"I suppose that since most of our hurts come from relationships, so will our healing..." WM Paul Young

"Only after one experiences the incredible pain of loss, can he appreciate the unbelievable joy of restoration"

Larry Reimer

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


As I near the end of a long journey home (14 flights covering 24,000 miles, 6 countries, and three continents) I realize I certainly did take the "scenic route." I've been blessed to experience many things most people only hear of and some may dream of.

This morning I read part of a news article in which the author mentioned that a new enforcement officer had really helped the community. One major benefit was that this new officer had dealt with a number of property appearance issues. Basically, there's too much mess on the yards or people's trees are growing to far over their kitchen window. As I read it, I thought to myself that I've just come through a place where people are lucky to have a kitchen or a window into it. Most of these people would be overjoyed even to have food to cook in the kitchen they dream of having; and this news article talks of the benefits of hiring someone to make sure front yards look nice. It reminded me that once again, my travels have changed my perspective of things. Now just to be clear, I have not problem with people wanting their communities to look nice. In fact, I would be one of the strongest supporters of taking good care of what we have been blessed with. When I owned a home, I did what I could to keep it looking nice, and I plan to do the same when I own a home again. But I do have to question; how important is it, really? It also makes me more thankful that I have so much that such little things become a concern for me.

My journey began with a stop in South Africa. I arrived to the friendly greetings of a family I know. After a short night and long flight, they now took me back to their place where they finished packing for a trip I was joining them on. We drove 3 hours and spent the night; ready to enter the Kruger National Park. Having dreamed of this day for a long time, it was great to finally arrive. In the next three days, I saw a lot of wildlife and had a great time with my family of friends.

Some of the thousands of Impala's... pretty much the same as the deer we would see in Canada

Baboons. Fun to watch as they played with each other. As with many other animals, there were a lot of young ones.

More than one giraffe was close enough that I couldn't get the whole animal in my camera viewfinder.

One of the highlights was watching a pride of lions. We saw 8 of them together including a few that were only about a month old. They had a hippo close by that they had been feeding from the last couple of days. We were only a few meters from these

Elephants all over the place...

And some zebras...

We saw the "big 5" and a whole lot of other animals

Well, after Kruger, it was time to head to Kenya where I was to meet a pastor friend of mine who was there to do some preaching and teaching. It was interesting and somewhat disheartening to see and hear about the state of Kenya and specifically the church there. So many people striving for title and position. So many using Christianity as a means to greater success, title, and financial comfort, all at the cost of other people and the true gospel. This sort of thing exists everywhere, but I have never before seen it to this extent. In addition to the mis-use of the Gospel, there's also the healing and forgiveness that must still be found after massive political problems a year ago. I even heard of pastors who had directly stated "Today I'm not a pastor" then gone out and killed someone from a rival tribe. The church has far to go.

And outside the church is no better. There were many places Chris and I couldn't go alone, and even along the open highway, our driver refused to stop until he found a place he considered safe for us to exit the car to stretch our legs. The besides the safety issues and political corruption that is so rampant in the country, there is also a deeply ingrained mindset against women and children in their society. One example we encountered was at a restaurant when we asked the waiter to serve the ladies first he responded that "In Kenya, we have a vision to place women last." Just for the record, I do not share that vision, and neither does God!

In addition to the time in churches, we also had a few other experiences...

I got to pet a cheetah...

Hold another one...

See others doing something I've often dreamed of...

Eat some wild meat...

And feel a little bit of racism towards myself for not being Kenyan (see the pricing on this picture)

All in all, it was a challenging time, but one that opened my eyes a little more as well.

After a week in Kenya, it was back to South Africa for a few days with friends and at Hillsong Cape Town. It was so good to be back in a positive, encouraging, and uplifting church environment.

With this part of my trip behind me, it was now time to get on the plane again. Next stop, Burkina Faso and a very special woman waiting very anxiously for me.

On my way, I had a couple of stops and somehow the airline managed to loose one of my bags. No surprise; but I did hope to see it again. After filling out the forms and requesting the bag be sent home rather than trying to catch up to me in Africa, I finished a long layover at a dive of a small airport then took the last flight to get to Burkina.

After 6 months apart, we finally had a chance to talk in person. I also appreciated the chance to see some of the work the Greta has been doing.

We took a ride in a truck...

