Culture shock… and we haven’t even left the country!

It was an odd return to life in Townsville. We arrived late morning, March 3, and ended up just sitting on the couch for several hours, adjusting to not being on the road in ‘mission mode’. That afternoon, we participated in a memorial service for one of the dear older women at church, with Elspeth delivering the eulogy.

Our pastor spoke from Psalm 23, on the comfort that comes from knowing the Good Shepherd in the face of troubling times, and even in death. It was good to dwell on the relationship God has with His people, His ability to provide for every need and in every situation, and His desire to sustain us to the end.

It seemed easier to keep our focus on God while travelling and either speaking about PNG, or training to get there. Back home, we have so many other things vying for attention – work, bills, housework, home maintenance, and organising a wedding – that it is a trap to see these things happening outside of God’s purposes for us.

While in ToowImageoomba, we picked up a study on Matthew by Phil Moore, planning to use it for regular reading together. On returning to Willows church, we found the current preaching series working through Matthew chapters 3 to 7. God is less than subtle at times!

From Phil Moore’s introduction;

“(Matthew) uses the Greek word basileia, or kingdom, fifty-six times in his twenty-eight chapters, stressing the revolutionary call of Jesus the King and of his Kingdom. He divides (the book) into Jesus’ words and Jesus’ deeds, so that we will not mistake Jesus for a mere lecturer in religious philosophy, but grasp that he is the-King-on-a-Mission and that he wants to enlist us as his willing followers.”

Christians aren’t just biding their time till heaven, but are part of Jesus’ Kingdom now. During our time of ‘waiting’ for PNG, perhaps we need to see all that our lives entail at the moment as part of God preparing us for Kingdom service. Certainly in our work, our finances, and the wedding preparations, there is the clear choice to do things in a way which honours Him.

Pray that we make the best choices!

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The excited couple

Prayer points

Praise God that His word is sufficient to teach, rebuke, correct and train us for His work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

Uphold Shawn and Elisabeth as the wedding day approaches (April 12). Pray that the event itself and their life together, will honour God.

Thank God for our church family (Willows Presbyterian), for their continued encouragement and support of us, and that the preaching continues to hold us accountable!

 

Language in the spotlight …

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2014 EQUIP Summer School

We find ourselves immersed in language continuously, and have discovered that Summer School tends to get into your brain, changing your thinking on many issues.

But it’s not all serious…

It had been a rough day, and as I arrived at the party I was chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate. I furled my wieldy umbrella, then saw her, a descript individual, in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way.    (adapted from Jack Winter, The New Yorker, July 25, 1994)

Just one of the examples of how we all understand and follow language rules daily, yet the majority of us haven’t studied intently. Language is learned rather than studied.

For our Language Learning subject, we are experiencing a crash course in Indonesian (Jakarta) over fourteen one-hour sessions with a local native speaker. Pak Agus is a gracious Christian man, and very patient with us as we butcher his language repeatedly!

Our core language development will come later in PNG as we work, worship and relate to the community in the Tok Pisin language. The main point of our time in EQUIP is to develop skills which will prepare us to learn effectively – to reprogram our brains to become language learners.

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Reservoir Presbyterian

As we study Language Awareness (grammar), we have worked through homework examples from Vietnamese, Bisa (Ghana), Arabic (Iraq), Farsi (Iran), Swahili (Kenya), Icelandic, and many others. (Don’t expect us to understand anything more complex than “The boy climbed a tree”).  Each language has its own rules and distinctive style – it is no surprise that scripture is often ‘lost in translation’. Before Des Oatridge translated the gospel into Binumarian, he asked a village leader what he knew about the crucifixion.

‘Oh, when Jesus came to earth he handed out money, watches, clothing, cars, aircraft, knowledge – all the riches you white men have. Then the white men crucified him on a cross to prevent him giving the same things to the black man. White men don’t want black men to have these things.’

