“We’re just glad to have you for Christmas” were my Mum’s kind words. After two years away from home missing Christmases and Birthdays, it was good to be home this year for my birthday, Christmas and New years. Often I think to myself that even though I would never change where God has taken me, I have in some way neglected my family and friends back home – that I’ve travelled the world doing God’s work, but left friends in the lurch. Spending this season at home, before jetting away again is an opportunity for me to make up for lost time. To spend quality time with my family, to help around the home where I can, to laugh, cry and hope with friends wherever they are at in life and to share with anyone who wants to know a little of what God has been doing in my life. My prayer is that God will use me in the time that I am here to bless people.
I was also delighted to spend this Christmas Eve at Grace Wamberal. I put in many hours of planning and two days of maintenance work to bring our lighting installation up to scratch for the carols service. It was so rewarding to see it on the night – everything working and arranged for the best coverage. Few if any people commented on the lighting this year, and that’s actually the way that I think it should be. They didn’t notice it at all, rather they were rejoicing and celebrating Jesus birth. When large numbers of people notice what I do, whether positive or negative – I know I’ve done something wrong, because my job is to point to the saviour, not to wow people with special effects.
As the new year dawns, I’ll be getting back to working in the church office on websites near and far in addition to continuing work on the audio visual equipment. I hope to be of the best use to the kingdom of God that I can be during these summer months at home. In April I will be heading over to England to be involved in an Audio/Visual missions movement called OMNIvision. I wish you and your families and friends all the best for 2012.
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.
Sitting in a room with 9 Chinese people and one German friend politely listening to a language I cannot understand is not my usual way to spend a Sunday evening, but it seemed like the thing to do. Over the last few weeks I have taken the time to study and learn some Mandarin – the most commonly spoken language in China – with some Chinese friends onboard. The teacher of the class has a passion for connecting with and sharing the gospel with Chinese people living in the countries we visit, who are often very isolated from the community around them. I came along on this outing to make friends, practice some Mandarin, and to show that it is not only other Chinese people who care about them. Specifically I met one man who enjoyed practicing his English with me and was very encouraged by our visit. Others in the group took the time to share the gospel with them. I hope to learn a lot more so I can actually have a basic conversation with Chinese people, and hopefully my friends on board will help me.