Hospitality and the power of recognition – Reflections from volunteering in Oz

As part of the program at Australia Studies Centre, students are required to complete 35 hours of volunteering at a local organization in Brisbane. This is both challenging and rewarding and helps shape their experience in Australia.

The following are some excerpts from Kyle Hoffman’s service placement reflections, submitted this semester for one of our core units The View from Australia (AS200). Kyle is a Fall 2016 ASC student from Olivet Nazarene University. Reproduced with permission.

What activities will you be doing this semester at your service placement?

This semester I will be serving at Brisbane Common Grounds and helping to serve community meals for the residents. This project is run by Micah Projects and the purpose is to enable chronically homeless and low-income individuals to become independent by offer stability and support with their living conditions. The community meal is a once a week occurrence that is designed to build community among the apartments through a time of fellowship. Along with preparation and serving of the meals, I will also be talking with and engaging with the people that live there in a meaningful way.


Why do you think we include the service placement as a requirement at the ASC?

This service placement allows us to grow and learn by being placed in positions of responsibility, love, and unity. These experiences are designed to be challenging and to be a microcosm for what God is going to call us to for the rest of our lives. We will better understand Gods vision for us as we give of ourselves to this community.


Define these terms and discuss how they connect to you and others at your service placement:


Hospitality is a genuine and active practice that people take to show others kindness and their worth. Hospitality resists social boundaries that exist and place de-humanizing restraints on individuals who are “the least” or having less. I believe that hospitality is recognition that we as people are all equal and contribute something to each other and society and are therefore worth being recognized. It is easy to be hospitable to those who are similar and established, but serving those with real needs becomes an act of defiance. I have had the opportunity to provide hospitality to those I meet with on Wednesdays with Micah Projects. It is through my practice of intentionally lowering myself and viewing these people at the same level that I can fully appreciate how they encourage me as I serve. It is humbling to know that the recognition I give them is influential because most of the time the people I have dinner with are overlooked and ignored in society.


Power of recognition:

Recognition and respect are powerful things because it is what brings hope for those who see no purpose. We are all made by the creator God to be image bearers of him, so each person is deserved the respect and identity that is deserved to god. Recognition for the people I serve at the community meal every week is one of the primary highlights that these people have. They look forward to having a conversation with us from week to week and this shows the importance of recognition and seeing them as image bearers of Christ.

The Mathew 25 passage offers an incredible perspective. It reveals that we have the opportunity to serve God through the way we serve others and especially the “least of these”. Thinking about this passage is important for me because I have been shaped by the experiences and people I have met so far, but this provides me with a new telos and perspective when I volunteer in the future. I thought the idea that treating others as though they were Jesus will shift our focus back to how God can shape us through our relationship with them while also showing the love of God to whom we are serving.

Education and dislocation:

Education fosters dislocation because of the theme of upward mobility. I have to be honest that I myself have this feeling or desire to be transient, on the move, and dislocated to an extent and it may have been implanted in me somehow through education, but I don’t think dislocation is all that bad. I think that there is a time to be dislocated and experience different places and that some people may be called to a transient life. Being on the move doesn’t mean that you don’t get involved in community, but your relations with various communities are just more short-lived. I do agree that the education system can foster a negative consumer driven pursuit of dislocation, economic status, and career advancement, but this does not have to be so.


Do you see any “micropractices” forming from your time at your service placement? If not, what practice do you hope to pick up? What could the macro effect be?

I am discovering is the ability to slow down and focus on having real conversations with people. I am gaining a respect for the practice of humble service and the ability to listen. The macro effect of these practices will be that it shifts my perspective of the world and how people should interact as well as what my purpose is and that is very important.

What have you learned about place and “digging in” through your Service Placement?