Had to fix another one...

Tried the local taxi...

And even got on the STKK (pronounced "Es Tae KaKa") bus. It would be their version of the Greyhound that operates in Canada and USA.

Here's the bus station. It came complete with a drop hole toilet behind a door that didn't close (many people just used the ground wherever they felt like), local market people trying to sell us anything they could, children and devout Muslims begging for money, one old man doing something really strange that almost seemed like a curse, and a whole lot of garbage - literally (it looked and smelled very much like a garbage dump)

Our 9am bus departed at 11:50 (either mechanical issues, or simply the Burkina way of operating on schedule), and we arrived at our destination at 6 that night. Not too bad for a 3 hour trip. Made me think of Gilligan's Island and their 3 hour tour.

Unlike some other people, I didn't ride a motorbike on the top of a van...

Sometimes I got to use the modern showers...

...and a flush (pour the water in after your job) toilet!
I also got to sleep under the stars (my bedroom for one night)

and with some extra critters :) - 14 inches long

Strange side note, now that I'm back in Canada, I still find myself checking for insects or reptiles everywhere I look. Spot some black fuzz, and I take a second look to see if it's a poisonous spider. Lift something off the floor, and be careful for the snake or scorpion that could be underneath.

Staying at a number of different places during my three weeks in Burkina, I also got to stay in some more modern rooms. This one even had a shower with running water. Cold water only, but I didn't have to use a pail. It didn't really compare to the last hotel I stayed at in Cape Town, but when compared to camping in a tent, it's pretty good. I love camping and I enjoyed the stay.

In typical African fashion, another place I stayed had a door with a lock that worked part time, and one night I got to my room only to find the door knob completely broken. The next three days I had to climb through the window to get into or out of my room.

Like I said earlier, I appreciated the chance to see some of Greta's work. I was able to be at some children's clubs with 70 or so children playing games, singing songs, and hearing the Word of God. I was disappointed to see some of these operating in areas that were literally garbage dumps. One of the most shocking things I saw was during one club when a man from nearby decided he needed to relieve his bladder so he walked over to one pile of garbage, opened his pants, and in plain view of all the children, proceeded do just that. Upon completion, he casually walked back to his shop and another man went back to the same spot to do the same thing. Actions that would get you thrown into jail in Canada are just commonplace over there.

It's interesting to see how children respond to things differently over there. Any white person is an automatic tourist attraction. People of all ages look and stare, some like to talk to you and other want to touch you, just to feel if white skin is different from brown skin. Pull out a camera, and suddenly, you're the biggest drawing card on their agenda. Nearly every child wants to be in a picture, and they'll swarm you and literally fight each other for the chance to be in a shot.
Here's Greta showing some pictures she took.

...and here's one I took while trying to find my way out of the crowd that had turned violent in their attempt to get into a picture. They didn't attack me, but when they started hitting and pushing each other out of the way, I decided I'd better put away the camera and leave.

One place we went was an orphanage run by a wonderful American woman - dare I, as a Canadian, put the two words "wonderful" and "American" in the same sentence:). There are children who have lost their parents and children who's parents have just decided they don't want them anymore. In some cases, the children are there for a short time while families sort out life (mostly if a mother has died and the father needs time to get sorted), and in other cases, the children are there a little longer. Some stay there, some go back to their families, and some find new families through adoption. All are lovely, lovable, and greatly loved by God. Unfortunately, not all are loved by their own flesh and blood.

Here are two of the children eating a nutritious meal. This is the standard way of eating over there. Use your right hand only. It is used for eating, greeting people, and giving or receiving something from someone. The left hand is reserved for dealing with the food after your body has processed it and it's come out the other end.

Here is Greta with two children she wanted to take home. Actually, she wanted to take almost all of them home with her. The child closest to the camera was 3 years old and unable to walk. We weren't sure if it was a condition caused by the way he was held when he was younger, by poor nutrition, by poor care of his body, or something else. He appeared to be in pain any time someone placed him in a walking position; so we suspected that some massage and appropriate help from a trained professional and he'd be well on his way to a much better life. The problem is, there just aren't enough people helping children like this.

After three weeks in Burkina and a total of 6 weeks in Africa, it was time to move on. I had one final day with my girlfriend and we planned to go to a park where we could sit and talk over a picnic lunch. Well, surprise, surprise, the park was closed. Knowing of no other great alternatives, we sat in the car on the parking lot of the park and talked over a picnic lunch.

