Saturday, December 30, 2006
If you feel like generating your own map then click here!
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Sunday was the carol service at WPC and i was sharing the sermon with the other leaders. I don't think I've ever seen so many people turn up for a service. The car park was complete bedlam and sadly i think some people ended up going home because there was just no room left. I was really nervous but it went well ( i think) and once it was over i could start to relax for Christmas!
It's great to have the whole family home for Christmas and especially my nephew Daniel who just livens everything up. He is only 13 months but he can say 'Santa' which is very cute. Sadly he hasn't quite managed 'Neil' yet but I'm working on a repetitve programme this week with him so he should have it sorted by the weekend!
Thursday, December 21, 2006
This week has been good. Took the local young people from Waringstown to the Ice Bowl on Tuesday night. I was a bit worried about how it would go i.e. would they drink, fight, get thrown out etc.! But it was a fantastic night had by all! Most of the young people are not involved in any organisations like BB, sports teams or youth clubs and so don't really get the opportunity to go on a lot of trips (outside of school) so they were looking forward to it. There was about 30 of us altogether and everyone had a really good night. At the end of the night I was really struck by how thankful they all were. Loads of them came up and thanked me personally for organising which really encouraged me. Sadly lots of people in the community don't really have many positive words to say about the local young people. I just wish they could hear stories like this.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
No internet in my new house so less opportunity to blog. Although having been at my parents house for my dinner for the last 3 days i think they think the only think that has actually moved is my bed! What can i say except compliments to the chef!
Anyway if you havn't already had the opportunity to call round to my new abode for a wee brew then you are most welcome!
Sunday, November 19, 2006
A big message about service i wanted to get across to them is they idea that people have many needs:
- free breakfast (physical)
- helping the cleaners clean the school (physical)
- It's a knockout night (social)
People need to know that we care about all of their needs and not just their spiritual requirements. I think the church has a responsibility to meet these varied needs as Jesus did. He met people's physical needs when he fed the 5000 and healed the sick wherever he went. He also met social needs when he crossed barriers of religion, gender and age to connect with people. In the parable of the sheep and the goats what does the Son of Man say to the sheep? When i was hungry you fed me (physical), when i was thirsty you gave me a drink (physical), when i was a stranger you invited me in (social), when i needed clothes you clothed me (physical), when i was sick you looked after me (physical), when i was in prison you visited me (social & emotional).
What a great weekend. The young people really connected with God, the food was great and the banter was even better! Please for these guys this week and for the rest of the year as they seek to be 'lights to the world' in their school.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Apologies for the lack of bloggage recently. It's been almost 2 weeks since my last blog and i guess the main reason for that is busyness! There's been a couple of things recently that have meant I've had less time to do things:
- Setting up my office/spce for young people downstairs in Rigmarole. This has taken a lot of my time (painting & cleaning) in the last 2 weeks. Thanks to everyone who helped with this. All the time consuming stuff is done now so i hope to make full use of it in the next couple of weeks. Please come and visit me!
- House-hunting. Doing some serious searching for houses at the minute which takes time. I'm planning to buy with one of my mates cos neither of us can afford to buy on our own. It seems like I've been out looking at properties most evenings this week from about 5-8pm. I'm starting to get frustrated to be honest because we can't seem to find something we both like, in the right location and for the right price. On top of that as the weeks pass buy the prices are rising at an incredible rate. Also getting frustrated with the many stories of friends who have bought houses in the last year at half the price of what they are now - if you have such a story then I really don't want to hear it! As an aside can i just say that it's an interesting experience when we look at a house because you just know most owners/agents reckon we are 'a couple'! As such, John and i have a strategy of casually dropping into the conversation something about girlfriends!
Sunday, October 15, 2006
All examples of 'fellowship' and i suppose that is why we are called as believers to acts of 'fellowship' because God knows there is power when groups of people meet together for a shared experience. Acts 2:42 tells us the importance of 'fellowship' when it mentions it as a practice of the early believers alongside teaching, breaking of bread and prayer.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)
Saturday, October 07, 2006
As i looked around the room i was really moved and i realised there is no where else in the world i would rather have been at that moment than in that room, with those people, worshiping God. Afterwards i was absolutely buzzing with excitement which meant i hardly slept a wink last night!
Two moments sin the movie stand out to me. The first is when the young teacher is having a conversation with a BBC reporter who has just witnesed a horrific machete attack on a group of Tutsi's. She compares the experience with the horrifying things she witnessed when in Bosnia and how severely she was affected then. This time it was different, she wasn't so affected and it was not because she had become numb to such things it was because as she looked around all she seen were 'dead Africans'. That really sums up the attitude of the UN and the rest of the world powers during this genocide.
