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Taishan 泰山

Rev Ji Zhang continues the story of the UnitingWorld and Uniting Care Australia journey to China to engage with the Chinese Church, share training and further the partnership between our two communities.

“A thousand mile journey begins with simple steps”.

In rural areas, we began to encounter two virtues of this Chinese saying: simplicity and persistence.

A group of elderly people aged between 78 and 98 were singing a welcome song as we entered their facility. We were not strangers to them; this is the third visit we’ve made in the last two years. Stepping forward, we held their hands, saying “Nihao” (Hello – literary means “You are good” in Chinese). The UCA nurses quickly went into a room with female caretakers, and Geoff and I were left outside to talk to the ministers from the provincial church and the local government. When a dozen women came out of the room, they pronounced: “It worked. She is healed.”

They were speaking about a joint medical process that has been happening over the last few weeks. During our first visit, the UCA nurses were asked about how to care for those permanently in bed, and how to treat damaged skin caused by the body’s own pressure. This encounter deeply moved the UCA nurses. When they returned to Australia, they used WeChat (a popular social media app) to discuss best practice treatment. In the case of this woman, the size of the wound was big, and infection began, but the caretakers did not have medical training. Wesley Mission Brisbane came up with the simplest method – warm water – to clean the area, and then cover the wound with cream. With frequent turning to increase circulation, the body healed itself.

This story is a testimony. Community-to-community connection can be simple and effective. Through the internet, Wesley Mission Brisbane has helped the bed-ridden elderly in this remote facility. Moreover there is happiness on the face of the residents here when they received the gift made by hand by the elderly back in Brisbane.

This exchange is also learning for us, and capacity building for our staff. The CEO Geoff remarked, “They have taught us about passion and faith. I believe more of our facilities would be interested to form a sister-relationship with elderly homes in China”.

In Chinese there are 5 mountains named after 5 Phases (Gold, Wood, Water, Fire, Earth) according to the Daoist theory of change. The Eastern Mountain Tai is home to the northern school called Comprehensive Teachings. To reach the temple 1500m above, the team took the cable car up and walked in the rain. For one thousand years, this mountain has been a place of pilgrimage and the summit has been the location of imperial worship and sacrifice to mark the beginning of a new dynasty. This is the place where the rising sun is first observed. On the day we visited, however, the mountain masked its image with its own mystery.

At the foot of the mountain we visited a local church built in1900 by American North Presbyterian Church. Rev Fu started his role in 2005, and built the congregation from 350 to a membership of 2000. What is the secret of this growth? Rev Fu attributes it to the witness of believers. Here evangelism is done through church members. Each year the church publishes about 40,000 introduction materials about Christian faith and the Gospel teachings. The members then take the material to their family members and friends in communities and villages. Each Christmas they will distribute most of them, inviting believers to share fellowship and witness. On Wednesday, the first choir will practice. Thursday, the ministers run a bible study, book-by-book and chapter-by-chapter. On Friday, the fellowship of young men takes place in evening. On Saturday, volunteers clean the church for Sunday and the second choir will practice.

The harvest is plenty, but the labourers are few. They put together limited human resources in the central church, and from here they travel to 52 gathering places for pastoral visits and delivering communion. These gathering places have membership ranging from 20 to 200. The method of feeding the flock is also simple – equipping the laity.

The training centre was an Anglican Church school built in 1876. It has been occupied by a local school until 2007. Due to lack of repair, the local government viewed its structure as too dangerous to be restored. The decision was made to demolish it. A group of elderly women from the church came to live in the damaged building. They lived on the ground floor but could see the sky above them. The church engaged a process of negotiation between 2007 and 2009. Eventually, the government agreed to accept the church’s proposal: return the property to the church, and the church would restore the site. Now this building has been enlisted as a provincial heritage building, and is permanently protected.

In a room upstairs, we met the training class. 40 lay people gathered here for 7 months. They have left their families behind, work behind, and live here as a community. The courses cover the bases of biblical and theological teachings, and pastoral care. When they return to those 52 gathering places, their job has one purpose only: feed the sheep. Throughout the year, the 5-people ministry team will visit and support them.

