Tag Archives: Service

Care

Caring is one of Lakeside College’s three core values – Learn, Care, Achieve.

I admit that I do like a bit of social media and I’ve got a Twitter account, the obliquitous Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and let’s not forget my WordPress blog which the diligent parents of Lakeside College read on a weekly basis!

We are inundated by so much rubbish in our accounts. I am particularly noticing the insidious nature of the targeted marketing I’m receiving on Facebook recently. While indeed I may be losing my hair, I don’t need endless advertisements for hair replacement technology turning up in my feed. I assume this comes from Facebook knowing I’m a middle aged male and I’m trying not to take it personally.

One of the better memes that has been going around Facebook is reproduced below:

“Don’t become preoccupied with your child’s academic ability, but instead:
Teach them to sit with those sitting alone.
Teach them to be kind.
Teach them to offer help.
Teach them to be a friend to the lonely.
Teach them to encourage others.
Teach them to think about other people.
Teach them to share.
Teach them to look for the good.
This is how they will change the world.”

I read that one night and couldn’t agree more. Those of who have attended enrolment interviews with me know that I mention that Lakeside College has no interest in turning out academically able but self-centred students. We seek to balance at all times our faith and values with our desire to see students achieve their very best.

Time and time again parents nod in agreement with the above. Parents want their children to succeed academically but more importantly, they want their children to grow into decent human beings. And looking at the world, one cannot help but feel that more decent human beings would be of great benefit to all of us.

When I spoke to students recently about the value ‘Care’ I looked to the story of Moses as recorded in the Bible.

Moses was born to a Hebrew family but was placed in the river by his mother in the hope that he would avoid being killed by the Egyptian authorities as an infant. He was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter who took him into her household and raised him as a Prince of Egypt. As young man he saw an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew – he killed the Egyptian, facilitating a need to flee. Working as a shepherd, now a married man, God appears to Moses in the form of a burning bush and tells him to go back to Egypt and rescue his people from slavery.

Moses says: “Who am I to lead these people? I am the wrong messenger! I can’t do what you have asked”

God’s response: “Moses, I made the world. I made you and you have gifts that can be used to help people. I will be with you as you do great things”

Big achievements that endure are often those that involve acts of caring for others. Think of the ending of apartheid in South Africa, wiping out Polio in parts of the world, providing excellent schools and healthcare to those who need it most. These achievements go on to bless countless people beyond generations. These achievements are what God calls us to do with the gifts He has given us.

At Lakeside College we learn, care and achieve so that God will be glorified and the world be served in love. We care about our community, both inside and outside our College. We seek to equip all to care for others and make a difference in this world.

There is nothing more important to God than to see his people demonstrate the love that he has for us by serving our brothers and sisters.

May we never tire of teaching our children to care for others and may we seek to make the building of character as important, if not more important, than academic achievement.

Blessings

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Signs you are a great leader

A nice post of the signs of good leadership. Something all school principals should aspire to.

Link here

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Moral Courage – Rushworth Kidder

A few points I pulled out of this excellent book:

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What, then, is moral courage? It can be defined as the quality of mind and spirit that enables one to face up to ethical challenges firmly and confidently, without flinching or retreating. It is a “quality of mind” as well as “spirit” because, like all ethical endeavours, it partakes of both the rational and the intuitional capacities, both left-brain and right-brain activity, both the processes of intellectual discourse and the feelings of rightness and wrongness inherent in each individual.

  • It enables us to face up to problems—not necessarily to resolve them, and certainly not to promise that we will master them, but to address them squarely, frontally, and with determination.
  • It requires action that is both “firmly” persistent and “confidently” assured that its tools—the moral, mental, and emotional elements of argumentation and persuasion—are sound enough to weather serious resistance.
  • Finally, it requires us to act “without flinching or retreating” in the face of persuasions, from the subtle to the violent, that make us want to turn tail and run.

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Step 4: Understand the Risks I
Understanding risk involves the contemplation of possible outcomes…Have I adequately assessed the dangers involved both in acting and in failing to act? Am I clear on the moral hazards, even if the situation involves physical hazard as well?  Do I have a clear picture of the three principal challenges — solving ambiguity, exposure, and loss—inherent in any situation

Ambiguity.