The second moment occurred at the end of the movie when the UN are about to leave and abandon the people and the priest decides to stay and the young teacher in desperation asks him why? The priest has struggled with his role and his faith as the masacre has ensued but at this moment he tells this teacher 'Remember when you asked me where is God in all of this? Well i have realised that He is right here with these people, suffering as they are and His heart is breaking.' What truth about our God.
Fantastic movie - a must see.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
When i was in Thailand Stefan and i both made a list of 5 things we would like to have done by the time we are 30 (4 years to go!). I thought I'd throw them up here just so i have a record of them! In no particular order:
- Further study, probably theology and definitely part-time.
- Live in another (non-english speaking) country for a significant time (at least 6-12 months). This would be a fantastic cultural experience and i would be motivated to learn another language.
- Invest a bit more time into music, especially playing guitar and singing.
- Get fit. I'm doing zero exercise at the minute and its starting to frustrate me. Ive now blocked out time in my week for exercise so the plan is to join a gym this week and then maybe try and get a weekly game of squash too. If anyone fancies a game then let me know, unless you're really good, then im not available! This one is more of a 6 month plan rather than 4 year!
- Get married - hehe! This one seems the most unrealistic probably because i have least control over it but sure i'll keep my eyes open!
Monday, September 25, 2006
- 19 Oct - Crackers. Outdoor display of fire and fireworks in Botanic park to open the Festival. It's FREE so you can't beat that!
- 22 Oct - Buena Vista Social Club plying some of the finest Cuban music ever made. Sounds interesting to me! Cost £17.50
- 30 Oct - Declan O'Rourke with Final Fantasy. 'It's the simplicity of great songs coupled with a unique voice that has the ability to reach into your heart and tear it apart.' I haven't heard of Declan before but have since listened to a few of his songs on myspace music (look for his link on the left) and have been impressed. Click here to see a live video of him performing a beautiful song called 'No place to Hide'. Cost £8 (bargain).
- 4 Nov - Iain Archer & Courtney Tidwell. I would like to go to this as i like Iain Archer but alas this date doesn't suit me - worth checkin out if you have a spare £8 lying around! Click here to listen to some of his songs.
- 1 Nov - The History Boys. Sounds like an entertaining production - check it out.
- 2 Nov - Andrew Maxwell. A local boy renound for telling a good story! Cost £11.50
- 4 Nov - Moazzam Begg (Amnesty International). A British Muslim's Journey to Guantanomo and Back. Sounds like an interesting life story. Cost £5.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
In June i put together a proposal and budget for such a centre and sent it off to a variety of Trust Funds and grants. Just this week i have received confirmation that two of those applications have been successful which is really encouraging.
It has been one of those weeks were i have just felt like things are starting to click into place. I've been in this job now for almost 5 months which really isn't that long as far as 'relationships' are concerned but yet i really feel settled. I have been accepted by the young people from the car park, they seem to enjoy having me around. Two of them had birthdays this week and they have begged me to come to the Bannville with them tonight to celebrate (i declined!)! The young people from the church are an amazing group that i just love spending time with. An incredibly gifted bunch of young people who are hungry to know more about God. They make me laugh too which is just great!
We had our first night of Fusion & 20:20 last night. I was pretty nervous and a bit stressed out cos i had been running around all week getting stuff sorted for it. Both went amazingly well - at least i think so anyway! We had about 15 young people for Fusion and they all seemed to enjoy themselves! There were a few regulars missing so hopefully those numbers will be over 20 in the next few weeks! We have about 5 leaders for Fusion and everyone had something to do and did a fantastic job! I think we had about 30 young people for 20:20 (again with a few regulars missing!) which was really encouraging! The worship was led by 'Witness' (an in-house band). It was the first time i had heard them and they blew me away with their gifts in music and worship leading. Then i introduced the vision of 20:20 using the vision in Ezekiel 37:1-14, and led on to talk about our theme for this term which is Spiritual Disciplines. I'm really excited about developing our young people's ability to engage with God in a very personal way, allowing them to grow in spiritual maturity. So by the end of the night i was pretty hyper to be honest and i can't wait until next Friday night!
So you can see what i mean when i say 'i feel like things are starting to click into place'. It helps me to know that God is with me and that i am in the right place and that i am doing the right things. I am happy! On that note i must go and wash my car!
Thursday, September 21, 2006
You see i find myself at a significant disadvantage to the other competitors as i do not own a PS2 or X-Box and so therefore cannot put in the required 'training' between tournaments. The rest of the guys are practising all the time so it's little wonder i'm taken advantage of! Anyways, there's always the next time!
