Saturday, December 22, 2007

Kingsley End of Year Dinner

The Kingsley staff and faculty dinner was at Alfreds Homestead this year. We enjoyed a smorgasbord meal and had a great time chatting. Wynand and Marianne DeKock, John and Wendy Capper and Tim and Jenny Farmilo from Tabor College joined us and it was good to get to know our new colleagues a bit better.

Numurkah Holiday

We had a week away at Numurkah recently (7-13 December). We stayed at Lakeside Country Club and utilised all the facilities of the resort - indoor and outdoor pool, mini golf, squash and tennis - but mostly the pool which the kids really enjoyed. We had a couple of day trips to Shepparton and Tocumwal.
At Shepparton we visited Kids Town which is a free outdoor adventure playground - well worth a visit if your traveling through Shep.
Our day trip to Tocumwal included a stop at The Big Strawberry at Koonoomoo - it has a great cafe and gift shop with everything strawberry - yum - strawberry milkshakes and chocolate covered strawberries for morning tea.
We traveled another half hour to Tocumwal - so we could say we visited NSW in our holiday. We had a nice lunch on the banks of the Murray River before heading back to Numurhkah.
Matt, Kate and Tom with the Shrek Cow in a park in Shepparton. The parks have various themed cows scattered through them in Shepparton.
Having a rest during our walk through the Kinnairds Wetlands in Numurkah
Family reading time

Monday, October 29, 2007

Living Water - Worship

I led the worship time at Mimos two weeks ago and I set up some "worship stations" based on the theme of Living Water. Our passage for reflection and teaching was John 7:37-38.
We had five stations set up:
1. Care Boats
People wrote their cares and anxieties on a piece of rectangular paper which they made into an origami boat. They placed the boats in the tub of water and symbolically gave those concerns to the living water of Christ.
2. Waterfall
Station 2 was playing the song "Waterfall" by Matthew Ward. People could sit, read the lyrics and listen to the song.
3. A Prayer for the Thirsty
Psalm 143 was printed out and put on a a wall. Kneeling pads were placed near the wall for people to kneel and read the prayer of David.
4. Living Water
Five passages of Scripture were printed out for people to read and meditate on. Psalm 36:5-9, Isaiah 41:17-18; Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:1,2,17
5. Lectio Divina and Drawing
The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4:4-14) was printed out and people were asked to read through it a few times and imagine themselves being there in the conversation. Paper and textas were available for people to write of draw their impressions of the encounter.

New Directions for Kingsley Colege

Wow!!! A month since my last post - I really have been busy. What has been taking my time and energy has been the restructuring of Kingsley College. Kingsley will be taking a change of direction from 2008. Kingsley will be focusing it's energies on the development and training of people serving the Wesleyan Methodist church. To this end Kingsley will be partnering with Tabor College Victoria who will deliver the majority of the courses Kingsley is currently delivering. Kingsley will continue to offer some courses through the Sydney College of Divinity but eventually all courses will come under Tabor College Victoria. Kingsley staff and faculty will join with Tabor and the new combined College will offer classes from Ringwood, Berwick and Hadfield (Kingsley's current campus). Kingsley will still oversee Kingsley Community - the local church ministry training program. Tabor College Victoria will offer the courses required for ordination in the Wesleyan Methodist church and Wesleyan faculty such as myself, Glen O'Brien and Kevin Brown will take n a tutoring/coaching role with Wesleyan ministerial candidates. So..... some big changes for Kingsley and my role. I will continue as Principal of Kingsley and oversee its role in providing ministerial training and I will also be on the leadership team at Tabor.
Read more about the new direction for Kingsley here.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Springtime in the Garden

With the recent warm weather combined with some (although not enough) rain, the garden is coming to life. The daffodils are all but finished but the viburnum, wisteria, genista, wigelia and irises are all in full bloom.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"Go" Now is the Time to Worship

Annette and I dropped in on another church's gathering this morning and they sang the song "Come, Now is the Time to Worship" as the closing song. I reflected on the fact that - yes - now we are about to go out from this gathering to worship. I am sure that this was not what the worship leader intended for us to think because that was not stated but the song is actually very appropriate for helping the church to see that they worship all the time and that we worshi as much when we are apart as we do when we are together. However, sung at the conclusion of a gathering the song could be changed to "Go, Now is the Time to Worship" and would read:
Go, now is the time to worship
Go, now is the time to give your heart
Go, just as you are to worship
Go, just as you are before your God, go!
It's not that we don't come - it's a both/and thing. We come so that we may go!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Philip Island

The family headed down to Philip Island last weekend. We booked a bonus week ($99) at the Island Breeze Resort. We enjoyed the pool at the resort and the weather was good enough for some time at the beach at Cowes. We also visited the Penguin Parade on Saturday night. We hadn't done it for a few years and the kids are old enough to appreciate it now.
Annette and the kids went home on Sunday and I stayed on to do a few days reading and writing on my Doctoral thesis. I'm still working on the history chapter of ministerial development in the Wesleyan Methodist church.

Kid's News

Kate - Passed her preliminary Piano exam. Passed is an understatement - she got first class honours - well done Kate.
Matthew - completed a poster of Blue Tongue lizards (see photo) and will also be starting basketball this season.
Thomas - Became a champion bike rider today and can take off, ride and stop all on his own. Now Mum and Dad need to get bikes and do some family rides.

