Who’s Coming to Dinner??

Good Morning All from Washington DC!

I know a few weeks ago I promised you I’d be writing about the ‘beautiful feet’ of some of the interesting Gospel messengers I’ve known, but I’ve got so many things to tell you from our recent experiences, I may have to postpone that tangent a bit.

This last week we’ve taken our “unbeautiful” feet and tried to visit about every inch of the Smithsonian Museum system here in DC. We’ve also added a lot of other sights and experiences as well (not forgetting the food, of course).

Yesterday, some of you may have noticed on the news that the 19th Smithsonian Museum was opened by President Obama, attended by several other former presidents and numerous members of state, etc.  There were countess bands and parades.    As we weren’t invited on so many levels, we steered the other direction and took in Old Alexandria and all it’s history from the colonial days.

I’ve had a lot of emotions this week regarding my heritage as an American, but something really struck us when we attended the play, “Come from Away” at the old Ford’s Theatre.  For those of you who didn’t study American History, that was where President Abraham Lincoln was shot in April, 1865; and while they’ve immortalized his box seat in the tiny theater, his story wasn’t part of the play last night.

The theme of the play was the true event of the morning of 9/11 when 38 passenger planes, including a few 747s, as well as 4 military planes were ordered to land immediately in the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland in Canada, as all US airspace was suddenly closed.

I didn’t realize that this tiny isolated island is the furthermost northeastern point on the North American continent and from 1935 until the Jet age, served as the last ditch mandatory fueling station for the long haul flights to and fro across the Atlantic.

With the coming of larger airplanes and bigger fuel tanks, the town shrank to its present population of around 7000 consisting mainly of  fishermen and various infrastructure support like teachers, police, etc.

However on that day, with only a couple of hours’ notice, they went from normal morning to the job of hosting over 6600 visitors who would remain with no departure date until the planes were finally released to fly 6 days later.

With a lot of humor, some great music, and extraordinary reverence, the play showed how everyone learned to share what they had, putting aside egos and issues in the face of a near-impossible situation.  It really was a heart warming story, bringing a tear to my eye as I remember how intrepid and courageous people can be when they do the right thing.

Hebrews 13:2 reminds us that hospitality isn’t just a gift employed by some …… it’s a command, often connected with supernatural dimensions.

This week has been great.  We do so love our first nation, and our heritage has been brought home so often this week in the nation’s capitol.  We of course can’t help but be concerned about the upcoming election in November, but make no mistake, we’re going to vote because we care  (Unlike Australia, voting is not mandatory in the USA, even though lives have been lost over the years in keeping the right for us to do so).  I can’t say I’m unhappy to be heading back Down Under soon, to the second land I love……..which is a little less nuts right now.

Today we plan to meet up with some great friends and fellow missionaries who, while we’ve been playing in Washington, have been visiting refugees they worked with and who have emigrated here from Thailand.  We are all excited for our week-long ‘retirement event’ in Richmond starting tomorrow.  We feel like we’ve waited for this week for a long time………not the whole 39 years and 11 months that we served, but something like that!  As we all pile into the car for the two hour drive to Richmond, Virginia, I’m sure Tony and I will be whispering those words from our favorite children’s author, Maurice Sendak, in his book, “Where the Wild Things Are”……… “Let the Wild Rumpus begin!”

If I’m not too overwhelmed or catatonic with everything when this week’s over, I’ll be sure to write again……..

Remember to maintain a Christ-like life every day, never knowing when a bunch of refugees is going to land suddenly at your doorstep…….or if that’s too hard to even imagine (as it was for the Ganderites), just take a moment to remember what a wonderful heritage we have in Christ, and in the countries which have provided so much for so many.

Bon Voyage!

Marsha

Together We Stand

Good Morning All,

I’m writing this from the floor of a hotel room at 2:30AM because I’m holding forth that somebody still reads this blog. Last night when I fell into bed beside my sleeping husband, I remembered you! ha.

We’ve been enjoying so many memories as we travel around to places of our youth, and the other day I also remembered something from about 48 years ago.

At that time we went swimming as a family with my baby niece. She was tiny so we gave her a blow up swim ring.

She was enthralled as we paddled/pulled her out into the deep end.

Suddenly, with a look of awe, she exclaimed, “Look! I’m up to my duck!”

That forevermore has been our family mantra for when we’re “happily overwhelmed”.

Like this last week.  We’ve seen more friends and family than we thought we had, and every visit has been like we just left them yesterday.  I guess that’s why they call them ‘reunions’.

And yet, while we’re very happy to see them, some of them have overwhelmed us as well.  We’ve laughed, cried and like now, laid awake at night…. just filing and processing information.

And one thing I’ve come up with that might get me in trouble again, (reference several weeks ago) is the recurring theme of how we need the gathering together of followers of Christ.

Now before you read any further and think, “She’s talking about me again,” believe me when I say I’m not.  I’m talking about Paul and Silas……..gotcha!

My son asked me the other day, “Who was to blame in the Paul and Silas Story?”

He paused while I tried to search my brain, and then, grinning, announced, “The Jailer, because he put the two of them in jail TOGETHER!”

And what I’ve been remembering this week, hearing everyone’s stories, is that we NEED each other.  If Paul and Silas had been separated, they might not have been singing the house down. Together we stand …… let’s see, what was that verse? Hebrews 10:25, “Forsake not the gathering together of believers…..”

The things I’ve heard during our visits, both encourage me and discourage me as I hear how my friends have been traveling these last 8 or 9 years and it reminds me………in the words of that old 70’s song, “People need the Lord”.

As most of you head out to church this morning, give each other a hug and many a ‘godly kiss’ and thank your brothers and sisters for holding you up!

Have a great day, I know we will.

Marsha

Beautiful Feet

Good morning all, I hope you’re getting this in a reasonable time frame.  We’re in Hawaii and while we’ve slept off the jet lag, I’m still a little unclear as to when “Sunday morning” is for most of you.

Anyway, we’re having a nice time with life long friends Bob and Gail Gierhart, with whom we served almost 40 years in Japan and Australia.  They’re recently retired from the board as well, so we have plenty to talk about.

As you know, we’re wending our way to the East Coast where we’ll be wined (not) and dined for a week and then given our ‘retirement service’, which I believe will be September 26th to the 30th at our Orientation Center in Richmond. It’ll be a great time of catching up with OLD friends and putting a cap on the career that’s defined us for a lifetime.

For those of you who are not seeing us this time through, I offer you both apologies and relief, as you won’t have to interrupt your busy lives to accommodate our schedules.  As I used to tell our children when leaving them home to their own devices, “We’ll be back when you least expect,” so don’t give up on seeing us someday. We do anticipate another trip next year, if Tony manages to finish his doctorate degree. It’s been a lot of hard work, so THAT’S a stage he definitely wants to walk across!

For the next couple of weeks, in the spirit of ‘retirement’ I’d like to reminisce with you about some of the people we’ve met along the way who will forever be in my mind as having ‘beautiful feet’.

You know the verse, right? Isaiah 52:7, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,

who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

It’s always had a special place in my heart, and it’s written on a lovely little plaque at home given me from some Japanese co-workers. But it’s so true especially of some beautiful people we’ve been privileged to know.

A couple of weeks ago we were blessed to have a lovely co-worker couple visit us in Australia, coming down from Tokyo during the annual holidays of “O-Bon”. They’re Japanese, and he runs a printing company while she’s an office manager and they work constantly, as many Japanese do.  For three days in August and then again about three days in January (New Years), they enjoy vacation, so they and most of the country hit it hard.

We had a lot of fun, albeit it exhausting, showing them everything that moves and crawls and crashes up on the sand or blew up thousands of years ago.  That’s what you do when you sightsee in the Gold Coast.  Add a lot of good food and you have a great visit.

But what rang thru every conversation was their love for the Lord and their concern for the lost.  It was such a JOY to share our love for the Japanese and our zeal to see Christ known in Japan.

I thought to myself.  “These folks don’t do what they HAVE to do because of a job………they do what they do for the love of Christ.” Every Thursday after a 12-hour day, he opens his tiny office to host a “seekers” class about Christianity.  Depending on the day or the season 8-20 people crowd in to learn about Christian life, both from Tony’s “Anagion” Bible study and from this guy’s life as a Christian businessman.  He regaled us with stories of the bar maid next door who has him praying for her sick son, or the office worker who would never enter in to the discussions at work, but let our friend pray the sinner’s prayer with him as he lay dying.

Beautiful feet. Good News.

How are your feet today?  Need some liniment?

Catch you from Colorado next week!

Marsha

Purple Fingers

This week I was delighted to discover that one of the trees here at the place we bought was outside producing a bounty crop of mulberries, while we were inside painting and cursing our aged bodies,.

Even better, the jai-normous (read: really big) fruit bats (wingspan more than 3 feet) haven’t discovered them yet!  Have a look at them if you want nightmares! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey-headed_flying_fox

So this morning we took a wander out to see about harvesting a few before we leave for 6 weeks (more about that later).

As I was picking, I had a flashback to a time about 40 years ago when we were living in Africa.  We had a mulberry tree then as well.  As a child growing up in cold Colorado, I had no idea about them and wasn’t too keen to eat them after I mistakingly popped a mulberry looking worm in my mouth!  eeuwwww

Anyway, who DID love my mulberry tree back then were the neighborhood kids.  They were always in our yard since we operated a makeshift “Student Center” on our front porch, and it was a matter of time before they noticed it. They also ‘noticed’ our 7 gravid Avocado trees as well as our strawberry patch, but that’s another story.

One day there was a huge commotion outside and we raced out to find little Noddie laying on the ground holding his arm.  It had to have happened eventually, he broke his arm in a fall.

So sad, so painful……I remember him turning his head to the wall when we visited him in the local hospital.

But then years and years later I got a letter from him, mailed to us thru the mission board.  It began,

“Dear Mr and Mrs Tony,

I wanted you to know that when I was in my early 20’s, I was laying drunk in a ditch one Sunday morning when someone walked by whistling ‘Jesus Loves Me’ … and I remembered you”.

The letter went on to describe how, even though he had grown up “rough”, there was always in the back of his mind those short days when we opened our home to him.  Apparently when he heard the whistling, he ‘came to himself’, got up, went to church and became (with a few struggles in-between) an Assemblies of God Pastor.

We communicated for a few years and then he dropped away.  I often wondered if he’d died since AIDS is very real over there.  As we were writing, he always held up his best childhood friend and partner in crime, Claridge, for prayer, as he continued to be far off the rails.

Then about a year ago, I heard from Claridge thru that happy monster Facebook.  Apparently now he too had ‘come around’ and is a successful businessman, father and COMMITTED Church elder.  Noddie is fine and living in a neighboring country, and we’ve talked with him a few times lately.  He continues to rise in the AOG church as a leader.

Isn’t God wonderful? He forgets neither His people nor the small acts of kindness, using them all for His glory.

So back to our need to clean off the Mulberry tree…….this Tuesday we’re leaving fair Australia for a 6 week trek.  The IMB (International Mission Board) is bringing us to Richmond to ‘properly retire us’ although we’ve been retired for over 10 months now.  We’re thankful to them for providing our travel expenses from “the fartherest western spot in the USA”, which of course is Hawaii.  We may or may not see you; our schedule seems to be locked in pretty tight.  If we miss you, know we love you and we’ll catch you next time.

We’re excited!!!

Now, don’t forget this week that letting little orneries play on your porch may have lasting effects! ha

God is Good,

Marsha

PS  Today it’s Father’s Day in Australia.  I think that it’s on the calendar for September here because it’s beginning to be spring and power/garden tools sell better at that time. (who knows).  Mother’s Day is the same time in May…….go figure.  If you‘re not down here with us, give your father a hug if you can anyway!!  Both of our kids have lavished us with love over the last two days, to the point I get the feeling they think we’re two ancients about to set sail on the Titanic!

Rotten Eggs

I’ve got another joke for you.

There was a preacher’s wife…….and a preacher.  One day the preacher was getting something on his wife’s side of the bed and noticed a shoebox sticking out from under the dust ruffle.  Curious, since she kept her shoes in the closet, he pulled it out and peeked inside.  There, nestled in a pile of cash, were three eggs.  He carefully replaced it and thought about it for several days.

Finally he was able to bring it up casually in conversation.

“Well”, she blushed and began.  “It’s a little thing I do.  When you preach a particularly bad sermon, I put an egg in the box”

Immediately he thought of the three little eggs sitting there and breathed a sigh of relief.  ”Only 3 bad ones”, he thought.

“Oh, so what about all the money?” he ventured.

“Well……..” twisting her hands and grimacing,  seemingly  pondering  what her next move should be, she shrugged her shoulders and declared.

“Well……..When I get a dozen eggs, I sell em!”

I think last week’s blog may have been one of those “eggs”.  Even as I was typing my venting, that little voice was saying, “Mind what you say, girl; you’re not any better than those you’re complaining about!”

So please let me say that IF, as some were, you’re one of the many that were offended, please understand I wasn’t talking about YOU! These real or possibly imagined ‘excusers’ are far from the realm of my blog, and even if they were near, they wouldn’t be reading it!

So rest assured, I’ll keep my head down from now on and keep out of other’s business…….and their motives. Maybe I’ll cross-stitch Proverbs 26:17 to put on my wall as a reminder: “Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own.”

In the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us all!”

Love ya,

Marsha

Pass the Dashi

Good morning all,

Excuse me while I drag out my soapbox…….

I heard a ‘story’ once about 4 PHD candidates who were out partying late one weekend and found that, because of the distance they’d wandered and the inability to wake up early, they’d be missing a crucial exam on Monday morning.  When they finally slid into class, they had their story prepared.  They all said in unison, “So sorry! Please forgive us but we had a flat tire on the way to class.”

The professor nodded and asked one of them into his inner sanctuary.  He explained that it was totally acceptable missing an exam because of a flat tire.  Then he continued, “I just need to know…..which tire?”

Oh the webs we weave.

If you’ve been watching the Olympic news you’ll know about the three American swimmers who had a late night out, and decided to fabricate a story about being robbed.  Now this morning at church I heard that some Australian athletes pulled a similar prank as well, claiming the all-too believable story of being robbed.  Unfortunately for them, we live in an age of CCT cameras and date and time stamps that quickly revealed they’d all lied.

When we lived in Japan we were all too familiar with a ‘custom’ that the Japanese called, “Use a noun and couple it with the word dashi”  For example, “Child Dashi” or “Business dashi,” etc. The word ‘Dashi” means simply  “to put forward”, and so we have, “Kodomo-dashi” which means “Child put forward” or……….. well, you get my drift.

I think in English we say, “Excuses”.

Lately I’ve observed a lot of ‘dashis’ in our church fellowship. Someone is moving, so they’re ‘taking a few weeks off church’. Another couple is going thru a particularly rough patch, so they’re saying that because of that, they won’t be coming to church.

It’s almost as if, at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives, they’re abandoning the one thing (group) they need the most.

My children have occasionally said, “Oh, Mom, your rule is that you have to go to church unless you’re on fire”……….which I guess I may have communicated a little too harshly, but still………the Church is there for us, in the good times and in the bad, so what’s with all the excuses for not going?

I can’t help but think of that verse in Hebrews 10 about “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (verse 25). It doesn’t get much plainer than that, right? When things get busy, or tough, THEN of all times is not the time to step away from those who stand ready and willing to reach out with a word of encouragement or perhaps even a helping hand.

Now, if it’s a case of there not being that kind of support at church, then hold on a minute while I drag my other soap box out. But maybe I should hear from you first. Am I way out of line here? Is the Church still relevant to society, and if it is, then why do people avoid it at their times of greatest need?

Have a great week, and have a think about all those “dashis” we use or hear all around us.

Love ya, no excuses,

Marsha

Drop Your Dust

Drop Dust

Good Morning Happy Campers!

Well, it’s been another busy week. Our little homestay girls returned to Japan and we all cried…..

Life goes on.  I sure love a Gold Coast winter where it’s hard to get out of bed because it’s so cold, but then you have the windows and doors open by noon!

Today I want to share with you a sign that we noticed in more than one outback town during our recent trip up north.

It is truly one of those pictures that’s worth a 1000 words.  In fact, I probably don’t even need to comment.

Drop your dust before you go into…..’town’.  Very few people want to be covered in all of your issues.  (I’m preaching to myself here). Sure, life is hard and you’ve picked up a lot of ‘stuff’ along the way. But remember there’s a time for sharing the dirt, and a time for, well, for leaving it beside the road. Many times all it takes is a quick stop in your busy life. Take a breath, look to Jesus, and then look to the “town folk” around you. You may be surprised to find a lot of that road dust has fallen off, no longer an irritation to yourself, and to others.

What’s that Jesus said in Matthew 5:23 and 24? If you’re coming into town (specifically to bring an offering, He said), and you remember that someone has something against you (take note: that’s not the other way around), then stop, take care of things, THEN get on with the business of worship.

Hey, this may be the making of a great country western song!

“Don’t take your dust to town”…….

Love ya,

Marsha

Celebration of a Kind

This last week we got a newsletter from some dear friends from our Africa days.  They are ‘celebrating’ 20 years of her being a paraplegic.

But I’m getting ahead of myself……let me explain. We first worked with this couple when we were volunteers in Liberia for a year back in 1977.  It was there that I almost died in a miscarriage gone bad and my friend Ruth, who is a nurse, along with her husband Brian were there for us in some of our darkest hours.

Then, about 20 years later, we went to help them and the SIM mission in a Sudanese refugee camp in Ethiopia. Sometimes I wonder who helped whom, but I digress.

While at the camp, Tony taught the entire Old Testament to the refugee men who had no written copy in their language. And as you know from my blogs, the experience greatly impacted our lives as a family.

We went everywhere in an old Land Rover that was assigned to the camp station. It was sturdy enough, and could get us where we were going.   Finally, when our time of volunteering was over, we drove it for almost 3 days back up to Addis Ababa, and apart from THREE flat tires with two spares, (giving us a rather hilarious story involving a thatch-hut bar in the middle of nowhere and several half drunk spear wielding warriors trying to ‘help’ us), we arrived safe and sound……and sore.   From there we left for home and back to other work.  The only problem with the Land Rover was that the middle of the back seat had no seatbelt and a clear passageway thru the front seats into the windshield .  I decided to ride there as we made our way over the treacherous and muddy roads because I preferred my children be belted in and there were other ‘more important’ missionaries with us as well.

Barely two weeks after we left, the following drama unfolded……..Ruth was sitting in that unbelted middle seat. Our hearts were broken when we heard the news.  How many times have I asked God, “Why Ruth and not me?  I, who was so much less important to the Ethiopian work?”  I’ve never been given an answer, and don’t look for one till heaven…

Rather than re-tell the story, I’ll just insert a part of their newsletter here:

It was a dark rainy day in Ethiopia, when the SIM vehicle that Ruth and 5 others were traveling in was hit head-on by a truck carrying several tons of coffee beans. While they waited for help to arrive, the verse, “I will not die, but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done” (Psalm 118:17) was read to Ruth by a teammate as she lay injured on the back seat of the damaged vehicle.

July 23rd was the 20th anniversary of the accident that left Ruth paraplegic. It was a long road to recovery, but the message of the verse was true, and we praise God for what He has done! Having the privilege of representing the Lord from her wheelchair is an amazing journey. Seeing God at work in individuals’ lives as she encourages and cares for long-term missionaries, helps interview applicants at SIMStart, or assists in preparing appointees at SIMGo is a huge blessing!

It’s not always easy to see the blessings that come from adversity, but it seems to me that Brian and Ruth have able to find some redemption in the suffering. My prayer today goes out to those who are hurting…….the family and friends of the entire family that was killed last week in a car accident on their way to the mission field……so gut wrenching, and yet I believe that God was and is there.  We have a family in our church with a 4 yr old who has just been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, again….again we ask, WHY?

But can we look at our circumstances and see the good that’s been promised in and through them?  I hope so. (Romans 8:28).

Reading prayer letters and prayer chains that we get every day from many of you around the world, we can see that each and every one of us experiences life in its fullest, complete with the hurt that often goes with it. Be assured of our prayers for you, even as we covet your prayers for us. We are family, after all, lifting each other up to the Father is a real blessing and a privilege. Let’s celebrate!

On a happier note, our two homestay girls have had a great week, heard the gospel explained several times and in different ways. They announced on the way home that the highlight of today was attending their first Japanese service in their lives where Tony preached.  Join us in praying for their futures when they return home next week.  Especially pray that the Spirit will give them the desire and courage to seek Him out in the chaos of returning to normal.

Have a great day in the Lord!  Marsha

Keep on Truckin

Road Train

Dear Friends,

As you know if you’ve been reading our Facebook posts and such these past 2 weeks, Tony and I made a very long trip up to the top of Australia, carrying a bunch of stuff to an indigenous church of maybe 60 souls that sisters with our church here on the Gold Coast. It was a great time we’ll not soon forget.

If you followed us, you’ll have noted that our biggest ‘bugaboo’ driving on this journey were the “road trains”.  There were 13 of us in 7 vehicles,(hauling tons of stuff for the church’s outreach and little shop).   Fortunately we had some 2 way radios (obviously no telephone signals)  so that the lead vehicle could caution us all along the way.

If you got the picture with this, you’ll see a big truck pulling three trailers. In some places they pulled four and even five; thus the name “road train”. These big babies get going about 80 MPH and don’t like to stop for anyone or anything (especially the kangaroos, as evidenced by the 10+ dead ones we counted for every mile….hey, maybe we got a little bored).

To get everyone safely around something like this would take us up to an hour, with a few hair raising leaps back and forth into the oncoming lanes until we succeeded. Then, when we’d make a brief stop to stretch, we’d be fine till someone whispered, “road train” and we’d run screaming to our cars and tear out, throwing gravel, and scrambling for seat belts, not wanting to get behind them again!

The reason for road trains?  Australia is BIG and for the most part very empty. As the total population of the continent is only around 22 million (with five million of those living in Sydney), it averages out to only about ONE person per 6 square miles overall. It stands to reason then, that there’s not much infrastructure to support everyone, especially those in the country. I remember once when a politician made the promise, “Every Australian deserves internet and phone service.” Then when he was elected and told to make good on his promise, he replied, “Hey! I said you DESERVE it; not that you’re going to get it anytime soon.”

Anyway, if folks in places like Normanton need “stuff”, then the most economical way to get it is through road trains. And that’s what our church with our motley crew of trailers, caravans, motor homes, etc. provided, Well, we weren’t exactly connected to each other except by radio, but it was a sight to see.

And so last Sunday we got finished with this adventure and started another one on Monday.  We actually sold our car to the pastor and crawled into a twin engine Regional Airline for an hour+ hop over to the bustling town of “Cairns, Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef”.  We have our 47th anniversary around the corner and thought we’d take some time to relish in the sunshine.

While we had a fun filled week, it wasn’t quite like we’d anticipated, since the whole north of Australia has been caught in a wet and cold snap.  Even though it’s winter here, no one expected temperatures as low as the 40’s and 50’s and we all shivered together. Going to the reef seemed out of the question as the waters were just too cold, so we were happy to walk around town huddled (romantically?) under the one cheap umbrella that we picked up.

As we wandered around, I remembered something that happened a long time ago and I thought it might be appropriate to share it with you today, since we’re talking about ‘baggage’.

We first came to Cairns about 3 weeks after our oldest son Trevor had died of leukemia.  When he died, we just wanted to get away, rest and think, but having a 10 yr old son as well sort of ruled out laying on the beach or some solitary activity, so we flew a slight detour on our way back from the USA to our ministry in Japan and landed in Australia.

When we got into the Brisbane airport, we prayed that God would lead us to the ‘thing’ we needed and pointed the rental car north.  Several days later we got to Cairns, signed up on a little boat for a day excursion to the reef, about 3 hours away, and took off.  Ironically those little ‘cheap’ boats no longer operate after one of them left a couple of people out there in the water by mistake.  Now the boats are huge, with ever vigilant staff and head counts before, and then again two or three times before you leave the reef.

Anyway, on that particular occasion, we had as much fun as amateurs can, me hanging on a buoy rope and looking down into the water and being amazed, and then the three of us practically walking on water when a jellyfish wandered by.  All the others had jumped in and disappeared diving, leaving us to our own uninformed entertainment. (when they returned they chided us that the deadly jellyfish are all near the estuaries, not out at sea……who knew?)

But I’ll never forget the trip home that day.  I had crawled out onto the front of the boat and was leaning up against the windshield, drying off.  A young Chinese guy came out and sat beside me and we started chatting.

Gradually it came to light that he was a Christian.  His English was crisp and fluent and I had to assume he was from somewhere English speaking, but I don’t remember asking.

Within minutes he knew my story……about Trevor.  Then somehow, (and WHERE were Nathan and Tony all this time I have no idea) I got to talking….. if you can imagine that, and before I knew it, THREE hours had passed.  I think I told this guy about everything I had on my heart.  My hurt, my sorrow, my anger, my confusion.

I don’t think he said a single thing to me, unless it was an ‘uh’, or a ‘oh’…….but just like those road trains, he got a LOT OF STUFF to haul from and for me.

When we arrived at the dock and said goodbye to the crew, I turned to the boy, thanked him and said, “Oh, I didn’t get your name”

He smiled and said (remember he’s in a Chinese body), “Johann” and slipped into the crowd.

