Saturday, September 27, 2008

Shackled Continent







Somehow incomplete

If you, like me, have an Africa-obsession then this book is for you. It will make you wonder if there is any hope for a continent of people so good at tolerating poor (and sometimes appalling leadership), so divided, and so intent upon blaming the West (or, as Robert Guest puts it, "Whitey") for African problems. It will remind you of what Europe once was, and help you believe that Africa could someday improve. After finishing it you may, like me, want to retreat into an entirely different world. For me that is Anne of Green Gables (approximately the 11th reading), where the only murders are those Anne imagines.

Despite the excellent information and analysis Shackled Continent provides, it remains somehow incomplete. Why? Having tasted something of the reality of Africa, I feel like you can't transfer that through a book about wars and really bad roads and angry leaders and poor, sick people. My experience is very limited. South Africa has very good roads and no wars. Some people even argue that it is not "Africa" because of the many differences between it and other countries on the continent. Still, I didn't find beauty and joy in this book and I was looking for it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Why is it that these days I spend a lot more time lying on my bed, as though I didn't have anything better to do?

Why have my menu plans and shopping lists, kept up for a year, been shoved to the back of the cupboard?

Why don't I cook anything but frozen food and plain veggies any more?

Why did I pick up two menus from local take-aways this morning?

I know, this might be all too hard to guess . . .

So let me make it easy.

Why am I no longer planning to give the most adorable shooshoos, ideal for either a boy or a girl and purchased in South Africa, to either Mike and Christine or Peirce and Christina (sorry guys - promise to get something else).

If you're still having trouble, just ask yourself (?) . . . why have I received these gifts?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Evangelism as a homemaker

Thanks to Crystal, I came across this helpful article The Stay at Home Mom and Evangelism.
Those of us who are at home a lot may feel like we can't have regular contact with those who don't know Christ. In reality, though, there are many opportunities.

Sandra highlights a couple of ideas that I have experienced the value of:

Community clubs or organisations

Sandra is a member of a book club, which is excellent because the intention is to discuss ideas. However, most clubs offer some opportunities to share your life and values. Women love to talk, after all. If you are a scrapbooker or a quilter, and you regularly go along to a meeting where other enjoy the same thing, you will talk as you play and learn. I experienced this recently when I did a quilting class as I was able to share my faith a little. If it was a regular, ongoing, club there would be even more opportunties.


You may remember that a while ago I took cookies to a neighbour. We have now had contact with this neighbour on a couple of other occasions. She dropped over one evening when I was about to leave for church, and I was able to mention a little about our faith.

What about you? Have you had similar opportunities? Do you have other ideas?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The benefits of the church

As we've recently moved churches to one closer to home that we feel more aligned with the vision of, I've been thinking about the many blessings we experienced in our old church.

Encouragement in the word
Serving others
Getting to know people different from ourselves

There are so many benefits to being part of the church. When you are not part of the church, you do not have continual reminders of the right way to live. You less likely to have people around you who are committed to the ideal of caring about those who are suffering. You do not have the same regular opportunities to serve others in ways that may be uncomfortable.

The blessings I've listed above are common to most Bible-believing churches. I believe that one of the key blessings non-Christians miss out on in this life is being part of a church community. They are less likely, as a result, to have networks of people who care (even imperfectly) about them. When they are old, they will likely be lonelier and have less contact with a variety of age groups. One of the things I love at our new church is that they pray for church members during the service, including those who are unable to be at church due to age or ill health. When you are a part of the church, you are remembered.

I know the church is imperfect, often frustrating, and even hurtful at times. Yet it is also one of the great benefits God gives Christians. One of our key motivations for evangelism should be to bring people into the community of the church. We live in lonely, socially-dislocated communities, where people receive all kinds of ungodly advice on how to live. The benefits of being part of a loving, godly community would be enormous for those who are presently without positive social networks. What an incentive to fulfill the Great Commission, spread the blessings of church life to as many as possible.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Why Palin doesn't transfrom McCain

I know, I know. I'm meant to be minding my own business. I promise I've stopped worrying.

I just had to link to this article because Alan Keyes says it so well. Palin's powers as VP are such that she will not suddenly transform McCain into the evangelical's version of a knight in shining armour.

