Suzanne Burns – The Accidental Social Worker

Life for Suzanne Burns went off the rails when she left home as a young woman. From a very sheltered upbringing, she soon found herself using drugs and alcohol and shortly afterwards becoming a single mother.

Suzanne has spent the last 20 years serving others. Part of that service includes being the founder and executive director of Foundation House, a maternity home for pregnant and homeless women, which offers educational and job training programs.

Her story is inspiring and she is this week’s guest on Bleeding Daylight. Find Bleeding Daylight wherever you listen to podcasts or at listen by pressing play on the audio player below.



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Defeating the Overwhelming

It’s too big. I can’t do it. I can’t cope.

If you haven’t said it out loud, you’ve probably heard your internal voice whisper those words or something similar a number of times over the years. I know I have.

Is there something overwhelming waiting for you in 2021? Does it all seem too much?

We talk about having mountains to climb and I have a couple of giant mountains ahead of me this year. My biggest problem with climbing mountains is that I have a fear of heights. As well as the herculean task of climbing, I have to deal with all the doubts and fears along the way.

How did we get here?

While 2020 seemed to last for years, we’ve finally left it in the past and arrived on the shores of 2021. That’s scary because I can no longer put off the urgency of what I’ll be doing ths year by saying, ‘next year’.

This is where reality bites. In just 37 weeks I hope to begin cycling right across Australia. I am currently in no shape to take on such a challenge.

Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast will start on Saturday the 18th of September. Together with around 30 other cyclists I’ll arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, NSW on Wednesday the 20th of October, having cycled over 4,200 km. There’ll be 28 riding days and 5 rest days. The average riding distance for those riding days will be just over 150 km. Our longest days will be just under 200 km.

I have quite some experience with the ride aspect of the trip having cycled across Australia six times previously but fond memories won’t get me there.

I’ve continued to age since my last crossing and I know that the distances will feel longer. The training will be harder. The aches will last longer.

This year’s ride is a huge mountain.

So, what’s getting me back on my bike if it’s really that hard?

That’s the other mountain.

For just over seven years I’ve been working for Compassion Australia, a Christian international holistic child development organisation.

I’ve visited Compassion’s work in 7 of the 25 developing countries we serve and I’ve met hundreds of children and their families who are being released from poverty in Jesus’ name.

The task of turning the tide on global poverty has been hard enough, but the current pandemic is estimated to push around 150 million more people into extreme poverty. There is an urgent need to raise and direct funds to those who have been most affected. A colossal mountain.

Time to start climbing.

It’s the start of 2021. We’re at base camp. Time to begin the climb … the arduous, at times seemingly impossible, climb.

I’ll begin by reminding myself that I’ve cycled those distances before and that despite my ageing body, for the sake of the most vulnerable, children living in poverty, I can do it again. It’ll take a lot of training and persistence but I can reach that peak.

Of course, all that work will be wasted if it doesn’t produce resources to help those in most need.

Hand me the harness.

I won’t ask you to join me on a bike but I do need your help to overcome these challenges.

Your encouragement as I train is vital. There’ll be days when it’ll be ‘too windy’, ‘too hot’, ‘too wet’ to train. On those days it’ll be easier to stay in bed so I’ll need your encouragement to keep me motivated.

I’ll also need you to donate whatever you can to help me reach my $25,000 target. I don’t know how I’ll get there without you.

You can sponsor a child living in poverty or make a straight donation.

Sponsorship gives kids safe places to play, the chance to see a doctor when they’re sick, education, and the opportunity to discover Jesus’ incredible love for them.

A donation will be put to immediate use in helping those affected by the pandemic.

Will you help me climb a couple of mountains this year by giving more children a chance to live, dream and hope? Sponsor a child today or donate now through my fundraising page.



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2021 Isn’t a Reset Button

According to a large section of the world’s population it’s been the worst year in our lifetime. 2020 started with such promise but with 20/20 hindsight, we realise it was not the year we’d hoped to experience.

While shopping a couple of days ago I noticed a distinct difference in the ‘new year’ merchandise on offer. In previous years there’s been a range of decorations and party goods emblazoned with the year that was about to begin. There was no end of items with 2020 printed across them in December 2019.

This year, I’m seeing items with bold print saying, ‘GOOD RIDDANCE 2020’.

While the end of every year sees social media cluttered with posts about how bad the previous year has been and a keenness to move into the next, the hatred for 2020 is palpable. The mood has changed from one of looking forward to something new to one of ‘give us anything but 2020’.

Sadly, 2021 isn’t a reset button.

Replacing the zero at the end of the date with a one won’t magically make everything better. Of course, we know that, but sometimes we’re so keen to throw off what has been that we act as if the chime of midnight on the 31st of December will jolt us back into normal life, whatever that is.

The first of January won’t bring an end to the pandemic or natural disasters like the floods, fires or earthquakes that have recently filled our news feeds. It won’t repair relationships that have fractured or bring back the loved ones we have lost during the year.