Hopefully, what we truly want to give to a needy world is that which they need most…. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)

Prayer points

. Pray that we may fully trust all things to our great God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”. (Ephesians 3:20)  We still have a way to travel before we get to PNG.

. Give thanks for general safety during a period of high bushfire risk. We evacuated at one point, and the fire fighters (CFA) based their operations at the end of our street!

. Thank God for providing a wonderful church to attend – Reservoir Presbyterian. (Photo above)

.  Pray for the students to be clear on God’s promises, as we confront many issues related to cultural exposure and other religious worldviews.

Getting EQUIPped…

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We found the two to three weeks holiday to be a much needed break, even though we managed to add a few thousand kilometres onto the ute. 

We farewelled Elspeth’s family in Toowoomba, and on the Sunday, worshipped with Keith’s parents in Maclean, and shared our PNG plans. We had some great conversations afterward and were assured of everyone’s prayers. Christmas with the Campbell’s provided the anticipated food, stories and laughter, with everyone together for lunch. A dash to Brisbane meant Hannah could join us, and then we delivered her back in time for work on Boxing Day. The trip south provided the opportunity to visit family and friends on the way, before basing ourselves outside of Wangaratta for a week. In a comparably small region, there was such a diversity of scenery – from dry bush, through lush forest, to chilly alpine country. God is an awesome Creator.

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But now we are here, at Kangaroo Ground! Our group of fourteen students are diving into Language Learning, Language Awareness, Phonetics, and Anthropology. The learning curve is fairly steep at times, but there is a great amount of support and encouragement from everyone on site. It is a change to be learning from lecturers and texts with a clear mission focus. One reading included a moving passage from Lynette Oates’ Hidden People, an account of Des Oatridge’s translation work among the Binumarian tribe in PNG. After helping in checking John 6:58, a national translator working with Des confronts him;

“Why didn’t you tell my father? You have known all this time that all anyone has to do to have eternal life is to have faith in Jesus. And you let my father die without telling him. Why?”

“But Su’uwa, in those days I didn’t know how to say it to your father. I couldn’t find the words. Only now have you given me words to say it to you.”

We must do all we can to help find the words.

Prayer points

Ask God to continue “to send out workers into His harvest field.”  (Matthew 9:38)

Alan and Faye Canavan (Wycliffe missionaries) begin their journey home to Townsville this week, after a year on furlough. Pray that they will be able to rest and relax along the way, and for safe travel.

Praise God for the time with Keith’s family, particularly that Hannah was able to enjoy it with us.

Pray for all of the Summer School students, that we would develop skills to be useful in service to God. Some are also still determining what form that service may take in the near future.

 

The ‘crawl’ stage 6 … Bell, Kingaroy & Toowoomba

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With Christmas around the corner, our church crawl ended with a rush – four churches in three days!

It was great to reconnect with Bill and Jenny Lutton [Bill was the first minister called to our home church in Townsville back in 1996] at Kingaroy. Bill served as APWM Director for a number of years, and was able to share some valuable insights on mission. We travelled to Bell Presbyterian with Bill for a Friday evening meeting following a congregational dinner. We met parents of a Wycliffe translator serving in PNG, and had many encouraging conversations.

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Saturday saw a breakfast gathering in Kingaroy, and again, we met a couple planning to serve in China. After the event, we joined the regular ESL (English as a Second Language) class led by the Lutton’s. It was interesting to hear the students share their experiences of Christmas in their home countries.

Sunday in Toowoomba involved worship services with St David’s in the morning followed by lunch and St John’s at night. We were made to feel very welcome, and it was an enjoyable end to over five weeks on the road. For those into stats, we travelled 4,009 kilometres, visited thirteen 2013_12c_photo (6)congregations, and met folk at thirty-two functions, including worship services, home studies, luncheons, aged care homes, morning teas and a mothers’ group. Add to this the numerous unofficial meetings over meals or a coffee, and the times when people opened their homes to us.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as they had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.  Acts 2:44-47

Thanks to all our loyal blog followers for their prayers. Our next posting will be from Kangaroo Ground in mid-January, a week into Equip Summer School. Till then, please keep praying…

Prayer points

Pray that the churches we’ve visited [Mackay, Rockhampton, Yeppoon, Biloela, Roma, Miles, Chinchilla, Bell, Kingaroy & Toowoomba] would continue in their zeal for mission to their communities and beyond.

