Friday, 31 October 2008


Devils are part of everyday life here.   Back in Australia, we have scorned them out of existence.

I'm not sure which I prefer.

For Bethany, who has grown up here, for whom Bislama was her first language, there devils are everywhere.  They are part of her play, part of her school and much of her fear.

Children in Vanuatu talk about devils in much the same way Australian children talk about monsters.  They are under the bed, in the small dark room, always ready to eat you up.  Parents use them as a tool to frighten children into obedience.  Don't go there, there's a devil.  Don't do that, a devil will get you.  

So how do I respond?  Do I just say, 'there's no such thing as devils?'  Doesn't the bible speak of devils as real beings?  There are real evil spirits and they have a real effect on people.   

This is where I have come in my thinking.

1. Devils are real in as much as we mean evil spirits or demons, not the monster under the bed.

2. The worldview Bethany is learning here, which includes devils, may be more spiritual, but it isn't more christian.  It is profoundly unchristian.  Christians in Vanuatu struggle to rid themselves of this worldview as much as Christians in Australia struggle to rid themselves of secular humanism and materialism.

3.  Devils have power, but it is not the power Bethany is learning to fear.  Bethany is learning to fear devils because of their supposed power to do her physical harm, to make her ill or to otherwise make bad things happen to her.  She is learning to fear devils for the wrong reasons.  The Bible teaches that nothing happens to us that does not come from God for our good (Romans 8:28).  We need to trust God, not fear the devils.  However, we need to have a right fear of the power of Satan to tempt us to doubt God's goodness and to lead us into sin.  God has given us everything we need to fight this temptation, including, and most importantly, his Holy Spirit, which dwells within us.  If we have forgotten this power of Satan, and fear only physical harm, then Satan has already won and the battle with sin is lost.  

4. Jesus has complete power and complete victory over the devils.  Jesus has authority over demons (Luke 4:36; 11:14-26).  They must submit to his every word.  They can do nothing he does not want them to and they can never take us away from him.

So, I tell Bethany there are no devils that live under the bed or in the dark or in the house or anywhere else.  They don't have forms which take up space.  They cannot hurt her.

And when I pray with Bethany, I also say; 
"Help Bethany this day to remember that Jesus is stronger and more powerful than all the devils.   Help her to remember that Jesus loves her and holds her in His hand, and no devil can hurt her or take her away from him."
"May your Holy Spirit who lives in her keep changing her so that she loves you more and does what is right and good and does not do what is wrong."
And I read her Romans 8:38-39;
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neigher height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Any thoughts? Have I left out anything obvious? What would you say to a young child about this issue?

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Little Mice

Earlier this week, the girls finished a craft we have been doing slowly slowly for a while now.  The 'mice' are made from felt with sew-one eyes.  We cut four shapes, all roughly triangles, sewed them together with a simple over-the-edge stitch and then sewed on eyes and ears and put on a simple tail from wool.

They look great!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Emily Faith Connor

Here is a picture of my lovely new niece, Emily Faith Connor, born 14th October 2008.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Which flower is this? (25)

This week's flower is another orchid, and another one from Mama Cindy.

You can see in the above photo the following features which we have discussed previously
  • six 'petals'; 3 true petals and 3 which are technically bracts or sepals but are so modified that they look like petals;
  • the lower petal is different to the others, a little like a platform, with 'wings' or 'walls' near the centre of the flower;
  • a 'column' in the centre of the flower which is the male and female reproductive parts (style, stigma and stamen) fused together.

I have also commented previously that the leaves have parallel veins, and also commented that their shaped varies quite a lot.  This one has very different leaves again, like needles (see below).  The more typical leaves in the picture belong to the frangipani tree upon which the orchid is growing.

I also thought that the shape of the bud was very interesting!

One more week in this series of orchids...

Monday, 27 October 2008

OT narrative

Glen really loves teaching at Talua. He loves teaching students the Bible. At the moment he is teaching Joshua to Kings and Luke and Acts.

The students belong to a culture of oral traditions. They love hearing and telling stories. But, when it comes to new stories (and most of the Old Testament is new to them) and reading, they really struggle, especially when it comes to reading in English. As a result, Glen has been trying to think of tools to give his students so they can work out the main point of a passage of OT narrative when they can't work it out intuitively. When he shared with me what he had been working on, I thought they would be extremely helpful for me as I read OT narrative and wanted to share them with you, too.

