When you hear the word ‘Rehab’ what do you think? Bad people? Addicts? Attitude? Prison like places? Sometimes I think about a shirt that my good friend Paul has that says ‘Nintendo Rehabilitation Clinic’. But seriously I had no idea what to think when I was told I was going to a rehab centre. I’d never been to anything like that before and frankly I was a little bit scared. I was also scheduled to spend some time on the public deck of the ship in the morning, but that morning the organiser found me and said that there weren’t many visitors so I’d be going to a rehab centre in the morning too. Two in one day!
The first one that I went to was for people who were sentanced by a court to be there as an alternative to a jail sentace, so there were many iron bars and security cameras and guards, though it was a lot more homelike that I would immagine a prison. We had no plan, only some materials and the Holy Spirit, and we were only two in number. A staff member gave us a tour of the facility and then decided to take us to the detox wing to give our presentation. These were the people who had just arrived and were off the drugs for the first time. I was now more scared than I was earlier, but I put on a brave face and put my trust in God as we passed through an iron gate into the ward. Could you imagine my surprise and releif when I met such a friendly, courteous, attentive bunch of gentlemen! They were very interested in our ship presentation, my testimony and our gospel presentation. They asked lots of questions about the ship and asked us to say a special prayer for them. It was wonderful to talk to these guys who had really hit rock bottom and encourage them.
The second rehab centre I went to in the afternoon was completely different. It was really just like a big house, though it had a very big fence around it with some barbed wire, inside everyone was free to move about and interact. They all lived together and did chores to keep the place clean and tidy, and that it was! I’d be ashamed to invite the clients there to see my cabin or my office! Our group was much larger this time and we had two Dutch speakers with us (Dutch is the official language of Curacao). Each of us showed our flags and told our names, where we came from and what we do for work. This time I gave a ship presentation from memory using a helpful song I learned from an Aussie girl in my first week in Trinidad. Others gave their testimony in Dutch or in English translated into the local language – which is a mixture of Spanish, Dutch, English and French. We also had the opportunity to chat one on one with the clients after our presentation and I enjoyed chatting with one guy about the ship and my faith in Jesus.

At the end of the day I was really surprised at how God can use me in situations I have no experience or talent in. Thanks God for working through me, and working in me.

A Church team to remember

It was a beautiful Sunday morning in Georgetown, Guyana as we travelled to Church. The pastor of this small church plant and another leader had come to the ship to pick up myself and four others in two cars. As we left the city area the landscape became very rural. Cars shared the dusty dirt roads with pedestrians and horses slowly making their way, and either side of the road were fields and houses. As the car pulled to a halt we looked out the window, all I saw was a house with a two storey wooden house with a white picket fence, but beyond that I could hear the sounds of people singing praise to God.

As I entered through the gate in the fence I found myself in a makeshift church building complete with wooden pulpit and a number of wooden pews and some speakers and microphones and a piano keyboard – all contained within the front veranda of the house behind it. Much care and effort had been spent to dress up the inside of the church to make it a fantastic place of worship.

We were ushered to seats at the front of the church on what appeared to be a stage area – since it was slightly raised and sepearted from the seats and sat behind the pulpit. The service was beginning and a lady was opening the service in prayer, not the kind of prayers you’d find in an aussie church but a prayer of praise and worship – a motivating prayer accompanied by the keyboard playing. At this time there were very few people in the church – in fact there were more on the stage – and I was wondering how we would do our demonstration that required 20 volunteers. But slowly and surely, just like in my home church, people began to arrive as we sung songs of praise to God. God’s spirit was there and the people gave Him praise, and being there I put aside what I considered to be poor musicianship to praise my heavenly Father. If we in Australia struggled musically and technically as much as this church did then we would find our church empty, but these people don’t need good sound or singing in key to praise God.

We were each looked after like royalty and given a large bottle of water each (which came in very handy). When it was time for us to speak we each introduced ourselves with our name, country, work and reason for coming to the ship. Then it was my turn. Anne and I presented a missions presentation. I had only done this presentation once before in Barbados, and I had done the easier part, now I was doing the hard part – facts about Islam, Hinduism, Budhism and China plus an evangelistic and mission challenge. For a moment I froze on stage because I didn’t have any notes – thankfully Anne handed me the notes and as I read and the church was very encouraging I gained confidence and spoke more dynamicly and from the heart. It was a great experience.

After this, Hannah gave her testimony and Campbell preached a sermon on missions.

After church we went to a leader’s house to have lunch. They cooked a wonderful Guyanese meal for us and allowed us to rest and some of us to sleep on the couches. We were very encouraged and recharged by their hospitality. The pastor told us about his work in the interior of Guyana where there are many Amerindian tribes and very simple living.

After lunch we went to a Sunday School party at the church. Hannah did clowning and the girls sung a song ‘My God is so big, so strong and so mighty’, then they called me up. I was going to tell a story called ‘You are special’ by Max Lucado. I sat on a chair facing a semi-circle of kids and began to tell the story. I asked my friend Campbell to be the God character in the story and I invited two kids from the audience to play the parts of other characters. At one point I had one little boy sitting on my knee listening to the story. The kids really liked the story and applauded long at the end. I hope that it taught them to not worry what other people think of them, but just remember that God loves them no matter what.

