Week 1 Adventures

Excerpt from Spring 2017 student Tarian Atallah “Adventures in a Foreign Land – a reflection on life being lived in Brisbane, Australia. Reproduced with permission.

So after 24 + hours of traveling I made it to Australia! What an adventure it was just to get here! The flights were not nearly as hard as I thought they were going to be but I will admit that I am trying to not think about the fact that I have to do it again to come back to the states.

I landed around 7am Tuesday Brisbane time which allowed me to skip most of the jet lag which was insanely helpful. That same day all the International Students (yes it is weird to call myself that) walked about 7miles (which is about 11.26 km) around Brisbane. I saw everything from skyscrapers to palm trees to weird lizards roaming freely. I also traveled on a boat that took me across the Brisbane River which winds throughout the city. This day was exhausting, sweaty, and hot but so so so surreal. Throughout the day I found myself in awe that I was ACTUALLY here in this place. To be honest I really don’t have the words to express how grateful and happy I am to know that I have the chance to live here.

The next day, Wednesday, was filled with orientation materials about what it is like to actually live here and take classes in a foreign place. This day was also filled with a time of reflection and communion. While sitting outside under a palm tree in about 85 degree weather I found myself having a changed perspective. All the doubt and fear I had about not being at Cairn University anymore was completely gone. I found myself, in a sense, indebted and grateful for all the people who still told me to just go on this trip. I so easily almost did not come on this trip and am glad that the Lord was speaking to me through these people. Brisbane, Australia (and its surrounding areas) are seriously magical and I find myself undeserving of an opportunity like this. Praise the Lord! I have also found myself needing to trust and rely on the Lord in ways I haven’t in the past. In a sense I have been plopped into this place so foreign and Him and only Him can bring me through. When I realized this I found myself so so so humbled.

The next two days were filled with orientation with other Australians at Christian Heritage College (where I am attending) and a beach day down on the Gold Coast. Because the sun is 7 TIMES hotter here I totally got burnt but now it is turning into a cool tan I guess haha.

Then on Friday I moved into my host family’s house where I will live for the rest of my time here. There is a dad, mom, daughter, and two other international students, one from China and another from Malaysia. They also have a very cute Pomeranian, named Olliee, who snuggled with me on the first day. This family is originally from South Africa which gives me the opportunity to not only learn about the Australian culture but the South African.

And so here is the deal, before coming here so many people said to me, “well isn’t Australia just like America?” And I am here to say that it is NOT! I have only been here for just under a week and I can already tell you almost everything is different. Obviously the seasons are different so I basically went from the dead of winter into 90 degree weather. Australia uses the metric system and Celsius so I very often find myself unsure of distances, weights, and what the temperature actually is haha.  I have found that Australians tend to be a bit friendlier that I am used to having grown up right outside Boston. Multiple bats have flown over me at night which is COMPLETELY foreign to me. Morning and afternoon tea are often partaken in. And the fact that Australians drive on the left will be something that will always throw me off. These are just a few of the many things I have found myself needing to process through. In a sense this past week has been easy considering I haven’t started classes yet but my mind has been overflown with information and new ways to live life. When I say that almost everything about this experience is different than what I am used to I really mean it.

I recently came upon a quote that read “Yet departure from home is insufficient in and of itself; it does not guarantee a transformative journey. Some…board an airplane without ever leaving home; others arrive in a new place but never engage, preferring instead to live as consumers, wandering about seeking the next self-affirming experience.” But I hope that this experience is the opposite for me. Instead I hope that is more like this quote from Henri Nouwen, “Following Jesus involves leaving the comfortable place and going to the place that is outside our comfort zone. Spiritual displacement is what is called for. The dictionary definition says that to displace is ‘to move or to shift from the ordinary or proper place. As a ship at sea displaces water, so we are displaced when something greater than ourselves moves us in a new direction or state of being. For displacement to be a real discipline, it has to be voluntary.” My prayer has been that I would be willing to embrace the unknown and to, in a sense, not be and American in an unfamiliar land but to be so immersed in the culture that I become like an Aussie.

From Linear to Circular: An Indigenous View of Returning Home

Excerpt from Fall 2014 student Tim Almquist’s blog “A Season Down Under“. Reproduced with permission.

