Monday, 28 December 2009

Beyond Greed, by Brian Rosner

Until Christmas is over and done, December is a notoriously busy month! Most of us find very little time for extra reading. If December is like this for you, I doubt that you've managed to read Beyond Greed this month with EQUIP BOOK CLUB. To be perfectly honest, if I hadn't been writing the posts, I doubt I would have managed it myself.

However, now that Christmas celebrations are over and done, perhaps you do have time for a read. If so, I wouldn't mind if you had a squiz at the EQUIP posts for the month. I'd really appreciate your comments and feedback, and love to hear your stories.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Interested in mission?

Interested in Africa?

My brother and his wife, together with their three children will be leaving for Tanzania in January with CMS. After language training, they will live and work at Munguishi Bible college, training pastors and evangelists.

They have recently found out that their daughter has a severe anaphylatic allergy to egg. This may actually be easier to manage in Tanzania than Australia (because egg is not used much in cooking) but the health-care is much less advanced should an emergency situation develop.

Mike and Katie are still committed to going to Tanzania and trust our gracious and loving Father with their lives. However, they are understandably concerned about their first four months during which they will both do intensive language study and neither will be able to be the primary carer for their children during class times.

CMS is looking for someone who would like to help as a short term volunteer to care for their children, and children of other missionaries also studying language during this time. Here is a quote from CMS News, Latest Missionary Oppurtunites, 9/12/2009

Home School assistant - URGENT NEED

There is an urgent need for someone who would be prepared to assist three of our families during their language study in Tanzania. If you are able to home school 3 delightful infant/primary children and keep a preschooler occupied AND are able to depart for Tanzania on either 12 or 17 January 2010 (to travel with the family) AND can stay in lovely Musoma on the shores of Lake Victoria up until the middle of May 2010 then come on down have we got a deal for you!!
Contact your CMS branch NOW if you are willing to fill this position.

new classrooms!


    ... window frames eaten out by termites that crumble on touch.
    ... flyscreens ripped around the edges and blowing in the breeze.
    ... louvre frames rusted, unshut-able, unable to keep out the rain.
    ... having to stop class to remove glass panes before they fall and break on the floor.
    ... the growing pile of louvre glass panes in the corner.
    ... the concrete bricks, never painted, dull and dirty.

Then in come the team from backyard blitz... no, sorry, the team from changing rooms... no, that's the team from Christ Church St Ives Youth Group (all having just finished their HSC). Three of four days of hard work later and...

    ... freshly painted classrooms, inside and out.
    ... new timber in the window frames.
    ... new louvre frames installed, no panes missing.
    ... flyscreens replaced, no more holes.
    ... corrugated iron roof painted to prevent rusting.

The classrooms look better than ever. The students won't be able to believe their eyes and will appreciate your hard work very much. It will mean a lot to them, as it does to us, that you have put love into action so far from home where the benefit to you is but the joy of having served your brothers and sisters.

The team also covered library books and laid the foundation for a water-tank next to the library.

Though I was not there at the time, I have heard report that all their work was carried out with much eagerness, maturity and determination.

Thank you for your hard work and it was a pleasure to share with you in the work of Christ in this way.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

my poor deprived children

This afternoon they were offered some squares of chocolate. Delicious, dark chocolate.
"What's this? Worm medicine?"

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

late for advent, again

Just like last year. I'm late for advent. Well, late for starting advent calendar activities.

However, it means I picked up a great bargain on a wooden advent calendar-drawer thingy and if we go double pace we might be there by Christmas.

But now as I'm sitting down to think about dividing up the bible verses into 25 parts to tell the Christmas story, I've got the same question I had last year.

Most of what is in the traditional nativity scene happens AFTER the birth. The shepherds and the magi come to the stable AFTER he is born.

What do I do about that? How do you not tell most of the story until AFTER Christmas. How do you stretch half the story out for 24 days and then do the other half in one morning? How is it that all the other characters appear on the scene and are waiting for baby Jesus to arrive on Christmas morning, when actually, in the story, they haven't turned up yet, and might not turn up for a week or so. It isn't in proportion!

I know the Jesse Tree has a great answer to this, by looking at the OT as well in the days before Christmas.

But what other solutions have people come up with to this dilemma?

Christmas poetry

Here's a site full of Christmas poetry if you have time to browse...

Thanks Alison for the link!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

culture shock

Molly Piper wrote a moving article here about how she felt upon returning to the first world from the developing world.

I always feel somewhat similar returning to Australia at Christmas-time. I have learnt to cope with the emotions (for better or worse) mostly by completely separating my two lives in my mind. When in one, the other is very much like a dream...

This year the emotions hit me in an unexpected way.

This year I returned home with the children a week earlier than Glen to attend the wedding of an old friend. Before we left we carefully chose clothes to wear to the wedding. The girls were very excited about wearing their best dresses.

They don't wear their best dresses much at Talua. I am embarrassed about how lovely they are; the quality of the fabric, the pretty prints, the well-tailored seams. They've only been worn once each.

But as I ironed these dresses the morning of the wedding my eyes filled with tears. There are numerous stains. Food stains that are so difficult to get out in hard water. Mould stains. Mould that grew even before they'd been worn once. Mould just seems to love cotton. I was ashamed. I couldn't let them wear these dresses to a wedding.

It's not fair! Why is what is so good in one place be not good enough somewhere else? Why are the standards so different?

Why am I so worried about their clothes of all things? Why do I care so much about what people think about what my children are wearing? Is it some sort of test I'm afraid of failing?

I don't yet understand all my emotions... what sort of thoughts produce them and why, nor how to respond to them rightly.

But I still grieve for my people who are so wealthy they throw out food, daily. And I praise God for my friends who have taught me what it means to trust God for their daily bread.

looking for a christmas song

I'm looking for a christmas song (about Jesus) to teach the children to sing on Christmas day.

I'm also interested in a poem they could learn.

Any recommendations?

Thursday, 3 December 2009

another good reason to read beyond greed

reason three

want to work on your Greek?

Here's a great resource for anyone struggling to keep up their Greek after college, wanting to learn Greek independently, or wanting to push themselves on with their Greek.

Read more here.

