Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sunday's post was so very very long...

This one isn't.

By the way, did I overdo the exclamation mark? I think so!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

'it was the Wurst of times... '

or to re-phrase that, the Time of the Sausage. In the last week or so I've had a few. Let me count the barbecued meats I have partaken of in the last week and a bit.
It started off very well, with barbecued steak a'la Matt at the temporary Melbourne home base of the School of Youth Leadership guys in Surrey Hills. That was on Wednesday the 15th, after which we went into the city to mingle with the crowds watching the Comm Games opening ceremony at a big screen at Docklands. There was virtually no-one there, even the fairground rides were deserted. All we saw of the fireworks was whatever was reflected off the tall buildings in the city. But there was over 200,000 at the MCG and on the banks of the Yarra who had an excellent view. Many of these people shared our train on the way home. Cosy.
On Thursday we went to Werribee to hang out with the kids at the Salvo drop-in centre. We had another barbecue, Matt again showed his skills. Afterwards we hung out at Fed Square in front of the big screen and made Balloon animals. Matt and Carrington got themselves interviewed on ABC radio 774, and I made a balloon cyclist on his bike in honour of the Aussie track cycling team winning gold.
Friday was our day at the Prayer hub at Swanstons st. Church of Christ, and then in the afternoon at the 614 drop in centre. Quiet. DJ Smitty was entertaining though! After a prayer walk around the streets we decided to head home. After the others found they needed a different train to me, I decided to go for a walk along the Yarra to see what was going on with the Melbourne festival. Just as I was passing the Channel 9 Outside Broadcast spot, they opened the gates and invited us in for a free sausage in a bun!
Saturday was the day off. A chance to sleep in! And how I needed it! I was awake at 6... There was a family re-union at lunch time for Auntie Marg and Uncle Arthur, who were visiting the Games from West. Aust. Not a barbecue, but I mention it because Auntie Marrian was there, asking when was I going to visit Werribee? I didn't tell her it would be the very next day. On Saturday night I could've gone to the Ringwood Salvos picnic barbecue at Lilydale lake - I was planning to - but I thought an early night was a much better idea at the time.
No Barbecue on Sunday either, though the Werribee festival went really well, I met a lot of old friends I had not seen for years (Hello Christy!), and I gave my Auntie the shock of her life, and her camera, which she had left behind the day before. The was a big street parade, with Matt and Carrington in animal costumes, bands and Sudanese drummers. Afterwards, there were puppets, music, facepainting and balloon animals, and a drive to Maryborough.
Monday was the first day of kids games, no barbecue here either, instead, Maryborough corps gave us a roast dinner and we told them our stories, and taught them balloon animal and face painting skills.
No BBQ on Tuesday either. But KidsGames was getting better.
On Wednesday afternoon, after a morning of Kidsgames we went to Castlemaine for an afternoon of facepainting and games with the Castlemaine kids. Getting a set of drumsticks painted on his face was Andre! He used to go to my church a few years back, we didn't expect to meet up in central Victoria in such circumstances! I painted a drum on his other cheek, he had band-practice that night, but that was after he cooked the sausages for us all. Another Barbecue!
Thursday afternoon (after another busy afternoon at KidsGames) we went to Bendigo to play with and paint on more kids. For once we had them outnumbered! Feany was impressed by the recording studio and digital video set-up that they have at Bendigo Salvos. If only Bendigo was in Qld, they would have the perfect opening for him! A youth leader with experience in media production! After the game, and a tour of the facilities, we had barbecue! Not sausages for once, it was hamburger meat. It was good to have a change.
Friday was the last day of KidsGames, pool day, water play day, and closing ceremony. Hope we brought a little light and joy to some dry, dusty kids. After pulling down the marquee, and packing everything away, there was another barbecue, a thank you by the organisers to all who had helped. Unfortunately by then we were already well on the way back to Melbourne.
Saturday morning started with pancakes, fruit salad and scrambled egg breakfast at the YWAM base, followed by a session of praise and worship and reports from various More Than Gold teams. Inspiring. We did okay. But there was no Barbecue.
Sunday morning at Carrum Downs Salvos. After the service we did a de-brief, but before that, more barbecued sausages! A sleepy afternoon, then off the Waverley Salvos to say good bye to some great new friends. Oh, and another Sausage sizzle...
That was a worthwhile and well spent 2 weeks away from the useless neccessity that is my job. But today is Monday, and life is back to normal... tonight we played a very close game of volleyball, narrowly going down in the third set. But things were a bit different at Volleyball tonight. What was that smell? Yes, as a fund raiser the Volleyball Association were having a sausage sizzle.
I had to have one.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

home again...

