Sushi, Service, Fireworks and Frustrations

Excerpt from Spring 2013 student Fiona Tranquillo’s blog “My Aussieland Adventure”. Reproduced with permission http://myaussielandadventure.blogspot.com.au/

My first week of classes had a very delicious ending… sushi!!! As I mentioned earlier, my host mom is from Singapore, so many of the dinners we have are oriental. On Friday, she told Tarah and me that she was going to teach us how to make sushi! I had mixed feelings. First let me say, I do NOT do raw fish… ew. Just thinking about it gives me the heeby jeebies (I think I just made up that spelling). I was QUITE relieved to see that everything she had for us to use was fully cooked. It was the sweetest thing… Bee-Hoon got everything totally prepped and set up a little sushi rolling station for each of us. She had prepared cucumber, carrots, crab, omelette strips, chicken, and radish. I put everything in every roll and it was SO delicious. Also, good news, I wrote down all of Bee-Hoon’s tricks for the sushi so that I can repeat it at home! This was not easy, however. Bee-Hoon, being quite the thrifty one, told us that taking her recipe AND her being in our blogs was going to require a contract and some major cash. Good news, though, we were able to pull it out of her, free of charge. 😉

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Fiona and her host mom

I think I may have become a sushaholic.

The best part about the night, however, wasn’t just eating the sushi. More than that, I felt like I really connected with my host family and started to feel “at home” for the first time. I was able to joke with them, laugh with them, and just be myself. I went to bed feeling very thankful.

Saturday started off bright and EARLY. Part of the ASC program is that all participants are required to put in 35 hours of service in a placement of their choosing. I, along with about 7 other ASC students, was placed on the Hillsong Street Team. This is a group of people from Hillsong Church and Hillsong College that go out every Saturday morning to different harder areas of town, knock on doors, and simply build relationships and help in any way they can. If often consists of yard work, but other times is just being good company for people who are often lacking in that area.

It was a really neat experience. Most of my group’s time was spent talking with this older woman named Shirley. We didn’t clean her house, preach the Gospel, or bring radical change… we simply sat and enjoyed chatting with her and listening to whatever she had to say. This was a bit of a challenge for me. So many Americans are engrained with the belief that service means doing. I left feeling like I hadn’t actually DONE anything to help. The more I’ve thought about it, however, the more I am finding value in the simple act of being there for Shirley and building a relationship with her… showing her that we care. I think that being on this team will challenge my view of service and teach me that spreading God’s love and light doesn’t necessarily mean serving a meal or handing out Bibles.

Saturday had a pretty slam-bang finish. I’m not sure what the occasion was or how often it happens, but we had heard that there was going to be fireworks that night. To sum it up… it was magical. Darling Harbor is one of my favourite spots so far, and seeing it lit up with fireworks was incredible. The icing on the cake was some really good conversations with a couple of girls in the group… some serious bonding, which I’m a huge fan of.

There were many wonderful highlights of the weekend, but there was also a lot of frustration. I’ve found myself being frustrated that Australian wifi stinks and that we’re never allowed to use it. I’ve found myself being frustrated with how stinkin’ expensive everything is. I’ve found myself being frustrated with how long public transportation takes. Most of all, I’ve found myself being frustrated with myself for being so darn frustrated all the time! I was expecting everything to be easy and happy-go-lucky, but it hasn’t really been that way a lot of the time. It is in these moments, though, where the Lord is teaching me so much. First of all, the things that are frustrating me are so trivial, and I need to open my eyes to the world around me and to the needs of others. Like seriously… being frustrated about wifi?? Let’s be real, Fiona. Second, when things really are hard… that’s okay! I have been clinging to the words of Psalm 34 that tell us that, as Christians, things are not going to be easy. Our hope is not in a promise of all happy-go-lucky circumstances, but rather, our hope is in a God who will be with us and FOR us no matter what the circumstances are! It is because of that hope that we can “bless the Lord at all times” and “have His praise continually on our lips.”

Praising Him in the good and the hard,

Fiona

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Orientation in the City

Turning over a new leaf, the ASC decided that trying orientation in the city would be a nice approach to welcoming the new batch of ASC students.

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So excited to see the new students!

At first it took some time for the students to learn how to get around.

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There were rivers to cross.

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And mountains to climb.

