Saturday, October 28, 2006

CELEBRATE - 46 years together!!!

Today we celebrate our 46th wedding anniversary. It is a wonderful life together and we are grateful to each other for the blessings of life, given to us. God is so good to us and we thank Him above all!

How to recognise the special lady? Flowers are the call for today and I just woke her up with several bunches of gorgeous flowers; it fits the personality, because she is................ colourful..........delicate...........beautiful.............desirable.............intelligent..............etc!

Yep, I know I am over the top, but that IS my girl!If you look carefully, you will note just outside the window the hail that had fallen just a little before wake-up time. It is just so cold today!
The Kirra Road family were early to say 'happy anniversary', but then they mostly come to say g'day on Saturday mornings. Here is Ellie, at her best, to express her love and congratulations.As I just said earlier, it is COLD!!!!! The next photo was taken a couple hours after the hail storm, showing the hail that fell. And this is late October - we are heading into summer, or suppose to!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Relationships revisited

Since returning to Hobart three and half years ago, we have been struggling a little where we should worship. A natural desire was to attend the church where two of our families worship and to share in this special way with them. However, we have finally been convinced that God would have us return to the Hobart Tabernacle where there are of course many who are special to us and where we had an active role past years.

One of the associated challenges was to resist the invitation to play the pipe organ again. After ten years not playing that very fine instrument, I was not at all anxious to play again and strongly resisted the many overtures that came to me. Perhaps, my own comfort zone also didn’t wish to return to the discipline of organ playing.

Finally, in April I relented and since have played on a number of occasions:For those of you interested, it is a three manual pipe organ with over 1700 pipes organised in three distinct divisions. That covers quite a few voices, many of which are delightfully delicate to the ears. The original instrument was much smaller, about 600+ pipes dating back to 1898. The instrument saw an extension and a complete renovation in 1960 when it was expanded to its present configuration.

While many churches are discarding the organ, it is good to still have this fine instrument available for worship and it is my hope that it will be used as part of a range of instruments – piano, guitars, wind instruments etc., and even drums!

When I play, Carol supports me and at time plays the piano.The photo above is of her with a dear saint of God who not only loves music, but in his early days was a fine violinist and played with a Latvian Orchestra before the War. Elmars is a dear man whom we love dearly.

During the week, we went to brother Henk & his wife Gail’s new place in Tranmere for dinner. It was lovely to see them all settled into their new home that looks out over the Derwent River towards the city and Mt. Wellington. As you can see, Carol received a very warm welcome (and I did too):It is a lovely home, beautifully positioned and it was obvious that Henk & Gail were very happy with their new address - it showed!It was a pity that on this day there were severe bushfires around Mt. Nelson (where we used to live) and this spoiled the look a bit, as you can see. Actually, there were two more fires started deliberately that evening with more bad fires the following morning. It was very hot and very windy. We are just grateful for our valiant fire fighters who do such a great job of keeping the community safe.

Henk was careful to show us all the features and when I peeked in from the outside looking in, I saw him showing Carol the most important feature!Pre dinner drinks and nibbles are always enjoyable, but the company of loving people far exceed that.

Gail is an excellent cook and we very much enjoyed roast beef (I would love to have taken a photo of Gail in the supermarket that day, struggling with a shopping trolley and muttering all sorts of things, but the end result was terrific Gail - thanks!) I think it can be said that we are enjoying ourselves:Finally, the other day I received a phone call from my niece Denise who now lives in Launceston. (hadn't heard from her for six years or more) She had to travel to Hobart on Thursday and the opportunity was too good not to have her over to our place and catch up with one another. It was the day when the bushfires were really out of control and it was hot. While windy, our evening meal was still best outside also because the electricity was off. The BBQ comes in handy for those occasions.
What all this means is that we are blessed with much, but especially our relationships with one another. Thanks be to God!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Of shoes and ships and sealing wax.......

A few things have happened recently, and we thought it would be good to share them with you.

A few months ago Carol started knitting a rug for the church missionary committee to sell as a fund raiser, and this and a matching cushion were finished the other day. Should bring in a few bucks for the coffers.

Our Jonathon apple has started to blossom nicely and the bees are doing their job well.We didn’t worry about another variety in our little garden because our next door neighbour has a great tree, so cross-pollination is no problem.

Last week The World came to Hobartand stayed for a few days – much longer than cruise ships normally do. But then The World is not your normal cruise ship. It is actually owned by the passengers – they have spent around $1.5m to buy an on board ship apartment and there are roughly 2 crew to each passenger.