But won't Vice President Palin be able to prevent President McCain from making decisions that conflict with Christian conscience? I can think of no example of a morally principled, but unequally yoked, running mate who achieved this result once in office. The American republics are based upon Constitutional principles inconsistent with a divided executive. Therefore, lieutenant governors and vice presidents have no reliable say over the chief executive's decisions and actions. This would be especially true of someone like Gov. Palin, who will enter office with no strong national constituency of her own beyond the possible influence of those supposed moral leaders whose unprincipled support for McCain has already placed them at his mercy.

Loving the church you are leaving

This month Dave and I moved churches. Last Sunday we were fare welled at our former congregation, Crossroads, and said a few words. We were grateful for this opportunity to tell many people we know and love that we will no longer be attending this congregation. Instead, we will be regularly attending a morning service just five minutes from our home, and also hope to become involved in a small group there.

I have known for a while that we would almost certainly be leaving, but our decision came as a surprise to many who spoke to us after the service. In many ways this is a good thing. It means we had not been going around complaining to everyone! It is also probably a result of our efforts to remain involved and serving until the end of our time there. In fact, Dave preached in late July! We told the elders beforehand that we would be leaving, but they still wanted him to preach.

As we have gone through this process of moving, I have thought a lot about what it means to be loving in leaving a church. I regret the few times when I have shared the details behind our decision. Why? This could give others fuel for discontentment or gossip, and it adds nothing to either their lives or ours. I'm happy for us to state that we feel we'll be more passionate about the vision at our new church, but saying any more may be unhelpful.

Instead, it may be better to simply say what I did at Crossroads on Sunday: "I am thankful for the love and care many people in this church have shown to me over many years. I am also grateful for the teaching I have received. My theology has improved a great deal, and I'm sure this will bring lifelong benefits". This also is true, and it is a truth I'd rather share.

What about you? What are your experiences in moving churches? How do you think we can be loving in the process of leaving?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Friends in South Africa

We had some great times with friends in South Africa, but not many photos to show for it!

Clive gave us a wonderful welcome and was a very gracious host while we stayed at his home near Durban on and off for two weeks. He even gave us strawberries and cream on the night we arrived, and French toast the next morning! He's breaking the bachelor stereotype (maybe we'll attribute that to his girlfriend, Jo, who often dropped by). Also pictured is our friend Sue. We attended homegroup at Sue's place one night, and had a great time.

We stayed at Dave's friend Pete's place for one night. Pete is a sugar cane farmer and we went out with him to watch the burning of the cane. Quite a sight! The hospitality Pete and his wife Sandy showed us was amazing, as we stayed in the "rose suite" complete with notes and soap on the pillow!

Clive opened his home to lots of Dave's other friends while we were there. I appreciated the opportunity to get to know Rowena and Elise (pictured), as well as other friends. What a blessing it is to arrive in an far away place and see familiar and much loved faces. Thank you God for friends!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Caring for orphans

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. James 1:27.

When we were in South Africa, Dave and I were blessed to be able to visit iZulu Orphan Projects. We spent over an hour there, and learnt a lot. We have become increasingly convicted that God wants us to care for orphans, especially since there are so many in Dave's country of origin.

Here are some of the reasons why we were impressed this project, and feel confident that it is worth supporting . . .
  • Chadd and Kate Bain live amongst the people they are working with. Chadd lived there as a child as well, and speaks fluent Zulu. They have given up their whole lives to serve needy local people. Chadd's testimony of the way God turned him from trying to get away from South Africa to England and convicted him of his responsibilities to the poor is wonderful!
  • The initiatives they have come up with include plans to help the people become more self-sufficient, rather than dependent on them.
  • The project is very well organised, with a number and information written down for each of the 550 orphans who live within a few kilometres of them.
  • Most importantly, this is not just a charity. Kate and Chadd are actively spreading the gospel. They are members of the Gideons and distribute Bibles in Zulu. They also encourage everyone to come to a church service on their property once a month.
My only concern with iZulu Orphan Projects is that Chadd and Kate Bain may be taking on too much! They have the support of a local church, but may need more practical assistance. This is a 24/7 work, with people contacting them at all hours. We're praying they'll get enough rest and support!

I have spent most of my life so far ignoring my responsibility to care for orphans. If you are like me, why not consider supporting this project? I was shocked to hear just how many orphans there are, and the needs they have. In some cases, one young woman is caring for all her dead siblings children. In other cases, a HIV positive grandma may be caring for many children - some of whom may also be sick with HIV.