Check out the photo and do take note of the t-shirt and the coveted trophy!
Monday, September 18, 2006
The baptism all went off well and Daniel was a model child of course! All in all a great weekend but i was pretty wrecked by the time i got home last night! To be honest i think i still haven't recovered from my travel tiredness!
Also have to say we had a great night on Friday! Youth in church started back and we headed for a beach BBQ at Murlough. We had about 45 young people there aged from 11-18 and quite a few new faces too which was great. The food was good (big thanks to Pete and a few others) and then we lit a bit of a bonfire and shared a bit of a moment together! Feedback has been pretty good so i think people enjoyed themselves! So hopefully everyone (and even more!) will come along this Friday night as we start into out programme for this term in Fusion (aged 11-14) and 20:20 (aged 15-uni).
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
'Rejoice. Change your ways. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.' 2 Cor 13:11The word rejoice got me thinking about JOY and can i really say that i am full of JOY? I think my happiness and joy is generally dependent on external factors but that isn't God's JOY, which comes from deep within and in spite of externalities. I know that if i want to be there and experience the 'God of love and peace' with me then i need to invest more time in our relationship. I've always struggled with reading the Bible regularly and i know im not alone on this one. They (don't ask me who 'they' are) say that it takes 6 weeks to develop a new habit, so I'm committing myself to the One Year Bible blog for the next 6 weeks. I'll keep you updated on my progress!
I spent some time tonight with a friend who completely inspires and challenges me with their lifestyle of unconditional love and self-sacrifice for a broken community. I feel like something broken in my own heart gets restored when i spend time with them. It's good to have friends like that.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
A few months ago my friend and i went into the Lottery for tickets for N. Ireland's home qualifiers for Euro 2008 and were lucky enough to get 2 seats. I'd never been to a N.I. game before so last night i was looking forward to the match with Spain but given the 3-0 defeat to Iceland at the weekend i wasn't too hopeful. Oh my goodness, how wrong was i.
This was one of those defining moments in life people will talk about. 'Where were you the night N. Ireland defeated Spain 3-2?' will be the question. I can't believe that i am one of the 14,500 who can say - 'I was there!'
I have been to Old Trafford to watch United play 5 times but i can honestly say that last night was the best match i have ever been to in my life! N. Ireland came from behind twice and then with only 5 minutes to go, scored the winner. Healy with his hat-trick performance truely is a local legend on the scale of Best now.
I can hardly speak today, not because of the emotion of the experience, although it was emotive but because my throat hurts. I don't think i stopped singing all night. N. Ireland fans surely are the best in the world and the chorus's of 'We're not Brazil, we're Northern Ireland', 'We're not very good', 'Healy, Healy, Healy', 'Let's all do the bouncy' and 'Are you England in disguise?' rang out with enormous volume from start to finish. When Healy's 3rd goal went in i don't know if i have ever experienced such corporate euphoria and celebration ever in my life! I hugged and danced with grown men i have never met before but yet it was completely rational in the context! I'm sure the celebrations continued long into the night and with good reason!
What a night, what a game, what a team. Give's us all something to sing about our wee country! Now all that remains for me is to e-mail my Spanish friend Simon in Barcelona! Back to work today - ahhhh!
Sunday, September 03, 2006
So on Friday we made our way to Sangklaburi to visit our friend Laura there. She teaches English to a group of fourteen students. Sangklaburi is a small town but 80% of its inhabitants are Burmese (Myanmar) and they have fled to Thailand because of the problems in their country. As such you get a real Burmese flavour to the area. The students Laura teaches are from the Mon tribe in Burma and all have their own colourful life stories to tell as you can imagine. Laura lives in community with her students - sharing meals and living space. She has been there for 3 months now and plans to spend another 6 months there. Laura has her own blog where she jouranls her experiences with a fantastic writing style - click here to check it out. Picture shows us sharing Mon food with Laura and her students. Following this we discovered how much the Thai and Burmese people love Westlife and Westlife karaoke - it was a sereal moment!
This was an amazing experience for us as we got to talk with real Thai and Burmese people and experience something of their culture and struggles. I'm so glad we had these couple of days were we could get off the beaten track and see no other tourists!
Whilst there we got invited to a Buddhist Monks birthday party at the temple - what a privilege - i mean this opportunity does not often present itself eh?! The pic on the left shows is the birthday boy in question! The party really just involved a sharing of food with a lot of people from the community. Then they had a time of prayer that we were able to observe also.
