14 November, 2018

Since getting back from Perth on Monday...

This is one of our supporting churches,
we always feel very welcomed here.
I thought this title only fitting as per my last post here last week! Since then we have done a full weekend of deputation and then flew back to Brisbane and our "home away from home" on Sunday night. 

The flight back was only four and a bit hours, but it happened in the middle of the night! From 10.30pm to 3am (Perth time) or 12.30 to 5am (Brisbane time). I slept on Sunday afternoon for three or four hours before we left (never happens—must have been exhausted!) Even so, I was pretty blurry by the time we got home on Monday morning, despite having stopped for caffeine near the airport. I mysteriously ended up with a large cappicino instead of the medium-sized one I thought I ordered, but it didn't stop me falling asleep for several hours soon after we arrived home thirty minutes later.

The weekend was exhausting, but full of good stuff: dinner with friends who love Japan (and us), breakfast with people who asked tonnes of fantastic questions, lunch with blogging friends I'd never met before, and the Saturday afternoon with OMF folk—hearing about and praying for so many different situations that Australian OMF workers are in right now. Followed the next morning by David and I splitting up and speaking at two large supporting churches.

Downstairs at our accommodation for the 11 days in Perth, the retired
couple who live here generously gave us their upstairs (including a living
area and bathroom).
Ever since we decided in 2000 to visit all the churches in our small Australian denomination, deputation has meant a trip to Perth, where our denomination began. Perth is one of our home assignment big-rocks. Organising home assignment takes a level of planning that I don't mind too much, but it is tiring. 

This trip especially requires a lot of organising: accomodation, car, and the sheer number of meetings in such a short period of time. We've been there five times now (or David has, I stayed home one year when our boys were little). It's a delightful place, and I'm increasingly blown away by these people who rarely see us, yet welcome us with open arms. Literally and figuratively. There are hugs and familiar faces, but also people who have never met us, but know clearly who we are because their churches have been praying for us. What a blessing!

However, I have to say that I'm glad it's over. It was intense and exhausting, just like I knew it would be. Next time we go all our boys will be out of high school and so we'll probably go on our own, taking our time there, instead of the rush-job we've done these last few times. Maybe we'll even drive all the way across the bottom of Australia to get there (4,500 km!). It truly was a grievance to me to be too tied down with home schooling and fatigue and stressed-out boys to be able to see much at all this time. Next time we will be better tourists and probably take some holiday time too.

Back in Ipswich now, and we're struggling to get back into the groove here. Monday was a write-off and even yesterday I was lacking in get-up-and-go, though I did vacuum the house. Today I've forced myself back into the office and have begun catching up on some things that needed dealing with up after being away 16 days (thankfully I've been able to stay somewhat up-to-date with basic email while I was away).

I think that's enough today . . . I've had plenty of thinking time and not much writing time, but I think that those thoughts will make some nice posts in the coming days.

08 November, 2018

Since getting back from Singapore on Friday...

A church we'd love to be a part of if
we actually lived in Perth. They've always
been so welcoming of us when we're over here.
On Friday morning, after a 15-hours of being "on deck" the day before, I got up early in Singapore and caught the hotel's complimentary free shuttle bus to the airport (6.30am). I was about to take off on the second leg of this 16-day marathon trip. I flew to Perth, a five-hour journey. 

David and our younger two boys had flown to Perth the night before and met me at the airport. It turned out to be a really good thing that they'd gotten themselves situated the day before (we're staying with a retired couple who we've known for over 13 years). The "boys" had a chance to find their way around a little, to get some needed props (that were too big for an aeroplane), and a bit of sleep under their belts. 

I, on the other hand, stood up to speak in front of people only three and a half hours after I'd arrived and felt like my tongue was disconnected from my brain. Thankfully David was able to carry the show.

