Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Terry's coming back on April 9, DV - I'm so excited!! He'll be in NJ for a week and then he'll head over to MI for Rachel and Bret's wedding (the "real" reason he's returning).

Student teaching is good; the schedule's not easy to get used to, but I enjoy working with the students... most of the time. It's been a bit of an unusual time in the school, though, with an extended period of midterms, a death in the faculty, and a retiring faculty member. Tomorrow starts the new marking period.

I struggle to stay on top of work, but worse, I struggle to spend time regularly in reading of the Word and prayer. I know those things are essential for spiritual as well as overall mental/emotional health, especially amid all the stress; if it comes to mind, I'd appreciate your prayers. I miss those of you in Tasmania. It's hard when I talk on the phone with Terry and I hear about you from him. It's not the same as being able to speak with you, and I can't be there when I'm here (if you know what I'm getting at). And of course, most of all, I miss Terry.

God has been and is so good to us though, and I am looking forward to the visit in a couple of months. All the temporal fuss will pass away, but God's goodness will endure and envelope us eternally. What a joy to think of that!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hello from the other side of the world! Well, the other side of the world from Terry... the same one as most of you who read this. I've been home since 12:37am Monday night / Tuesday morning. It's nice to see Orion right side up again; in Aussie he was upside down.

Wednesday I started my student teaching at a local high school. I work with my cooperating teacher in a Reading & Writing Improvement class and four classes of British Literature. So far, I'm just acting as a teacher aide, doing grading and whatnot, but I'll be planning a unit on Macbeth soon after the marking period ends and team teaching it with her. Eventually, I will be taking over her work completely.

It's hard to transition, but good to get into the work I need to finish before graduation. I like working with the students so far, but I'm still jittery about actually teaching them. One thing at a time, I suppose! It's not comforting that there is but little age difference between myself and the juniors in the classes. Thankfully, it also certain that God is with me and will supply every need according to His riches in Christ Jesus.

I have taken a good number of pictures while in Tas; so although I cannot publish the 128 pictures that I developed for my albums at home, I will put up a dozen so that you can get a feel for what it was like there.

Here we are driving on the wrong side of the road. Oh, excuse me, you say that's biased? Ah, yes, the left side. :)

A traditional Aussie pastime - the barbeque or "barbie" for short. This is a New Year's Day church barbie at the Trevallyn Dam. Note that barbeques ar on a metal surface with gas heat underneath, rather than a grill. This is typical in Tassie.

Terry and the Cataract Gorge just 10 minutes or so from our house. Carved out by the Tamar River flowing down from the north of the island, the Gorge is a great place to hike. There is a small dammed lake there with swimming. Wild peacocks roam the area too, which rather shocked me!

Terry in his temporary study, one of the two spare bedrooms. (Yes, there is room for you when you take a Tasmanian vacation / visit!) Later, there are plans to convert half of our spacious garage into a private study that will be more visitor-friendly for small meetings or counseling sessions. Hopefully, it will also be able to accomodate Terry's books, currently being shipped o'er the high seas.

Here's part of the back yard on one side, with a great view of our man ferns, jokingly called "person ferns" as a spoof of the politically correct types out there. We also have a peach tree, an apricot tree, two lemon trees, a laundry tree, rose bushes, and strawberry plants. I was amazed and delighted at the contents of our backyard. We have already been enjoying the fruits of it - at least I have been. Terry likes the lemons... but his inexplicable fruit freakishness means that the other fruits have no appeal to him. Poor man, he cannot appreciate what he misses!

Behold the creation of Mr. Alan Dinsmore which adorns the front wall of the house! From the first moment we laid eyes on our new house, it shouted "home" to us. We hope it will be a sign of welcome to many others, too.

We visited the Dawsons up in lovely Low Head at the northern end of the island. It was a lovely, windy day out, with a lighthouse in the vicinity that we visited as well. That day I also had my first experience with pumpkin soup, which is a wonderful dish created from the comparatively thick and meaty pumpkins grown over there.

On the other (southern) end of the island, Terry and I spent a few days with the pastor of the other Southern Presbyterian Church in Tasmania and his wife, along with two other couples from our churches. Terry and I serve in northern Launceston; they in southern Hobart. Here Terry has caught a lovely big golden trout which is supposedly difficult to catch; I have hooked a rainbow trout. They were a treat to eat! As you can see, hats are the order of the day in Tassie when you're outdoors; the sun is stronger there because of the hole in the ozone layer about Australia.

Here's the lot of us, each man with his wife in front of him. From left to right:
Back row: Rev. Iain Smith, Pat Connors, Terry Connors (Pat's brother), Terry
Front row: Mary Smith, Mavis Connors, Bev Connors.

I stayed at Pat & Mavis Connors' house; and in addition to putting up with me, they made sure I was schooled in Tasmanian humor (in which Pat is famed), culture, and news. But when the Connors brothers get together, it's a great sight to see. The witty remarks just fly. Rev. & Mrs. Smith were wonderful to meet too, with their lovely Scottish brogue and warm-hearted welcome.

Terry gazing on the historic Ross Bridge, built in the 1800's by convicts transported to what was then known as "Van Diemen's Land" (now Tasmania, of course). Its engineer was emancipated upon its completion. It has many carvings in the stone, one of them said to be the head of John Calvin. Who knows? Ross was a great place to stop for some historic sightseeing.

