For any of you who may be interested to see a video of me making a fool of myself in front of 400+ people – this is the video for you! Enjoy!
I thought today I would write about the poem ‘The Gate of the Year’ – it is the first thing you see when you come to my blog homepage after all.
This poem (or at least, this verse of the poem!) has come to mean a lot to me over the years, but before I share why I should probably introduce the poem.
The poem was first written in 1908 by a British lady called Minnie Louise Haskins. The actual poem is titled ‘God Knows’ and the verse that I have pictured was actually written as the preamble which leads into the full poem. This is a little known fact – making this poem probably one of the best known, and yet unknown poems out there. A few years after writing the poem Minnie published a small volume of poetry called ‘The Desert’ which contained the poem ‘God Knows.’ But both the author and the poem remained relatively unknown.
It wasn’t until Christmas 1939 that the poem was catapulted into stardom, when King George VI read this verse at the end of his Christmas speech to the nation and Commonwealth. At this point, Britain had been at war with Germany for 3 months, and nobody was under the illusion that what was to come would be anything less than brutal, and indeed, tragic.
The First World War had only been 2 decades ago, and people, and the nation, were still bearing the scars. Now, faced with yet another war, where people would lose husbands, brothers and sons, the King was faced with a dilemma. What words do you speak to a nation who faces loss and great suffering? What words do you speak when you cannot guarantee that people’s loved ones will be spared, or that they themselves will be protected?
There seems to be some debate as to how the King got a hold of these words – some say his wife, the Queen Consort Elizabeth gave them to him, but the book that I take this from says that his daughter, our now Queen Elizabeth II, handed him a piece of paper with this poem. (If you haven’t read the book ‘The Servant Queen and the King she serves’ you should definitely check it out. The book is about the Queen’s personal faith and truly is inspirational. Much like the Queen herself – another one of my many hero’s.) Elizabeth would have been 13 at the time, and it is said that she handed her Father the poem thinking that it might be helpful. And it was. The King’s speech (not the one referenced in the movie of the same title – just in case you were wondering!) would turn out to be profoundly significant, strengthening hearts and giving hope to millions at such a terrible time. Here are the words that were spoken to a nation facing the uncertainties of war and the coming new year –
I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown” And he replied “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”
So why do these words mean so much to me? Well, at some point in time, my Grandfather got a hold of these words. I like to think that perhaps he was listening to the radio broadcast when the King gave his speech, but I do not know that for certain. What I do know, is that however he first heard them, they made a lasting impact on him, so much so, that when my Mum was a little girl, these are the words that he wrote in her much cherished autograph book. These are the words that he chose to give to his daughter.
And years later, these are the words that she passed on to her daughter. The picture that I have on my home page is a picture of the card that my Mum gave to me one year. She thought that as I regularly ‘step out into the unknown’ these words, which she also holds dearly, would serve me well. To this day I keep the card on my fridge. A daily reminder that as I step out, no matter what I may face in the coming day, I need only put my hand into the hand of my Lord and King. His hand is always open, and He is always there to light the way.
And now I pass these words onto you. As my Mum suspected (she is really very wise you know) these words have served me well – words which I now cherish and hold dearly also. And I hope that they will serve you well too.
So today – as you continue to walk your path – may you put your hand into the hand of God – the only one who can truly direct our steps.
Yours In Joy
Well here we are – 2019! Those of you who have good memories may have remembered that this blog existed. Those of you with unnaturally good memories may notice that it now looks completely different. Welcome to my new and improved blog! And don’t worry – if you didn’t fall into either of those 2 categories I don’t blame you whatsoever.
So it has been a long time since my last blog post. Nearly 3 years in fact. Which, putting it bluntly, is shocking. A lot has happened since then. But don’t worry – I’m not going to share in detail everything that has happened in the last 3 years! But for those of you who are interested, here is a very brief bullet point summary –
+ I did the School of Worship in April 2016
+ I went on outreach to Turkey where we had the privilege of visiting a refugee came and spending time loving on the people there, as well as the amazing opportunity to worship in the Ephesus Coliseum. There was also a terrorist attack at the airport and then a few weeks later a failed military coup….but we wont go into that! Following Turkey I spent 5 weeks walking around Manila in the Philippines making maps for the Megacities teams. It was hard work.
+ Next up was a trip home to the UK to spend Christmas with my family
+ Then things start to get a little fuzzy to be honest, but it can be summarised simply by saying that my body started to do weird things, and after many tests, an admission into hospital, and a lot of uncertainties I was diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder – or FND for short. I will dedicate another post to this and share more in detail on what this means another day.
+ Despite the diagnosis, God was incredibly faithful and allowed me to go on outreach with Worship For the Nations to the Kimberley region in the north western part of Australia, which was an incredible joy. I’ll probably end up sharing more on this place one day too.
+ Following this I went home again to the UK to receive more medical treatment and spend time with my family resting. It was a real joy to be home to see the arrival of my wonderful niece, and to be there for my cousins wedding. I was also able to be there for my uni house 5 year reunion, which was a lot of fun.
+ When I came back to Perth in the October 20117 I left Worship for the Nations and rejoined Megacities. And there I am to this day! I haven’t left Australia since – instead working in the office on various different projects and learning to live life in a new way with my FND.
So there you have it! Nearly 3 years in 7 bullet points haha. But that’s not really what I wanted to share in this blog post. What I wanted to share is why I stopped blogging.
