Holy relics travel the world and come home to see out their days

I bought them from a department store for a few dollars four years ago, not the coolest or the most expensive but they did the job.

They’ve flipped through the sand playfully and rested on tiles prayerfully with Bali’s beautiful peopleThey made an accidental appearance at Wimbledon, and may have suffered a dollop of warm cream from my strawberries.

A European summer was a fitting environment for these fine friends and not to be outdown by more practical measures

They tasted the dust of Rome’s ancient paths

Cooled in the light blue waters of Venician canalsStood beneath David’s marble features in Florence, dashing through the piazzas.

Not to be outdown by time and distance, they found their place in India’s complex culturesShopping for sarees on Commercial St, BangaloreA dash of tea near a St Thomas church on a steamy afternoon

The sands of Chennai clinging and the blood of the martyr as close as could be

And then there are the wonders of our broad landCarried along the in the far north during a Cape Tribulation stroll

The sounds of Italy and the smell of garlic down Leichhardt streets

windmill on a Brisbane hill looked down on my friends

The trams of Melbourne could not shake us apart

And many other places

But in the end, after taking eveything I could throw at them

Or even when I threw them at anything, many times

They have been undone by nothing more

Than the little cuts and grinds of wear and tear

And though my trust remains strong

My fellow travellers are approaching their last journey

And will abide as holy relics

 

Cross carries comfort for Scott Rush

When Scott Rush arrived at Denpasar’s District Court on August 26 his white shirt shone in the Bali heat.

By the time he stood in court a dark, wooden cross, of the kind commonly carved and sold in Bali, was hanging around his neck, outside his shirt.

As he made his statement to the magistrates, he told them that his fate was in their hands ‘and the hands of God’.

During his statement, he made an apology for his actions, and as he spoke the words, his right hand lifted up, searching for the cross, which he held and caressed while speaking.

‘I wish to say to you, my parents, my family, and the community, how sorry I am for the crime that I have committed and the pain that I have caused.

‘I have brought much shame upon myself and my family. I have a deep sense of guilt for what I have done.’

In a recent letter to Australian Labor politician Chris Hayes (Member for Fowler), Scott Rush wrote:

”I truly feel sorry for the hurt and pain I’ve caused to my parents. I hope to have the chance to prove I am capable of reform. I want to give back to my community and be an ambassador against drugs.

‘Please say a prayer for me, and remember me to your wife Bernadette. I continue to pray every day and night.’

Rush, the youngest of the so-called Bali 9, has done it tough in prison. A strange episode where he was supposedly circumcised by Muslims being just one example of the spiritual, cultural and legal forces swirling around his life.

He has some strong support in his appeal including a letter from the Australian Federal Police saying he played a minor role in the heroin smuggling operation. An Australian academic respected for his knowledge of international law, has also made a statement on Rush’s behalf.

Now might be a good time to join young Scott in those prayers, morning and night.

And to bring the humanity of this incident more to life, visit the Scott Rush website, obviously developed by his family.

Jeffry leaves us far too quickly

One of the boys lingers after morning devotionsOne of the last times I saw Jeffry alive was as we gathered around a single candle flickering on the white tiled floor of the children’s home in Bali.

It was the first time that I had stayed overnight at the home and, although the home-parents had set me up in my own room with a fan, a blackout had left me too hot to sleep.

As I listened to the noises of the night – geckos, frogs, dogs, babies – it seemed only moments before I heard the sound of children and adults rising to share devotions.

As the children began to sing, I shuffled bleary eyed from my room and sat on the floor among them. We sang to Jesus, candle shining, and the tiles providing at least some coolness.

Jeffry was there, nurturing the candle as boys love to do, singing with the others his love for God.

Later that morning – it was still only about 7am – I enjoyed a specially procured breakfast of fried bananas and took photos of some of the kids as they headed off to school. Four other boys travelled on the back of motor bikes, but Jeffry rode his bicycle.

I had ridden his bike myself a day or two before. It was just before church at the children’s home and I was wearing my preacherly best, but caught up in the playfulness of children, hopped on the bike, riding up the lane, much to the amusement of the kids and arriving churchgoers.

Jeffry loved to call my daughter (Rebekah) bebek which means duck. She would ask for the names of animals to say back, and her attempts left Jeffry and the children rolling with laughter.  

A couple of days later I flew home but that little corner of Bali, down a back lane in Denpasar, is never far from my heart, or my family’s.

There was no candle, no white tiles, no smothering humidity when I got up yesterday morning, heading to make coffee and breakfast.

I noticed a text had arrived on my mobile. I opened it and read: ‘P please pray 4 Novi, motor bike accident young Jeffry died Novi in coma we r at hospital.’ Later we learned a drunk rider had collided with the two children.