I have learned that “digging in” can actually mean two things. Either it means to lay down roots in a long-term more permanent way or to really intentionally invest in the community and relationships that God has placed in your life. I think that the latter is far more important because when I look at the supervisors that I worked with this semester, I could see that they did have a good intention in their heart, but they have become a bit cynical with the work that they are doing and may not understand the weight of their impact. They have the long-term relationship thing down, but the deepness of their relationship sand their understanding of really what the people at Micah need was lacking. They treated the tenant with dignity, but there was a bit of disregard for empowering the people at Micah at times.


How has your Service Placement shaped your goals for returning home?

My service placement this semester has been something that has opened my eyes about new perspectives and how I approach the things that I do. I went into my service placement without expectations or goals the first few weeks and this led me to go through the motions and virtually waste my time. It wasn’t until I decided to be intentional with how I would be involved and interact that I was able to set goals for myself and allow the experience to shape me through the interactions that I would have with the tenants and other workers. It is a goal of mine to be understanding and knowledgeable of the different backgrounds, experiences, and preferences of others. I have also learned that intentionality is the best way to build a relationship and that it is very enriching for community. These are all things I plan to take with me as I enter my career as a teacher where I will inevitably encounter a diverse amount of people.

To learn more about Brisbane Common Ground see:

To learn more about Micah Projects see:

Learning to be a Monk – Reflections of a Pilgrim

Excerpt from Chris Krebsbach’s blog Chris is joining us this semester visiting from the Los Angeles Film Studies Centre.

Students at the Australian Studies Centre (where I’m spending much of my time lately) start the semester by reading a thought-provoking essay by William T. Cavanaugh titled Migrant, Tourist, Pilgrim, Monk: Mobility and Identity in the Global Age.

Cavanaugh looks at the ramifications of globalization and what it means to live in a world less divided by borders…though he would argue that the idea that we’re not still divided by national identity is silly.  (My word, not his…this guy doesn’t use words like “silly”.) My interpretation of how he defines the terms is this:

Migrant – Refugees, workers and others who have “spilled across borders in all parts of the globe.”  People in this category often (but not always) end up falling under the umbrella of those who are a “readily exploitable source of cheap labor.”

Tourist – One (likely a Westerner with means) who travels for business or pleasure, generally seeking escape, whose presence does more to affect the culture which they enter than the culture does to change them.  Someone who views another culture as something to be observed or consumed but not necessarily engaged.

Pilgrim – Someone who enters a new culture with humility and is willing to embrace differences in others while moving towards a transformed self, more grounded in God.  (In the essay, he explores the idea of Christian pilgrimage but points out that other traditions have elements of pilgrimage as well.)  One who “sees all as potential brothers and sisters on a common journey” and chooses to rely on others and God.

Monk – “Those on whom the pilgrim [and migrant] depend….those who remain in place in order to offer hospitality to those who journey.”

Not quite what I mean.
               Not quite what I mean.

Our students (and therefore I) have been challenged through these last almost three months (and in the weeks left on our journey) to see our time Down Under as Pilgrimage, to operate in such a way that we enter into the land and the culture, trying to understand the whole of the national story, rather than viewing it as a removed third party.  We want them to grow in their understanding of others and themselves rather than operate in a typical Tourist mindset.  And now we’re challenging them to take what they’re learning about cultural difference and apply it back to parts of their own country’s way of seeing the world…in essence, to become Monks for others.


This is no easy task!  It requires self-reflection and admission of issues within one’s own country, state and city.  It requires sometimes saying the wrong things or asking the wrong questions and the humility to accept correction.  It can be an emotional journey that leaves a person asking “Great.  But what do I do now?”


Part of Pilgrimage is fitting into a culture rather than imposing your own ideas of culture upon the place where you’re standing.  One might think that to culture cross from the United States to Australia isn’t that big of a deal.  The language is the same, the culture is western, there are McDonald’s (aka Macca’s) everywhere.

But even in our “similar” countries, there are differences.  The Australians I’ve met have been generally more physically active and more laid back.  They typically ask less questions and have a bit of a different way of conversing.  They aren’t into individualism and being the best…and they’re happy to dissuade others from being so.


