A Taste of What’s to Come

Over the last few days, I’ve really enjoyed comments from friends about the training ride I did on Saturday with a group of other cyclists planning to undertake Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast.

Many have been amazed that we would ride 180 kilometres from Perth to Bunbury. The truth is, we’ll be riding that kind of distance many times over this September and October when we cross our very big country. While I was very pleased with Saturday’s ride and how good I felt afterwards, there’s a lot more training ahead if I’m going to make the distance.

The ride will start in Perth, Western Australia on Saturday the 15th of September. We will arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, New South Wales on Tuesday the 16th of October. There’ll be 28 riding days and 4 rest days. The average riding distance for those riding days will be just over 150 kilometres. Our longest days will be just under 200 kilometres. There’ll be around 25 cyclists and a support team of around 8.

As for that training ride, here’s a minute long version of the almost seven hours we spent in the saddle on the weekend.

You can get a glimpse of the route we took by watching this video which traces our ride on a map.

If you’d like to support my ride you can do so in two ways.

I am personally seeking to raise $15,000. I really need your help to make that a reality.

You can make a direct donation to my fundraising page. Your donation will touch the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our world through Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children’s Fund.

Every child in poverty is vulnerable, but some children are at risk of the most deplorable situations in the world.

Children whose parents who have left, died, or are unable to provide for them, children exposed to exploitation and children with special needs are highly vulnerable. They often find themselves on the edge of extremely dangerous situations like child labour, gang violence, trafficking, and life on the street.

So far, I received donations from $10 to $1,000 from some generous friends. All donations above $2 are tax deductible in Australia. Your contribution, of any amount, will put me closer to my target of $15,000.

The other way you can help to boost my total is to sponsor a child living in poverty. By using that link your sponsorship will count towards my fundraising goal while releasing a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.

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.

Sponsor a child. Give them a brighter future so they, and eventually their own children, can live free from poverty.

Whichever way you choose to support me and however much you choose to give, your contribution will not only help push me closer to reaching my target, you’ll also change the life of a child or children living with the devastating effects of extreme poverty.

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The Escape: Ten Years Later

This time a decade ago I was unsure if I would see Australia or those I love the most ever again.

It was April 2008. I was meant to be in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, for just over a week. Around 48 hours after arriving, I was back at the airport praying for the arrival of a plane to get us out of a city in chaos. Violent rioting and looting had taken over the streets.

The Global Financial Crisis of the time had created a Global Food Crisis. People in some of the world’s poorest countries could no longer afford even the most basic of foods.

I was in Haiti as part of my work for 98five Sonshine FM. I was one of four radio announcers invited by Compassion Australia to see their work first-hand. What we saw was the kind of desperation that grips people when they can’t put food on the family table.

A news report at the time described the scenes in Port-au-Prince.

The Haitian capital was paralysed by food riots yesterday as the United Nations gave warning that soaring food prices were spurring unrest around the world.

Rioters returned to the streets in Port-au-Prince a day after UN peacekeepers had to fire rubber bullets to prevent hungry Haitians from storming the presidential palace. Columns of smoke rose over the city as demonstrators, demanding that the Government take action over the rising price of foodstuffs such as rice, beans and oil, set fire to barricades made from tyres.

At least five people have been killed and more than 20 injured. Protesters compared the burning hunger in their stomachs to bleach or battery acid.The Times Online

The BBC reported the riots in a story titled, ‘Hungry mob attacks Haiti palace’.

Crowds of demonstrators in Haiti have tried to storm the presidential palace in the capital Port-au-Prince as protests continue over food prices.

Witnesses say the protesters used metal bins to try to smash down the palace gates before UN troops fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them.

Several people are reported to have been injured in the clashes.

At least five people have been killed in Haiti since the unrest began last week in the southern city of Les Cayes.

The demonstrators outside the presidential palace said the rising cost of living in Haiti meant they were struggling to feed themselves.

“We are hungry,” they shouted before attempting to smash open the palace gates.

In recent months, it has become common among Haiti’s poor to use the expression “grangou klowox” or “eating bleach”, to describe the daily hunger pains people face, because of the burning feeling in their stomachs.BBC

After seeing just one Compassion project in action our team had to retreat to the relative safety of the local Compassion office. While watching panicked crowds running down the main road outside the office, the room we were in was showered with glass. A rock thrown from the streets below had smashed through the second story window where we had stood just moments before.