Monday, 30 November 2009

I am David by Anne Holm

We've just finished reading "I am David" by Anne Holm.  Glen read it aloud to us over the last two weeks.  We all really enjoyed it.  The author says,
"I wrote David, because it seemed to me that children, who can love a book more passionately than any grown person, got such a lot of harmless entertainment and not nearly enough real, valuable literature."
I am David was first written in Danish as David.  It tells the story of a twelve year old boy who has, for as long as he can remember, lived in a concentration camp in Eastern Europe.  One night he is given a chance to escape.  Deciding that a quick death would be better than the endless emptiness that stretches ahead of him in the camp, he follows the directions the man gave to him and to his surprise, finds himself on the other side of the walls, alive and free.

The rest of his book narrates his journey to safety; first South to Salonika and then North to Denmark (the book was published in the US as North to Freedom).  But it is not just a journey to safety.  It's a journey in which he wrestles with the demons of his past; of evil, brutality, mistrust and bitterness.  He discovers beauty, love, belonging, friendship and sacrifice.  It's a journey in which his broken spirit begins to heal and he finds hope for the future.

As the author says, it is truly a piece of valuable literature for children.  It inspired many meaningful conversations with our children, aged 5 and 7; including conversations about how we know God.  It is a veritable treasure.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


We're working on responsibility in our family at the moment.

Here's our working definition:
Responsibility is doing the right thing without having to be told, especially when Mum and Dad aren't around.

it's graduation tomorrow

There'll be about twenty students graduating tomorrow to go throughout Vanuatu as Pastors in the Presbyterian Church or Priests in the Church of Melanesia.

There'll be another eight or so graduating as mission workers.

There are always lots of tears at Graduation as we say good-bye to people who have become close friends.

Pray it will also be a celebration of a new beginning and of a momentous day in the work of the gospel throughout Vanuatu.

Have a listen to this talk to hear about how times have changed!

Friday, 20 November 2009

anthropology according to the gods

Have you seen the movie, the Gods Must be Crazy? You might remember at the beginning there is a documentary-style introduction to the lives and behaviour of the Kalahari bush-men. You might then also remember that they lived together in perfect harmony, sharing all their possesions, without complaint or argument; even their children played together without fighting or bickering. Truly wonderful.

Until of course, western civilisation dropped from the sky (in the form of a coca-cola bottle) and corrupted everything.

This is typical of the anthropology I grew up with. I don't know where it comes from or how it got to me. It's what was imbibed through television, books and school. It's the anthropology that suggests not just that all cultures are equally good, but that the more primitive the culture is, the less influenced by western civilisation it is, then the better it is and the more morally superior it must be.

I don't know anything about the culture of the Kalahari bush-people except what I saw in the Gods Must be Crazy and an extremely different picture gleaned from the Number One Ladies Dectective Agency books (neither a very credible source!) in which a young girl rescues her baby brother from being buried alive on the death of his mother.

This is what I do know about the Kalahari Bush-People.

They are sinful.

Western Civilisation, as evil as it can be, does not make people or cultures sinful. They do that on their own.

It's not just the Kalahari. It's man-Santo, in the middle of this pacific island, still never to have seen a white-man. It's the Nepali on the slopes of the Himalayes. It's Indians in the Amazon.

Nor do I mean that their music is not beautiful; their craftmanship not skillful and their dance not incredible. Nor that there is not much that we can learn from them. There is.

However, I do mean this. All cultures are equal in this regard: they are full of people who,  though all equally made in the image of God, are all equally sinful. Any anthropology that leads you to believe that "untainted by western civilisation" is the same as being innocent or pure is naive, mistaken and ultimately, evil.

After I wrote this I found this interesting article which explains a few things. Unfortunately the link "anything but innocent" doesn't seem to work.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

men of whom the world was not worthy

I recommend the talks listed below which have been given by John Piper over the years at a Pastor's Conference.  They are the talks I listened to when Matthew was awake and unsettled in the middle of the night and early hours of the morning for so many nights when he was very little.  I loved the talks and learnt so much about history, about Calvinism and about God.  I often was tempted to lay in bed awake listening even after Matthew had finally fallen asleep.  I haven't yet listened to the most recent three, but will download them I soon as I am finished here.  (You can also find them all here.)

Bill Piper (2008)
John G. Paton (2000) John Paton was a pioneering missionary in Vanuatu.  You might find this one particularly interesting.
John Owen (1994)

Sunday, 15 November 2009

I am a Christian

Some of you, especially in Christian circles may have been sent this short movie which claims to provide evidence that Barak Obama is a Muslim.

If you have already seen it, or see it because I have linked to it here, then I recommend that you also watch the speech that Barak Obama made at Cairo University on June 4 earlier this year.  You can download it from here (or lower quality video here). It's 54 minutes, but I think it's a significant enough speech in our times that it's worth taking the time to listen.

You will see that much of the video evidence in the first movie is cut, completely out of context*, from the second in such a way as to give a very different message from the one Barak Obama himself was actually giving. 

This will hopefully cause you to be sceptical of much of the rest of the short movie because it will be clear that little attempt is being made to present reasoned and fair arguments.  Whatever your opinion of Barak Obama (and I myself strongly disagree with him at some points), he should be treated justly.  I expect this particularly of Christians who ought to be concerned with truth.

The short movie fails to mention that most of what Barak Obama is quoted as saying is said as a prelude to confronting serious issues in the Islamic world.  It leaves out the small yet significant statement in which Barak Obama stands in front of a Muslim audience in a Muslim country and says, "I am a Christian".  And if we were better students of history ourselves, we would realise that what he says about history in his speech is true, not a glorification of Islam.

Other parts of the 'evidence' provided is simply laughable.  I certainly hope no-one will ever accuse me of being a Christian because I take a tour of Westminster Abbey.

In my opinion, the short movie is political propoganda aimed to turn people against an opponent by using existing fears of Islam.  It is misleading, deceptive and slanderous and Christians would do well to disregard it, especially if they wish to maintain a credible witness in the world.

* both the context of the speech and the context in which it was delivered are important considerations.