Am I willing to face up to the ambiguity and confusion that surrounds this problem? Can I penetrate its mysteries without being baffled, duped, or mentally overwhelmed? If I fear I could be wrong about the facts, does that
prevent me from moving forward? Or do I have that tolerance  for ambiguity, that confidence in my ability to figure things out, which is essential to moral courage? Can I distinguish persistent firmness in the face of wrongdoing from true moral courage in the face of right-versus-right dilemmas?

Exposure.

Do I recognize the fear of exposure that can inhibit moral courage? Am I willing to make myself vulnerable for the sake of achieving some higher good? Do I acknowledge that by acting with moral courage, I may be thrust into a highly visible leadership role—whether I want it or not? Or am I hoping I can hide and still make a difference? Have I got the focus and stamina to weather the exposure that frequently accompanies morally courageous acts?

Loss.

Do I grasp the peril to my income and position—as well as to personal relationships and public reputation—that may be involved here? Is this the hill I want to die on? Have I underestimated the risk, so that I might lose everything to no avail and be accused of foolishness? Or have I overestimated the risk, so that what I think to be courageous has very little risk at all, leaving me open to charges of mere bluster and bravado? Do I understand that moral courage shines most brightly when the stakes are highest?

 

State of the World Forum Values

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Good deeds

This week marks the beginning of the church season of Lent. This week the staff and students considered the following words of Jesus:

…when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matt 6:1-4)

The church season of Lent encourages us to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and service. His ministry was often carried out in small ways—quiet conversations, healing people and encouraging them not to tell others and so on. It was a ministry of great humility. This morning we installed our student leaders at assembly and Pastor Cecil encouraged them to remember that leaders are often those who quietly, and sometimes silently, go about their business of supporting others.

As Christians it is a great temptation to become frustrated with those we serve and even express frustration at God’s call to serve. “God, I know you ask me to serve but surely you don’t mean that person who is mean to me?” When I feel this way I am reminded that when Jesus was in the depths of his own despair, he took time to pray for those that persecuted him. He carried such a heavy burden for us all and served so diligently.

The blessing for us all is to know that Christ continues to serve us and encourages us to love as he loves. May our new student leaders inspire us all to serve God’s people in the same manner that he serves us.

Blessings

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Very Important People

2015-01-11 12.01.45Over the break my wife and I were lucky enough to be given VIP passes to watch the cycling championships in Ballarat. We had a lovely time watching the cycling in very comfortable chairs, with a very lovely view and never ending service of coffee and food.

The race went for many hours. While Robyn and I relaxed, the bike riders were working very hard indeed. People kept talking about who would win and the same few names were mentioned. Nobody talked about the rider who would eventually win. It was a great surprise to everyone – even to himself apparently! He didn’t seem to be important enough to mention.

In our Bible verse for this week we read about Jesus healing many people. The text tells us “That evening at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick…and the whole city was gathered around the door.” (Mark 1:29-39) It sounds indeed like Jesus was a Very Important Person. After all, he had the whole city coming to visit him.

The interesting thing about Jesus is that his fame came from serving others. In this particular reading from the Bible it is through Jesus’ time spent healing others, making them well again, that he becomes famous. It wasn’t through winning a race, or by having the greatest political power, or obtaining lots of money – his importance came through his humble service to others.

As we commence another school year let us all fix our eyes on the work of Christ and allow it to inspire us. The young people at Sunshine Christian School are indeed Very Important People to God and may we strive as a community to develop them into humble servants of the world.

Blessings

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Love people, not things

…the path to better living is not found in turning our back on those who need us the most. The path to better living is found in developing the compassion and the space to love even those who don’t deserve it.

In another well put piece on priorities and service, Joshua Becker shares about how his life is made richer by serving others. His piece reminded me of Matthew 9:36 “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”.

Becker’s piece can be found here.

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Address to the 2014 graduating class of Sunshine Christian School

Wow. Here we are again. It seems like only yesterday that we were joined here to close our 2013 school year. It seems that it was only a few days ago that I nervously participated in my first Sunshine Christian School graduation service. To the parents of our graduating grade 6 class, I’m sure it feels like only yesterday you saw your child walk through our front gate for the first time.

