Dec 30 2010

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

It’s been a bit quiet around here lately, but the summer might give some time to change that.

I’m in the middle of my second visit to Tasmania in a month. The first was for my father’s induction as the minister at Rokeby Presbyterian Church. During this visit I’m able to spend most of the time between Christmas and New Year visiting them with my sister. It’s a delight, as is getting to know some of the locals. More visits are definitely on the cards. Just check out the scenery!

Hobart and Mount Wellington Observation Deck

More photos here and on Flickr.


Jun 9 2010

Rehabilitating the Hymn

T. David Gordon has done it again! After his provocative book Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers, in Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote The Hymnal, Gordon turns his attention to why hymns don’t seem to work anymore (or do they?).

Read a sample at Monergismbooks.com


Oct 14 2009

Fiji Journal: Days 25 – 30

The last week of my assignment in Fiji was much like the ones that preceeded it. I worked Monday to Friday and took quite evenings.
On Thursday morning we were thrown into action when someone said that there had been an earthquake in Vanuatu and a tsunami warning had been issued. I quickly comfirmed this by logging on to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii. Once we converted the expected arrival time of the wave into local time, we put an announcement to air and evacuated the building.
With Mick, the station manager, Irshad, the program director, and Lorna, the announcer who was on air at the time, I headed for a spot on the hill near Lautoka Hospital. There were cars everywhere, trying to get out of the way of the wave. Some cars were driving on the footpath or in the wrong direction up the parking lane. Turning across traffic was almost impossible. We didn’t see any police directing traffic until we got to the police station, where an officer had walked the whole 2o metres from the watchhouse onto the street.

We were the first vehicle to arrive at the site of the old Magistrates’ Court but there were about a dozen people sitting under the trees. Many more cars continued up the neighbouring road to Lautoka Hospital. The location offered an ulmost unobscured view of Lautoka Harbour and we could see the tide going out. To my surprise there were police officers sitting among the growing crowd. Why they weren’t directing traffic or otherwise assisting with the evacuation, I do not know.

A bunch of kids gathered around when I took my laptop out of the car and started reviewing news reports about the prospect of a tsunami which I had downloaded at the station. Of particularly interest to the 20 or so primary school students looking over my sholder was the artists depiction of the spread of the tsunami which had struck Samoa one week before. The scenes of devastation from this event were at the forefronts of peoples’ minds as the wrestled with the overcrowded roads and telephone systems to make sure they and their families were safe.
12:30pm came and went, and the tide hadn’t gone out further than normal. We checked on one of the other radio stations which confirmed that Fijian authorities had cancelled the warning. A wave measuring 40cm had been generated by the earthquake, but it had not become a devastating wave. We headed back to the station and got back to work.

Friday’s activities were mostly centred on the final preparations for the Root Juice Mega Mix, an attempt to set the world record for the largest Kava mix, in celebration of Fiji Day and 2 years of operation of Mix FM. Friday was actually Fiji Day, so the ladies of the station were all in beautiful dresses and wearing flowers in their hair or around their necks. The men, myself included, managed to have a shave find something that looked like it would pass as clean.
The staff put in a dollar each to buy morning tea in celebration of Fiji Day and to mark my immenent departure. Mick gave a short speech and I responded by thanking everyone for taking on board my suggestions and instructions. Mick, Lyn, Richard, Verona and myself then went out to lunch at the Lautoka RSL.

I finished my final report for Australian Business Volunteers and started saying my goodbyes. We didn’t leave the station until 7pm, my latest evening there, because there were still things to be done for the Mega Mix the following day. Mick said that I would have been the guest of honour if I had been able to stay, and it was a shame to miss such a big event, but they didn’t need me to be there and I was looking forward to getting back home.

My flight left at 9am Fijian time, which meant being at Nadi airport at 7am. I bought Don Watson‘s American Travels at the bookshop and a Bula shirt (the Fijian equivalent of a Hawaiian shirt) and a duty free clothing shop in international departures. I scored a seat in the emergency exit row, so I had plenty of room to stretch my feet while I read the first 100 pages of my book.
Australian Customs didn’t confiscate any of the suvineers I bought in Fiji, which was a relief. In the terminal I bought some lunch and a newspaper to read while I waited for the connecting flight to Albury. We took off on time and arrived 10 minutes early because of a tailwind.
I’m meant to be on the lookout for reverse cultureshock, but I think I took my own culture with me to Fiji, rather than fitted in with the one there. The coming days will prove whether I’m right about that assumption.