Friday, 13 November 2009

another little promo

And my brother-in-law has started an interesting new ministry with a friend serving coffee.  They are...
Bean Served Baristas
If you love great coffee, check out his story here and keep an eye on their blog.

a little promo

Oh the things one misses while away... Over the years we've been in Vanuatu, it seems my sister has turned into quite a good photograper!  Have a look here...

Thursday, 12 November 2009

False prophets

How do you feel coming home from church on a Sunday?

Warm and fuzzy?  Have you had your back slapped?  Are you best mates with the preacher... just like every one else in the congregation?

Lamentations 2:14 says,
The visions of your prophets
were false and worthless;
they did not expose your sin
to ward off your captivity.
The oracles they gave you
were false and misleading.
If every week you come home from church feeling honkey dory, quite possibly you have a false prophet on your hands.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

greed, greed, greed...

Next month I'll be writing the posts for Equip Book Club as we read trough Brian Rosner's "Beyond Greed". Before we start, I'm wondering if you'd be happy comment on where you think we struggle with greed as a society and as individuals.
  • How have you seen greed at work in your own life?
  • What have you done to overcome it? 
  • How do you think it affects our society?
  • What are ways forward as a society?
Feel free to make other comments, and to comment anonymously!

Earth Art

Our girls are doing a unit of work with school at the moment called "Earth Art". It is inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworhty which you can read about and browse here. Some of it seems pretty ordinary, but some is terribly clever, like this one (look closely!). The basic priciple of Earth Art is that you can use only what you can find in nature and mustn't harm any living thing to the extent that branches may not be removed from trees.

We're now in the process of trying our own earth art.

First we had to look closely at colours and patterns in nature. We had fun with the camera! Can you guess what these are?

Then, we worked some artwork together. Our first attempt was to produce a bird by poking leaves into a tuft of bamboo-grass but it was too time-consuming and we gave up.

We were delighted with how this sunflower turned out; made from yellow leaves, paw-paw seeds and soil.

This rainbow was to show the many and different colours in our flora, but we got stuck at blue! The flowers are threaded onto the middle part of coconut-palm leaves, the green part having been torn off.

From now it's over to the girls to produce their own pieces.  I'll keep you posted.

dark days

It's been very dark and cloudy for a while now.  Not much power for using the computer...

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

thinking differently

My two girls have such different ways of thinking and responding to the world around them.  It's amazing that they can be sooo different.  Here are some examples.

I was reading the 23rd Psalm to them.  I read it through and then suggested that they close their eyes and try to visualise it as I read it again.  Then I asked what they could see.

Sophie:  Nothing!
Bethany: I could see all these sheep and they all had people heads on them!  And there was a shepherd and he was wearing a red T-shirt and blue overalls and he was God!
Sophie: Did David write that psalm?
Me: Yes.
Sophie: Well I think that he wrote about God being like a shepherd because he was a shepherd and he knew about looking after sheep.

Glen and I sing "Love the Lord your God" to them for the first time.

Bethany:  She doesn't say anything, she just stands up on her chair and dances.
Sophie:  Waits until we are finished as says, "I like that song.  I like the words, I like the tune, I like the rhythm and I like the height" (by 'height' she meant that she liked the way the tune went up high).

We are in the village where we did field experience.  It is the closing ceremony.  Gift giving is very important culturally here, being the expression of establishing and continuing friendships.  We have been eating a delicious feast but someone gets up to present Sophie with some gifts.  They try and put a wreath of flowers on her head.  She pushes it off and spits.  Unperturbed, they keep going with their small talk.  Sophie wanders around and spits again.  They present her with a chicken.  She ignores them.  She is supposed to touch the chook indicating she accepts their gift.  Bethany meanwhile is touching the chicken and looking desperately at Sophie.  Sophie spits again.  I realise she is holding some chicken insides which she must've inadvertently eaten and so is spitting to try and get rid of the taste.  I grab the offending morsel and holding her hand, touch the chicken and then pull her back to the chair with me.  Glen and I explain what she should have done.  She immediately goes and touches the chicken.  She always wants to do the right thing but distracted as she was, didn't even realise what was going on.

Bethany learns so much by looking, watching and observing.  Sophie needs things explained.  Distracted as she was by what she had eaten, there was no way she could take in what was happening around her and act upon it.

Different ways of thinking and responding to the world around them.  They like different things they are good at different things.  I expect they require different strategies for discipline, only I have worked this out yet.

One thing is the same.  They love each other dearly.

Monday, 2 November 2009

being thankful for Matthew

Matthew is at the moment recovering from what turned out to be quite a serious infection.

Yesterday I mentioned some little things that make me "groan and complain" but which in the end don't make an ounce of difference about whether we stay here or not.

Thinking about what would have happened to Matthew without antibiotics is a much more sobering thought.

I'm probably a lot more like Job's wife than I like to think; putting conditions on my service; conditions on what I accept from God; conditions, conditions, my conditions; after all, he's my child.

At the moment we're very thankful to God
  • for the blessing of antibiotics
  • that his particular infection responded to the antibiotics we had on hand (apparently it doesn't always)
  • for our friends who prayed with us
  • for our doctor-friend always ready to help us at times like this
  • for the clinic which was able to supply us with the stronger antibiotic that we needed
  • for our Matthew, who we love dearly

We know that God loves him even more than we ever could and are learning to trust Him in every circumstance. Sometimes its not easy.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

this is the life

Some lines for a song have been flitting around in my head over the last few days. I think they'd make a good verse in a song about life here. They wouldn't be sufficient by any means. But here they are...
Tapping ants from my toothbrush,
shoo-ing geckos from my bed,
sifting weevils from the flour,
combing lice from my head!

And the chorus would include these lines:
This is the life
of this missionary wife

But it would have to end like this;
but I wouldn't change the life
of this missionary wife.

Because despite all the little things that make me groan and complain sometimes, its definitely worth being here.

Friday, 30 October 2009

an interview

There's an interview with me here on our new blog, in tandem.

There's a heap more I could've said, but didn't in order to keep it short. Feel free to ask questions if you want me to expand on something.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

our weekend

We had a good time over the weekend. Thank you for your prayers. With great thankfulness to God, I am able to say that,

  • The students prepared well and were able to proclaim Christ to many more people than they'd been able to before.

  • More women came to our last bible study than ever before. The student wives had prepared well and delivered good talks on prayer and meeting with other christians.

  • We are tired, but no one is sick.

Over the year we were able to witness the great impact regular good teaching from God's word has on his people. Never give up doing this!

Please keep praying for those that heard God's word over this year, especially for those who understood the gospel properly for the first time. Pray that though we have had a part in God's work there, that He would keep making his people grow and mature in Christ.

Here are some photos of Sophie and Bethany walking home, accompanied half way by their friends from the village. Sophie has begun campaigning to go to the local school next year to be with her friends.


Dear me, she's growing up.

Here they both are with their toothless grins.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

last field experience weekend

This weekend coming up is our last weekend of field experience for the year. I would like to ask you to pray for us.
  • Pray for the students who have worked hard on preparing a program for the weekend that will mean they can talk to many people they don't normally get to talk to.  Pray for their preparation over today and tomorrow.
  • Pray that God will give them wisdom as they talk, courage to be challenging and concivtion of what they know to be true. May their conversations be full of salt and grace!
  • Pray for the student wives and I who will be finishing off our series of bible studies with a short talk each. Pray that once again the message of the gospel will be presented clearly.
  • Pray for our family. We love staying in the village with our friends, but we do find it very draining and usually come home very tired.  Pray for strength and endurance.
  • Pray for the people in the village; that God will be working in them through his spirit, that they will grow in their understanding of the gospel, in their love for God and in their fellowship together. 

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

five hundred

This is my five-hundredth post.


Tuesday, 20 October 2009

five reasons not to retire from motherhood

This morning, Sophie was doing such a good job helping get ready for breakfast and looking after her little brother that I suggested that I retire and leave her in charge. She didn't think that was a good idea. Here's why:
  • I can't use the bread knife

  • or the stay-sharp knife

  • I can't solve difficult maths problems

  • I can't light the stove

  • I'm not trustworthy with jelly-beans

That's what you need mothers for!!

Monday, 19 October 2009

a new blog

From Wendy, Nicole and me.

Read all about it here.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Thanks, Grandma!

God has been good to us. When I had to return to Australia this year, it was during the time that my mother-in-law was staying with us. This made our decision much easier. I went home for the medical treatment I needed and she was here to help with the children. She also looked after them for a week on her own while Glen was at the annual Assembly of the PCV (Presbyterian Church, Vanuatu). She even did school with Sophie and Bethany!

Thanks, Raeline. You did a marvellous job. It was wonderful having such peace of mind about the children knowing they were in your hands.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

books for young women??

Can anyone recommend a christian book suitable for young women?

A book that would help in understanding the gospel and in their knowledge of God?

A book that is simple English?


Being NSW school holidays and therefore holidays for our girls, we've been able to have the children's friends over to play a lot more often than we normally would. Today six of them came and on the whole, played really well together. So much so that I decided there was no need for intense supervision and got out some soapy water and cloth to clean dirty marks off the walls. Before long, there were lots of little hands doing the work....

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

make your own yogurt

Wendy and Rachel have both asked to know exactly what we do to make our own yogurt. Well, it seems incredibly easy, especially if you have already been using a yogurt maker with the commercial sachets.
  1. Make a batch of yogurt as you have been doing.
  2. Then, when ready to make your next batch, fill the container with milk made up from powdered milk.
  3. Add 2-3 dessert spoons of your last batch of yogurt. Shake well.
That's it. Then put it in the thermos/hot water as per normal. When it is ready, we sweeten it with a spoonful of sugar or honey and sometimes flavour with vanilla or fruit.

Extra comments
  • the water needs to be good quality, we use rain water but we don't boil it
  • it may work using normal milk rather than milk powder, but we can't get fresh milk and have never tried it
  • we also make it in empty plastic jars (the large peanut-butter jars), they are a bit smaller than the container that comes with the yogurt maker and so we add less hot water to the thermos
  • yogurt can still be used to start a new culture if it has been in the fridge for up to four or five days
  • yogurt is live bacteria culture... I'm not sure what that means for pregnant women as it is usually recommended that they avoid foods with live bacteria. Yogurt bacteria are harmless themselves (it fact, are supposed to be good for your gut) and yogurt itself is safe in pregnancy, I'm just not sure about when you make it yourself because you are creating perfect conditions for bacteria to grow and I don't know whether the harmful bacteria would/could also grow.

Help! with GN1-6D Butterfly Overlocker

My friend has just bought an overlocker.

It is a Chinese-made machine, model number GN1-6D and had the model name "Butterfly".

The instruction book has no Assembly or Threading Instructions.

Can anyone help?

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

yum yum yogurt

Until now, whenever we have asked Sophie what she misses most about Australia, without any hesitation, she replies,
Well, this is the case no longer.

When back in Australia recently I found a commercially available yogurt maker, which is basically a 1L plastic container which fits well inside a thermos. I also purchased a couple of the commercial yogurt culture sachets which you mix with water and put inside the plastic container. Then you pour boiling water into the thermos and put the container in. The container is held above the hot water so that mixture warms up. If it were to go in the hot water, it would get too hot and kill the bacteria that produce the yogurt.

I only bought a couple of the commercial sachets having a vague idea that you can just use powdered milk and a spoonful of the last yogurt to keep propagating the bacterial culture that produces the yogurt.

Well, it is all you need! Now we have beautiful yogurt everyday, all for the cost of 1L of milk made up from powder (per day). Fantastic.

The yogurt maker was Sophie's birthday present and I thought she might enjoy making it. Probably she would, but it has been her father that has become the yogurt whiz. It took a couple of weeks of playing around to get conditions just right, but he seems to have it working perfectly now.

Yum, yum, yogurt!