Yesterday we hired out 2 motorbikes and went touring around visiting some of the Mon villages. I've never been to anywhere were i have seen such poverty but at the same time the people there are very happy, they have their own little houses and they are healthy and seem to have their basic needs met - they all had running water, electric, televisions etc. We were also able to visit a Christian Childrens Home which mostly caters for orphans or children with HIV/Aids. The children were at church when we were there though so sadly we didn't get to spend time with them. We moved on to visit a similar centre for adults who have HIV/Aids, or disabilities or mental health problems. This was also interesting and the residents there weved their own products to sell so we were able to buy some stuff. The pic on the left is me beside the Burma border (we weren't allowed to cross it).
By far the funniest thing of the trip happened yesterday! Stefan was raking his motorbike in this little dirt area beside some market stalls. So i thought i'd take a picture and I'm not sure quite what happened but he was giving it full throttle and heading straight for me with the intention of braking. However i think he forgot how to brake or else he tried to brake whilst still giving it full throttle. Anyways, basically he fell off just as i was taking a picture so i managed to capture the perfect moment. I'm not joking folks, it was hilarious! Stefan came away with a few cuts and bruises but by far the worst to suffer was his pride! The bike was only a little bit damaged luckily enough and we got it fixed ok! Anyone who can remember any of the stories from last years trip will remember he did something pretty similar with a boat!
So all in all, it was a fantastic couple of days, defintely a highlight of the trip. we have just arrived in Bangkok today for 2 days. We leave here on Tuesday and arrive home on Wednesday morning and there will end the travelling for another year (well a few months anyway!).
Thursday, August 31, 2006
We leave at about 3pm today to make our way back to Ko Samui to spend the evening and then we fly early in the morning back to Bangkok.
Here are some observations of Thai culture:
- all toilets a have a little hand held hose pipe thing that you use to wash yourself off. Toilet paper is only used for drying purposes!
- Its quite common to see older men spitting into bins and then clearing both their nostrils into the same bin just by blowing hard (no tissue involved). This is really gross.
- Barter for everything. The first price they quote is usually at least 3-5 times more than what they will sell it for!
- Most foods are very spicy!
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Last night we stayed at Hat Rin in a beach hut overlooking the sea. It's a nice beach but it's party central, lots of bars and clubs etc and really noisy and not really what we were up for so we moved on this morning to Hat Yao to probably the most beautiful beach i have ever seen. You know the sorta ones from the postcards with palm trees and beach huts and turquoise water - well you can picture me and stefan lying up catchin the rays - living the dream! We've got a pretty nice wee beach hut only 20metres from the beach and its only 5 pounds per night! So today was pretty much all about chiling out, reading and a bit of bathing. I've never been in sea that is soooo warm before ever! You know the way at Portstew you dip your toe in and it takes the breath from ya, well this is more like water at room temperature - beautiful! Again this computer wont let me put pics up or else i wouldn't have to write half as much!
So we stay here until Thursday and then head back to Ko Samui to leave for Bangkok on Friday morning. Whilst travelling we have had contact with a girl that we met last summer when travelling around europe. Her name is Laura (from USA) and she is currently teaching english in a little village in Thailand near the Myanmar border. She's invited us to go there for a couple of days and we've decided to do it cos it'll give us a fantastic local experience at a place without any tourists. We will head there on Friday (6hour bus from Bangkok) and stay until Sunday, then spend 2 days in Bangkok and fly home on Tues-Wed. Can't believe i've only got a week left - time really does fly when you're having fun!
Sunday, August 27, 2006
We left the elephant park to begin treking and it started to rain. Now for those of you who don't know, its rainy season here in Thailand at the moment so this was torrential rain - ive never seen anything like it, streets were quickly turned to rivers. At this stage we were just travelling to our starting point and because there was not enough room for us all inside the van, stefan and i and a couple of others were sitting in the roof rack. We quickly had to stop the van and take a bit of shelter - we were soaked through! Luckily we had bought wee ponchos before we left for about 30p and im so glad we did because we had really heavy showers everday that lasted maybe 2-3 hours. It didn't spoil it though because it wasnt cold, just wet!