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Oct 5 2009

Fiji Journal: Days 17 – 24

The journal writing has been a bit slack this week, so here’s a quick rundown of the events of the last 7 days.
Day 17 – Sunday 27th September
I went to church at 7:30 and returned to Ragg Street. My hosts were hosting the local Bahai group downstairs. I wrote dozens of pages of letters home by hand. If you’re really special your letter should be arriving in the next couple of days, if it hasn’t got there already. I kept plowing through my collection of podcasts and sermon recordings.
Michael awoke at midday and arranged for us to go to the movies with Lawrence, the producer from Mix FM. During the previews before the previous week’s horror horror movie, Case 39, we had seen the shorts for the new Bruce Willis movie Surrogates and that’s what we went to see. it was good, set in the current day in an alternate timeline where a corporation has convinced the market that living is too dangerous and would be much better if we all stayed inside and lived through robotic “Surrogates” (why we would go to the bother of manufacturing robots when we could link up to an electronic Matix-like system I don’t know).
Day 18 – Monday 28th September
On the way to the station, I posted a whole bunch of the letters I had written the previous day. At work, I finally finished arranging the music library by decade. This allowed me to give the program director, assistant program director and IT guy an introduction to StationPlaylist, the new automation system that they are considering buying. Mavis, the assistant PD was very impressed when with the click of a button and a 1 minute wait I scheduled enough music for a week, a job that usually takes her hours with the current system.
Day 19 – Tuesday 29th September
I arrived at work to find that the scheduled announcer meeting had been postponed, an not-too-common occurrence during my visit. I gave some more detailed training in StationPlaylist to the PD and had a good meeting with the Station Manager. Australian Business Volunteers require me to write a number of reports during my trip and we did the first one together. I wished we had done this closer to the start of my trip as it provided some background and brought up more areas that require attention.
Day 20 – Wednesday 30th September
We woke up before 6am and hurried to get down to the Post Office to catch the bus that would take us to Port Denarau. The ATM was not working, so Michael ran to one down the street to try and get some more spending money. That ATM was also not working.
Piling in to the bus, we listened to Mix FM during the heavily air conditioned trip to the Port, via Nadi. Port Denarau itself is a very posh area, with lots of middle-aged ex-pats going for their morning run.
We took seats on the top deck of the catamaran that would take us to Beachcomber Island (map). This was the first time Michael had ever been on a boat (this trip has held a lot of firsts for him). After stopping at 2 other islands and taking lots of photos we boarded the little boat that transferred us to “the Party Island”. As we hopped in, a young lady who had been staying there was boarding the catamaran to go back to the mainland. She looked a little green and recommended going easy on the rum.
Beachcomber Island itself is a postcard. It takes about 10 minutes to talk around the entire shoreline. The beach itself is not so much sand as very small pieces of coral, which is a little tough on my usually beshoed(?) feet.
We swam in the morning. During the afternoon, I stayed inside and read Frankenstein while Michael fell asleep in the sun. I gave him some panadol, but his sunburn still prevented him from getting a good sleep.

Day 21 – Thursday 1st October
Breakfast at Beachcomber finishes at 9am. As is typically for me on holiday, I slept in too long to partake in this legendary occasion.
Arising a little later, I made my way to the main eating area where there is a large flat screen TV. Anna Coren, formerly of 7′s TodayTonight, was reading the news on CNN and informed us of an earthquake and tsunami in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga. The first we heard of any threat to Fiji was that the tsunami warning had been cancelled.
Unperterbed, we continued with out regemen of swimming and staying out of the sun.
Day 22 – Friday 2nd October
Our final day on Beachcomber began with breakfast! They lay on quite a spread. I had the last pancake and a beautiful ham and cheese omelet, which was cooked in front of me.
Our bunks had to be cleared before checkout time, 10am. It wasn’t much fun dragging my little backpack around the island for the rest of the day, but I still had a good time.
At 5pm we boarded the catamaran back to Port Denarau. I could say that it was sad to go, but I was actually looking forward to getting back to the mainland after a refreshing few days. That’s a bit sad, isn’t it?
The bus trip back to Lautoka took longer than I expected, but if it had been just a little longer I could have finished the last 8 pages of Frankenstein.
Michael and I walked from the bus terminal to Mix FM, where we expected the staff to be waiting for us. Apparently they had either forgotten that Michael was flying out the next morning, or had just stopped waiting for us. Michael said goodbye to the announcer on duty and we headed back to Ragg Street.
Day 23 – Saturday 3rd October
Michael’s alarm went off about 5 am. His flight was due to depart at 9 am, which meant being at Nadi International Airport at 7 am. I went with Verona to drop him off. It will be strange being here on my own. He was looking forward to getting back to Australia, although his sunburn will likely be giving him trouble for days to come.
Verona and I did the Saturday shop, visiting a couple of shops and the local market. I then went in to Mix FM with Richard. I had expected to meet with the announcers at 11 am, but a message came through the night before saying that it had been called off. I spoke to the manager about it and he rescheduled it for 10 am Monday morning. I set up my laptop in the production studio and worked on a basic introduction to StationPlaylist.
Soon we went to Shirley Park to check arrangements for the attempt at making the world’s largest Kava mix. Mix FM is running the event on Fiji Day, but I’ll miss out on it as I fly out that morning.
Back at the station, I sat in on the events team’s planning meeting for the record attempt, then went back to working on the introduction book. It was slow going and when Lawrence and Kim suggested going to lunch, I jumped at the chance. We went to a nice little place owned by friends of their mother. It took a little while to be served, but the lasagna was delicious!
Returning to the station we worked for another half an hour, but decided that 2 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon wasn’t a very productive time to be working, so we tied up our immediate tasks and knocked off.
I wrote a blog post for our church blog, GracePresbyterianWodonga.wordpress.com, about the service the coming day. Dad would be out of the parish for the ordination of a new elder at Yea, so members of the congregation would be leading the service of worship and preaching. I wished I could have been there.
Day 24 – Sunday 4th October
For my last Sunday in Lautoka I had hoped to visit a local Presbyterian Reformed congregation, but I put off getting their details until late on Saturday. Richard and Verona informed me that they were going to visit friends at Singatoka and I would be most welcome to join them, assuming I would be ready to go at 9am, the time I usually got back from the early service at the Methodist Church. I decided that it was easier to stick with my usual arrangement, although it meant missing out on meeting some Fijian Pressies.
The Methodists were having a pulpit swap, so the preacher was the pastor of the church at Ba (40 km up the coast). After saying goodbye to the folks there I got picked up for the 2 hour trip to Singatoka. Even the trip to Beachcomber Island hadn’t taken me more than 30km from Lautoka.
Austin and Kim are friends of Richard and Verona’s form the Bahai group in Suva. We were shown the many projects underway at their farm in a valley half an hour’s drive from Singatoka. They are trialing a number of crops and buying more land for revegetation. They were very welcoming.
After the drive back to Lautoka I settled down to listen to some podcasts, then had some lovely pumpkin soup that Verona made from a pumpkin Austin and Kim gave us that afternoon. Yum!
It’s less than a week until I return to Australia, so I have to get all the little projects I’ve been working on finished or passed on to someone on staff. The work I’ve done and the training that’s been going on will have to continue long after I leave.

