More than Happy


(This is an updated post from January 2014)

Over the last few days there’s every chance you’ve been exchanging the customary greeting of “Happy New Year” with anyone who happens to cross your path. Even while you’ve been trying to grab a bargain at all the post-Christmas sales you’ve probably had complete strangers not only hurriedly scanning your discounted items from the other side of the counter, but wishing you happiness for the next twelve months. But is happiness what it’s really all about?

Of course I want to wish you a happy new year but I don’t want it to end there. I want more for you than happiness as you launch into 2015.

Happiness comes and goes and we all know that you’re not going to sail through 2015 with a smile on your face the whole time. There will be struggles and disappointments. I’m not wishing you difficulties but I’ve been on this planet long enough to know that each year will bring a mixture of good and bad. Sometimes there’ll also be extreme highs and devastating lows. With that in mind my wish for you goes deeper.

I wish you joy for 2015.

Joy is different than happiness. It’s more. It’s not so dependent on circumstances. There’s a strength in joy that goes beyond the happy times. It’s a confidence that no matter we’re facing, we can go on.

I wish love for you in 2015.

Love means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. We’ve all been let down, even by those closest to us. That’s not the kind of love I’m talking about. The kind of love I wish for you in 2015 is a deep, abiding love that never changes, leaves or disappoints. That’s the kind of love we need during the tough days in 2015.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below, indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

I wish grace for you in 2015.

What is grace? It’s been describes as undeserved favour but there’s more to it than that.

Grace is not only God’s disposition to do good for us when we don’t deserve it. It is an actual power from God that acts and makes good things happen in us and for us.

God’s grace was God’s acting in Paul to make Paul work hard. So when Paul says, “Work out your salvation,” he adds, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Grace is power from God to do good things in us and for us. – John Piper

There are many other things I could wish for you in 2015 like hope, peace, strength and wisdom but I’d be interested to know what you’d like to wish for others as we begin a new year. Leave your thoughts in the comments section of this post.

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Memories of Rwanda


My time in Ethiopia and Rwanda came to an end a few days ago. After an extra day in Johannesburg, due to the airline heavily overbooking my flight, I made it home to Perth. Sometimes it seems like so long ago, yet at other times a memory will put me right back on the streets of Africa.

My mind keeps returning to the Rwandan Genocide Memorial I visited in the hills outside Kigali. There are many thousands of people buried beneath the church and surrounding area. I walked into the church and saw some of the belongings left behind by victims of the genocide including the blood stained clothing they were wearing when the murderers took their lives. I then walked down steps into the area below the church where I was surrounded by coffins stacked five or six high.

In 100 days more than 1 million people were murdered. But the genocidaires did not kill a million people. They killed one, then another, then another…. day after day, hour after hour, minute by minute.

Every minute of the day, someone, somewhere was being murdered, screaming for mercy.

Receiving none.

And the killing went on and on and on….

10,000 each day,

400 each hour,

7 each minute. – History Speaks

When the trip to Rwanda was planned I knew that I’d meet people who still carried the emotional scars of the genocide, but meeting a woman my own age who carries very obvious physical scars gave me a glimpse of what some people faced twenty years ago. Even before she was introduced to us we knew that she had suffered. She carries a very long, deep scar down the left side of her face with other deep marks to the right side of her face and the back of her head. She now only has sight in her left eye.

Esther (not her real name) was a wife and mother. She had five children, the youngest just a baby. Life as Esther knew it instantly disappeared on the 15th of April 1994. Thousands of locals sought refuge in their church but that only made their murder easier when the killers that arrived on that day threw grenades into the assembled crowds. Esther’s husband and three of her children died that day. She was injured and dazed lying among the dead. It wasn’t until the 18th of April that she finally made it out of the church building. She’d been left for dead but somehow survived. That was just the start of her horror.

