Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Our first Forge encounter

It was a pleasure to meet Kim Hammond, the state director of Forge in Victoria, on Monday at his home. We drove to the opposite side of Melbourne (about an hour in the car) to get there. We ate lunch with him and his wife, met his three boys, and he brought us up to date with all the activity and recent changes with Forge. It was incredibly helpful for me, delivering me from the cluelessness that has framed my perceptions for months about exactly what Forge is and what it does. Here’s how Kim explained stuff to us (it’s a bit lengthy so you may not be terribly interested – permission to look away now):

· Forge could have as many as 40 students or interns this year, in Victoria alone. One-third of the students are accrediting only, that is they are non-college, just interested in the practical experience. The other 2/3 will be associated with a university (seminary) and Forge is accredited by all the uni/colleges in this area.

· Forge is a conduit between bible college/university and project/ministry internship.

· Forge provides the mentor/coach and allows each student to choose and plan the proposed project. He said they are non-exclusive about project ideas. The only criteria is that it is missional in nature. This gives students enormous scope for creativity.

· The internship runs from March – November and includes 10 – 20 hours/week.

· During the year, there are 3 intensives, each will be held in a different location, preferably in the context of a community or a ministry (for example, the second one in July will be at St Martin’s – John Smith’s church, the Maddock’s former community of faith).

· Each intern is paired with a mentor/coach and they must meet weekly.

· In Victoria, they will organize interns into “clusters” – groups of 10 based on geographical region, since Melbourne is large and expansive.

· Forge doesn’t have an office. It is a de-centralized organization. Kim described it as “virtual” as most of the staff work from home or on the road.

A new addition to their organization structure, which Kim is just introducing, is “streams” or specialized areas of experience for the interns. Each intern will be a part of one of these three:

1. Pioneering missional stream – the original “101” Forge which includes anything new, apostolic or missional in nature.

2. Transitioning – interns working within the church, specifically smaller congregations, to transition the church to a new and vital form. Efforts of revitalization and renewal fall under this category and while the church may continue to look traditional, this will use church assets (esp buildings) innovatively and allow for diversity within congregations.

3. Youth – working with 18-22 year olds to bring the missional DNA message of Forge to youth. This would appeal to youth workers/youth ministers. This is brand new.

All the interns will be required to participate in core lectures during the intensives, but there will also be time for each stream to reflect, brainstorm, and organize around their specific focus.

Forge events include:

· Monthly staff meetings

· Dangerous Stories – yearly summit March 9-11, bringing everyone together, and it will be the location of the first of three intensives this year

· Postcard Nights – gatherings around specific topics, hosted in public spaces

· Boot Camp – a time in February for Alan and Deb to meet with all the state directors – to organize, plan and pray together before the Hirsch’s leave for the U.S. We feel honored that we were invited to attend this.

The Forge staff is asking us to do the following (so far):

· Coach/mentor interns personally

· Oversee a cluster – 10 students on this side of Melbourne (western suburbs)

· Help teach

· Help with Dangerous Stories – the big conference in March, particularly with admin stuff. We told them we love grunt work.

family portraits

family on the beach


Monday, January 29, 2007

the bucket

At this time in Australia, saving water is critical. Many citizens have been practicing methods of water conservation for years, but now it has become a fever-pitched necessity for everyone to comply (and in Australia, there is a collective consciousness that drives the cultural instinct to contribute to the good of all). In our household, Kev and Kath have well-established ways to save any drop from the tap. We have a wash bucket in the kitchen sink and we pack the dishwasher to the hilt when it runs. Kev hooked up a grey-water hose from the washing machine that runs out to the front roses (the dryer is tucked away in the shed and rarely used). In the shower, we have a bucket to catch our warm-up water and any that sloshes off us as we scrub. Of course this practice is setting off my neurosis and I feel compelled to guide as much water in the bucket as possible as I’m racing to shorten my shower to record time. It’s good discipline. And we get our exercise and regular dose of garden serenity throughout the day by taking these water-salvaged buckets and dumping them on thirsty plants. A substantial part of Kath’s veggie garden is in large pots and barrels and these are most dependent on our water saving efforts.

