Tuesday, July 31, 2007

UNOH surrender 07


sherry will no doubt give her highlights for the weekend. mine were (in no particular order):

  • hearing shobie owen (above: second from the left) and then gordi and netti (above: last two on the right) sing.
  • meeting the urban vision mob from new zealand
  • hearing jackie pullinger and shane claiborne
  • meeting shane's mom, pat (below)
  • hanging out with new and old friends from st martins, forge, unoh, and urban seed.

overall the weekend was very well organized with many different workshops and panels taking giving things a decentralized feel. the food was delicious and made the space for beautiful times of 'table fellowship'...not unrelated was the fact that we used real plates and cutlery. see the picture below for a good explanation.

we were very happy to have attended and it was a particularly good way for us to finish up our time here in melbourne. DSC_1916



winding down

at the end of the UNOH weekend we felt the sweet relief of closure and our commitments to various events coming to an end.  we had a fantastic time over the weekend and that is another post for another day.  on sunday, as we headed home, geoff and i said to one another that it's been great to come through seven months without being sick once (when we were here in 2003 i was sick every other week).  of course we spoke too soon.  we woke monday morning with a sense of relief and both with sore throats and substantial colds.

on monday we had a bittersweet farewell lunch with our friends and co-workers from forge.  these lovely people have welcomed us fully and treated us as equals over the last seven months and we've experienced a real bond with them.  we went to a funky place on brunswick street called "retro" and ate some delicious comfort food.  we all split a piece of mars bar cake as they teased us, toasted us and said good-bye.  they were too generous as they seemed to think we contributed something of substance during our time with them and what we are certain of is that we leave with so much more.

last night we went to dinner at a friend's house in the city.  these lovely people have a 10-week old baby and they managed to cook us a stunning three course meal - baked pear, feta and proscuitto and asparagus and garlic mushrooms as an entree, a spinach pumpkin casserole and salad for main and a flourless chocolate and raspberry tart with ice cream for dessert.  gordon and netti have been together for nine years.  they are both incredibly gifted musicians and singers - see this link about jeanette's band.  geoff and gordi grew up together in st martin's.  on the saturday night at UNOH, we listened to these two perform beautiful folk ballads, including an over the rhine song or two.

we are preparing for the arrival of narelle, sandy and the girls on thursday and we begin to see friends one last time and say good-bye.  soon we'll set our sights on greenbelt and time in london.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

this weekend

we are heading out this afternoon to attend the surrender conference hosted by UNOH.  it is a wonderful occassion to hear great stories of mission and service.  the timing is also good for us because we can farewell many new and dear friends (we leave melbourne in just under 3 weeks).  shane claiborne is speaking along with jackie pullinger.  we will both particiapte in two seperate panels, one titled, "make affluence history - can we live simply for a sustainable, common future" and the other "asylum seekers - beyond the border line."

also, we have posted some pictures from our perth trip at the flickr account...


a heritage in mission II


if you would like to hear Danelle's great talk go to Hamo's backyardmissionary blog and follow the link.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

a heritage in mission

during the forge intensive in perth, danelle hamilton lead us in a session titled "family in mission."  she shared intimately, personally and tenderly about this critical topic.  she is the daughter of a minister and her father grew up with parents who served in the remotest part of australia  in the northwest, with aboriginals for 50 years (yes, 50 years).  it is from this rich heritage that she offered her insights and wisdom, based on how she was raised and how she and hamo are raising their children.  i took detailed notes not only for our sake, but i was thinking of our community and the desires and concerns we now have for our children.  she said her heritage had been one of servants and generosity - i want to learn from that.

the following are traditions practiced by her family to which she attributes their long-term well-being and health:

1) a family night and family day (saturday) every week without fail

2) faithfulness to the dinner table (and they never answered the phone during the meal).  at the end of the meal they were taught from the bible and they prayed as a family

3) her parents faith and commitments were lived out in front of the children

4) her parents valorized hospitality.  when they had guests they would say to her "you are so lucky to get to give up your room for these special people"

5) they were exposed to christians and non-christians alike - her parents were loving people

She offered some excellent advice for child-rearing:

-parents must be the primary teachers of their children (it's not the job of sunday school or school)