Monday, 12 October 2009

reflections on the earthquakes last week

Last week, after three earthquakes, and receiving a tsunami warning from the government urging those who live on the coast to go inland or find higher ground, we left our home and walked up into the hills behind us. Here are some reflections on that time.
  • We found out that by the time we received the warning about the tsunmai generated by the first earthquake, it was well and truly after that tsunami had been and gone. In fact, it was just after the third earthquake (which occurred 45 minutes after the first) and we thought we were evacuating because of this third earthquake!
  • In fact there was a small tsunami generated by this third earthquake and while some were across the oval and out of danger by this time, Glen was having trouble urging most to actually leave rather than have a community meeting to work out what to do. By the time most of the college had met, returned to their houses to pack and get food and eventually had left, this third tsunami had been and gone too. It became clear that most people were thinking in terms of a cyclone.
  • It is recommended that you ensure you are either 30 m above sea-level (if right close to the shore) or 2 km inland (if terrain is relatively flat). This ensures you are safe. Most tsunamis don't go beyond 100m inland. Our house is 20 m above sea level and 150 m inland. Which means that in all but the most devastating of tsunamis we would be safe. Even the college houses that are closest to the sea are 50 m inland and have 15 m elevation.
  • Some one rebuked us all for not trusting God and praying for his protection, and instead trusting and following the world.
  • Some one else rebuked us for not heeding the warning that the hard-working people at meterology worked so hard to produce in order that they might help people. Apparently most people in the market in Port Vila just kept selling, and this market is in probably the most vulnerable spot of all.
There was a fourth earthquake that night. After the tension of the day and possibly because of the time and the dark, this time even though we received notice that there was no threat of a tsunami, there was a general atmosphere of panic. Here are some reflections on that time.
  • Designated leaders are essential in crisis.
  • Panic and fear are incredibly powerful emotions. People in positions of leadership should be incredibly careful about arousing such emotions. I really saw the benefit of leaders who are able to be calm and decisive in crisis. Granted, it is difficult for leaders to make decisions without all the information, but indecision creates chaos.
We are now working to put into place an evacuation plan in case of future tsunami warnings. Fire escape plans are unheard of here, things just don't burn! This was the first time that a tsunami warning had been issued in Vanuatu. The warnings may have been generated quickly, but more work needs to be done on getting the warnings to people on the ground if the system is going to be effective.

** It was not the first time in the world that a tsunami warning had been generated. Sorry about that... I have corrected this information.**

Thursday, 8 October 2009

we're all OK

This morning we experienced three tremors from earthquakes occurring near and in Vanuatu.  The first two were to the north of Vanuatu between Vanuatu and the Solomons, the third near Torres, Vanuatu (again to the north of us here Santo).  After the third quake we received a tsunami alert and left Talua to walk into the hills behind us.  We have just had the all clear and returned home.

It turned out that the tsunami was only 2 inches high which made a 0.5 m high wave in Luganville and Port Vila.  None-the-less, it was quite an experience all walking up into the hills together, staff, students and families.  

We are thankful to God that we are all safe and well.

My Friend Grace

Her name isn't really Grace. But let me tell you about her all the same.

She's amazing. God has given her a great gift of evangelism.

If you read between the lines here, you'll know what I'm doing when I'm on a boat with my kids and how unlikely it is that I'll ever do that again. Well, Grace goes on the boat and what does she do? She leads women to Christ. She spends a couple of days with them praying and teaching them about this new life.

Grace goes to town and goes to the park and speaks to women about Jesus.

She goes home and leads her Mum to Christ.

She teaches scripture and ten children come to know Jesus and Lord and Saviour.

'I'm not afraid,' she says. 'I think God's given me this gift. I love telling people about Jesus.'

I rejoice everyday that I know her and God has given her to me as a friend. Please pray for her and for those she meets and leads to Christ.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Saying no to ungodliness (2)

Now to try and work on the question I was left with last week,
How does the grace of God teach us to say no to ungodliness? (Titus 2:11-12)

Bronnie asked,
how do you define the grace of God?
and I think this is a helpful question to think about before I go any further.

The usual answer is that the grace of God is undeserved favour shown toward man. Man doesn't deserve God to look upon him with favour, but He does. That is grace. Man deserves punishment for his sin. Justice ought to be enacted. But instead, punishment is withheld (mercy) and God is good to us, saving us, making us his children and showering us with blessings. That is grace.

And he shows his grace to us in the cross. That is how we know God looks upon us with favour because he himself provides the sacrifice. That is how we know God is good to us, because he did not even spare his own son that He might redeem us. That is how we know it is undeserved, because we see that sin cannot go unpunished and we realise what our sin deserves.

That is grace.

And I think that is exactly what it means here in Titus 2:11-12. It's almost as if in the word grace here, Paul has captured the whole of the appearance and work of Christ. 'Grace' can't appear... it's an abstract noun. But God appeared in the person of Christ and he brought salvation as he gave himself for us on the cross even though we didn't deserve it.

Paul says something similar in Titus 3:4-5, this time using the words 'kindness' and 'love';
4But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
God shows his favour to us; his love, his kindness. His mercy. His grace. He saves us. He gives his life for us. And did we deserve this? No. it was not because of our righteousness.

So, back to our question. How does the grace of God teach us to say no to ungodliness? At the moment I can think of three ways. It teaches us about,
  1. humility
  2. love and,
  3. forgiveness
and I'll look at these three things over the next three weeks, (or months, or years...) showing how I think they change and motivate us to say no to ungodliness.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Mother and Daughter time together

After last week's post on spending time with my daughters, encouragement from my Mum, the end of school term and an unusually free weekend, we decided to go ahead and have some time away together.

We had a great, if tiring, time. Here are some photos.

We checked in at our hotel and then went across the road to the park. It's become something of a custom for us to spend sometime drawing when away on holidays. Here are Sophie and Bethany at work.

Here is the view. Inspirational!

Later on Sophie and Bethany went to play in the playground and we saw some friends. Actually we've only met them once before (three years ago) but we got on famously then and we did again now. We've been hoping since we met them that they would come to work at Talua and it looks like they will be arriving next year. We're really excited. They have two girls around the same ages as Sophie and Bethany.

Then when it was dinner time (it was getting dark) we went to the market house to get some take-away local food (which Bethany eats in preference to my cooking) but all the prepared food was finished. Then we decided to eat at the small eating booths, but most of them were closed (it was Friday night and many of the women that run them are SDA) and the ones that were open were full. We stood there trying to work out what to do. My budget didn't really extend to eating out at a resturant Friday night as well as Saturday as we planned. Then all of a sudden our friends from Sarete (where we've been doing field experience) were by our sides. There was a coconut in my hand. Bethany was given money to buy magoes. Sophie was given a bunch of peanuts. A bunch of bananas and a string of lettuces soon followed. We went back to our hotel and together with the bread and cheese we'd bought earlier, we truly had a feast. Here are the girls opening peanut shells.