Because the truth is – I stopped being grateful. Life became hard, and things didn’t go my way, or at least, the way I had hoped or expected, and I was no longer able to see the blessings in my life. I became focussed on the things that I didn’t have rather than the things that I did. I held accusation in my heart towards God, and other people, and I became stuck in this place of seeing myself as the victim. Things that once were a joy and privilege became a chore. I became blind to the joys that surrounded me, and chose only to see the stuff that was hard. For a while.
And then somewhere along the line this changed, and rather than being stuck in the negative, life simply became ‘blah’. Everything was in shades of grey and my eyes were blind to the everyday miracles. And then I got sick, and life became a struggle, and everyday things became a battle. Somehow I became disconnected with my self, and with that, my ability, or desire to write.
Of course it wasn’t as black and white as this. Yes I had my downs, but I also had my ups, so I don’t want it to make it sound like life has been terrible these past 3 years. Because it hasn’t. I have learnt a lot, grown a lot, and been incredibly blessed, but this is my best attempt at finding a way of describing where my heart has been these past few years and the struggle/journey that I have been on. If I had to summarise it in one sentence it would probably be this – the Lord convicted me of my incredible pride, and in His mercy has taken me on a journey of teaching me what it means to walk in humility.
And really that is all I need to say to summarise the past 3 years – sometimes life is hard, but the Lord is always so incredible good.
And that is where I am now. I by no means have it all sorted. I still have my struggles, and I still have much to learn – but the Lord is faithful to continue His work in me, and I know that I can trust Him along the way.
So with that in mind – this is the theme of my new and improved blog. Jo Smith – Seeker of Truth and Rainbows Along Life’s Journey. I want to find truth in all that surrounds me, when so often the world bombards us with lies from all angles and directions. Because ultimately it is the truth that will set you free. And I want to find the promises of God, even amidst the struggles and storms of this life. Because God is good. He is joy. He is life. He is beauty. He is colours and sparkles and adventure. And He’s taking me on a journey. And my hope is that you will share that journey with me.
So here’s to 2019 and all that it has in store. Who knows where we might end up!
In my next adventure I had the joy of visiting Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for 2 weeks! One of my good friends has just planted a long term work in this city coming out of YWAM Perth, and we were invited to join the team in the city for a few weeks to do some spiritual mapping, prayer and worship.
The journey to Addis Ababa was a bit of a mission – first a flight to Doha, Qatar and then a 15 hour layover for our next flight! Thankfully Qatar airport has some quiet rooms with semi reclined seating, so as a team we staked out a corner of the room with our bags and bedding and settled in for the day! We slept, ate, read books, and explored the airport (it has some strange artwork/sculptures I’m not gonna lie) and then boarded our 2nd plane to Ethiopia! We arrived in the middle of the night, so crashed on the floor of our friends’ apartment, and woke up in the morning ready for our next adventure!
For the first week we explored all different parts of the city, looking at various parts of current society, as well as the history. From there, we used all the information that we had gathered to find patterns and themes that we believed to be significant for the future development of the city. We allocated different topics to each day of our second week, and asked the Lord for strategies and guidance as to how to approach each day. Here is a brief outline of what we did on each day.
Day 1 – Praying for Business and Economics of thee City We went to the main railway line which connects Ethiopia with the Port of Djibouti – a significant place of economic trade. There we had a time of prayer and worship, and then gave out food to beggars around the area as a prophetic act, praying that the business and economic dealings of the city would be done with integrity and righteousness, helping to look after the poor. We also visited both the Ministry of Trade and Ministry of Finance and had times of prayer and worship outside each of these buildings. It was interesting to see different people’s responses to our public worship – some people were fascinated and would stand and watch for a while (some even joined in!) and sometimes we had to move on as not all guards or officials were happy with us being there! But even then, we would go find a new spot and continue with our ministry.
Day 2 – Ladies Day! Violence against women and attitudes towards women is a BIG problem in Ethiopia, although statistics are showing encouraging signs of this beginning to change. We started the day by visiting the local Women’s Lawyer Association, where we met with their director to discuss some of these issues. This was both great in that we got to make connections for our friends who will be in the city long term, but also because we had the opportunity to pray for the Director at the end of our time with her! This association does an amazing job of advocating for women’s rights, educating people on the rights of women, and also giving free legal advice and help to vulnerable women who are in need of help, so it was an honour to be able to pray for them and the work that they do.
That day we also had a time of prayer, worship and Bible reading outside of the Ministry for Women and Children, and made connections with several Ethiopian church pastors in the process which was great. We ended the day by handing out flowers to women in the area that we lived, again as a prophetic act of their beauty, value, and worth. You would be amazed how many men got jealous and asked us for some flowers too!!
Day 3 – Addis Ababa to the Nations! One key thing that we discovered during our first week of research is how significant this city is in terms of reaching out to other nations, especially in Africa. With both the African Union and the African United Nations Headquarters based in this city, a lot of powerful and influential people come to this city regularly to make important decisions about the future. It is interesting to note that Ethiopia is one of very few Christian nations in this part of Africa, being almost entirely surrounded by Muslim nations, and we believe that as such, this city has a significant role to play in missions and discipling nations in the ways of Christ. Ethiopia has very strong Christian foundations, and you can very much see that in daily life. As a team we were particularly shocked at how much effort drivers took to NOT run us over, even stopping to allow us to cross the road – which is not something we can say for other nations that we have visited! They also showed respect and care for us as foreigners, and we felt incredibly safe the majority of the time.