After looking at The World we went up to the Playhouse Theatre for the Old Time Music Hall that launched Seniors week, and spent a very pleasant Sunday afternoon listening to a variety of acts ranging from a veteran’s brass band to some very talented young people who are part of a popular music training school here in Hobart.

Some time ago Tim and Jacquie asked me would I make a picture frame for a painting Luke had done at school. We were very impressed with his impression of a vase of snowdrops. This was painted in June when he was only five years and three months. Not bad, eh? At the moment his specialty is woolly mammoths.

Early last week we were glad to welcome Jason and Michael – our grandsons from Kiama, NSW, to our shores. At present it is school holidays there and they were able to organise reasonable airfares down to visit their rellies here in Hobart. Their paternal grandparents also live here and were pleased to entertain them on the Monday evening. They have been staying with their Mum’s twin sister and their cousins, who are about the same age.

Of course, food was an important part of having a good time and Muirs at Constitution Dock for an old-fashioned fish 'n' chips was high on the boys' agenda:One night most of the family were able to meet for a BYO meal and get-together with them and a good time was had by all. Ann made sure of that and pointed out to us all the variety of food for our guests of honour:We are pretty sure that they had a good time.Plus it was a good opportunity to catch up with cousins, like the relaxed Thomas in the next photo!A walk along the lovely Lauderdale Beach tested their fitness against Grandpa's:Last Thursday saw the recommencement of Time Out – a craft morning organised by the City Gate Baptist Church. This is a great community outreach and anything up to 200 people attend, making all sorts of things.I have finally been talked into going and am having a great time learning the art of lead lighting.Our youngest daughter, Heather took it up last year and has been trying to talk me into it for some time. It has proved very useful honing my glass-cutting skills for picture framing.

Carol is also busy at Time Out, and is presently a tutor for the genteel art of Tatting, known by the French as Frivolité.

At the moment the Clarence Eisteddfod is in full swing and some of the grandchildren have been taking part. Thomas played solo piano on Sunday afternoon - The Addams Family Theme, complete with appropriate 'clicks' got a good report from the adjudicator. Last night saw Kathryn accompany her school band in the the Junior Concert Band section (they got a Certificate of Merit)
and Nigel played saxophone in his school's Senior Concert Band.If you click on the photo, it will enlarge sufficiently to see Nigel. I have put a halo (haha) around him!

Baby sitting also occupies some of our time and Tim and Jacquie's littlies have a lovely time here with us. Yesterday Ellie was a rabbit, rather than a princess as she usually is and Josiah just loves to grin.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Beyond the '2-dollar' China Tour - Nanjing

We had been aware for many years of the excellent work done through the Bible Societies in China since the mid 1980s, yet never had the opportunity to see this work first-hand. Even during my years as Publisher and Scriptures Director with Bible Society in Australia, circumstances never favoured a visit to China to observe the work at Amity. However, with our Grand Tour of China just concluded, it was a great opportunity to visit Nanjing and see Amity Printing Press and the work they do.
While we were interested in the printing process, we particularly wanted to understand how the printed Bibles finally reached the local populations. Considering the religious restrictions of the past in China, we were anxious to see evidence that Bibles printed by Amity reached people who wanted one. Well, that is the story we want share with you, the reader of this blog.

Nanjing is only three hours away by train from Shanghai and we were rather pleased that the railway station was just one block away from our Shanghai hotel. Faye was again very helpful and arranged for a couple of porters to get our luggage on the train, which, by the way, was chocka full. As we traveled through China we learned that China railways do not have 1st and 2nd class seating. Instead, we traveled on 'soft seats', the equivalent of 1st class. Interesting, isn't it? The other class of seating is 'hard seats'. Our journey on 'soft seats' was therefore comfortable enough and we arrived in Nanjing about 30 minutes after the scheduled arrival time. Peter Dean, an expatriate New Zealander and who is attached as a special consultant to Amity Press, was waiting for us. We really appreciated that. Actually, after a month of travel in China, it was rather weird to have a non Chinese driving us and Peter did an excellent job of weaving us through the Nanjing traffic.

Peter and his wife Jane live at the Press and kindly offered hospitality to us. We very much appreciated this as it gave us time to share about the work of Bible printing and distribution as well as just having quiet fellowship together.

The morning after our arrival I walked into the press and the first thing that struck me was the respect workers showed for the 'product' - the Holy Bible, as it was put together:But the whole process begins much further afield. The success of effective printing and distribution of Scriptures depends on the availability of Bible paper financed by Christians from around the world. It begins with local congregations from all over the world:Bible paper is produced in China (like all commodities, so it seems) and is purchased with the donated dollar received from you and me and the vast Bible loving family throughout the world!So, what were the outstanding memories of our visit to Amity Press?

