Sunday, 25 November 2007

art lessons again

It's been a while since I posted anything about the art lessons we
began back in August. As I said before, the lessons in the book we
were using took quite a big leap conceptually and we decided not to go
on for a while (as recommended in the book). So we have been going
along thinking of our own projects week by week trying to put into
practise what we have learnt.

One of the things Sophie has been learning is that there is no 'white
space' for air. In her first drawing of a bird, she left a great swath
of white space on the page for air, the great expanse between the sky
and the ground. Since then, I have not been able to convince her that
while there is air between the ground and the sky, we don't see it and
it definitely isn't white. Until Friday. Then she drew this drawing
during 'rest time' (when I sleep and they play quietly). It was
inspired by one of Matthew's toys, a small hand-sewn fabric teddy-
bear with buttons for eyes.

Bethany has been learning that she can, in fact, draw and this has given her lot of joy. Here is a recent drawing of hers. It is of mothers with their babies. It has a certain Charlie Brown-like quality, don't you think?

Friday, 23 November 2007

Baking

Everyone loves cakes. I am constantly asked to make cakes for this,
that and the other special occasion. So much so, that Sophie, in all
of her five years is becoming a great little assistant baker. It is
also a 'spectator sport' being counted as one of the great mysteries of
the western world.

family photo

Here is a recent family photo, wearing our new island clothes!

Surprise!

I was surprised today to find an article I had written in a missionary
publication. I was surprised because I had entirely forgotten writing
it (well, I was eight months pregnant at the time). So I thought, if
it was helpful enough to be 'published' I might as well share it with
all of you. It went like this...


Community and Materialism.

Our work is a Partnership between the Presbyterian
Church in Australia [PCA] and in Vanuatu [PCV]. In our
time so far we have been able to see how both partners
are able to contribute to this partnership. The PCA has
sent us to teach and equip young men and women to
serve the Lord faithfully in their churches, as pastors or lay
workers. At the same time we have learned much from
our friends in the PCV. These things have challenged us
greatly about how we live while in Vanuatu and how we
might live differently upon our return to Australia. We
haven't yet arrived at answers, but would like to share two
of these lessons with you.

1. Community.
We have found life in Vanuatu to be much more communal
than it is in Australia. People do not do things alone.
You live together, work together, play together, rest together.
This has helped us to consider what the gospel
teaches us about community. Christ has not just reconciled
us to God, but to each other (Eph 2: 14-22). We
have been made into one body (1 Cor 12:12-13) and we
are to love one another (1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12).
Christians in Vanuatu find this aspect of their Christian
lives easy because life is like that, yet we find it so difficult
because it runs against our prevailing culture, which is
focused on the individual.

Here are some of the questions we have been thinking
about...
• How can we love our brothers and sisters in Christ
when we don't see them?
• How can we spend more time with people? What
stops us? How could this change? How could our
home be more hospitable?
• How could we help someone in our church today?
• Is there something we do alone that we could do
with others?
• What is so 'sacred' about the family unit? Is this
Christian? Do we protect this to the detriment of
our Christian family?
• Do I know the names of the elderly or lonely people
in my church?
• Does 'the diary' enslave or serve us?

2. Materialism.
Living in Vanuatu has challenged two aspects of our materialistic
thinking. Firstly, we have found the abundance
of our wealth and the sheer volume of our possessions to
be obvious, embarrassing and ugly. This has forced us to
think what God's word teaches us about riches. Jesus
encourages us not to worry about what we need (Matt 6:25-34),
and to store up treasure in heaven (Matt 6:19-21).
People in Vanuatu have so little, and yet we cannot argue
that we in Australia are better off than they.
Secondly we have been challenged about our attitude
to the spiritual world. Coming from a culture dominated
by fear of evil spirits, Christians in Vanuatu have a
real and living awareness of the spiritual world. Culturally,
we tend to be freed from this fear, but for the wrong reasons.
Instead we struggle to believe in them at all.

Here are some more of the questions that we have
been thinking about...
• Is our hope, security and trust in God, or in our
house, job or income? How does this look different
in practice?
• Are we generous with what we have left over, or
are we generous so that we (and our children) must
do without?
• Do we really believe in a serious spiritual aspect to
our world?
• Are we not afraid of evil spirits because we know
that we have the victory in Christ or because they
just have no part of our world?
• Do our children have too much? Are we teaching
them to be greedy and selfish?