Sweet Harmony

My latest gadget is the Logitech Harmony 525 programmable remote control. Our coffee table was cluttered with 5 remote controls and it was quite a complicated matter to switch from watching TV to watching a DVD. Changing input on the TV, changing input on the HiFi turning off the set top box, turning on the DVD then switching remotes to control the DVD once it was playing.
Everything can now be controlled through one remote. The Harmony uses a web based programming system based on knowledge of thousands of different device remote controls. You just need to know the model numbers of your TV, DVD etc and it finds the information and programs the remote accordingly. You can then set up activities such as play a DVD. You program the harmony to turn on the DVD player, turn on and switch the HiFi to the DVD5.1input, turn on the TV and switch to the HDMI input - you can even program it to to open the DVD tray ready for you to put in the DVD. I had a bit of trouble getting it to switch to the correct input on my Toshiba LCD because you have to scroll through the inputs but it works like a charm now. Very easy for the wife and kids to get Dad's toys working in harmony. Oh - I got it on sale at Dick Smith Powerhouse for $99.95 - a steal. I like my gadgets but usually wait until they've been out for a year or so and drop to half of their original RRP.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lunar Eclipse

During our Christianity and Postmodernism class we went outside a couple of times to look at the Lunar Eclipse. There was a bit of cloud around so we couldn't get a good view. The Age newspaper has a great slideshow montage of the event which captures the whole event. Apparently a lunar eclipse was one of the evidences used to show that the earth was round as the shadow cast on the moon was curved.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Go the "Bow and Arrow Man"

Glenn Archer (or as Rex Hunt calls him - the Bow and Arrow Man) overtook Wayne Schimmelbusch as the Kangaroos' games record holder when he played his 307th game for North Melbourne against Carlton on Saturday. Annette and I and the kids (along with James and Grace from next door) went to see the game and we all enjoyed the 82 point win. Archer epitomises the North Melbourne never give up underdog spirit. He was named as Shinboner of the Century and although he may not be the most talented AFL player he is respected by most AFL supporters as the most courageous. Well done Glenn, it's a pleasure to watch you play.

Let's Get Real

I was re-reading the chapter on Authenticity in Exiles this week and it felt like I underlined the whole chapter - Frost is so quotable. Here is one that jumped out at me - “Part of the pervading phoniness about many Christian’s lives is that there seems to be an assumed difference between our public worship experience and our private lifestyle and practices.” (p. 93).
At a recent visit to a church I was again astonished at how forced and routinised (is that a word?) the meeting was - it was as though the church felt obliged to follow a particular pattern that actually discouraged real interaction bettwen the people who were present. Even though there were not people in the meeting who could assist with musical accompaniment there were songs played (on CD)in the regular places of hymns which everyone sat and listened to as though is was a requirement of the weekly ritual. I hope I'm not sounding too critical but I left feeling that this small group would have been much better off sitting in a circle (rather than in rows behind each other) and having a heart to heart discussion about a passage of Scripture, some sharing about what God was doing (or not doing) in their lives and prayer to encourage and inspire each other to continue the fight and press on toward the prize.
Luckily, I attend a lot of different churches for work, so this one will not easily be identified but more and more I am seeking a real engagement with other Jesus followers when I gather with them in various locations around the country. . . And don't get me wrong, I'm not against a formal liturgy I am just against a disconnected and lifeless liturgy whether it be formal or informal.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I'm So Confused

I will be teaching the Christianity and Postmodernism class at Kingsley this Semester and although I already had a fairly good grasp on things postmodern my preparation for the more philosophical aspects of postmodernity have been straining my brain just a little. Here's an example from Stanley Grenz trying to explain Jacques Derrida's understanding of meaning in language.
"A Language is a chain of signifiers referring to other signifiers, in which each signifier in turn becomes what is signified by another signifier."
Hmmmm. I know that understanding the philosophical underpinnings of postmodernism is important but I'm really looking forward to the discussions on the effects of postmodern thought on popular culture and the necessary response from the church.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Birthday Present

Yes, I have turned 39. Two weeks ago actually - and I apologise for the absence of posts. I've been away in New Zealand from the 30th June to the 6th July at the SPABC (South Pacific Association of Bible Colleges) Conference. But before I went I was "given permission" to buy myself a birthday present. It is a 37" LCD television. I've been researching these for about 9 months so I knew exactly what I was looking for. So after a morning of shop hopping I ended up - as a last resort - at Clive Peeters Ringwood where they had a great deal on the Toshiba 37WL66A - no inbuilt tuner but they threw in an HD STB with the deal. So all up very happy. I just wish the broadcasters would send their signal out at a higher quality - hopefully in the future.
I looked into the LCD/Plasma options but a 37" was as large as we could go using the cabinet we already had. You will notice from the pic that it fits snugly.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Kate is Nine!!!

Kate turned nine on June 7th and we celebrated two days later with a Fairy party. 14 girls gathered for an afternoon of fairy games and lots of laughter. A visit from Krystal Fairy was an extra special treat.

What I'm Listening To

I've been listening to 5 Score and Seven Years Ago by Relient K - now my number one favourite band edging our Jars of Clay. This latest offering has the classic Relient K sound and has echoes of their previous two albums - MMHMM and Two Lefts Don't Make a Right - But Three Do. My favourite songs on the new album are "Come Right Out and Say it" and "Must Have Done Something Right". There are more songs about relationships which reflects the guys growing up but there is also the smattering of God focused lyrics in songs such as "Forgiven" and "Give Until There's Nothing Left". The shortest song on the album is "Crayons Can Melt on us For All I Care" which runs for 12 sceonds and the lyrics are: "I've just wasted 10 seconds of your life."