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After some lunch and a walk around they were ready to go.

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The Hope Collective: Making a Difference through Music

Originally posted on Wesley Institute’s website: http://www.wi.edu.au/news/hope-collective

Written by: 

“As musicians living in suburban Australia with a young family, we are thankful for the relatively easy life we have. But for us, that’s not enough. We want to make a difference in this world.”

– Lauren Moxey, 2006 Bachelor of Music Alumnus

Tim and Lauren Moxey studied the Bachelor of Music at Wesley Institute. Lauren graduated from the program in 2006, while Tim completed further studies and finished his degree in 2008 at the University of Central Queensland. The married couple still reflects very fondly on their time at Wesley Institute, says Lauren, not the least reason being it is the place where they met! Now, six years on from their studies, Tim and Lauren have embarked on a new creative pursuit with global implications.

Tim and Lauren are founders of The Hope Collective: Making a Difference through Music. The organisation raises awareness and funds for projects around the world that restore life, health, justice, hope and dignity. “Our model is simple”, say Lauren. “We create professional CDs of beautiful music, and $10 from every CD goes directly to charity. The other half will be used to fund future projects. Each album is created for a specific organisation or project.”

The first album, Stargazing, has recently been released through The Hope Collective. Tim provides lead vocals, accompanied by Australian music legend, Mark Isaacs, on piano. All 15 songs on the album are ‘old favourites’, including “Bridge over Troubled Water”, “My Favourite Things”, “Another Day in Paradise”, “Both Sides Now” and more.

Stargazing will directly support the work of TEAR Australia and its partner, United Mission to Nepal (UMN). Specifically, funds raised go to UMN Cluster Program: Maternal & Child Health. This program is addressing horrific child and maternal mortality rates in remote Nepali villages by providing prenatal care and 24-hour birthing centres, as well as antenatal care for the mothers.

“Music is beautiful and inspiring and enjoyable. We want to use it to make a difference with our lives, and we want to be at least a very small part of addressing social injustice”, say Lauren. “Out of this desire, The Hope Collective was born. It’s our way of using our gifts to bring positive change where it is needed most.”

For further information on The Hope Collective and to purchase Stargazing, visit www.thehopecollective.com.au. CDs cost $20 (plus postage).HopeCollective

On behalf of Wesley Institute, we heartily congratulate Tim and Lauren for what they’ve accomplished through The Hope Collective! At Wesley Institute, we seek to benefit our community as we equip people for Christian life and leadership in a range of influential vocations, and are so encouraged to see our alumni using their gifts and skills to positively impact communities around Australia and the world.

*Artwork for ‘The Hope Collective’ by Kim Hall, Wesley Institute Bachelor of Graphic Design Alumnus

Wesley Institute Alumni Theatre Company Performs at the Seymour Centre

Originally posted on Wesley Institute’s website: http://www.wi.edu.au/news/twisted-tree-theatre-seymour-centre

Wesley Institute’s alumni theatre company, Twisted Tree Theatre, will be presenting The Way of All Fish at the high-profile performing arts space, the Seymour Centre, from 30 October – 1 November.

Twisted Tree Theatre began in 2007 with the purpose of providing Wesley Institute alumni a platform for their theatrical endeavours. In an industry where artists are often confronted with obstacles, Twisted Tree Theatre supports alumni by offering a range of opportunities to develop skills in performing, production, marketing, budgeting and theatre administration, with the aim of producing professional and public work. Alumni are welcome to approach the company at any time with their creative ideas and scripts.

In The Way of All Fish, a one-act play by renowned playwright Elaine May, nothing is as it seems. Having been described as the The Devil Wears Prada meets The Office, this uniquely executed production presents an hilarious and revealing exploration of powerThe Way of All Fish in the modern-day workplace.

The Way of All Fish will be produced, directed, stage-managed and performed entirely by alumni of Wesley Institute’s Bachelor of Dramatic Art. Hailey McQueen (2002 graduate) and Sarah Farmer (2003 graduate) have taken on the play’s lead roles, and Neridah Morris (2006 graduate) will serve as Stage Manager. Naomi Stewart (2002 graduate) is making her debut with Twisted Tree Theatre as director.