“Our Western dualistic minds do not process paradoxes very well. Without contemplative minds, we do not know how to hold creative tensions. We are better at rushing to judgement and demanding complete resolution to things before we have learned what they have to teach us.” 
– Richard Rohr

“What Western Christians struggle with, then, is a dualistic belief that for God to be in something, that thing must transcend the ordinary—it must become outwardly different in order to distance itself from the natural, evil, world and thus become “Christian.” They cannot accept a natural expression of God among us. This is in absolute contradiction to what the Bible teaches in John 1:14: and the Word [God] became flesh and dwelt among us.”
– Richard Twiss

“You don’t find truth. Truth finds you.” 
– A wise Australian friend

“Study abroad students often go home more uncertain, but more committed.”
– Australia Studies Centre Program Director

As I began to prepare for coming to Australia, I made a mental list of the many personal things I was going to achieve while transcending the barriers of the community I call home. I don’t exactly know where this mindset came from: that because I was off on an international adventure I would somehow find the answers to different questions I’ve been asking myself in the past couple years. More broadly, they are questions like: what will you do with your life?, and when will you begin?  I often struggle to make or give meaning to things and so I find myself sitting and wondering when it’ll come. I wait for reasons, rhymes, certainties, patterns and answers, as if God would just hand me a prompt, so I can get on with it. The problem with this way of living, is that most things don’t actually work out in such a conveniently ordered fashion. We are often left with choices to make and sacrifices to risk. I want to suggest, that we (assuming I’m not alone) find ourselves in this trap because it has something to do with the West; particularly the Western understanding of Time. Below I have drawn a simple illustration of the difference between the Western and Indigenous understandings of time:

TIME

While those of us with a Western worldview default to a linear sense of time, the Indigenous worldview understands time circularly. What does all this abstract theory have to do with my time in Australia? Well, back to those unanswered questions I had at the beginning of my semester, believe it or not, I head home in less than a week and according to the linear worldview, they are still unanswered. And I do believe at some point certain things will become clearer and I will have more direction about post-college life. It just feels liberating to try and commit to an Indigenous understanding of time, not because it means I won’t have to make some choices and take some risks, but because it does a better job at allowing me to experience the meaning of life interwoven between past, present and future. The Western concept pulls up its boot straps never looking back, while the Indigenous view has a center to revolve around. I will describe this with an example from class a couple weeks ago.

I woke up the last day of my Aboriginal cultures class with a significant thought. The thought was that I came all the way here to Australia, expecting to change and grow as a person. I realized that it doesn’t matter what you do in life, it’s not material things or even grand adventures like studying abroad that truly change and satisfy you. Implicitly and explicitly, you will learn and grow and I have learned a lot. Really though, what matters is not one more experience or one more accomplishment, but it is the people we are in relationship with that counts as a worthy pursuit in everything before us. I know that sounds sweet and cliche, but do think with me for a minute about how easily we make our lives about accomplishment rather than contentment or conquest instead of love. It’s like we never learned how to be still and know that God is God, delighting and trusting in that. On that same day I woke up with this significant but simple thought, I found myself seated on the dry ground in a circle with a number of Aboriginal women as kookaburras sang from the gum trees surrounding us. We learned from them how to interpret Aboriginal art theologically and watched as they danced the story of salvation in Christ. A missionary who joined us helped bridge the gap between Indigenous and Western and gave us examples of how Westerners tend to view the world. One thing he said was “it’s not about tasks, it’s about relationships.” This quickly connected with the thought I had earlier that morning. The people in our lives are what matter, rather than the things we get done or the answers we discover. There will always be people to share life with, either directly or indirectly and I have learned a deeper sense of what that means by being abroad for the semester. Despite all the places I’ve traveled to, papers I’ve written or even those bright mornings out on the veranda when I journaled and read, there’s nothing about my adventure as important as sharing it with other people who are trying to make their way in the world just like me.

Warlpiri

As I prepare for my return home, it is tempting to want to tie it all up and simplify it into pictures, souvenirs and drawn out journal entries. Instead, I feel the need to rest and release the labels and categories of ordered control from my weak grip. This season has been special in many ways. It has also been a reminder that life is simple and ordinary, even on the other side of the globe. I will be home after enduring several more hours on a plane and the mystery of time travel and be presented with the same invitation I was given before I left. And this invitation is sacred as it comes from our Creator saying:

“I know you have a lot of questions, unresolved tensions, and life often feels overwhelming with paradox and a lack of certainty. Instead of living each day in fear, you are invited to partake in a revolving communal journey of simple yet eternal redemption. There is a harmony to be had with other people and the land on which you wander. It is a harmony singing the songs of everyday love and grace. Everyone’s invited. Even you.”

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.