These two lessons about Community and Materialism
have really shown us how much the way we think has
been shaped by our culture rather than by God's Word.

[the article finished there but I would now like to add...]

We are working hard to let the word of God transform
not only our hearts but our minds, so that we will know
God's good, pleasing and perfect will.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

three smiley faces

The other day we made some lolly-pop biscuits (thanks for the idea, Nicole!). They were a hit and a treat (don't be fooled by the unhappy face).




Saturday, 3 November 2007

Sunday School Picnic

Here is a "photo essay" of our Sunday School Picnic held down at the River nearby today.


Thursday, 1 November 2007

Did we do right?

We had a major culture clash last Saturday (27th October).

It was the day of the Kindy Sale. We were all to donate items for a
sale to raise funds for the Kindergarten at Talua. There would be
someone with a wheelbarrow come around at around 7:30 in the
morning to collect the items. The girls and I worked out what we
would give to the sale and put them all on the lounge chair and
thought no more of it.

At about 9:00, after having wondered one, what all the singing was
about and two, why they hadn't come to collect the items yet, and three
what on earth that person was doing with the loudspeaker, I noticed a
parade of people coming toward the house. There were guitars playing,
people singing, and lots of people in joyful procession. And people
pushing wheelbarrows. Someone on a loudspeaker announced which
house they would next pass by to collect items for the Kindy Sale.

Shock! Horror! I'm not giving all our things in front of all those
people, I thought. What if it wasn't enough? What if they thought I
should give more? After all, we have more to give? Perhaps I should
find some more things?

The procession eventually arrived at the house next door. There was
lots more singing. There were all the Kindy children (minus our girls)
holding signs asking for us to give generously... for the education of
children in south santo... education is our future. Then the donations
were put into the wheelbarrow. There was a speech of thanks and
flowers were presented to the householder.

We stayed inside. We didn't go out to join the happy throng, we didn't
even let the girls go outside to join the other children.

Then they came to our house. Glen went out to meet them. They sang a
song. Glen said, we'll bring out stuff down later, or you could send
someone to come and get it later. They nodded and sang some more
songs, and waited. Glen said again that we'd bring the stuff down
later, or someone could and collect it later. They presented him with
some flowers and there was a short speech of thanks.

There were lots of very confused faces. We had obviously not 'played
the game'.

Did we do what was right?

Perhaps with a little more quick thinking we could have avoided a
public incident. It would've been better, I think, once we realised
what was happening, to go and say quietly to the leader, 'don't all
come to our house, just send one person to our house'. Then our
actions, though still not understood, may have been less public.

It was definitely a clash of cultures. We don't give that way in
Australia. But here, giving is not voluntary but compulsory.
Sometimes even the amount is specified. There have been three
fund-raising events so far this year for which we received letters,
demanding rather than requesting our support, down to the exact items
we were to contribute.

However, I think it was more than just a clash of cultures.

Jesus says,

"Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen
by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the
hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by
men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what
your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then
your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
Matthew 6:1-4

Secrecy is important in Christian giving. Christian giving is secret
giving. I think there are two reasons for this.

First, as Jesus says above, when it is secret, it is done before God,
not before men. We will be acting to please our Father in heaven,
rather than acting to please men and receive reward from them. Usually
the reward comes with praise, or we people thinking well of us (and we
all like to be well thought of). Unfortunately this is, to our humans
hearts, a much more powerful motivator than knowing that our Father in
heaven sees and is pleased.

The second reason is related. It that when our giving is done before
men, it is very often done under compulsion. We give because we have
to. There may be a law, or a demand, or it may be the shame of not
giving (or not giving enough) that drives us. It is possible, I guess,
to humbly and cheerfully give under compulsion (like we could humble
and cheerfully pay our taxes) but it is usually reluctantly and
bitterly. Paul says,

"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not
reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Cor
9:7

Our giving should be motivated by love and wanting to please our
Father, not by what others will think and not by compulsion.

On Saturday, upon noticing the procession coming to collect our items,
it was these other motivations that sprang into my mind. I was feeling
compelled to give more. I was worrying about what they might think,
and how well they would think if I gave more.

And so we decided we wouldn't make our donations in this public manner.

I am worried about what they think and I want to speak them, to
explain my actions. But is that another way of doing an act of
righteousness before men, making sure they know about my
righteous motivation? (and is this blog doing the same?) I could
wait until they ask, but I doubt that they will. Will anything change
if I don't say anything? What would you have done?