We shared together, and we prayed together. Before our departure, they blessed us with their singing: “The Lord bless you and keep you, and the Lord has his face to shine upon you…”

Links between the thriving Christian Church in China and the Uniting Church in Australia are growing. This week, an expert team of Aged Care Specialists from Uniting Care Australia are visiting China to prepare for and deliver a second conference on Aged Care, while next week a UCA delegation led by National President Stuart McMillan arrives to continue dialogue about partnership that will include theological training, people exchange and support for social services.

 Reverend Ji Zhang, from UnitingWorld, is travelling with the two teams and writes a fascinating account from Shanghai.

The first part of the UCA delegation has arrived in Shanghai. They are the expert-team from Wesley Mission Brisbane, led by its CEO Geoff Baktin. Shanghai is an amazing city with many surprises. It started as a small county a few centuries ago and was regarded as the Paris of the East before 1949 – attracting many foreigners to come and do business in China. The real change is in the last 25 years; the area of Pu Dong (East of the River) grew from farmland to a city that shares half of Shanghai’s 30 million population.

We’ve been travelling on a 35 km freeway – above ground – linking the airport and the CBD. This freeway was built within 2.5 years. The speed and scale of China’s economic transformation is evident in this city. Yet the city is well-organised through its extensive public transport, including a 300km railway network underground. On the news, Disney started its first month private opening, a test run for the public opening in June.

The rise of the Chinese church is a part of this big story of transformation. We are on a journey to discover this narrative as we travel to the North.  Traveling at speeds of 306km/h, the high-speed train takes us to a regional town with a population of 100,000. Here we meet the church minister and his team. As we walked into the church complex, we see first hand what we’ve been told: “He and his wife have built the church and its social service from ground-up”.

In 2004, the church was built first. Now it has been extended to hold its 4000 membership. At the time they had no experts, so they designed, built, and fitted everything by their own hands. As a part of the transition from a rural community to urban living, one of the main issues they face is the role and responsibility of a family. Children are expected to look after the elderly, but the One-Child policy and migration have forever changed this social code. So the church started an aged care centre in 2009. Today they have 112 beds, look after the elderly with 22 care takers and 48 volunteers; the oldest person is 98 years of age.

Having an aged care centre was only the beginning. In the following years, the church developed a childcare for 178 children, looking after 19 orphans and neglected children. They have created a model similar to Australian aged care facilities, namely a household model of institutional care. The social bond to hold all people together is a combination of Confucian values of care for the elderly and Christian love of neighbours.

What surprised us all was that they achieved all this by donation alone.

Geoff told the minister Xu: “To develop this complex within 12 years is a remarkable achievement.”

Indeed, the development includes four wings of the church complex, and funding for all the care facilities. The inner drive for this transformation story can be put as simply as “faith enabled witness and service”.

We met a 91 year-old man. He was diagnosed as having only 3 months to live when he was sent to the centre. He had no family members to look after him, so the church became his home. When he came he could not stand, could not walk. After 1 month in care, he could get off the bed and stand; now he walks miles each day in the courtyard.

In the evening, we were invited to the church service where 500 people gathered for the daily evening service. The church has 3 services each Sunday, prayer services every morning and devotion services every night. As we greeted the audience from the stage, we began to understand what makes the transformation a reality. It is the gospel that has set people free. Their changed lives became a natural witness to others who seek belonging in the church. More than 600 people were baptised last year. Their natural expression of faith is not only witness but also service.

Theology has been understood as “Faith Seeking Understanding”, from the cognitive mind to social action. Here we have seen “Faith Seeking Hope”. We are inspired by their faith enabled service, and this public discourse is calling us to reflect theologically – from praxis to understanding.

Ji will continue to update us on this fascinating journey as the team delivers their training on Aged Care with the Chinese Church and Mr McMillan meets with the Chinese leadership.  The aim of the visit is to continue to build the partnership between our two churches – sharing knowledge, skills and inspiration for our post-denominational churches.  

You can find out about our partnership and how to support the growing Chinese church by reading more here.