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Sep 26 2009

Fiji Journal: Days 15 & 16

Day 15 – Friday 24 September
Michael and I woke at around 7:30. Richard had caught the earliest flight to Suva for a meeting and wouldn’t be back until the evening. We could have had someone come up from COMS Ltd. to pick us up, but we decided to walk as Michael had to send a postcard.
It wasn’t until 9:30 that we arrived and Irshad was waiting for the key to his office. Oops! I opened the door and he asked me to help him with a script.
After a slack start to the morning, I moved to the production room where Michael had been working on the music library. I did an hour or so before lunch, then got right back into it afterwards.
Verona came to pick us up at about 5pm. It took us about 30 minutes to get ready, including packing Lawrence’s computer so he could work on more wedding photos over the weekend. We arranged for Mick to pick us up for the evening at 6pm. As he was sticking around, I gave back the key for his office.
We just had time to shower and dress for the evening before Mick and Irshad arrived. We got to Mick’s place about 6:30 and I met his wife Linda. Lawrence didn’t seem up for an evening out, but he had been made designated driver. When I saw that he wasn’t keen to go out, I suggested that I could drive if the car was an automatic. It was and I took the wheel for the trip in to Nadi. There aren’t many streetlights here which made seeing people by the road and finding our way a bit tricky, but the journey was only about 15km.
Arriving at the Outrigger Restaurant we were quickly seated while the house band played. We ordered and soon Mick’s daughter Kim arrived. She had a very low opinion of the marinated coconut and fish dish we were sampling. This was the second time her favourite dish had been mangled by the restaurant. Although it was Linda’s birthday we mostly talked shop (as much as we could over the very loud band.
After waiting for maybe 15 minutes for the bill, I drove us to a nearby taxi rank where Michael and I caught a ride back to Lautoka, although we were warmly invited to stay with Mick at his place. Michael slept lightly in the taxi and went straight to bed when we arrived back at Ragg Street.
Day 16 – Saturday 25 September: AFL Grand Final Day
I woke about 8am and Michael did soon after. We moved a lot slower this morning, although we planned to head for the studio but didn’t have a firm time to be there.
I’d had a look at the card given us by the taxi driver last night with his phones number on just in case we wanted his services again. It was actually an advertisement for Jack’s of Fiji, sort of their equivalent of Myers or David Jones. Michael and I hadn’t found any descent souvenirs anywhere so we decided to stop there.
On the way I posted the first of a bunch of letters for friends in Australia and we dropped by the last day of the extended Sugar Festival. Michael still hadn’t been on the Ferris Wheel, so we hopped on. The one we chose was the biggest and advertised that they were the fastest of the 5 or 6 Ferris Wheels at the small fair. I tried not to think about the safety standards in what is essentially a third-world country. Michael was petrified and demonstrated the origin of the phrase white knuckles. Previously in similar situations I’ve frozen up with fear, so I’ve learnt not to think about the possibility of plummeting to the ground. We spoke about how nice the view was and what we were looking forward to about our trip to Beechcomber Island and our return to Australia. This still didn’t calm Michael’s nerves. I also choose some bad occasions to look down, which kept the adrenaline levels up. Eventually the trip was over and we headed for the go carts. For the first time ever, I was the fastest person on the track, again recklessly taking my life in my hands and forgetting to be worried about what would happen if I came a-cropper.
Having spent $6 each on such excitements, we headed for Jack’s of Fiji, where we proceeded to spend more than an hour and quite a substantial amount of cash on keepsakes of Fiji. When Dad went to Indonesia in 1983 he picked up a couple of carvings and a habit of wearing unbifurcated pyjamas in the summer. I made similar selections and look forward to wearing my sarong to bed tonight.
We walked down to Mix FM to find that I had forgotten to get the key to Mick’s office back from him last night. We went to the production room where we were quickly reminded that Lawrence’s computer was not there. There wasn’t much reason to stay there, so we had a drink of water and called a taxi back to Ragg Street.
Lunch was spaghetti and bolognaise. Afterwards, Michael proposed that we do a couple of hours and then take the evening off. I got right in to the music library again and got everything done except R, S and T, which are very large folders. I’ll tackle them on Monday.
At 5pm Michael chased up a booking agent for Beechcomber Island and called her at her home. She agreed to come in to work and make our booking at 6pm, so we walked down and took a few pictures at the waterfront. Walking back to the Lautoka Hotel, we made the booking and paid the deposit. It was great to have the arrangements set. We now just have to be at the Post Office at 6:45 on Wednesday morning to get the bus to Port Denarou at Nadi then board a boat for the island.
We walked back to the Sugar Festival with the thought of riding the Ferris Wheel again. Instead we rode the Octopus and bought some Fairy Floss (my first in 10 years). I don’t know why I enjoyed it so much when I was a kid. It is sickeningly sweet.
We hopped in a taxi back to Ragg Street, where we watched the last 15 minutes of Texas Ranger starring Chuck Norris.
It was soon 8pm and I didn’t know the outcome of the AFL Grand Final, so I got Michael to find out as he was on the computer. There isn’t any interest in AFL in Fiji as far as I can see, but I was surprised to learn that Melbourne Cup is a big event here.
The week has been busy and Monday and Tuesday will be full on, so I’m looking fowards to a quiet Sunday.

