Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Today Julia and I had a lovely morning at Emily's house. She lives on the next hill over from ours, just a few minutes' drive over the river. Julia enjoys seeing her "fens" (friends) Griff and Arch. She also thinks their big backyard, swings, kiddie pool, bird bath and books are all great fun. I always love chatting with Emily and boy, does she cook well! Today we got to sample her pumpkin pie. :D It was delicious!

Julia concentrates on shoveling in that pie, using both her spoon and her hand for stability.

Julia and Archie were both fans.

Griff thought it was great too.

Thanks so much for sharing your time and your pie with us Emily! We had a great time.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Julia loves baths in the big tub and occasionally asks "Bath?" after dinner.

She likes getting the soap.

washing herself up like a big girl

She loves "waterfalls"!

pure delight

catching the last drops

getting toweled off with Mom's help

We got presents from Grandma on Wednesday morning.

The touch-to-talk book, the stuffed chipmunk, and the monkey blankets were all cause for great excitement. Hurray!

Thanks so much for the Michigan shirt and the U.S. restaurant favorite dishes recipe book as well; they are just awesome! We love you, Grandma and Grandpa Knaut!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Here are some pictures of the SPC Launceston Family Weekend described in my previous post.

Stuart and Carleen Coles did an amazing job of organizing and running the weekend!

helping organize the food (which was bountiful!)

Hannah and me enjoying a late-night discussion and the warmth of the wood stove

Rob and Martin in an intense game of balloon bashing

a giant moth that considerately visited the men's bathroom only

the Kingstons all showed... even Julie between work shifts

the camp is located on the banks of Coalmine Creek

Here's the main mess hall and meeting room.

Here's our cabin.

a game of Rummicub

a game of Monopoly

storytime for the young ones

storytime for the older ones

a fireside chat

a mother-daughter moment

Annette gives an upside-down grin.

Julia enjoyed the new selection of books there.

The crayons were admired greatly as well.

Daddy shares some creative time with his daughter.

Saturday night's entertainment for the young (and old): Shaun the Sheep

some of the rotating "voluntary" kitchen crew

Dustin: boy in bucket

How many men does it take to barbeque the meat?

Julia never tires of books, and Thomas is a good friend and reader.

Stuart, Terry, Brian and Lauren engage in lively conversation.

Hannah, Alister, Rob and Martin
I'm very sorry we've not posted in so long. The best way to summarize Dad & Mom's trip here in pictures is to link you to their blog (run by my younger siblings, actually). Here's the link. Our pictures from their time here are currently being organized by Terry.

Since they've gone, we've had the usual period of feeling blue, and then gotten back to normal life. It's lovely to have summer here (some days, at least). The sweet peas are in bloom, and some raspberries are already ripe! The garden is coming along; I will eventually get a picture for you, Dad.

Last weekend, we had the very first Launceston SPC Weekend up in Liffey. It was a wonderful time of fellowship with lots of food and a warm extended family atmosphere. This was especially enhanced by the pouring rain we enjoyed on Friday evening and Saturday. Being cooped up indoors meant lots of games and conversation were enjoyed by all. The talks Terry gave about Challenging Unbelievers' Worldviews seemed to be stimulating and helpful for all present. They certainly were thought-provoking and encouraging for me. They were based on Acts 17, with some reference to 2 Corinthians 10:5 as well.

To summarize, we learned that one's worldview, or understanding of life, is either based on the Word of the Creator or the word of the creature. Thus, all unbelieving or creature-focused worldviews are in essence the same and are refuted in the same basic manner. We challenge unbelievers' worldviews from the same motive Paul had, that is, the stirring of the Spirit. Our hearts are grieved and angered as we see the idolatry and unbelief of those we work with daily. Therefore, we use the method Paul did: we verbally engage them with dialogue. Although these discussions are part of a spiritual war, the war is not to be waged out of a desire to prove ourselves right or dominate. Rather, we war after the Spirit, with weapons that are only powerful through God to pull down their strongholds of false philosophies and high things which they exalt against God. We are to seek to bring every reasoning of theirs captive to the obedience of Christ, the Word. Our message in doing so is also like Paul's: They show clearly their ignorance of the true God who created all things. We are not needed by God, but are ruled by Him and obligated to seek Him. We also must repent because God has sent the gospel command to everyone and will judge us all. The coming of judgment is sure and imminent since Christ was appointed Judge and has risen from the dead to show that all power and authority is given to Him (cf. Mt. 28:18, Acts 2:24-36, Acts 10:40-42). Thankfully, we, like Paul, are messengers whom God uses to bring some to belief, though others should mock or put off the truth.