What I'm Watching

I've got really hooked on The Catherine Tate show lately. I caught the last half of series two on the ABC Wenesday nights and then bought the DVD a few weeks back. It's a bit rude in some places (as all good British humour can be) but it had me ROFL (Rolling on the Floor Laughing). It is disappointing that there is a bit of language because the sketches would be just as funny without it. We had our good frineds Colin and Ruth Harrison staying with us for a couple of nights and we showed them an episode - then we had to watch all six. They went out and bought the DVD the next day. A few classic lines - "Am I bovvered", "You will not believe this", "Take the shame though", "Is it though" and "The Liberty"
Here is a classic "Lauren" sketch (search youtube for more)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Flight of the Conchords 2

My brother in law Paul let me know that my favourite comedy musical duo - Flight of the Conchords - have their own show on HBO. It is autobiographical and shows off their lyrical genius.Also see their myspace page here

Study week

I've just had a week away to do some research for my Doctor of Ministry thesis. I'm researching the Ministerial Development process in the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia. I spent four days reviewing the 60 year history of the denomination with particular focus on the ministerial training and development. It gave me a renewed appreciation for those who began the movement and the sacrifices they made. I was also reminded of the beautiful message of heart holiness that was the focus of the movement in its early days. The desire for God to so fill our hearts with love that we spread that love out to those around us in acts of mercy and evangelism is the hallmark of who we are as Wesleyans. I stayed at Kerami Gardens resort in Marysville. Annette and the kids came up for the weekend and then I stayed on to study. It was a bonus week of timeshare that we got for just over $200- for seven nights accom in a fully self-contained two bedroom unit - what a deal. I'm planning on doing this 2-3 times a year to get my thesis writing completed within 3 years.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Recent Family photos

Taffy and Reggy lounging around amongst the folded washing on the couch. They are growing up fast and are still lots of fun to have around the house.
Matt has started playing footbal for the North Ringwood Under 9s. He has training on Thursday night and matches on Sunday mornings (this works well because our church meets in the late afternoon). Matt's loving the opportunity to play in a team except he would prefer Kangaroos colours rather than St. Kilda. Go North Ringwood Saints.

Annette's latest project is a bargello quilt. She's done two previously but she has not had a pattern for this new one and has written up her own pattern based on a picture from a book. She's just been away for a Stitcher's weekend and got a lot of work done on it.

Monday, May 07, 2007

When the church is not the church

The English word “church” is translated from the Greek, ekklesia which literally means “the called out ones” (ek – out and klesis – calling) and was used to describe an assembly or a lawful assembly. Applied spiritually, ekklesia is “the called out of” - that is, the saved who are called out of the word (John. 17).
• “Church” (ekklesia) is used to denote all those who are in Christ without any particular geographic designation (Matt 16:18), as well as groups of followers in a particular geographic area (1 Cor.1:2).
• “Church” used universally (all the saved) is always used in the singular.
• “Churches,” plural, refers to a number of local churches, the groups of called out ones in various areas. For example when Paul wrote, “... the churches of Christ salute you” (Rom. 16:16).
• “Church” is applied to the gathering or assembly of God’s people (1 Cor 14:19).
• “Church” denotes those followers who have connected together and have the full development as far as organization is concerned (Acts 14:23).
• The local church, when fully organized has elders and deacons (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim 3:1-13).

I’ve been noticing people’s use of the word “church” recently. I’m aware that although the definition of a word determines its usage in language, the reverse can also be true: the contextual usage of a word can actually influence and change its meaning.

Annette (my wife) was driving with Kate (8) and Thomas (4) in the back seat of the car recently. Thomas had his teddy (Fred) and Fred was eating everything they drove past. “Fred is eating the tree,” “Fred is eating the car,” “Fred is eating the church” to which Kate spoke up and said, “That’s not the church, the church is people, not a building.”

“Church” is used 115 times in the Greek New Testament, however, it never refers to the building in which the church meets. Yet, our use of the word “church” can lead us to this conclusion. I hear people saying things like, “we’re going to church,” “we’re having a working bee at the church,” “the board meeting will be at the church.” While I understand that what most people mean is “the building where the church meets,” it subtly draws us away from the true meaning of the church as the people of God, (followers of Jesus) gathering to encourage and serve each other and then going out to share and demonstrate the Gospel.

I also hear people saying, “after church let’s go out to lunch” or “I like some quiet reflection time before church starts” this use of “church” focuses on the gathering of people or “the service.” Although the gathering of God’s people is vital, it is only one aspect of being the church and in my view is secondary to the going purpose. We gather to encourage each other, serve each other, learn from each other, recommit ourselves to each other, be accountable to each other, worship God together and pray for each other so that each person can be better equipped to live out their faith as they go out to their various homes, workplaces, schools and communities.

I asked my class at Kingsley College last year the following question: If there are two groups of 20 people and one is a church and one is not, what makes the church a church?
We summarised the list to the following: The church is
• Committed to following Jesus Christ in faith and action
• Committed to serving each other and building each other up using their gifts
• Committed to being accountable to each other and to grow in love for God and others
• Committed to gathering regularly and sharing in worship and relationship
• Committed to share in mission together and be witnesses of the Gospel message in all areas of their lives.
Michael Frost asks a similar question in his book Exiles . He asks “when is a bunch actually a church?” He proposes the following four requirements: Trinitarian Theology, Covenantal Expression, Catholic Orientation, and Missional Intent.
In the Church of England report, Mission Shaped Church, they summarise the five values of the church as: 1) focused on God the trinity, 2) incarnational, 3) transformational, 4) disciple making and 5) relational .

Our usage of the word “church” ought to be as a verb. That is we do church and be the church, rather than as a noun, we go to church (meeting) or we clean the church (building).