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Sep 24 2009

Fiji Journal: Days 11, 12, 13 & 14

Day 11 – Monday 21 September
I woke around 7:30pm, but Michael stayed in bed. He had caught a bug from Lawrence, the main producer. I walked to work via the supermarket and chemist, where I bought 400ml of sunscreen for $18. Hopefully I won’t have to worry about sunburn now.
I prepared another draft of guidelines for the announcers. After lunch, Michael decided he was well enough to come in to work. We stopped at the post office where Michael waited 15 minutes while I bought some notepaper, envelopes and stamps so I can write letters to people back home.
Back at the station, some people had not returned from the celebration of Eid, the end of Ramadan and the start of the new Muslim year.
We returned to Ragg Street about 7pm to be informed by Richard that we were going out immediately to a dinner to celebrate Eid with the manager of COMS Ltd’s Suva branch at his parent’s home. The meal was tasty, if a bit spicy, and we were back in time for me to speak with everyone at home on Skype.
Day 12 – Tuesday 22 September
There has been some trouble with the air conditioner in the production studio, so when we arrived at the station around 8am we went looking for some new batteries for the remote. This didn’t make it any more responsive.
I wasn’t able to work on the music library because there wasn’t room on the network drive for the copy I’ve been working on and the library still being used on air, so I helped Michael with more scripts and did a first draft of a checklist based on the announcer guidelines to be used in conducting program reviews.
After the weekend’s movie viewing debacle, Michael and I spent the evening discussing our favourite and worst movies and TV programs. He also leant me a copy of Frankenstein, which I hope to read before getting back to Australia.
Day 13 – Wednesday 23 September
I woke early to make sure I could get a ride with Richard. Arriving at the station at 7:45, I checked my emails, then reviewed some logs of programs over the past few days. There was a meeting with the announcers at 10am and I presented the announcer guildelines, based on Luisa’s instructions and existing company policy, as well as a few ideas of my own.
With a trip to the offsure islands cutting our time short, Michael is spending a fair slice of hiis last week on training people in audio production. Hopefully there will be at least a handful of people capable of making ads and editing their own interviews.
While talking with Michael about developing some training resources for instructing people in using Cool Edit Pro 2, I suggested that he check google to see if anyone else had spent the time and money to do so. He found www.bbctraining.com. The BBC makes basic media training available there in Flash-based modules. The internet speeds here aren’t so good, so hopefully we will be able to get the announcers using them.
After a quick snooze at lunch, I brushed up on the aircheck form I had based on the new announcer guidelines. Later in the afternoon, I sat in on a meeting with Mick and the potential host of a new current affairs program focusing on issues of everyday concern. He said his policy for the station is that apart from race, religion and politics, everything is on the table for discussion.
At the end of the working day Lawrence took his computer home from the production room so he could finish some photos he had taken for a wedding. This meant that Michael would be without a PC to work on in until it was returned “early tomorrow.”
As Irshad is back presenting his program, I can access the music library on his computer while he’s in the studio. Hopefully the automation system trial can begin late this week or early next.
Back at Ragg Street, I laid on my bed and sorted out my Songbird and iTunes playlists while listening episodes of The Albert Mohler Program which I downloaded quite some time ago. Michael went to bed early and I hopped on the Lucas’ computer.
Day 14 – Thursday 24 September
I had a shorter night’s sleep than normal. Richard left for work early and Michael and I decided to walk down rather than have someone sent up to get us. On the way Michael sent a postcard at the Post Office and we check if the water at the foreshore was any clearer with all the sunny weather we’d had. It wasn’t. Although from a distance it beautifully reflected the blue of the sky, at close quarters it was still brown with rubbish floating or lurking below the surface.
Wandering towards the station, we took a route through the shopping precinct parallel to the main street. A man sitting by the footpath signalled to me. I didn’t realise what he was trying to get across at first, but it became clearer when he tried to reach for the quarter-full bottle of Coca-Cola I was carrying. There was another woman begging and when had just seen a man at the park by the foreshore sleeping with a drink bottle as a pillow.
It was a slack morning with me without access to the music library and Michael without the production computer. I gave the revised edition of the aircheck form to Mavis and spoke with Irshad about training staff in using the audio production program and the new automation system.
Richard was driving one of COM Ltd’s utes, so Michael and I rode home in the tray. Lunch was some tasty curried chicken. Michael was going to book our trip to Beachcomber Island after lunch, but forgot. Visitor numbers aren’t very high at this time of year, so hopefully a call tomorrow will do the trick.
Back at the station I got to work on the music library after nearly a week’s break. It was slow going, but around 5,000 of the songs already had the date of their release on them. This left 2,000 songs to be matched with the artists and time of the songs in the first group or set aside for googling their release date.
Mick dropped in to Irshad’s office to invite Michael and I to a night out in Nadi on Friday. We’ll have a meal together and visit a few of the pubs. Hopefully it won’t be a long night.
I only managed to do A, B and C before we left for the night after 7pm, with Michael taking on finding the dates of those artists who we had none for. We made a copy of the songs that hadn’t been done and headed back to Ragg Street.
On arrival, I read the last of The Holiness of God. R.C. Sproul gives a comprehensive introduction to the doctrine of the holiness of God and the implications for believer and non-believer. With this done, I decided to get stuck in to the media library. Only after loading in the music did I realise that with only the music that hadn’t been assigned a decade, I did not have the songs that had already gone through that process to refer too. This made any progress almost impossible. I ruled out guessing the decades as I’d probably end up double handling the songs anyway. Michael suggested taking a taxi to the station to get the rest, but we knew it would take more than an hour to make a copy and return, by which time we wouldn’t be in much state to get the work done. We were already expecting to be working on Saturday, so I proposed making sure that we had a good sleep and getting in to the work hard tomorrow.