After crawling out of the church Esther found an empty home where she went to hide. The genociders returned and killed the rest her children in front of her in ways too graphic to describe here. They then took their machetes to her and again left her for dead. Although she was suffering horrific injuries she survived and found another hiding place. Some days later more killers arrived. This time it was people she knew. People from her own area. Neighbours. They told her to go away and die somewhere else. It took all her energies but she made it out, eventually finding another home in which to hide.

The next time her hiding place was discovered was in June. She was barely alive and weighed only 19 kilograms. She couldn’t walk because she had been hiding in a cramped position for so long. Thankfully this time it was members of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front), the group which was seeking to halt the genocide. They rescued Esther and took her to hospital where she stayed recovering for around six months.

Esther told her story with far more detail and while it was hard for us to hear her story, it was obvious that remembering the details was even harder for her.

The genocide resulted in the deaths of over a million people.

But death was not its only outcome.

Tens of thousands of people had been tortured, mutilated and raped; tens of thousands more suffered machete cuts, bullet wounds, infection and starvation.

There was rampant lawlessness, looting and chaos. The infrastructure had been destroyed, the ability to govern dismantled. Homes had been demolished, belongings stolen.

There were over 300,000 orphans and over 85,000 children who were heads of their household, with younger siblings and/or relatives.

There were thousands of widows. Many had been the victims of rape and sexual abuse or had seen their own children murdered.- History Speaks

Another place I visited in Rwanda was the Kigali Memorial Centre. It tells the story of genocide in Rwanda as well as other genocides through history. If you’d like to know more about what happened over those 100 days in 1994 you can visit the website for the Kigali Memorial Centre.

Thankfully Compassion was working in Rwanda before the genocide and continues working there. In fact, it was just after the genocide that the church where Esther’s family was killed called on Compassion for help. They were there within a few short months, ready to walk the the journey of recovery with local people.

Following the genocide Esther had another child, a daughter. Her daughter is in her final years of sponsorship with Compassion.

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Hope in Rwanda


Rwanda is an amazing country. It’s a mountainous nation with stunning scenery and wonderful people. The current population is said to be over twelve million.

The local government is well loved and very active in developing and improving the country. The capital, Kigali, is clean and well ordered.

Today I took a trip, with four other Australians, to a rural town to see the work that Compassion is doing. Despite the huge advances made here over the last couple of decades, there are still many people living in poverty. Those who are being served by Compassion have something that many others don’t … hope.

We heard from Francine, a mother who had nothing and felt her life was hopeless before she connected with the local church that partners with Compassion. That was a couple of years ago. Today she absolutely shines.

Together with her youngest child, she joined the Child Survival Program, designed to help women through pregnancy and the early childhood years.

As well as great education about child care, nutrition and much more, she was helped to start a small business, selling small food items. Through the success of her small business she has been able to care better for her family and even contribute towards building a new home. She excitedly told us that soon she hopes to afford adding doors and windows to the basic building her family now calls home.

We heard story after story of lives and families changed. The joy on the faces of the children told us just how successful Compassion has been in helping to bring hope to so many in the community.

I love seeing lives transformed by hope and thankfully I see that a lot through my work.

Do you realise that you can give a child the gift of hope? Please give a child hope for the future by sponsoring them through Compassion, and release them from poverty in Jesus name.

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Farewell Ethiopia


It’s been just over a week and our time in Ethiopia is almost over. Tomorrow we fly to Kigali, Rwanda.

During our time here I’ve seen the most devastating poverty I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve sat in homes feeling broken inside as I’ve heard heart breaking stories of extreme poverty and how it effects people. It robs them of their worth, of their hope and their dignity. What do you say to a man who breaks down and sobs as he tries to tell you how he has been bed ridden for two years because he can’t afford medical help? He told us he, his wife and children face eviction because he can’t afford $25 a month for rent.

How do you begin to comprehend life in a town where water is incredibly scarce? A place where even the local hospital, as basic as it is, can’t wash the blankets on the beds between patients because they have no water. The basins are dry and dusty. The taps haven’t had water running through them for a very long time.

