Transformed

Untitled 2On Monday I launched the newest revision of the Transform website http://www.transform.om.org/. This is the first website I’ve created by using wordpress – and it’s not half bad looking. I was really surprised at how swish a website can look with the right themes and customisation – and a few plugins.

Here is a look at the website itself. The fairly wide image in the middle is a slideshow with 5 images that take you to some of the site’s pages for more information – and the last slide is a link to a youtube video that opens up in a pretty lightbox and plays right away. That’s pretty cool. This is all part of the theme I used called ‘Duotive’.

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The website can be viewed in several different languages such as French, Italian and even Korean – thanks to a fantastic plugin called qtranslate. All the links have a 2-letter language code somewhere in the URL to keep the language. Personally I would have prefered a cookie or a session variable, but this seems to work fine.

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It also pulls all of the short term missions opportunities for Transform participants into the website. The best part of this is that the options change depending on which country you are from – so with geoip country detection, the options are correct for your country and your currency. I used a simple rss feed reader and customised the code pretty heavily for this.

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The gallery is also pretty swish. The videos are hosted by OMNItube – something I’ve helped work on at OMNIvision for a while now – the advantage being no ads. The picture gallery is a part of the theme again, with nice lightboxes. The second video has subtitles based on the language you are viewing the site in, but this is just done with seperate videos at the moment.

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Lastly the prayer map is pretty cool. You click on one of the Mediterranean countries and it gives you a short bio with links to full information and how to pray for the country.

I’ve had some ups and downs with the website. The contact form that comes with the theme has no anti-spam protection so the owners got spammed as soon as it went online. Of course there’s always a better plugin available so I just dropped one in and the problem is solved. All in all, wordpress is a great CMS for simple and complex websites – there’s no reason to waste time with Joomla.

We’re married!

Yes, Ruth and I finally tied the knot on the 9th of June 2012 at Northchurch Baptist Church, Berkhamsted, England. We had a magnificent day that (save for a slight delay) turned out just the way we planned. The sun even made an appearance in the afternoon and there was an especially beautiful sunset to end the day. You can see lots of photos of the big day on our facebook pages.

We had a lovely relaxing honeymoon in tropical north Queensland, Australia before heading to Australia for a whole second wedding and reception! It was lovely to celebrate again with the people who are special to me, and who had already met Ruth and encouraged us on our journey together. It was also a time for last goodbyes as we flew back to the UK two days later!

We’ve been very busy setting up our new home in Carlisle, UK and we will have some photos for you to see soon. We’ve also started work already as volunteers for Operation Mobilisation – Ruth is working with families in the mission field and I am working with a multimedia ministry called OMNIvision. Between our day jobs, setting up a home, getting over jetlag and getting used to each other – we’re quite drained – so please pray for energy and grace for one another.

A week in Carlisle

Ruth and I recently spent the week in the northern border city of Carlisle nestled at the foothills of the Scottish highlands. Though it was a little colder up there we had a lovely time and we feel like we have a little more assurance of the future. We visited the OM International Coordinating Team (ICT) office and met some of the team who work there. ICT’s purpose is to come alongside missionaries at all levels and in all countries and provide the support and organisation that they need to do the work God has given them to do. Whilst the roles here feel a little bit corporate, the focus and outworking is in equipping, praying for and ministering to missionaries around the world.

Ruth spent some time with those she will be working with and the person that she will be replacing. She was able to get a good handle on what the job involves and get her hands on some resources that she can get familiar with in the coming months. The team seem very keen to have her working there as soon as we can – which will absolutely be after our wedding and honeymoon in June!

I spent some time with the team who run IT (Information Technology) on Logos Hope. They are putting together a donation system for the ships ministry that I am helping to construct. This is something I’ll be working on in the coming weeks alongside wedding plans and support raising. I also got to visit OMNIvision again and connect with the crew there. I will be based at OMNIvision (which is in a separate studio a few miles from ICT). I got to see the events that are coming up this summer and I’m very excited about the possibilities.

We were delighted to spend time with the Ingham family who let me stay with them for the week and often had Ruth and I around for dinner. It was very encouraging to be welcomed so warmly, especially when we don’t really know anyone in Carlisle. We were able to see a house that we could possibly move into in July, but there are no guarantees. We like the house so we are praying it will work out – if not they will find us another place.