It's rather a different emphasis than that of most modern evangelicals, isn't it? Nothing about how God is waiting to give you His love if only you will accept it. Nothing about how Jesus loves you and is ready to be your BFF (best friend forever) no matter what. Nothing about how you need the Spirit to give you joy in the Lord because that's what's missing in your life. "Ignorance? Obligation? Judgment? How can such a lot of ugly concepts draw in the people?" one might ask. Only because they are the truth of God, and His Word will convict and draw as all the smooth sales pitches in the world cannnot.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

(Above a suit case of things that had been waiting to come to Martha from the States)

They Arrived!!

Martha's mom and dad arrived in Tasmania after a bit of a delay.

Dad explains it best himself:

"The trip over was extraordinary in various ways.

I had been up since 12:30 am taking care of last minute must-do things before the trip including packing. Ruth got no sleep at all. Since we were facing an international journey, one is typically told to be at the airport two hours ahead of the flight. We learned the hard way with one of our children years ago that you don’t want to take the chance of not being at an airport by then! But because I wasn’t quite finished all my preparations, we ended up not leaving on time and arrived at the airport about an hour and forty minutes before the flight. I was concerned and praying. When we arrived at the airport in Springfield, MO the gate agent said we came in plenty of time. Good ole Midwestern flexibility! After our goodbyes, Esther drove off for home with Elisabeth and Nathanael. That’s when things really began to get interesting.

The check-in lady asked if we had our visas and some other document. I never gave it a thought that Australia would require a visa from US passport holders – many European countries don’t require them – I’m used to needing them for Africa or Eastern Europe but didn’t think Australia needed one. So no, we didn’t have them. Should have checked! The expression on the face of the lady at the check-in counter did not look encouraging. Ruth and I began the first of several very focused prayer times. The ticket agent said sometimes these things can be taken care of electronically and she would give it a try. She worked and worked and worked.. Ruth’s visa was approved right away but mine came up with a message that it would be pending for 12 hours! The lady explained that this sometimes happens when a person has a common first name, etc. or if one’s name is close to someone on their list of undesirable people (criminals, terrorists, etc.). A few ladies at a nearby travel agency in the airport also tried to work things out for us – almost the whole team! I was even allowed to call the Australian Consulate in the US, but the lady there explained that the visa people were off that day – Columbus’ holiday! We thought we were sunk at that point.

When the lady started looking at re-booking our flights, at first it appeared I might miss a large part of the ICRC conference as there were not clear-through connections till Friday (we were at the airport on Monday!). I mentioned I could go to Hobart instead if needs be. So another ticket counter lady started checking connections there. Meanwhile, they kept checking on the visa status – same message each time – “pending 12 hours.” The agent explained that if she sent me on without the visa getting ok’d, she could end up being fired and getting fined something like a $25,000! I forget if jail time was included in the package. Clearly, that wasn’t an option!

At almost the last second, I urged Ruth to go on ahead to Tasmania since her way was clear. I would try to catch up – especially as the Hobart connection seemed to be panning out for the next day. So we called Esther to come back to the airport for me (she was almost home – 1 ½ hrs. away!). As you can imagine, it was hard to see Ruth go off on her own. I felt terrible for not doing a better job checking things out ahead of time.

I was quite discouraged at this point and praying something like, “Lord, I really need a miracle now.” I felt especially convicted praying that because the very day before, as you all know, I mentioned in one of the sermons how we often pray earnestly when we need something from the Lord but what about other times? Ouch!

Anyway, the check-in lady started re-booking me on the next day’s flights. I thought that was as good a fall-back position as could be hoped for since I wouldn’t lose hardly any time at the ICRC conference and none of my time with Terry and Martha. I would need to re-book my flight to New Zealand (to get to the conference from Australia) but hopefully that wouldn’t be a big thing.

Then the other lady at the check-in counter, after the rebooking was almost totally complete, called her co-worker over to look at something on her screen – “Visa Cleared” (accepted)! I was amazed, especially after learning that Ruth’s flight was delayed and still at the airport! So now the other lady had to start re-booking me again back onto my original flights. Uh, oh – another problem. In the short time between the re-booking (to Hobart) and the re-re-booking back to Launceston, the long flight from LA to Sidney was now booked full. No more seats. So I couldn’t fly with Ruth on the 14 hr. flight over the ocean and the rest of the way to Tasmania. I would, however, arrive via a different route just a couple hours after her, God willing. Hey, I thought, at least I will be with her on the Springfield to Denver and Denver to LA flights and arrive the same night.

After I had my boarding passes, I quietly crept up to Ruth in her gate area (she knew nothing about the visa being cleared) and, as you can imagine, we shared a time of real rejoicing in God’s provision – and so we gave Him thanks. Little did we know that was just the beginning of what He would be doing for us on this trip.