We started this day by praying outside of the African Union – it’s a pretty impressive looking building, but unfortunately we were not allowed to go inside as we were unable to pre-arrange a visit. We were, however, allowed into the United Nations building, which was absolutely incredible. The Lord opened doors for us to be able to go in and have a tour of the main conference centre – the one that you see on TV where all the leaders of the world gather to discuss important matters. At the end of the tour we asked our guide if it would be ok if we stayed behind for a little bit because we would like to have a time of prayer in the main auditorium, to which she said we were very welcome to stay as long as we wanted! So there we sat, in the main lobby area where hundreds of powerful world leaders walk through every year, praying for them, and asking that they would come to know the wisdom of God in all their decisions. It was quite the amazing opportunity. The geek inside of me also got pretty excited about seeing the main conference rooms too 😉
On Day 4 we focussed on the spread of other religions that have come to the nation of Ethiopia, especially Islam, and went to several locations for times of Bible reading, prayer and worship, asking for the gospel to spread to those who do not have it. On Day 6 (yes I have skipped a day – we will come back to that one in a minute!) we focussed on Government, and went to pray for the city leaders and those who uphold the law at the City Hall, the Supreme Court, and a local police station. We managed to look up the names of specific government leaders for the city and pray for them one at a time, asking God for specific words for each one of them which was great, although some of their names were a little tricky to pronounce! And then on Day 7 we focussed on the Body of Christ and the local church, going and having a time of prayer and worship outside one of the main Cathedrals in the city centre, and then again, handing out food and water to people on the streets as a prophetic act of the church going out of their buildings and loving people in their communities. We ended our final day in Addis Ababa by praying for our long term team as they start to settle in to the city and build their ministry.
So what did we do on Day 5 you ask? Well, as many of you will know, Ethiopia suffered a terrible period of civil war and conflict during the 1970s – 1990’s, as well as a brutal Italian occupation during World War II. Political instability and ideology led to massacres and thousands of people being killed. We discovered during our week of research that this also had a strong connection to the area of education in several different ways. Firstly, the location of the University of Addis Ababa marks the site where one of the worst massacres took place in the city during Italian occupation. Both during this massacre and the ones that followed in the 70’s under the Derg regime, young academics and intellectuals were often targeted. A whole generation of educated young people was wiped out by genocide, and you can see how this has affected the development of the city.
We believed this to be a very important thing to pray into, and so we spent the day visiting several different locations where massacres and blood shed occurred, taking time to pray for those affected by these events, and inviting the presence of Jesus to these places through our worship, asking Him to bring healing and restoration for all that had occurred. We also visited several different education institutions to pray for the future of education and those young people who will grow up and play a part in the future development of the city. Outside of the Ministry of Education we spent some time Bible reading, and a local man came and joined in with us which was great! We believe this was a really significant day of ministry for this city, and it was a real honour to be a part of it.
So there you go! Sorry for the long blog post, but now you know what I got up to in Ethiopia! It was an amazing time of ministry, in an amazing city, and I had a really great time being a part of it. The journey back to Perth was even longer than our journey out, with a 20 hour layover in Doha. Happily, we were able to get out of the airport for a few hours as the airline offered us a free complimentary tour of the city. If you ever get the chance, I would highly recommend it. It’s a fascinating city with a unique blend of modern development and ancient tradition and civilisation. And yes, a lot of gold 😉
Yes I know – it was a while back since I went to Indonesia. 5 months in fact. But I’ve finally got my act together and thought it was about time I at least shared some of my highlights of the trip.
The purpose of our trip was to go and visit 4 unreached people groups of Indonesia, the most Muslim nation in the world. Our mission was to scout out the land, make connections with local people, and research the needs of these precious people in order to report back to our community here in Perth. The dream is that one day we will be able to send both long and short term teams to all 4 of these unreached peoples in order to love and serve them, as well as share the gospel with them.
These 4 unreached people groups are the Makassarese, mostly found in the city of Makassar on the island of Sulawesi, the Orang Dalam, a nomadic people group who live away from civilisation in the Sumatran jungle, and the Madurese, originally from the island of Madura. For those observers amongst you, you will see that I have only mentioned 3 out of the 4 people groups that we visited. Unfortunately I cannot talk about the 4th group we visited here on my blog because of security reasons – but lets just say that they are an amazing people group who need Jesus in their lives! 😉
So up first was the Makassarese. We arrived at the airport during a thunder storm, which in itself was pretty spectacular, watching the lightening from a distance. The people here are incredible – so hospitable, friendly, and quick to welcome you to their city. Everywhere we went people would stop us in the streets simply to say “Welcome to Makassar!” We spent a few days here getting to know a little more about the history of the city, as well as exploring different parts of the city and opportunities for ministry. We were surprised to find that there are many churches in this city, and although they are somewhat afraid of sharing their faith with others for fear of persecution, their presence in the city is definitely known. We dropped in to one of the biggest (and oldest!) churches in the city to meet the pastor, which happens to be right next to the city government offices. We were able to pray with him, and sing a worship song in his church with him, which clearly touched him a lot.