When the situation eventually reached a temporary calm we climbed into a couple of four-wheel drives and retreated to our hotel. The bustling streets we had travelled that morning now looked like a war zone. Businesses up and down the road had been attacked and looted. I remember noticing a service station that morning which was operating normally. Cars were filling up with petrol, people were going in and out of the attached shop. On the way back to the hotel that evening the same service station looked derelict. Not one piece of glass remained in place and every shelf in the shop had been completely stripped.

We were glad and relieved when we drove through the gates of the hotel. From there plans were made to fly us out the next day.

The Airport Journey

When the morning arrived we packed our luggage into the four-wheel drives to head towards the airport. We had no idea of the dramatic journey ahead.

As we began the drive we found that more and more roads had been barricaded and blocked. We had to take smaller and smaller side roads. Most seemed to be rocky, narrow, dirt tracks.

The further we went the more people seemed to be surrounding us. It was hard to tell if the crowds were just people wanting to go about their day to day business or if they were likely to attack our vehicles seeking food or money to purchase food. To make sense of what was happening we could only rely on those in our vehicles who spoke Haitian Creole and even then we only got some of the story. They were more than a little occupied with trying to navigate our way out and in keeping us all safe.

At one point an angry man with a steel bar seemed to be trying to incite the crowds against us. Just as the mood was heating up someone in the crowd pointed to the Compassion logo on the side of our vehicle and said something along the lines of, “They’re from Compassion. They help our children. Let them go.”

There was another incident when a man with a machete jumped onto the back of our vehicle. Thankfully, he jumped off almost as quickly.

We eventually passed that area but the ever-growing crowds made the trip very slow and we had to stop many times as people swarmed in front of our vehicles.

At one stage we came to a complete standstill. Edouard Lassegue, Compassion’s Vice President of the Latin America and Caribbean Regions was travelling with us. Originally from Haiti, Edouard got out of our vehicle to speak to people around about us to see if there was a way forward. He stayed in contact with the local Compassion staff in our vehicle via mobile phone as he wandered through the crowd. At one stage one of the men with us who had been speaking with Edouard just shook his head and said, “There’s no way out. There’s no way out.”

Thankfully Edouard did find someone willing to show us a way through. At that point, we didn’t know if the young man who had offered help could truly get us out or whether he had friends waiting for us and we were being led into a trap, but we couldn’t stay where we were.

Weapons of Mass Distraction

We moved very slowly down the narrow laneways. It seemed that if we’d opened the windows of our vehicles we could have reached out and touched the buildings on either side.

Eventually, we turned a corner to see a crew-cab ute or ‘pickup’ parked in the middle of the street ahead of us. There were several people standing on the rear tray of the vehicle, all heavily armed with automatic weapons. Thankfully, they were also wearing police vests.

Edouard once again stepped out of our vehicle and moved slowly toward the police with his arms high in the air to show he wasn’t armed. After hearing about our situation, the police gave us an armed escort the rest of the way to the airport.

Our troubles weren’t over at that point but we were safe. We then had to wait many hours for a flight out of Haiti.

Mixed Emotions

Finally, we boarded the plane which would take us back to Miami before a flight the next day to visit Compassion’s work in the Dominican Republic.

As we gathered speed along the runway I remember seeing smoke rising across Port-au-Prince.

I felt relieved that we were leaving, that we were safe, but at the same time, I knew that for millions of Haitians, there was no option to leave. They were still in the streets facing the reality of the daily battle to find food. They didn’t know when they might next be able to feed their families. Life in one of the world’s poorest nations was just getting tougher.

I knew at that point that I needed to tell and retell their story. We had been in danger for a short time. The people we had just left behind were still in danger without any way of escaping.

The children that were sponsored through Compassion would continue to receive care, and I was so thankful for that, but so many more needed help. I knew that I needed to tell more people about the opportunity to make a difference for those children and their families.

Those events of a decade ago convinced me that I would do whatever I could to partner with Compassion to see more children released from poverty in Jesus’ name. For a few years after that incident, I used my position working in radio to speak of Compassion’s work. Then late in 2013, I had the opportunity to work for Compassion, which is where I’ve now been for over four years.

There’s much more to be done in places like Haiti and the other countries where Compassion works.

Later this year I’ll be cycling 4,300 kilometres from one side of Australia to the other to raise money for Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children’s Fund. If you’d like to donate towards that fund just follow this link. Maybe you’d like to make an ongoing contribution by sponsoring a child. You can do that right now by following this link.