Each night we wuld stay with one of the indigenous tribal villages where we would have a meal cooked for us and then a night of singing and chatting around candlelight! The next day was more trekking, some waterfalls and more rain of course. Stefan had bought some cheap sandals from the market to wear trekking so he wouldn't wreck his good trainers. We were walking through a lot of mud this day and within about 10 minutes both of his sandals ripped so that all that was left was the bit over the toes - flippin hilarious to watch him trying to go downhill!!! He had no other footwear with him so we had to laugh! That night the village children put on a little singing and dancing performance for us which was lovely. You would think that sleeping in a jungle village would be so peaceful, no traffic or city noise but lo and behold we were awoken by a chorus of rooster 'cock-a-doodle-dooing' from about 5am each day. I mean it was still dark which i couldn't understand but after about 4 hours of it you were about ready to strangle something. If it wasn't the roosters then it was dogs fighting!
On the last day we trekked to the white-water rafting place on the Mae Taeng River. We were told we had picked the best day of the year because there had been so much rain, the rapids were better. It was awesome, lots of grade 5 rapids which was so much fun - great way to finish the adventure!
Tomorrow morning we fly to Ko Samui island and we will spend until Friday horizontal on the beach! Here's hoping they aint getting the same rain we are getting in Northern Thailand!
Can't seem to get any pics up here at the moment (grrrrr) but i'll try again later!
Thursday, August 24, 2006
After getting the important things sorted out we set about our exploration of this city. Temples galore here so we thought we'd better check out a few. We quickly chartered our own tuk-tuk which is where we met Tommy the tuk-tuk driver (see picture) and with some negotiation (im really not the best at this bartering business!) we managed to secure a deal. Basically Tommy took us about the place for about 2.5hours and it cost us about 3pounds!
On our travels we went to a temple in a little forest. Around the forest there were lots of littke placards nailed to trees with Buddhist proverbs written on them like the one in the picture! Some very wise words indeed! I know the boys in WPC love their proverbs so i thought i'd include a few for you to add to your already abundant collection:
- One who can only hear but does not understand is as good as deaf.
- He who borrows on interest pays back in tears
- To shoulder sufferings a fool submits himself to the weight of sufferings at the same place. He is seated until his legs become atrophied. He is thus overloaded all his life being always enslaved by sensual delights. (rolls of the tongue doesn't it!)
- Tomorrow i shall do good! This is a fool's word, even today is a bit too late. A wise man did good yesterday.
I hope you benefited much from that! We managed to book ourselves a 3 day trek which will be Fri-Sun. This was our main reason for coming to Chaing Mai and I'm really excited because the trek package includes staying with remote indigenous tribes, elephant back riding and white-water rafting!
Last night we found the markets where we browsed counterfeit goods at ridiculously low prices, did some bartering and came away with a few bargains! Then we went for food. Both of us opted for the spicy Thai salad to start with asking for it to be mildly spicy. Well I'm not joking folks but ive never had my mouth burn from a salad before but i'll not forget it in a hurry! I started to get the sweats down my back, my lips were on fire and no amount of liquids seem to appease it! Thankfully i'd opted for a non-spicy main course which quickly brought my taste-buds back to something closer to normal!
All is good on the travelling front. So far we are lovin Thailand!
Monday, August 21, 2006
Probably the highlight of Japan for me has been meeting the people here and being part of their family for a while. They have taught me what it means to serve others and show genuine hospitality. They have put themselves out in order to make us feel welcome. They have done more for us than we ever could begin to repay. God`s grace flows from the people we have met. This is also evident in the general kindness and gracefulness we have experienced outside of our hosts - in shops, on the streets, restaurants etc. One day Stefan and i were travelling to Kyoto and we gave up our seats so that 2 women and their kids could sit down. Later in the journey as they got up to leave the children presented us with a little folded paper box containing an origami crane and frog they had made for us - we were touched. An indiscrimanate act of kindness as Foy Vance would say (click here to hear the song). It was only later that we discovered that the paper crane is the Japanese symbol of peace & longevity - which made the moment all the more significant.
I`ve been reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. In it he quotes Frederick Buechner:
"For what we need to know, of course, is not just that God exists, not just that beyond the steely brightness of the stars there is a cosmic intelligence of some kind that keeps the whole show going, but that there is a God right here in the thick of our day-by-day lives who may not be writing messages about himself in the stars but in one way or another is trying to get messages through our blindness as we move around here knee-deep in the fragmant muck and misery and marvel of the world. It is not objective proof of God`s existence that we want but the experience of God`s prescence. That is the miracle we are really after, and that is also, I think, the miracle that we really get."
So there you have it, this has been my miracle, my window to the soul. I wonder what Thailand has in store...(can`t guarantee as good internet access as Japan so not sure how often i can post!)
We got back to Osaka last night after a spending a day and a half in Hiroshima. We visited the castle there and got dressed in some traditional samurai gear as you can see! Then we moved on to the A-Bomb Dome (pictured below by night) which remains in ruins as it was following the bomb as an eternal reminder of the tragedy. We walked through Peace Memorial Park and into the Museam which was fantastic. Lots of information to take in though but really informative of the facts leading up to the bombing and the devastation after. 140,000 people died in the blast and in the 3 months following. Given the nuclear nature of the bomb, the devastation continues in the lives of the Hibakusha (atomic-bomb survivors) as many suffer leukaemia and other cancers. Now Hiroshima is a city that has committed itself to world peace campaigning for an end to all nuclear weapons across the world so that no location should have to suffer similar mass devastaion.
On Sunday we visited the shrine at Miyjima which is reported to be the third most photographed site in the whole of Japan (pictured left). It is more beautiful at high tide but impressive none the less. The island is full of wild deer though that just walk around and you can pet them and feed them!
Last night on our return to Osaka we went to an Irish pub called Murphy`s to watch Man Utd v Fulham. 5-1 victory so we were all happy with that!
Finally i feel it is time to confess a new love in my life. We don`t know each other very well but there is a definite connection between us. I think it was her beautiful soft brown hair and brown eyes that attracted me at first and from then on we were hooked. If you want to see a picture of us then click here.
Only one day to go here in Japan, we leave on Tuesday around lunchtime to travel to Bangkok via Beijing. As for today, it will be back to the `onsen` (hot springs) tonight for one final blast!
Friday, August 18, 2006
Today the boys (Chris, Taneli, Stefan & myself) went to the beach but the weather was not good so no suntan unfortunately! We did have a good laugh in the sea though.
Tomorrow we move on to Hiroshima which is most famous as the location of the atomic bomb. Its quite a big city so lots to see in a short time. We leave there to return to Osaka on Sunday. We have Monday to chill out in Osaka before catching our flight to Thailand on Tuesday!
This is a picture of me and Ricku!
Other observations about Thailand:
- Toilet paper is closer to tissue paper so make sure you fold many times!
- Technology is very advanced - much more so than home! Every machine here speaks to you!
- Sliding doors everywhere - houses, restaurants etc.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Hello there folks! We have moved on from Osaka and are now spending a few days in Takamatsu staying with more friends of Stefan`s from college. Takamatsu is a much smaller city on a different island. Its really beautiful. Today we went to a river that had a really cool waterfall that you could stand under (although it was painful!). We are getting the edge of a typhoon at the moment which meant that it has been windy and a bit rainy which has been nice to be honest! Up until now its been 35-40 degrees everyday and really sticky during the nights. You only have to step outside and the` gravy`s running out of ya` as the saying goes!
Before we came to Takamatsu we had a day at the river with Maiko`s family - it was beautiful and i got to work on my tan a little! Then we went to this huge rope bridge which great but not for the faint hearted cos it was really shaky! Then Stefan and i went on a day trip to Kyoto. Its about 2 hours from Osaka. Its a huge city and we got to visit a couple of Budhist temples which was quite interesting. There were lots of candles to light and bells to ring and things to bow down to but we didn`t sell out to it you`ll be glad to hear! The area we visited and the buildings and shops and little streets felt a bit more like authentic Japan. We also got to see a couple of geisha`s which was interesting - again we did not embrace that part of the culture!
On Saturday we will move on to Hiroshima before returning to Osaka on Sunday. We leave Japan on Tuesday to start our Thai adventure!
I`ve put some more pictures up on Flickr so check them out using the My Pictures link to the right or click here.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Hello again, what a great few days we have had! On Saturday we ventured into Osaka City centre with Chris and visited Osaka Castle, Minami Area which is kinda like Times Square in NYC (see pic left) and Umeda Sky building which is really tall and we got some great nightime shots of Osaka (pic below).
Today we went to Chris & Miake`s church this morning which, apart from the language difference (Maike translated for us), reminded me a lot of church back home. The people there were lovely, a few of them spoke good English and came and chatted to us. Then we spent the rest of the day on the roof of Miake`s parents apart block. It`s 15 floors high and you get a great view. We chilled out and kicked the football around and had a laugh - pretty relaxing day.
Following that Miake`s family prepared the most amazing meal ever. I think it was called Quishe Tamaka?! Basically it was lots of different raw meats, fish and vegetables on skewers. Together we lightly battered all the skewers and then on the table was a saucepan of boiling oil and we fryed it all and ate it - it was a taste sensation. They really are the kindest most hospitable family and we really have been blessed to spend time with them! To the right is a picture of us all during tonights feast!
From left: Chris, Maike, Kaeko (Maike`s Mum), Satishi (Maike`s brother), Stefan, Aki (Maike`s Dad), and me!