Plugs and electrical outlets are just the beginning of the many small differences that make you do a double-take and remember that this is definitely not the U.S. Sometimes they are really helpful innovations, other times just different from what we thought to be "the norm." Spellings, measurements, slang terms, household procedures, foods - all have a Tasmanian or wider Australian twist to them. Some things are rather English; but woe betide the one who betrays a resemblance to the despicable "pommies" or British.

Lorraine, definitely a close friend in the making, took me to the falls in Lilydale for a short Saturday "bushwalk" or hike there. It is so beautiful in Tassie with so many wonderful places to explore. Just down the street from our house in one direction is an open park that's great for jogging or bringing little children or picnicking. In the other direction is an awesome reserve with lots of trails through the bush. It covers a few blocks and is absolutely wonderful - the type of thing I might do when on vacation but now it's right down the street from my house!

Well, that's all for now. Hope you've enjoyed the mini-tour and be sure to ask me if you'd like to see more pics.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Dear family and friends,

The high-speed internet is up and running, praise the Lord! With some time, prayer, and the technical expertise of some people from the church, DSL Internet has been connected to the Manse. I apologize for the two-week news delay but (Lord willing) we'll have some more regular updates for you.

The latest bit of news to pass on is that Martha has gone back to New Jersey. She left on January 15 6:10am Taz time* and landed in New Jersey some time later that same day, even though she was in the air or on lay overs for likely 24 hours or more**. She has not been gone that long, but I miss her already. In fact, we were missing each other even before she left.

We were able to spend more time together than we ever had before and the Lord further showed His mercy and grace in calling us together. We got to sort things out at our new home together; we daydreamed about the future; and we saw more sin in one another, but more of the grace Christ in each other, too. I can hardly wait until she can return and we can serve the Lord together here as man and wife.

The first two weeks here have been a time of getting established. Trying to get used to the new home (which has been quite easy), get banking organized, the phone organized, and the Internet organized. Now I hope and pray I will be able to focus more fully on the work at hand here.

My elders have given me the wise counsel of "Go slow, mate." I am focusing on preparing sermons and getting to know the congregation. There is an amazing number of ministry opportunities here and a field that is ripe for harvest but I need to start at the beginning.

I hope to continue a series focusing on Christ and His church from Psalm 45 in the morning. The Lord has laid this Psalm on my heart for a while now (I began thinking and praying about it the last time I was in Taz), and there is no better place to start than in focusing on the work of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In the evening, I am preaching the texts the Lord lays on my heart during the week. Part of me would like to start another series, but the Lord will make all things clear in His own time.

I had hoped to put up some pictures of some of the things we have been doing over the past few weeks, but I packed my digital camera software with my books, which are currently at sea and should becoming in a few months - so sadly, I have no way to post pictures. I will try and get some up as soon as I can, but it may be a while.

In closing, let me say that I miss you all terribly but at the same time I know that Launceston is my home, and that Martha and I both know without a doubt that this is where the Lord would have us be.

Thank you all very much for your cards, gifts, and prayers. The Lord willing, I will be in better touch now that the high speed internet is working and once I purchase a calling card tomorrow.

Love through Christ,
terry (& Martha)

*Actually, I left about 9:50am or so. The plane I was supposed to go on was grounded because of a fuel blockage or something and there was a hectic mess at the little Launceston airport. Happily, I was able to catch my international connections in time anyway!

**It was a total of 39 hours and 37 minutes of travel time door to door. I left the Connors 5am Tassie time and got home a little after midnight Eastern U.S. time. It was - needless to say - the longest day of my life!!

Monday, January 01, 2007

We have begun the New Year together in Tasmania, by God's good providence. A blessed New Year to you all - I believe you've made it into 2007 by now, though you are 16 hours behind us. :) Of course, my siblings in Mexico will have to wait a few hours yet...

We have been having a lovely time here. The jetlag has been pretty tough, but the people have been so warm and welcoming here we are getting to feel at home quite quickly. The manse is just gorgeous; they have stocked it with some dishes, food, and furniture until we get our own. There is even a lemon tree, an apricot tree, and a peach tree in the back yard - not to mention strawberries and roses. We had our first guests the other day, when we brought in the New Year with the Kingstons at the manse. We're actually at Mrs. Julie Kingston's brother's house right now to use the net here. Hopefully we'll get ours set up soon, but of course all the shops are closed for the holiday today. Terry's only mode of communication with the locals right now is a cell phone.

I am staying at Pat and Mavis Connors, a wonderful couple in the Launceston church. We all went to a church barbeque up at the Travellyn Dam today; it's one of the power stations here in Tassie supplying their hydro power. The water's pretty low right now, though, because the island is in the middle of a very bad drought. We had a wonderful time there, though. I'll have to post pictures once I have the equipment to get them on the computer.

I'm picking up on the "Strine" accent a bit; we'll see how much I'll have acquired by the time I come home. It's hard to believe that I've only been here for two days; it's so nice to be here. Terry's doing pretty well driving. We have a white Mitsibishu Executive car from the church. The people keep reminding him to "stay left, look right." The roundabouts are a little confusing too, but not bad once you get used to them. They do help keep traffic moving (as opposed to traffic lights).

Well, I'd better be off. Again, a blessed new year to you all from the land down under.