In our increasingly ‘always available’ 24/7 world there seems to be little time for rest. Whether by phone, email, text, Twitter or Facebook, we always seem to be switched on. For others, the incessant busyness of mind and heart about all manner of issues ranging from weekly shopping, work, health and the welfare of family keeps us constantly occupied.

When you hear the phrase ‘Sabbath rest’ you might think of the era when nothing was open on Sundays, when everyone wore their ‘Sunday best’ and spent most of the day attending church! A time when the pace of life was slower and less complicated and families still lived under the one roof. Surely this is a phrase disconnected from and not relevant in our busy modern world?

More than ever before, we need to re-discover the value and place of ‘Sabbath rest’ within our individual, family and community life, lest we become exhausted and overwhelmed by all that daily life contains.

Where does this phrase come from? It comes from the Hebrew word “shabat” for ‘rest’, and draws its origin and inspiration from Genesis 2 :2-3 And on the seventh day God…rested…from all the work that he had done (in creation). So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it.

Genesis 1:31 also says that God rested on the seventh day because God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. “Very good” has a sense of enjoyment, satisfaction, wholeness and of completeness; and because of this no more work needed to be done!

Sabbath rest is not just about personal renewal but also includes time for renewal for all of creation, as reflected in Exodus 20: 10: But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.

A world embracing Sabbath rest will then be a place where humanity lives as good and wise stewards of God’s creation and where consideration for all that lives and all who work on this Earth is also central.

The following are some examples of what a Sabbath rest might look like:

Sabbath rest is a break from the daily routine.

In the midst of our busyness & achieving, God calls us to rest, lay aside our to-do lists and let the Sabbath be different from the rest of your days. It allows us to ‘waste’ time just being with God.

Sabbath rest is a break from achieving and an opportunity to renew relationships.

Competition and work deadlines pervade much of our world, always pushing us to try a little harder, do a little more. On the Sabbath, we can be content just to participate in and enjoy the quality relationships we may have for their own sake. This is how our community life is built.

Sabbath rest is a break from buying.

We are often told by our political and business leaders that we must spend, spend, spend not just for our sake but for the sake of our economy and for our country!

Extensive retail sales held at Easter & Christmas don’t help us break free from such consumerism.

Sabbath rest is a break from being in control. If you carry heavy loads of responsibility at work or if you are fiercely independent, then trusting others may prove difficult! And when push comes to shove, can you trust God, or anyone else, to take care of things on your day off?

Sabbath rest brings spiritual and physical renewal. Where you include a deliberate time of worship, of prayer, of ‘being still’, a time when you focus your full attention on God in ‘wonder, love and praise’. It may mean allowing yourself for at least that day to listen to your body’s urging to take that nap or to visit a place that reminds you of Creation’s beauty and faithfulness.

This physical renewal can also involve activity and stimulation of all of our senses.

In Psalm 23 David says that God restores his soul. David’s language also reveals God ministering to him in a very physical way with his mention of ‘green pastures’, ‘quiet waters’, a ‘table prepared’ (feast), and ‘you anoint my head with oil’.

Some people may say, ‘But I don’t need a rest, I have lots of energy’, ‘I have important work to do’, or that ‘I am called by God to this work’ and that therefore ‘God will sustain me’.

However, God not only commanded the sabbath but also took the very first Sabbath rest.

Jesus also followed the general Sabbath practices of his day and also regularly took ‘time out.’

So, simply put, if God rested on the seventh day, then so should we!

In Hebrews 4: 9-11 it says “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest, also rests from his own work, just as God did from his”. What this passage is in effect saying is that Jesus IS our Sabbath rest!

If Jesus is our Sabbath rest, if all our daily striving to achieve, to be of value and worth has been won for us on the cross and through the empty tomb then life no longer needs to be ‘driven’.

If we ‘burn out’ it is ultimately because we do not trust or allow Christ to be Lord of our lives.

And in Matthew 11:28 Jesus says ‘come to me all who are weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest’. This weariness is not just physical, but can also be emotional and spiritual; and the ‘rest’ Jesus offers is “easy and my burden is light” (verse 30).