While I believe that we can question how much attention Christians should pay to relative poverty, which is calculated on the basis of how people compare to others rather than whether or not their basic needs are met, there are some things the Bible makes clear. If we want to live out pure religion, we must care about orphans and widows.

The link to iZulu Orphan Projects is not working for some reason! You can type in the address and it will work:

Here are a couple more links, which may work!

A charity site gives an overview and contact details for iZulu Orphan Projects.
You can also read the iZulu Orphan Projects blog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Bible and relative poverty

Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor
Will also cry himself and not be heard.
Proverbs 21:13

God expects us to heed poverty. The big question is, does that include relative poverty. Should Australians be paying just as much attention, and directing just as much concern, toward the inequities at home as they do to the absolute poverty (lack of basic needs) abroad? Should they care just as much about large numbers of Australians who live in "relative poverty" as they do about the needs of the fewer who are homeless on our streets?

I believe the Bible gives some answers . . .

For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 1 Timothy 6: 7 - 8.

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2: 15 - 17.

Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need. Ephesians 4:28.

It seems that even from these few passages we can come to a few conclusions:

1. God cares about basic human needs.

2. God commands that Christians fulfill these needs through work and through giving.

3. Beyond basic human needs, we are to be content.

Of course, which needs are should be defined as basic could be an item of contention. It is easy to argue that they go beyond food and clothing. Anyone who has run inside from a gale here in Tasmania can vouch that housing should also make the list! I also think that human beings have social and psychological needs that the Bible also commands us to care about, which are separate from material poverty.

Based on what I understand of Biblical teaching, I think it could even be dangerous and confusing to label inequity poverty. Christians are free to seek to relieve inequity - but I don't think they are mandated to do so, or that this is what the Bible speaks of when it issues warnings against ignoring poverty.

What do you think?

The poor in Australia

Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor
Will also cry himself and not be heard.
Proverbs 21:13

This chilling warning was one of many verses I wrote out to take with me to South Africa. I wanted to have a collection of truths from God's word handy that would apply to the situations we would be in during our time there. This verse had spoken to me some weeks before as I was thinking about our choice not to live in South Africa right now: in making this choice, we must not ignore the poor there.

As I've mentioned this to some people, they've asked the obvious question "aren't there poor people in Australia?". My short answer would be "nothing like in South Africa", the longer one that there were segments of poverty. I am not unaware of what some indigenous communities in Australia look like, and I am not unaware that some people do live on the streets.

Since returning to Australia, I've been reminded that many of my fellow citizens are deeply concerned about poverty here. This has caused me to ask myself a few of questions. Am I missing something? Am I ignoring real and present poverty? Am I shutting my ears to the cry of the poor?

As I've thought this through, I've realised that many Australians are deeply concerned about relative poverty. This is the phenomenon of some people living on low incomes, and not having the same advantages as others. Many Australians are passionate about the principle of equality.

The Parliamentary Library describes the difference between absolute and relative poverty in this way:
"It should be noted that estimates of poverty are generally estimates of relative poverty. They estimate how many families have low incomes relative to other families. The alternative, absolute poverty, would be measured by estimating the numbers of families who cannot provide the basic necessities such as housing, food or clothing."
What is your opinion of relative poverty? Do you believe it is something that should concern us as Christians?

God and people

It dawned on me last week that I do have a blogging plan :). Holidays have a way of pushing these things out of my brain. So this week I'll attempt to return to the plan. It is week three of the month, so this week I'll be focusing on loving people. I've decided to split loving God and loving people into two separate categories, as the "Great Commandment" topic category is getting very fat!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Our Anniversary

Here are a few pics of our wonderful first anniversary night away. It was very romantic! We went to Giant's Castle in the Drakensberg (Dragons Mountain). My Afrikaans improved a little while we were away, as we talked about these kinds of place names!

We walked up one of the peaks for a tour of some San rock art. Facinating!

Dave is doing one of his favourite things: drinking water fresh from a stream!

Time with Dave's parents

One of the main reasons we went to South Africa was to visit with Dave's parents.

We took the top layer of our wedding cake over (which had been frozen all year). Dave's parents were not at our wedding so it was a blessing to be able to share some cake with them!

Cutting the cake for the second time! This was a couple of days before our first anniversary.

Here we are out to dinner together.

We enjoyed a number of meals with Will and Di during our time in South Africa. On this occasion I ordered pizza with banana on it!

