Monday, 15 September 2014

2015: back to the future

2015 was the ‘future’ to which Marty McFly went in the movie series, ‘Back to the Future’.

There were hover-boards, self-drying and self-adjusting jackets and flying cars with fly-ways lit by hovering lights. And of course, there were video-phones. In fact, this seems to be the only 'prediction' to have actually come to pass.

What do you think have been the biggest changes in society and culture since 1985?

I’m interested because in many ways, as we return to Australia next year, we will be going ‘back to the future’. It’s only been ten years, not thirty, but in many ways life in Australia has changed, and those changes have passed us by.

And so, what do you think have been big changes in Australian society and culture (for better or for worse) in the last ten years, since 2005?

I would be really interested to hear your ideas!

Sunday, 14 September 2014


My mother taught me to knit.  My grandmother encouraged me: pressing me to try more challenging projects; passing on tips and skills; purchasing wool, huge skeins of beautiful colours I have never seen the like of since.

I left it all behind when we came to Vanuatu.  Who would possibly want to torture themselves by sitting and knitting in this heat?

But after ten years I eventually noticed that beanies are very popular in our cooler month.  Then, remembering that one of my daughters had been given a pattern for a beanie, and having been asked for a donation for this year's Fund Raiser, I pulled out the needles, purchased the wool, and began knitting again.

I love it.  I love the process of creating something from nothing (in a manner of speaking).  I love being able to sit still and talk and not feel like I have to get up and do something.  I am doing something.  I love busy, working  fingers.

And, I feel like I'm doing something about getting ready for living in a cooler climate again.

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of the beanies I made for the Fund Raiser, but here's something else I made.

The pattern on this hat and scarf is called "shark-tooth" although it, together with the gentle wave on the sides of the scarf, reminded me more of waves in the sea.  The yarn was 100% Australian Merino wool and was beautifully soft and even smelt of lanolin still.  So, for me this was a lovely blend of cultures.  

I obtained the pattern for the scarf here and modified the beanie pattern from here.  I was really pleased with the way they looked.  The only downside of the scarf pattern is that it  has a "wrong side", whereas I think scarves are better when both sides are the same and you don't need to worry about how you wear them.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

we'll be leaving Talua at the end of this year

a big thank-you from the bottom of my heart... 

Dear friends in the blogosphere,

It is with a strange mix of emotions that we write this letter to let you know we will be leaving Talua at the end of this year. We have great sorrow at leaving the people and place we have come to love deeply, but also overflowing joy at God’s goodness and faithfulness and at the thought of returning to our friends and family in Australia.

I especially want to thank you for your help and support while we've been here. Your messages and your comments, either online or via email have been a great source of encouragement and friendship to me. You have helped lift my spirits when times have been hard and responded to requests for help, however small, generously and immediately.

Many of you have also helped us by faithfully praying for us. In his retirement years J. Graham Miller, an important missionary to Vanuatu, said that when we are in life everlasting we may then look back and see that of all the ministry we have done, our ministry of prayer was, “incomparably the richest, the least tainted with self, the most productive, the most enduring.” We are still learning this, but each day we see more and more clearly that any fruit in our work here is the result of our brothers and sisters upholding us in prayer.

We will return to Australia at the end of this year and spend six months on deputation, home leave and long-service leave. Then we will begin whatever new adventure God has in store for us! We are open to working overseas again in the future. But more immediately we are considering whether to settle close to our families after being away for so long.

With love,
Rachael (and Glen, and the children)

(modified from a letter sent out to supporters)

Monday, 8 September 2014

Father's Day

What did you do for Father's Day yesterday?

Did you think about what you gave your Father?  What your child made for his father for breakfast this morning?  Did you think about the phone calls your children haven't made yet?

You.  Your.  His.  My.  Mine.

Do you hear the singular pronouns?  Did you use them?

Possibly the biggest difference I have found in living in Vanuatu is the community focus of celebrations.  Father's Day may or may not have been celebrated in each house.  I don't really know.  It wasn't much celebrated in ours, that's for certain.

But the community celebration has been planned for months.  It was both meaningful and beautiful.

When we first came to Vanuatu, I felt this sort of community thing was a bit, well, superficial and that if I didn't actually say it, it wasn't true for me; that words and actions done on my behalf were not really mine.  But I have changed, and now I think I understand more that even if things are said done as a community, they are still meaningful for the individual.

Together we celebrated our fathers.  We prayed for our fathers and we encouraged them to keep going in their responsibilities under God to care for, teach and love their families.  We even apologised for the times we make that difficult!

Community celebrations are more likely to be inclusive, and yesterday, that was a great strength.  Fathers who are away from their families were involved (even including three visitors), as well as those who don't have their own children but share the responsibility of caring for the children around them.  None of these men, though their day may have been tinged with sadness, were left staring at empty chairs.

Staff and student fathers at Talua on Father's Day 2014.

All the shirts were made especially for the occasion.   Salu-salus were hung.  Poems were recited.  Songs were sung.  Speeches were made.  Dances were danced.  Prayers were prayed.  And much food was eaten.  Much to my satisfaction, there was no cake to be cut, but instead two enormous lap-laps following the local tradition and significance of shared fellowship.