And here they are doing some fabric painting. We were given a small hobby-tex kit a while ago and decided this was a good time to give it a go. We really enjoyed it.

The next morning we finished our paintings, spent a small time in the playground again (eating peanuts) before...

... heading off to Aore Island resort for lunch. It's quite a spiffy resort but has reasonably priced lunches and a free ferry service. We ate lunch and then swam in the pool, watched the fish in the reef and played on the beach.

We also made a friend at the hotel who came with us to for lunch. She is a Filipino volunteer who has been working with the Agricultural College on the east coast of Santo. She took this photo for us.

We caught the ferry back to the mainland and met Glen and Matthew for ice-cream (always a treat) and dinner a little later.

On the way home we came across a ute that was stuck blocking the road. We couldn't pass. His back wheel was off the road, and as the road is just beside the sea, hanging out over the sea. It's only a foot or two up, but that's hair-raising enough!! Our new Talua truck being 4WD was able to easily tow them back onto the road. When we passed the spot where they had been stuck it looked more like the road had given way underneath the truck than they had run off the road. We wondered if there might have been a particularly high tide with the tsunami causing erosion which made this happen when it did just now. Anyway, an exciting end to our time away.

We seemed to spend a lot of time with other people for a time away together. This was interesting as I never usually interact with other women so much when away. I think it happened this time because Glen wasn't around. It was also really encouraging for me. It think God knew it was exactly what I needed at this time... to feel part of a community and know that I have friends here, too.

The girls and I also had some time just being together; doing things together and talking and praying. Lovely.

Monday, 5 October 2009

travelling with kids: car, plane and boat

Hooray!  I have finally completed a series.  It is....

Travelling with kids;
  1. by car
  2. by plane
  3. by boat.
Have a read, and please add your own tips.  There are huge gaps in our experience, particularly long-distance flights and "normal" sort of boat travel.

travelling with kids: boat

I have had a range of experiences travelling by boat with my children, most of them in a developing country.  This somewhat affects my advice.  Unless travelling around modern harbour cities on well equipped passenger ferries, my tip is relatively simple: avoid it.

If you must travel in a canoe between islands
  • make sure you trust the person who chooses and paddles the canoe (unless you have your own)
  • sit still
  • put the fear of God into your children so that they sit still, too
  • if it's stormy, wait until tomorrow, very few things are that important that you must travel in a canoe in a storm.

General tips in case of rough seas and sickness
  • Find out about wind and current patterns, and the current state of the swell.  There are websites that give you that sort of information. It can help when you are deciding about your trip.  For instance, it is always rougher travelling south in Vanuatu than travelling north because of the way the waves go.
  • Give your children travel sickness tablets, especially if they are two and under.  If the sea is rough, they will get sea sick and very young children don't understand what is happening to them and don't know how to prevent themselves throwing up and keep looking around and throwing up.  When they fall asleep, then they will have reprieve from the sickness.  Older children can be reasoned with and instructed to lie down and close their eyes.  If you can prevent the sickness, hopefully you won't need the following tips.
  • Take travel sickness tablets yourself.  It is possible to avoid vomiting by closing one's eyes and blocking out the world, but this is rather difficult when looking after and cleaning up a child.  Only, if you are pregnant, you probably won't be able to take them.
  • Be careful about what you feed your children before and during the trip.  Rough seas mean you'll be seeing it all again.
  • Take water to drink.  Vomiting bile is painful for the very young.  It's good to dilute with water.
  • Take a change of clothes for wearing at your destination.

Travelling overnight on a "passenger vessel"

I have only done this once, and it was terrible.  The main thing to remember is that it won't be anything like your experience of passenger vessels in the developed world.  Don't assume anything.  Shipping is usually for cargo and passengers are just an extra load on board.  This changes everything.  Sometimes the ship will wait in port for cargo to arrive, sometimes it will be a long time unloading and loading cargo.  More importantly, the vessel is not set up for you to have a cruise.  Be warned.
  • If you are the sole adult responsible for your children for this trip, it is definitely worth asking someone to accompany you.  Fares are usually cheap and the children usually travel free.  An extra fare is a little investment for a great deal of help, especially if that person is experienced in travelling on such vessels.
  • Find out about how long the trip will take and when you are expected to arrive at your destination.  Plan for an extra night or two, just in case.  Should the ship arrive in the middle of the night, most probably you will be able to stay on the ship until morning but check this.  It can be difficult arranging to be met in the middle of the night, just as it is difficult getting taxis and checking into a hotel.
  • Find out about the sleeping arrangements.  There are unlikely to be cabins let alone beds available for passengers.  If you are offered a VIP room, take it, as it's likely to be the only room available for passengers to have privacy and a space to sleep.
  • Find out about meals; what will be served and when.  Will you need to purchase food or is it included in your ticket?  Will there be food available to purchase if you need it?  Take snacks and water for you and the children.
  • In the case that there are no cabins and no beds, this makes sleeping very difficult.  There may be chairs or benches to sit on.  Try and find some small floor space out of the way of crew and passengers and set up some space for your children to play and sleep.  This is not easy, as ships don't have a lot of space as a rule... but perhaps there may be some outside the crew's cabins... but don't set up there without checking first with the crew.
  • Take a couple of towels.  These are good for children to sleep on and make a good pillow for yourself.  It is relatively easy to sleep without a mattress, impossible without a pillow.
  • Take lots of things for your children to do in a small space and be willing to share with other children who are usually bored, too.  Colouring in, plasticine, a small tea-set, stickers, beading...  Older children usually only need a book, a pen and a small pad.  Younger children are more difficult and need your full attention to ensure they don't fall overboard.
  • Take toothbrushes and toothpaste but don't worry about washing until you get to your destination.  It's not worth it (unless you have someone else to look after the children while you do).  Take a small packet of nappy wipes for cleaning hands, especially before eating.
  • Take a bag packed with the things you need for the boat.  Everything that you need only for your destination should go in a separate bag that goes in the hold.  You don't want to be lugging too much around on the boat with you but you do want to make sure you have everything you need.
  • Make sure you know where the life jackets are and how to use them.
  • Be friendly to the crew.  They can be extremely helpful.