Five minute Sabbath rests:

Because Sabbath rest in our risen Lord Jesus is not just restricted to one day a week, you can practice ‘mini rests’ at home or at work. This could include – a walk around the block, closing your eyes, praying, listening to music, reading a favourite passage of Scripture, turning off or placing on silent your mobile phone. Having computer and TV free times at home especially around meal time are also other ways for you to proclaim Jesus is Lord of your Sabbath.

Enjoy your Sabbath rest, may it transform and renew you and deepen your faith. It is part of God’s hope for us and for God’s world.

Rev Paul Bartlett, UnitingWorld.

I was in West Papua recently on my first field trip with UnitingWorld, where I had the unique opportunity to meet with our partner, the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua and visit their P3W project (short for Pusat Pembinaan dan Pengembangan Wanita).

P3W is the Training and Development Centre for Women in West Papua and it aims to empower and support women in remote and rural areas. Founded in 1962, the centre today has three regional offices comprising four units: Education and Training, Research, Documentation, Information and Publication; and Counselling and Income Generation.  With the help of 30 staff and 12 field workers, the centre currently has 30 active projects. One of them is the Livelihoods Project, which is training women in the highlands to understand the potential resources of their land and supporting them to grow crops – in particular soya beans to produce tofu and tempeh.

While at the centre, I asked if I could interview the head of P3W. Unbeknownst to me, the stylish woman I’d asked was exactly the person I was looking for – Ms Hermina Rumbrar.

“The church built this centre so that the women would not be left behind” said Hermina.

Ranging from raising awareness about HIV and domestic violence, to providing dormitories and information courses to students from remote areas, the centre has a strong focus on helping women. Towards the end of our chat, Hermina reflected upon the journey of the P3W and the positive impact it has had on the lives of countless Papuan women. I was moved by the genuine devotion she had for her work and the lives of her fellow Papuans.  I could tell that for her, this was much more than a job – she was investing her heart and soul for the future of West Papua.

At its head office, P3W runs courses teaching basic maths, crafting, women’s leadership, nutritional information, cooking and more. This basic knowledge is beneficial to the women of West Papua, especially when they return to their villages to spread what they’ve learnt. The centre also houses facilities for children who are too young for mothers to leave behind. While at the centre I had the opportunity to play with a little boy just under the age of three. He was one of the most active little ones I’ve ever met. We ran around the centre together and took selfies making funny faces. A special moment I will keep with me for years to come.

Later I spoke with Christina*, a 23-year-old student from the course. “Here I can learn to cook, learn about women’s leadership, nutrition and how to save. It really helps me”. Christina* had lost her parents by the age of 12 and is the youngest amongst ten siblings, three of whom have died. As she was telling me her story, she couldn’t hold back tears no matter how much she tried. Christina* will be going to university next year to study farming and wishes to help empower fellow Papuan women.

At P3W, I saw the tears of two brave women and learnt so much about the role of each in empowering women throughout West Papua. Above all, I learnt that our work cannot be done in isolation. We will continue to work alongside our brothers and sisters from GKI Church in West Papua and we appreciate your support in further strengthening the lives of these women.

 * The name has been changed to protect the identiy.

30 years ago, Christmas 1984, a group of prominent musicians from the UK and USA got together for “Band Aid” and recorded the Christmas anthem “Feed the World”.

Their aim was to raise awareness of, and funds, for people in Africa who were experiencing severe drought and famine. Amidst the well-meaning sentiment and good intentions, many of us didn’t take the time to reflect so deeply on the words – or maybe that was just where we were at that time in the learning journey that comes from living history. But last Christmas, in 2015 this same song was re-released.

It’s hard not to sing along to the old, familiar tune. However have you ever stopped to listen to the words? Here’s just a few:

“But say a prayer, pray for the other ones”

“There’s a world outside your window, and it’s a world of dread and fear”

And the Christmas bells that ring are the clanging chimes of doom

“Well, tonight thank God its them instead of you”!

“And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas”

“Where nothing ever grows, no rain nor rivers flows

“Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”

“Give a little to help the helpless.