Again I have the privilege to address the community of Sunshine Christian School as its principal. This is not something I take for granted. It was again an honour to serve the community in this capacity. I thank the staff, parents, council and students for their continued support. A successful school is built on the strong relationship between students, parents and staff. We are indeed blessed by the richness of the relationships in our community.

The school has experienced yet another successful year. Camps to Weekaway and Canberra were wonderful. Music has been learnt and our walls have groaned from wonderful art. We have run and jumped our way through PE. We have read book after book. We have done sum after sum. We have all experienced success and explored our God given gifts. While I often joking tell off students and teachers for having fun while learning, it has personally brought me great joy to see all of our students develop.

Tonight is a joyous occasion but also one that brings a small measure of sadness. In addition to farewelling out Grade 6 class, we say goodbye to other families as they moving out of the region. To the families leaving us this year, we wish you God’s richest blessings as you settle into new homes and schools. Thank you for blessing us with your support and for joining with us to educate your children.

To the graduating class of 2014, I would like to share a few words of wisdom.

There once lived a great philosopher. He is indeed a very wise man. A man of many friends and a man of great joy. He is a deep thinker indeed. A man who enjoys the sweetness of life. His name…is Winnie the Pooh.

As I child I greatly enjoyed the stories of Winnie the Pooh and his friends Piglet, Eeyore and Rabbit. I am not ashamed that I still enjoy these wonderful stories and as I reread some of Pooh’s adventures this week something he said struck me deeply.

As we say goodbye this evening, Pooh Bear says “How lucky we are to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

We are indeed blessed to have shared in this learning journey together as a school community as you have grown from little Preps to young adults.

The readings we heard earlier contain a clear message for you. It is a call for us all to be bearers of Good News to the world. For us to be people who will bring the love of Christ to life in our words and deeds.
My favourite saying of Pooh is this:

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

In front of you Grade 6 is a period of great change. This is not something that should be feared but one that should be celebrated. You have the opportunity to experience new things, meet new people and discover new talents.

In the spirit of the great philosopher, Winnie the Pooh, don’t stay in your own corner of the forest and wait for people and experiences come to you.

Have great courage. There is a large world out there that needs people who care deeply about others. Who are willing to leave their forest to share the good news of God’s love for us.

May the creator God, who was with in the beginning, has walked with you at school, and now goes with you to High School, remind you frequently of his grace, mercy and deep love.

Amen.

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What a talented bunch

“For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents…”

Matthew 25:14-15

‘Talent’ is an interesting word. For us today we use it to refer to a particular skill or gift a person possesses. For example, “John has a talent for singing” or “Jane is a very talented skateboarder.” But in Jesus’ time the word was used as a unit of money.

So it goes in the parable set for this week that a master goes on a journey and leaves an amount of money with each of his servants. The servants do different things with the money. Some invest it well and receive a reward while one, through fear of punishment, does nothing than hide it in a hole.

This past fortnight has been yet another reminder of the wonderful talents that God has given to our students. Across various academic tasks, in art classes (a wonderful example is seen below), on Sports Day, during the visit from the Australian Youth Choir, it has given this principal great pleasure to see all of our students demonstrating their individual and wide ranging gifts to the world.

As I reflect on this parable I am taken aback by our duty as school staff and parents to ensure that the young people in our community don’t bury their talent through worrying what others may think of them. Creating an environment where young people feel safe and supported to explore their gifts is core to what we do at SCS.

In a world that increasingly seems to have little value for talents that do not bring fame or fortune, it is more important than ever for us to celebrate the wide variety of gifts God has blessed us all with. We must know that God always grants us gifts so that we may use these to serve others.

May we remember daily the rainbow of gifts and talents our loving God has given us all.

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Blessings

Tom

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Where love comes to life – address to LCA Victoria/Tasmania District

What follows is a rough account of a presentation I gave at a regional gathering of Lutherans recently. I suspect you will find errors in the text – please forgive them! I have been asked to make this available rather quickly and thus I beg your forgiveness in this area.