OK.  That's it.  I definitely don't recommend travelling with your children alone on a boat. 

Sunday, 4 October 2009

keeping track...

I think I must be the queen of unfinished series! I don't think I've finished one series that I've begun and some have never got further than the plan! Here, for my own benefit and encouragement to go on and complete them, and in no particular order, is a list;
  • on feeling guilty (introduction, part 1) about the differences in standards of health care between here and there;
  • saying no to ungodliness (introduction); from Titus 2:11-12
  • on curse (one, two, three); towards a biblical theology of curse (but not very far towards)
  • what must I do? (parts one, two, three, four, five, six, so far, again, it's back); meditations on what it means to follow Jesus, from Luke 18
  • the heart of anger (parts one, two, three and four); on reading a book by Lou Priolo on helping children deal with their anger
  • travelling with kids (car and plane); tips for travelling with children
  • forgiveness (one, two); on whether there can be forgiveness without repentance.
Hmmm... there's a lot of thinking to do. And there are some other series bubbling around in my head that I'd like to write about. I wonder if I can finish any of these first?

Wednesday, 30 September 2009


...have just come into season. 25c each. And soon to ripen on our own tree.

This is the life!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

saying no to ungodliness

How do we do that? How do we say no to the rage boiling inside our veins, to the thoughts about to spew forth from our lips in slander, to the envy searing our eyeballs, to the romantic daydream about that other man?

How do we say no? Is it fear of divine retribution? Is it fear of shame before friends and family? Do we try hard to follow the law?

How do we actually say NO and instead, do what is right?

Titus 2:11-12 says,
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age...
It's the GRACE OF GOD. The grace of God teaches us to say no to ungodliness. It's the grace of God that has appeared to all men. It's the grace of God that brings salvation. It's the grace of God as shown in work of Christ on the cross that brings salvation. That's what teaches us to say no to ungodliness.

But, I still have one more question. How does that work?

How does the grace of God teach us to say no? How does the cross teach us?

What do you think?

Monday, 28 September 2009

mother and daughter time together

Ever since I read about Cathy's weekend away with her daughter Audrey the idea of such a time away with my girls has been floating around in my head.  Nothing's every come of it.  Yet.  But, what a wonderful oppurtunity it would be...

My perspective on Mother and Daughter Time Together has completely changed recently due to this book that came in a parcel of schoolwork for Bethany.  If Mum and Me were Mermaids by Pauline Stewart is a bubbly and imaginative book about a little girl's afternoon at the beach with her Mum.  We enjoyed reading it together, but what really caught my eye was one of the recommendation on the back cover, which went something like,
this book captures every little girl's fantasy of having her Mum all to herself.
This was a revelation for me.  My little girls have this fantasy?

So the idea of a day away with each daughter surfaced again.  And I mentioned it to them.  Would they like to do something like that?  Oh, yeah!  But again, nothing came of it.

On Saturday, Sophie asked when we were going to go away for the weekend together.  Pleased as punch that she seems so keen on the idea, yet wanting to test the waters, I asked,

A weekend away just the two of us?  But don't you get too much time with Mum at school everyday?

S: But I don't mean for school.  I just want to go away and sit and cuddle.
Me: Oh?
S: That's why I don't want to go to that Motel because there we have to cook and wash-up ourselves.  I want to go somewhere where they do all that for you and we can just sit and cuddle.

So now I'm really keen on the idea.  But nothing's come of it.  Yet.  Except some extra cuddles.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

two conversations with Sophie, aged 7

Scene: Breakfast.  Sophie, aged 7, is eating weetbix and cornflakes smothered in yoghurt.

Me: What did the sheep say to the shearer?
S: What shearer?
Me: The one that was there?
S: Where?
Me: (exasperated) In the shearing shed!  But it's a joke, you just say, "What?". 
S: Oh.
Me: What did the sheep say to the shearer?
S: What?
Me: Eucalyptus! (you-c-lipped-us)
S: (laughs hysterically, then pauses) What?

(later on after bible reading)

G: (reading back of illustrated international children's bible NT):
Why is it so hard to read and remember little black words on a white page?  Probably because most of us are visual learners.  We learn better through the use of pictures.  This innovative New Testament uses Bible text that illustrates the ACTUAL Scriptures (not a retelling or paraphrase!), complete with dialog boxes to show who is speaking- just so kids can follow the story and action.  It sets the scene for them.  This not only helps children read the Bible, but also helps them immediately understand what is going on, learn it, and remember it better.  The old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words," now rings truer than ever.
[bit of discussion here, then...]
S: ...if they really believed that, why didn't they use pictures to say it?  Hah!  They're using words to say words aren't important!

(which, I know, is not exactly what they're saying, but for a seven year old, she makes an interesting observation)

Friday, 25 September 2009

The heart of Anger (4)

In chapter six of the Heart of Anger, Lou Priolo shows how to use an Anger Journal to help children identify and correct inappropriate expressions of anger. It is a four-step process that involves;
  1. indentifying the circumstantial provocation of the anger
  2. describing the outward manifestions of the anger
  3. biblically evaluating the exact nature of the anger
  4. developing a bible response to the circumstantial provocation
It sounds a little pompous and self-righteous written like that, but if I give you an example* you might get the picture.  The idea is that a child keeps a journal like this every time they have an outburst of anger.  Self-review and review with parents and/or a counsellor along with rehearsal of the final step should help them respond appropriately in future similar situations.
1. What circumstances led to my becoming angry?
I was shooting baskets in our driveway, when my Dad stuck his head out of the back door and insisted that I come in to begin doing my homework.  He told my friend who was shooting with me to come back tomorrow.

2. What did I say/do when I became angry?
"I don't have any homework and you're always running my friends off.  It's no wonder they all think you and Mom are idiots."  Then I cursed at him under my breath (but loud enough that my friend could hear) and slammed the basketball into the back door (breaking the window) and stomped off to my room sulking and pouting.