At its foundation, this song is based on the “us and them” paradigm with “the other ones” being the ones “we” are thankful that we are not. It portrays Africa as a place where water doesn’t flow, where plants don’t grow and where they won’t see snow, and then poses the question, “Do they know it’s Christmas time at all”?  Are you cringing just a little bit? Apart from a few glaring geographical clangers – Africa is home to some of the mightiest rivers in the world, including the Nile, the Congo and the Zambezi to name just a few- there’s the fact that in the Southern Hemisphere, like in Australia, Christmas falls in summertime so snow really isn’t likely any Christmas.

But on a deeper level, there’s a shallow assumption that African peoples are characterised by ignorance, limited capacity, fear and doom. These are people sitting waiting, looking to the “outside” to be the engineers of their survival. It sees all Africans as those hungry, helpless children promoted on our TV screens and appoints Western “developed” societies as the source and bringers of hope and rescue. Yet in essence, this tune reflects more honestly on the perspectives of the writers than any African reality.

Today I’m sitting in a plane on the tarmac in Zimbabwe, waiting for the last passengers to board before embarking on the 35 hour journey home. I have been meeting with MeDRA, our Development Partners of the Methodist Church of Zimbabwe. It is an exciting time for MeDRA, for the Methodist Church of Zimbabwe and this Partnership with the UCA through UnitingWorld. And in the light of the last few days, the words in this outdated Christmas anthem couldn’t be further from the truth.

During the Strategic Planning process we reflected on the Partnership between UnitingWorld and MeDRA, a partnership that spans nearly ten years.  The Uniting Church in Australia still remains their strongest partner. Just as I’ve reflected on the above anthem, words matter, and the word partnership is not used lightly. UnitingWorld isn’t just a “donor agency” or “funding partner” to MeDRA, but a genuine Partner. And as partners we share together, learn together and walk together in God’s global mission. Each of us has our role to play. UnitingWorld cannot do the work that MeDRA does – not successfully anyway. Working with MeDRA and our other Development Partners allows us, as the Uniting Church in Australia to participate effectively in this global mission. And partnering with UnitingWorld supports MeDRA by enabling professional capacity building, organisational strengthening as well as funding for their vital work on the ground. This work brings opportunity, hope, dignity and love to some of Zimbabwe’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.  It’s a true witness to God.

Let me share just a little about the people who make up this organisation. They are Zimbabweans and they know their country, their culture and the context. They are committed development professionals who know the need but choose to focus on the strengths and opportunities. They don’t do the life-changing work for the people in the communities they serve. Rather they support these communities to develop their own potential and empower them to be the agents of their own transformation. And above all things, they are committed to living out their faith and being a genuine witness to Christ in the communities they serve.

And then there are the people living in the communities themselves. The context in which they live is harsh. They are far away from city services, in places where the soil is dry and hard, the temperatures scorching and the impact of drought an everyday reality. It is a tough existence and yet they are resilient and they survive. Through MeDRA they are accessing training and as community groups, developing livelihoods strategies to increase their access to income. This enables them to send their children to school and look to a future for their children that has more opportunities than they themselves have experienced. And they are embracing this chance with both hands and thriving in it.

But if that wasn’t encouraging enough, here’s the kicker. From the profits that each group makes, some is set aside to reinvest into the business, yet before the remaining profits are shared among the group, some is allocated to support other vulnerable people in their communities – widows, orphans, single mothers, etc. They see this as their social responsibility. They were once the most vulnerable but now they have opportunity, they are building something together, they have discovered their God-given dignity and with that their responsibility to others in their community. It’s hard work, but they embrace it and they do it and they are succeeding in it. And they are paying it forward.

These people are not helpless. They just need a chance. Through the partnership between MeDRA and UnitingWorld, many are now able to embrace such a chance. I visited some of these communities last year, and I saw nothing of our Western Christmas anthem anywhere. Instead I saw potential, I saw hope, I saw dignity and I sat at their feet to learn.

This Lent, let us be the ones transformed, let us have God’s eyes to see hope and potential where others would tell us there is helplessness; give us ears to hear the invitation to participate effectively and give us humble hearts to learn what we need to learn and to give what we can.