This is what he encourages them to look for:

1. Comment or summary statements from the narrator. For example,
'All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them. So on that day all the people and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner.  (2 Samuel 3:36-37)
And he became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him... And David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel. (2 Samuel 5:10, 12)

2. Speech from a trusted character. For example,
But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he spoke kindly to them and he reassured them.  (Genesis 50:19-21)

3. Speech from God, an angel or a prophet.
For example,
And the LORD told him, "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.  As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.  Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do."  (1 Samuel 8:7-9)
Samuel said, "Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy? The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbours- to David, Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this yo you today. The LORD will hand over both Israel and you yo the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines." (1 Sam 28:16-19)

4. What God is doing or has done (often in the form of a narrator's comment). For example,
So the LORD rescued Israel that day, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven. (1 Samuel 14:23)

5. Repitition.  For example, 
'the ark' throughout 1 Samuel 4-6

Sometimes these overlap. For example, the following quote is a comment from the narrator emphasizing something that God said,
Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel: "About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me. (1 Samuel 9:15-16)

These other points need to be borne in mind;
  • not all of these indicators will appear in every chapter;
  • somtimes, there will not be any of these sort of indicators in a given chapter, 
  • one summary statement may cover quite a lot of narrative.  For example, 2 Samuel 5:10-12 is key to understanding the preceeding five chapters.
I hope they are as helpful for you as I expect they will be for me!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

a new friend

Earlier this term we had a visit from Betty Murray, an Australian woman in her retirement years.  But, as she herself says, we do not retire from the Lord's service, and that she has been able to continue her service in such as way as to visit us, was a great blessing to all of us at Talua.

Betty was brought to the Lord as a young woman by an Aboriginal Pastor while she was in an early teaching position way out west.   Later she served as a missionary teacher in Papua New Guinea and even later she worked with the Queensland Department of Education traveling all around the world to train teachers of English in places where English is not the first language.  It was her expertise in this area that brought her to us.

Betty spent three weeks helping the students with their English.  For most students at Talua, English is the third or fourth language they have learnt; few are fluent.  Yet all the books and all the resources are in English.  They need to read well!  There are many constructions in English that have no parallel in either Bislama, the common language, or the vernacular languages of the villages (of which there are over one hundred!).  Betty spent many hours with the students, explaining the difficult bits (of which there are many) and showing them how to be better learners of English.  She also spent a little time with the staff, encouraging them to be better teachers of English in their everyday lessons.

I have to admit that I was a little surprised when Betty accepted my invitation to have lunch at our home whenever she needed to.  Not everyone is willing to eat in a house filled with children, as ours was, especially with our extra guests at that time.  But she was not flustered by exuberance, nor impatient with bad table manners.  She knew their names immediately and quietly directed them in more appropriate ways of acquiring that jug of water. 

I learnt much from her; from her ways with our children and from her faithful service of our Lord. I am glad that she came!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

little pilgrims

Coming up at EQUIP BOOKCLUB in November is Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. I am really looking forward to reading this book. I haven't read it since I read "Little Pilgrim's Progress" by Helen Taylor as a ten year old. It had a huge impact on my young faith and I can't wait to read the original, which, I believe has had a huge impact of the faith of many over the years.

In the photo, Sophie is reading "Pilgrim's Progress", an adaptation by Tim Dowley to Bethany. Both of them love this book and understand much of the imagery. When Christian's burden falls from his back, Bethany, said, "that's his sin falling away" and Sophie proclaimed after finishing the tale, "Stupid thought he could get to heaven without the Holy Spirit. That's stupid!"

Which flower is this? (24a)

Here is another orchid with twisted petals. This one is from Mama Cindy.

Friday, 24 October 2008

By the Hand

There is a song on the Jane Saunders' CD "In His Hands" which moves me to tears every time I hear it; not just quiet, gentle tears, but heavy, heaving, heart-breaking sobs.  Because every time I hear it, my heart breaks.

In By the Hand, she sings memories of her Grandma; from the tuneless whistle she remembers  from her childhood, to the glistening, aging eyes and the final slipping away.  She longs for the time when she will hold her Grandma's hand once more.

It's this line that floors me each time, 
"And I sang Amazing Grace while the shadow of a smile crossed her lips".
My Grandma has glistening, aging eyes.  She is old now and in a nursing home.  Last Christmas, I took her by the hand and I sang and I sang and I sang but there was no shadow of a smile.  I sang the carols she loved us to play for her at Christmas when she used to sing and we used to laugh.  But there was no smile.  And she did not laugh.  And she did not ask for one more.  Her glistening, aging eyes looked through us and past us and she did not know.