It’s been tough to see how others are forced to live but right there in those circumstances hope breaks through. Compassion is there.

While there is still so much to be done, Compassion is working with local churches to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. That has a flow on effect to the families of those children and ultimately to the community around them.

Hope is sitting in a small room that serves as a house for a mother and her child and hearing her say that if it wasn’t for Compassion they’d both be dead by now. It’s seeing the joy in children’s faces as they experience the love of those at the local Compassion centre. Hope is hearing about mothers who have been able to start small businesses with the help of Compassion so that they can earn desperately needed money for their families.

Compassion is working through local churches to shine a bright light into some very dark corners, bringing hope and a future for many people.

I leave Ethiopia with mixed emotions but I look forward to seeing the same hope growing in Rwanda.

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I’ve Seen the Future


Over the last few days I’ve seen the future ….. and it’s very bright.

I’ve been part of a small group visiting churches in Indonesia to see how their partnership with Compassion is changing communities. I’ve seen the future in young mothers and their babies, in the faces of hundreds of children, and in the dreams and hopes of high achieving university students.

Today we met three outstanding young people from Compassion’s Leadership Development Program.

Selected child sponsorship graduates attend university and receive Christian leadership training through the Leadership Development Program, enabling them to realise their potential to become skilled professionals and Christian leaders who can bring change to their churches, communities and nations.

The Leadership Development Program facilitates the sponsorship of gifted graduates from our Child Sponsorship Program, giving them the opportunity to study at university and receive Christian leadership training. Each leadership student is selected according to strict criteria, including academic capabilities, leadership skills, Christian commitment and a willingness to serve others.

We met Aldo, Jeffrey and Lani.

Lani is 19. She grew up in poverty, beside a river, in the shadow of the homes of the rich. Living in those crowded conditions there was no hope that she would be anything but poor. That was until someone sponsored Lani and she was able to attend a Compassion project at her local church. She absolutely thrived and her consistently high grades gave her entry to the Leadership Development Program.

Lani doesn’t want to break free from poverty and become rich like those whose homes towered over her meagre dwelling.

Lani’s dream is to use the opportunity she’s been given to study pharmacy so that she can create breakthrough medication that will provide cures for diseases which are currently incurable.

Seventeen year old Aldo had a difficult childhood. There was trouble at home and he had no dreams for the future. Now in his second year of studying electrical engineering, he hopes to one day use his knowledge to improve access to electricity in poor areas. He also hopes to become a teacher so that he can help others from underdeveloped areas to gain an education and be able to dream of a better future.

Jeffrey has dreams too. Big dreams.

At just twenty years of age he is studying industrial engineering. He’s in his third year and he hopes to continue his studies at Oxford in the years to come. Once he has gained his education he wants to return to his home town and has dreams of becoming mayor. He wants to put his studies to use in improving local infrastructure and creating jobs.

All three of these inspiring young people have a couple of things in common. They’ve been released from poverty in Jesus’ name through Compassion and they are totally focussed on serving others.

They’re all planning on using their lives to make a difference for others. That’s a theme I’ve seen again and again over the past few days. Those who have been helped by Compassion keep spreading what they’ve received, multiplying the effectiveness of each program again and again.

Mums in the Child Survival Program are spreading their new knowledge of childcare, health, and nutrition throughout their communities.

The lessons that children in the Child Sponsorship Program are learning are shared with their parents and the wider community.

Leadership Development Program students are consistently returning to their own towns and villages to become leaders, pastors and influencers. Former Leadership Development Program students have even started making a difference for their countries by entering politics.

When you decide to sponsor a child through Compassion there is really no way of telling how many lives will be changed for the better. Communities, villages, towns, cities and countries are all starting to feel the influence of those who have been given the opportunity to dream and then been equipped to reach those dreams.

Please consider sponsoring a child through Compassion today and start to imagine how the future might look.

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