My observation is that churches can easily become preoccupied with the noun definitions of church. Time and energy is consumed on buildings (or raising money for buildings) or on the gathering (service) to the point that no time or energy is left for the primary purpose of the church which is living missionally in our communities with the support and accountability of the church.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Lentil as Anything

Tonight (or more correctly - this afternoon) Mimos gathered at Lentil as Anything in Abbottsford. Lentil as Anything is a restaurant that serves organic, vegetarian meals in a homely and relaxing environment. The unique aspect of Lentil as Anything is that there are no prices on the menu. As their website quotes, "We embody a philosophy that challenges and defies our money driven consumerist society. Our philosophy of "no set prices" is a social experiment that encourages people to have an internal conversation with their conscience and their own ethics. You choose what you feel is an appropriate amount to pay for the food and service provided." So after you've finished the meal you put whatever you consider the meal and the experience to be worth in a box on the counter.
There were about 20 of us who gathered for an early dinner. We couldn't do a large group discussion but we chatted with the people around us and caught up with what each of us had been doing since we last gathered together.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

New Additions to the Dobson Home

Yesterday we took a trip out to Coldstream with the intention of adopting a kitten from the Victorian Animal Aid - but we got two. Reginald (Reggy) a male grey tabby and Taffeta (Taffy) a female calico. They've settled into the family really well. Taffy is a bit shy and has taken some time to warm up to us all but Reggy is full of beans and very curious. They love playing with each other - which is why we got two. They're both curled up on the rug next to my desk as I type.
Lots more of Taffy and Reggy to come.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Lads

One of my favourite bands - The Lads - have recently released their new studio album called simply - The Lads.
There is a combination of some of the Lads classics and some new tracks.
Genuine edgy rock with a hint of humour make the Lads a great live act. I saw them first at a Youth Alive event in Melbourne about 4 years ago and got hooked.
They're in Australia this weekend for the Australian Gospel Music Festival - pity it's in Toowoomba - not that there's anything wrong with Toowoomba - it's just a long way from Melbourne.
I'll leave you with the lyrics from a Lads classic - Beetroot Stain

I thought I was a loser
That I wasn’t good enough
I could not see how You could care about me
Or how I could deserve Your love

But You, You specialise in comebacks
And over time You’ve made me see
That even though I may not be perfect
You will not give up on me

Your love, love is like a beetroot stain
That never ever goes away from me
Your love, Your love is with me everyday
I know Your love is here to stay with me

Things can get a bit confusing
But there’s one thing that I know
That You will stay, You really care about me
And You will never let me go

What's Your Theological Worldview

I remembered doing this online quiz a few years ago.
I came out as expected as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan - phew
You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox


Reformed Evangelical


Roman Catholic








Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

Holiday Photos

Thomas, Matt and Kate jumping waves at the Sorrento back beach
Waiting for the ferry to take us from Sorrento to Queenscliff and back again.
Aboard the ferry on the way to Queenscliff
Wesleyan church in Queenscliff - now a bookstore.
Getting tangled in the rope puzzle at Arthur's Seat Maze
My achievement for the week was to complete two 1000 piece puzzles. Originally bought for the kids but a little too difficult for them yet - do you think I was sick of seeing brown after doing the bears!!!!


We've just had a week away at Nepean Country Club in Rosebud. Yes, we're timeshare owners but not through the "come to our 90 minute talk and get a free weekend holiday" routine. A few years ago we looked into all our options for annual family holidays - camping, caravan, cabins etc and we decided that timeshare was best for us.
We bought our week through the Trading Post. We own a share in Nepean Country Club which is ours forever and can be sold or bequeathed like any other property. We pay an annual maintenance fee of around $500- for our week.
This week can be exchanged for use at any of thousands of resorts worldwide and I know of people who've bought 5-6 weeks of timeshare in Australian resorts exchanged them for weeks in resorts around the world, have travelled around the world staying a week in each resort and then sold the weeks when they returned - a pretty cheap overseas holiday!!
Also we have access to bonus weeks. Bonus weeks are posted on the web by resorts who have empty units for hire. You can usually only book them up to 8 weeks ahead but they are usually $150-$300 for 7 nights in a fully fitted out 2 bedroom unit. We've just booked a week in Marysville in May for $225- and we've taken bonus weeks at Kyneton and Yarrawonga in previous years.
Each year for the past three years we've taken our regular week in the Easter school holidays at Rosebud. We get a two bedroom, two bathroom unit with a fully equipped kitchen and laundry. All the linen, cooking gear, appliances and cutlery and crockery is provided. All we have to bring is clothes, toiletries and food. This certainly saves time on packing and everything is basically set up when we arrive.
Nepean Country Club is well set up for families with 3 tennis courts (2 indoor), a heated indoor pool and an outdoor pool and spa. There is also mini golf, squash court, pool tables, and a fully equipped gym.
It is next to the Eagle Ridge Golf Course and half price green fees are available to resort users. Our unit this year looked out onto the golf course. The next post will have some photos of our week away.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

FORGE - Dangerous Stories 2 Summit

As Mike Forst said - what an uncreative title - Dangerous Stories 2 - couldn't they come up with an original name for the sequel.
Regardless of the name, it was a great weekend of networking with other missional church people and hearing their stories - hence Dangerous stories.
Brian McLaren and Wolfgang Simson were the international speakers and we had a host of home grown talent in Mike Frost, Alan Hirsch, and Daryl Gardner (NZ). There were a squillion workshops and electives for the 600 odd people to attend.
I was challenged by Wolfgang Simson's reports of massive church planting in Egypt, India, Myanmar and other parts of the developing world.
I was also interested to explore further the issues of hyperreality and the consumer culture we live in and how the church has bought into this mindset.
Idea Ripple have DVD's, CD's and MP3's of the summit - well worth a look. I've ordered a complete set of MP3's for the Kingsley library - so for you Kingsley students you'll be able to borrow these when they arrive.