Another absolute highlight in this first location was being able to pray over what is claimed to be the most central point of Indonesia. As a team we felt it important that we go and spend some time there to pray over the whole of the nation, but when we arrived we discovered that the point was off limit due to construction – they are redeveloping it into a big tourist attraction, big surprise! With our plan out the window, we looked around and saw that the highest point in the surrounding area was in fact a hospital, so we rather cheekily entered the hospital with the hope that we might be able to gain access to the top floor to pray over the city instead. Incredibly, not only did the hospital end up being a Christian hospital, but one of our members who is originally from Jakarta also knows the man who is Director for the whole chain of hospitals that this particular one belongs to. We only had to mention his name and we were given full access to the rooftop of this hospital and were able to have a 1 hour open time of prayer and worship for the city, and indeed the nation.
What is really remarkable about the whole of this situation is that in no other circumstances would we have been able to have such an open time of prayer and worship. Because Indonesia is a Muslim nation, most places we went we had to be pretty discreet about what we were doing, but in an openly Christian hospital we had full permission to sing and shout as loudly as we wanted! We couldn’t have planned it better ourselves! Jesus really is amazing.
Next up was our flight to Sumatra. We did a lot of flying on this trip, on a lot of planes. And we also did a lot of driving. Basically, we travelled lots. Because we are hardcore like that. Although if we are honest, it was also pretty exhausting changing location every 2-3 days and spending days at a time in between travelling from one place to the next. But the Lord is good. And He is worthy of it all. And so we did so with a smile. And sometimes a grimace. Because sometimes, transport in Indonesia can be a little bit scary. Road safety is not a top priority in countries like this. If you want proof, look no further than this – 6 of us squishing into 4 seats of a regular taxi. Granted, we chose to do this to save money on transport, but the fact that the taxi drivers didn’t bat an eyelid at it says a lot. And so this is how we travelled at times around the city.
And then there were other times when we had to travel further, and so we hired a bus to take us all. This was the case in Sumatra when we had to transport the whole team from the big city out into the country side. This journey was certainly one of the most terrifying that I’ve experienced in my life time and wont be forgotten for a long time. On the way up the journey took 5 hours and about half of that was in the pitch black. You couldn’t see the road, you couldn’t see the oncoming traffic. And when we stopped for a bathroom break our driver was clearly on edge because there had recently been a spate of attacks on people in this area. Needless to say we were happy to arrive in one piece. But the journey back a few days later was even worse! What had taken 5 hours before now only took 3 hours because of the sheer speed at which our driver was going. With no cares for our safety, or anybody else on the road who he was overtaking, he drove the whole way like a lunatic, and would speed up even more any time we thought about asking him to slow down. So instead, we all held our breathe and silently prayed that we would make it back in one piece. Which we did – thank you Jesus.
But despite our travel horror stories it was oh so worth the trip. We were visiting a pastor who has an incredible ministry with the Orang Dalam people, which started after he heard the call of God to this nomadic people group whilst studying at theology college! Not knowing anything about them (including how to find them), he literally up and moved his family to a new location and drove around the jungle for days on his motorbike trying to find any signs of these people. When he eventually did find one village, they placed a curse on him (traditionally these people are involved in very dark magic) and waited for him to die. Days later, when he still hadn’t been killed by this curse, they realised that the God he had been trying to share with them was much stronger than any magic they knew, and all gave their lives to Jesus. The whole community was completely transformed, and, seeing the change that had taken place in their neighbours lives, another village came round and asked this pastor to give them whatever he had given them! This was around 25 years ago.
We had the absolute honour of visiting both of these villages, and to meet some of the people, as well as having a time of worship in the church that they have built in the first village. One of these villages was a 2.5 hour journey in the back of a ute through the jungle, which involved going up and down bumpy roads and STEEP slopes – one of which nearly resulted in me being flung out of the vehicle had it not been for the ropes which had been attached earlier for us to cling onto. Like I said, travel in Indonesia can be a little bit scary. Here is the ute we travelled in, and some of the road that make up our journey.
And then there was the second village, which required us to travel by ute for 45 minutes before crossing a very high, swinging bridge over a river in order to hike through the jungle for 40 mins. Not your average journey into work.
But once there we had the absolute honour of hearing the people sing a worship song in their own mother tongue – a people group who, 20 years ago, didn’t have any form of music or dance in their culture. It was a beautiful moment. Afterwards, they even asked to have their photo taken with us!
After that it was on to our next location. Madura is a very Muslim part of Indonesia, which we were keenly aware of due to our hotel being right next to a mosque, and has very dry and arid land. They are most well known for their salt production, and so we spent some time praying and worshipping at their salt port where they export to many different islands. We also went around the city looking for churches – in the whole city we could only find 4. We split up into teams to go and visit each one, and one of the teams got to go to a church where they were literally the first ever missionaries to come and visit them. There are many different people in Madura, but our focus in this city was the Madurese people, and from our visits, we have heard of 10 Madurese Christians in this city. All of the other church attendees are Chinese Indonesian or Malay, so there is definitely a long way to go to reach this people group. Sadly, violence and persecution are not uncommon in this region for anybody who calls themselves Christian. We even heard the tragic story of one girl who lost her life because she converted to Christianity. We of course want to see this changed – so please keep the people of Madura in your prayers.