The weekend was busy with speaking at various groups: dinner on Friday night; breakfast and dinner on Saturday; and church, lunch, and afternoon tea on Sunday. I took every opportunity I had to lie down in between all of that. And Monday too! It was never going to be an easy trip: we've only come over for ten days, basically two weekends and the week in between, and in that time are covering five churches and two missions groups. The shortness of this trip is primarily because of our boys' schooling. Next time we do this, we'll be without kids and we'll probably stay longer!

This is possibly a Xanthorrhoea preissii or balga
The weekdays since the weekend have been much less busy: with only two mid-week meetings yesterday and I only did one of them (the other involved a long drive into the countryside). Getting the boys focused on schooling has meant it hasn't all been leisure, but rather patient reminders. We've gotten out for walks most days, though, which has been nice. There are a couple of lovely parks nearby, and a library (where I'm currently working...or will be soon when I stop writing this blog post...though I probably should consider writing a blog post work also I guess!).

We've got another busy weekend coming up, with several meetings and then a flight back to Brisbane overnight on Sunday night. Monday will be a rest day, and possibly a portion of Tuesday too.

I love this part of Australia. Perth really is a beautiful city and I'd love to spend more time here, exploring beyond the city. Our first entry back into Australia after our first four years in Japan in 2004 was Perth. One of our supporting churches paid for us to have a holiday south of here on a farm. It was the best way to re-enter the country with two young boys!

Coming back each time on home assignment (aside from 2009 when David came on his own while I stayed home and cleaned up vomit...another story). It's encouraging to find that people remember us here too! Obviously coming back time and time again embeds us in people's memories, even if we can only be here once every four or five years.

But enough day-dreaming and reminiscing. I've got editing work to do. Thankfully a coffee van has set up outside the library (the library is in a park) and I've been able to re-caffeinate and am recharged for another bit of editing work before heading "home" with some lunch.

06 November, 2018

Singapore Botanical Gardens (photographs)

Mercifully, in the middle of the crazy-busy conference, they planned half-a-day off. We had a group outing to the Singapore Botanical Gardens last Wednesday after lunch and into the early evening (with a picnic dinner in the gardens).

By this time, I was mentally and socially exhausted. We had the option of going touring with a group, but I really needed some time alone. I took my camera and it was a blessed time of appreciating the gardens and trying to capture some of their beauty (just concentrating on those two things helped refresh my head). Thankfully it is a large area and it was possible to get away from others. Interestingly it is about the same size as the park I ride to in Tokyo, but it is far more "developed" so has a lot more hidden areas. For example this rainforest walk.

It's very lush and much more tropical than Tokyo. I suspect, far less seasonal too.

This, I believe, is one of the iconic sights in the gardens, the gazebo known as The Bandstand, was erected in 1930.

A roving photographer attending our conference snapped my photo as I wandered in the gardens. All geared up like an Aussie! 

No idea what this is! But it was pretty.

This is a set of stairs that Australian prisoners of war were forced to make bricks for and build. You can see one of the bricks below—the Australians deliberately put arrows on each brick showing they were made under duress.

So lush!

This is Swan Lake. And there were swans on it too!

A squirrel?

It's hard to gauge the size of these lilly pads, but they were more than a metre across! Quite astounding, with their upturned rims.

Another impressive flower that I'm not sure the name of!

The personal significance of these gardens is that we lived across the road from them for about five weeks in 2000. Every long-term missionary with OMF is required to attend a live-in multi-week orientation course at our international headquarters in Singapore, which happens to be across the road from these gardens.

I wandered over there to see who I might run into. I was given an impromptu short tour as we searched for someone I might know, but the two ladies who formerly worked in Japan and the Australian who also works there were all out. However, on my way back to the gardens I ran into the two Australians who live on the property and we chatted for several minutes. Then, of course, we had to take a photos in the standard place (it's the thing to do if you visit this property, 18 years ago our Orientation Course group had a photo here).

It was an hour or so of remembering. A worthwhile time spent. It's healthy to remember where God has taken you, the places and periods he's sustained you through. This was our first port of call as we began our life overseas, a momentous turning point in our lives. One that is a "before and after" moment. 