Mega Church Satire

I got sent a link from one of my mates - Steve W - to this clip from King of the Hill. It'd be even funnier if it wasn't so close to the truth.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Photos from the Weekend

Thomas celebrated his 5th Birthday.
We went Roller skating today with Carol, Damien (left of picture), Abbey and Kate's frined Sarah.
I spent a few hours on Friday night putting all Matt's lego back together. A few missing pieces but 99% there.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Tom's at School

Our youngest - Thomas - who is 5 on the 20th February started School this year. Here he is with his current "camera" smile. He's loving school by the way and is enjoying everyday. His reading and writing are improving already.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Staying Missional

Starting a new church is hard at the best of times - starting a new type of church that looks a bit different to the norm is even harder. We've been confronted with some extra challenges at Mimos lately that has caused us to re-establish our purpose. Towards the end of 2006 we lost a third of our group who moved away from Melbourne. The Harrisons (our founding pastor - Ruth) moved to Thailand, Alicia moved back to Cairns, and Chris and Liz Logan moved back to the USA. Our second challenge was that we were notified that our regular meeting place - The Stolberg Beer Cafe - was not going to be opening Sundays anymore.
Annette (my lovely wife), who has taken on the responsibility of leading and coordinating the church, has been great at calling us back to our original vision. In a recent email she said
We need to strategically consider what we are doing in our own neighbourhood and encourage each other in this and keep each other accountable to the people God has placed on our heart. When we gather as the wider Network we will be spending more time hearing what God is doing and praying for each other. Let me share a quote from 'Organic Church' (Neil Cole) - "Every Christian is a church planter and every home is a church...This is a whole new way of seeing Christ's church and it is happening today all across the Western world. I believe it is a contagious movement that will connect with many people who are disengaged with the old conventional church but seeking Christ. We must take Christ into people's lives, and it must be in the context of relationships." I'd love to consider that each of our homes is a church ready to bring the truth of Christ to those seeking Him.
We met on Sunday at Bundoora Park initially and then moved to McDonalds because it was so hot (37C) and reconfirmed our committment to be primarily missional - that is each person and/or family focusing on building relationships and being Christ in their own neighborhoods/work places/schools etc and that we will gather together as a network on alternate weeks for accountability, teaching, worship, sharing, prayer and to refocus our mission. Our prayer is still that we would "Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Redecking the Deck

I've just spent the day making our back deck a bit more live-able. We've had an old table and wooden pews there since we moved here 5 years ago and we never really use the area. I've been planning for a few weeks looking at furniture and drawing up some floor plans.
We bought a new outdoor setting (from Rob Cousens in Ringwood) which is very comfy (a major criteria in our choice). I got a wall mounted water feature and also installed shade blinds (because our deck faces west and gets direct sunlight). I had to repaint some areas where the paint was starting to lift and after that I went to it on the makeover. See some pics below.
It's definitely a much more inviting space to go and have a cuppa or sit and have breakfast while reading the paper on the weekend.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Are You a Gentleman?

I got this little quiz from my wokmate Ross - a bit of fun
I am 56% Gentleman

Generally you act like a gentleman, but sometimes you're careless with your manners.
Most people know that you're trying your best - and that's usually good enough.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

More China Photos

A traditional Chinese village outhouse - reminded me so much of an Aussie dunny

Me getting the Miao treatment at a cultural dinner and show we attended in Kaili

Bamboo scaffold was a common sight in the construction of some large buildings in both Kaili and Guiyang.

Kate and Matt doing puppets at one of the primary schools

Monday, January 15, 2007

China Post 8

Saturday 13th January
After a couple of early starts and late nights we took the opportunity to have a sleep in this morning. The children enjoyed their corn flakes for breakfast and James and Grace took Annette and I out for a Singaporean breakfast of fried carrot cake that neither looked or tasted like carrot cake and Singaporean coffee with condensed milk.
When we got home we packed our backpacks and headed off to Singapore Zoo - praying that the weather would clear. We had agreat day at the zoo and after some early rain it stayed clear most of the day. Ron and Marilyn met us at the zoo at 6pm and after having tea there at KFC we went together to the night safari which is a separate section of the zoo that focuses on nocturnal animals. It consists of a 45 minute tram ride with an optional 30 minute walk in the middle. We had a great but the kids were pretty tired by the time we got home. All of them fell asleep in the car.

Sunday 14th January
We walked to Bartley Christian Church this morning. There are a number of Balwyn families who attended this church prior to migrating to Australia. We went to the 11am service and Pastor William Lee (who was the guest speaker at last year's Balwyn church Easter camp) took us and the Freemans to lunch. After lunch we went to Dennis and Linda Heng's apartment with the Freemans and Lailin and Hao. The children swan in the pool (in the rain) supervised by the men while the women went shopping. We all went out for tea and a game of ten pin bowling. We got back to James and Grace's at 10pm.

China Post 7

Thursday 11th January
We had an early morning today rising at 6am for a 7:30am departure from JianHe. We had a good journey to Guiyang on expressways most of the way. It is very mountainous in the areas we have visited and the expressway was a combination of tunnels and bridges for much of the trip. At one point we passed through 17 tunnels in a 30 minute period. The tunnels ranged in length from 200m - 900m. We arrived in Guiyang at 11:30am and after taking our luggage to our hotel room we went out for lunch. A group of us who were craving western food went to Pizza Hut. It was very expensive by Chinese standards but was about the same as what we would pay at home - 55 Yuan for a family Pizza - about $9- Australian. The quality control was very good and it tasted just like home and the kids loved it so much we went back for tea later in the day. The afternoon was spent shopping and resting. Annette and Kate went out shopping and Annette bought some woollen dress pants and a top for 120 yuan ($20 AUD). Matthew, Thomas and I rested and watched some sport on TV. The hotel had a free wireless so I was able to catch up on Cameron White's superb performance in the 20/20 and Harwoods surprise inclusion. We got an early night ready for an early start tomorrow and a day of flying.