Thanks for welcoming us, Dad and Mum!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Minding my own business

When I first read about Mrs Palin, the Republican Vice Presidential pick, I said "what does conservative mean anymore?". If conservative can mean a woman with a four month old running for a full time plus job then it can mean anything.

Less than a week later, I'm more amazed than ever. You see, a whole lot of pastor/theologian types whom I thought held entirely different ideas about family arrangements are trying as hard as they can to step around (or even justify) Palin's choices in order to fully endorse her.

Frankly, one either believes that God has called Christian women to fulfill their home and family responsibilities before pursuing other things or one doesn't. It is not like VP is a part time job that one can do after all else has been done. It is, rather, a job that would dominate any person's life.

I can understand, say, Right to Life wholeheartedly endorsing Palin. She is, after all, excellent according to their criterion and sphere of responsibility. However, a minister of the gospel is responsible to uphold the word of God consistently and apply it without prejudice to current events. What has been stated pre-Palin should still apply, surely?

As I've been contemplating these things, I've realised that I'd be better off minding my own business. It may be interesting to watch middle aged pastors attempt delicate double backflips over principles they've previously stood for, but it is hardly edifiying.

I'm not an American citizen, I'm not voting in these elections, and I'm not reliant on "conservative" pastors to form my views on women's roles. There are, after all, numerous Biblical passages I can turn to for unchanging principles that don't do backflips. So I'm going to try to stop following this controversy, and turn my mind to other things.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Addo Elephant Park

After our time in Stellenbosch, Dave and I drove to Knysna where we stayed the night and went to church. We are so glad we took the time to attend church. One of our passions for this trip was to fellowship with other Christians. Dave was able to assist some refugees whom he was sitting next to and the pastor even had a Tasmanian friend!

That day we drove to Addo and set up home for the night in this cute rondawel.

Dave treated me to my first ever SA style braii (BBQ). You'll note that the equipment used is quite different to that in Australia. It was delicious!

The next day we saw an amazing number of elephants! I was most delighted with several sightings of babies, some of whom suckled from their mummies.

At one point a lone male elephant advanced deliberately toward our car in what appeared to be a semi-threatening manner. We decided that reverse was the best option.

Cape Town

It was a privilege to visit Cape Town. Our time in the Cape provinces was really an indulgence - a bit like a "second honeymoon" as we did not have any family or necessary business there. We did have a few friends to catch up with, but apart from that it was just us!

We arrived from Singapore early in the morning, and climbed Table Mountain that day. We also visited this lovely beach, near to where Dave's parents and grandparents once lived. Dave pointed out landmarks from Table Mountain and as we drove.

We stayed in Stellenbosch and made a day trip into Cape Town. We visited the castle in Cape Town. This was fun! Here is Dave on the roof.

Kirstenbosch gardens was also a hit with us. Beautiful! It is the only Botanical Gardens that is a world heritage site.

The Rhodes Memorial was nearby, but it is a little neglected looking. Maybe fewer people feel proud of Rhodes these days?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Broadband has arrived!

Would you believe, Dave and I have been able to upgrade to broadband Internet (yes, we have been using dial up all these years!). We are grateful that we have Internet access at all, and now we are doubly grateful that we have a faster connection.

Monday, September 8, 2008


When Dave and I arrived in South Africa, we stayed our first three nights in Stellenbosch. This picturesque town is the place where Dave received a scholarship to come and study his undergraduate degree in Forestry. Dave's time there had a big impact on his life. He has often spoken of various incidents, and now I could see the places where they happened!

This is the seminary where the theology of apartheid was engineered.

There were many lovely old buildings to look at. We stayed in one of them - the oldest hotel in South Africa!

Dave took me to see the places where he studied and lived, as well as this cafeteria. Some girls once stole his slippers from his room and hung them from the balcony at lunch time!

There are many beautiful mountains around Stellenbosch. The town is about 70km from Cape Town.

There is so much about our time in Stellenbosch that pictures don't show . . .

Martin, who approached us on the street and asked if he could wash our car windows. He had HIV, and needed to get to a doctor's appointment.

The mould in our pot at one self-catering hotel, and the lack of any cutting implements!

Noel, a Zimbabwean refugee selling beautiful beaded baskets. He wanted to go back home, and he wanted peace.

The little craft shop up an alley.

The stream that runs through the village.

The atmosphere at night in restaurants beside open fires.

The delightful bookshop where I could have spent hours!

The ladies who span silk outside the silk shop, talking all the while . . . and so much more.