Since graduating from Wesley Institute, Naomi completed a Teaching degree and went on to teach Drama and Dance at the HSC level. She also studied extensively in London with exclusive schools, including LABAN Contemporary Dance and Movement Academy and The Circus School. Her talent is in combining physical theatre and comic realism.

“In The Way of All Fish, we are creating something physical, something very funny and something through which audience members will see elements of themselves,” said Naomi.

Wesley Institute congratulates Twisted Tree Theatre on its success, and is proud of the commitment of our alumni to use their skills and areas of expertise for the benefit of their communities.

To book tickets to The Way of All Fish, please click here. For further information on Twisted Tree Theatre, visit their Facebook page.

‘Big Questions’, a documentary series by Grenville Kent, Update

Used with permission and originally posted on Wesley Institute’s website: http://www.wi.edu.au/news/big-questions-documentary-series-grenville-kent

Dr Grenville Kent, film producer, and lecturer in Old Testament at Wesley Institute, has been involved in an ongoing project over the last few years, creating a 13-episode documentary series titled ‘Big Questions: Does God Exist.’

He recently interviewed Professor Daniel Dennett, leading New Atheist, author of Breaking The Spell: Religion As A Natural Phenomenon, philosopher and neuroscientist. In the personal story below, Grenville reflects on this recent ‘episode’ of his ‘Big Questions’ journey, and the imperativeness of ‘friendly dialogue’ in an often unfriendly debate.

Listening to Atheists

I shouldn’t have told the taxi driver I was going to the Atheist Convention.  ‘So they’ll sit around saying there’s nothing up there, it’s nothing?’, he said in a Middle Eastern  accent, fingering his prayer beads.  ‘These people are mad!’

‘It’s a bit more than that… ‘, I started to say.

‘These people want two men to marry each other, but they can’t have no children, which proves them they’re wrong.  These f***ing people ought to be shot.’  He drove on angrily, making the wooden cross swing faster from his rear view mirror.  Did he remember that the man on it never forced anyone to obey, and was killed by religious intolerance?  I kept quiet.  Some beliefs are more like prejudice, out of reach of reason.

Is this what atheists put up with?  If you were parented or taught by a believer like this, atheism might look open-minded and attractive.

Inside, comedians started carpet-bombing religion.  ‘To anyone who has lost a child, let me say: God loves you, so he’ll burn your baby in hell forever and ever and it’s your fault.  You didn’t ask a paedophile priest to hold him and dribble water on his head to wash away the Original Sin of his ancestor Adam, who the church officially says never actually existed.’  First people wince, then there is deafening laughter and applause from the 4000-strong crowd, twice as many as last year.  Yet as I listen, I realise they’re attacking another god, a God of Straw, not the God of the Bible.

Outside, Muslim protesters were chanting that Christopher Hitchens, the atheist writer who recently died, would burn in hell.  I don’t feel qualified to judge.

I notice the T-shirts.  ‘Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.’  (Witty line, but there aren’t many people in either group.)  ‘Forget Jesus.  The stars died so you could be born.’  ‘Smile, there is no hell.’  ‘God is not my drug of choice.’

The conference has the celebrity atheists – Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, P.Z. Myers, Ayaan Hirsi Ali – and is called a ‘Celebration of Reason.’  Reason is worth celebrating, and I want a faith that is reasonable, not blind.  But where did we get reason?  Did mere matter become conscious on its own?  Did the human brain, easily the most complex object we know, assemble from chemicals by chance alone?  Or is it more likely that our reason came from another Mind?  I’m producing a film about this in the Big Questions series.

big questionsI find some atheists want honest dialogue, while others take cheap shots and attack straw man arguments, acting like intolerant fundamentalists – but I’ve heard some Christians do the same.  Is anyone actually listening fairly?  We need respectful dialogue, not tribal warfare.  Atheists have reason and intuition, the ability to love, some innate knowledge of right and wrong, a sense of purpose – because they are created in God’s image, whether they recognise it or not.  Some have never heard good reasons to believe, and have rejected illogical church dogma.  Some have been abused by Christians.  Many are influenced by scientists who act like all the evidence goes one way, and who wallpaper over large gaps in the naturalist account of how we got here.

I know of only one way to reach them: friendly dialogue.

Peter (1 Peter 3:15) tells Christians to do three things.  One, ‘Consecrate yourself to Christ as Lord.’  That is, recognise your own need of a Saviour and spiritual transformation.  That leaves no room for smugness.