Friday 12th January
We woke at 6am and took our bus (which we have had with our driver Yang Su Fu for the whole trip). We arrived at Guiyang airport at 7am and after a long time to check in the 25 of us (5 left yesterday for Japan and other parts of China) we went straight to our plane and left for Guangzhou. After arriving in Guangzhou we walked a few hundred metres to the international section of the airport and checked in our baggage and went through customs without a hitch. We looked through the shops and had lunch at a "western" restaurant. We had hamburgers and spaghetti which were ok but not really fully western. We left Guangzhou at 1pm for a four hour flight to Singapore. James Seah (brother in law of David Tey - the business manager at Kingsley) picked us up and took us back to his place where we'll be staying for the next few days. James and his wife Grace took us to a shopping centre to buy breakfast cereal and milk for the kids and we had McDonalds for tea. Annette and I chatted with James and Grace before going to bed. Annette, Kate and I are in the guest room and Matt and thomas are sharing a large bedroom with Ezra and Esmond - James and Grace's sons. Oir first impressions of Singapore are very positive - it is very clean - but also very wet at the moment - it has not stopped raining since we arrived.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

China Post 6

Saturday 6th January
A bit of a quieter day today. We left the hotel at 9:30am and went to the same village as yesterday. The team bought 7 radiant heaters for the classrooms and gave $800 yuan to help with their electricity costs. We also gave the children beanies, toiletries and some snacks. We did about 30 minutes of teaching and then did a concert with puppets and dramas. There were about 40 children - I think word had got around that we were coming and every child in the village turned up. We left the village and after walking our 30 minutes back to the bus we arrived back at the hotel at 2:30pm for a late lunch.
When we eat at the hotel we sit at three large tables holding 10-12 people on each. We have a large bowl of rice and 5-8 dishes to share on each table. The dishes are a mix of vegetables, fish, pork, prawns, chicken, tofu, and egg. It's been interesting to explore different foods or familiar foods prepared in different ways.
We had a free afternoon today so we caught up with clothes washing, sleep and shopping for snacks. Andrew Chan was sleeping so I borrowed his laptop and plugged it into the the internet cable in our room to clean out my email. I had 496 messages in my Kingsley inbox. In the 3 hours I had the computer I had two 10 minute blocks where my email pages loaded properly. The internet connection here is very patchy. The Age newspaper and Baggygreen were loading ok, however, so I had a chance to catch up on news and cricket. I'm glad Cameron White got picked in the one day squad - funnily enough I had a dream last night that all these obscure unknown cricketers from other states were picked to replace the retirees and Cameron White was overlooked - I was very disappointed.
When we were out shopping last night were noticing people spitting on the footpath - which apparently is ok here. But we also noticed that people were spitting on the floor in the shopping centre too - you have to watch where you step. We've also noticed that a lot more people smoke here. Itls been difficult to adjust to eating in smoke filled restuarants and even though there are no smoking signs in the lifts (the only ones we have seen so far) people still smoke there too. I took a good photo of bamboo scaffold on a building of around 20 stories and will post it if I get an opportunity.
Welre going to church tomorrow and doing a concert and medical clinic from the church building in the afternoon.

Sunday 7th January
We left the hotel at 9:30am and arrived at the village at 10:30am. Our big bus could not take us all the way to the village. We parked off the main road and a vehicle form the medical clinic ferried us to the village in 3 loads. The medicos and translators went in first and started treating people. The medical clinic was set up in the village church which was about a 100m walk down a steep rocky path which was quite difficult carrying four cases of pharmaceuticals and all the PA Gear and musical instruments.
We packed up the clinic and had lunch in one of the local houses - they killed and cooked four chickens for us. The church service began at 1:30pm and our team did songs, dramas, testimonies and Ron Freeman preached. There were around 100 villagers in attendance. The church is state sanctioned but they are allowed to operate freely. Following the service the medical clinic was reopened and we left the village at 4:30pm. Around 50 patients were treated with the most common ailments stomach ulcers and arthritis and most of those treated were elderly.
We were treated to dinner by the foreign affairs officials - which was a real gesture of goodwill since it was these same officials that initially blocked us from teaching in the high school.
We went to what I could only describe as a Chinese Propoganda Theatre Restaurant. All the staff were decked out in chinese military outfits and there was singing and dancing on stage. It was so loud we had to put our hands over our ears. The chinese singing was extremely high pitched - I'm surprised the glasses weren't shattering. Our group got up on stage and performed an item in English to a rousing ovation. We got back to the hotel at 9pm and packed our bags ready to travel to JianHe tomorrow.

Monday 8th January
We left Kaili at 8.30am and travelled most of the way to JianHe by expressway which made the trip smooth and uneventful. So smooth that most of the group slept through the journey of 90 minutes. We arrived at JianHe and transferred into 7 four wheel drives for the 30 minute drive to the village. The road was equivalent to a fire access path in an Australian forest. The new village primary school has just been completed and some of the money was contributed by the Balwyn church. The whole village was there to greet us when we arrived and most were in traditional Miao costumes. We participated in the official dedication ceremony. Ron Freeman gave an address and talked about the truth of Christ because the school is called Truth of Christ Primary School. Ben Sia spoke on behalf of Partners International who organised the fund raising for the school and a representative from the Seattle Chinese Baptist Church (another major contributor) also spoke. There are three from the Seattle church who have now joined with our group. I did the prayer of dedication and other local dignitaries spoke. One of them spoke of Miao custom. They have a saying: If you can talk you can sing, if you can walk you can dance and if you can eat rice you can drink wine. The team did a drama and puppets to close the festivities.
We had lunch in the house of the village chief. All the food was grown by the villagers. On the way to the village we passed some pear orchards which are maintained by the same village - there were men pruning the pears.
After lunch we drove back down to JianHe and to our hotel. We were very spoilt at our hotel in Kaili - it was four star and very comfortable. Our hotel here is adequate at best - the rooms are cold, the bathrooms are dirty and wet and it is in a general state of disrepair. However, this is the best hotel in the area. The kids had a lukewarm bath and we all went to bed at 8pm.

Tuesday 9th January
We had breakfast at the hotel this morning - rice porridge, eggs, and steamed dumplings. We left the hotel at 8:45 in a 20 seater bus and 2 four wheel drives. I didn't think the bus would make it up the road but I shouldn't be surprised after what I've seen over the past 10 days.
We spent the morning walking around the village and seeing people doing their daily chores of gathering water, weaving and cleaning. We played a basketball game agaist the village boys and won 17-10.
In the afternoon we taught english and ran a medical clinic. The clinic attended to 30 patients and will see more tomorrow. We left the village at 4:30 and arrived back at the hotel at 5:30pm.