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Sep 21 2009

Fiji Journal: Days 6, 7, 8 & 9

Due to the disappearance of the power cable for my laptop and the death of my external hard drive, I’m not able to bring you the extended rundown of my recent adventures in Fiji. Here are the highlights:
On Thursday night, Michael and I attended the Sugar Festival beauty pagent. 3 of the on air staff from Mix FM were the MC’s. Michael consumed a large amount of fairy floss but forgot to ride the ferris wheel.
On Friday I worked and plotted a surprise 21st birthday party for Michael with the Station Manager and the events staff.
On Saturday, Michael and I joined the team from Mix FM on their flots in the Annual Sugar Festival parade. Our float was the only one with music, provided via my laptop. Michael sat on the truck to look after this with the people throwing lollies into the crowd. I walked alongside handing out bumper stickers and taking photos. We ran out of everything about 1/3 of the way along the route! Afterwards we attended the Gala that followed the crowning of Miss Sugar., the traditional end of the festival. Because of the recent rain attendence was down, so the committee extended the festival for another week! Michael will be happy to get his ride after all.
Sunday meant getting up at 6am to be at church in time for the morning service. While the evening service last week was much like what I’m used to at home, the morning service was more like an Anglican one, presumably borrowing from the same prayer book. when Michael awoke, he, I and Richard headed for a swimming spot under a series of short waterfalls. The climb to the higher pools was a little tricky and with a certain level of sleep depravation I didn’t trust my balance too much, but the experience was well worth it. When we got back to town, we stopped at the station on the pretext of trying to find my power cable. Michael was surprised to see a number of the staff in the building on a Sunday afternoon, until we got him out to the deck outside where his 21st Birthday party awaited. There was a nice meal, although the curry chicken could have done with more chicken and less bones, and a nice chocolate cake. Afterwards my arm was twisted into partaking in one of Lautoka’s $5 movies. We saw Case 39, and I do not recommend it. Horror movies aren’t really my thing, and this one left my agitated and frustrated. Any movie that pushes the main character to turn murderor for resolution leaves bad taste in my mouth.
Photos will soon appear at flickr.com/stemcd

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Sep 20 2009

Reading the Bible in a Year

This morning I worshipped at Wesley Methodist Church, Lautoka. The service was Communion and the liturgy borrowed heavily from the Anglican Prayer Book service, which I was used to from my short stint as a Cranmerite.
The preacher reissued his challenge to the members to read the through their Bible in a year, something I’ve been doing. I started reading 4 concurrent chapters a day, supplementing with a Psalm when the division of the text supported reading only 3. Reading larger chunks at a time has helped to get the flow of the narrative sections. Another bonus was the ability to read the shorter books in one sitting, including most of the Epistles and the minor prophets. All but the longest books take around a week to read.
My method has been to read to punctuate the divisions of the Old Testament sections with reading one of the Gospels. I finished Micah the day I left Australia, and started reading the Luke-Acts arc. It was great to recognise the prophecies from Micah and the other minor prophets as I read Luke’s account as I had read them in context only a few days previously.
After Acts I’ll read Revelation, the tidy up the remaining Epistles (1, 2, & 3 John and the other shorters ones). I then plan to spend the rest of the year reading Proverbs and re-reading the Gospels and Acts, with perhaps a few other selections.
If you don’t think you could read the Bible in a year, at least break from your usual habit to read whole books in a sitting or over a couple of days. My other recommendation is to not spread your reading over a number of books at once. Read consecutive chapters from the same book (or 2).

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Sep 16 2009

Fiji Journal: Day 5 – Tuesday 15 September

Because we had both had long days on Monday, Michael suggested that we set the alarm a little later and walk down to the station, rather than go with Richard at 8am. His alarm went off at 7:30. I hopped in the shower and ate breakfast and we were soon ready for the walk to the station.
Walking from Ragg Street to Mix FM means passing a number of local landmarks. This morning we walked towards the park near Lautoka Hospital. We cut across the path to get to the road Richard uses to avoid the “traffic” at one of the main intersections in town. We followed this street to a T intersection at Cactus Fence (that’s pretty much a fence of cacti). We then turned at the Church of Christ and at Digicel Sign (a billboard used by one of the telecommunication retailers here). From there it’s just down a side street, past Popular Furniture (who advertise their business on the hearse used by the undertakers branch of the company), past Paddies (short of like the Reject Shop) and along to Mix FM.
I went to Mick’s office and compiled some instructions Luisa had written for the announcers. I then asked Ishard to get me a copy of the second half of the music library for me to complete the rest of the process. He was rearranging his office and made a space for me to sit and work with him so we could talk and I could ask him questions about the music library.
While he made a copy of the rest of the Library, I provided a voice for a promo in the production studio.
After another yummy lunch at Ragg Street, we returned to Mix FM and I got to work. After about an hour I went to production to have a break from the screen and got roped in to a group recording session. How hard do you think it would be to get 4 people to say “You’re listening to Ishard on Afternoon Drive”? We were all lazy-tongued and it required a few takes, but after about 10 minutes I was done. No matter what else I do, I enjoy very little about radio more than getting in the sound-booth and working on a voice-over.
I tapped away at the music library for the afternoon, which quickly flew by, and we packed up and come back to Ragg Street to work have a break then get the rest of the music library done.

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Sep 16 2009

Fiji Journal: Day 4 – Monday 14 September

My first day at Mix FM began with an early alarm. Michael set his phone for 6am, but pressed snooze, giving us another 30 minutes. I’m not yet synchronised with Fiji time, so it still seemed a lot like 4:30am. After a shower and breakfast, Richard drove us to the station. He works next door.
After saying hello to the people in reception, I was shown to the Manager’s office. Mick works from home as well as at the station, so I have free use of his office when he’s not there and can share it with him when he is.
I read the reports Luisa made during the first part of her assignment at Mix FM (she will return for a few more weeks after I return to Australia). I then had a long chat with the Program Director, Ishard, about a number of things, including getting ready for a trial of StationPlaylist, the broadcast automation system we use at Wodonga TAFE and which I have also been trialling for The Light. To get the trial up and running requires sorting their current music library into some genre based categories like “Reggae” and some others based on decade. Once that is done we can start building some schedule templates that will randomly pick songs from those categories for every hour of the day (greatly relieving the workload for Mavis, the Music Director and one of the Breakfast hosts).
In the meantime, Michael was designing the station’s new website (www.mix94fm.com) in the production studio with Lawrence the multi-skilled producer. As well as audio, he’s pretty handy with a camera and Photoshop. I chipped in my two cents worth there and I spent the rest of the day checking the artist and title tags on the music library.
During the evening, after we went back to Ragg Street, Michael and I took turns working on the Music Library or reading a book and listening to music. This way we didn’t have to spend the whole evening tapping away.
After checking Facebook and my email addresses, I took the last shift on the music library job while Michael hopped on Skype. At 11:50pm I decided that there wasn’t much left to do and pressed on. I finished just before 12:50am, making for a long day and a short night.

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Sep 13 2009

Fiji Journal: Day 3 – Sunday 13 September

I woke around 8:30 and dressed for church, still not sure where I would go. On the way to the transmission site yesterday I did pass a Presbyterian Church, but it is a long way out. Verona laughed when I mentioned it. Friends of hers attend the Presbyterian Church in Suva, a 3.5 – 4 hour drive away once a month and sometimes a minister visits to hold a service in their home. Verona will ask them when the next one is for me.
The clouds from yesterday had broken and it was raining pretty steadily. Verona had to get fuel anyway so she drove me down past the Anglican Church on the main road from Lautoka to Nadi.
A lot of churches are clumped together on main road and every group has a Methodist Church in it. There is a Church of Christ near Mix FM and I’ve seen a Catholic Church, a Gospel Hall (which I assume is open Brethren), a Revival Centre, A Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, A Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and a Community of Christ (Reorganised Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). There are also a number of Pentecostal churches and a couple of Salvation Army citadels.
The morning service at the Anglican Church had started at 9am and it was now 10am, so we drove next door to the Methodist Church. They had a Hindi service at 10:30am, but I didn’t think that would suit me, so I decided to return for the 5pm evening service.
In the meantime we headed back to the house. I listened to a sermon of Dr D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones recorded sometime before his death in March 1981 and now made available by the American branch of the MLJ Trust via a podcast called Living Grace at OnePlace.com. Despite my parents and their friend’s great appreciation for The Doctor I had not listened to any of his sermons and had only read a couple of articles he had written reprinted in Evangelical Action. His voice was more highly pitched than I thought it would sound and the accent of his native Wales seemed blended with that from the base of his long ministry at (the very much changed) Westminster Chapel in London. However, his preaching was as direct (both from the Scripture and to the listener) as I had expected. He was preaching on the verse from Galatians 6:15: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” He dealt with the attitudes people have towards salvation, that they will be saved because of something done to them or because of their thoughts and deeds. I’m looking forward to listening to some more of these recordings while I’m away.
After listening to the sermon I read another chapter of The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, pausing occasionally to listen to people nearby singing hymns in Fijian. I recognised them both. The second was All Creatures Of Our God and King, but I can’t remember the name of the other one.
Michael arose in time for lunch and afterward we read for a bit. I’m lending him one of my books, Plato And A Platypus Walk Into A Bar, which is an overview of philosophy using jokes as illustrations. I was reading A Guy’s Guide To Marrying Well from Boundless Magazine. Once I’m finished I’m going to see what they saying in the Girl’s Guide just to know what’s what.
We then headed down in to town as Michael wanted to buy a couple of things that he had forgotten to bring from Australia. I came along to see the route from Ragg Street to Mix FM with the plan that I would continue on to the Methodist Church for the evening service. We had a look around the town centre, but didn’t buy anything more than a bottle of Coca-Cola, then dropped in to see who was at Mix FM, but there only being the announcer we decided not to bother her too much and moved on.
Most shops were shut on Sunday anyway, so we made our way towards the Methodist Church. We would have been there about 4pm, so we decided to try to find the coast. Heading past the stadium where the Sugar festival is being held, I quickly check my bank card at an ANZ ATM. It didn’t recognise my card, but fortunately I don’t need access to my Australian account while I’m here.
Just after we had taken a couple of photos at the waterfront it started to rain lightly again, so we hailed a taxi. I decided that since there were a lot of Methodist Churches in town, I would ask for the Anglican Church next door. The driver took us along the road we were walking along and pulled up at a Pentecostal Church. We explained that the church we wanted was near the Botanic Gardens and he said there wasn’t a church there. Thankfully he stopped by the sugar mill and pick up his friend, the mill engineer, who spoke better English. The driver then realised we wanted what he knew at the Church of England (which, if Fiji is anything like Australia, hasn’t been called that since at least the 1980s). They dropped me there and took Michael back to Ragg Street where he had a sleep.
I wandered around outside the Anglican church, the Child Evangelism Fellowship next door and the Botanic Gardens until 4:50 when I headed for the Methodist Church. I was apprehensive of meeting so many new people and only just shook hands with the men outside the church. Picking up an old Methodist Hymnbook like the one on my shelf at home, I took a pew towards the back under a fan. I looked around an noticed that I was about the only male in the building. They have added a wing on to the right of the “sanctuary” and I wondered if the men sat there, but soon others came and sat in the rows around me. Before the service began the Pastor was strumming a guitar and singing “Above All” by Matt Redman.
After disappearing shortly to the vestry with some elders, the Pastor returned and began the service with a call to worship from Psalm 19. When he read the sentence “Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” I nearly cried. The service was much like I am used to at home, except I’m not usually the one turning red from embarrassment when the person giving the announcements welcomes the visitors and points you out by name, asking you to take their greetings to your home congregation.
The sermon was given by a Samoan student at the theological college named Timothy. He preached on Mark 8:34-37, the parallel verses of which I had recently read in Luke. He focused on verse 34b “”If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
After the service I met a number of the congregation who asked how long I was in Fiji and if I was on holidays. I’m plan to attend services there until I leave. Hopefully by next week I’ll be getting up in time for the Communion Service at 7:30am.
A member of the congregation called Suli lives near where I am staying and offered to drive me home, saving a half hour walk. Michael was still resting but got up soon after I arrived back. We had a light tea and some more Tip Top ice cream, this time Hokus Pokus, a variation on Hokey Pokey where the honeycomb bits are coated in chocolate and put in a swirl of chocolate and honeycomb ice creams, rather than the traditional vanilla.
Tomorrow the work starts in earnest, so I must get a good sleep before Michael’s alarm goes at 6am.

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Sep 13 2009

Fiji Journal: Day 2 – Saturday 12 September

I woke properly at about 10am Fiji time having been half awake for about an hour and a half. Michael was already up. I showered and went upstairs for breakfast: Vegemite on toast. Richard was going up to the transmission site to pour water on the concrete pad for the building to house the backup generator and lock the container with the transmitter in it which had been left unlocked yesterday. Michael and Luisa had both been on the approx. 20 km trip so only Richard and I headed up in his 4 wheel drive.
Richard has been working in communications for many years, coming to Fiji in the 1970s. He was contracted to provide transmission services to the former owners of what is now Mix FM but they closed down. His company was left with all the equipment to operate a radio station and some of the staff but no licence. They successfully gained a licence and have been broadcasting for around 18 months.
The transmission site is on the top of a long volcanic range to the south of Lautoka and separates it from Nadi. The view is stunning, while not very similar, it reminded me of the Comboyne Plateau, a section of the Great Dividing Range visible from my childhood home of Wingham. The view is currently diminished by smoke from fires burning in sugar-cane fields after each paddock is harvested. Harvest means the tiny gauge railway lines are being used by some very slow-moving but cute diesel freight trains and Lautoka's annual sugar festival is running at the moment.
We returned in time for lunch, then saw dropped Luisa off at a resort outside Nadi. She is meeting her husband and children from a flight on Sunday evening and will be taking 2 weeks of holidays with them before returning to Australia. It's good to know I can just pick up the phone and call her.
Richard, Michael and I then headed up one of the valleys to a swimming hole on the Nadi side of the range. The concrete slab on one of the causeways had been washed away in the January floods which inundated the area and caused quite a lot of damage in the capital Suva, 300 or more kilometres away on the other side of the island. A number of large rocks had come to rest in the waterhole. The sky had clouded over from earlier in the day and under the canopy of the rainforest it was not very hot. Richard thought the water was about 18 degrees, quite cold, but refreshing once we were in. On the way back to the car Michael picked some wild chillies to spice up his meals. He mostly took the green ones and left all but two of the fluorescent red ones on the bushes.
After our swim we headed back towards Lautoka, stopping at the home of Mix FM's manager Mick. He said that in honour of my arrival another BBQ would be held on his back deck (Michael raves about the steaks at the BBQ held for Luisa's farewell last week).
Returning to Ragg Street, I heard for the first time prayers being chanted from the loudspeaker at the Mosque about 2 km from here.
Michael and I moved our stuff up 2 flights of stairs to Luisa's old room in the top story. It is much airier than the basement-like room we were in. There are louvre windows looking out to the street and into the canopy (if you can call it that) of the coconut trees to the side of the building. The adjoining room has views of the volcanic range to the south. Our beds are under mosquito nets to protect us from the pesky carriers of Dengue fever. Fortunately I haven't been too big on the sugar recently so they insects aren't finding me as sweet as usual (though we did have Gone Fishing ice cream from Tip Top for desert, comprised of chocolate and vanilla ice cream with little chocolate fish).
I lay in bed thinking about things back home, particularly because I will not be at church there. Thankfully God is everywhere, both here in Fiji and back in Australia, so I took some time to pray about things there and hear, particularly for Sunday services and those who would be preaching.

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Sep 13 2009

Fiji Journal: Day 1 – Friday 11 September

After a frantic week of preparations for my trip to Fiji, I arose around 7:30am Australian time. I had spent Monday getting updates on various projects for The Light. Tuesday was my usual Tuesday, in at the station recording and scheduling material. On Wednesday I was teaching 2 classes at the TAFE, as I had for the previous 2 weeks. I was filling in for Luisa (the course coordinator who was doing the first 3 weeks of the assignment in Fiji).
After doing a little work on the computer to make sure everything was ready for my departure, I has breakfast and grabbed my bags for the trip to Albury airport. I held things up for nearly 10 minutes for an unfruitful search for my car & station keys in case anyone needed them during my absence. It is very unusual for me to lose my keys, and I hope they turn up, if not while I’m away, very soon after I get back.
Dad and Mum drove me to the airport where Annette and Bianca McMaster were waiting to say goodbye. I hurried them a bit as I had to check my bags in and they had to be somewhere else. Mum, Dad and I talked in the departure lounge where we sat for around 45 minutes before I finally had to go through security and board the plane for the 1-hour-long flight to Sydney.
On arrival we disembarked to a bus which drove us a short distance to Terminal 3 – Domestic. From there I caught the train to Terminal 1 – International just in time to see the Air Pacific counter shut. I checked in at the QANTAS counter instead, ate my lunch and changed some money into Fijian dollars.
Immigration and security at Sydney Airport took some time, but I made it to the very last international gate (37) in time for the last general boarding call before the final call. Our plane was a Boeing 747-400 and I got to sit in the small section at the top behind about 4 rows from the cockpit.
The flight was long enough to read my copy of The Age and most of the briefing notes from Australian Business Volunteers, the group sending me on this trip. After around 3 and a half hours in the air we landed at Nadi International Airport. Although it was after 7 at night the temperature was 20 degrees. As we walked into the terminal there was an Air New Zealand plane also on the tarmac and I think they were also going through Immigration and Customs with us.
I was one of the last though Immigration with a 4 month visa (rather than the 2 week one I had expected) but beat a lot of people into the line for Customs by grabbing my bag from the carousel. After putting them through the X-ray machine I realised I had left my Customs form on the counter at Immigration. I made my way back past everyone in the duty free shop and found the form. By the time I returned to the line it had grown to fill most of the luggage collection area, which also served as space to line up for Customs. I waited in line until I was about 20 people away from the X-ray machine. The line stopped for about 5 minutes and it appeared that the machine was broken. Although it was the “Something to Declare” line and the “Nothing to Declare” line’s machine was still working, they just started letting people through. I picked up my bags and walked out to the waiting area where my host Richard and TAFE student Michael were waiting for me.
We drove the 20 km from Nadi to Lautoka and dropped in at the Mix FM studios where the crew were holding farewell drinks for Luisa. I was persuaded to drink 2 bowls of Kava. It tastes like dirty water, and gets worse each time you drink it. Thankfully I didn’t drink enough to put my tongue to sleep, as can happen.
On the way back to Richard’s place we passed the hospital, a reminder of Michael’s second day here a week previously when he had to see a doctor for an infected finger. He sustained the injury in Australia cleaning a pot used to cook spaghetti. A piece lodged under the fingernail of his right index finger. The doctor here removed the fingernail, drained the puss and disinfected the finger. I’ll save the gory details, but our host Verona said she could hear him crying from the outer office of the doctor’s surgery.
Michael and I shared his room downstairs as Luisa was still occupying the room upstairs where we would move to. Eventually I made it off to sleep on a mattress on the floor, glad that the day was over, but apprehensive about what was yet to come.

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Sep 12 2009

No One Comes To The Father Except Through Me

Where I’m staying on assignment in Fiji I can hear what sounds like the prayer call from a non-Christian place of worship. My hosts are of a different religion and so will be some of my fellow workers. The open society in which we live in Australia has many good points, but one detraction is the view that any religious belief is correct and even mutually exclusive beliefs can be held together by the same society or even person.
I’ve been pondering Jesus’ reassuring words to Thomas just before his arrest and death:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

John 14:5-7 (ESV)

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Aug 22 2009

“In sickness and in health…”

On Sunday afternoon I hopped in the car for the 4 hour drive to Canberra to pick up my sister on her way home from a 6 week mission trip with CMIAid. I dropped in at 1Way FM, visited Parliament House again, took some photos and ate one of the nicest pies I’ve ever had.
On Monday night we were invited to dinner with friends and were privileged to sit in on family devotions. The topic was a review of Sunday’s sermon on 1 Corinthians 7, particularly verses 29-35 about singleness. It was refreshing to consider the topic, particularly with a strong emphasis on families from the pulpit and the political press release (need I say “working families”?). With a number of young people around the table close to or at marriageable age, the discussion was surprisingly devoid of uncomfortableness.
My sister wasn’t the only thing I picked up on my trip; I’ve come back with a cold, so my synapses aren’t firing at their regular rate. So, in substitution for my usual ponderings, I thought I might share some of the articles that have been circulating among my (mostly single) friends recently on Facebook (one of them had the temerity to quote Elvis Presley at us: “A little less conversation, a little more action, please!”).

Pictures:
Parliament House Copyright Stephen McDonald

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Canberra Copyright Stephen McDonald

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