A Very Long Way to Ride a Bike

I’ve made it to Balladonia … by bicycle.

If you haven’t caught up with what I’m doing, I’m currently cycling across Australia for highly vulnerable children living in extreme poverty.

Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast started 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.

We’re travelling with 24 cyclists and a support team of 9.

We’ve finished 6 of our 28 riding days and had 1 of our 4 rest days. The average riding distance for our riding days is just over 155 kilometres. Our longest days are just under 200 kilometres.

Today’s journey from Norseman to Balladonia covered almost 192 kilometres. That’s our second longest day of the whole trip. In a few days we’ll ride our longest distance of 195 kilometres.

If you’d like to support my part in the 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.

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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The Light Shines in the Darkness

Sometimes, every fibre of your being tells you that the darkness has won. The darkness has snuffed out the light and there’s no way forward; no hope for the future.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

We’re just less than a week into a brand new year. Over the past week or two, many people have been looking back and looking ahead. A number of people I know have been saying that 2017 was an “annus horribilis” and for some others, not just a horrible year but the worst they’ve experienced. They have high hopes for 2018 because it can’t possibly be as bad as 2017. The personal trials that we face are very real. Shattered relationships, lost loved ones, sickness, depression and more can threaten to crush and swallow us.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

When we look a little wider we see unspeakable atrocities across the world. Innocent people slaughtered, children being trafficked for the perverse desires of others, natural disasters, wars, violence and more. While anyone who has the opportunity to read this is probably living relatively comfortably, there are millions of people living in extreme poverty. Most are wondering where they might find their next meal. The numbers of those who are refugees, internally displaced, or seeking asylum is in the millions. Our world seems to be beyond help. How can there possibly be a way back from this?

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I’ve seen some of the world’s injustices first hand over the past few years. I’ve sat in the homes of the poor and heard their heartbreaking stories. The nature of my work means that I am constantly immersed in stories of people who are powerless to change their circumstances and who are at the mercy of others who take advantage of them in the lowest possible ways. Constantly hearing such stories has brought me to tears several times. This world can be such a dark place.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The good news is, no matter how bad things get, no matter how dark it gets, the darkness will not overcome. Yes, it will feel like the darkness has won and that there is no way to turn things around, but there’s something bigger going on.

It’s helpful to remind ourselves that the darkness is no surprise to God. He hasn’t been caught off guard. He is still in charge, and He is still sovereign. Even before time began, even before the darkness began to descend, God had a plan to shatter the darkness with light … light so powerful that it can never be put out. That light is God Himself in the person of Jesus.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:1-13

As you start this year, a year that will no doubt bring a mixture of joy and disappointment, remind yourself that no matter how dark it may seem to be, you don’t have to fight the darkness alone. In those moments look for the light that shines in the darkness. It may seem faint at times but it’s there.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

This is an updated post, first published in January 2016.

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Useless Faith

It all stands or falls on this. There’s no middle ground. Jesus’ life isn’t simply an object lesson on living well.

The faith of many millions over centuries hinges on the resurrection that Christians celebrate on Easter Sunday (and throughout the year). If that one moment in history didn’t happen then our faith is a complete farce.

In a letter that he wrote to the church at Corinth a couple of thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul claims that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then the whole Christian faith is useless and all the world’s Christians are poor suckers who should be pitied.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Paul’s saying that the idea of Jesus being a good teacher who said some interesting things isn’t an option. He’s telling us that the whole Christian belief rests on the crucifixion and resurrection being historical fact.

For many, that’s too much of a stretch to believe. How can it be true that someone could be brutally killed yet return to life three days later?

But imagine for a moment that it is true. That would mean that death doesn’t have to be the end because it has been beaten at its own game.

We’ve all been inspired by the lives of others, even knowing that they have died or will at some stage die. Once they’re gone the story of their life, their trials and triumphs continue to influence and motivate us. Surely the story of someone who even triumphed over death itself should give rise to even greater admiration and inspiration … but of course only if the story of them defeating death is true.

When we look at the evidence, the truth of the resurrection emerges very clearly as the best explanation. There is no other theory that even come close to accounting for the evidence. Therefore, there is solid historical grounds for the truth that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. – Matt Perman

In his article, Historical Evidence for the Resurrection, Matt Perman takes a brief look at some of the reasons that many people over the past two thousand years have believed that Jesus rising from the dead isn’t just a nice story, it’s fact.

I don’t have time for a useless faith.

I’m not prepared to believe fairy tales and so while many will scoff and think I must be crazy, I will say that I believe that death has lost its sting because God raised his son Jesus from the dead.

That’s what I’ll be celebrating today and for all eternity.

I pray that you’ll take time to consider the significance of the Easter story this Resurrection Sunday.

