Monday, 30 November 2009

I am David by Anne Holm

We've just finished reading "I am David" by Anne Holm.  Glen read it aloud to us over the last two weeks.  We all really enjoyed it.  The author says,
"I wrote David, because it seemed to me that children, who can love a book more passionately than any grown person, got such a lot of harmless entertainment and not nearly enough real, valuable literature."
I am David was first written in Danish as David.  It tells the story of a twelve year old boy who has, for as long as he can remember, lived in a concentration camp in Eastern Europe.  One night he is given a chance to escape.  Deciding that a quick death would be better than the endless emptiness that stretches ahead of him in the camp, he follows the directions the man gave to him and to his surprise, finds himself on the other side of the walls, alive and free.

The rest of his book narrates his journey to safety; first South to Salonika and then North to Denmark (the book was published in the US as North to Freedom).  But it is not just a journey to safety.  It's a journey in which he wrestles with the demons of his past; of evil, brutality, mistrust and bitterness.  He discovers beauty, love, belonging, friendship and sacrifice.  It's a journey in which his broken spirit begins to heal and he finds hope for the future.

As the author says, it is truly a piece of valuable literature for children.  It inspired many meaningful conversations with our children, aged 5 and 7; including conversations about how we know God.  It is a veritable treasure.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


We're working on responsibility in our family at the moment.

Here's our working definition:
Responsibility is doing the right thing without having to be told, especially when Mum and Dad aren't around.

it's graduation tomorrow

There'll be about twenty students graduating tomorrow to go throughout Vanuatu as Pastors in the Presbyterian Church or Priests in the Church of Melanesia.

There'll be another eight or so graduating as mission workers.

There are always lots of tears at Graduation as we say good-bye to people who have become close friends.

Pray it will also be a celebration of a new beginning and of a momentous day in the work of the gospel throughout Vanuatu.

Have a listen to this talk to hear about how times have changed!

Friday, 20 November 2009

anthropology according to the gods

Have you seen the movie, the Gods Must be Crazy? You might remember at the beginning there is a documentary-style introduction to the lives and behaviour of the Kalahari bush-men. You might then also remember that they lived together in perfect harmony, sharing all their possesions, without complaint or argument; even their children played together without fighting or bickering. Truly wonderful.

Until of course, western civilisation dropped from the sky (in the form of a coca-cola bottle) and corrupted everything.

This is typical of the anthropology I grew up with. I don't know where it comes from or how it got to me. It's what was imbibed through television, books and school. It's the anthropology that suggests not just that all cultures are equally good, but that the more primitive the culture is, the less influenced by western civilisation it is, then the better it is and the more morally superior it must be.

I don't know anything about the culture of the Kalahari bush-people except what I saw in the Gods Must be Crazy and an extremely different picture gleaned from the Number One Ladies Dectective Agency books (neither a very credible source!) in which a young girl rescues her baby brother from being buried alive on the death of his mother.

This is what I do know about the Kalahari Bush-People.

They are sinful.

Western Civilisation, as evil as it can be, does not make people or cultures sinful. They do that on their own.

It's not just the Kalahari. It's man-Santo, in the middle of this pacific island, still never to have seen a white-man. It's the Nepali on the slopes of the Himalayes. It's Indians in the Amazon.

Nor do I mean that their music is not beautiful; their craftmanship not skillful and their dance not incredible. Nor that there is not much that we can learn from them. There is.

However, I do mean this. All cultures are equal in this regard: they are full of people who,  though all equally made in the image of God, are all equally sinful. Any anthropology that leads you to believe that "untainted by western civilisation" is the same as being innocent or pure is naive, mistaken and ultimately, evil.

After I wrote this I found this interesting article which explains a few things. Unfortunately the link "anything but innocent" doesn't seem to work.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

men of whom the world was not worthy

I recommend the talks listed below which have been given by John Piper over the years at a Pastor's Conference.  They are the talks I listened to when Matthew was awake and unsettled in the middle of the night and early hours of the morning for so many nights when he was very little.  I loved the talks and learnt so much about history, about Calvinism and about God.  I often was tempted to lay in bed awake listening even after Matthew had finally fallen asleep.  I haven't yet listened to the most recent three, but will download them I soon as I am finished here.  (You can also find them all here.)