Well, I am home from the bustling hive that is Maryborough in central Victoria, and I am so glad to sleep in my own bed again. We had an amazing time running kidsgames for the local kids, as well as visiting Castlemaine and Bendigo and meeting great people there too! But my energy ran out just as the week did, and an early night would probably be a Good Thing.
There is the possibility that photos will appear here soon, and also that Murray will launch his own personal blog. It won't be as darkly serious as mine tends to get, but gorilla philosophy still can get quite deep y'know!
Yesterday I said goodbye to the guys in Maryborough, as well as the Bendigo and Castlemaine guys who also were involved. Today we had breakfast with the YWAM guys at their headquarters here in Melbourne, heard a few fantastic reports of what had been happening during the games here in Melbourne as well as a report from Matt about our adventures. Then we said goodbye to the YWAM guys from Adelaide. Tomorrow we go to the morning service at Carrum Downs Salvos (they also ran a kidsgames there), and a debriefing, and then I say goodbye to the SYL guys. They drive back to NSW on Monday.
A time of goodbyes. You spend one or two weeks working with and getting to know some really wonderful people. You make lots of new friends and learn a lot about yourself in the progress. And then you say goodbye, perhaps never to see them again.
But never is a long time, and as the YWAM people said, even if our paths don't cross again on this Earth, we will meet again in heaven.
And there are no goodbyes there.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


This week, Honzablog comes to you from the little town of Maryborough, in the Golden Triangle area of Victoria. As part of a More than Gold Commonwealth Games outreach program, I am here with several guys from the Salvo Youth Leadership School in NSW, and some YWAM guys from Adelaide to help the local churches run a Kids Games event.
The More than Gold thing started last Monday with two days of training and networking in Melbourne. Then when the Commonwealth games spectacular began, we hit the streets with balloon animals, face paint and some slickly produced sports related christian literature. All of us found the people we met, especially those on the trams and trains, were keen to chat and were interested in our large name tags and cool(!) purple T-shirts (start wearin' purple...)
On Sunday we went to Werribee to take part with the local Salvos in a big parade and street festival. Some Sudanese guys marched with us, then sang and played drums at the end of the march. I found a muppet type creature, and had a lot of fun interacting with kids along the parade route. After the parade, the Werribee Salvos band played, and the puppets sang, and kids danced and had fun, while the team painted more faces and made balloon Animals. Carrington, from Zimbabwe, painted me to look like Spiderman. I wore this face all the way on our long drive to Maryborough.
The town looks very dry, as it is in the grip of a drought, very little green around. But the people are really friendly, and this kids, well kids just want to have fun. The weather has been perfect for games, bright and sunny, but probably not so good for the town's lawns, or the prosperity of the farming Community.
Today was the second day of Kids Games, and teething troubles seemed to be getting ironed out. But the local people have done a fantastic job of organising things in a short time, and the kids seem to be having a great time. They are divided up into 9 teams and wear team bandanas. Points are scored for each game. Kids can also pick up points for their good behaviour, whether they help each other, encouragement etc.
In this town, there is little for kids to do, so we are very popular at the moment. Hopefully, the outcome of it is, a bit of the Christian message will rub off, and this little fun event will resonate through eternity.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Prerov - More on Moravia...

This statue depicting a man (not sure who...) holding a bible up for all to see is in the town square of the old part of Prerov. Incredibly, some might say miraculously, it survived the Communist regime who saught to remove signs of religion wherever they could.
Moravia (a region of the Czech Republic) was especially prominent during the early days of the Reformation and Protestantism. A Church historian could probably tell you heaps more than me! A prayer meeting was held around here that ran for about 100 years, which does tend to put the 24/7 movement of a week of solid prayer into context. (Some prayer meetings have felt like 100 years long, but that's another story...)
I assume the sculpture displays Martin Luther's idea of sola Scriptura, that Christians should only really trust the Word of God, and not rely on the pronouncements of the Church. Of course, this was not well received by the Catholic Church, who held all the religious power then. Following the 30 Years War, which was waged to squash these dangerous ideas, Moravian Christians were spread far and wide, taking the seeds of the reformation with them.
Some made it to England, where they converted Charles Wesley, who became an extremely influential preacher and (with his brother, John) hymn writer, he went on to form the Methodist Church. It was with the United Methodists of Western Pennsylvania that I visited Jamaica. And it was a Methodist Minister called William Booth that founded the Salvation Army, which is my own spiritual heritage.
Thank God for those crazy Moravians, for they have allowed me to travel the world, but more importantly, shown the truth of God to the world. They have passed the baton on, now it's our turn...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Here are Camille, some guy I don't recall, Honza and Ardi engaging in some quality singalong time with the Prerov gypsy kids. Note that the Honza pictured is not me! Honza seems to be Czech for John, and as half the guys that we came across appeared to be called Honza, the girls in my team dubbed me Honza too. I hope they weren't inferring that I was in any way common! Actually I feel it's probably one of the coolest nick-names I've ever been given. A bit more unusual than Johnno or Johnnie, except perhaps in Moravia and Bohemia. There was one young Honza we came across that wanted us to call him Johnna, perhaps in honour of me, or perhaps because it had a cool exotic Anglicky (English) feel to it. Anyway, that, dear reader is the origin of the name of Honzablog, just in case you were wondering...
Tak ahoj! - that's the Czech equivalent of bye now!

PS, I should've mentioned that shortly after returning from Central Europe, Leah met Scott, Scott met Leah, love ensued, and now they both have been to Prerov...

PPS, Due to the inadequacies of my Anglicky keyboard i have been rendering Prerov incorrectly. There should be a little 'v' sign over the first 'r' in the world giving it a 'ch' sound, it should be pronounced P-CHAIR-ov. Similarly Dvorak the composer has a similar sounding r in his name. Just a small point for all the linguistic purists out there...


This time of year in my church is a special focus on the work of the Salvation Army in far-off places. In a few weeks will be the Self-denial appeal, where we are encouraged to give as much as we can to support this work. I always find it interesting, because foreign countries and cultures fascinate me, and it's good to see how the Kingdom of God is being extended in such exotic places; when I grow up, maybe I will be a Missionary!
Anyway, the Army has produced a short series of video spots (on DVD actually) to be played in the Sunday meetings to highlight the needs in various countries. Today's short episode came from Prerov in the Czech Republic. This was more than interesting because I have actually been there!
Scott Ellery, our video host, showed us around the Gypsy ghetto (where I spent some hours playing with the kids), and introduced us to the charismatic and energetic Captain Jana Coufalovi, of the local Salvos (who I had already met, back in 1999, Sunday July 11 to be exact!) (yep, checked my journal for that!). Really good stuff. Those gypsy kids were really just like kids anywhere - in fact they reminded me so much of the Jamaican kids I had met the year before with their natural rhythm and love of music. Leah, one of my team mates and a music student, was particularly impressed by this.
One thing stood out to me about those kids. Despite the dirty and run-down conditions in the ghetto the kids loved playing, like any other kids. But there was an underlying spirit there, hard to define. One small lad had done something good with a ball we where playing with, so, I thought it deserved a 'high five'. The boy cringed, thinking I was about to hit him.
My Czech and Romany language skills are quite limited, but I was able to convince him I meant no harm, tried again with the high five, and was rewarded with a huge grin.
I wonder how that boy is today. I didn't recognise him in the video, but he must have doubled his age by now. But that doesn't matter. God knows who he his and how he is. And God is working through the Army in Prerov, I am sure of it! There are programs to help the children with their education, and barriers of prejudice are slowly being broken down between the Romanies and the mainstream Czech population. The Nazis put them in concentration camps, the Communists stopped them travelling and put them in ghettos, the Salvation Army is showing them new hope and worth. It will take a long time, but transforming society is one of the core values of the Army wherever you go in the world.
Check out Vanessa's report on our visit to Prerov.