I have thrown out some challenging questions towards the end. Please engage with the questions I ask. I have no easy answers and I do not hold my life up as an example of what we should be doing.  Send reactions and feedback my way.

I recommend Dr Jenning’s piece (http://goo.gl/wdErGq) for further reading on issues of finances and Lutheran schooling in Australia.

 

Where love comes to life

I would like to tell you the stories of 3 men – Stephen, Duan and Charlie. (All names in this piece have been changed to protect identities)

 

Stephen is Egyptian. His family is Coptic Christian.

In 2011, the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, stepped down in response to the Arab spring uprising in his country. This took place at a place called Tahrir (freedom) square and both Stephen and his brothers participated in the protests against the wishes on their parents. This is the same place that your speaker tonight discovered what tear gas tastes and feels like.

There are 87 million people living in Egypt and as my friend Ibrahim said to me, this is the first time in recorded history that the Egyptian people had been free. From the time of the Pharaohs, they had been ruled by dictators.

When you apply for a visa in Egypt you have to supply your religion on the official form. So you carry a card as an Egyptian citizen or a visa if you are a foreigner which states your religion. When you greet someone you have the choice ‘Salam alykuem’ (peace be with you) which is considered a Muslim greeting or Sabah alcher (good morning),  which is considered Christian (because you aren’t using ‘salam alykuem’!). You proclaim your religion immediately with your greeting.

Unlike the west where we consider it impolite to talk about religion, politics or sex – in Egyptian society these are fair topics. One day I was talking to a Taxi driver who had 9 children – he asked why I didn’t have any children. I said in my less than perfect Arabic that my wife and I were not planning to. He then pointed at this crotch and asked sincerely ‘andak mushkilla?’ which translated means ‘do you have a problem?’ Reproductive problems are very much fair game for taxi conversation in Egypt.

Stephen went to a government run high school and he told me great stories of the ineptitude of his teachers. Teachers in Egypt are paid less than $100 per month by the government. How do they make a living? Many refuse to teach the content during the day and then run night tutoring sessions at a great profit. Current estimates suggest that following the chaos of the revolution and on the back of years of mismanagement, half the Egyptian population is illiterate. Perhaps only 25% of women are literate in Egypt.

Stephen had an interesting time in university. Due to corruption, his professor of English had a PhD but could not read, write or speak English. As a result, the exercises and assignments Stephen had to complete were flawed. Stephen would be required to write incorrect English in order to pass in this professor’s class. Stephen passed with distinction after spending endless hours figuring out exactly what elements of English the professor had incorrect. Stephen then helped his classmates pass by teaching them these skills. In order to make sure he knew English, he watched every English language film he could find and read every book in English he could find. His English is extraordinary.

Egyptians are having a very rough time at the moment. The week that my wife and I arrived in Egypt an elderly Egyptian woman died from food poisoning as the hospital refused to admit her because she had no money. Work is scarce – with tourism representing 13% of the country’s GDP. The tourist industry in Aswan, in the deep south of the country, is currently running at 4% of what it once was.

Some are trying to use religion to divide the people but as one of my good Egyptian taxi driving friends said: ‘Muslimeen behab allah, messaen behab all. Koolo eizeen schokel, akl, modrassa wa mostespha. Mushkilla eh?.’ (‘Muslims love God, Christians love God. We all want a job, food, schools and hospitals. What is the problem?’)

When Stephen learnt that I was lecturing at a Bible college for Sudanese refugees and after hearing their stories, he started volunteering to translate at this college. He heard the need and wanted to help. After I left Egypt I was very happy to hear he became the head administrator of the college and has begun studying alongside the African refugees in order to become a pastor himself. This is truly amazing. The hatred between Egyptians and Sudanese runs very deep.

Not that long ago through Facebook I learnt that Stephen’s brother was killed. Stephen’s brother was actively involved with protests against Mubarack and then the Morsi regime. Egyptians fear that their internet is being watched and thus don’t write some things online. But I have a pretty good idea about what happened to Stephen’s brother.

Stephen is choosing each day to live a different life. He has given up a good salary teaching Arabic to foreigners in order to teach God’s word to refugee pastors and to train refugee teachers.

 

Duan is Ugandan and has the brightest and most sincere smile I have ever seen.