My own sadness at this news cannot be compared with my daughter’s who has used almost every available holiday in the past few years to visit these children. We can only imagine the aching grief of those whose lives entwined with Jeffry every day.

It was many years ago when I sat in the room of a small boy as he died of AIDS, contracted from his mother. He had spoken of visions of Jesus coming to his room to speak with him. These memories tell me that Jesus is never outdone by tragedy.

Experiences like that, like this, remind us that every child is beautifully special and that somehow God, in his great love, makes provision even in the darkest hours. Our prayers and our presence are part of that provision, the reason we care, that we go.

One of Jeffry’s  ‘sisters’ at the home wrote, ‘everyone very sad , and also still not believe that Jeffry must go quickly…’

It is true, he has gone far too quickly for us, but he finds himself in a place where time, or tears, will never bother him again. Till we meet again…

From cage to carefree cooking

Harry*, a healthy, happy young boy cooking tempe at the children's home in Bali.

I first met Harry (not his real name) in Bali when he was jut a few years old. His mother, overwhelmed by the need to work very long hours for a pittance, had been unusually cruel to him, locking him in a cage and even attempting to kill him.

Someone knew of Tania’s (not her real name) children home and convinced the mother to allow Harry to be cared for there. As supporters of the home, we were privileged to meet the little fellow who was fast recovering from his ordeal.

The spark of intelligence in him was unmissable and his need or attention irrepressible. But the steadfast love of God expressed through the beautiful staff of this home, has met the need for attention in the most healthy way – balanced, unconditional, accountable love; and at the same time helped him excel in all kinds of way – cooking and surfing being just two.

This is one of many great stories coming from this home which is a partnership between a local woman and other staff and western people who want to reach out beyond their own comfort zone.

There are many huge organisations that do wonderful things for communities and nations at the aid and development level but we must never lose the ‘amateur lovers’ of this world who are moved of heart enough to change a child’s life through hugs, smiles, a room and one good day after another. PH

Sun strikes horizon, beautifully

Kuta Beach may not be the cleanest in the world, but the sunsets remain untainted by tourism, pollution and souvenir sellers. It is at the junction of things that we often experience the most beauty. As the ocean beats the shore or the sun strikes the horizon we find the richest images. In life too, it is the collisions, the surprises, the challenges, the beginngings and endings that so often throw up the most strident beauty.

Pouring water into the ocean

There's more than one way to warn motorists that a vehicle is being towed. In Bali, a strategically placed palm branch does the job nicely...

Why do we travel to other countries to share our lives? Is it because we think our way is better than theirs? Or because we are driven by guilt or obligation?

In fact relationship is the key. God works through relationship and in today’s world, relationships can take us anywhere on the planet.

The beauty of a relationship with people and communities in other countries, particular where there is a crossover from developed to developing, is that we learn that our way of life is not the only one, that material benefits are over-rated but yet a privilege, and that putting ourselves in another person’s world is often a pre-requisite for sincere love.

While waiting for a friend on a Bali street, a driver came and chatted with me, hoping I needed his services. When I explained I didn’t, he accepted this politely and we continued to talk.

He pointed out his little blue van, slightly battered, that was his source of livelihood. As a taxi stopped and picked up some Europeans (“Dutch”, my Balinese acquaintance informed me), he pointed to the car which was part of a very large taxi company.

“If you spend money with a big business like that it’s like pouring water into the ocean. If you spend money with a family business like mine, it means we can cook tomorrow.”

We shook hands and parted company. Who assisted who?

Beach and the blind in Bali

Rebekah searches for shells at Turtle Beach, Bali, with some of the kids from Eternity Blessed Children's Home.
Take a few Aussies with faith and give them a chance to build relationships with people in another country and culture and God can do great things. Sharing our lives is as simple as searching for shells at the beach and as supernatural as praying for sight to be restored in a church service in a children’s home. We Sydneysiders have been here under three days and have experienced so much already, even blue Fanta… Maybe a post on that later.

Off to Bali with strings in tune

Tomorrow I join a bunch of young people from our church community, and later from other churches, on a short trip to Bali where we partner with local people to run a very special children’s home.

We go with great humility to encourage, support, learn from and, hopefully, contribute to an awesome team of people – Indonesian and Australian – who make Eternity Blessed Children’s Home a reality.

We’ll take the kids to the beach; visit disadvantaged rural families; paint a wall; share in church; listen, laugh and cry with the workers and hopefully get a few moments to soak in the beauty of Bali. 

We are taking a guitar because music is a universal language and some of our team are gifted in this area. For years we’ve just tossed our acoustic in the back seat, no case, and never thought twice. Suddenly we realised this would not be good on a plane!Read More »