaning only one thing.... Brazil had been eliminated from the World cup quarter-finals.  A surprise indeed, even though matched against the Netherlands, the team that has polished itself to perfection.  Winning 2-1 over Brazil, my thoughts instantly went to the Roomes, our friends who lived there, and all of Brazil's fans who are our friends.  I imagined them being very disappointed, and I was sorry for them... although secretly glad Brazil had been knocked out. 

Later that night (as I watched Ratatouille with the kids) Ghana played Uruguay and was beaten in a controversial game that Mario says will make history. 

FIFA wraps it up like this:  "It was a moment to make history, and for a player to earn himself footballing immortality. It was the last minute of stoppage time in extra time at the quarter-final between Uruguay and Ghana. Luis Suarez had just been dismissed for deliberately handling a goalbound shot on the line. The score was 1-1, and the Africans had a penalty. Gyan, with two converted spot-kicks to his name at the finals, stepped up for the last kick of the match. He took a five-pace run-up and shot; the ball smacked the top of the bar, flew out of play, and the final whistle blew. Had he scored, Ghana would have been the first-ever African team to make it through to the semi-finals. But the beautiful game can be cruel too: the South Americans held their nerve and won the shoot-out. Coolly converting Ghana's first penalty in the shoot-out will prove to be no consolation at all for Gyan."

Mario came to bed a little crestfallen, as the only African team was now out.  I did sympathize with the plight, but even more so that my friend Lulu was tooth-ached and disabled from fun as we usually had; disappointed that we didn't talk to the Roomes or even SKYPE or facebook with them; disappointed that the warm holiday in the USA would mean family fun without us....

We were all "out". 

For the full FIFAarticle on the quarter finals go to: