A Really Long Reach

Hello all,

While I want to continue with my telling of the story of God’s faithfulness in Japan over the last century, I’d like to take you ‘walkabout’ on a little surprise adventure we’ve stumbled onto this weekend.

As you may know, I turned 68 last Wednesday.  That’s no big deal really. Sort of one of those ‘yawn’ birthdays.  We had a lovely lunch on the beach with both kids and their spouses. We love the grand boys to death, but having this time just with our grown up kids, where we could actually finish sentences, was precious. I felt very blessed to have such a great family.

But the real surprise was that Tony and daughter Nicki secretly arranged a trip to the far northwest of Queensland, to the town of Longreach.

Since Nicki’s a ‘hostie’ as stewardesses are casually referred to, she was able to conjure up some cheap tickets and so we packed some favorite nibbly food, winter clothes and our laptops and were on our way!  The dream was to write a lot, enjoy the ‘town’ on foot and take in the Qantas Museum.

We did exactly that.  The tour of the birthplace of Qantas was inspiring. Two World War I aces started with a dream to help connect the folks isolated in the outback with an air service. The rest is history.  Queensland And Northern Territories Aerial Service……. or  “QANTAS” was born.

To better understand the scope of things, we are located here in Longreach now, 1200 kms from home, or a 19-hour drive on a two-lane road.  Then, from here, it’s another 2200 km to Darwin (where our missionary died last week). That jaunt, which he haven’t taken yet, is only 24 hours of non-stop driving, dodging kangaroos and road trains on a two, or sometimes one lane ’strip’ road. And keeping in mind that this is an unsealed road, a good part of it is closed completely in the wet season.

And so now, 98 years after the airline was launched, there are 2900 souls living here, and a daily air service (on Qantas of course) for people needing to go to Brisbane for everything from re-outfitting to Doctor’s appointments.

To add some sparkle to the 3-hour flight, Nicki was able to arrange her roster and she was our very own stewardess. Well, almost. So fun!!

And then this morning we thought we’d join the service at the “Longreach Baptist Church”. It’s always interesting to us to visit churches when we travel, maybe just to add to our perspective about how others do worship. We were not disappointed. After a bit of a walk, because we got lost, we arrived to find the church packed out.  It’s becoming a theory I have that the smaller the town the bigger the turnout!  Anyway, we met a bunch of very interesting folks, heard a great testimony, had Lords Supper and also a good sermon.  Afterward we made friends with a couple who live “just down the road” (turned out that meant 65 kilometers). They own a “modest” (in his words) property of 18,000 acres where they raise beef cattle, a few vegetables, five boys and one girl. When I invited them to come to the Gold Coast and see us sometime, he gave a shudder and said, thanks, but it’s waaay too crazy down there!”

Another lady took pity on us and drove us back to the museum where we enjoyed a delicious $15 Roast Lamb Dinner on specially created “Qantas” (who else in this town?) Noritake china.  We’ve had a good weekend.

But back to Japan.  I’ve been getting a few stories from missionaries and they’re quite interesting.  I’m excited to be sharing them.  We’ve also got some funny ones too.  Here’s something written by a missionary by the name of Mike Simoneaux.  He was one of our peers, but lived pretty far south so we didn’t get to see them much. And then unfortunately, they had to return to the states because of a child’s health.  Here’s what he wrote:

(Oh by the way, his name in Japanese would be “Shimono Sensei”.  The Amagi Sanso that he refers to is the Baptist Conference center that we frequented a lot over the years.)
“I was asked to do a communion service for one of the churches I worked with in Osaka. The pastor and I spoke and I explained to him that I had attended a communion service where they used French bread instead of normal bread. He thought that sounded interesting, and agreed to give it a try. I arrived at the church just in time for the service and he told me that the French bread was under the linen cloth on the pulpit. I stood up to read the appropriate scripture… “This is my body that was broken for you”…

I lifted the cloth and saw that the bread was still wrapped up in cellophane. I unwrapped it, repeated the scripture, and held the bread up to break it. It bent. I tried to break it again and must have used too much strength because it broke into three pieces, the middle part flying through the air and into the congregation. A church member “fielded” the piece, bowed deeply and brought it back to the communion table. No one said a word, except my son Stephen, age 10, who was almost on the floor laughing. We finished the service as low key as possible…no one said a thing about the incident including the pastor. Years later, I was at Amagi Sanso for a meeting, and happened to meet a pastor I did not know. We introduced ourselves, he paused, then said almost to himself, “Shimono Sensei…. Are, are you the French bread Shimono?” Apparently, I had become famous.”

As I mentioned last week, the Japanese may not be an expressive people, but they never forget…..

We’ll be back in civilization next week!! (or as the rancher referred to it, “The Crazy Place”)


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