Ten years ago I escaped a dangerous situation but for millions of children around the world, the danger goes on. Please consider what you might do to change their world.

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How Do We Explain?

Looking across a couple of news websites today I’ve seen a common theme.

“How do I explain this to my 10-year-old son?”

“I was ashamed to explain to my nine-year-old son this morning that we had planned to cheat.”

It seems parents are agonising over how to explain the Australian cricket cheating scandal to their children.

For those not in Australia and therefore not having their newsfeeds swamped with stories of the unimaginable horror of the latest scandal to rock the sports world, here’s the very shortened version of ball tampering by the Australia national cricket team.

Cameron Bancroft was charged with alleged ball tampering on 24 March 2018 when videos showing him rubbing and then concealing a suspicious yellow object emerged during day three of the third test against South Africa, at Newlands Stadium. Captain Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft accepted the ball tampering allegation in front of Andy Pycroft, the match referee, and press. – wiki

How do we explain to a child that a game that’s meant to be played fairly and by the rules isn’t always as fair as it should be? How do we tell our children that their heroes aren’t heroes after all?

Of course, we should be able to expect more from those who represent our country and yes, it’s not easy to explain these things to a child.

But as I read these articles I’m left wondering too.

How do we explain to our kids that there are around 400 million children, just like them, that are living in extreme poverty in our world today? How do we explain that millions of young people around their age don’t know if they’ll even eat today?

How do we explain to them that today there’ll be roughly 15,000 children under the age of five who will die from preventable causes? How do we tell them that tomorrow there’ll be another 15,000 who will die, then another 15,000 the next day, the day after and the day after that? How do we tell our children that ‘preventable’ means that we have all the resources, all the know how, but as a world community we refuse to step up and stop those deaths?

Are we agonising over how we explain the horrors of war where children their age are killed daily? Do we struggle to find the words to explain why children are locked away in detention centres under Australia’s watch?

I don’t think we struggle to explain any of these things to our children. We don’t struggle because there really is no explanation as to why we continue to allow these things to go on. We don’t struggle because we choose to simply not have those kinds of conversations.

There’s no agonising over explaining these kinds of horrors to our children because these matters are obviously not as important to us, or as earth-shaking, as some highly paid sportsmen breaking the rules.

How could I ever explain that to a child?

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Six Months

A spring day in Perth. There is a mixture of excitement, anticipation and concern. There may even be fear. Have I done enough? Will I make it?

Looking back there are hundreds, even thousands of hours in preparation. Looking ahead there are 32 days, over 4,300 kilometres, pain, exhilaration, good times and bad.

On that spring day I’ll begin the Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast, a huge cycling event that will make a major impact for children living in extreme poverty. Today marks six months from the first turn of the pedals on the journey.

The ride will start in Perth, Western Australia on Saturday the 15th of September. We will arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, New South Wales on Tuesday the 16th of October. There’ll be 28 riding days and 4 rest days. The average riding distance for those riding days will be just over 150 kilometres. Our longest days will be just under 200 kilometres. There’ll be around 25 cyclists and a support team of around 8.

Six Months Today

That spring day will come so very quickly. Planning for this ride began some years ago and yet here we are, six months out, working towards that first day on the bike, then the second, then the third and so on all the way to the other side of the country.

So much has already been done in planning and preparation but there’s so much still to be organised and completed.

More than 4,300 kilometres from west to east won’t happen unless there are thousands of kilometres in training beforehand. That training will require a change in my routines, my calendar, what I eat, how I think and so many other areas of life. There’s no doubt that this ride will require sacrifice.

I can’t afford to take the path of least resistance. It’s autumn now but winter is around the corner. I won’t have the luxury of leaving my bike in the garage on wet days. If I’m to make the distance I need to step up today and every other day until this ride is over.

It’s Too Important

The cause behind the ride is too important to treat lightly. Hundreds of children living in extreme poverty are depending on those of us making this journey and making it count. They don’t know we’ll be riding across the continent, they’ll probably never know, but it’s an important cause all the same.

There are children, through no fault of their own, who are living in the most unacceptable circumstances. We plan to make a difference for as many of them as we can by offering them a hope more powerful than poverty.

If you’d like to support my ride you can do so in two ways.

I am personally seeking to raise $15,000. I really need your help to make that a reality.

You can make a direct donation to my fundraising page. Your donation will touch the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our world through Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children’s Fund.

Every child in poverty is vulnerable, but some children are at risk of the most deplorable situations in the world.