We even managed to find a fairly nice restaurant to spend our final evening at. With electricity down throughout much of the city, we were glad to find a spot with a backup generator.

It was a good way to finish our time together and now we both eagerly anticipate the next time we will see each other. We don't know when that will be, but we look forward to it anyways. Hopefully we can find a way to live on the same continent as each other and better still, in the same country! Hopefully it will be soon. But until then, there's still skype and email (when her internet works).

Now I'm back in Canada and my future is unsure.

When I started this blog, I was about to embark on a journey that would take me across the world. I've now completed that journey and it's taken me to much more of the world than I would have ever imagined. During that time I've been to 9 different countries on 4 different continents. I've met people and made friends from around the world. I've seen, heard, tasted, smelled, and experienced things I had previously only seen in pictures or in my imagination. I've gone from being recently widowed, through a journey of healing and restoration, and am now in another relationship and thinking about getting married once again. My life has radically changed and my mindsets have been challenged, stretched, and expanded. When I left home, I wanted to make an impact in this world. I still do. Just now, I have a little more of an idea how big the world is and how much of an impact is needed. It's a big task. I won't claim to know all the answers or to have all the solutions. I won't try to do it alone cause I know I can't. But I also will not sit idley by and leave the work for others to do. I must do my part and challenge you to do yours.

Three years ago, someone told me a story of two men walking down a beach full of washed up starfish. As they walked, one man picked one up and threw it back into the water. They continued walking and he picked up another one and threw it into the water. The other man commented "Surely you don't think you can save all these starfish." The man simply bent down, picked up another one, and said "No. But I can save this one" as he threw it into the sea.

This chapter of my life is now closed and the next chapter is about to begin. The thing is, I'm not just reading the book. I'm writing it. I just don't know yet what I'm writing. Please pray for me as I step into that next chapter and seek what God has for me there.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

getting there

I'm almost home so I should be able to get a post up here sometime after I get there. In the mean time, I put some pictures on facebook... check this link


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Quick link

With limited time and internet, here's a link to some photos I just put up for all to see.


My time in Africa is going well so far and like I've heard so many times the last two years... The best is yet to come!

Enjoy the photos!

Sunday, January 04, 2009


It's been a long time since my last post. I'm in Kenya now and have a few more stops before I get home to Canada. It's a long trip and even longer story... Due to time and technology restrictions, I don't expect to be able to post anything here for another week at least. However, when the next post comes, it will be well worth the read!!!!!!!!!!!!

See you all soon!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Preaching and more

I’m sitting in my room with the window open to enjoy the fresh air before it gets too hot and the air conditioning comes on. As I sit here, I notice many sounds around the community. There’s someone moving this morning so I hear the sounds from that. I hear traffic in the distance as I live close to a major roadway. There are a couple of birds chirping. …And then there are the ever present barking dogs…

I brought another friend to the airport today and in two hours; I make yet another trip that way. I’m getting tired of saying goodbye. I’ve had to bid farewell to so many friends already and there are many more to come in the next three weeks. On the other hand, there are many things I look forward to after I leave. It really is an exciting time in my life even though I don’t know what I’ll do when I get home. For now, I’ll just plan my trip home and look forward to seeing lots of people I’ve missed for the last couple of years.

I got a CD last week that created some strange feelings in my mind. On the front of it is the Hillsong Logo that is used on CD’s with messages from the weekend church services. The part that felt strange was seeing my name on it instead of the usual pastors who preach on a regular basis. True, it was a small group of people at the extension service where I preached, but it’s part of Hillsong Church and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I’ve received some really positive feedback regarding that message and I believe it went well. To me, the most encouraging thing is that I’m seeing fruit out of the pain I’ve experienced in the last few years. I was quite open and personal in the message as I talked about my wife dying of cancer and some things I’ve learned through my time of supporting her in sickness and my grieving her loss. I was able to testify of God’s goodness and provide some ideas on how other people can do life well when they face struggles. After I finished preaching, the pastor got up and presented an invitation for people to commit their lives to God; and a few minutes later, the angels in Heaven rejoiced one more person accepting Christ. While I have seen other sorts of fruit and people’s lives being impacted by God’s faithfulness in my life, this is the first person I know of who has responded in this way. While it does nothing to minimize the pain I’ve felt, it helps that I can see some benefit. It also makes me question again; how much am I willing to give up for the soul of one person. Jesus gave it all.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Preacher Boy