When we finally arrived in LA, we had a bit of a wait till our long trans-pacific flight. So we enjoyed our time just sitting together in a rather out-of-the-way part of the airport. We had so enjoyed having just each other’s company for such an extended time. We love our children dearly, but as you all probably experience, when life is so busy it’s not that often we can spend extended periods of time just sitting next to each other without distraction. Anyway, since we now had to part ways, I thought we would just go together through the security check, and then I would sit with Ruth at her gate till she left, and then I would go to my gate later since my flight was later. As we came to the security check point, the agent (TSA) asked me for my boarding pass. He said to me, “You’re on Qantas airlines. They fly out of a different terminal. You can take the shuttle bus to get there. You can’t go any further with your wife here. Sorry.” He was a friendly man, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. That was hard, especially since we had heard Ruth’s flight was overbooked by 12 seats. What if she got bumped and got stuck in LA overnight? I couldn’t wait till her plane boarded because I needed to be at my terminal by then so I could catch my flight on time. So if she did get bumped, I wouldn’t know about it till I got across the ocean! More prayer.

Then, in what I can only describe as another wonder, Ruth came back to the security place where I was standing. She said she heard my name mentioned over the loudspeaker. Well, I couldn’t go through security there, so we agreed that she had better get to her gate so as to not miss her flight, and I would go to the ticket counter to see what the message was all about. So we parted again, not knowing whether we’d see each other till later or what.

When I got to the ticket agent downstairs, he inquired about the message. Apparently the agents at the gate through which Ruth would board wanted to know why I wasn’t on the flight with my wife and especially why I was re-booked in first class on Qantas airline. That was going to be expensive for United Airlines, our original carrier. Was the Lord again going to surprise us with His mercy? The gate agent then told me my seat was still held on Ruth’s flight even though it was supposed to have been cancelled back in Springfield! So the agent asked if I want to fly first class on Qantas or fly with my wife! Didn’t take a split second for that answer. At that point I was really in awe of God’s mercy. If Ruth and I hadn’t come upstairs when we did (where we were sitting on the lower level, we probably wouldn’t have heard the loudspeaker) and if she hadn’t heard the announcement at just that time (I didn’t hear a word of it even though standing somewhat nearby), etc. we would have missed the whole thing. At this point, of course, Ruth again didn’t know that I was being put back on her flight in the seat next to her, until I tiptoed up to her a second time and surprised her. My normally shy-in-public wife and I just stood there and hugged a good while right in the midst of a boarding area full of people. I think more than a few people there were smiling! We again gave abundant thanks to God in prayer. I was back on the on the original flights with the original seats all the way to Launceston, Tasmania……or so I thought..

After our long flight together from LA to Sydney and then our shorter flight from Sydney to Melbourne, we thought all was settled till we went to check in with Qantas for the one-hour trip from Melbourne to Launceston. The first sign of trouble? The do-it-yourself kiosk machine didn’t recognize the info. I typed into it – “Go see a ticket agent at counter 27,” it read. So we went. Ruth’s flight was fine, but my record was nowhere to be found. The man in LA, when canceling my Qantas flights and putting me back onto United, must have wiped me right off Qantas altogether, including this last flight! Thankfully, after a lengthy phone call (and more on the spot prayer for Ruth and me), I was re-instated on the flight. Prayers of thanksgiving followed again! End of the drama? Not quite yet….

As we sat in Melbourne, we were told our flight was to be delayed 20 minutes. No big thing, we thought. We quick emailed Terry and Martha to let them know. Then we found out that a flight from Melbourne to a town called Devonport was cancelled because the plane was inoperable. We were told our plane would take these people to Devonport and then fly us on to Launceston – only an additional ten minutes, we were told. Hey, we felt fine because these poor folk would have been stuck otherwise. So no problem.

We arrive in Devonport and those passengers disembark. Apparently one too many! The crew started scrambling as they realized they were missing someone who was supposed to be on board for the leg to Launceston. Apparently, he just got off and left! We found out later the two towns aren’t that far apart by road, and he was picked up at the Devonport airport instead of going on by plane to Launceston. So we sat and sat and sat at Devonport while the Qantas people tried to piece things together. We finally arrived around an hour and a half late! But Terry and Martha were good sports about the whole thing – we were just all so happy to finally see each other again! I think it took Julia a little while to come to terms with the reality that Grandpa and Grandma actually have faces and bodies and don’t live inside her parents’ computer screen! (We would normally see her on the computer screen through the Skype program). It didn’t long for the adjustment, thankfully.