And yes, there is a small language gap. I can mostly understand the words of my house mate, but I often have to stop her to ask what a word means…and when I have to do that, it can be uncomfortable…especially in the moments she looks at me like I have two heads for not knowing what she’s talking about.  (I generally do know but different words for similar things.)

One of our students, in the first week of the program, was told she could help herself to the “bikkies” on the “bench” and almost ended up missing out on having one of the cookies that had been sitting out on the kitchen counter because she had no idea what she had been offered.

Don’t believe me?  Click here to see what Australians have to say about that.


Elder lessons on Aboriginal land, culture and history

There are differences in our cultures, but there are also similarities, some of which are not pretty.  I’ve learned about darker things like Australia’s convict history, and treatment of Aboriginal people, and Australian current refugee practices.  And I can’t come away from that without reflecting on the dark parts of my own cultural past and present.

I feel like I can see things a little more clearly because I am watching the US from afar instead of being in the middle of what’s going on now with the election cycle and #BlackLivesMatter and various other issues of race and national identity that are bubbling up in my own country.  I’m seeing us through an Aussie filter that is bewildered by our current political theatre and literally assuming that Donald Trump reflects true American values.

Being here has reinforced what I already knew… The world is watching and they’re not necessarily liking what they see.


So how do we get to Monk-hood…those of us who want to be a welcoming presence to the outsider?

One of the concluding ideas in Cavanaugh’s essay is that if we are willing to enter the world as Pilgrims, we can earn the right and the ability…and the centeredness…to be Monks to others.  How can we become Monks who help others to feel at home without first understanding what it is like to be a Pilgrim or listening to the stories of the Migrant?

In my current Pilgrimage, I’ve been “Monked” by colleagues who have taught me about the nuances of culture – both white Australian and Indigenous and the people like our students’ host families (and my house mate) who invite Americans into their homes to live as Aussies do.

   Aboriginal sand art – recovering the old ways

I’ve been “Monked” by Aboriginal elders and teachers and artists who have kindly explained to “Whitefellas” the wounding and long-lasting effects of institutional racism and unconscious bias and who have taught us how dance and story and art connects them to the land and to each other…and how those things are also bringing healing to hurting people.  Their stories have illuminated not only their own culture but have given me a deeper understanding of the wounds to people within my own.

                A “green” Outback experience

I’ve been “Monked” by a sweet cattle rancher named Grace who welcomed into the Outback so we could experience a land that is harsh, difficult to manage and often drought stricken (though it’s quite green this season because of unusual rain).  I understand better now the plight of farmers and ranchers who often know what’s best for the land but have to deal with government officials and policies that go against their better instincts, and I’ve heard more stories of Divine intervention in times of greatest need.

Grace (back. L) shows us around the property.
           Grace (back. L) shows us around the property.

And I’ve heard the stories of some Migrants, so I understand better now the difference between coming to a country as a welcome guest who is deemed acceptable vs. coming to a country as a person seeking asylum.  And how important Monk-types were in shaping the Migrant experience into a more positive one in spite of what they might be feeling from the culture at large.

I hold all of these people and their stories now.  They have helped me to understand the culture I am standing in and in turn have made me more keen to provide that sense of welcome to others when I’m standing in my own country.


I believe that at least 50% of the travel I’ve done has majorly shaped who I am as a human…how I see myself and how I see the world.  I love to journey.  I probably always will.

I have also always been someone who deeply about welcoming others even though I’ve not always been good at it.  I’m very grateful that my current Pilgrimage in a new country has given me a larger framework of welcome; that my experience Down Under has left me more equipped to be a Monk for others.

We need more Monks than Tourists in our world of Migrants and Refugees.  We need more Monks in our world of people who have not been offered an equal seat at the table. And that is a need I want to meet in whatever ways I can.

You said what?!