The current raging debate in the national press at the moment is drinking recycled water. The radio programs have opinions called in and the t.v. is running yes/no polls to the question “are you willing to drink recycled sewage?” so far, those opposed to such a thing are in the lead and who could blame them with the proposal couched in such a way. Kath told me last night that we’ve been doing this in the U.S. for years. I was surprised and a bit proud of my people for being ahead of this progressive nation for once, especially on such a squeamish issue. Good on you yanks! Really though, it is a crucial matter that will only grow in significance. It requires everyone to yield and, as I’m learning, every bit counts.

isaac's first day of school

yesterday we dropped isaac by the neighborhood preschool for him to have a brief orientation (time to play without us) so we can bring him today for his official first day.  he'll go to school on tuesdays, which will be one of the days we can work together.  he can stay as long as we need him to (any time between 7:30 - 5:00) and they serve him morning tea and lunch with an optional nap.  he was a little sad to be left yesterday.  it certainly will take some time for him to understand the accents of the other children and the teachers.  as i was leaving him, a little boy standing with us began telling me a dramatic story of a dead lamb, and with his thick accent, all i caught was "a dead lamb."  it gave me pause.

while isaac was reluctantly undergoing orientation, geoff and i went across the street for a walk around a footy oval and on a suburban trail.  within five minutes of setting out, we saw and heard such an array of birds - magpies, two guinea fowl, a sulfur-crested cockatoo, pink and gray galahs, willy wagtails, and black swans.  by the way, these are some of the delightful birds that wake me each morning around 6:15 a.m.  it is a welcome change from the customary bus stop grind that i would hear every morning like clockwork in lexington (being on the corner, we have bus stops on both sides of our house).

after collecting a releived boy, we took him down to the news agency for a special treat - a chocolate (cadbury) freddo frog.  we'll see how today goes...new things, new people.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

the drought

In arriving to Australia, we find ourselves disconnected, not only because I’m a foreigner and Geoff hasn’t been home for three years, but because we haven’t shared in the “communitas” of sorts that is born of surviving and coping with the harsh drought and fires in recent months. When we turned up here, the rain started, the cool temperatures followed, and we haven’t known a typical day of the 2007 summer in Oz. I found the words of Michael Leunig (brilliant Australian cartoonist and satirist) below compelling, giving the slightest window of empathy for the weather and the times:

“The drought is such a distinctive and extreme natural experience for the land and its creatures: all powerful, utterly uncompromising and absolutely uncontrollable. Gradually you must submit to the facts, yet paradoxically you enter gradually into a mild hallucination as you go about your days. A type of natural weirdness prevails and you give over to this and become part of it. When living close to the earth, drought induces a kind of trance – a kind of letting-go and a brokennenss. You let go of many things: garden plants, various hopes about life itself, and most of all, your remnant and pathetically human notions of normality or perfection – they wither and die in the heat. Good riddance.”

Saturday, January 27, 2007

flickr fame

I just discovered we made it to the flickr blog (www.blog.flickr.com) with a photo of our Australia day festivities. I guess that makes us famous in a “web 2.0” kind of way. Hooray for Australian shaped hamburgers…


DSC_7168Here’s my mate Alan. He is a gifted chef…that is to say, he cooks meat very well over high heat. As sherry wrote below we had a special Australia day celebration at the Harvey’s yesterday. it has been a great homecoming so far – being with family and friends, (re)discovering the things I miss about this place, and to top it all off, a national day of celebration. Home is most certainly the USA now. I have fallen deeply in love with my adopted nation and feel a vocational call to that land, but it has also been nice to be here in my original home and to be immersed in the strange-familiarity of Australia.

This time around there is an added joy…I have had fun watchingfishnchips Isaac encounter many of the things that are precious about my upbringing. We have watched cricket together, played at the beach, snacked on fish and chips, and I can’t wait to take him to the footy (Australian Football) and barrack for the mighty pies. The particular experience of only returning ‘home’ every 3-4 years is a difficult one to communicate, mostly because the feelings associated with it don’t fit anywhere familiar on the emotional spectrum. At best I have two homes. More negatively, I have two ‘homes’ but I don’t belong to either place properly. Quite obviously life goes on here in Melbourne and I have missed almost a decade of political, economic, social, and cultural shift. While in Kentucky I am still an oddity no matter how much Wendell Berry I read or how much I know about the Kentucky Wildcats (University Basketball team).