So we had a wonderful evening – dinner, unpacking our suitcase of treasures (old papers of Martha’s, gifts from siblings, etc., etc.), and then some visiting together. I turned in a bit early as I was facing another international flight scheduled to leave at 6:30 am."

While dad got organized for the trip to New Zealand Martha, mom, and I sorted through the things they packed along for Martha in their luggage.

Dad explains what happened next:

"I thought since it was international, I needed to be at the airport at 4:30 so that meant a 3:45 wakeup (after all the other flying!!). Terry cooked my breakfast at that early hour – so sweet. Well, it turned out that the airport itself wasn’t even open when Terry and I arrived!! A security guard basically opened it for us and turned on the lights! We had a nice visit at the airport and the flight went smoothly back to the mainland where I’d catch my connecting flight to New Zealand for the conference. That’s when the next adventure started.

When I was checking in, the lady asked me if I had an electronic visa. Not even thinking about the question, I said yes (because I knew I had one for Australia – after the big debacle back in Springfield). But halfway across the sea to New Zealand I started filling out the Immigration Service card for entrance into New Zealand and it asked about what visa I had for entrance into New Zealand. You can just about imagine the horror that passed over me as it dawned on me I had done the same mistake over again! And now I was on the flight that would soon land in New Zealand. Visions of a cell with bars over the windows danced before my mind!! Well, I thought, I might as well just be up front about it with the custom’s agent before he or she asks. So as I came to the window, the lady asked how I was doing. I told her I made a big blunder, etc. She looked at me with compassion and said something like, “I’m sorry you must have worried a lot about that. But your Australian visa covers for this trip. There’s no problem at all!” I was so relieved, as you can imagine.

You would think that someone who has traveled as much as I have would be better prepared! But God had His plans of teaching me that He in fact does watch our every step, orders our steps, and does provide as a merciful Father even in the midst of our great blunders."

Much later, after having dropped dad off at the airport and getting a little more sleep, we had breakfast. Julia is a big fan of breakfast.

While dad was in New Zealand we visited different places in Tasmania. One of the places we stopped was the home of the Dinsmore's (a family from our church).

One of the places in Tassie we visited while dad was in New Zealand was Ashgrove Cheese Factory.

Not many of the folk at Ashgrove understood the irony of a couple Wisconsin "Cheese Heads" sampling cheese in Tasmania. Martha was born in Wisconsin while her father was the Principal of a small christian school.

Ashgrove has beautiful pasture lands and many painted cows.

Later we met up with a couple who attends our outreach services in George Town, Ian (the gentlemen in the sweater) and Faith (we did not manage a picture of her) Millen. Faith plays in a band that is part of the University of Tasmania's Community Music Program and they invited us to come along.

There are several bands in the Community Music Program. This is one of them and I believe it is the one Martha hopes to join, the Lord willing. Martha has been practicing her flute again in preparation and she is looking forward to joining.

Sunday evening we had our outreach service in George Town. After the service we had dinner at Ron and Ava Stronach's house. Julie and daddy enjoyed an after dinner swing.

Mom, Ava, and Ron.

Once dad came back from New Zealand we continued our trips around Tassie. Here we are going up to the top of Mt. Ben Lomand. After driving almost ot the top we took a bit of a walk to go further up.

While we were out for our little hike we came across this Tassie shaped rock in a puddle with a little waterfall above it. Cool to see.

There are shacks that are part of a little ski village at the top of Ben Lomand.

While we were hiking it alternated between rain, sleet, and a bit of hail.
Throughout all Julia was trooper but it did push her limits a bit.

Mom and dad made a very cute couple as they hiked back to the car.

One of our other excursions was a trip down to Hobart. Here is dad, the master through window photographer, getting some shots on the way down to Hobart.

Waving fields of Canola

Julia continued reading on the way down.

Grandma and Julia the cute pair!

After going to the museum in Hobart we visited Pastor Iain Smith and his wife Mary.
Mom and Mary having a good chat.

Iain and dad in deep conversation. As dad put it, "Sitting at the feet of the master."

Mom and Julia swinging in Iain and Mary's garden.

Another destination was the water falls in Lillydale (a small town about 40 minutes from Launceston). There are two falls at Lillydale. The above waterfall is the 2nd set of falls.

Here is dad, mam, and Julia at the first set of falls.
I snagged this pic as a Julia switch was being planned.

Dad about to walk out on a log for a good pic.

Precious dad and daughter!

The day before mom and dad we left we went to the beach at Bridport.
It was marvelous time relaxing, snacking, and talking in the sun, sand, and surf.
Father and son (in law).

Below are some other pics of Julia.