We were quite sick when we were there, probably because of the strain we'd been under in leaving Australia. We were facing an unknown future as we moved to a land we'd never set foot in, and, in my case, could barely say "hello" in the language. But our faithful God sustained us through all this, and what came after that—four years that probaby rate as the hardest years of my life. It was good to remember that God, whom I have faith in, was with us throughout.

And on that note, I've just got to quote the lyrics of this old, but gorgeous hymn:

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever will be
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me
Pardon for sin
And a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer
And to guide
Strength for today
and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord every morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hands hath
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me
So faithful too me
So too is our testimony of God's faithfulness. 
 "But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness" (Ps 86:15 NIV).

05 November, 2018

LittWorld 2018: the rest

It's three days since I left the conference in Singapore. It already feels like an age ago, mostly because of what's happened since (we had four deputation meetings over the weekend).

The meeting rooms had geometrical names!
However, this post is about the conference. It continued (after I wrote on Monday) to be a remarkable event. Most people were keen to meet new people and find out what they're doing and why they were attending the conference. I learnt a lot, and not all publishing related.
I talked with a Russian about climate, a Chicagoan about life there and in Japan, I talked magazines with a lady from Nigeria who produces one for teenagers and one from Bulgaria who produces a magazine for ladies, and talked theology and current events with someone from Sydney. I roomed with a lady from Denver, Colorado who is a publisher with William Carey. I sat with the head of Tyndale Publishing and his wife, talked with an author from Costa Rica, learned from an Egyptian editor and translator, and attended talks by a journalist from Nigeria and a deputy managing editor with Christianity Today. I went riding with a lady from Egypt and talked to a pastor from Pakistan. 


Even meals were intense. I rarely sat with the same person or group of people twice, and because I hardly knew anyone, I was constantly introducing myself and what I do. The last day of the conference I was "on" from 7.30am to 10.15pm. At that point, I retreated to my room to have a shower and pack my bag in preparation for my 6.30am bus to the airport the next day (the programme for the day wasn't finished at that point, but I was finished).
The view from the island on our bike ride as the sun was setting.
Conferences are fun and stressful at the same time. This one I went to with high expectations, and only knowing two others. I obviously met many others, but did run into someone I hadn't seen since the mid '90s and was able to joyfully hear the story of his involvement in mission.
One of the lunch buffet tables. Feeding people from
52 nations is no joke. We mostly ate Singaporean
food. (At least I assume that's what we ate...not
being a Singaporean expert.)
There were a number of other missionaries too. A New Zealanders in India, Americans in the Philippines, Nigeria, and a ?British couple in Costa Rica. I met a lady who has worked in the Hong Kong office of OMF and one who works with archives in the UK offices of OMF.

I've never been at a conference with an app. It was brilliant. The go-to place to check the schedule, but also an easy way to check out other attendees, to connect and communicate with them, or ask questions. Here's a screenshot of the homepage:

It was a delightfully international environment. The main focus of Media Associates International (the organisation behind this three-yearly event) is encouraging the writing and publishing of books in local languages. It was exciting to see people from countries where it is challenging to be a Christian, getting training and becoming excited about the potential.
My roommate. A delightful person to debrief with at
night time!

Near our hotel. In the background: apartments, I think.
The venue was quite lovely, though because the programme was pretty busy there were days that I didn't do much other than sit, and change rooms, and eat. The hotel was at one end of Singapore, a bit of a distance from the main city centre (not that anywhere is far from anywhere in Singapre). Close to the hotel was a grassy island/park and a beach. I skipped one main session and went wandering over to the island for some serenity (mid-week it was a very quiet spot).

On Thursday I squeezed in a ride between 5.45 and dinner (complimentary bike hire for an hour for hotel patrons). It's been several months since I was on a bike, and it was great to jump back on. However hopping off the bike wasn't so easy. I'm blaming muscle memory: I usually ride a ladies bike, which are easy to dismount, but this was a mountain bike and in my haste to dismount, I tried to swing my leg in front of me. The end result was rather heavily falling on my knee and quite a large graze that bled rather well.