I would love to take her by the hand; but I cannot.  I would love to tell her I still love her; but I cannot.

And so I cry.

And I long for the day when I shall take her by the hand and we shall sing once more.  And until then, she is in His Hands.  And I shall wait. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

fly away home!

Isn't this a great photo?

Which flower is this? (24)

This week’s flower is also an orchid (family ORCHIDACEAE).

You may remember that I said (here) that the leaves of orchids have parallel veins, like grasses. The leaves of this one are less grass-shaped and more leaf shaped, and they are almost succulent in texture. Interesting.  Notice also how the petals are twisted! Notice also how five are similar in shape, but the one at the bottom is different, like a platform.

Now, remember that orchids have six petals. Three ‘true’ petals and three that technically are the bracts or sepals, but look just like petals. For this reason, orchid flowers will not have the small leaves on their underside that usually ‘cup’ flowers, as you can see below. 

Orchids do not have typical reproductive parts. Here is a close-up.

We cannot see typical style or stigma and we cannot see stamen. What can we see?  Tim helpfully commented on this post (which I thought was an orchid but was not) that,
"What makes an orchid an orchid. It's the worlds biggest group of plants and there is incredible diversity between the various genus. However what they all have in common is their reproductive parts. They have what is called a 'column' which are fused male and female parts."
We can see this column, the lump-like thing, there at the back of the lower petal.  Can you see the grooves on the lower petal? I think these must direct insects into the middle of the flower to the column in order to facilitate pollination.

There are many, many different species of orchid, more than any other kind of flower. I have no idea what type of orchid this is (genus or species). Do you?


Matthew fell asleep like this the other day!

Sunday, 19 October 2008


There was a VERY MINOR earthquake here the other night.

I was up comforting Matthew in the middle of the night, sitting on his
bed beside him.

The strange thing was how the quake RUMBLED along. It rumbled towards
us. The house lurched. It rumbled away. It sounded just like
thunder. Then it was over.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

the sword?

I recently read some stories about the history of the early church in the communities around here.  I was saddened to read stories of intimidation by christian villagers and of forced conversion to Christianity.  This is the sort of behaviour I associate with other religions, not with Christianity, not with the followers of Christ.  What do I make of it?

Firstly, I should remember that such use of 'the sword' is not uncommon in the history of the church.  Intimidation, forced conversion, imprisonment, and the like have all been practised at some stage in the history of the church in order to force people to adopt a particular position.  This does not make this behaviour acceptable, but it does mean that it should not surprise me.  

Secondly, I must understand the context in which these took place.  Community is very important Vanuatu; communities unified by a common faith even more so.  A hundred years ago, there was no central government, no police-force, no court system.  The community was everything.  It was important for the whole community to convert to Christianity.  Village life just wouldn't work if some remained in heathenism.  This means that once the majority of a community is Christian and they have established laws for the community that include things like 'no gardening on Sundays', then this is a law for the whole community, whether or not the individuals are actually Christian.  When there are no police to enforce the law, then the ordinary person is asked to ensure observation to the law.  What looks like intimidation may actually be a village community enforcing the laws that the community has agreed upon.  Now, I still think the events lay more on the side of intimidation than upholding the law, but it more understandable in this context.

Thirdly, I can be confident that intimidation and forced conversion are not the way of Christ.  Christ did not take up the sword, not even in defense of himself.  The apostles preached the gospel.  They did not spread their community by the sword.  They taught, they exhorted, they persuaded. They did not indimidate, they did not threaten, they did not even use deceit.  They did not even call people to leave their communities to join a 'christian community' but to remain where they were, as shining stars, holding out the word of life.  

There's more I could add.  Another time...

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

a quiet few months

... and it will be a quiet few months here from now until the end of
the year.... I'll see how we go.

What's been happening?

It's been a quite two weeks from me. What's been happening?

We had a lovely time with Wayne, Glen's brother, and his sons, Ben and Tim. Wayne came to help out with our electrical 'stuff' at Talua. He fixed our solar panels. Three out of the four were not working, all with the same fault. He fixed them, made a new mount for them on the roof and set up our solar-batter-inverter system fantastically. It looks great. He also fixed up the solar system next door, fixed the college generator and the starter motor on the college truck. While he was in the roof doing some wiring he found that we had two separate 240 volt systems. One was hooked up the the generator and one was from the 12V battery through an inverter to 240V power points and lights throughout the house.  Only this second 240V system was wired through 12V wires. For the electrically illiterate (like me) this is EXTREMELY dangerous. He was lucky not to be electrocuted, as he was handling the 12V wires not knowing they actually were carrying 240V.  He then ended up spending a lot of time re-wiring our whole house. Since then, we have had fantastic solar power. Enough power for everything we need, including running a fridge. Wayne, Ben and Tim also managed to visit Tangoa (the small island nearby which, tomorrow, will celebrate the centenary of their church), make sling-shots and jam with the students.

