Category Archives: Musings

#acelconference thoughts to remember

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African Refugees in Egypt

Dear friends

Contained in occasional presentations and posts on this blog are my perspective on the experience of African refugees in Egypt. I have posted below another perspective – one that comes from a mainstream Egyptian population. I don’t necessarily support the views contained in the article but I do hope you will read it. It brings up some essential issues.

140811 Refugees with AHLC p44 – Egypt Today – 2014-July



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A letter to the teacher of Abraham Lincoln’s son


I write this post from a training room with a rather spectacular view of Sydney. I am here with other leaders from various school systems undertaking a subject on school leadership through Australian Catholic University. We are blessed to be learning from an engaging lecturer who is doing a great job of challenging us to reflect on our leadership from differing perspectives.

He shared this quote with us. This is not a passage I have heard before and thought it worth sharing. It is attributed to Abraham Lincoln and was addressed to his son’s first teacher.

He will have to learn, I know,
that all men are not just,
all men are not true.
But teach him also that
for every scoundrel there is a hero;
that for every selfish Politician,
there is a dedicated leader…
Teach him for every enemy there is a

Steer him away from envy,
if you can,
teach him the secret of
quiet laughter.

Let him learn early that
the bullies are the easiest to lick… Teach him, if you can,
the wonder of books…
But also give him quiet time
to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky,
bees in the sun,
and the flowers on a green hillside.

In the school teach him
it is far honourable to fail
than to cheat…
Teach him to have faith
in his own ideas,
even if everyone tells him
they are wrong…
Teach him to be gentle
with gentle people,
and tough with the tough.

Try to give my son
the strength not to follow the crowd
when everyone is getting on the band wagon…
Teach him to listen to all men…
but teach him also to filter
all he hears on a screen of truth,
and take only the good
that comes through.

Teach him if you can,
how to laugh when he is sad…
Teach him there is no shame in tears,
Teach him to scoff at cynics
and to beware of too much sweetness…
Teach him to sell his brawn
and brain to the highest bidders
but never to put a price-tag
on his heart and soul.

Teach him to close his ears
to a howling mob
and to stand and fight
if he thinks he’s right.
Treat him gently,
but do not cuddle him,
because only the test
of fire makes fine steel.

Let him have the courage
to be impatient…
let him have the patience to be brave.
Teach him always
to have sublime faith in himself,
because then he will have
sublime faith in mankind.

This is a big order,
but see what you can do…
He is such a fine fellow,
my son!

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Sunday night thoughts

It is 9pm on a Sunday night and after a day of unpacking the last box, hanging the last picture and making a rental house feel like a home, I find myself with time to quietly reflect.

Today is the 21st of July – my last day of school in Cairo was the 13th of June. 6 flights, 38 days, 3 countries, 3 Australian states, 2 conferences and not enough rest later, I am on the verge of another week of school at SCS.

My theology was greatly challenged in Egypt – some of the old things I held important are no longer so and some new thoughts have found a place amongst my personal grasping at the Being much greater than I.

I don’t feel a great deal of truth in the thought that God has predestined all the events in my life. So often in Egypt other NGO workers would say ‘I will be here serving God until He takes away the visa that keeps me here’. My feeling was that perhaps it was not God that took away the visa but the government and perhaps God wants you to stay for the very reason they want you to leave.

A few months ago my wife and I had a plan. She was to be commuting via plane to Melbourne each week to attend her post graduate lectures and workshops while I was going to be working part time while taking a PhD in Adelaide. This meant returning to my old school and would have seen my wife struggle to find meaningful work which would allow her the flexibility to also meet her university requirements.

Now I find myself the principal of a school with a high number of English as a second language students, a community facing similar barriers to social services and general wellness as those I served in Cairo and working in school that has a social justice focus usually not found with the schools of the Lutheran Church of Australia.

Meanwhile our relocation has opened up work opportunities for my wife who has secured work as a midwife in a hospital that receives a high number of new migrant women and also work in her specialty field of physiotherapy.

To paraphrase the great  Milhouse from The Simpsons – ‘Everything is coming up Brennen’.

I don’t know how all this works. I don’t believe in a God that has a predestined and carefully defined path for us all to follow. Neither I am I sure we have arrived here in Melbourne by accident.

Perhaps all we can do is be thankful. So in that case…


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Back in Adelaide (for a while)

My wife and I have been back home in Australia for about 2 weeks now and things are strange. The world moves so fast, everything is so clean…and expensive.

I look forward to working as Principal of Sunshine Christian School in Melbourne – a lovely little school with a very interesting history. The school has a very multicultural student body which fits well with my experiences over the last 18 months with working with African refugees in Cairo.

This new job means a move from our home in Adelaide – a first for me. My wife is an ‘army brat’ who lived in many different parts of Australia before settling in Adelaide.

It is a great deal of change very fast. It was only 3 weeks ago that I was sitting in my office in Cairo dealing with the daily run of crises. Today I am sitting at a desk looking out over the beautiful nature strip as I work and not a crisis in sight.

Next week I am sharing a little about my experiences in Cairo and the importance of teaching critical thinking through religious studies at the DAN conference. I am looking forward to this a great deal.


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