After a few days there we moved to our fourth and final location. Unfortunately I was unwell for most of our time there, and so was unable to go out on ministry. But my fellow team mates did a great job of hiking through many villages praying for people, and even climbed to the ridge of a volcano at night time to pray over the land! Meanwhile I was stuck in a hut with giant flying bugs and lizards who came dangerously close to dropping on my head and made the most alarming sound with their tongues – all for the cause of Christ!
And then began our journey home – which in itself took a full 20 hours – crazy when you think how close Indonesia is to Australia. But a several hour drive down a mountain, a horrendous journey across the sea crammed on a boat, another 2 hours in a bus in the middle of the night, 5 hours sleeping on an airport floor and then the flight Perth, and we eventually made it home. This was a particularly poignant moment for me, because as we were flying over the great land of Australia, admiring once more just how insanely remote Western Australia is (several hours of looking out the window and not a single sign of civilisation) I realised that this was the first time that I would be flying into Perth as the city that I call home. Every other time I have flown into that airport it has been for the start of a new adventure, but this time, this time I was returning. And it felt great.
So that’s it! A whistle stop tour of my time in Indonesia. Sorry it has taken me sooooo long to get it down on cyber paper, but I hope this gives you a better insight into what I was getting up to!
Until next time!
As many of you will know, I recently had the privilege of travelling to Kalgoorlie for a week on outreach. I went with my ministry, Worship for the Nations (WFN for short) and Priceless, another ministry on base that focuses on issues of prostitution and human trafficking. Kalgoorlie is just under 600km (that’s roughly 370 miles for us Brits) away from Perth, so pretty comparable to the journey from my home in Somerset to my Granddad’s house up in Scotland. Except the road looks like this.
And not only that. This is the only road that you have to take. You drive on this road and this road only for 6-7 hours. And then you arrive. It’s pretty simple. I’m not very good at navigating, but I think even I could manage this journey without a SatNav. So that was my journey. Wide open spaces, beautiful Ozzie scenery, and red dirt. Lots and lots of red dirt. And maybe every couple of hours or so you will get to see some form of civilisation. Maybe a car will come by in the opposite direction. You might see a train or one of those really really big lorries that are even longer than they are big that you could only find in a country this size. And even less often, you will drive through a small town, with a population of a couple of thousand at the very tops, and a “servo” (aka petrol station/gas station/service station/something else entirely depending on where you are from in the world) which you will naturally stop at to refill your engine because it will be another couple of hundred km before you see another one. Such is life when you are in the Ozzie outback.
To give you an idea of how crazy desert like it is when you live in such a place – on our way back we stopped for lunch at a random picnic table on the side of the road. We pulled out our pre-packed lunch from the back of the van, and in the short amount of time that we were sat outside eating, our sandwiches turned to toasties as the heat/dryness in the air literally toasted our bread in our hands. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This is not the kind of problem that a typical Brit faces when having a picnic! And then there is this.
The white thing you can see on the right side of the road is a water pipe. A really long water pipe. It is in fact so long that it carries water from a reservoir just outside of Perth a whole 330 miles (530km) all the way to Kalgoorlie, so the 30,000 people living in this city can have access to water. That’s right. One of the biggest cities in the state of Western Australia has to have its water pumped 330 miles in order for them to be able to survive. That’s how “in the middle of nowhere” they actually are. That’s how much “in the desert” they are. They even have signs advertising fake grass companies. They do pretty good business out there. The house that we were living in was surrounded by it.
So lets stop for just a moment and put this into terms that we can understand. And when I say “we” I mean British people. Because really, every time I stop and think about this, it literally blows my mind. Maybe not literally. But I do stop and think how crazy big and vast and…well….empty the majority of this giant country is. Imagine that I live in Portsmouth in the UK in a parallel universe. The nearest city to me is Gretna Green. Yep that’s right. Gretna Green. And between my city and this city is 1 road that travels the full distance of this country that we call England. And on this one road there are roughly 5 petrol stations, maybe 6 or 7 main towns where people live, and the occasional tourist attraction where an earthquake once happened. Apart from that, all you will see on your estimated 7 hours of travelling is wide open spaces and the beauty of mother nature. Oh. And a water pipe. A really long water pipe that runs alongside this 1 road for the rest of your journey. This water pipe appears a few miles outside of Southampton (because in this parallel universe where there is only 1 road between the north and south of England it conveniently runs past this “small town”) and pumps water the rest of the way up to the Scottish border. Because those poor people in Gretna Green don’t have any water supply for themselves. And this is the closest place where they can get a reliable and permanent source. Yep – you’ve got it. A water pipe running almost the entire length of England in order to supply life saving essentials to our neighbours in the North. That is how teeny tiny, and completely disproportionately crammed full of people, our nation is in comparison to the land we call “Down Under”.
There is much more that I could say about my trip into the outback. But I will leave that for another time. Instead, I will leave you for now with the craziness that is the country, and continent, of Australia. The country that defies all logic.
Well it’s official. I have now been on staff an living here in Perth Australia for a whole 12 months. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would end up living here, so far away from home, for so long. But God has a tendency to take us on adventures with Him, and this really has turned out to be quite the adventure!
When I was a little girl I always wanted to visit Australia. It was on my list of things to do in my lifetime. The country fascinated me – and so when I was given the opportunity to go there as part of a Biology field trip when I was at college at jumped at the chance. At 17, I spent just over a week exploring different parts of the country, studying the wildlife and how they were adapted to live in their very different habitats. I loved it. I very quickly fell in love with the country, and was sad to say goodbye, although I was also very happy to come back home. At that time, I never thought I would be coming back to the land Down Under – how wrong was I!