Trevor’s middle name was “Johann”

I’ll never know till heaven, was he an Angel?………or was he a believer who knew that sometimes the best thing you can do is let people ‘unpack the load’ and work out their grief so they can move on.

I left that experience, much like we left the little church last week, about 1000 lbs lighter with a happy heart and looking forward to what God has in store for us now.

What’s that verse? “Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will sustain you” (Psalms 55:22)

That’s right: God is the best listener and comforter, and sometimes He does His work through something or someone in skin.

Oh, and I’ll never forget the sunburn I got that day………further proving that God lets most of His world run according to it’s nature…….and white folks tend to fry!

Marsha

To the Outback, and Back

What a week!

As most of you know, we’ve been 7 days on the road……….traveling with 11 others in 7 vehicles, two caravans, a trailer and a motor home on a mission trip from our sunny Gold Coast to the tiny town of Normanton in Far North Queensland , a trip of 2200 kilometers (1400 miles). Not too grueling as most of the roads were sealed and we didn’t have too much rain.  Road trains (trucks with 3 to 4 trailers often reaching over 175 feet long) were our worst ‘drama’, a real hair raiser to pass on a two lane (or sometimes only a one lane ‘strip’ road).

Some church member friends moved up here about 2 years ago, and somehow, even though they’re teachers by trade, he is now the only pastor in this town of 1100. Church attendance is around 60, which when you think about it, is about 5% of the population!

We arrived with about 2 tons of clothes, bedding, beds, crockery and who knows what else.  There is a church “Op shop” (Aussie for “Opportunity shop” or what we’d call a Goodwill).  In addition there is hope in the near future of getting enough funds to build a home for abused women.

On the way up, we were treated to all kinds of beautiful wildlife; thousands of kangaroos of course, as well as emus, and even Brolgas,(nicknamed the Australian Crane) often doing their signature mating dance.

And, of course there were some not so beautiful critters like the cute little Green Frog that shared a “toilet experience’” with me (I posted it on Facebook”). Then there was the shocker this morning as I finally piled out from under my warm covers to meet a little gecko jumping out from under my pillow! I guess he was cold too, but we both warmed up pretty well in our hurry to get away from each other

One of the things that really touched me on this trip is the echo of history that reflects the stubborn resilience of these people. Australians often refer to the Outback as a ‘sunburnt land’ and that’s an apt description.  It’s TOUGH out here, especially during the cyclical droughts that plague the continent.

We stopped in a museum in one tiny town and marveled at the sheer grit of two WWI veterans who came home and thought, “ I bet we could start an airline to link this huge nation together”. Rigging up a Model T with provisions, they set out for a 1500 mile trek all the way to Darwin (traveling over much of the same trail we’ve been covering). There, they picked up a rusty crop-duster, and after a little spit and polish along with ample amounts of baling wire, they put together the “Queensland and Northern Territories Aerial Service” or QANTAS for short…….and the rest is history.

Another place we visited was where the famous Burke and Wills expedition declared ‘good enough’, stopped (and died) about 40 miles short of the top end of Australia.

And so as Tony shared in worship this morning to a room full of people……I had to stop and realize that we have NO IDEA what they’ve been through. Aborigines were officially recognized as ‘human’ and not ‘flora and fauna” in 1964.  That’s not a typo, I said 1964……101 years after the US had abolished slavery!

After returning for the service tonight, my heart was filled with the love and courage these folks have shown us. So many interesting stories, such as the nurse from Zimbabwe who’s living way out here, separated her family in order to gain permanent residence status so that they can join her.  There was another couple who are also nurses and just fly around with the Royal Flying Doctors to Outback stations dispensing medicine and God’s love.

Tony shared with the group about the brotherhood of Christianity and they sang and gave testimonies about the faithfulness of God.  Very moving service.

And now as our friends find their separate ways home, hearts full and wagons empty, we’re going to hop on a ‘regional air’ plane, hopefully not too reminiscent of those first QANTAS ones and head for the east coast town of Cairns, a favorite spot of ours.  We haven’t been there in 13 years and think it’s time for a drop in on a church where we once had a Japanese ministry.  We’ll take some time (hopefully) to get some sun and warm up before heading home by next week’s blog.  I hope we don’t have much to report.

Y’all take care now!

Marsha

PS If you’re interested in pictures, look at “Normanton Qld Road Trip” in the search box on Facebook.