The good news is that God, out of His love, became man in Jesus Christ in order to pay the penalty for sinners. On the cross, Jesus died in the place of those who would come to believe in Him. He took upon Himself the very death that we deserve. The apostle Paul says “He was delivered up because of our sins.” But the apostle Paul goes on to say “He was raised to life because of our justification.” Paul is saying that Christ’s resurrection proves that His mission to conquer sin was successful. His resurrection proves that He is a Savior who is not only willing, but also able, to deliver us from the wrath of God that is coming on the day of judgment. The forgiveness that Jesus died and rose to provide is given to those who trust in Him for salvation and a happy future. – Matt Perman

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Is it still confronting?

squatter slums

I’ve been asked pretty much the same question in a variety of ways over the last couple of years. Does it still affect you? Do you still find poverty confronting? Do you get used to seeing people living in extreme poverty?

My job as a Relationship Manager with Compassion Australia occasionally takes me overseas to see our work on the field. On those visits I not only visit the local churches that partner with Compassion, I get to visit some of the homes where those being sponsored live. I’ve recently returned home from another one of those visits and met with people who have been given enormous hope despite their poverty.

Yes, it’s still confronting, maybe not as surprising as it once was but completely confronting. No I don’t get used to seeing people living in extreme poverty. Yes, it still affects me deeply. When any of those answers change I’ll find a new job.

Click on the photo above to get a closer look at just one very small part of a squatter slum in Manila in the Philippines that I visited. You can see dozens of makeshift homes, mostly single room dwellings made out of whatever materials can be found, all perched precariously above an open canal filled with raw sewage. When the floods come, that canal swells and pushes its vile contents chest deep into the homes in the surrounding area. Locals told us that several of those communities have been destroyed by fire multiple times. The poor have no option but to clear away the ashes and begin again.

How can it not be confronting to see precious children and their families living in such terrible conditions?

These are people created in the image of God, being forced to live in cramped, unsafe circumstances. Poverty ties their hands. They have no choices. No way to lift themselves and their families out of their situations. Poverty tells them this is all they can ever expect.

It’s more than confronting. It’s unacceptable.

I find it completely unacceptable that in a day and age when we have every resource we need to turn poverty on its head, there is still such a gap between the excess we experience and the complete lack of resources experienced by many, many millions around our world.

Some would throw their hands up and say that that’s the way it will always be and I would challenge them to think again. Over the past few decades we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in extreme poverty around the world, which tells us we can make a difference, but the statistics are still alarming. There’s still much to be done and it won’t be done unless we all play our part in bringing about change.

So yes, it’s still confronting. It’s still unacceptable. It’s still something I want to spend my life changing in whatever way I can. I know that I can only play a very small part in bringing about change but I’ve seen enough to know that small change isn’t insignificant change.

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Chynna Stole My Heart

ChynnaMum

I met Chynna yesterday. She stole my heart.

The poverty we’ve been seeing around parts of Manila in the Philippines over the past few days has touched me deeply but it suddenly became real when I met Chynna, an 11 year old girl that our family recently started sponsoring.

When we arrived at her local church, a church which partners with Compassion, Chynna and her mum were standing outside waiting. They were excited and nervous. So was I. Chynna’s mum bent down and said something quietly in her ear then pointed towards us.

We walked inside and I was introduced to a nervous, shy, but very happy little girl. Both her and her mother were beaming. They had been told that today they would meet Chynna’s new sponsor. Chynna had been sponsored previously but for whatever reason, her sponsor had cancelled her ongoing support. I was more than happy that our family could step in and begin supporting Chynna so that she can be released from poverty in Jesus’ name.

ChynnMumRodney

I gave Chynna a number of small gifts, including a small photo album with pictures of our family and Australia. There’s still room in the album so that we can send more photos. I’ll certainly send a few that were taken at our meeting yesterday so that she can remember that very special day.

Chynna’s home is a short walk from the church and I was invited to visit. As we walked out of the church Chynna grasped my hand and walked beside me. We followed her mother through the street and down a small alleyway. Their home is just one room, about 3 metres by 3 metres. There is one double bunk inside. 9 people live in that one home. Despite the limitations of housing that many people in that space, the room was neat and orderly. Other family members warmly greeted me and those that were with me.

After spending some time there I had the opportunity to pray for the family, specifically Chynna and her parents. We then wandered back to the church.

We spent a little more time together while we had a tour of the facilities used for the Compassion project and more more of the children being helped by the local church. Then it was time to go.

Chynna’s mum once again expressed her thanks and Chynna gave me a goodbye hug. It was hard to leave but it was time to go.

The letters we write to Chynna will now have greater meaning. The letters we receive will hold great significance. We can’t be there each day to support Chynna and her family but by sponsoring her I am convinced she is part of a community which loves her and will ensure the very best for her as she continues to grow.

If you sponsor a child, never underestimate the significance of your contribution. If you’re not already a sponsor, please consider sponsoring a child today through Compassion.

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