After the sunday school the pastor took us to a wedding of some Indian friends. They had arranged for us to come and try some Indian food, so we came in were seated and each given a large leaf to use as a bowel. Then we each received a portion of rice and seven unique ingredients like chicken, mango and many things I didn’t recongnise. It was called ‘Seven Curry’ and you eat it with your hands (we were given water to wash our hands). It was a fantastic meal like I’ve never had before. And they sent us off with some sweet cake-like stuff when we left. I dont understand why they were so nice to us when it felt like I gate-crashed a wedding, but that’s just how nice they are. Then afterwards we returned to the church and they gave us some of the ice cream and jelly they gave to the kids. So many blessings! And that’s how it seems to go with Church teams, you go to be a blessing but you are blessed in return.

My first birthday away from home

Last Wednesday was my 26th anniversary of the day I was born. Every birthday I have had from my first to my 25th have been spent with my beloved parents, my extended family and my best friends. In recent years I have enjoyed going out for dinner at a resteraunt in town with my friends and family. This year was different.
15,750km from my home in Australia, I awoke in Georgetown, Guyana in my little bed on the top bunk in my little cabin with 3 other guys. I had missed the opportunity to go out to dinner with a group the night before since I was not feeling well, but thankfully on this day I was feeling almost completely better. I made my way to my office where I received a call from the bridge. My parents called and were on the line. I rushed up to the bridge to take the call. Over the great distance and the bad connection there was a long delay. “Hi Dad” I said. After an eternity of seconds. “Hi Chris, Happy Birthday” came back from my Dad. It was so wonderful to hear his voice. I spoke with Mum and Dad for some time and was really encouraged.
Next, one of my team called me and asked me to come to the office to fix a problem. I was quite happy to respond to such a call. When I arrived and sat down the rest of the team burst in with cake, singing Happy Birthday to me. It was so special to have them do this for me. We ate some cake and moved on.
When I returned to my room I found stuck to my door a collection of birthday cards from people on the ship, including my wonderful AV team who made me a long card with lots of in-jokes. There were also little chocolates taped to the door. I found the birthday card my parents sent that I had stashed for today.
At lunch time I sat at a table with a group of people who are my ship family. We are assigned a couple as parents and other singles as brothers and sisters and learn to love and support each other. They had set the table for me and were there to wish me happy birthday and eat lunch with me. After the meal – which was small because I was still not feeling great – there was cake for all and a hand-made birthday card signed by the whole family. I felt so blessed.
When I checked the Internet I had received countless Facebook messages from all my friends at home.
At dinner time a friend got the whole dining room to sing happy birthday to me.
After dinner Philipp (who I’ve known since 2008) and I watched Bruce Almighty together, which was hillarious.
Since then I have received a great influx of birthday cards and letters from friends and family via airmail.
Thankyou so much to everyone who made my first birthday away from home so wonderful.

Veturing into Georgetown

As I walked through the market that afternoon my senses were overwhelmed. People were calling out to each other, some selling, others greeting each other and others still were arguing. The street was crowded with people, though every now and then a car would push it’s way through. The streets are made of loose asphalt and the gutters wide and filled with stagnant water and garbage. There were good smells and bad smells rising up through the air.
I was handing out flyers for the ship that afternoon with a group of young guys and girls. There were thousands of these flyers so the object was to simply hand out as many as possible. In Europe or Australia this would be quite a challenge. Personally I’d never accept a flyer for anything as I shop, but here in Guyana it’s different. I had no trouble handing out flyers, especially when I mentioned the ship (also I was wearing a bright blue ship tee-shirt). Some people even got off their bike or stopped their car to ask for a flyer, and if I missed someone they’d call out to me. I got in a conversation with one lady who said they really like white people in Guyana and I told her a bit about the ship and she said she’d come on Sunday. One girl from our team got in a number of deep conversations and I made sure to keep an eye on them while handing out flyers.
It was a great opportunity to venture out into the town and invite people to come to the ship and hopefully there expereince God. Many people did in fact come on that Sunday:

The queue for the book exhibition in Georgetown, Guyana

Since then I have been out wandering a few times just for fun.
Today I was approached by two girls from the ship who needed a guy to go to the zoo with so I went along. I really loved the zoo and all it’s strange south-american animals, including this eagle which is absolutely huge.

A Harpy Eagle

On our way back I had to keep my eyes pealed as whilst most people are friendly to us and wave and get our attention just to say hi, some people are not so respectful towards women and often make advances. We had been told that there were dangers in going out and that girls can’t go alone off the ship, and this made me think that everyone in the city was bad but it’s obvious now that like anywhere there’s a few people who are ill-intentioned for whatever reason.
However I may have felt about Guyana when I first arrived, I think now it is an alright place with some really great people.