Bill Piper (2008)
John G. Paton (2000) John Paton was a pioneering missionary in Vanuatu.  You might find this one particularly interesting.
John Owen (1994)

Sunday, 15 November 2009

I am a Christian

Some of you, especially in Christian circles may have been sent this short movie which claims to provide evidence that Barak Obama is a Muslim.

If you have already seen it, or see it because I have linked to it here, then I recommend that you also watch the speech that Barak Obama made at Cairo University on June 4 earlier this year.  You can download it from here (or lower quality video here). It's 54 minutes, but I think it's a significant enough speech in our times that it's worth taking the time to listen.

You will see that much of the video evidence in the first movie is cut, completely out of context*, from the second in such a way as to give a very different message from the one Barak Obama himself was actually giving. 

This will hopefully cause you to be sceptical of much of the rest of the short movie because it will be clear that little attempt is being made to present reasoned and fair arguments.  Whatever your opinion of Barak Obama (and I myself strongly disagree with him at some points), he should be treated justly.  I expect this particularly of Christians who ought to be concerned with truth.

The short movie fails to mention that most of what Barak Obama is quoted as saying is said as a prelude to confronting serious issues in the Islamic world.  It leaves out the small yet significant statement in which Barak Obama stands in front of a Muslim audience in a Muslim country and says, "I am a Christian".  And if we were better students of history ourselves, we would realise that what he says about history in his speech is true, not a glorification of Islam.

Other parts of the 'evidence' provided is simply laughable.  I certainly hope no-one will ever accuse me of being a Christian because I take a tour of Westminster Abbey.

In my opinion, the short movie is political propoganda aimed to turn people against an opponent by using existing fears of Islam.  It is misleading, deceptive and slanderous and Christians would do well to disregard it, especially if they wish to maintain a credible witness in the world.

* both the context of the speech and the context in which it was delivered are important considerations.

Friday, 13 November 2009

another little promo

And my brother-in-law has started an interesting new ministry with a friend serving coffee.  They are...
Bean Served Baristas
If you love great coffee, check out his story here and keep an eye on their blog.

a little promo

Oh the things one misses while away... Over the years we've been in Vanuatu, it seems my sister has turned into quite a good photograper!  Have a look here...

Thursday, 12 November 2009

False prophets

How do you feel coming home from church on a Sunday?

Warm and fuzzy?  Have you had your back slapped?  Are you best mates with the preacher... just like every one else in the congregation?

Lamentations 2:14 says,
The visions of your prophets
were false and worthless;
they did not expose your sin
to ward off your captivity.
The oracles they gave you
were false and misleading.
If every week you come home from church feeling honkey dory, quite possibly you have a false prophet on your hands.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

greed, greed, greed...

Next month I'll be writing the posts for Equip Book Club as we read trough Brian Rosner's "Beyond Greed". Before we start, I'm wondering if you'd be happy comment on where you think we struggle with greed as a society and as individuals.
  • How have you seen greed at work in your own life?
  • What have you done to overcome it? 
  • How do you think it affects our society?
  • What are ways forward as a society?
Feel free to make other comments, and to comment anonymously!

Earth Art

Our girls are doing a unit of work with school at the moment called "Earth Art". It is inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworhty which you can read about and browse here. Some of it seems pretty ordinary, but some is terribly clever, like this one (look closely!). The basic priciple of Earth Art is that you can use only what you can find in nature and mustn't harm any living thing to the extent that branches may not be removed from trees.

We're now in the process of trying our own earth art.

First we had to look closely at colours and patterns in nature. We had fun with the camera! Can you guess what these are?

Then, we worked some artwork together. Our first attempt was to produce a bird by poking leaves into a tuft of bamboo-grass but it was too time-consuming and we gave up.