Duan’s story is quite interesting. He speaks 7 languages. When I asked him how he learnt French his answer was. “It wasn’t too hard. I had some friends from Congo who liked soccer and so we played soccer in French”.

English is Duan’s sixth language. His schooling took place under a tree. He sat in the dirt with another 50 or so young people and learnt language from an elder. The elder would write a word in the dirt and Duan would copy it in the dirt. The teacher would return after seeing the other 50 students check it and issue another word.

He is now the director of African Hope Learning Centre (AHLC), having begun as a technical assistant, becoming a primary school teacher, then primary headmaster and now director.

He is assisted by deputy directors Jacques, James and Matthew. Jacques is from Congo and is a political refugee as all of the men in his family has been killed due to his father being involved with an opposing political party. James fled South Sudanese to avoid tribal warfare. Matthew was a Christian born in the Muslim north of Sudan. For a time, Matthew lived naked in the fields as he lost contact with his family.

The UN interacts officially with about 250,000 refugees in Egypt. Having worked with NGOs like MSF, refugee researchers, long term missionaries, I know the number of refugees currently living in Egypt is closer to 4 million. There is a major UN processing centre in Cairo which acts as a funnel for those hoping for resettlement elsewhere. However, the Egyptian government bars refugees from accessing healthcare, education and from working.

So African Hope offers education to 500 students from grade 1 to grade 11. Staff and students have a basic healthcare program including dental care, vaccinations, health education. The school also provides employment for more than 50 refugee teachers.

Over 20 African nations are represented in students and staff. From Sudan into the horn of Africa, Somalia, Ethiopia, through down as far south as Uganda and Burundi, then west to Angola and up to Nigeria.

The goal of this illegal school is to provide an education to build the African community which is in sore need of doctors, engineers, teachers and business people. It is hoped that this education will allow students to define and build a positive future for their countries.

This of course is difficult. Finding the finances to run the school is very difficult in a very competitive global aid market.

AHLC is reliant on volunteers due to the low educational levels of teachers.  Our refugee teachers would barely pass Grade 7 in Australia.  While staff training can help, volunteers are essential to improve our student outcomes. That was why I was there – to provide staff training. Put simply – you cannot teach what you have not been taught. At one stage we could not teach maths because there was not a single person in the refugee community who knew maths beyond a grade 2 level.

I discovered this naively when I set some benchmarking tests for all the students and I discovered that not a single student in the school knew what a rectangle was. I discovered the reason why when I saw the look of confusion in the eyes of my maths teachers when I asked them what a rectangle was.

Duan first came to Cairo to work in a call centre on a very good salary. Duan chose to give up this lucrative salary to lead the education of 500 hundred young Africans. We pray that he can lead this school into a positive future that helps to build Africa.
 

Charlie is Australian.

Charlie was borne to Deli owning parents in the great wine country of McLaren Vale, South Australia. Charlie’s family are not really religious. He recalls a story of a rather tense moment and vigorous theological argument when Charlie’s mother stared down the priest who took issue with her demand to remove the promise ‘to obey’ from her marriage wows. There is also a rumour that Charlie’s grandfather tried to burn down a church after copping a hiding from the priest for being insolent during Sunday school.

Charlie’s parents were told, when he was a grade 1 student, that he would never learn to read and write at an adult level. “He should leave school as early as he can and get a trade”, his parents were told. Charlie was lucky to have parents who knew this was rubbish. He shifted schools but it was at that time that his parents started looking for a suitable high school with great teachers. They did not want this to happen again.

As it would happen, a new Lutheran school was opening in McLaren Vale, Tatachilla Lutheran College, the very year in which Charlie would commence high school. Charlie happened to be enrolled number 65 of 67 sof that first intake of students.

Charlie became a Christian through seeing the teachers at Tatachilla model a Christian life of service. As Charlie often says,

“I can’t pinpoint the moment that I became a Christian – I just felt an increasing belief that this stuff the pastor talked about in chapel was true because the teachers lived it. They didn’t just talk about it.”

Charlie found himself the first in his family to attend university. Not long after starting university, Charlie starting attending his local Lutheran church.