Wednesday 10th January
We went to the same village today leaving the hotel at 9am and getting to the village just before ten. We ran the medical clinic all day and saw another 50-60 patients. Yesterday there were two villagers with presenting problems that required ultrasounds to determine the extent of the problem in each case. One man, the only Christian in the village had a growth on his thyroid and a seven year girl who hasn't been able to walk since birth has recently lost her ability to speak also. The team donated 1000yuan to each of these cases to get them to Guiyang and to have an ultrasound conducted.
In the morning we played games with the children and the female members of the team were fitted out in traditional Miao costumes for photos. Matthew and Tom were also dressed in boys costumes. We taught English in the afternoon and made kites with the children. We left the village at 4pm and arrived back at the hotel at 5pm. Annette sorted out the three cases of pharmaceuticals before tea. Our three doctors are all unwell and the full day of clinic has taken a lot out of them. We had dinner at the hotel and had a team debrief because we're losing some team members before tomorrow night when we arrive in Guiyang.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

China Post 5

Thursday 4th January
Our most eventful day in China so far. After early devotions at 7:30am we headed off on a 40 minute drive to the home village of the foreign affairs official who gave us to go ahead to work in the KaiLi school. Forty minutes turned into 5 hours as we encountered roadworks and traffic jams the whole way. The worst jam had us at a complete standstill for over 40 minutes. The drivers here are absolute lunatics, road rules are not observed and with the frustration of roadworks and traffic jams people did crazy things. Over half of the traffic was coal trucks hauling coal from the mine to the power station closer to town. The remainder of the traffic was buses and taxis with the occasional private car. Overnight rain had turned the contruction areas (over 50% of the whole route) to mud which made it all the more treacherous. Our bus driver was amazing, he got us places I didn't think possible. The coal trucks would pass us with only inches to spare - one actually scrapred the back corner of the bus. This did not please our driver because he owns the bus - this also ensured that he drove more conservatively than the local buses. We reached the mountain village at around 3pm and did some dramas and puppets for the primary school children - they loved it. We noticed how short the children were the ten year olds were shorter than Matthew. It is partly due to poor nutrition - the children only eat 2 meals a day ad man y have to walk up to two hours to school and back eachday. It was very cold there - the pine trees were iced and it looked like they were covered in snow. The trip home was a bit quicker - only 2 hours. Our three children did remarkably well under the circumstances - hardly a complaint. Thomas slept for two hours which helped - however he is still awake now at 9:45pm. We wash our underclothes and lighter clothing in the wash basin most evenings and hang it on a line over the bath (thanks Mum Mc for those extra clothes lines). It takes about 2 days to dry. We take our larger clothing items to a nearby laundry to have them washed, dried, ironed and folded for 2 yuan (35 cents Australian) a piece. Tomorrow we visit two more villages - a school in the morning and medical clinic in the afternoon - they're only meant to be 30 minutes away but we'll wait and see.

Friday 5th January
The 30 minute estimate for our travel to today's village proved accurate the roads were very good. However the bus ride was followed by a 30 minute walk up a steep road to the village. We spent the morning teaching primary school children aged between 7 and 11. There were only about 20 students in this village primary and they didn't know any english expect hello. We played games like Duck, Duck, Goose and Simon Says.
When we finished teaching at noon we asked the children to take us back to their homes to see where they live. Annette, Kate, Tom, Lailin and I went to Shin Fei's (Boy) house. His mother was there with his 2 year old brother. The house had an outdoor cooking area and four rooms downstairs and a loft. The father works as a handyman in the closest town and is home only 6 months of the year.
In the afternoon the medicos (3 doctors, 2 medical students, a nurse, a pharmacist (Annette)) went to another village nearby to run a clinic while the rest of us stayed at the village school and did more teaching. We arrived back at the hotel at 5:30pm and walked down to the main shopping centre to have Suntray chicken - which is like KFC. Afterwards we went shopping and bought woolen gloves for Matt, Tom and I and thick woollen socks for all the kids. We also bought shoes for the three kids for a total of $20- Australian.
Again it was very cold - only 1 degree. This seems to be the norm now so I'll only mention if it is different from this.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

China Photos

My class standing on the fourth storey balcony at the School
Matt holding a bunch of paper flowers made by the school children

China Post 4

Wednesday 3rd January
Today was a bit more relaxed. After breakfast and devotiones we headed around 10am to a Miao village. It was very cold today - only about 1 degree when we left the hotel.
The village we visited performs cultural dances and singing for tourists but it was still an authentic Miao village. We paid 500 yuan for the 30 of us to see the show. The villagers greeted us as we arrived and offered us rice wine from horns (which is their tradition). We were told not to touch the horn with our hands or we would have to drink the whole horn full but if we let htem touch we horn on our lips we only had to take a sip. There were a number of different musical items and dances and after they finished they had handicrafts for sale and if it wasn't for the rain I'm sure we all would have bought more things from them. We bought small versions of traditional Miao instruments which are a cross between trumpets and pan flutes for the boys and silver bracelets for Kate. When Annette and I initially asked a price for the bracelets it was $100- but Auntie Alsie bargained them down to $10 (about $1-50 Australian). When the villagers saw that we had bought something they mobbed us and we had to escape through a back door.
When we got back to Kaili we visited the sports stadium which would hold about 25,000 people. The rest of the afternoon was free so Annette and I took the opportunity to catch up on sleep. The chef in the hotel cooked a special "western" dinner for us tonight - roast chicken, roast potatoes, roast pumpkin and pumpkin soup.
Tomorrow we're working again doing some medical work in a village, interacting informally with the village children, and performing some of our concert items.