But for the most part I am thoroughly blessed to be cross-cultural and the sustaining thread across these places is the love that so easily connects along family and friendship lines. This kinship is amplified through the way we share a passion for the ways of Jesus. So, back to Al and his mateship. Home is where I can share an afternoon with him and his family…and home is drinking coffee with fellow sojourners at Pat’s 3rd St Stuff coffee in Lexington. It is always good to be home wherever that might be.

Friday, January 26, 2007

australia day barbie

meatIt was a pleasure to join our friends, the Harvey’s, for an Australian Day celebration. I think Aussies have to be the best company to celebrate with because they don’t take themselves too seriously and all their jokes are about themselves. Any patriotism they might express comes in the form of parody and sarcasm. Yesterday we sat for hours and enjoyed food and beer and conversation. For me, though, the absolute highlight of the day was Marg’s garden.

GI-JesusThe Harvey’s live in a lovely little house that is surrounded by sustainably designed gardens. They have water barrels and vertical plants. The diversity of their plot is astounding and enviable – lemon, lime, orange, apricot and pomegranate trees, passion fruit and kiwi vines, tomatoes, basil, strawberries, mint, bok choy, lettuce, beans, parsley, beets, cukes, peppers, rosemary, zucchini, garlic, nasturtiums, geraniums, bougainvillea, and more. In the middle of the garden, she has three chooks (chickens) which she rotates around the garden. She feeds them kitchen scraps and they provide rich, free fertilizer and about 18 eggs per week. Their backyard is only slightly larger than our lot in Lexington and they’ve used every inch beautifully. Throughout the garden, there are eclectic pieces of reclaimed junk turned artsy – mirrors, street signs, statues, kitchen sinks, even a GI Jesus. Not only was it delightful to behold, it inspired me about the limitless potential to partner with the earth and to wed growing food and creativity.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

more from the market

here are a few images from the wonderful Queen Victoria Market in downtown Melbourne.


local delicacy - kangaroo salami






kath and sherry buying hand-churned butter






anyone for marinated octopus?  we settled for olives, sun-dried tomatoes and some local cheese




Tuesday, January 23, 2007

lost in translation

we went into the queen victoria market yesterday and enjoyed the stunning variety of fruit, veg, seafood, clothing stalls, deli's, and the general mayhem of a massive city market (see this link for more about the queen vic.)

isaac's grandma, seizing every opportunity to spoil him in these early days, bought him a superman toy.  we all had a good laugh reading the packaging 'narrative'.  if you have seen the latest superman movie it is especially funny.

here it is and a photo of the text from this fantastic toy manufactured by the good people of china...

'The superman is in several years the trial return to the home towns and did not succeed,hence re- return to New York, but unfortunate is he discovers that own lover Louis silk has already had the male friend and a child the......"


a few observations

Scale – immediately, I recognized that most ordinary things around me here are to scale from the U.S., that is, everything is smaller by at least a third. The bins or trashcans are wee and modest, the aisles in the shops are narrow, the snacks modest, the toilet paper roll small, even the $2 shop was tiny.

Schedule – yesterday we were down at the neighborhood shops (a very small version of an indoor mall – grocery, chemist, butcher, fruit stand, post office, news agency) picking up things we needed and right on 5:00 p.m. the roll-down doors to the shops started closing. strange phenomenon coming from a 24-hour a day culture. Shopping hours were limited so people could actually close up and go home. I felt like I was back in the 70s (yes I’m that old).

Shopping – the entry and exit to all the shops, especially the big ones like Coles and Woolworths, are restricted to the point of being maddening. Multiple times now I have been frustrated and trapped by this design – unless you pass through a narrow check-out passage, you can’t leave. Poor Geoff, while struggling to get out, I asked him sarcastically “are these the lengths they must go to because you are a thieving people?” We even had our backpack searched at Woolworths.