Children whose parents who have left, died, or are unable to provide for them, children exposed to exploitation and children with special needs are highly vulnerable. They often find themselves on the edge of extremely dangerous situations like child labour, gang violence, trafficking, and life on the street.

So far, I received donations from $10 to $1,000 from some generous friends. All donations above $2 are tax deductible in Australia. Your contribution, of any amount, will put me closer to my target of $15,000.

The other way you can help to boost my total is to sponsor a child living in poverty. By using that link your sponsorship will count towards my fundraising goal while releasing a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.

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.

Sponsor a child. Give them a brighter future so they, and eventually their own children, can live free from poverty.

Whichever way you choose to support me and however much you choose to give, your contribution will not only help push me closer to reaching my target, you’ll also change the life of a child or children living with the devastating effects of extreme poverty.

The Long and Winding Road

So there is quite literally a long road ahead for me beginning six months from today but the journey starts now. I’ll be doing my best to fulfil my responsibilities in training, fundraising and then riding. Will you support me on this massive venture?

It’s unacceptable that millions of children are living in extreme poverty so I’m putting my body on the line to do whatever I can to make a difference for as many of those children as I can.

Will you help me give more children a chance to live, dream and hope? Sponsor a child today or donate through my fundraising page.

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What are you spending?

If I gave you a thousand dollars (I’m not going to but let’s pretend for a moment) what would you spend it on?

You might have something in mind and as soon as the cash passed from my hand to yours you’d be out the door, ready to spend. However, if you’re anything like me, you’d consider a few possibilities before deciding who you’d hand my hard earned money to in exchange for a product or service. Of course, a thousand dollars would only go so far and you certainly wouldn’t be able to spend that money more than once.

That all might seem fairly obvious and it’s the kind of thing we try to teach our children but do we apply the same kind of logic in other areas of our lives?

We try to teach children the skills of weighing up options and making the best decisions with money but what about with our time, emotions, thoughts and activities?

You want more?

Have you decided you want more of the good stuff in 2018? Have you made resolutions that involve enjoying more of the best that life can offer?

I spotted this image online a day or so ago. It was posted as a checklist of things that would make the new year better.

I appreciate the intent but once all those ‘more’ items are added to our daily lives, I begin to wonder what we might put on the ‘less’ list.

For most of us, our lives are already full so if we decide to spend more time on the things we think will make our lives better or more livable, common sense tells us we need to have a list of things we’ll subtract.

What are we prepared to let go so that we can enjoy more laughter, more long walks, more sleep and more road trips? If I want more music, books, and sunsets in 2018, what do I need to do to make room for them in my busy schedule? How do we balance the responsibilities of life with those things that make us feel more alive?

Maybe 2018 won’t be known so much as the year for ‘more’ but as the year for ‘less’. It’s not until we are spending less time on the things that occupy our minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months that we’ll be able to accommodate some of the ‘more’ that we seek.

Will it be less social media, less television, less time wasted in worry?

Check your spending habits.

How we spend our money says a lot about who we are and what we value. In the same way, how we spend our time is a clear indication of our true values. In both cases, we need to make very real choices.

If we simply keep adding all the extra ‘good stuff’ we’ll just end up burning ourselves out. We need to accept the fact that time, just like money, is finite. We don’t get to spend it more than once so we’d better work out a spending plan that brings the return we’re seeking.

We also need to realise that simply finding time to do more of the stuff we love won’t satisfy the bigger needs within. We need to ditch the frantic busyness of our lives and find time to connect with the one who gave us life in the first place.

There are times that we feel that the pace of life is a modern issue, and to some degree, the pace of life and what is expected of us does continue to increase, but there have been pressures and expectations from the beginning of time. Here’s what Jesus said to those who felt the pressures of life around 2000 years ago.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
– Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

Author Eugene Petersen has tried to capture the essence of those verses by paraphrasing them in the following way.

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 ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
– Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

Rest for your souls.

That simple phrase, rest for your souls, causes me to slow down and exhale. It’s what we were designed to experience.

Even when we begin to spend our time well there can still be a kind of rest that we’re missing, rest for our souls. I wonder if 2018 might be the year you truly experience that kind of rest.

When Jesus brings us that kind of rest for our souls it touches every area of our lives and makes a difference in how we spend our time, our money, our emotions, and our thoughts.

Are you prepared to ignore the voices of frantic activity that call for your time so that you can more clearly hear the voice of the one who offers rest for your soul?

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