And for the record, for those in Africa who share our faith, yes they do know when it’s Christmas time, even without the snow!

Watch the people of Zimbabwe at work here.

“Make me a daughter of this land because of my ancestry.”

 These were the words of Rev Thresi Mauboy, Moderator of UCA Northern Synod as she joined me last month in the land of Papua and greeted 15,000 people at a church celebration in Manokwari capital of the province of West Papua.

Let me give you some context. 161 years ago the Gospel arrived in the land of Papua. Over the years, it transformed traditional, tribal culture into a Christian society. Whilst the journey was long and often filled with struggle, with time and the dedication of early missionaries, God filled hearts with the liberty of Christ.

Although the missionaries have left, God remains.

Since 1985, the Uniting Church in Australia has been a partner of the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua (Gereja Kristen Inijili Di Tanah Papua) (GKI-TP). Over the years we have seen how the church has become an abiding agency of the society. The church has a membership of 850,000, with 600 schools, one university and one theological seminary. Male and female clergies have reached equal numbers. Despite its difficult journey and deep struggle “like a sweet potato in between two rocks”, the church has represented the people to seek self-determination of their future. The UCA is with them on this journey. Along the way we see their witness. The Gospel is within the culture and among the people in this far eastern part of Indonesia.

The Moderator of UCA Northern Synod is the UCA’s first Indonesian-born moderator. As she returned to the land, she was welcomed by the Moderator of GKI-TP. Rev Alberth Yoku and during the celebration was greeted by Prof Yohana Susana Yembisethe, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Children’s Protection, Republic of Indonesia. Both the church leader and the government minister welcomed Rev Mauboy with pride.

Australia is a close neighbour of Indonesia. The people-to-people connection is clearly evident on the Indonesian side. During our conversation the Minister explained her doctoral degree was from Newcastle University and she attended a Uniting Church while she studied in Australia. Coming from Biak Island of West Papua, she understands how women should be recognised as contributors of social good. She expressed the wish for Thresi to return again, and visit Jakarta as an Indonesian high achiever.

Rev Mauboy’s speech was cross-cultural in nature. She recalled her early experience in Indonesia and how the culture has shaped her in those formative years. Now as a UCA minister she spoke about how God is working between cultures and peoples.

During her speech Thresi declared “I am a daughter of this land”.

 “God sent me to Australia to continue the mission from Otto and Giesler to proclaim the Gospel in Australia. Now I return as a bridge between cultures and peoples. I belong to you and you are my people”. The crowd responded with loud acceptance.

This is a telling story of a first generation of migrants. We struggled in between cultures. Our past cannot be undone, and our living in Australia has shaped a new identity. When two identities can either be both affirmed or both rejected, we have no option but to live with the tension and hold them together with our own life. And this struggle has also been transformed into a gift to build a bridge between the distance.

Two years ago UnitingWorld attended the same celebration. At the time we began to renew and reaffirm our partnership. Today we are here again, being welcomed in as close friends. Rev Alberth Yoku, Moderator of the GKI-TP spent much of his valuable time with us and made plans to visit Australia for the first time in his term.

Before our departure he gave his surname ‘Yuko’ to Thresi Mauboy.

“Now you are a part of my family”, he said.

We often have the belief that being in possession of more stuff will bring us a happier life. We must have the newest technology, more clothes or whatever everyone else has got. But once we have these things, think about how many hours go into worrying about them being broken or wrecked?

More possessions will not bring us a happy and full life with Christ.

Don’t believe me?

You may be surprised to discover that some of the happiest people in the world live in poorer communities. These are the communities who are always willing to give, even if it means that they have very little. More people should look at this and see that though these people have fewer items than us, they are more social and giving. They don’t fight over what little they have but share it.

There are a few different walks in the world called ‘Caminos’. These spiritual walks can take a month or more, and involve carrying nothing but a backpack with your absolute essentials. Why do people do this? The simplicity is definitely one reason. My dad walked it himself, and he told me that you get up and walk all day until at night you get to your destination. Than you get up and walk again the next day. The result of this was that he noticed the little rare flowers he might have otherwise just walked past, every sunset was admired, and every sip of water was cherished. You have all the time you need to appreciate God’s little gifts of beauty that we often overlook.