Praise God for the time staying with Elspeth’s parents in Toowoomba.

Pray for a restful break as we prepare for Summer School commencing January 7.

The ‘crawl’ stage 5 … Miles & Chinchilla

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For this stage we made our base camp in Chinchilla, hosted by David and Di Knott. However, our first official duties were at Miles Presbyterian, with an interview during the service leading to some great conversations over morning tea. Once again, we keep meeting folk with a real heart for this ministry. There is a long history of sending and supporting missions from the Darling Downs churches.

The drive from Miles to Chinchilla is nothing like I remember from years past. Industry has come to the region in the form of gas suppliers and power stations, with trucks dominating the highway traffic. The towns are changing too, and spending time with the locals confirms that the impact is seen in many ways. There are new estates, and ‘work camps’ outside town; FIFO (fly in fly out) workers fill the pubs every night; and Chinchilla now has a McDonalds!

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The Sunday evening service in Chinchilla was given to the Campbells, for a message from 1 Kings 17 and a presentation which included some interactive cultural challenges. We enjoyed the format, and it provided a foundation for building relationships further over lunches and coffees in the following days.

Cactoblastis Hall
Cactoblastis Hall

Overall, the week was a slower pace for us, but spiritually refreshing. We found some real gems in God’s kingdom! [and we got to see the only Australian memorial building named in honour of an insect!]  God is good at providing what we need at just the right time.

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.   2 Corinthians 9:8

An ex-tractor fan?
An ex-tractor fan?

Prayer points

– Pray for the believers doing their utmost to serve in the region, that they would find strength and encouragement daily.

– Pray that churches may be able to respond to the change in the community, both in caring for existing members and reaching out to the newcomers. Miles PC has been able to establish a bible study in the nearby ‘work camp’.

– Remember our older saints, as illness and frailty take their toll. May they know grace and hope in their later years.

Next week … Bell, Kingaroy and Toowoomba  

The ‘crawl’ stage 4 … Roma

ImageAfter settling in with Bruce and Alison Clarke Saturday evening, we worshiped with Roma Presbyterian on Sunday morning. Keith spoke from Philippians 2, looking at spiritual service, and we were able to give a detailed presentation following morning tea. The conversations continued afterwards, with a number of requests for ongoing prayer contact.Much of the next four days involved putting the theory of service into practice! In response to our offer to be put to use, Alison arranged for us to visit two dear women in need of some help with a few odd jobs. The ability to serve, and to build relationships in the process, was a great blessing to us. The Clarkes also had to move house due to the sale of their rented property, and the Lord’s provision in us being there to help at the right time was clear to all concerned.

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We had several opportunities to be involved in events within the church community, and the town in general. A prayer morning with a few pastors, a chaplaincy breakfast club, and singing with a group at the Westhaven aged home, all added to the connection with the Roma churches. During the Thursday night Christmas street party and a choral performance on Friday hosted by the Uniting Church, the way in which many folk greeted us as friends confirmed that the approach to getting involved in the life of the community was the best way for us to convey the message of partnership in ministry.

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Many thanks go to the Church of Christ community for the gracious provision of a campsite behind their church building. We praise God for the way in which he enabled us to serve, and moved others to serve us in such a practical way.

Therefore, my dear friends, … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.   Philippians 2:12-13

Prayer points

Pray for unity amongst the Roma churches, and for the effectiveness of joint outreach events in presenting Christ to the community.

Pray for much needed rain in the surrounding region. [The choir performances included “I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas”] The storms we experienced in Biloela largely passed them by!

Uphold the Clarkes as they enjoy a much needed break with family, then return to set up home again in January.                                                                Next week… Chinchilla & Miles.