The ASC is moving to Brisbane

by Kimberly Spragg (ASC Director)

At the end of this fall 2013 semester, the ASC will celebrate 10 years in Sydney and 10 years at Wesley Institute. And a wonderful decade it has been!

It was with great sadness that we announced in May that this fall is our final semester in Sydney. Beginning January 2014 we will move from Sydney to Brisbane, Australia and partner with Christian Heritage College (CHC) to offer the Australia Studies Centre. Personally, I’m sad to leave a city which has been my home for 8 ½ years. I’m sad to leave my church, my friends, my ministries, and those faculty and staff at Wesley and at the ASC who have become good friends and trusted colleagues. I’m sad to say goodbye to the many Wesley students who have been wonderful friends to ASC students through the years. Yet I know this next step for the ASC is the right thing. I wouldn’t be moving with the program if I didn’t think this was a good decision.

Henri Nouwen encourages us to remember that “the cup of life is not only a cup of sorrow but also a cup of joy.” So while I do feel much sorrow at the thought of leaving Wesley, I am joyful when I think of the opportunities our students will have in Brisbane . . . opportunities which are not available to them here in Sydney.

Christian Heritage College has unique advantages for the next generations of ASC students, especially because of the range of classes it offers. CHC offers majors in Business, Education, Social Sciences and Ministries.

Aerial Photo of Christian Heritage College and Brisbane

Aerial Photo of Christian Heritage College and Brisbane       (photo courtesy of CHC)

CHC was established in 1986 as a result of Christian Outreach Centre’s vision for Christian higher education in Australia. (Christian Outreach Centre is a denomination in Australia and has a large church associated with it called Citipointe Christian Church.) Over the past 27 years, CHC has grown from offering one course with an initial enrolment of nine students, to nearly 30 courses and a student community of 800. From small beginnings, CHC has gained recognition as an integral part of the Australian higher education sector. CHC aims to be a Christian higher education institution that prepares people to make a difference in the world around them and in their professional career.

To love God with your whole heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbour as yourself, are the principles which guide CHC’s mission and which give shape to their pursuit of higher education within their Christian vision of life. The outworking of this is through CHC’s understanding of a Christian worldview which underpins and informs all of their pursuits. While I believe that CHC will be an excellent partner with the ASC, the city of Brisbane also provides a lovely location for students to be able to experience Australia in new and exciting ways. Brisbane is not only a beautiful river city filled with ferries and bridges and sky-scrapers and quirky art installations, but it’s footfriendly and built for adventure and outdoor experiences.

If you haven’t already, check out the video about the city of Brisbane and Christian Heritage College:

Saying goodbye to Sydney and to Wesley won’t be easy and I know there will be many tears. But I’m looking forward to the learning that ASC students will experience in Brisbane, to the friendships they will make along the way, and to what God will do in their hearts and in their minds as they journey to a new continent and engage with new peoples and new cultures.


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The Red Earth

By Deborah Bitzer

Reproduced with permission from her blog: A Warm Resting Place 

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On Thursday morning we set out on a ten hour bus ride to Condobolin, New South Wales. Each of us carried a sleeping bag, a book bag, and a spirit of adventure as we prepared for a four day visit to the remote Outback of Australia. Along the way we visited an Aboriginal reserve and got to see how Aborigines synthesize their ancient culture with the current culture of Australia. The place we stopped was a meeting house for community and political collaborations. All over the building there were beautiful paintings depicting aboriginal values, spirituality, and daily routines. Many paintings and carvings incorporated a goanna and a snake, which oppose one another as enemies, in order to represent the value of making peace and coming to agreements with those who are different than you. It was a cheerful, thoughtful, and tranquil place to be.