The funnier thing is that I also never dreamed that I would be a missionary. That was what my big sister did. It was her thing. She would be the one to travel the world, and I would stay firmly on UK soil and get a job working for a church. That was always my plan. When I first went to Burundi I remember thinking that 3 months was a long time to be away from home overseas. And then when I came here to Perth the first time round I remember thinking that 6 months was a long time to be away from home overseas.
And now? Well I have to confess that this past year has flown by. And the longer I stay here, the more this place begins to feel like home. I love it here. My friends are here. My life is here now. But there will always be a part of my heart that will be firmly British. That will be fiercely proud of the land that I call my home (ask anybody here – they think its funny how much I love my home country and how much I talk about it!) and of course, that desperately misses my family and friends who are there. I wish Australia didn’t have to be so far away. If I could find some way of combining this place, and the people that I love so dearly back home then I would. That would be the equivalent of being given the cake with icing and the cherry and hundreds and thousands and marshmallows and glitter and sparkly things on top, and then being given a fork to eat it. Seriously.
This past year has definitely had its ups and downs. I miss my family. Sharing life with people living on the opposite sides of the world is tough. And I’ve been sick. A lot. But there is one thing that I am absolutely certain of. I am exactly where I need to be. The picture at the top of this post is of a painting hanging on our back porch that one of my old house mates did. The verse is taken from 2 Samuel 22:20 – “He brought me out into a spacious place. He rescued me because He delighted in me.” I love it! And for me, Australia is my spacious place. This is where the Lord has brought me out to.
Yes, Australia is indeed a spacious place, but the wide open spaces aren’t the only reason why the Lord brought me here! When I am here, I feel like my soul can breathe. I am sure part of that is due to the climate, as I’ve always been much more relaxed when the sun is shining! But it’s also the culture here. Chill out. Relax. Don’t stress. No worries. All of these things are well known to be a part of the Ozzie culture. Go to the beach. Have a BBQ. Walk around in bare feet and don’t carry a care in the world. It doesn’t take long for this attitude to rub off on you. And I have no doubt that this has good for me.
And of course, it’s the people I live and work with every day. It’s the job that I get to do. It’s the fact that I get to celebrate the nations, share life with people, learn more about Jesus, and love Jesus, every day, and be a part of a community who are committed to this. Knowing the place where I was before I came to Perth, I can see exactly why I needed to come here. I can see exactly why this place has been so good for me. I understand why God chose to take me out of that place and bring me here instead. It is here that I have found healing from so much pain and hurt. It is here that I have found freedom from things that were once holding me back. And it is here that I have continued to grow more and more into the person that He designed and created me to be. He brought me out into a spacious place. He rescued me because He delighted in me.
And so looking back on this past year, more than anything else, I am so incredibly thankful that God knows what is best for me, and in His faithfulness brought me to this place. I had plans, I had expectations for my life, I thought I knew best. Well I was wrong. And all those ideas that I had for my life God just blew straight out of the water. And I am so grateful that He did. I still have a lot to learn. There are still areas in my life where God needs to work. And I have at least another 3 years here for that to happen! So even on those days when I am missing my family and the BBC and proper biscuits and all those other things that clearly the UK is far better at than any other nation on earth (cake being one of them I also believe) I stand assured that I am here because here is where I need to be. Right here, in this time, in this place, God is working in my life. And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
As many of you will know, YWAM Perth is looking to build a new accommodation block just down the road from our main base in order to provide more rooms and beds for all the staff and students that we are home for in our community. This building is going to cost around $4 million dollars – which is roughly £2 million given the current exchange rate. This is of course a lot of money, especially as we are a non profit organisation with none of it’s members getting paid a salary. But we are trusting God for the finances, and we have already seen a great deal of money come through. The other Wednesday in staff meeting it was announced that God had given us a new prayer strategy in order to see the rest of these finances come in. Every morning, for the next 4 weeks, the base leadership team and anybody else who wants to join in will be meeting from 7am for a time of specific prayer and intercession., Great!
And then we got hit by lightening. Or at least, the lighting struck VERY close to our base, causing the building to light up and giving off a very loud bang. That was Thursday night, when Perth was hit by a big thunder storm. Unaware of how much of a problem this would prove to be, everybody turned up on Friday morning ready to work. And that was where the problems began. None of the computers were working. Nobody could log in in order to access their accounts. A very lengthy process began. It was soon realised that the problem was because the server was down, something that happens from time to time and so nobody thought much of it. usually what this means is that everybody gets half an hour off to have a morning or afternoon tea break whilst out very clever IT people work hard to get it all back up and running. Except this time, the server was’t up and running after an hour, and there were rumours that it wasn’t going to be working for the rest of the day.
To cut a very long and confusing story short (all sorts of information was being passed round the base continually as information was discovered and more pieces of the puzzle put together) this is basically what we now know and what has been happening this past week.