I had an interesting conversation the other day during which I was told I’d be preaching before I went home – yes, told; not asked. I’ve served in church closely under the leadership of Chris Mendez, one of the pastors at Hillsong, and he said he’d be getting me to preach at an extension service (a service held at a location other than one of the bigger, main locations). I just got confirmation this week that the chosen date is this coming Sunday, November 30. I had already started preparing the message when Chris confirmed the date and mentioned something he’d like me to include. I was encouraged by the fact that I already had it in my message. It’s a great privilege and a great responsibility. I pray God uses me in a powerful way to change people’s lives.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Goodbye, here I come

As we wind up for the Christmas season, my thoughts flood my mind. Yesterday morning I found out a friend of mine is flying home to America on Thursday and she won’t be back till after I leave, so I said farewell. It drove home the reality that I will soon be saying farewell to many of my closest friends over the last couple of years.

One of my housemates goes home two weeks from today and our paths won’t cross again till one of us take a vacation and goes in the direction of the other. He was my neighbour when I first arrived in Australia and we moved into the same house a few months later together with a few other friends who have since left. We’ve been a significant part of each other’s lives since we both moved to a new land and ended up becoming friends.

Then there’s my first connect group leader who was overcome with joy the second time she saw me (interesting story she’s a little embarrassed about).

There’s also my connect group; his amazing splattering of individuals who decided to come together and join under my leadership. What an amazing group of people!

There’s people I’ve done ministry with, ones I’ve done classes with, and still others I’ve done vacations with.

There have been so many people I’ve met and grown to love in the past few years and it’s not easy saying goodbye. But at the same time, I look forward to what lies ahead.

When I came to Australia, I prayed that God would help me to have a big enough impact that when I leave, I will be missed; that people will notice when I leave and wish I was still here. I also prayed that I would have trained up enough of the right people to fill my roles so the ministry and life impact will continue. I believe both prayers have been answered.

Goodbyes are nothing new. Some are for longer period than others, and some are more welcome than others. I remember the joyful comments of one man after quitting his job. He said he had never seen the company in a better way than “In the rear-view mirror for the last time.” I’ve also experienced the other type where there’s unimaginable pain with the knowledge of never seeing someone again this side of Heaven. I wouldn’t say I’m looking either of those in the face now, but it’s goodbye nonetheless. It’s a happy/sad time – kind of like sweet and sour meatballs – two flavours that shouldn’t mix yet when mixed in just the right combination, produce something really special.

One of the greatest blessings in my life right now is that I truly know there are people in multiple countries who all want more of my time. I could look at my situation and see the negative side of having to say goodbye, or I can look on the other side and realize that goodbye in one place is also hello in another. I therefore choose to look forward with anticipation to that hello.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Things I'll gladly leave behind

Here is the 4th and final part of my series on things I love and love a little less about Canada and Australia.

Houses with no insulation or sound barrier to other rooms or the outside

The 11 most venomous snakes in the world and 20 of the 22 most venomous

Wide selection of poisonous spiders

Slow walkers. It took only two weeks after my knee operation before I was walking faster than the average Aussie. I’m sorry, but when I go shopping, I have a destination in mind. I’m not too interested in going slow to see all the scenery in the center of the shopping center hallway. There’s not that much to see! Now to be fair, I have found one other place where people walked this slowly. Uganda.

Vegemite – Imagine a bit of yeast mixed with lots of salt, some (rotten) vegetables, and some other disgusting compound that gives it a definite brown colour, and you have the worst “food” I’ve ever tasted

The word “Quality” not being in the dictionary

Trolleys (shopping carts) with 4 turning wheels – especially bad on slopes

A postal service that calculates shipping time by walking the route, walking the return route, finding the total number of minutes, then labelling it days instead of minutes (ie. A distance that takes 20 minutes to walk – 40 minutes return – may take 40 days for delivery in Australia). I’m still waiting for one package that was sent from oversees (express post) at the beginning of Sept. I’m also waiting for an envelope that was sent on Oct 15 from just down the street (a 20 minute walk).

UV index so high that skin burns on just the thought of going in the sun

3 other guys in my house – ok, they’re good guys, but I’ll gladly trade them in for one woman, but only one certain woman and only after the right ring is on her left hand.

Houses with paper thin walls and saran wrap windows

The neighbour’s annoying dogs

All those mosquitoes – NOT - I don’t know what’s wrong with Aussies that they think they have so many mossies! I increased my count this weekend by 28.6%. From August 25, 2006 till November 9, 2008 I have now encountered a grand total of 9 mosquitoes. Yes, I counted! Having been warned in advance of the number of these bloodsucking pests, I thought they would be a force to recon with. When I didn’t find any, I started noticing the odd occasion when they did show up

Being asked constantly if I’m Irish – by people who have never even met anyone from Ireland!

“A” being pronounced “r” and “r” pronounced as “a”. This rule is especially true if the “r” is at the end of a word and the next word starts with a vowel. This probably needs some explanation so here are some examples
· Hosanna = Hosanner
· Paper = papa
· Darling Harbour = Daaling haaba
· Colour = Coula
· From a radio advert – Paramatta accountants = Parammaterrr accountants
· More = moa

People being amazed that I say “house” not “hoose”. This is usually followed by the comment that all Canadians say “hoose” and that’s why I must be Irish. I usually respond that since the person telling me this has heard only a few Canadians speak and I have heard many thousands speak, I would be a little more knowledgeable in matters relating to Canadians' way of speaking and we do NOT pronounce it “hoose”

Oh, the joys of living in another culture! Even so, I’m a better man for it. I’m looking forward to being home, but have to admit, I’ll miss this place. Especially every winter. I hope this series has given you a little extra insight into our cultural differences and you've been able to have a little laugh or two along the way. I'm sure anyone who has spent a week or more in Australia can relate to at least some of my points in this series. For the rest of you, it should help you prepare for any future visit you plan. Happy travels! See you soon in my homeland (and the greatest nation on Earth!!!)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Part 3 - Things I'd rather not go home to in Canada

Well, it should be no surprise that at the top of this list would be the weather! My last two years have been spent in a place where people go TO the snow for a vacation. I’ll soon be back in a place where people go FROM the snow for a vacation.

Having sales tax added to the price of items in stores rather than having it included in the price and actually knowing the final price without doing the calculation first. But then again, doing this mental (pun intended) math regularly could be a good thing

Needing a block heater in my car

A government that takes 3 months to issue a passport renewal. But then again, I’ve had to deal with that government the whole time, just not as much.

Frost and fog on my windows for much of the year.

Winter parka – actually, just the need for one. Considering the need, I’m glad I have one.

French labels on pretty much everything - and those annoying people who intentionally turn the French side out to face me!


Having to choose between English and French every time I call a government agency

The feeling of my nose hairs solidifying as I breath the -40 degree air - wonderful picture I know :-)

Icy roads

Well, as I look at this list, much of it is centered around the weather. No wonder the first thing people from around the world think of when they hear I’m from Canada is the weather.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Aussie things I'll miss at home

After careful consideration and many items vying for pre-eminence in my mind, it’s time to bring up the next list and mention the down(under)sides of moving on; so here is part two of the instalments on things to miss…

The weather – um, lets see… the same temperatures here in winter as in Canada in summer… need I say more?

Hillsong Church. There is a phenomenal culture in this church, great teaching, incredible worship music, massive events, and the movement of God using willing people to do amazing things throughout the world. That description sounds pretty much like my church back home in Canada. Hillsong just has a few more people. A great church at home certainly helps makes the transition a lot easier.

Friends. One downside to my life is that no matter where in the world I live, I have people somewhere else whom I miss. On the other hand, I have lots of people to visit if I ever decide to do some travel. I’m highly blessed to have great friends across the globe!

Tim Tams – but apparently I can get them at home now too…

The Weather. Oops, did I already say that? Oh well, it’s worth a second mention…

Every tree being an evergreen. The leaves could fall off, many of them just don’t cause it doesn’t get cold enough

Did I mention the weather yet?

Ok fine, there aren’t that many things on my list, just a lot of friends vying for top spot on the list, a great church, and the weather. But hey, those are pretty important things!!! I’m sure there are more things to mention, but I have chosen to look forward and to not dwell on the past or on what I’m leaving behind.