He was enjoying quite a successful opera singing career (a talent fostered by his teachers) when a vocal injury forced him to take 2 years off of professional singing. He had two options before him. With his passion for God, young people, sharing big ideas and music, he considered becoming a pastor in the Lutheran church or becoming a teacher. He chose the latter, studying education through Flinders University and through Australian Lutheran College. Charlie gained a job at a very prestigious Adelaide Lutheran school and began his teaching career there.

Around this time a nice young girl came into his life and it wasn’t too long before friendship turned into marriage.

Through the Lutheran Church, Charlie had the opportunity to discover that not all Lutheran schools were as nice and well resourced as his. He travelled to Papua New Guinea and the US on social justice trips. Charlie’s wife had for a long time had a passion to work with African refugees – specifically Sudanese women.

A flame burned a little brighter – a flame that was lit at a Lutheran school which emphasised active love for others. Charlie remembers his principal at Tatachilla, Richard Bruss, saying often “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

So it came to be that Tom (or ‘Charlie’)  and his wife left their comfortable lives in Adelaide to serve in Egypt.

 

What would you die for?

Working in Egypt caused me to come to terms with a willingness to die for a belief. I will not pretend like Egypt is anything like current situations in the Congo, Afghanistan or Iraq. Rarely did I feel my life was in true danger. However, as foreigners began being killed Robyn and I had to think about what was going to be line where we fled. Robyn spent a week at home at one stage as a public threat was made against foreign white women working for churches.

Living with a packed bag and $1000 USD under your pillow to buy your way out of a country changes your perspective. It brings a certain clarity to things. You think “am I willing to die in order to provide a service to those who need it?”

How much am I willing to personally suffer so that others don’t?

 

What is God’s will?

Few things annoy me more than people who try to give me comfort by saying that I don’t need to worry about those who are still in Egypt working with the refugee community or the refugees themselves. “God will look after them” or “God will rise up those to do what he needs done.” When I was working at African Hope there were more than 10 international volunteers – now there are two. I chose to leave and I left behind work that now goes mostly undone. That is something I need to deal with.

We live in a protected bubble here in Australia. Our faith, our worldview, our lives are all symptomatic of a society that lacks suffering. We choose to ignore the great pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters across the world.

As Christians in the west we have blindly followed a lie. Many believe that it is enough for us to have our faith in God and just live our lives as best we can. It is shameful that the lives of most Christians look no different to the lives of your average Australian – mortgage, shiny car, shiny kids, overseas holidays. Is that really what Christ taught us? Is that what God sacrificed his son for? So that we could live Christian flavoured lives hidden from seeing the suffering of others?

Experiences like mine change your perspective. So much so that I still think of money in different units. When I was working at African Hope, every $50 meant another day that I could afford to feed the 500 students at the school. At my current school, when I buy an iPad, I cannot help but know that for the cost of the iPad I could have fed 500 African refugees for about 2 and half school weeks.

I know what it is like to form a contingency plan for running out of money for the food program. You remove the meat from the dish, you remove the vegetable, you half the amount, you feed the youngest only and then as a last resort, you stop the meals. Thank God it didn’t ever get to a point where we had to stop meals.

Please don’t put me, or anyone else on a pedestal and say “I could never have done what you did”. It isn’t a case of can’t – what I did was not difficult. Anyone in this room could serve in this way usefully if they wanted to. Robyn and I made a choice to serve in Egypt. To simply say “I couldn’t do what you, Stephen our Duan did” is an excuse. An excuse so often used to justify inaction and to do nothing to help those in need.

The world is the way it is because we continually make choices that allow it to be so. It is humanity’s will that is causing the suffering the our world. This is not the will of our loving God who suffers with the oppressed.

 

What motivates you?

Why did a teacher and his wife from a nice Lutheran school in Adelaide go to Egypt and spend 35k of his own money and 10k of generous people’s money, to help people? Because there was a need. Robyn has always wanted to work with Sudanese refugees and the largest population of Sudanese outside of Sudan is in Cairo. Faith without works is dead. Nothing more than that. We went because there was a need we could meet. Within each of us, the Holy Spirit is working to bring us to love our neighbours as Christ taught us. We must choose to take this call or ignore it.

