Friday, April 30, 2010

Lest we forget...

On April 25, 1915, members of the Australia New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) landed on the shores of Gallipoli as part of a strategic campaign to capture Turkey. For the first time, Australians and New Zealanders were fighting for their own countries, and not as a part of Great Britian. Even though the campaign seemed like a failure with Australia losing over 8,000 soldiers in 8 months, April 25th is set aside each year as a time of rememberance. Not only remembrance for the army veterans of World War I, but for all soldiers who have served in any branch of the military. ANZAC Day is arguably the most stoic and serious holiday celebrated in this country. Every town has a memorial in it listing the men and women who fought at Gallipoli and died, with the inscription, "Lest we forget..."

Because ANZAC Day fell on a Sunday this year, I was only able to participate in a few events surrounding the holiday. I was invited to a traditional dawn service by the Grittens' (Ray's dad fought in WWI) in his hometown about an hour away. There are lots of services and programs throughout the day, but the dawn service is special because it was dawn when the ANZACS landed in Gallipoli. We woke up at 3:30 am (I know!) and made it to Wangi for the 5:00 am service. Despite the steady rain, the indoor service was packed! There was a group of sailors from the Navy there, as well as veterans and their families. Many veterans were wearing their military medals and awards on their clothes. The service started with a prayer, and then a man gave an account of what happened on April 25, 1915. Following the recitation, the "Last Post" was played and we had a long period of silence. After the service, a huge breakfast was served for everyone who attended. Unfortunately for us, we had to eat and run to make it back to Gosford in time for worship.

Monday after ANZAC Day was a public holiday because the actual date fell on a Sunday. It is tradition among the churches of Christ in Sydney, and the surrounding regions of the Central Coast (which is where I live) and Newcastle, to get together for a picnic. People started arriving at the Pavillion in Aubury at 10 am. By lunchtime, there were over 130 Christians there enjoying fellowship and food. After lunch, we had a time of singing and sharing. This is probably the biggest group of Christians I have sung and worshipped with since I have been in Australia. To our standards in the States, 130 people isn't a big gathering of Christians, but here it is huge! Hearing all of these voices singing, "A Common Love" brought tears to my eyes. Every few songs, a representative from each congregation would stand up and share what was going on there. It was so exciting and encouraging to hear all the ways God's people were working in so many different areas in their own communities. The entire ANZAC Day weekend was a blessing!

Gosford Girls: Me, Emma, and Amber at the ANZAC Day Picnic.

What else would you do at a picnic besides play Yahtzee?

Jamie (a HIM worker in Sydney), Me, Emma, and Amber.
Amber and I spent the night before the picnic with Jamie because we were already in Sydney for a youth rally Sunday afternoon. Can you tell that Amber and I still haven't recovered from the dawn service the day before??

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Where's my Dad when I need him?

I never liked doing laundry. Luckily, I had this amazing dad who specialized in laundry and ironing, while I was growing up. In college, I would save up weeks of dirty clothes before going home to visit. It wasn’t the putting the clothes in the washing machine part that I hated, but the remembering to put them in the dryer. Then after they’re dry, you have to fold them or hang them up—ANNOYING!

Here in Australia, laundry is even more tricky because I don’t use a dryer (okay, I do sometimes, but not very much). Electricity is very expensive, so one way people save on their bill is by hanging their clothes to dry on a clothesline outside or racks inside. Clothes can dry in a few hours outside on a hot, sunny day! I don’t hang my clothes outside much because I usually do my laundry at non-sunny times (like at night when I am home), and if I’m really honest it’s because I just can’t be bothered going outside. My usual routine is to hang clean clothes on racks in my spare bedroom. In a few days, Abra-cadabra, they are dry. Clothing racks are great for my clothes, but not for big things like sheets and towels. Last week, I had people stay at my house 2 separate nights, so I was definitely in need of washing some linen. Monday, my day off, I washed the sheets and towels since it was actually daylight and sunny, and I knew I could hang them outside on the clothesline. As I was hanging the clothes up, I felt a slight, nice breeze coming up over the bay blowing my hair, and I heard ducks quacking and seagulls crying out, and I was struck with this awesome moment of peace. I decided I did like hanging my clothes on the line, because it allows me to be outside and forces me to appreciate this gorgeous place I get to live in. So, I am vowing to become a regular clothesline user. Now, about that ironing…I’m still waiting for my dad to come over here and take that job off my hands!