It’s all very daunting moving to the UK, moving away from Ruth’s hometown, getting married and changing jobs – but we keep bringing it back to God and He keeps reassuring us we are doing the right thing. We are continually encouraged by the way that our lives seem to have been building towards this place and time – that God has been working behind the scenes in our lives in the good times and the bad to prepare us for ministry.

My desk at OMNIvision

My desk at OMNIvision

OmniVision


“Wait, you seriously like doing this kind of thing – that’s amazing!” This and other statements have been a part of the discussions that I have had lately with people at OmniVision. Situated in the city of Carlisle in far North England, OmniVision makes videos about what God is doing around the world drawing people to himself. Through the videos created here, we are given an insight into ministries that we can be a part of – – by supporting, by praying, by sending, by going. They also do live video coverage (Image Manification – or iMag for short) of big Christian conferences in Europe. This is the most exciting feature for me. I love to be behind the quality technology that helps to bring people into the presence of God – rather than push them away as it sometimes does. I like to see young people giving their lives to Jesus and committing themselves to missions both local and abroad. For that reason I’ve extended my world travelling for just one more month to visit the ministry and to experience a little of what they do. Now it just so happens that I used to be a computer programmer (I write PHP for those interested) and I really enjoyed that job, but didn’t get to do any of that in the ship. When I mentioned that I like to do PHP work and maintenance, more than one person was excited. I’ve already got two small projects that I’m working on to improve existing websites. I really like where I am working and I’ve already learned a whole lot more about my job. Carlisle is also a very nice city – very small but very cool. There is also a very nice place called the Lake District not far to the south which is breathtakingly beautiful. I think I am really going to enjoy the month here.

Malaysia


Sailing into Penang, Malaysia I though to myself “This will be my last port of call with Logos Hope”. It is a sobering thought. What will I make of this port? Who’s life will I impact? How will I make the days count. Friendships are a priority for me – spending as much quality time with good friends as I can. I have passed on my leadership role to another talented young man named Greg so now I can spend my work time making sure I do the best job possible, and making sure he has everything that he needs to carry on when I am gone. I am excited to meet Chinese, Indian and Malay people in Malaysia and listen to their stories and share mine. I am already enjoying the abundance of cheap Malaysian food. I plan to finish this race well, say goodbye on good terms, enjoy my time and look forward to being home.
This week I was able to visit a Malaysian church that felt just like home – moreso than the Sunday Service on board Logos Hope. Whilst we went there to share about the ship, for me it was a great time of refreshment, rest and good teaching. We were in a big group, and whilst I remained in the main service, Ruth and a number of others taught the different Sunday School classes.
I am excited about the next few weeks in Malaysia finishing my time well. I thank God for an amazing time on board and a bright future.

Back to Sunday School


Standing up in front of fourty sunday school kids, singing a song while turning around and sticking out my tongue – man that was a new expereince. For the last two sundays I have visited a church in Sri Lanka and a church in India. In both churches our small group of ship’s crew were able to encourage the Sunday School kids with a programme of around one hour.
We taught them songs in english, did a ship quiz, told a story from the bible and had time to sit with them and answer questions. God has been taking me on a journey of learning to interact with and encourage younger children – and in trusting Him I am slowly learning.

International Night Sri Lanka


For those who would love to travel the world, the Logos Hope brings the world to them. I share a cabin with a man from Korea and a man from France. In fact, we have over 45 nationalities onboard. So when we put on a show, it’s a taste of world culture. Mexican dancing, Korean fan dance, a Finnish signer, a special chinese instrument, drama – the lineup of performances was by far the ship’s best – but what made this event great was not the performances, but the audience.
Having changed our plans a day before, we decided to setup for International Night right outside the ship in the open air. Anybody who saw the stage came to sit down. With a thousand people watching, we performed the cultural dances and songs that we practiced hard for. And when we had drawn a huge crowd, we performed a drama about the prodigal son. And to explain the meaning of the drama, the MC gave the message of salvation that is so needed in this place.

As a lighting engineer my part in this started early in the morning bringing equipment out from the ship and setting it up. I had many helpers for which I am very thankful. Seeing the show lit well and looking very attractive – drawing the crowds, was a great feeling. And serving behind the scenes to make something like this a relaity is something I’ve always dreamed about. I thank God for allowing me to be a part of such an amazing ministry by using the skills that he has given me to serve him.

Fellowship


“i just wish i could remember the words to Waltzing Matilda” i thought to myself. I was in the house of the pastor of a church in rural India and since they were not so fluent in English we had begun to exchange cultural songs. This week I had the opportunity to visit many churches in Kerela, India, to present the ship, give my testimony, and give messages of encouragement. After each service we were invited to share a meal with the pastors of each church. Each family put on a banquet of Indian food for us, which I absolutely loved. After the meal we would have fellowship together. As I stumbled my way through the verses of Waltzing Matilda the smiles on their faces told me I had connected with them.
Then came the real treat. Their two daughters performed for us a song in the local language (Malayalam) and they even danced as well. The tune was stuck in my head for many days. When we were finished we spent some time to pray with the family. It was very difficult to say goodbye as we had had such a great time with them. It is true indeed that wherever you go you have a family in the Lord.

Connecting


Middle eastern culture is all about relationships, not work or deadlines. If you had an appointment but an old friend stopped in to visit, then you would not tell your friend to come back another time – you would make him some tea and some food and enjoy his company. Then when he decides on his own to leave (though you insist he stay) you can go about your appointment, though this may be several hours later. So it’s a good thing I don’t have a great deal of appointments or events to manage right now. Rather I have spent a lot of time in the international cafe meeting local people and getting to know what life in North Africa is like. One thing I realised is that I can easily sit in the cafe and go about reading a book or having a drink and within moments someone will start a conversation with me, which is fantastic since I love to meet local people but I’m such an introvert! Among the many wonderful people I met this week was a captain in the Navy! Wow.
Another special opportunity I had was to be a part of ‘Open Ship Day’ where we have cultural exhibits from all different parts of the world. The first stand I was placed at was the European stand where many of the cultural items were from Germany and Holland – such as clogs, windmills and hats – and a Swiss horn. I think with my Dutch and English heritage I can pass off as European long enough to start a conversation with someone and say ‘actually, I’m from Australia’ which in many cases was more interesting!
I also got to be on the Sub-Saharan African stand (now I can’t pull that one off but I have been there) and the deck and engine stand with all the big ship tools. It was really fun showing people a little bit of life in other countries and on a ship and that somehow in all this diversity we still have harmony and love.

Georgetown

After a wonderful refreshing time in St. Lucia called Sabbath week, the ship moved on to our next port of call, Guyana. It is a long way from St. Lucia to Guyana so the journey through the rough atlantic ocean took 48 long hours, most of which I’d rather forget. I must have spent 50 hours altogether in my bed (we left port at 8am), and as far as I can tell most of my team felt sick for the whole time as well so I gave them the two days off, all except for Joy who strangely seemed completely unaffected.

When I finally emerged from my cabin I found myself in Georgetown, Guyana. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgetown,_Guyana The water in the river is a rich brown colour, the quayside is more of a wooden peir, the ship is tied to some wooden posts and all around is barbed wire and tin roofs. To me it looks like something from Africa. The ship is open only till sundown and we are not to go out at night. We are taking anti-malaria pills and applying mosquito repellant. To me, it seems that this port is very scary. To others, they feel like they have finally arrived at the place where God has called them. Certainly there are some amazing ministry opportunities in this country, and it’s easy to judge a country by what you hear and miss all the good things.

In fact, we are sending out 15 teams of people to stay onshore with local christians and do building projects, dramas, evangelism and other ministries. There is also a medical and a dental team going out from the ship to do some free medical ministry amongst the Guyanese people. I have released three of my five team members to go on these challenge teams while the rest of us keep the onboard events running. I feel very satisfied in staying onboard and working a little harder so that others can go out and spread God’s love in practical and spiritual ways.

I have said to a few people now that I have never felt like a missionary in the traditional sense. I am fully prepared to give an account of my faith should someone ask me about it, as every Christian should be, and I am passionate about helping others to share the good news through the talents God has given me. We are all a part of the body of our Lord Jesus, and we all have different functions, but none is more important than any other.

Last Saturday night I had the privilege of leading an AV team of 11 people in a top notch production. nearly 400 local young people came to a youth event where they were challenged to make their faith count and not to be luke warm. Most stayed for the entire message and listened attentively where normally most people would walk out. It was very encouraging to be a part of it.