After our short trip to the Aboriginal meeting house we continued on to our final destination, which was a 35,000 acre farm in the middle of nowhere. As we pulled up to our living quarters we could see spindly eucalyptus trees standing proud in the vast landscape, bright yellow wildflowers sprouting up all over the fields, clumps of dead thistle bushes, and stretches of dirt roads the rich orange color of a harvest moon. The sheep station we were staying in stood out on the flat expanse and it was sitting next to the welcome sight of a roaring bonfire, a peaceful river, picnic tables, and a few dirt-covered pick-up trucks, known as utes.

This was indeed the Outback.

After a delicious dinner of burgers and ice-cream for dessert, we went on a kangaroo chase in the eerie darkness of night. We all piled on the back of the ute and held on for dear life as we zoomed across the property, all the while being blasted in the face by the night’s wind and the dust of the dirt road. As we drove along, screaming and laughing from our excitement, we eagerly followed the path of the spotlight until finally we found what we were looking for. The enormous, quirky silhouettes of kangaroos were bouncing along in the distance, hopping and leaping huge lengths, and causing us to cry out with elation. We found a few more groups of kangaroos jumping along in the fields and eventually we drove off the road into the fields and chased after a solo kangaroo, who was showing off by using his tail to walk and stopping to pose for us.

This was indeed the Outback.

It doesn’t get much more authentic than driving along in the back of the ute, getting gusted in the face by a constant flow of freezing, dusty air, and chasing after kangaroos. It was like something out of a travel brochure, yet for the family who lived there, it was a normal way of spending the night after a long day of working on the farm. And this wasn’t even the last of it!

For the next few days we went on even more adventures that helped us see and understand how the Australian land shapes the culture of the people who live off it. The children at the elementary school we visited were basically all related and they talked about their favorite activities which included motorbiking, swimming in the river, and riding horses. During the property tour we saw the vastness of the country and how difficult it is to master the unpredictable, wild Australian land. At the main site of the farm we witnessed the shearing of a sheep and learned about all the hard work and attention that goes into caring for the cattle and making the best use of their resources. At night we laid beneath the most brilliant expanse of stars I have ever seen and we were filled with amazement by the constellations that are familiar to us yet upside-down and backwards. During free time we relaxed by the fire and shared stories that brought our souls closer and helped us understand one another and, in turn, be better understood.

We didn’t spend time on the internet or in front of the television. We were not bombarded by advertisements for the latest fad or pictures of beautiful people who remind us how imperfect we look. We were not mocked by the media or deceived by the constant stream of distorted messages. We were not entrapped by the poisonous grip of pop culture or lost in the hustle and bustle of the city.

Instead we had room to breathe, space to think, and opportunities to be discover. We felt free to communicate openly and vulnerably. We could be seen for who we are rather than judged according to what we have or what we can offer. In the Outback, it doesn’t matter what you look like, who you know, or what you have. What matters is who you are.

Our time in the Outback was the most beautiful and special part of this adventure so far. It allowed me to be known by the other students in the program. To be known by the Lord. To be known by my own soul. To be known by the land itself.

I may not have predicted how exactly I would experience the Australian country, but once I did, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was indeed the Outback.

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Blue Mountains Hike

By Calvin Taylor

Reproduced with permission from http://undergrad-blogs.tiu.edu/2013/08/blue-mountains/

Yesterday, the group went hiking as a part of our Aboriginal culture class. Now, anybody who knows me knows that I am a city boy, and I do not do “nature” things like that – so I was not looking forward to it at all.

However, it was definitely more enjoyable than I had ever expected it to be! We had an early morning because we had to travel further than usual to get there. It was enjoyable because there was purpose behind the hike (not saying that there is not always purpose behind hikes).

We started along the path and on the way we stopped for a number of reasons. We stopped to listen to Aboriginal stories which were definitely interesting seeing as though they are said to be the longest lasting culture on earth. We stopped to pick certain leaves (some we were able to eat or suck on) and to see things that can only be found in Australia.

The ASC group
We also did some face painting (obviously)…

There’s a first time for everything right?