China Post 3

Tuesday 2nd January
We put on a concert for the school children today. The team did three dramas, a puppet show, two testimonies and we sung two Christmas carols. Ben spoke to the children about the meaning of the words in Silent Night. Each of the three classes of children also performed songs in English - "Kookaburra Sits on the Old Gum Tree", "Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart" and "Amazing Grace".
The principal of the school is very grateful for what we've done in the past four days. He wants a team to come for longer next year. We are praising God, that after it looked like we would not be able to do anything in the school, we have been able to have such an impact.
When we left the school today many of the children were crying. It was very emotional. My heart wants to stay here and help these children - many of them are extremely poor. We pray that these few days will be an encouragement for them. The children made paper bouquets of flowers for each of the team. My small group of girls gave me 365 paper oragami stars to help me remember them each day.
We had the afternoon off today. Thomas and I had a sleep. I have a head cold with headaches and fever so I am trying to get as much rest as I can. Annette, Kate and Thomas walked to the main shopping district of Kaili with others from the team. It is very cold here today - our coldest day yet. It was 2 degrees at 10am this morning.
For the past three days on our bus trip to the school we have seen a young boy sitting and begging in the middle of the footpath. We think he is blind and physically disabled. There are no means of caring for these people in the Chinese health system and this is their only means of survival.
Annette and Kate are both feeling the beginnings of a cold - please pray for our health and others team members who are unwell.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

China Post 2

Monday 1st January
We met together as a team for devotions at 8am as normal. It's great to hear each other's stories of why and how they came to be on this mission trip. Many of us were moved by the poor state of the accommodation for the boarding students at the school. They sleep 28 to a room no larger than our loungeroom without heating and with glass missing from some windows. The children have to wash their own clothes in cold water and eat in their classrooms because they do not have a dining room large enough. Despite these poor living conditions the children are bright and many have hopes and dreams for the future. Many recognise the value of having good English so they are gratefulto have us here to help them with their pronounciation in particular. The children do not have much sporting equipment so some of the team bought basketballs, soccer balls and badminton sets for them to use. Today was our third full day of teaching at the school and we are starting to build good relationships with the children in our small groups. We have 6-8 teachers in team with 40-50 students in each class. So each teacher has 5-7 children in their small group. Some of the children are starting to ask questions about faith and we have had opportunities to talk about the real meaning of Christmas.
We have lunch back at the hotel most days and the children are doing very well with trying new and unfamiliar foods. Yesterday we had lunch at the school. We cooked spaghetti for the children in our classes - ingredients brought all the way from Australia. Today we made no-bake chocolate and oatmeal cookies with the children in their classrooms.
We have been shopping to a large supermarket not far from the hotel. It's like a super Kmart and we have been able to purchase some familiar tastes like chocolate, soft drink and chips for snacks. Thankfully the hotel has bread available for breakfast so the children are happy with toast. I'm not sure how they would cope with rice,noodles or dumplings for breakfast for 2 weeks.
We're doing a concert for the school children tomorrow morning so I hope to have a report for you on that tomorrow.

Monday, January 01, 2007

China Post 1

After a short stopover in Singapore, we flew to Guangzhou and arrived there at around 11:30am. We thought that we may have to wait until 8pm to fly from there to Guiyang but Alfred managed to get a 3pm flight and we arrived in Guiyang at 5pm. Guiyang is a large city and we were amazed by the number of tall buildings as well as the amount of construction taking place. We were picked up at the airport by bus and went to our hotel in the heartof Guiyang. The hotel was very nice (about 3 star by our standards). We ate at KFC - mostly for our children's sake - the last western food for about 2 weeks. It was all spicy and you could get a duck wrap as well as a chicken wrap.
We left at 8:00am the next morning (Friday) by bus for Kaili. We arrived at our hotel near lunchtime and after settling in we went over the road to a restaurant for lunch. Kaili is also a large city surrounded by farms and countryside. One thing I've noticed is the absence of birds and other wildlife - everything gets eaten. Both Kaili and guiyang were a constrast of wealth and poverty. There is western influence here especially in food and fashion but there is also a lot of traditional chinese culture.
We had meant to start teaching at the High School on Friday afternoon but the foreign affairs department heard of our arrival who contacted the city mayor who contacted the school principal to say that we were not allowed to do anyrthing at the school. Ben, Alfred and Alsie tried to get a meeting with the government officials to ask to be given permission to work in the school. We were given permission to visit the school and talk to the children that the Balwyn church sponsors but it looked like we would not be able to teach. After returning from the school on Friday afternoon we had dinner and met to talk and pray about the situation. We met again in the morning before breakfast to pray and we also heard that the principal had gained a hearing with the mayor amd government officials. At 10am we heard that we were allowed to enter the school and teach but we had to be careful not to talk about our faith.
So as it has turned out we have been teaching all day Saturday and today. It has been quite exhausting because we had only planned on teaching in the morning and having the afternoon for preparation. Annette and I are tired tonight. There are three teams of teachers and Annette and I are heading a team each. The kids are doing very well and are loving the adventure. They are very popular with the chinese children. We are building good friendships with the children at the school and it will be sad to leave on Tuesday.
Last night we went to a large restaurant which features traditional Miao food, music and dancing. The food was delicious - although there is quite a lot most of us don't dare to try. After eating we went outside and joined the tribal people in their traditional dancing. It was great fun. I seemed to be targeted throughout the night. When we were eating the waitresses came in and fed each of the men and then poured wine (or in our case - coke) down our mouths. All the men got the treatment once but I got it four times. When we danced outside we did a spiral and when we went past other people the Miao would bump you with their hip. I think everyone of them picked me out and bumped me when I went past. Then when the dance finished 6-8 women picked me up and hurled me into the air about four times. It was great fun and everyone was laughing - especially Annette and the kids.
Sorry it's been so long to get a post up - it's been hard to get an internet connection since we got to China.