In the following blog Wendi Jo Vande Voort explains some notable differences between Australian and American English. Jo is a Fall 2016 ASC student from Dordt College. Reproduced with permission.


The English language is the most tripped on barrier between Australia and the United States (and Great Britain, but they are not a part of this discussion for the most part). How can that be possible if they both speak the same language one may ask? Simple. Words and phrases have very different meanings.

So be warned before you go on your study abroad experience to any country, but especially Australia in this case…

  1.     In the United States, the lovely little bag one straps around their waist is called a fanny pack because it tends to be associated with the older generations of people and they use the word fanny, at least that is what I was always lead to believe. Be warned if you go to Australia (or Great Britain) that lovely little pack is a bum bag. A fanny is a lady’s butt, like it ought to be, so fanny pack is not a thing to be said.
  2.     In the wonderful beach country of Australia, they call the footwear that has the fabric/plastic that goes between the big toe and your next “big toe”, thongs. Now thongs in the United States, these days, are primarily associated with a type of women’s undies that are not full coverage. If you are interested in fun facts, thongs started out as a thing for dancers and has turned into a normal style of undies a woman can buy. So what Australians call thongs, Americans call flip flops. Thongs simply sounds like a “dirty word” to an American.
  3.     Now we are off to our favorite sporting event and everything is in our team’s favor, the Americans are rooting for their team and the Australians are cheering. All of the sudden like the Australians are a bit shocked by the Americans use of the word root because the word ‘root’ is offensive Australian slang for sex.
  4.     In the United States, a period has a dual meaning, either another name for a menstrual cycle or the grammar element used to end a sentence. Australians use the word period only in association with a menstrual cycle. The grammar element of the United States is called a full stop in Australia. Do not mix them up in Australia.
  5.     So now for my favorite mental argument, the word napkin. If one would walk into your typical store and ask “where are the napkins?” in both Australia and the United States, you would get two very different responses. Walking into a Wal-mart in the United States, one would get directed to the aisle with disposable food serving products such as paper plates and plastic forks, but if you walk into a Reject Shop in Australia you would be directed to the feminine hygiene products. In Australia, a serviette is what Americans call a napkin, and what Australians call napkin is what Americans call a pad or panty liner. See the crucial difference?

If anything I hope this humored you, as either a born-sarcastic Australian or an American who is very confused in Australia.

And if you were wondering where this blog idea came from, a family dinner with my host family when I was speaking of grammar punctuation. Inspiration comes from such odd places. It’s also a good thing I handle most awkward situations well. Story for another time.

Outback Adventures

Excerpt from Hannah Matthew’s personal blog “Mainer Gone Aussie”.  Hannah is a Fall 2016 ASC student from Gordon College. Reproduced with permission.

The past four days we were in the Outback. I’ll admit I was a little skeptical of the whole situation but I didn’t want to leave. Tyrone (cattle) Station is located west of Brisbane about an hour away from Charleville.  So this is going to be a long post so bear with me. I hope you get just as passionate as I was about the land.

Day 1

5am we are on the bus heading to the outback. Approximately 12 hours later with a total of four stops we make it to our destination. The scenery was about the same most of the ride there, large fields with the occasional herd of cattle in the road. I did spend most of this trip looking out the window and my attention was grasped most of the way. We got further out west, the greenery quickly faded into the rich red dry dirt. The last 45 minutes down a dirt road was spent catching sightings of emus, cattle, and kangaroos. Unfortunately we also saw kangaroos that had been hit and killed laying on the side of the road. This is reality out here.

Tyrone Station is more than lovely. The man made products such as building and houses are not as pleasing to the eye, yet the land simply blew me away. Land of such an amazing burnt red that goes for acres (40k) beyond where my eyes can see. The billabong, soft soil from the unusual rain with the gift of wildflowers along the land were surrounding me everywhere I went. The animal tracks to follow in hopes of finding them were all over and you would get the surprise of seeing them in the distance.

