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?