Other observations of Japanese culture:
- it seems to be common to provide a seat in the shower which is a great idea if you ask me!
- Japenese people are not noticeably smaller! I had expected to feel tall (for a change) but this is not so!
- There are hardly any western white people here! As such Stefan, Chris and i stand out quite a bit! For example at out first visit to the `onsen` (hot springs) within 1 minute of our arrival there were about 8 staff in reception lined up all staring at us and giggling! Now some people may find this offensive but we were rather flattered!
Friday, August 11, 2006
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Hello there folks! Arrived in Japan (Osaka) at 3pm local time (8hours ahead of home) today after an epic travel of almost 24 hours which included 2 flights (via Doha). We were greated by Chris at the airport and he took us to his house where he lives with his wife Maike. There house is lovely and Stefan and i have our very own room equipped with 2 beds, air conditioning (it like 36degrees) a fridge and laptop - all is good. Then we set off to Maikes parents apartment just round the corner. Here we were treated like kings! Keiko is Maike`s mother and she cooked us a fantastic meal of noodle stir fry with pork and she even provided us with some chips! It was fantastic to sit in a Japenese home with a Japanese family and share a meal together! You just don`t get experiences like that when you travel normally, experiences that really give you a taste of the people and their culture - priceless. Here are some of the cultural differences noticeable already:
- you always take your shoes off when you go inside and leave them at the door.
- there is absolutely no litter anywhere (and zero chewing gum on the streets) and yet i haven`t seen bins at every corner.
- the latest toilets have these little jets of water that shoot up and clean your bum!!!
- Everyone is so polite and graceful. We have had a few people bowing to us already!
- Chopsticks during meal times. I really want to embrace the culture and so didn`t use a fork at all for my meal even though they had sympathetically provided us with both!
This evening Chris took us to the hot springs. These centres scattered across Japan and are quite popular. Its basically like a massive health suite with a mixture of jacuzzis, saunas, steam rooms, freezing cold pools etc. The centre is split into two sides, one for males and one for females - the reason being that everyone is naked! It was a good laugh as you can imagine and you definitely come away feeling more alive! Think the hot springs are definitely going to get a few more visits over the next couple of weeks!
Anyways, tomorrow we are going to a Sushi restaurant for lunch then going to chat with Chris`s students whom he teaches english to. After that we will probably explore a bit of Osaka!
Sunday, August 06, 2006
On Wednesday we will fly from Manchester to Osaka in Japan (via Doha). We will arrive about 3pm on the Thursday (Japan time). Stefan has a Uni friend called Chris who married a Japanese girl called Maika. They live in Osaka and so we will be staying with them for a lot of our time in Japan. Whilst there we will go to Takamatsu which is on a different island and supposedly really beautiful. Then we will visit Hiroshima. We will also head to Tokyo for a visit and maybe Kyoto.
Chris works for a church in Osaka so we will be visiting his youth group there one night to give a bit of a testimony and then he'd like us to come along to guest at his mini football club for 4-8 year old kids one afternoon so that should be the craic!
On 22nd Aug we fly to Bangkok (via Beijing!) arriving on 23rd where we jump straight on another plane to Chang Mai (Northern Thailand). There we plan to take a 4 day jungle trek where we will get to see the real Thailand and visit indigenous tribes, go elephant back riding and do some white water rafting. I'm very excited about this trek! Then on the 28th Aug we will fly down to the South of Thailand to the islands and spend a five or six days chilling out on paradise like beaches. Finally we head back to Bangkok for a couple of days to buy some cheap clothes before arriving back on the 6th September!
I love travelling! Last summer i inter-railed round Europe for 4 weeks and fell in love with it. Everyday is a different adventure, new things to see, experiences, different cultures, food, meeting new people - it's going to be amazing! I will try to blog as much as i can whilst away and i'll even try to get some photos up as i go too so watch this space!
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Here's what excited me most this week! We started each day with some worship and a short devotion. I decided to take the theme of 'serving others' and started the week by looking at Luke 22:24-27 and not thinking of ourselves as better than anyone else. In talking about this I was particularly thinking about the young people from the car park who don’t go to church and whom our church young people don’t mix very well with.