We were greeted by Grace, the owner of the land and her mother, Grandma. (Still don’t know Grandma’s name) They had dinner all ready for us which was delicious followed by a lava cake and ice cream for dessert. We ended the evening sharing three things about ourselves. 1. an embarrassing story. 2. Something God is teaching you or something you’ve been asking God and 3. Something the group should know about you.


Night time is unbelievable. The air is so clear of nothing but stars and planets. Not one plane flying through the vast darkness lit up by the bright moon. The still of the night reminded me of of home where I only hear the crickets chirping, leaves rustling in the calm breeze with the occasional night bird. I am beyond imagination in this place.

Day 2:

The sun rises around 6am here and it’s gorgeous. I was on breakfast duty with a few other students and we made a killer spread of toast, eggs, and bacon. After breakfast, Grace and Troy (our wonderful bus driver) drove us out to collect firewood with us on the back of them.

We learned a little history about the land. Mark and Grace bought the land in 1992 as a sheep farm. There were around 3,000 sheep when they moved in. It wasn’t until almost seven years ago that they switched to only cattle. They have had up to 500 head but currently only have 50 of their own with other people renting out land. The sheep were too much to maintain. They had to be sprayed for flies, sheared, tagged as well as their tails clipped. They clipped their tails because it gets to moist around that area the flies get in there, lay their larva and actually eat the sheep alive.

The ride ended at the other end of the property where there is a lot of empty buildings and it’s been left with old metal thats not rusted. Mark and Grace no longer live on the property as they pastor a church one hour south of Brisbane so their daughter lives there full time. There was so much to see so we got to hop off the ute and explore a little.

While walking through the main building, a stench became stronger. As many thought it was fresh animal poop, it turns out that decomposing animal with teeth and claws was a kangaroo caught by a wild dog or what we call Dingo. That was unpleasant to many and no pictures were recorded.

After lunch and a bit of free time, the rest of the afternoon was spent in ‘class.’ Our lecturer for this class is Chris Gilbert. He’s a wonderful Australian man who actually taught with his wife at Gordon. He used to live in the outback on a farm that worked with teens who needed some behavioural correction so he had a lot to offer about the land.

After class we had dinner and that’s when I got to talk with Grandma. She and her husband used to be missionaries in Papa New Guinea so of course I asked her about that. Her response was all people of Christ are missionaries, just in a different place. Preach Grandma, preach! She gave me a lot of wisdom on following Christ and what stuck with me is “God has no grandchildren, you’re either his child or you’re not”.

Before our fire, Grace was willing enough to share her story with us. First she spoke about her passions of foster care and Reaching Another In Need (R.A.I.N.) project that she started. This basically allows for anyone to purchase a cow for around $800 (while they sell for $2000). This cow would be kept for breeding and the bulls she bred would be sold bringing money back into the organisation. The cow would be kept for the entire breeding life and then sold. The cow’s calf would take their place and the process continues. Money went to churches in need especially theirs in Charleville.

Land brings many challenges and I won’t go on about everything we learned but I’m so passionate about it, and I hope you are invested enough to ask me more about it.

Day 3

Morning was spent in devotions and worship and then another ‘class’ session. There was a few guys who keep their cattle on the land there to muster them up. They use dirt bikes which they took a while to get started, as well as some crazy cool mini helicopter looking thing. After class I got to see some horses that someone keeps on their land as well as the cattle.

I loved seeing the horses, it reminded me of the Holland Project and I’m eager to get riding again.

The afternoon/evening was spent on a bliff. It’s kind of like a cliff. On the ride here we saw many kangaroos and even wild goats! We had some time to ourselves then went to explore the area on a little hike.

The evening was our last one there. I spent it enjoying good times and conversations with people around me. The stars and moon are amazing out there. Shooting stars are all around as well. I was so still during our last night hearing the crickets chirping, birds singing, and frogs croaking. The cows belting away in the field as laughter erupts from the students still awake. I want to go back and never leave.

Place. Land. Beauty.