We also enjoyed getting to know Betty Murray who spent three weeks here teaching English. More about that later.

School started again this week, back into it...

which flower is this? (23)

Now, this is an orchid. Can you see how they have six 'petals'? One
is heavily modified, the structure that sticks out the front and
sometimes looks like a bell. In the Disney version of Alice in
Wonderland this was the 'mouth' of the talking orchids. Actually only
three of these petals are true petals and the other three are 'bracts'
or 'sepals', the leaves that usually cup the bottom of the flower. If
you look in the orchid at the bottom of the photo which is facing the
other way, you will see that it has no leaves cupping the base of the

The reproductive parts of orchids are very interesting, too. But this
photo isn't good enough. I'll leave that for another time.


Sophie and Rebecca dance for us. They are wearing a lap-lap leaf
(they look quite similar to banana leaves, but are stronger). These
leaves are usually used to wrap food which is then cooked on hot stones.

Where's Matthew?

I lost Matthew recently. Eventually I found him here:

Check out that hand on the gear stick!


I found Bethany "reading" the very hungry caterpillar to Matthew the other day. Very cute.

glow in the dark

Sophie and Bethany's Uncle sent them some great birthday presents...
glow in the dark "pets". These little lights are great in the night
time. It is VERY dark here once the generator has turned off for the
night (unless it is full moon). Their batteries last almost a week
and they use VERY LITTLE power to recharge. It was a really
thoughtful present and the girls really like them. Yesterday Sophie
spent ages making paper clothes for hers!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Down at the River

We had another fun-filled morning at the River today. The order of the day today was to play in the water until shivering and then bury oneself in the sand to warm up again. Here they all are buried in the sand.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

What must I do? (it's back)

Earlier this year I wrote about Luke 18:18-30 as I thought about what it means to leave everything and follow Jesus. I have I not yet arrived at any firm conclusions and I have left some big questions unanswered (like this one). I do hope to finish this thread sometime (review the thread here).

In the meantime, as I have been reading through Luke in preparation for my contributions to the EQUIP BOOKCLUB discussions for December, I have made some interesting observations which (I believe) shed light on the above passage.

Before Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), an expert in the law asks him, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. This is exactly the same question that the rich ruler asks him in Luke 18:18; and in both a discussion about the requirements of the law follows and both conclude with Jesus saying telling them what they should do. He tells one to go and have mercy even on the foreigner (10:37) and the other to go and sell everything and give to the poor (18:22). I think the idea in each case is about loving the ‘sinner’; the outcast, the poor, even the Samaritan. Jesus is not giving them another rule to obey, he is showing them that while they think they keep the requirements of the law, they do not fulfil the law by loving their neighbour. He is showing them that they also are sinners in need of a saviour.

I also noticed that Jesus has a lot to say in condemnation of Israel’s leaders, and some of the parables are spoken against them. Both the questioners in these passages are ‘leaders’; one an expert in the law and the other a ‘ruler’. Listen to what Jesus says,
“Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. […] But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.” (11:39-41)
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practised the latter without leaving the former undone.” (11:42)
“And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (11:46)
He condemns their lack of love, both for God and for man. In other places he speaks negatively of their hypocrisy (12:1; 56; 13:15) and their greed (12:15; 16:14).

I also found two passages which I think need to be considered together with 18:29-30. The three passages are;
“Do you think I came to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other; three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (12:52-53)
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters- yes even his own life- he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (14:26-27)
“I tell you the truth… no-one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the life to come, eternal life.” (18:29-30)
I’m looking forward to thinking about this some more, especially as I read Luke more carefully over the next few months. Don’t forget to join us over at the EQUIP BOOKCLUB in December!

Which flower is this? (22a)

After further investigation I can confidently say that this week's flower is NOT an orchid. It has the wrong number of petals and is a dicotyledon, not a monocotyledon. These technical terms refer to how many leaves there are when the new plant first emerges from the seed but can be seen in a mature plant by the pattern of the veins on their leaves. Monocots, like grasses, have parallel viens, but dicots don't. This week's flower does not have parallel veins, so it is not a monocot. Orchids are.