Meeting Solomon

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It was only around 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning but the overwhelming smell of alcohol was unmistakable. I don’t know if he hard started early or perhaps had over done it on Friday night. Perhaps it was both.

We were staking our claim on a good position to watch The Giants, part of the Perth Festival. Solomon came wandering along pulling a suitcase behind him. I assumed that his case held all his earthly belongings but assumptions can often be wrong.

He was a short, cheerful man. When he laughed, as he did often, he revealed his few remaining teeth. My guess is that the streets of Perth are is home. He approached me ready for a chat. He held out his hand and I shook it as he greeted me. It was the first of many times we’d shake hands during our conversation. His speech was at times garbled and almost unintelligible but at other times I’d catch bits and pieces of his story.

Solomon came to Australia quite some years ago. He’s from Ghana. He told me as much several times. He originally settled in Adelaide and studied for a Masters in Agriculture at Adelaide University. I tried to find out if he ever used his studies but I couldn’t understand his response.

He has three boys. Judging by Solomon’s age I imagine they’re grown now. I wonder if they know where their dad is. I wonder if he knows where they are. I asked how old they would be and he started telling me his eldest son is named Solomon Junior. His boys were born to a German woman in Adelaide.

Within a few minutes we had unpacked a fair bit of his story but I’m sure there was much, much more to tell.

Why did he leave Ghana? Why did he come to Australia? How long has called the streets home?

Then there are the deeper questions. What happened in his life to bring him to this point? Was there a traumatic life event that caused him to turn to drinking or was it his drinking that led to him to this point in life?

I wonder what lies in Solomon’s future. I wonder how deep the wounds are that lie beneath his cheerfulness. How is it that in such a rich country there are people living on the streets.

I also wonder how much more likely we’d be to provide help if we knew and understood some of the stories behind the homeless in our cities.

Meeting Solomon was a good reminder that we shouldn’t be too quick to make judgements and that there is much to be learned from hearing the stories that lie just under the surface of everyone we meet.


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Who can you trust with your money?

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Part of my job is to let people know about the opportunities to help children who are in desperate poverty. Many times when I’ve spoken to people I’m asked about how much money actually goes towards helping children and how much is used in administration and for other costs. Most of the time that question is genuine, coming from people who want to ensure that their money is being used wisely.

So how do we really know that an organisaton is using money well and is doing what they say they’ll do with your money?

Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator is an independent charity evaluator which works to inform those of us who want to help others but need to know if the money we give is actually doing what it should be doing. They check the financial health, accountability and transparency of thousands of charities. Those put under the microscope range from faith based and secular agencies working in developing countries to organisations working within the U.S. for causes like fighting cancer through to a foundation giving grants to shooting sports. They’ve just released their 14th annual research findings.

As someone who works for Compassion, I’m more than happy to be able to point people to independent evaluations of our work. I know that what we do is making a huge difference because I’ve seen it first hand, but being able to say to people, “Don’t just take my word for it” is extremely important. It’s good to see that Compassion has once again found itself at the top of the ratings.

Compassion International’s outstanding financial stewardship and commitment to accountability and transparency has earned the ministry four out of four stars – Charity Navigator’s highest rating – for the 14th year in a row. Charity Navigator is America’s largest independent charity evaluator. The ranking places Compassion among the top 1 percent of nonprofits reviewed and first on Charity Navigator’s list of top 10 Charities with the Most Consecutive 4-Star Ratings. – Compassion News

Wow. Once again Compassion is in the top 1% of the thousands of charities that were reviewed. As you can imagine, that gives me extreme confidence when I talk to friends, supporters, pastors and churches about how Compassion truly is releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Charity Navigator’s President and CEO, Ken Berger explains a little of what that actually means for those looking for an effective way of helping those in need of our help.

“Less than one percent of the charities we rate have received at least 14 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Compassion International outperforms most other charities in America,” said Ken Berger, president and CEO of Charity Navigator. “This ‘exceptional designation from Charity Navigator differentiates Compassion from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust.” – Compassion News

I work for Compassion because I am convinced that there is no more effective organisation serving the world’s poor. I have seen no other method of working with those in poverty that even comes close to the way that Compassion is working.

That’s not the marketing spin of someone who works for the organisation, it’s the heartfelt conviction of someone who has seen the light streaming in to some very dark corners of this world and wants to be part of seeing more light and hope filling the lives of those around the world who are the poorest of the poor.