-it is critical to teach scripture and live out your faith in front of your children

-take your children with you and show them about loving and caring for others (children make great missionaries)

-share parenting, teaching and nuturing with others

Finally, she said the best thing you can do is be consistent.  this must be a lifetime commitment, not a season.  and, of course, there are no guarantees.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


at almost midnight we returned to melbourne after a full and extraordinarily good trip to perth.  we spent five days with andrew hamilton (hamo) and his family while participating in w.a.'s second intensive.  during the three-day forge event, we gathered with about 25 participants and had the privilege to teach four sessions together. 

with this diverse group from a wide spectrum of denominations and ministry/mission contexts we talked through the story of communality, discipleship in mission, theology of creation care and practical ways to conserve and live as good stewards. 

when we weren't doing the talking, we were richly edified by others who shared - local heroes working in the "ordinary," folks from an innovative faith community in melbourne called "solace" , a love-filled peace activist - jarrod mckenna, and hamo's wife - danelle - a whole separate blog post coming up of her talk on family in mission.  we came away with so much more than we offered.

in addition to the time with the forge gig, we had a lovely evening with hamo's small missional church group in their neighborhood (upstream community).  it couldn't have felt more like home.  these people were so kind and comforting and the table fellowship we shared was sacred and restorative.  they are doing the hardest of missionary work in the suburbs.

it was the unexpected that blessed us most - time with hamo's children, the honesty of people on a journey, a glimpse of a treasured friendship between the hamilton's and a fascinating couple they are loving into the kingdom, the color of the indian ocean in the morning.  we slept well, enjoyed home-roasted coffee, spent a delightful afternoon with geoff's aunt and uncle, and throughout we were reminded that grace is manifest and god is always at work.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

taking off

sherry and i take off tomorrow morning for perth.  we are very happy about travelling across the country and spending a few days with the forge crew in western australia.  it is their turn for an intensive and we have been invited to share about sustainability, environemental issues, and discipleship in a consumer culture.  it is a great honor to do this and we are humbled by the opportunity.  we havn't been to perth before so we are experiencing the added excitement of a new place.


perth is where my great-grandfather eventually landed after jumping ship somewhere on the south coast of australia.  my nana (pictured here with my poppa) grew up there before marrying and coming over to victoria.  these family links make perth all the more interesting a place to visit.  we will be staying with the very kind hamos

isaac paul is staying here in melbourne with his grandma and poppa.  hopefully he will be merciful to them and they will survive 5 days of uninterrupted energy.  if we get a chance we'll post here otherwise we'll report in next wednesday.

aboriginal art

narana creations is an 'aboriginal craft and cultural interpretation centre' near Geelong (a city just under an hour's drive away - it is about the size of Lexington).  On Billy's last day with us (Tuesday) we drove down there to see some art and make contact with an Aboriginal man named Ed who we had met two weeks previously at St Martins.

It was a wonderful place and the collection of art for sale was as good as we have seen since being here.  the wider cultural programs add to the experience of the place and we were sorry to be just visiting briefly.  Ed wasn't there but we did have a brief chat with Vince who heads up narana.  this place is part of a 'congress' which moblizes australian churches in seeking reconciliation.  it is engaged in such good work. 

from the website:

The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (Congress) is Aboriginal people in the Uniting Church committed to assisting Aboriginal people towards self-determination and building communities of fellowship throughout Australia.

Narana Creations, the state centre at Grovedale, is the Victorian home of the U.A.I.C.C. This is very important to us. It is "our place" which employs, trains and frees Aboriginal people for leadership in a way that is culturally relevant to our people. It is growing fast.

teenage affluenza

in a few weeks sherry and i will participate in the UNOH surrender conference on a panel called "make affluence history."  one of the panel members circulated this as we all think about the issue as it relates to mission and the church.  this clip was produced by world vision here in australia to promote the 40-hour famine.  this annual event is a fast for which people are encouraged to raise money and awareness for every hour of fasting.  it is specifically targeted at australian teenagers.  good stuff.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

some farewell pics

billy leaves today on his long journey back to lexington.  we have had a wonderful time.  the 4-day intensive was hard work but very satisfying and we have had a few days of seeing the sights of melbourne.  here are some pictures of our time...




see you soon

the other day, i was sitting with isaac watching a wonderful, educating program on ABC (similar to PBS in the u.s.) called "play school."  it is a nice mix of things like mr. roger's, sesame st and captain kangaroo and a delightful alternative to cartoons. 

anyway, there was a guy on the program dancing around and isaac said "that looks like B" (he's referring to our housemate brad flowers whom he loves very much).  well the guy didn't look like B at all actually - he was shorter and stockier with black hair so i wasn't quite sure why he said it.  i asked him "why is he like B?" to which isaac responded "because he's silly like B."   knowing isaac misses B and our other friends, i reassured him that "you'll get to see B soon."  isaac paused, thought for a moment and responded "soon takes a long time."  we miss you B and laura and we'll see you in a little longer than soon.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

there's always enough

with all that is going on this weekend with the intensive, we experience the beauty of god's generosity and a small miracle of provision.  when kimmy originally asked us speak on the saturday night, he wanted to use the time to commission us back to the u.s. and take up an offering for communality as a gift of support and friendship from forge.  in an effort to cultivate an ethic of generosity (which is hard work over and over again), geoff and i felt it was the right thing to give any money raised away.  billy readily agreed only with the slightest wince because he pays the bills for communality and he knew that we didn't have enough money for the upcoming month to pay the rent at the high st house. 

as we approached the time of the intensive we learned of the devastating fire in philadelphia that destroyed the central place for the simple way community and at least eight homes of families on their street - a very poor part of the city.  we told kimmy we would like any money raised to be given to the fund to support these families as the simple way would distribute it.

on saturday night, folks gave $500 in offering to this cause.  it exceeded our expectations and we were thankful forge could pass this money on to our friends in philly.  sunday morning we gathered at st martin's.  a week before this, john smith told us that the st marty's community wanted to give some money to take back to communality as a similar gift of friendship and support.  when we saw john yesterday, he generously gave us a check for $500 to give to communality.  the very amount we'd given away.

i was reminded immediately of the astounding verses in 2 corinthians that assures us about god's economy (2 cor 9:6-11).  in this passage, we are promised that in all things at all times god makes all things available to us in order to be generous.  when we come to our end (of our resources of love, patience, time, grace, money, willingness to be inconvenienced, etc) god begins and gives us what we need to be people of generosity.  the three of us offer our thanksgiving to god that this ethic, this promise of god's economy is real and at work in our midst.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

forge weekend

this morning, geoff, billy and i will head to a northern suburb to help set up and begin the second forge intensive for 2007. it is hosted at a multi-congregational church - northern community church - a new type of missional/church revitalization effort here in oz among struggling denominations. the schedule for the next four days is full to say the least. today we will participate in a panel on sustaining disciplines and meet with accrediting students. tonight - mick and ruby duncan will speak (kiwis). tomorrow there will be sessions all day long, a dinner to send us off, and then the three of us share about communality (please pray). sunday we will shift the event to st. martin's church for the day. john smith will preach and we'll have lunch with the st marty's crew (a bit like a crazy meal we used to have at the high st house). billy will lead a session in the afternoon and we will have dinner with the interns. monday morning we will return to northern and finish up at 5 p.m. it promises to be fruitful and exhausting.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

thoughts on freedom

below is a reflection from a newsletter of our friends nancy and matthew. they are astounding in their commitment to a call of creation care. we cannot recommend his book more highly - "serve god save the planet." it makes you want to be a better person and live a more faithful and sustainable life.

Thoughts on Freedom, as we approach Independence Day:

"In an ideal world, all would be free. All would know freedom from want; all would have the freedom to worship, assemble, and petition the government.

But we live in a fallen world, full of coercion and greed. It was not until our family became the followers of a 2000-year-old carpenter and teacher that we learned that we must sometimes lose in order to win (emphasis mine). Our new master said that we must not “judge others or we would be judged,” that we must “love our neighbors as ourselves,” and that everyone on this planet is our neighbor. He calls us to use our freedoms to secure the same for others, and to consider how the actions and inactions we take today impinge on the freedoms of future generations. He teaches us that freedom and its cousin, happiness, can never be complete when others know want, need, and oppression.