Knee covered by a bandaid I probably wouldn't have
had with me had I not been a mum-of-boys!
Small touches that make a hotel seem a bit fancy. This was one of the ladies' loos.

 A playground on the island. I sat here for a while soaking up the serenity of not having anyone to concentrate on listening to or questions to answer.
You see that I couldn't just leave it at "Australia". With so
many internationals there, I reckon they should have
had an option for two countries on the nametag!

This is a taste of the botanical gardens. That's for another post: our mid-week excursion to these extensive gardens. I took my big camera there and will show you some of my photos another day. 

Enough words for today. I've had a much needed day-off and now need to get a good night's sleep. This week I shold have plenty of blogging time, so hopefully I'll be able to catch-up a little and tell you some more about what I've been up to and thinking about.

29 October, 2018

LittWorld conference Day 1

A not-so-lengthy post from the conference I'm attending in Singapore. Today is the first full day. I arrived in the early hours of Sunday, but we didn't begin until dinner-time last night.

The conference is a Christian Global Publishing conference. That is, there are people here from 52 different countries (more than 250 people). They include publishers, writers, editors, designers, screenwriters, and marketers. It's quite an extraordinary collection of people.

I've been pleasantly surprised by the Biblical and godly focus of those who are running the conference, but also by the non-Western input we've already had. We've had two worship times already and they've been a blessing to me. The theme of the conference is "the Word made fresh", so a focus on the Bible. Last night we had a speaker from the Egyptian Bible Society. He told us some amazing stories.
Often these "international" events are very US or UK biased, but thus far the only American speakers we've had from the front are the MC and a tiny bit from the President of the organisation running the event (MAI Media Associates International). I'm used to being a part of an international organisation, but the OMF has its limits, as in, our focus is on East Asia and most of our missionaries come from a limited group of countries, countries that have an official OMF home-side presence (though that is now changing). So, there is limited African, European, and South American influences. I'm losing count of the nationalities of people here I've had conversations with. Here's what I can remember: Egypt, Cambodia, Malaysia, Kenya, US, UK, Italy, Costa Rica, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, South Africa, Japan, Laos, Australia, and Hungry.

Here are some things I'm already thinking about: 
  • What other value can I add to what we do with Japan Harvest magazine aside from the magazine. Can we do something else that gets people more involved outside of them actually just reading the magazine?
  • How can I think more globally about my writing about things local?
What follows are some photographic "thoughts" of the last couple of days.

A largely empty Brisbane International Airport. Middle of the afternoon on a Saturday, I was really surprised! I had a very smooth flight, but I was very tired by the time arrived, having had a 23 hour day (we spoke at a breakfast meeting in Brisbane on Saturday).

Upstairs garden. This was the view outside the first room that I occupied. I arrived at about 1am and was given a single room for 11 hours. After that I changed to a double room for the rest of the conference, I don't know why I couldn't have booked into the second room when I first arrived on Sunday morning, but oftimes when you travel you just have to go with what you get.

Below are more views from my first room.

More view. It's a lovely area. I wandered around here a bit yesterday as I looked for a cheap lunch option.
Gorgeous display that greets those of us who "live" on the third floor.
A street-level view of the local area. This is close to many vendors, but it delightfully thought out.
Lunch. I didn't sit at this table, but most tables have a quite the variety of nationalitities. People are mixing well.  Many people don't know a lot of others. Each meal has been a
buffet with a fair variety of food. We're certainly not starving: for food or conversation.
This is where we are located on the island. Quite close to the airport, but the plane noise hasn't been a big concern.

27 October, 2018

Australian bushdance

Our eldest son's church has an annual bush dance, that's where he spent last Saturday night.