Monday, January 22, 2007

a nation of mates and larrikins

on january 26, we will celebrate australia day (commemorates landing in sydney in 1788). in doing some reading with the hope of better understanding these people, i've come across an interesting classification of a type of australian - a larrikin. a larrikin is defined as "a person given to comical or outlandish behavior and not at all fazed by authorities of all kinds, including whatever power or authority they may possess themselves, and must not take themselves too seriously."

and from the age (melbourne's major newspaper) i found this illuminating description of australian character :

“Now, as Australia Day approaches, clich├ęs about national characteristics remind us of those qualities of which we’re justifiably proud: energy, openness, physicality, irreverence, larrikinism, anti-authoritarianism, a desert-dry sense of humour, corrugated and piercing irony, uncommonly successful multiculturalism, and of course, genuine mateship.”

“But the flipside of our often sardonic self-evaluation is the tall-poppy syndrome, the self-deprecation that radiates outwards, an anti-pretension missile ready to seek and destroy those who believe just a little too volubly in their own publicity. The peculiar discomfort we feel for excellence or even, at times, earnestness, might explain the long decade of political apathy and our longstanding anti-intellectualism. An unwillingness to think outside the square for fear of being regarded as pompous or attention-seeking also explains the seemingly uninterrupted dominance of traditional voices, the boys’ clubs in politics, media and the arts.”

Sunday, January 21, 2007

flora unseen


as we were out for a walk yesterday, our first through the neighborhood, we came across this oddly beautiful blooming gum (eucalyptus ficifolia).  i was reminded of my first visit to australia in 2000.  at that time, i walked around glassy-eyed and amazed at these exotic, yet common trees.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

coast and coffee



isaac has quickly taken to the aussie beach lifestyle.  here he is wih his grandma in the water as the seagulls look on.  this is altona beach, about 5 mins drive from mum and dad's place.


...and we have been spoiled by a vist from dear family (the athavle's from sydney).  here we are at a local italian cafe for breakfast.  it's easy to get back into the cafe culture here...melbourne has more cafes per capita than any other city in the world.

...and if you're interested in knowing, here's a link to a map showing where we are living: 

Friday, January 19, 2007

take the long, long way home


Our particular itinerary to Australia allowed us to cover a significant portion of the globe.  That's my whinge-free description of our trip. 

Before leaving, Geoff laid down law number one - no complaining, period. That lasted about seven minutes. For those who know me well understand that exaggeration and complaint hold a critical place in my rhetoric. strangely enough, the worst of our travel experience happened in Lexington (tiny airport, one hour to Atlanta, how hard can it be).  Not only was the arriving flight was late, when we boarded the plane at last, the wings were frozen.  Out on the runway, our plane was doused with a toxic orange chemical. We couldn’t see out the windows for a while and the pilot counseled us not to worry about the brief smell of ammonia. Nice way to start a 4o-hour trip. One of our engines didn’t turn on, we went across the runway and back twice and eventually took off almost two hours late. Really, this wouldn’t have been a big deal because our flight to England didn’t depart until much later, but my dear parents were waiting anxiously at the Atlanta airport to eat a meal with us and say goodbye, especially to their darling Isaac. Once we reached Atlanta, our gate was occupied giving us the unwelcomed opportunity for more time on the tiny plane. We raced through the extensive and notorious concourses of the airport, met my parents, ate sandwiches in record time, kissed a teary goodbye, and were ushered through the maze of security checks for our international flight. Let the games begin.

As we settle in for our skip over the pond (a fleeting six hours), the pilots told us the tracking device that lets them know that we are on object in flight, wasn’t working. After about ten minutes of breath-holding tension on the runway, the issue got sorted, the plane took off and we arrived to a dark London with time to spare. Throughout our trip, the prayers of many were answered. Straight away, this was evident when we boarded the plane and our three seats were in front of an entire row of deaf passengers. It’s not funny, but those of you who know how Isaac can behave in confined spaces, realize this could be none other than God’s grace manifest.

Nearing the customs/passport queue at Gatwick, we could see about 400 people in front of us. Just as this reality sank in, an official approached us and said “follow me.” He took us up to the front of the line and ushered us to the next available clerk and we were on the other side in moments. Within a few minutes of collecting our bags, we contacted Rachel to find that she was just outside with the car, ready to transport us to Heathrow. Those of you in America who are conservation-conscience would have been painfully envious of this vehicle they were just given by generous friends who moved to Switzerland. It is a French car with the gift of anticipation - the wipers work without being told, the hand brake comes on when needed, and the car can receive text messages. They call it a “people mover” in the UK because of its size and it is still smaller than your typical mini-van in the U.S. and it just fit all our things.

We had a delightful visit with Rach. We caught up on numerous things and our children had a chance to play. Rachel was so gorgeous, she had a parcel for Isaac to open on the next flight with books, interactive cards, sweets, and a 2006 year-in-review Economist for us. Being with her completely renewed us and recalibrated our travel clock to zero again.

Because she is so familiar with the airport, Rachel escorted us through everything at Heathrow. Again, as we arrived at the check-in for our Qantas flight, the queue was heavy-laden with worn passengers. An attendant from the airline came right us to up, guided us through the empty, first-class line and we were able to check our bags right away. Under other circumstances, I might have begun to feel a bit guilty with the unexpected preferential treatment, but since we were traveling two days with a three year old, I gladly accepted and didn’t look around.

Our flight to Australia began with such relief – it was our last leg of the journey, no matter the daunting distance. But we were tired. Isaac had slept some, however, our travel clock was now up to a day without sleep. Usually, I can sleep anywhere, but thanks to a week-long illness, I was popping Sudafed every four hours to keep my ears from bursting (Maria, I’m remembering your story all along) and poor Geoff just isn’t an adaptable sleeper. So, we watched movies. When we got on the plane, I put my watch away, committed to not checking it until we arrived in Hong Kong because it was a 13-hour flight.

I was doing fine until I slipped up, after watching “The Departed” (very, very good movie) and turned the inflight channel to the travel tracker. Everyone has seen this thing that records both inane details such as wind speed and outside temperature and vital updates on flight time and distance to destination. You either end up ignoring it completely for the sake of self-preservation or becoming glued like an addict. And the thing that ticked me off about this maddening accessory is the airplane on the screen has absolutely no scale – it’s about a third the size of Africa. I’m thinking, please don’t make it look like this plane can make three leaps and cross the expanse of Asia in no time (at one point when we were over the Philippines, the oversized computer image of this 747-400 completely eclipsed the entire country). Back to what I was saying – I’m so stupid, I check this thing and we are over Kazakhstan with city names like Qyzylorda and Shymkent, and my morale bottoms out. Any stored up goodwill or hope of ever seeing Australia leaves me and I turned ugly.

We arrive to the ethereal beauty of Hong Kong – pointed mountains covered in mist – with the no-sleep counter at 32 hours, a new record for me. Isaac, on the other hand, feels renewed and rested from his reclined position of head on Geoff, feet on me rest. He tore up the airport’s moving sidewalks. After about sixteen laps of bounding past startled Asian travelers, he re-boarded the plane with us for our final journey to Oz.

The trip time from Hong Kong to Melbourne is eight hours. That span of time has never seemed so brief, I was almost giddy. Relieved that after passing through four airports Kev and Kath would be waiting for us on the other side of baggage claim, we let go and slept. By the time we arrived in Australia, it was 10 p.m. and we had traveled 40 hours.

We were testy, but in one piece. Of course there is always icing on the cake. Back in Atlanta, Mimi had given Isaac the supreme gift – a small, plastic Buzz Light Year – that sustained him throughout our journey. He talked with him, consoled him (“OK Buzz, we’re about to take off”), and slept with him. As we arrived at baggage claim, moments away from seeing Kev and Kath, we realized Buzz was gone. Isaac really cried. Geoff raced around desperately and found someone to connect back to the plane. In our travel haze, we’d left him on board. Within 10 minutes, Isaac was restored to his beloved companion and we passed through customs without a problem. Kev and Kath were eager and overjoyed as we stepped out into the balmy Melbourne night. Home sweet home.


we arrived around midnight thursday night and then friday it rained all morning....much needed after months of drought.  i took some pictures of  mum's garden.  the roses are particularly beautiful after being scorched by heat and then drenched with rain.  here are a couple of pics and to see the rest you can click on the images and go to our flickr account.



london transfer


it was wonderful to see rachel and eve turner during our brief stop in london.  rachel picked us up at gatwick and drove us over to heathrow - thanks rach!  we had time for a catch-up chat on the drive between airports and then over coffee and croissants before we needed to board our next flight.


we made it!

thanks for your prayers. 

we made it from Lexington and through



-Hong Kong

and finally to


we'll post more highlights and some pictures soon.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

from -2 to 99 in 40 hours

one of the big changes we will face with this journey is the change in seasons...from one extreme to the other.  according to today's temperatures in Lexington and Melbourne respectively, we will go from -2C (29F) to 99F (37c).  our journey should take us about 40 hours from start to finish.



 here is isaac helping us pack and weigh our cases.  he felt like things would go better if he was superman (strength, speed, etc.)  when he stood on the scales he exclaimed, "i'm 40 o'clock!"


so it is the day of departure and we are feeling ready.  we fly from lexington to atlanta where we will have a 3 hour layover...we are excited to see sherry's parents there and say a final farewell.


then we fly to London (gatwick) transfer to heathrow by bus...our dear friend rachel turner and one of her daughter's (eve) will meet us for a quick visit.  then we board our longest flight at about midday london time (6am-ish Wed. Lexington time).  the flight to melbourne is a robust 23 hour jaunt.  we arrive around 10pm melbourne time on thursday evening (6am thursday morning in Lexington).

we appreciate prayers as we travel and especially as we transfer in London and catch the bus.  for those of you migt not know, we retunr to Lexington on August 31st.

Monday, January 15, 2007

more parting shots

we loved spending some time with the Kovacevic family over the weekend.  another sad farewell.

here's sherry, dino, and aida...and below them, isaac with their 4 year-old tarik.



we also were sad to farewell the Koskie family who will be moving back to louisiana while we are away.  they are a particularly special household to us because we have been learning how to be families with little kids together.


A Second-rate Place

In the final days leading up to our departure, I’ve been reading through a series of lectures by Australia’s eminent historian, Manning Clark. One particular topic caught my interest, “The Quest for an Australian Identity” as after almost seven years of being married to an Australian, I barely understand his cultural personality and the influential elements of his world down under. I do know that Australians are self-depreciating to a fault. This excerpt below provided me with a glimpse into the past that contributed to this strange modesty.

“We have difficulty saying what happened to the European when he brought his great civilization to the ancient and barbaric continent of Australia…The answer lies partly in our attitude to the appearance of Australia. The first Europeans who saw the country recoiled in horror. They were looking for places where they could make what they picturesquely called ‘uncommonly large profit’ and win souls for Christ. They found a land of flies and sand, uncommonly large natural monsters, and exceedingly black barbarian savages. The first observer in 1606 decided to leave, finding there was little good to be done there. His successors were both puzzled and horrified. In their eyes this was a country where everything was topsy-turvy, everything was upside down. Swans were black and not white; the land was barren; the animals, such as the kangaroos , were incomplete, walking as they did on two legs rather than four. Indeed, in the eyes of men who believed in a divine creator this was the land which God did not finish; it was an incomplete land, the land God created on the afternoon of the sixth day when he was very tired and bored…The idea of Australia as a country where God or nature had fallen a-doting, or had had an attack of the sillies helped to plant in the minds of the first Europeans to live in it the idea that they were inferior to the people of Western Europe. Even the country they lived in had to be apologized for.”

Based on the repeated reactions of friends and strangers alike to our going to Australia (“lucky”, “oh, I’ve always wanted to go there”, “you must be independently wealthy to travel for that amount of time”, etc) and having been there myself twice, I cannot fathom someone recoiling in horror at the sight of such a place. Let me say, Australia is everything people who have never visited dream it to be – temperate and expansive with glorious flora and fauna and generous, delightful people, and perfect beaches. There is no place like it, that I know. With seven months ahead, it is my hope to better comprehend and appreciate its people, especially my husband.


Friday, January 12, 2007

getting ready, saying good-bye

the last week has been full of good visits with friends.  we leave on Tuesday (Jan. 16th) and we will not return to Lexington till August 31st.  so we have been experiencing the joyful anticipation of our visit to Australia and at the same time some sadness at leaving dear friends for over 7 months.


(here's a picture of sherry with isaac and our friends who live at Raven's Run - Anna and her twins, Elara and Leo)

in the last week we also met Esther and her son Marve.  they are refugees from Congo.  we were glad to pass our desktop computer on to them and saddened to hear of their struggles as they lost their home in africa and suffered horribly as refugees in uganda for 5 years.

new friend









new friend 2