In giving, we gained. In submitting, we conquered. In giving up the pursuit of personal happiness, we finally found it.

Only when we enslave ourselves can we finally experience a freedom that surpasses all understanding."

-- Matthew and Nancy Sleeth

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

walking and talking

it seems that isaac and i have some of our most colorful conversations while we are out walking. today we were strolling to the shops, the cold winter sun was shining and i was singing a song about mercy that has a line in it - "mercy is falling, is falling, is falling, mercy is falling like the sweet spring rain..." isaac interrupted me straight away and said "excuse me mommy, maybe superman can catch mercy falling from the sky."

as we got to the shops, we were just wandering around and we headed for the local version of a "superstore." once inside, isaac said "we can look at the toys but we don't need to buy anything" - isaac's statement was geoff's verbatim as this response is blessed fruit from geoff's repeated efforts at curbing isaac's desire to have lots of things. i said "good boy." he picked up many things and informed me that when he poops on the potty, he'll get this toy or that one. yesterday, on another walk, he told me that "when i get back to america i'm going to be a big, strong healthy boy and i'll poop on the potty then." we'll see.

as an aside and just a wee rant - since i haven't spent much time in the toy section, i was absolutely shocked at how many toys or gadgets pertained to violence. there were guns and swords of every sort. there was even a package of superman gloves for sale that advertised "punch and crush." even in a place like australia where gun laws are admirably strict, this is what children are sold. i thought of the line in xavier rudd's song, "better people," that says

"and it’s only a question of the time we have
and the lives that our children will lead
‘cause they can only keep growing up with what they know
from what we teach and what they see"

justice in the burbs

our fellow sojourners in communality, will and lisa samson, have put together this video describing their new book.  wonderful book, great video....

Monday, July 9, 2007

working together

this morning geoff headed to the airport to put billy on a plane to brisbane to spend a few nights with ken and leane baker (it's such a small world wherever we go.  the three of us had a coffee with a forge friend - stephen said - yesterday and he is on his way to stay with the bakers on thursday as he and billy will just miss one another).  thanks to the bakers and mary fisher, we often meet people here in australia who already know about communality (the good stuff at least) and who are eager to sit down and know more.

yesterday we spent most of the day in the city working on our presentation for the forge intensive.  i think we all feel a bit intimidated at the task of telling the story of our community in an interactive fashion in front of alot of people.  geoff and i are certainly grateful to have billy's voice join ours as we have been the sole representatives for communality for months.  we've put together a great slideshow to transport the beloved faces and memories of our community from lexington to melbourne for the evening.  each time we watch it we get pangs of homesickness and tangible reminders of the story-rich life and history we share with one another. 

Saturday, July 7, 2007

billy's enculturation

yesterday (saturday) we took billy to the city and on to the footy.  we wandered around downtown before walking across to the MCG. 


the cold and rain didn't stop us cheering the collingwood magpies on  - they eventually won. 


it was also a happy accident to run into Simon Carey Holt and his wife as we walked in city.  it's always nice to see familiar faces among the teeming masses.  happy accident #2 was seeing barro at the footy match (pictured below with billy).  several of my best footy memories involve barro so it was great to run into him (he is a dear older brother in the collingwood faith).  better still was the fact that billy had met barro about 3 years ago when they were both at greenbelt and they enjoyed catching up.


Friday, July 6, 2007

time together

we spent the day seeing a piece of melbourne and visiting both vic market and the crazy "little saigon" market in footscray.  billy was happy because we saw lots and lots of meat.  after isaac's nap, we went over to altona to show billy our local beach and have a coffee at the cafe where we've often studied and relaxed.  it was a bracing cold winter's day in melbourne and a great time of friends being together.


to be a clown

a few weeks ago i went in our room to cover up isaac after he had gone to bed. usually before we go to bed i have to check to see what isaac has gotten into, rearranged, or hidden during the covert moments before he actually goes off to sleep. this particular evening isaac was asleep on his stomach and as i bent down to pull the covers over him i was surprised to find a coathanger wedged horizontally in his pajama bottoms, poking out on both sides of his body as he lay on top of it, out to the world. i called geoff in and we laughed and laughed and then wondered what in the world the boy had been doing before bed that resulted in his being prostrate on a hanger. the next morning geoff had some time with him and asked him what he'd been up to the night before. isaac simply replied, with seemingly well-considered conviction, that he wanted to be a clown. he said, "i've always wanted to dream about being a clown and making people laugh."