Living fully is something to do in the present, not next week or soon. It’s harder to live fully with so many useless things getting in the way. When you live simply, you notice the beauty and value around you that you might otherwise ignore. Living in the moment, you can truly appreciate what matters.

This is why de-cluttering our lives is so important. When you have less in your house you have more room and time to think. You stop stressing about everything and you learn to value what you do have, instead of wanting more all the time.

It’s an important life skill, so here are some top tips on how to de-clutter you house and your mind today:

  1. Find a garbage bag. While you try to fill up this bag, you’ll begin to realise that there is really no use for some of the stuff that’s taking up space in your house.
  2. Give away one item each day. As well as getting rid of something you have no use for, you might also be making someone’s day better by giving them a gift.
  3. Boxes!!! Label rubbish, donate, and give to a friend. Sort everything until you no longer have things you have no need for.
  4. Pull everything out of a drawer. You won’t believe what gets hidden underneath papers and books. Put only what you need there back into the drawer and either throw away or put the rest in the proper place.
  5. If you are completely serious about decluttering your whole life there is one extravagant thing that you can do. Put absolutely everything in boxes, making sure that you can store them somewhere close and out of the way. When you desperately need something, go and get it out of the box. Leave everything else in there. After a while, you will realise how much you actually never use. From there you can donate, give away or throw out.

De-cluttering can leave you with a more peaceful, simpler and calmer life.

Just think, more time to yourself, more time for others, you can finally focus on what is really important.

It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all – Laura Ingalls Wilder

By Kaitlyn Trounce, Year 10

(UnitingWorld Work Experience Student, 2015)

Profound?

I certainly fell into the Festive camp on Christmas Day, but as I surveyed a mini-tsunami of wrapping paper after the gift giving, I also found myself wondering yet again about both excess and sloth.  Even our cats (who move as little as possible under normal circumstances) hardly bothered to roll over between Christmas and New Year.  In the midst of all this, it’s pretty easy to lose the image of a child born in a backwater, growing up beside the poor and living out his call to share bread with strangers.  Even more challenging is translating the sentimentality of the Christmas season into something solid and life changing all year round.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably hoping to regain a bit of a balance now that you’ve settled back into work.  No doubt top of the list:  cutting back on excess, paying more attention to our inner lives and perhaps thinking more consistently of others.

In a couple of weeks on Feb 10, just as school goes back and most of us wonder where on earth January went, the season of Lent will begin.  Typically it’s the time in the Christian calendar to reflect on our spiritual lives in a quest for growth, forgiveness and connection. These forty days are a God-given opportunity to recalibrate:  heart, mind, spirit.

With this in mind, I’m planning to take up a Challenge through UnitingWorld’s Lent Event – attempting to live simply, reflect more deeply on my faith and act to support people working hard to free themselves from poverty.  For me and my family, it’ll be a chance to start the year right by thinking about what we eat and why, including the little luxuries we sometimes enjoy a little too much (snack foods, the occasional take- away including lunch at work, desserts, alcohol) and our reliance on technology.  We’ll donate the money we would have spent on all this to a couple of projects I’ve seen first-hand creating change in the Pacific, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

We’ll also be aiming to spend time reflecting, meditating and praying, reading and learning about our faith as well as the faith of our partners in Asia, Africa and the Pacific.  I’m often amazed by how easy it is to see people in these parts of the world as ‘needy’ and underestimate their creativity, spiritual depth and sheer courage.

Through it all, I’m hoping that February and March won’t only be times of growth for our family, but will contribute to the efforts of people who probably didn’t get a chance to lose themselves in a cheese platter this Christmas.

If you want to get involved, check out www.Lentevent.com and sign up today.  There are plenty of ideas to make Lent a time of simple living as well as action alongside some of the world’s poorest people. More resources, including an app (download it right now from the App Store and Google Play), videos and resources for children, are being added every week in the lead up to Feb 10.

Time to make plans to end the confusion?  Lent Event could be exactly what you’re looking for.