Two, ‘Be always ready to give a reason for the hope you have.’  A reason (Greek apologia) means a reasoned defence, a logical case for something.  So, as atheists are becoming a growing segment in Western countries, the church needs to take their view seriously and come up with a response, a logical case that explains why faith makes sense, not just as a private feeling.  I’m encouraged to see Christians reading authors who do this – John Lennox, Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, Ravi Zaccharias, John Dickson and Alister McGrath.  (You can find their talks on YouTube.) Most times when I talk with an atheist, I realise my ignorance on yet another topic, and go home to dig deeper.

Three, ‘Do this with gentleness and respect.’  I need to respect people who have prayed and felt unanswered, who feel they’re on a mudball hurtling through space, unguided, unparented, trying to make their own meaning and purpose and to live their lives as best they can.  I need to respect their intelligence in how I present Christianity.  Wouldn’t the Creator of the brain value their thoughts and experiences, even as he tries to persuade them towards truth?  Didn’t he welcome the probing questions and fingers of ‘Doubting’ Thomas?  If a loving father is calling them home, how could I possibly represent Him by arrogance or rudeness?  I need to take a different road from my taxi driver.

And so I sneak into the convention centre’s Prayer Room – it’s not like anyone was using it – and ask for love and logic as I interview celebrity atheists. I pray that I’ll really listen, and make films for that will begin to answer their real questions. I hope they will join me in questioning, wondering and enquiring in God’s big universe.  Forever.

*Photo: Dr Grenville Kent (right) with Professor Daniel Dennett (left).

Heavy as a History Book

by Aubrey Simmons

The lyrical artists Dry the River drones in one of their songs, “As heavy as the history books can be, come carry them with me.”  As I thought about a person that would be the epitome of an Australian born and raised citizen this song kept making me ponder, who is it that really knows what it means to hold the heaviness of the history book in their hands?  After coming to the young nation of Australia I became aware that the Australian history book is comparatively thin and sparse, however, it is still ink blotted with hardship and is heavy with grief.  As I began to get to know the homeless population in Sydney, I was bombarded day by day with the depth of hurt and isolation that they feel on an hourly basis.  They are on the outside, on the fringes, looking in.  The homeless are the people who tell the story of what it means to be affected and dejected as a result of various events in their history.  The homeless are the epitome of the Australian battler, which characterizes this country.

 

A wise fortune cookie once instructed me with the Chinese proverb, “We see what is behind our eyes”.  Before getting to know those people who sink into the landscape of the city, I had been seeing what was behind my own eyes.  I thought I knew what they were like and why they had ended up begging and isolated to the streets. Perception is a funny thing.  I have realized that most of the time my perceptions are truly tinted, tainted, and terribly mistaken!  I was not actually seeing the people who I walked past everyday on the streets in Sydney.  Homeless people do not have one face, nor is it their lack of address that defines them.

 

I cannot even begin to recall all of the stories that I was privileged to hear, but one man in particular changed my views of homelessness completely.  He said, “I am in an ebb and flow, one day I may be on the streets and the next someone might be by my side helping me to aspire to something better.  I’m just always trying to pay it forward.  Today you may be helping me, but tomorrow I might be in the position of helping you.”  Hospitality was being shown to me by the homeless in that one statement.  He was inviting me to see what it means to have true fellowship and community.  Another man said, “I am a very lonely man.  My heart is so filled with love that it hurts like hell and there is nobody to give it to – or to be more precise, I come across so very few people who will receive it…but sometimes another bloke tries to help you and you know that’s what mates are for.”

 

I realized that there is no pretense on the streets in Australia.  They treat each other with true comradery. On the streets is where true mateship occurs.  Coming into homeless ministries I felt naïve and the only thing that I knew for certainty was— that I did not understand any of them at all.  As my Mary-Janes became smoldered by the city streets, however, one thing I know now is that the face of the homeless cannot be pinned down, just as their address cannot be placed in distinctly one location.  The homeless are the true Australian battlers who have seen all there is to see in the Australian life.  It is not about coming to the homeless to try figure them out and to dissect them, but to hear about everything their history book contains, with all its pains and burdens, and to help them carry their memories and their fears.