“Financial integrity is more than a priority at Compassion,” said Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, president and CEO of Compassion International. “It’s a passion and deeply held value. Donors can rest assured that their hard-earned dollars are being used efficiently and wisely to serve some of the poorest children in the world. And we cannot forget that the ministry’s health comes directly from God blessing the passionate commitment of our children’s loving caregivers, partner churches, sponsors, donors, advocates and staff.” – Compassion News

If you are keen to see the end of extreme poverty, can I encourage you to do the research and find an organisation you can trust to do the job they promise to do. For me, the results are in and they point directly to Compassion. If you want to find out more about what Compassion does, just head to the website.


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Soundtrack of My Life – Awkward Age


Highlighting some of the songs that have been part of the soundtrack of my life.

When I was young I would see older people as having it all together. I wondered when I might reach that point when I knew all I needed to know and had life completely figured out. I’m still waiting for that time and unless I’m very much mistaken, so are you.

Sure, we are constantly growing in knowledge and life lessons but I think we’re always on a journey.

Most of us have felt the weight of unrealistic expectations and as life goes on we find more and more there are times that we’re left with a gnawing feeling that we’re never going to have it all together. Many are left wondering when that pressure will finally crush them.

I reckon British singer/songwriter Joe Jackson described it pretty well in his song Awkward Age where he identifies with a fifteen year old who’s struggling with life. He tells her she’s just an an awkward age before admitting that some of that awkwardness never wears off.

The Youtube clip below is only the audio and a picture of the album but have a listen anyway. The lyrics are below.

Awkward Age – Joe Jackson

I should have know that you were only just fifteen
You had a scowl like a Klingon beauty queen
Old enough to stand out but too young to stand with pride
So uncomfortable in your messed-up skin
And the cool parties never let you in
I can still relate to being left so high and dry
So don’t cry, you’re just at an awkward age

We’ll all be fine, disgraceful under pressure
Don’t toe the line, you’re just at an awkward age
Don’t cry

You look at me like I know what’s going on
I’m looking back and I wonder what went wrong
I really thought by now a few things might just clarify
I got a mind that goes out to lunch for days
And a body that sometimes disobeys
I get into the parties but I hate them ’cause I’m shy
Oh my, I’m still at an awkward age

We’ll all be fine, disgraceful under pressure
Don’t toe the line, you’re just at an awkward age
Don’t cry

We’re supposed to be happy, supposed to be tough
Supposed to be flawless and buy the right stuff
They want us all swimming don’t care if we drown
So don’t let ‘em take you down
It’s a scary mountain to climb up without a guide
Besides we live in an awkward age

We’ll all be fine, disgraceful under pressure
Don’t toe the line, you’re just at an awkward age
Don’t cry

Towards the end of the song he sings, It’s a scary mountain to climb up without a guide. I agree. That’s why I’m glad I have someone who’s a guide, in fact far more than a guide, who helps make sense of my awkwardness. In times of pressure or confusion the words Jesus spoke around 2000 years ago are of great comfort.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or illfitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. – Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)


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A Long Way to Ride a Bike

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Earlier this week I posted a video of my first trip to India in February 2003. That’s now got me thinking of later that same year when I cycled in a team from Perth, Western Australia, to Hobart, Tasmania. 4233.77km in 32 days.

I’ve cycled the Nullarbor five times in all. My first trip was a ride from Perth to Canberra in 1987. I did the same journey with a different route the following year. In 1990 I was part of team that cycled from Perth to Adelaide. It was a decade before my next crossing in 2000 when a large group cycled from Perth to Sydney, arriving just before the start of the Sydney Olympics.

The ride from Perth to Hobart in 2003 is my most recent Nullarbor crossing and I reckon it’s about time I went for number six.

Each of the rides was with The Bible Society as part of their Bike for Bibles program.

Check out the video to see 32 days of riding reduced to three and a half minutes.

So … 2016? Do you want to come for a ride? I’m looking at the possibility of Perth to Newcastle, raising money for Compassion.


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Australia and India Celebrate

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While in Australia millions are celebrating Australia Day, half a world away India is celebrating Republic Day.

Though India became a free nation on August 15, 1947, it declared itself a Sovereign, Democratic and Republic state with the adoption of the Constitution on January 26, 1950.

A salute of 21 guns and the unfurling of the Indian National Flag by Dr. Rajendra Prasad heralded the historic birth of the Indian Republic on that day. Thereafter 26th of January was decreed a national holiday and was recognised as the Republic Day of India.

The Constitution gave the citizens of India the power to choose their own government and paved the way for democracy. Dr. Rajendra Prasad took oath as the first President of India at the Durbar Hall in Government House and this was followed by the Presidential drive along a five-mile route to the Irwin Stadium, where he unfurled the National Flag. – Know India

I’ve had the privilege of visiting India three times over several years. It’s a truly amazing place. Below is a video of my first trip to India in 2003. I was joined by several locals to ride from Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, to Delhi, as well as cycling around Delhi. I was there as a guest of the Bible Society.


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