It turns out the thunder caused a massive surge of electricity to run through our system, causing various degrees of damage. Now everything we have is guarded with surge protectors, but this surge of lightening was just too strong. Our servers were damaged, and it was going to be a long and lengthy process to fix. The biggest problem with this is that nobody can do any work whilst the servers are down! All of our files are on the server, all of our emails, and the majority of our computers only run through it, so we don’t even have access to the internet! Our first biggest concern was that we would lose of all of our data, 10 years worth of work and information, because both our server and back up server had gone down. Something which isn’t meant to happen.
Now I don’t know all the technical ins and outs of this, so I wont bother to try and explain. But this is what I do know. When they called the IBM guy out to come and look at the problem, he didn’t know what the problem was. Because in his 17 years of experience, he had never seen anything like it. And when they did finally figure out what the problem was, he didn’t know how to fix it because this never should have happened, and so of course, it had never happened before and he had never needed to fix it. Now him just being there was costing us a lot of money. We are talking a figure in the thousands. Which is typical when you are already trusting God for the provision of 4 million! But then this guy goes and tells us that we need to buy several new parts, which are going to cost us another 8 thousand dollars or so.
But this is when it all gets pretty incredible. Now it turns out, that our neighbours, the building that I walk past every single day to get onto base but had no idea who they were – it turns out that they are IT consultants specialising in data recovery in terms of crisis and external back up those wanting extra assurance that they wont loose all their data in said crisis. Basically, exactly what we needed. And it also turns out that we have a good relationship with them. So when we went over and shared our problem – something miraculous happened. It turns out they have exactly the same server/hard drives as us, and they had some spare parts lying around including the ones that we were told we were going to need. The EXACT same parts. So they loaned them out to us – and it was all still broken. They weren’t the parts that we needed after all.
Still not knowing if we had lost all of our data, or what the actual problem was, we handed our hard drives over to these lovely people next door to see if they would bed able to solve the mystery. This was on Tuesday. On Wednesday we were told that we haven’t lost our data, it is all still there, we just don’t have any way of accessing it because it turns out the bit that is broken is that part that allows us to access stuff. But Praise Jesus all our files are now safe and backed up. We just need to find the right parts in order to get it all fixed.
4 days on and that is still where we are. We have all sorts of people across the country looking to try and find these parts (I don’t really understand this part, but again, its something to do with the fact that this shouldn’t have happened that seems to be causing the problem in fixing it!) and we have people literally all over the world praying for our server to come back online. Once the parts are sourced and we get a hold of them. its still going to take at least a couple of days to get things back up and running. So we still have a long way to go.
In the mean time, the majority of people on base are unable to do the work that needs to be done. Without access to the internet or necessary files, we are falling VERY far behind. And of course, people are no longer able to get in contact with us through the usual channels. We have had to go into battle stations, with staff phoning as many people as possible around the world who might be trying to get in contact with us, using all different types of communication to try and get the message out that we are still operational as a base, even if only at half the usual capacity. Half of our website is down, so nobody can currently use our pay online service or fill out student or staff applications – which is a massive blow to us. This has caused all of us a lot of problems. Including all the money that we are having to spend in order to get it all fixed. It has been a massive blow to us all.
On a personal level, that has meant that in order to do any work at all, a few of my team have been rotating around different staff houses in order to gain access to the internet to do research. We even went to the library one morning to do book research! It’s been a lot of coming and going here there and everywhere, and we obviously haven’t got anywhere near as much work as we would usually get, but we have definitely been affected less than a lot of other people. The open office at work has been pretty much deserted.
As a base, we recognise that there is a lot of warfare going on through this. It isn’t a coincidence that a few days after a new prayer strategy was announced in trusting God for $4 million, we were hit by lightening and a problem that never should have happened, suddenly became possible, knocking down all of our communication, nearly losing us all of our work from the past 10 years, preventing us from being able to do any more work and costing us thousands of dollars. Unable to do much else, a lot of us this week have spent much time in prayer, interceding on behalf of the base and the server, and we continue to do so. The fact that all of our data is safe is a MASSIVE answer to prayer, and we are so incredibly grateful for both this, and God’s provision through our neighbours who happened to be experts in our exact area of need, with equipment to help and the willingness to go out of their way to help us. If anything, this crisis has actually strengthened our relationship with our neighbours – a testament that God really can bring good out of any situation.
But there is still a long way to go. There is still a lot of work that needs doing, and until then, we continue to pray and trust God that this will all come together. It’s not just about the money that we are losing through this, but also the potential students we might lose, who might have been trying to send in their application to be trained as missionaries with us when they couldn’t get through to us because our website was down. The people who had enquires but decided to look elsewhere or do something else instead. There are long term implications for all that has been happening here these past 2 weeks. Hopefully soon we will be back and fully operational, although getting the sever up and running is only part of the recovery. There will be a lot of work that we will need to catch up on. But we will get there.
There is a sense that we are entering into a new season here. We are fighting for this building to increase our presence in this community. We are fighting for more students to come here and be trained in missions. We are fighting to see both this city and the nations transformed in the name of Jesus. And in doing so, we are meeting opposition. But we will not be moved. We will stand our ground and keep fighting for what God has promised us. We will continue to fight until we see breakthrough…and then we will fight some more to see it all through to completion!
These have been the two things that could best summarise the past month for me here down under.