I never thought about it being an Australian thing, one that our kids hadn't learned. But then, I think it is also somewhat of a historical thing that many kids growing up in Australia haven't experienced either. It used to be a big social gathering for the local community, especially in rural areas. Even growing up int he 70s or 80s in a largish-town, it wasn't a common thing. Our church went through a stage of having quite a lot of them, and I've also done it at various camps and possibly at school (memory's a bit vague on that point). In any case, when our youngest heard where his brother was last Saturday night, I had some explaining to do.

Wikipedia tells me that Australian bush dance is similar to the American line dances or square dances, but actually mostly came from various folk dances in the UK and Europe. 
"...in that all dancers know certain steps and execute them together. Partners are often changed in the course of the dance".
Here's a video I found showing you one of the common dances: 

I don't have photo or video evidence of our son dancing—but have heard from an eye-witness that he did a pretty good job. I would have loved to gone myself, but we were otherwise engaged. It's been a long time since I've attended an Australian bush dance!

I'm typing this in the departure lounge of Brisbane airport, boarding a plane soon to fly to Singapore for the week. Hopefully, I'll get some time there to write at least one blog post.

26 October, 2018

So many unwritten things

I've got several topics of many unwritten posts in my head. It's a writer's dream or nightmare, depending on which way you look at it. 
Some pretty flowers from Toowoomba.
Unrelated to this post except that it
reminds me about some of the beautiful
things I've seen while travelling around,
and have been able to take photos of.
I'm taking my camera on this trip,
so hopefully there'll be some nice photos
to share with you at some point.

I'm shocked to realise that I've only published seven posts in October, I guess this makes the eighth. That means I've just surpassed July and September. Rarely in the last nine and a half years of blogging have I written so little.

The fact is, I've been busy, probably too busy. If I haven't had time to write, I've been recovering from being overly tired or I've been sick. But if you've been reading what small amounts I've managed to get up here, you'll know that. There's also been a bunch of stuff this year that I just couldn't share in this public forum, and that's clipped my wings a bit.

The crazy-busy metre is about to go up a notch, I'm afraid. I'm flying to Singapore tomorrow evening for a International Christian Writers and Editors conference. That's from Sunday to next Friday when I'll fly to Perth (closer to Singapore than it is to Brisbane) and meet David and our two younger boys. 

In Perth we'll be visiting five churches, most of whom have supported us for the last 20 years, plus a mission prayer group and an OMF meeting. Eleven meetings in total, over ten days! My guess would be that I'll probably have time in Singapore to write, but Perth will be more difficult, although most of the meetings are on the two weekends, so during the week will be easier. We'll be back on Nov 12, and I'll breath a sigh of relief that this "big rock" of our home assignment is completed.

In the meantime, for the record, here are some things I've been thinking about writing on:

  • friendship
  • Australian bush dance (acutally, I might get this one done in the next 24 hours)
  • boundaries
  • grief
  • about this conference I'm going to
  • Christmas on home assignment
  • internally judgemental
  • When are you next coming to Australia? (I just wrote a short bit about that in our prayer letter that I sent out this afternoon)
  • Kid's newsletter (which has completely fallen off the rails)
  • the books I've been reading: Awe by Tripp, Making Sense of God by Keller
So you see. Tonnes of material. Just no time or frame of mind to get sorted in my head and down in a form that's in any way presentable.

But for now: it's off to packing on this stinking hot spring day (forecast around 36C, but very dry at 25%).  Let's consult the weather of my destinations: 
Singpoare weather: excessively humid (>85%, so currently feels like 31C) but not stinking hot (forecast temperatures around 28C), however I will mostly be inside in their famously cold air conditioning. But, as it's a professional conference, I can't wear jeans all week. Hmmm.
Perth weather: it's jumping around between high teens and mid to high 20s, but is dry (today 50%). With lots of up-front events, I also can't be too casual in my clothing most days either.
Sounds like layers are the thing! But now I've got to do it! (We've got a breakfast meeting tomorrow, so there won't be too much extra time to spare...sigh, it's going to be a long day.)