Moving to Melbourne was not really part of the Brennen’s plan after Egypt. But at the same time a Lutheran school leader with refugee and migrant experience comes home at the exact same time that the only Lutheran school in the country serving a significantly refugee/ new migrant/low income community needs a leader.

Sunshine Christian School is a lovely primary school in the western suburbs of Melbourne. Being principal there takes as much passion, perseverance and dedication and fortitude as working in Egypt did.  The issues are different but the goal is the same – to nurture young people to serve God and his people.

Ask yourself – Would you get up tomorrow and do your job if you were not paid? Do you believe what you do each day is truly serving others as God would have you serve?

 

A great Lutheran social justice heritage

Lutherans have a great heritage to offer. I was in demand as a lecturer at a bible college in Egypt because Lutherans are known in Africa for having biblically centred and sound theology.

Ask many a Sudanese refugee about Lutherans and they see it as a word that represents comfort and support. This comes from their time in Lutheran run refugee camps.

It has been written of our spiritual father, Martin Luther:

“[He argued that] God’s justice is a life-giving justice for all persons regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, social or economic status – a justice that should underpin human relationships and the education of future leaders in society. Indeed, he was among the first of his generation to protest business, banking, and religious practices that favoured the wealthy few and impoverished the many. And yet…Lutheran history is marked by the refusal to heed the ancient call to act with justice, exchanging that more difficult task for charitable endeavours or stoic silence in the face of oppression.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote :

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself”

As Lutherans I think we are very good at the loving God bit and feeling saved. What we need to do is to commit more to the mystery and gospel imperative of loving others.

 

There are many choices we make as a church.

A choice we make at the moment is to allow our schools to exclude families on the basis of their economic status. I live with the knowledge that if I were born now my parents could not afford to send me to a Lutheran school – not on their income. My family situation is not unique. What might Luther say if he were here today and saw that our schools, that were first set up to serve Lutheran refugees newly arrived to Australia, now exclude refugees through their fee structures?

Could our church find new funding strategies to sustain and plant low fee schools in areas of great need in order to provide a Lutheran education to children that need it most?

Last year I met with a family who wanted to enrol their daughter at my school. Knowing that they were a practising Buddhist family I asked them why it was that they wanted to send their child to a Lutheran school. They said this:

“I don’t want my daughter to go to a public school. I know your school is a good school. You will not ignore her soul. You will teach her about God. You will teach her about duty to others. This will not happen at the other local schools”

According to the enrolment policies of most Lutheran schools we are required to give first preference to Lutherans and then practicing Christians. Had there been an abundance of enrolments in the previous categories this child would not be attending a Lutheran school. What do we make of this?

As a church we make the choice to pay our school principals an annual salary that alone would be enough to run African Hope Learning Centre for an entire year. My wage alone is more than enough to feed, educate and provide healthcare for more than 500 refugee students while also giving work for another 50 refugees. What does this information mean to us as schools of the church? How do we process it?

As we look at approving church budgets, how are we spending our money? Are we investing in supporting the oppressed and needy or perpetuating nice buildings with empty pews?

Could the current shortage of Lutheran pastors, teachers and leaders suggest that we have lost a culture of service to others that we once had?

Germaine Greer was educated in the Catholic schooling system. She writes:

“(The Catholic nuns) brought out the best in me and it needn’t have been brought out – it could have stayed right where it was. I could have married a stockbrocker and settled into a life of three cars and a carport. They made that impossible because I was hungry for something else”

This is what the Lutheran church did to me. It made me hunger for justice for all people. Are all of our Lutheran schools and churches encouraging this and making it central to their culture?

Our world is full of need and we must respond. A response more than turning away, throwing in a few dollars or praying for someone else to do it for us.

I don’t care how much money you make, what country you come from, what your religion is, what your qualifications are, what you have achieved or what others say about you.  What I am most interested in, what I want you to show the world, is that you can love others amongst your own struggles, brokenness, grief and despair – because that is where love comes to life.

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Augustine – lessons from his life and ministry

An article I wrote a little while back about Augustine and cross cultural ministry. I am far from an Augustinian scholar – so please send feedback my way.

Blessings

Augustine – lessons from his life and ministry

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