Was it just a reason to get together for a good meal?  Well, yes, of course it was a reason to get together and celebrate.  But it wasn't just that.  Not at all. 

And I wish my Dad had been there. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The President's Hat

Antione Laurain's The President's Hat is for France what Mr Rosenblum's List is for England: a different place, a different time; the same gentle, warm reflections on life.

Monsieur Mercier, quite remarkably, finds himself in possession of the President's hat.  Really and truly.  And really and truly, his life is quite remarkably changed.  But then the hat passes to someone else whose life also changes remarkably.  And so on, until eventually... (but let's not spoil the ending).

An entertaining journey through 1980's France.

This book was another delightful surprise in our post-box.  Again, 've had no success finding out who sent it... if it was you... thank-you.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

confetti or spaghetti?

We are having fun with our poetry unit.  This week we looked at limericks (I admit, not the most sublime of all poetry, but loads of fun nonetheless).

Here's one we all contributed to; but we can't decide on the ending.

There's the happy ending:
There once was a young girl named Betty
Who befriended a hairy old yeti.
They married that night,
What a beautiful sight!
The snow - it danced like confetti.

Or not:
There once was a young girl named Betty
Who befriended a hairy old yeti.
They married that night,
Then had a big fight,
On his head she dumped her spaghetti.

What do you think: confetti or spaghetti?

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

your sins are forgiven

"Your sins are forgiven."

Do these words bring you relief, joy and comfort?

Or do you shrug your shoulders, yawn, and reach for the remote?

I was listening recently to a sermon on Mark 2:1-12 where Jesus heals the paralytic. But before he heals him, Jesus says to the man,
'Son, your sins are forgiven.' (Mark 2:5)
At this point in the sermon, the preacher described the man's thoughts; (in an anguished cry)
'but what about my LEGS, Lord?'.
And then, by extension; but what about my MS, Lord? daughter's tumor? husband's schizophrenia? What will you do about that, Lord? These are truly cries from our hearts and it is right and good to cry out to Jesus like this.

But I want to humbly suggest that it probably wasn't how that man responded to those words.

Do you remember what Jesus disciples asked when they saw a blind man,
'Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' (John 9:2)
Or the assumption that the Galileans had suffered at Pilate's hands because they were worse sinners than others? (Luke 13:1-2)

In both instances, Jesus corrects this way of thinking.  There are many reasons (or none we can fathom) that people suffer, sicken and die.  And yet all of us are sinners.  Just as we should not understand suffering as resulting from sin, we should not equate success (or blessing) to righteousness.  However, it probably was the way most people thought at that time and in that place.

Bad things happened to you because you did something wrong or because you were a bad person.  It was God's judgement.  It demonstrated to all what God thought of you.  This was the air the paralysed man breathed. There was no room for doubt; the evidence was there. His sin must be great because his punishment was great.  So was his shame.

Nothing can be done for this man.  His sin is great. This punishment is just.  There is no hope.  Not in this world.  Not in the next.

And he lay before Jesus.  Imagine his anxiety.  Would Jesus, also, condemn him?

Jesus says,
'Son, your sins are forgiven.'
Can you see him?  Do you see the furrows on his brow scatter and dance at the corners of his eyes? Do you see the smile wash over him like the evening tide?  Do you feel his relief, his joy, his hope?  Even before he has been healed.

Do you understand, now, why Jesus said those words?

And do you understand, now, why it is that Jesus heals him;
'so that you may know that the Son on Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins?' (Mark 2:10)
I had always thought that the Jesus did what could be seen (the healing) to prove his authority to do that which could not be seen (the forgiving).  This works, but it is not all.  There is a closer connection.

In order to demonstrate that he has authority to forgive sin, Jesus deals with the consequences of sin.  Sin and its consequences have been completely and utterly removed from the man's life; as far as east is from the west.

Can Jesus forgive sin?

Yes he can!

in the country

The parcel has arrived in Vanuatu.  After leaving Melbourne, it went via Sydney to Port Vila.  Hooray!

We find the regular postal service more reliable that couriers.  In Vanuatu, couriers don't deliver to the door.  The parcels are signed off upon arriving at the courier's office and then they contact you to let you know there is a parcel for you.  This may take some time, and often we hear via word of mouth that there is a parcel somewhere for someone (at least the internet makes it easier to track them).  Some companies only have offices in the capital and they send it via regular services to the destination island anyway.

Unfortunately, most businesses won't take our word for it and continue to send things via courier.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

the journey continues...

The parcel has now been in Melbourne for a few days where the Lithium ion batteries contained within are being assessed for suitability to fly.

Too bad if they fail.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

the joy of tracking parcels

Over the years, some of our parcels have come to us via exotic destinations such as Vietnam and Venezuela.  But this last one, which has been sent by courier, has to be the most well-travelled parcel ever.
It was sent from Nevada, USA on Monday 9 June and 
left California, USA the next day. 
Then it went to Leipzig, Germany and

on to London, UK on June 11. 
Then it was sent to Nairobi, Kenya arriving the following day. 
Then it was sent to Sydney, Australia,
(arriving at last in the right area of the world)
only to be sent again to London, UK, where it arrived Friday 13 June.

Stay tuned to find out where it will get sent next!