# Unquestionably, to see the printing presses pouring out Bibles by the thousand each day:# To see the care that was taken by Amity workers to produce the best possible product:# The obvious enjoyment of people as they worked together:# The use of the latest technology and equipment like this automatic sewing machine:Carol was nevertheless intrigued by the older method of sewing Bible books together:
At one time, while I was still working with BS Australia, I had wondered about Amity printing Bibles for the Australian market, but considered that at that time there was still a way to go before quality standards reached our market expectation. To see the fine work now being done was indeed a great thrill. Leather editions with gilding and thumb-indexing are produced to a very high standard. This manual process is tedious and requires a lot of concentration:
1. Marking the index page:2. Punching the thumb index:3. Inserting the tabs:4. The gilding was done in house with good results:And have a look at the finished product ready to be shipped out:In addition to Bibles, we were delighted to see other initiatives that included Luke's Gospel (in English & Chinese) together with the Jesus Video (DVD) for free distribution in China:One book that also delighted was a publication of a series of Bible readings under the title of 'The Words of Jesus - Herbal Tea for the Spirit'. This is an edition published by the Government Ministry of Religion & Culture:
Click on the images above and below and read for yourself a couple examples of the text in this fine publication.
Being in both English and Chinese, the publication also admirably supports the aim for people in China to learn English. We observed that learning English is very much a big thing in China. I think we may have mentioned in the Shanghai chapter that the Bible is recommended reading in the Shanghai area because of its value as a 'learning English' tool. It would seem that Herbal Tea for the Spirit fits that category and at the same time, and let me quote from the book's preface, "Will help the believers to have a better grasp and knowledge of the sayings of Jesus and serve as an easy and useful access to the general public for better understanding the Christian moral ideals."

Many have asked how the Scriptures are distributed in China. The fact that some 47 million Bibles have been printed since Amity Press commenced printing in 1987 has not always assured donors that everyone in China who would like a Bible, can obtain one. From listening to many who know China much better than ourselves, we understand that in the past there were restrictions and perhaps there are still some restrictions in some parts of China. What we can tell you is what we observed and found out for ourselves.

We visited one of the Distribution Centres in Nanjing and spoke to the lady responsible for the Distribution Office about how people can best obtain a Bible. She told us that the centre receives requests for Bibles from both churches and individuals.These requests are processed at this centre, as well as in another 69 distribution centres throughout China. Single and small multiple orders are forwarded to the requesting parties through China Post, even to the point where China Post will collect postage at the receiving end. As we walked around the centre, I noticed a quantity of individually addressed parcels waiting to be collected:Peter Dean also told us of Bibles being sent direct from Amity Printing Company to individuals as well as to the 69 distribution centres throughout China. Once again, China Post takes care of delivering the small orders
This Van is full of Braille Bibles which are delivered free of charge by China Post to blind people:The demand for Scriptures is very high and Amity Press is printing to capacity. For that reason, an ambitious plan is well underway to substantially increase production by building a new printing press at a different location:Our prayer is that this great plan will be wonderfully blessed and that the Scriptures will come to life to all who read it.

Our last activity in China was to visit the memorial to about 300,000 Chinese people brutally murdered by the Japanese Army in 1937. In our story above, we told you about the publication of 'Herbal Tea for the Spirit' that includes pages about Jesus teaching on 'forgiveness'. We were both staggered by the enormity of the Nanjing massacre and in the context of forgiveness identified with the Chinese people and how hard it must be to forgive. Yet, this is what Herbal Tea for the Spirit identifies in order to make peace. May those who read these words from Scripture, find that peace.

The memorial is most dramatic, right from the entry into the memorial gardens:
This is one of many plaques that we encountered around the site and tells the story of what happened in 1937:The site of this memorial is in fact a huge mass grave where countless numbers were interred. We found it interesting that it was the Red Swastika Society - a Nazi version of the Red Cross, and the Benevolent Society that organised the mass burial of the bodies. Considering that some 300,000 were massacred, it was a massive and grizzly task. The next photo is in fact an overview of the site:We are heading to the buildings in the background that was the start of a shrine and museum of the happenings here. When we got there, we were profoundly moved by a section of the grave that was exposed to dramatically demonstrate what transpired here almost seventy years ago:We read with ongoing interest the events in 1937 and left in a pensive mood.

It is time to go home. Our Nanjing visit added significantly to our China experience. We realise that we experienced only a tiny bit of China but are most grateful for the opportunity to understand just a little of this vast country and its people, history and culture. When we boarded our flight back to Singapore, we were pleasantly surprised to be given an upgrade to Business Class and thoroughly enjoyed the comfort and the better dining experience: