Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bali Bombers Execution

As a follower of Jesus Christ I am oposed to the death penalty. As a follower of Jesus Christ I am opposed to the execution of the "Bali Bombers".

If you agree, pass it on.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Amahoro Africa Video

Tim Keel has posted a video about this years Amahoro Africa Gathering in Kigali, Rwanda. I have had the privilege of participating in the last two Gatherings and also hope to be at the third, to be held in Johannesburg in South Africa, next year.

If you're from Australia and interested in attending (and perhaps participating in a field trip to Rwanda as well) please contact me or visit the Day 4 Community Aid & Development Inc. website for more information.

Amahoro Africa from Andy Michael on Vimeo.

Unfortunately we didn't get a spot on the video! But Fuzz Kitto, a fellow Antipodean, did a pretty good job of representing the Great South Land.

Poverty in a sea of affluence

Considering my last post dealt with the collosial amount of money both Christian and humanist organisations are seemingly willing to throw away on advertising I thought this story may present a contrast for consideration.

While finishing off a good feed at our fortnightly Alternate[Or] BBQ at the Jetty Baths in Bunbury, smack bang in the middle of the towns most upmarket, water front suburb, we were confronted with a heartbreaking scene.

A man, in his mid 20s, dressed in unwashed clothes and barefooted, walked into the park and made his way among the well dressed families and couples lounging around, enjoying their bbq dinners and sipping their wine and boutique beer. He made his way from rubbish bin to rubbish bin, looking for left over food he could take with him. He didn't waste much time. He was methodical in his approach and disappeared into the bushes almost as quickly as he had appeared.

I was left thinking about the contrast this guy, and his life, presented as he made his way among the manicured garden beds in the shadow of million dollar mansions. I thought about the leftovers we had in our esky and started to chase after him with the goal of offering him our food but wasn't quick enough and thought better of making a scene and embaressing him.

I think in future we might try and do something (low key, don't want to embarress anyone) with the food we have left. One of the purposes of our fortnightly social is to provide a way for some of the young single (and homeless) guys we are involved with to get a decent feed. Even in doing this we often have a fair bit left over.

So my question to you is, and I'm looking for inspiration, how do you serve the least in your area? How do you go about reaching out to people like this guy, without strings or church centred expectations?

And, what do you think about a church culture that will raise 100's of thousands of dollars for high profile, event and media based "evangelistic" activities while not directly addressing the needs of the "least of these" living in their own backyards?

Leaving God on the bus

There was an interesting article in the West Australian this morning (you can read a similar one here) about moves by England's atheist brigade - the British Humanist Association - to run billboard advertisements on Londons buses claiming "God probably doesn't exist" and urging people to live their lives any way they want in response to this incredibly deep and profound claim.

The campaign has been funded by Britains leading evangelist for atheism, Richard Dawkins, who, according to the Age newspaper said; "This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think — and thinking is anathema to religion."

Apparently the atheists were sick of seeing advertisements on buses promoting Jesus and threatening people with "eternal damnation" and so thought they would run a campaign of their own in response.

The cost of the campaign is more than $27,000 (Australian).

While obviously dealing with slightly different motivations, this campaign reminds me a little bit of the Jesus all About Life campaign happening over here in Oz. The irony is the atheist campaign is a little more financially efficient. While $27,000 is still a lot of money, it isn't anywhere near as much as the sweet half million the JAAL crew are trying to raise for their Western Australian media campaign.

At the end of the day, while the atheists are obviously trying to get God off the bus (I'm sure He is actually more in favour of environmentally friendly means of transport such as walking anyway), it's interesting that in the process they are leaving him in his seat!

Whether the money is coming from atheists or Christians, I think these kinds of moves present a moral and ethical delima in that they waste a colosal amount of money on what is pretty much a dead end action that serves only to line the pockets of advertising agencies and the companies that sell the space on billboards, in newspapers and television. The upside to the atheist's campaign is that it actually may serve to get people talking about God in a meaningful way allowing Dawkin's anathema - thinking followers of Jesus - an opportunity to engage in meaningful, relational dialogue with those whose interest is piqued by the bus billboards in a way I don't think the JAAL, church centred, campaign will.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Leadership - The Church's Biggest Failing

I attended a Forge intensive in Perth on the weekend. Hamo asked me to do a presentation on the stuff we've been doing in Bunbury with Alternate-Or Community, involving ourselves in the lives of marginalised people, and so was able to kill two birds with one stone and sit in on some of the presentations.

One that got me thinking was presented by Brad Flynn and focussed on co-dependency in leadership. In the context of Brad's presentation, co-dependency related to the way congregations draw their self-value from the pastor or leaders, and the way the leaders have to be "needed" by their congregations in order to find value in themselves.

This got me thinking about the "clergy/laity" divide again. It's something that for many years has made my stomach churn.