Excerpt from Chris Krebsbach’s blog Chris is joining us at ASC this semester visiting from the Los Angeles Film Studies Centre.  The pictures are from our recent trip to outback Australia with quotes by an Australian author.

“In the century since Galileo’s explosive new understanding of the cosmos first rattled our cage, humans have never quite managed to give up the idea that we are at the centre of the universe and masters of all we survey.


We’re used to seeing ourselves as the pinnacle of reality.


But traveling deep into landscapes, paying attention to the natural world, we’re reminded of our true position in the scheme of things.” 


“I think people everywhere yearn for connection,


 to be overwhelmed by beauty…
img_0508…Perhaps in the face of grandeur we silently acknowledge our smallness, 


our bit part in majesty.”

Quotes from Island Home by Tim Winton, Hamish Hamilton AU, 2015.

Moving in the Miracles

Excerpt from Jo Kadlecek’s personal blog ‘A Sun Burnt Faith’. Jo is an author and journalist from the US and wife of current ASC lecturer Chris Gilbert who’s teaching The view from Australia class. They moved to the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane about a year ago.  Reproduced with permission.

IMG_2658It’s been a year now since moving to the land down under. A year of sunrises, none quite so spectacular as this one at the Easter morning worship service on the beach where the river mouth spills into the ocean. (At least none that I know of since I’m not usually awake then.) It’s been a year of dog walks and magical drives. A year of language translation and hilarious bird songs. A year of stunning blooms and great coffee talks (as in, no such thing as bad coffee here).

IMG_2661All told, it’s been a year of moving in and out of a million little miracles I hear or smell or watch daily.

The colors and cloud displays daily point me to God’s creative hand playing with his palette. Same with the winds and waves, the gumtrees and flowers, each commanding the attention of anyone who is breathing. Every where I look here, in fact, from the beaches and hinterland to the rocks and farms, surfs and lakes and rivers, an Artist is at work. And he’s set the thermostat at a happy temperature for me—no frigid days. No snow to shovel. Like, ever.

IMG_2667I can’t complain. For now, it is easy to feel glad for this outside beach life where our family gathers—in between stretching job schedules and church commitments—for dinner and Scrabble and swims.

But living in Australia is not always as “happy as Larry” (someday, I will get to the bottom of Larry’s identity.) When you move somewhere with only a hint of a purpose, there can be an ongoing learning curve. I still, for instance, ask my husband or in-laws about words and directions and meanings. Just reading the newspaper is an education in cricket and rugby, domestic abuses and shadow governments.  I still walk out the door with questions and come back with more. And I still stare at a place and way of life quite different from the one I grew up in Colorado or enjoyed on the U.S. east coast as an adult.

Kookaburras, kangaroos, or koalas are images in children’s books here because they are common realities. So, too, are chook roasts or pavlova, which before now, I’d not considered for a meal. Nor had I eaten a mud crab or barramundi,  swept a gecko or spider out of my bedroom. And I really never worried much about different spellings or attitudes toward “crazy Americans”— until now.

Grateful as I am to have this opportunity with my husband’s ageing (Aussie-spelling) parents, I know that feeling settled can take time. They say, in fact, that you need at least three years of sunrises before you begin to feel at home. In other words, the wonder of discovery is one thing, planting roots is another. So the waves of nostalgia can sweep over at unexpected times. Somedays, there’s an ache in knowing I’m too far away to applaud my niece’s play, too far to take my friend to dinner for her 50th birthday, too far to holler at my nephew’s soccer games. Skype, though a beautiful ‘presence’, doesn’t yet include the aroma of brownies in the oven or the hug of little arms.

Sure, any immigrant experiences a range of disconnects over even the basics of daily life (start with a phone number), just as any person who has uprooted her life from one town to another moves through miles of change. The challenges of transition, however dramatic or small, forced or invited, are real, and sometimes require an altogether different map.