Thursday, July 5, 2007

billy has arrived

this morning at the melbourne airport the three of us waited for billy with great anticipation .  as we looked for him in the international arrival concourse, we watched hundreds of people pass by weighed down with luggage and cases from all over the world.  it was a beautiful spectacle to take in faces from singapore, new zealand, india, china, japan, indonesia and places unknown.  we were also reminded of our own trans-global travel to come and the guaranteed disorientation that comes with it.  after what seemed an eternity billy came through the doors of customs and we embraced as a family.  he smiled and looked better than he should have for having traveled such a distance.  we drove home through the city and talked of so many things, especially our plans for the next two weeks together.  it was a long awaited joy to be together again.   

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

GB 2007


(GB '05 with will samson and the turner family)

we're going to greenbelt at the end of august.  we are overjoyed at the thought of a week with our dear friends, the turners in london (hackney) and another week in the fields of cheltenham, tent camping with isaac and 20,000 others.  and...great news for us - our friends, neighbors and co-labourers with communality - lisa and clinton - are joining us for the festival.  they've just let us know that they've bought their tickets.  the program looks fantastic as always - see the GB site - with music from billy bragg, duke special, over the rhine and speakers ched meyers and john smith.  we're holding out for martyn joseph, of course and the organic beer tent.

superman takes flight

for your amusement, here are some pictures of isaac leaping from the couch tonight.





Tuesday, July 3, 2007

waiting on a friend

our mate billy (our long time friend and co-worker with communality - pictured here on the right) is somewhere in route from our beloved home in lexington, kentucky to melbourne, australia. he is due to arrive to us thursday morning after passing through detroit, l.a., and auckland. the travel time to and from australia is always surreal. not only are we thinking of billy being in-transit continually for a 36-hour period, when he lands in oz he will have changed seasons completely and skipped a day on the calendar. today is the 4th of july and for us it is a cold wednesday in winter. for our family and friends in the u.s. it is a sweltering national holiday. billy won't have a 4th of july this year - he'll lose it somewhere in the cosmos over the pacific ocean.

anyway, we will have two weeks together and we've been anticipating this for months. billy is coming to see us (after a long six months away from our family and friends in lexington) and to participate with us in forge's second intensive. the three of us will share the story of communality on the saturday night of the intensive weekend. those of us who know communality will find it funny to think of our wee community featured on main stage for anything...we'll see. with billy, we will also meet with some fantastic leaders and workers in missional efforts around melbourne.

more importantly, however, geoff will have the rare opportunity to show a dear friend his city, his home, his family and his footy team. our time together will be short and packed. stayed tuned for photos of billy surrounded by the collingwood cheer squad (not exactly known for their sense of decorum). and, we hope our friends at forge actually get billy's name right for once. for the last month he's been referred to as "ricky bobby." he can thank kimmy for that.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

almost an aussie family

tonight geoff went into the city to see his footy team,the magpies, play hawthorn. isaac and i stayed home together on our own and watched a live broadcast of the game (a rare thing that only happens if the match is sold out) . the house was dark and quiet except for our barracking. here we were, an american and an aussie half-breed, glued to the tv and pulling for our team full on while knowing so little.

as the game progressed, isaac and i played a bit of footy ourselves in the lounge room. he wore a beloved magpies footy jumper that our friend greg snagged for him from the church's op-shop. as the pies began to lose, isaac said "i'm soggy now that the pies are losing."

as i prepared him for bed, he said "the pies losed and the pooey team winned." then, as he was using the potty he called me in and said, "look, i made a jellyfish on the wall" as he had missed the toilet completely.

during the winter season, footy is an all-consuming passion in this culture. i relished the chance to pull for geoff's team, to be swept up in the impulse and volatility of the sport, and to watch isaac go up and down with the game. for mother and son who don't fully belong to this place it was sweet to be spectators and fans of such an iconic pastime.