Fun and service placement

By Calvin Taylor

Reproduced with permission from http://undergrad-blogs.tiu.edu/2013/07/fun-and-service-placement/

So earlier this week, one of the students in the group had a birthday. So we went to his homestay and had a birthday party for him. It was loads of fun! We played games, talked, and ate tacos. The tacos were great and for dessert we had carrot cake and some other type of cake. Everything was amazing and pretty much everybody overate.

Most of our ASC family (students)

Most of our ASC family (students)

Best part about it was we are a praying group! After dinner, we broke off into small groups and talked and prayed for each other. It feels like we have known each other forever already. It was a fantastic night.

Every student has a service placement where they have to serve for 35 hours out of the semester. Yesterday, two other students and I went to ours to meet with the Volunteer Coordinator. It was amazing. It is a Jewish Aged Care Home and they have four sites. They are really excited about having us (this is the first time the ASC has partnered with this agency). Most of their residents are actually survivors of the Holocaust. How amazing is that?! I am so excited because we will be able to participate in their Jewish High Holidays. I also met a Rabbi and I will be able to have one-on-one time with him.

KENOSIS: The self-emptying of one’s own will and becoming entirely receptive to God’s divine will [Philippians 2:7]

Excerpt from Fall 2013 student Anna Moga’s blog “The Land of Aus”. Reproduced with permission.

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First week of classes, done! Successful, but a bit stressful. I won’t be doing as much dancing here as I had hoped, but the classes I have will be stretching and challenging in many ways. Homework is already piling up, as things are usually overwhelming in the beginning, but I have faith that I will be able to do well in my classes as long as the beautiful city of Sydney doesn’t distract me too much!

This Saturday morning was my first street teams experience with Hillsong church! Each student in my program must complete 35 hours of service in a service placement we are put in. Couldn’t be happier about working with Hillsong! We saw parts of Sydney that tourists don’t see. My housemate Sarah, a man from Cambodia named Lee-Fong, and I went to government owned apartment buildings, which reeked of toilet and cigarette smoke with graffiti covering the walls. The three of us vacuumed one man’s apartment…he was an outspoken but lonely man with a little something against Americans. The next apartment we visited was this sweet 90-year-old Russian man. We washed his windows and mirrors, and as is Russian tradition, he had us stay and eat biscuits (cookies) and drink some tea. Though the cups were dirty and the biscuits out of date, we were happy to bring this elderly man some company. He told us about how he used to be a boxer, and showed us this BEAUTIFUL picture of him and his wife at age 21. It was the sweetest thing I had ever seen. His wife died 16 years ago and he says he is very sad and alone. My heart breaks for him, but I’m excited to return in a fortnight to talk with him some more. We also spoke with this younger Columbian man who had just moved in, he was very kind. The people we encounter there simply want someone to share tea and talk with. Many people did refuse our service if they knew we were from Hillsong, but we were just there to spread God’s love through service. Hillsong has been working with these people for years and they’ve seen a lot of breakthrough, I feel very blessed to be a part of it!

It is easy to reflect on how much we take for granted after experiences like this. All the “stuff” we feel like we need, which are really all unnecessary. God has called us to be His hands and feet on this Earth, and that does not involve us being distracted by worldly things, but involves helping those in need, and seeing God’s fruit develop from that. It is HIS kingdom we are preparing for, not our own. I know I will be able to learn so much from the people I encounter through street teams, and pray that I can be used in some way for God’s glory!

The Australian Election: Sept 7, 2013

art-abbott-620x349The Australian Federal Election is coming up this week.  As the parties battle it out in the public sphere we recommend two resources to help you think about this election (and elections in general).

Resource #1: Sydney’s own John Dickson on how a Christian should (and should not) vote: Mixing Religion & Politics

Resource #2: The Daily Show’s coverage of the month-long lead up to the Australian Federal Election.  Quirky, funny, slightly rude, but also enlightening for Americans to consider the differences between Australian and American elections: Australian Elections 2013

Enjoy!