Here Comes Goodbye

At 8:00pm tonight, a plane left Sydney International Airport bound for China. My friend and fellow HIM worker, Sammie Marshall, was on the plane heading home (via China after a visit with her twin sister). She spent the last 20 months serving the Warringah Church of Christ in Sydney, as well as volunteering several hours a week in the community. Though Sammie and I never really knew each other at OC, we have become great friends since I’ve been here. She has been there to offer advice, listen to me vent, and save my life on numerous occasions. Sammie taught me a lot about faith and trusting God even in the hardest of times. When I first got to Australia in September, Sammie had just returned from visiting home. But instead of coming back from a happy, carefree furlough, she came back from burying her brother. Despite the loss and grief she experienced, she still came back to serve—God and the Church. One person at her farewell party said it best, “Sammie, you have become part of our lives and our church. When you leave, a part of our church has gone, too.”

I will miss you, Sammie, but I know that God has amazing things planned for you, more than all you could ask for or imagine. May you go with God as He leads you to the next place He wants you to serve.

Our last hurrah as HIM workers. We went to Maccas of course.

Jenn and Amber were jealous that we kicked them out of our picture, so they took their own.

Love these two!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Catching Up

So much has happened since I last blogged! I don’t even know where to start to catch you up on my life. Since I hate writing (thank you 10th grade English), I decided to communicate the last month with you in my favorite form: A LIST! Here’s my list of what happened since I last talked to you:

1. My mom came to visit over her Spring Break, and we had a blast together! Both JGray’s back in the same house! We spent some time sightseeing and being tourists, but also had some time to just relax and hang out. Before I knew it, 1000 km had been driven, 500 topics had been discussed, 5 movies had been watched, 3 books had been read, an immeasurable amount of diet coke had been drunk, and the 12 days were over. Saying goodbye to mom in the airport was brutal (Definitely on the list of Worst Feelings Ever), but I am so unbelievably thankful she was able to come and see my life here in Australia. 2. I spent 2 nights in a (freezing cold) cabin of great girls, laughing so hard my sides hurt.

3. The Gosford Ladies had a retreat called Mirror, Mirror. It was an uplifting, encouraging, and challenging weekend of worship, prayer, discussion, and reflection, with each woman taking part in some aspect of it. Spending time with these spiritually minded ladies helped my faith grow.

4. I missed Aquilles, Mexico so much that I cried.

5. I went to Mother’s Blessing. My friend, Tammy decided not to have a traditional baby shower to welcome her third child into the world. Instead, she opted a gathering of women who were special to her to bless her through quotes, scriptures, and stories. We each brought a bead to contribute to the necklace she wore during labor. I felt honored to have been included in such a special occasion. PS: Joel Phillip made his grand entrance the first day of April.

6. I got a letter from an 8 year old from home saying she is praying for me!

7. I was blessed with a trip to Melbourne and Tasmania with my great friend Amber. We visited her family in Melbourne, then headed to Tassie with her parents for Camp Barnabas over Easter weekend. We then stayed in Hobart for 5 days after camp, catching up with friends. It was a fabulous holiday. (Look for pics on facebook.)

8. I saw dolphins swimming in the ocean.

9. I was once again reminded at how thankful I am God designed the church. He knew that we would need a family of believers to share our struggles and joys. It doesn’t matter if you have known them for 10 years or 10 days or 10 minutes, we automatically have a deep bond. What a blessing!

10. I found a Dublin Dr. Pepper at an American food store in Tassie. YAY!

11. I became obsessed with the TV show Friday Night Lights. Luckily, I am not alone in my obsession. I go over to Dan and Mel’s house one night a week to eat dinner and watch as many episodes as we can cram in.

12. I stood at the top of Mt. Wellington overlooking Hobart, Tasmania and realized how great God is.

13. I sent out my monthly newsletter, and was blessed with so many responses and encouraging emails that I haven’t been able to answer all of them yet!

14. I stayed in a gorgeous cottage built in the 1850’s in Hobart with the gracious and hilarious Drew family.

15. I met an amazingly brave 14 year old girl who is battling leukemia, and is holding on like a champ.

16. I hid (with some help of course) 80 plastic and chocolate eggs for the primary school kids to hunt in a local park.

17. Amber and I taught a great group of teen girls at Camp Barnabas. They were so open to discussion and asked some tough questions. I am so proud of all of them!

18. I realized how richly blessed I am to have a Heavenly Father who knows and supplies my every single need.

I know there are at least 58 other things that I could tell you about the last month, but that’s just a random sample. I promise I’ll work on being a better blogger!