May started wonderfully with a much needed break down south in Dunsborough, one of the most beautiful places here on the West coast of Australia. I had the absolute joy of spending 3 weeks in Dunsborough last year as the final part of my DTS outreach, so it was great to be able to go back again this year and visit. I was down for a week, taking a coach there and back for the 4 hour journey, and was able to stay in a very nice resort courtesy of my parents. It was a week of walks on the beach, reading books, watching movies, and most importantly, no alarm clocks!! I loved it. A week with no schedule or things that needed to be done, just pure indulgence.
I must confess it was also very nice to get away from people for a while! As much as I love people, there are a lot of them here on base, so it is quite nice to get some space to yourself once in a while. Some people thought it was funny that I was going away for a week by myself, but honestly, it was the best thing for my soul. Spending time with myself and Jesus. It was delightful. Plus I did get to drop in on some friends a couple of times too, going out for tea and cake one morning and enjoying a home cooked meal one night too! So all in all, a fabulous week, and I came back to Perth feeling relaxed and well rested, ready to face the world with new energy and enthusiasm.
That lasted a whole 3 days in the office back at work, and then I fell ill to the dreaded stomach bug. I woke up very early Thursday morning and was horribly sick, and so spent the next 4 days curled up in my house not much use to anybody. Its one major downside of living in community – any sickness or lurgy tends to spread pretty quickly, and that was definitely the case in this instance. So many people have come down with some sort of illness these past 2 weeks, not helped by the sudden entrance of the winter months, although it has to be said I seem to have come out of this worse off than most people. Because having managed to get back to work again on Monday (although to be honest, I still wasn’t really feeling quite right) by Thursday I had a bad cough/throat and could barely talk, and even yesterday I nearly passed out in the kitchen. Today my throat is slowly getting better and my cough is on its was out, but I am still very low on energy and feeling pretty wiped. I never thought I would say it, but I’m actually getting fed up of needing to sleep all the time, which is still what my body is crying out for. But at least the dizzziness has gone for the most part.
So there you have it. 1 delightful week of rest and relaxation followed by well over a week of feeling pretty pants. It’s not exactly what I was hoping for. Trying to remain positive and be sensible though with not overdoing it too quickly in my desperation to get out of the house. I want to get better as soon as possible, so for now, that means sleeping and lots of it! Apologies for not getting my next newsletter out yet – it has been on my to-do list for the past 2 weekends, but to be honest. my brain hasn’t really been up to it. In fact, this blog update is the first step towards my brain actually functioning properly, so hopefully this is a sign that I am slowly on the mend! But I will try and get my next update out as soon as I possible can.
Here’s hoping that you are all feeling much better than I am right now!
The days are getting shorter. Water is falling from the sky. The temperature has dropped. And I am now finally sleeping under a duvet. Yep thats right folks. Autumn has officially made its was to town. And other than the very noticeable decline in sunlight hours, I am loving it. Wrapping up in warmer clothes. Wearing socks on my feet. It’s starting to feel a little bit more like home. This will be my first autumn and winter here in Perth, so I am now in uncharted territory. I’ve been told what to expect, but you never can know in full until you’ve experienced it for yourself. So I look forward to the coming months with anticipation.
But that isn’t the only new adventure to be had! It could never be said that life here at YWAM Perth is boring. So many new people, cultures, and foods to be explored, stories to be shared, and fun to be had. And this week for me and my colleagues, new skills to be learnt….in the kitchen. For this week, and this week only (until next month anyway) the Megacities team has been allowed out of the office and is working in the kitchen every morning. I confess that I was at first feeling quite apprehensive about this prospect, but it turns out we are all having a blast. Being out of the office, spending time doing practical, hands on work that serves everybody on base is really most rewarding, and I’m learning lots along the way.
For the past 2 days, one of my friends and I were given the task of preparing desert for Wednesday evening. Every week on base, Wednesday and Saturday night is desert night, and so we were given the challenge of preparing desert for 360 people. Quite the responsibility! Failure was not an option, as hundreds of hungry, disappointed YWAMers would have resulted with our inability to provide desert. But to the challenge we rose – by baking cake. And lots of it. Now I don’t know if you have ever baked cake (or more like cookies in this instance) for 360 people, but it really is quite the challenge. We went through tubs of margarine. Bags of sugar and flour. And a whole giant bowl of icing sugar. But we succeeded! And tonight, following a yummy dinner, 360 squares of cookie, shortbready cakey things were presented beautifully onto the tables of happy missionaries. An accomplishment of which I am very proud.
But its not just the sense of achievement that has made this process fun. It’s also all the things that I’ve learnt whilst doing it. Like how to use the giant food mixer. How to bake in mass bulk. How to use numerous other gadgets in the kitchen, and indeed, where everything is kept. And I’ve even made some new friends in the process. And the more I learn about how this base runs, such as how incredibly hard the people in the kitchen work every single day to make sure that we all get fed and that there is food in the cupboard, the more this place feels like home. Working in the kitchen really has given me a much greater appreciation of all that goes on behind the scenes here on base to make my job, and in fact, my life here, possible. We may be helping out for a week, but there are people here whose full time ministry is making sure that we all get fed every single day.
So today, I dedicate this post to the behind the scenes heroes of YWAM Perth. To those who make our shopping lists, do stock counts, prepare weekly menus, organise our food and arrange it in the cooler and even more unbearable, the freezer, who serve food on hundreds of dishes every single day, spend hours and hours on their feet chopping, grating, stirring and mixing, thank you. Your hard work, dedication and commitment does not go unnoticed. And I for one am incredibly grateful. You guys rock.