3. What is the biblical evaluation of what I said/did whan I became angry?
Lying (I did have homework and my friends don't all think my parents are idiots), profanity, slander, backbiting, hateful.

4. What should I have said/done when I became angry?
Said, "OK Dad" and explained to my friend that I really did have homework but that if I finished early, I'd call him.  Made an appeal "Dad, I have new information, may I make an appeal?" (yes) "My teacher was out sick today and the substitute teacher allowerd us to catch up on some homework so I only have to study for two subject instead of my usual four... so may I stay out and shoot baskets for another 45 minutes?"  I could have appealed to Dad about changing my schedule so I would study when it isn't possible to play basketball.  Appeal to Dad to install a light in the driveway so I can play basketball after dark (if I get my homework done).  How about it Dad?*
This example is clearly from an child much older than mine, however I we have used simple questions like
  • What did you do that was naughty?
  • Can you explain why you did that?  What were you feeling?
  • What could you do instead?
Until now I have always left out references to scripture feeling that a statement like "God says that's called Malice and that's sinful" might make them feel worse and lead on the path of insecurity and self-righteousness.  However, I'm re-thinking this opinion in the face of their response to Proverbs (which I describe here) which says much about words and anger.  And because as they grow they need to know about God's holiness and how great their sin is and how much greater is God's love and forgiveness.  So I'm grateful for his encouragement in this area and I'll keep thinking about it.

I also really appreciate two further points he makes in this chatper.  

The first is the necessity of determining whether a child is sinfully or righteously angry.  Anger is not always sinful.  God can be angry.  So how do we tell?  Priolo provides simple questions we can use to work this out.  And it is simple (not rocket science).  Immensely helpful not just in dealing with children but also in thinking about my own anger.  Often I am angry with the children not because of anything they have done but because I want to do my own thing and not deal with children or the crayon on the wall or the puddle on the floor or the tears...

The second is the reminder that tools such as journalling are helpful, but they are not the thing that provides lasting change in the heart and behaviour of a child.  He says,
It is not possible for a Christian to change in dependence upon his own strength.  He must depend upon the Lord for the grace (the wisdom, power and desire) to live in obedience to the Bible.  This is why you must faithfully proclaim the Gospel to your children.  If they are lost, they must be told about the need to trust Christ's substitutionary death on the cross.  If they are saved, they must be reminded that they cannot obey God apart from reliance upon the Holy Spirit's power.

Parent's must also must guard against viewing the materials in this book as "behaviour modification" or "cognitive therapy techniques."  They are biblically derived solutions to common problems of living and are of limited value apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in your life and the life of your child.**
The next chapter is about the heart, where he moves from dealing with behaviour and looks at what is going on in the heart of the child when they are angry.

* p87
** p88-89

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Peace Like a River

Glen gave me Peace Like a River by Leif Enger for my birthday this year. Like the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, it was a page turner. I don't know about you, but I am a skipper. I skip bits when I get bored, or when I just want to know what happens next. I skip whole pages (in some books this is necessary to find something to worth reading) and even whole chapters (like in the 44 Scotland St books when the chapter is about a character I'm not interested in). However, Peace Like a River was so gripping and so well-written that I couldn't skip even a word and I couldn't stop turning pages.

Peace Like a River is about fathers and sons and brothers and sisters.  It's about love and kinship and justice and law and goodness and innocence and betrayal and guilt.

It's about the Great American West.  It is a great American Western.

It's tragic. It's heroic.  It's a fight.  It's a flight.

It's about miracles.
"Let me say something about that word: miracle.  For too long it's been used to characterise things or events that, though pleasant, are entirely normal.  Peeping chicks at Easter time, spring generally, a clear sunrise after an overcast week- a miracle, people say, as if they've been educated from greeting cards.  I'm sorry, but nope.  Such things are worth our notice every day of the week, but to call them miracles evaporates the strength of the word.

Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature.  It's true: They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in.  Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave- now there's a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time.  When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up.  A miracle contradicts the will of the earth.

My sister, Swede, who often sees to the nub, offered this: People fear miracles because they fear being changed- though ignoring them will change you also.  Swede said another thing, too, and it rang in me like a bell: No miracle happens without a witness.  Someone to declare, Here's what I saw.  Here's how it went.  Make of it what you will."*
And so Reuben Land tells what he saw and how it went.  He testifies about his Father, who is beloved by God and who loves God, who prays like he breathes, and who wrestles with God as he walks with Him through such circumstances as I should hope never to find myself.

And so, if you can get your head around how a novel can possibly be testimony to fact, you'll enjoy it as much as I.

* page 3

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

solar-powered torches

Do you remember those childhood jokes that begin...
"What's the latest Irish invention?"

I thought they were hilarious.
Flyscreens on submarines!
Injector seats in helicoptors!
Solar powered torches!

I can see myself curled up on the floor in stitches with tears running down my cheeks.

What's even more amusing is that now, not only do I own a solar-powered torch, but all the lights in our house are solar powered!!

on feeling guilty (1)

I mentioned here that I want to work out what to do with the guilt I feel about living and working here in Vanuatu yet having easy access to a better health system back home that my friends here can't possibly hope to share.

In the time that I have been in Vanuatu, two of my friends have had babies die in childbirth.  I went home to have Matthew.  Just this year a baby died in the village we visit for field experience from Malaria.  We not only have access to medicines to prevent malaria, but also have on hand different medicine for treatment, should the prevention step fail.

Is this fair?  

In one sense the question is a whole lot bigger than me and my guilt.  It's about wealthy nations and developing nations.  It's about rich and poor.  

For me, it's about living a genuine christian life in the midst of people who struggle to feed and cloth their children and for whom toothpaste is a luxury commodity.  How can I be "all things to all men" when as soon as things are difficult, I get out of here?

To be honest I'm still struggling to answer my questions.    These are the sorts of categories I can think of to help me as I work through them.
  • guilt on a personal level versus guilt on a corporate level
  • sins of 'omission' as well as sins of 'co-mission'
  • the continuting debt of love
  • what 'incarnational' mission is and if it is a helpful way think about or do mission.
It may take a while.  Join in with your ideas!