So three cheers for the sunrise of Easter, because the miracles also are as real as the water on your toes. Both mark the journey and can point us to the Maker who, well, makes new ways through the wilderness—and beach.

IMG_2662 IMG_2659

Life in the land of Oz

Excerpt from Cara Schow’s personal blog ‘Authentic Living’. Cara is a Fall 2016 ASC student from William Jessup University. Reproduced with permission. 

The past two weeks have made it clear to me that I was born to be an Aussie.  I think the stork made a mistake when he dropped me off in the states.  Okay, probably not, because let’s be honest, I also am very much in love with California.  But, Australia is amazing and I’m in love.   Last weekend, I explored South Bank with some lovely friends, got to experience a noodle festival that was going on there, and got to see some amazing and beautiful sights.  The city of Brisbane at night is breathtaking. I also got to attend a BBQ with my host family with some of their family friends last weekend which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The family friends had a two year old daughter, so I was instantly at ease.  Children can instantly take away any sadness or discomfort or awkwardness for me…they just make my heart so happy and light.

Fun fact, Australia doesn’t have a tipping system like in the States…and waitresses and waiters make good money here.  I also learned all sorts of other great things but I can’t tell because I was told what happened and what was discussed in that house, stayed in that house. 😉 But I can tell you that they are fun and great people.

This Farris Wheel is in South Bank.  It’s really big and awesome

Tuesday evening, I went with a group of other ASC Study Abroad students to Mark’s house for dessert night.  Mark is the Student Services Coordinator at Christian Heritage College and works with the ASC study abroad program.  He’s also pretty bomb-diggity.  His last name is also Jessop which is pretty much basically the same name as my college back in the States (William Jessup University, woot, woot, represent!) so, that makes him ten times cooler.  Anyways, I digress.  Dessert night was lots of fun.  I had a bit of trouble with catching the public transportation bus to his house….meaning I missed it.  The buses are the only complaint I have about Australia…and that’s just because I haven’t quite mastered them yet, although I’m getting better.

Wednesday evening, I went to my service placement (I have to do so many hours of community service while I attend this college) which is located in South Bank. I and two other American study abroad students, Kyle and Paige, are working with an organization called Micah Projects, which works with the homeless and marginalized within Australia.  They have housing for people who were once homeless and struggling and every Wednesday evening, I will be helping serve a meal to tenants in the housing and spending time visiting with them.  This week was my first time and I was rather nervous at first, but I ended up having a lovely time.  This week was low-key because the chef was sick and so we just served pizza. I got to meet a lady by the name of Kate, who is in the fashion industry and currently attending college for fashion design.  I also met this lovely lady named Meg who has been with this housing project since it was built, four years ago.  She told me about this beautiful place on the coast that I need to visit while I’m in Australia and was just as sweet as could be.  I also got to briefly meet a man named Ahmed, who was adorable and reminded me of Tom Hanks in the movie The Terminal. I am very much looking forward to returning to serve these people and get to know them.

I think oftentimes, especially in the States, it can be easy to dehumanize homeless people.  But the fact is, they are just people, like you and me, who have fallen on hard times, whether it be by some bad choices or just a bad hand in life.  They are people, human beings, with stories and lives and hopes and dreams, people who need to be loved yet are often pushed aside and forgotten, ignored, or treated like problems that need to be dealt with.  Wednesday night, spending time with those people, talking with them and eating with them, I was reminded of the importance to fight back against the stigma and attitude that is given towards the poor and homeless.  People deserve to be given love and respect, regardless of their situation in life…I think Jesus made that perfectly clear.

As one more fun fact before I end this blog post, Australians pronounce my name as Car-a, rather than Care-a.  I’ve learned to accept it and given up trying to correct them, for the most part…because if they aren’t saying Car-a, they say Kierra or some other name that is not, in fact, my name.  So, I just roll with it.  However, I did have someone say, when I corrected them, “Oh, it’s Car-a but with an American accent” which I thought was pretty funny.