It is my opinion that any view of leadership that embraces, either purposefully or unconsciously, the idea of there being any place for an "anointed" priestly class within the church, is fundamentally flawed.

I would even go as far as saying it is one of the modern churches greatest failings and is the cause of many of the issues we face in our established congregations in terms of lack of commitment and involvement in the life of the church and the broader community. It creates a shallow, comfortable environment which actively abrogates the responsibility of all believers to live their lives as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It also forces those who challenge this way of thinking to the margins of the local church or out of it all together, thus stripping it of valuable resources and allowing the flawed philosophical, ecclesial and theological premises at play to have free reign.

CEO leadership models in the church are sinful. Plain and simple. The sooner leaders put the gospel before job security, power and control, or even before the expectations of the institution itself, the better. Leaders, we need to empower our fellow disciples by being the first to take this stand. To be willing to put aside the power structures which create a comfortable secure environment for us, for the sake of the gospel and the future of our local incarnations of the church. Encouraging and facilitating a paradigm shift among those we serve.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Equity - Give Young People a Go!

It really, really pisses me off when I experience first hand or hear stories of young people being given a hard time simply because they are young people.

A 19 year old friend of mine told me today of an experience he had at a job placement agency yesterday. He was essentially called a liar and given the brush off by the customer "service" person responsible for "serving" him. When he told her that he knew someone who worked at the plant and gave the name of the same person, she proceeded to tell him that no such person worked there and then didn't follow any of the process, my young mate had been told was supposed to be followed, in assessing his suitability for a job. She simply took his name (not his phone number) and said they would "be in touch" on the off chance something came up!

Thankfully, the person he knows at the plant is my wife and she is going to follow this up with the manager responsible for work placement who will hopefully follow it up with the placement agency and he will get a fair go at the job.

The thing is this kind of thing happens everyday. People in positions of authority (whether real or imagined) choose to lord it over young people just because they can.

A couple of years ago I stood and listened to a customer service officer at the South West College of TAFE lecture a young person I had taken in to enrol in a TAFE course, on his enrolment. The guy assumed the young bloke would be unsuitable for the course simply based on how he looked, and proceeded to tell him this. After a few minutes of listening to him berate the young bloke for no reason at all, I asked him if the enrolment form was filled in correctly and if he was the person who was responsible for receiving it. He replied that it was and that he was the man. I then asked him why he simply couldn't have just accepted it without giving the completely unnecessary 5 minute lecture. He took the form and didn't reply. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the application form or the way in which the kid was enrolling.

It had taken me 3 weeks to convince the same kid to front up and put his application in. He had very low self confidence and was sure his application wouldn't be accepted. Had he been on his own he would have probably lasted 10 seconds before telling the bloke "where to go" and walking out without putting his paperwork in. Ironically (two fingers to the bloke behind the counter), in the end he was accepted into a pre-apprenticeship course in carpentry.

Another friend recounted a story of walking into a church as a young person seeking information on God and being told by the pastor to leave and only come back when he was dressed appropriately for the "house of God". He was wearing a tee shirt featuring a heavy metal motif. Thankfully he was smart enough to realise the pastor didn't really have a handle on God and my mate encountered God elsewhere and now is a follower of Jesus.

My final example actually happened to my wife, who is quite small (and cute!) last year. We were both out doing a letter box drop around Binningup just on sunset when a dog started barking at her as she dropped a flyer in a letter box. Lyss had a beanie on and a jacket and it was getting dark. The home owner came out to see what was going on with his dog and saw Lyss and mistook her for a young boy. He called out aggressively "hey little bloke, what are you doing? Did you think you could stir up my dog hey!" He got a bit of a surprise when Lyss turned around and told him she wasn't a "little bloke" but a 30 something lady and that the problem was his dog!

These are by no means isolated incidents. It's real easy for all of us to bemoan the lack of respect young people seem to have for authority or for their elders. But at the end of the day what goes around comes around (Jesus referred to it as "reaping what you sew").

So here's my "pay it forward" challenge for the week. The next time you're faced with a young person, no matter how surly or grotty or standoffish they appear, why not take the time to consciously treat them with respect and dignity and see what happens? At the very least, I know that they will notice it, and they will be grateful for it, even if they don't show it outwardly.

Pic by Binababy12 -

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ugandan Connection

Lyss and I have had a friend from Uganda staying with us for the last week. Alyssa and I met Paul Kiviiri at the Amahoro Gathering in Kigali in May.

For the past 10 years Paul has been working to build bridges across tribal divides and establish new forms of church among southern Uganda's marginalised, nomadic Tutsi tribes people.

The tribal culture prevalent throughout Africa makes this kind of work difficult. It also creates many of the problems we hear about in the west and associate with politics. It is virtually unheard of, even in the Ugandan church, for relationships and ministry to extend beyond the tribal lines.

Paul says it took him 5 years to build the trust of the nomads he is involved with and he still struggles to gain understanding from the other local church leaders for his approaches to church (I can relate to that!).

The churches Paul has been involved in developing following the nomadic people around. They are not fixed to a place and they seek to meet the real day to day needs of those they are formed from. A big part of Paul's work is training up the leaders, many of whom are illiterate, and helping them to impart the way of Jesus to their fellow tribes people. He is also having to tackle issues such as bride-selling, polygamy and traditional spiritual beliefs.

Paul himself knows, as most African's do, what it is to struggle. He was born into a polygamist family during Idi Amin's reign and spent much of his teenage years as a street kid. Even though life was difficult he managed to put himself through school and train as a primary school teacher before becoming a youth pastor in a Kampala church. His heart has always been with the people though and he made the choice to leave the institutionalised church behind in order to pursue a ministry that would break down tribal barriers and share the love of Christ for all African people in meaningful and culturally relevant ways.

It's been a great privilege to have had Paul with us this past week and for him to meet and spend time with the people we are involved with her in the South West.

Paul's story is another example of the way God is working around the globe to revolutionise mission and to move His church into a new era.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Desalination - Part of the Problem

Just over 12 months ago the then Premier of Western Australia, Alan Carpenter, announced that his government was going to build the states second desalination plant in the tiny and politically insignificant town of Binningup, a couple of hours south of Perth.

Previously the government had looked at tapping into the Yaragadee Aquifer, an underground supply of fresh water underneath the states south west corner. This area (the Busselton area) is a pretty popular holiday spot and, compared to Binningup, more heavily populated. The decision to tap the aquifer was met with protest of the possible environmental impact of the decision and so, as a political hot potato, the plan was dropped.

Instead the Binningup desalination plant was announced.

There are a number of issues with the proposal.

Firstly, the location; the area slated for the plant is virgin coastal bushland. It is earmarked for future residential development but is currently untouched and is home to various endangered species of birds, reptiles, plants and marsupials.

Secondly, the process itself; desalination (or at least the process to be implimented in Binningup) is an energy-hungry process. It is also a polluting process in that it pumps tons of hypersalinated (i.e. super concentrated salty water) back into the ocean along with other nasty chemicals in concentrated form.

Thirdly, it's short sighted; Yes, we have a water shortage that is probably only going to get worse, yet rather than simply increasing the amount of water available, we should be looking at ways of changing our cultural dependance on water. The same water that is wasted by heavy industry and wasted on water-hungry private and public gardens. Adding a dirty, energy hungry solution into the mix is only going to provide a short term answer to the problem. In realising this, the government also plans to build a second stage of the Binningup plant at some later date, doubling production.

My internet connection is playing up and I can't access the pages I am thinking of, but if you Google "desalination" you'll find plenty of references on the net. You can also join the "Say No to Binningup Desal Plant" group on Facebook. Here's one link I could access - it'll take you to the local action groups website, there are news updates and other links there.

But, most importantly, if you see the kind of desalination plant proposed at Binningup as a problem now is a great time to let your local politicians know about it (particularly if you live in Western Australia). We have a new state government in place, and even though they have said they are going to follow through with the development of the Binningup site, now is a good time to lobby them and let them know you are opposed to it and why. The more people from outside the Binningup area that make a fuss, the more likely it is the government will listen.

If you're around Binningup on Saturday, the local action group is having a stall at the annual Binningup Spring Carnival. You could drop by and find out more.

This kind of thinking is the same kind of short sighted thinking that, if not nipped in the bud, adds to the greater global environmental problem one small step at a time. This may be one small plant, but you get enough of this small scale industry in politically insignificant areas and it all adds up to a much bigger problem, the results of which are difficult, if not impossible to reverse.

In the big smoke

Well my incredibly slow GPRS internet connection (courtesy of my mobile phone) has allowed me to connect to Blogger tonight so I can post! How did I ever use the net before high speed broadband!

I've been in Perth with the kids since Sunday arvo. We went and saw Wall-E at the cinema on Monday. It's a good show with a very current, "save the planet" message. It's a good way to get the kids thinking about God's world and looking after it, and what happens when we don't. It brings home some of the stuff going on in our own back yard in Binningup, such as the possible development of a nasty desalination plant less than a kilometer from our house.

Yesterday we went to the Perth Royal Show. This was an incredibly expensive exercise, but we did our bit and caught trains pretty much the whole way. The kids had a great time. Sam and Luke tried out the bumper-cars and then we all went on the chairlift. This scared Ashleigh silly for about 5 minutes and then she seemed to settle into it.

I bit the bullet and went on the "megadrop" and got my own mini-adrenaline rush.

Tomorrow it's back home to our Thursday night Alternate[Or] get-together followed by a Water Corporation Community Reference Group meeting in Binningup.