We were delighted with how this sunflower turned out; made from yellow leaves, paw-paw seeds and soil.

This rainbow was to show the many and different colours in our flora, but we got stuck at blue! The flowers are threaded onto the middle part of coconut-palm leaves, the green part having been torn off.

From now it's over to the girls to produce their own pieces.  I'll keep you posted.

dark days

It's been very dark and cloudy for a while now.  Not much power for using the computer...

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

thinking differently

My two girls have such different ways of thinking and responding to the world around them.  It's amazing that they can be sooo different.  Here are some examples.

I was reading the 23rd Psalm to them.  I read it through and then suggested that they close their eyes and try to visualise it as I read it again.  Then I asked what they could see.

Sophie:  Nothing!
Bethany: I could see all these sheep and they all had people heads on them!  And there was a shepherd and he was wearing a red T-shirt and blue overalls and he was God!
Sophie: Did David write that psalm?
Me: Yes.
Sophie: Well I think that he wrote about God being like a shepherd because he was a shepherd and he knew about looking after sheep.

Glen and I sing "Love the Lord your God" to them for the first time.

Bethany:  She doesn't say anything, she just stands up on her chair and dances.
Sophie:  Waits until we are finished as says, "I like that song.  I like the words, I like the tune, I like the rhythm and I like the height" (by 'height' she meant that she liked the way the tune went up high).

We are in the village where we did field experience.  It is the closing ceremony.  Gift giving is very important culturally here, being the expression of establishing and continuing friendships.  We have been eating a delicious feast but someone gets up to present Sophie with some gifts.  They try and put a wreath of flowers on her head.  She pushes it off and spits.  Unperturbed, they keep going with their small talk.  Sophie wanders around and spits again.  They present her with a chicken.  She ignores them.  She is supposed to touch the chook indicating she accepts their gift.  Bethany meanwhile is touching the chicken and looking desperately at Sophie.  Sophie spits again.  I realise she is holding some chicken insides which she must've inadvertently eaten and so is spitting to try and get rid of the taste.  I grab the offending morsel and holding her hand, touch the chicken and then pull her back to the chair with me.  Glen and I explain what she should have done.  She immediately goes and touches the chicken.  She always wants to do the right thing but distracted as she was, didn't even realise what was going on.

Bethany learns so much by looking, watching and observing.  Sophie needs things explained.  Distracted as she was by what she had eaten, there was no way she could take in what was happening around her and act upon it.

Different ways of thinking and responding to the world around them.  They like different things they are good at different things.  I expect they require different strategies for discipline, only I have worked this out yet.

One thing is the same.  They love each other dearly.

Monday, 2 November 2009

being thankful for Matthew

Matthew is at the moment recovering from what turned out to be quite a serious infection.

Yesterday I mentioned some little things that make me "groan and complain" but which in the end don't make an ounce of difference about whether we stay here or not.

Thinking about what would have happened to Matthew without antibiotics is a much more sobering thought.

I'm probably a lot more like Job's wife than I like to think; putting conditions on my service; conditions on what I accept from God; conditions, conditions, my conditions; after all, he's my child.

At the moment we're very thankful to God
  • for the blessing of antibiotics
  • that his particular infection responded to the antibiotics we had on hand (apparently it doesn't always)
  • for our friends who prayed with us
  • for our doctor-friend always ready to help us at times like this
  • for the clinic which was able to supply us with the stronger antibiotic that we needed
  • for our Matthew, who we love dearly

We know that God loves him even more than we ever could and are learning to trust Him in every circumstance. Sometimes its not easy.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

this is the life

Some lines for a song have been flitting around in my head over the last few days. I think they'd make a good verse in a song about life here. They wouldn't be sufficient by any means. But here they are...
Tapping ants from my toothbrush,
shoo-ing geckos from my bed,
sifting weevils from the flour,
combing lice from my head!

And the chorus would include these lines:
This is the life
of this missionary wife

But it would have to end like this;
but I wouldn't change the life
of this missionary wife.

Because despite all the little things that make me groan and complain sometimes, its definitely worth being here.