There won’t be a universal reset as we drag ourselves out of 2020 and into 2021, but there’s still hope for better days. We can each make changes that will transform our year, no matter what that year may throw at us.

While many people don’t believe in such things, I reckon that any time we can sit down and take stock of our own lives and make plans for the time ahead is time well spent.

As with every year I’m sure that many will set all the usual resolutions about losing weight, getting fitter, quitting smoking, reducing debt and all the rest but I wonder what 2021 would look like if we made resolutions and goals about improving relationships with those close to us and then asked those people, or others, for help in staying accountable to those goals.

I wonder how things would be if we made resolutions about helping those we may not even know but who need a hand up.

We know that there are still very tough times ahead for us and for others. It’s been estimated that around 150 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty around our world due to the pandemic. I wonder what difference we can make for some of the most vulnerable in our world.

How would 2021 shape up if we determined that family was more important than the demands of work and then structured our schedules accordingly?

What would it be like if we decided that 2021 was the year that we would look beyond the physical and material things of this world to discover deeper spiritual meaning?

Surveys suggest that there has been an increased interest in spiritual matters and the bigger questions of life in 2020. Maybe 2021 is the year to seek answers to some of those questions.

2021 won’t bring the reset the world is yearning to see but it may bring a personal reset if we’re prepared to be open and honest about our search.

My hope for the year ahead is that you might be able to agree with what King David wrote thousands of years ago.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. – Psalm 34:4

The good news is that while trouble still swirls around us, the past can be over. Your past and its heartaches don’t have to determine your future. There is a way forward that will bring you a hope that stretches beyond this life and into eternity.

If you’d like to explore that hope, please feel free to contact me. It would be my honour to walk beside you on the journey.



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Unwrapping the Reason

(This is based on a post that I republish each year around this time.)

While you’re unwrapping your gifts this Christmas I wanted to take a few moments to unwrap the real Christmas story.

We all enjoy giving and receiving gifts on Christmas Day but it’s important that we take time to remember what Christmas is really all about. It’s more than just the gifts and the jolly man in the red suit. It’s more than a ‘feeling’ or ‘spirit’ that makes us feel warm inside. It’s more than time with family enjoying good food and good times.

I find it interesting that any time someone suggests removing the word ‘Christmas’ from our celebrations at this time of year there are cries of ‘political correctness gone mad’ yet we still pay so little attention to what that word actually signifies.

While it’s generally accepted that the 25th of December isn’t the actual date that Jesus was born, it’s the day that has been chosen for celebrating Jesus’ birthday. That means Christmas is really a big birthday party.

So why should we be invited to the birthday party? Jesus was born around 2000 years ago. Why do we still celebrate his birth?

Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, and this is where it gets tricky, according to the Bible, Jesus is actually God in human form so this is no ordinary birthday.

Here’s a little bit of the Christmas story from the Bible. This account is from a book of the Bible written by a guy named Luke.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no vacancy for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Aha! So that’s where the manger and the shepherds come in.

That’s pretty much the story of Christmas. God living among the people he created. It’s an amazing thought but it’s even more amazing when you thread the whole story of Jesus’ life together. After all, usually when we celebrate someone’s birthday we don’t just remember the day they were born, we celebrate who that person has become and what they’ve brought to the world.

If we’re still celebrating the life of someone born over 2000 years ago, we’ve got to assume that they lived a remarkable life. If you want to find out more about the remarkable life of Jesus, I’d encourage you to grab a Bible in an easy to read translation and then read one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) to find out about Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection.



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Rusty

Just before COVID-19 shut down the world, I was in the Philippines with Compassion Australia.

Simply by the fact that I was born in Australia, I have had more opportunities than I deserve and I live a very ‘comfortable’ life. The same can’t be said for Rusty, a young boy who lives with his parents in a shanty owned by his grandmother.

When we met the family, Rusty’s dad Ricky was working as a farmer and earning around 300 pesos per week. That’s just 20 Australian dollars for an entire week’s work.

Rusty’s mum, Thelma, cares for her five children in their small makeshift home. The family often struggle to meet their basic needs and they often go into the forest to gather edible plants to eat.

The children lug heavy buckets of water to their shanty from a nearby creek. They don’t have the luxury of just turning on a tap. While many of us have more than one toilet in our homes, Rusty’s family shares a toilet with another family.

One day, a heavy storm was battering the roof and the walls of their home. Rusty’s family decided to move to his uncle’s house where they thought they’d be safe. But on the way, Rusty slipped and fell, hitting his head on a rock. To stop the bleeding, Thelma rushed him to the hospital where he had to have stitches.

When Rusty and his family were evacuating their home for the relative safety of his uncles’ house during a storm, Rusty fell and gashed his head on a rock. His parents borrowed the money to pay for his medical needs. They’re still paying back the debt.

Things will get better because Rusty has been registered with Compassion and is waiting for a sponsor.

Please take a couple of minutes to watch this video of the day I visited Rusty’s home.

I know that life would have become even harder for this family since the pandemic. Can I ask you to consider sponsoring a child like Rusty and bring hope into their life? Please sponsor a child today.



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