In planning for youth week my hope was that it would really engage both the young people from church and the unchurched and bring them together. However the reality was that the unchurced young people appeared keen but then didn’t show up for various reasons. I was a bit disappointed at times but then a few things happened that really encouraged me and made me sure that we did make progress with this group of people. Firstly about 6 of them came along to our Quiz on Tuesday night in the Youth mobile, I sat with them and I think they had a good night. The following evening I was chatting to them briefly and they told me they felt uncomfortable in the mobile and they felt the church ones were staring at them. One girl actually said ‘why do they think they are better than us?’ This really disappointed me given what I had talked about in Monday morning devotion. So for Thursday's devotion I looked at Phil 2:3-8 reinforcing the idea of not thinking of ourselves as better than anyones else and I told them how the young people from the car park had felt on Tuesday night and what they had said. On Friday night we were back in the Youth Mobile for some funny games and a few of the unchurched ones came in and I was so pleased to see our church ones really making an effort to talk to them and make them feel welcome. This was definitely a bit of a breakthrough!
So I had set out a few hopes and prayer requests for the week in my last posting so how did they work out? Many young people definitely had a really enjoyable week. The weather was perfect for us from Mon-Thurs and then the heavens opened on Friday afternoon! Everyone got soaked to the skin as we competed in the Olympics at the cricket lawn but to be honest the rain just made things even more hilarious! Unchurched young people did come along and the church ones did make an effort to get to know them. All of the volunteers had a great time helping out and time will tell if they are keen to commit more time to the young people in or out of the church. Unfortunatley we didn't get to paint the playpark on Thursday, there was just to much red tape on the side of the council and to little time to sort it out but hopefully another time this will work out. However everyone did have a great day picking litter in the village and serving the people of this community. Now i think it might be time for an afternoon nap for me!!!
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Thats all i can think of right now! If you pray then please pray for these things! It's gonna be a fantastic (if a little exhausting!) week!
Saturday, July 22, 2006
'In an interview with The Door, Garrison Keillor said, "If you can't go to church and, for at least a moment, be given transcendence; if you can't go to church and pass briefly from this life into the next; then I can't see why anyone should go. Just a brief moment of transcendence causes you to come out of church a changed person."The chapter goes on to highlight a few movies that have windows of the soul for Gire. I love movies and can't fail to be affected by them in some way. A few key movies for me would have to be Shawshank Redemption, To End all Wars, The Thin Red Line, Good Will Hunting, Braveheart, Gladiator, Dead Poets Society to name but a few. Just realising I haven't watched a movie in ages - need to get along to the cinema soon!
I have experienced what Garrison Keillor described more in movie theatres than I have in churches.
But movies don't always tell the truth, don't always enlighten, don't always inspire. What they do on a fairly consistent basis is give you an experience of transcendence. They let you lose yourself in somebody else's story. And sometimes in losing yourself you find yourself, or at least, a part of yourself. It may be a part of yourself you didn't even know needed finding. It may be a wounded part or a calloused part that you find. It may be a very beautiful part or a very ugly part. A part that needed to grow up or maybe a part that needed to go back and become a child again. A part that needed to understand, maybe, or to forgive. Or maybe it was a part that needed to die, or maybe one that instead needed to be born.'
I'd be interested to hear what movies have really impacted/inspired you so please leave a comment! I'm always looking for somethin good to watch!
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Had a great day up the mountains though. I went with Niall and Jamie (pictured left). The weather was very overcast (no good scenic views pics this time!) and we got soaked in the mist up the mountain but it was still a good days craic. We ended up back at Niall's for a bit of a Settlers marathon - 4 games of which i won zero - raging!!! Also had a bit of a chinese takeaway thrown in there too which was all good!
Last night i joined the bonfire celebrations in Waringstown. I grew up in this village and i don't think i ever went to the bonfire here before! I had a good night just hanging out with the young people i have met round the village and i managed to meet a few new ones too.
This week is definitely all about taking it easy for me! I'm still recovering from 9 days in a tent - I'm starting to feel not as young as i used to!
Sunday, July 09, 2006
So SM finished on Tuesday and SR started on Wednesday and i was placed in Sandy Row. I had a great 4 days doing things like litter picking, sweeping streets, doing gardens, playing with kids, hanging out with teenagers at the bonfire site etc. Out of the 1000 people signed up for Streetreach there was about 35 of us in Sandy Row and it really was a great experience. The pic on the left is my team! Showing God's love to people through practical acts of service and kindness really works - people take notice and ask questions which is great. The plan for Streetreach for next year is even bigger and better and i definitely think i'll get involved again.
Friday, June 30, 2006
What does Jesus say when He describes what a follower of Christ should be like. He tells us to feed the hungry, give the thirsty a drink, give money to the poor, visit the sick and imprisoned, help the downtrodden of society, LOVE GOD AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR. He doesn't focus on what we shouldn't do but on the things we should be doing.
I've just finished reading a great book by Rob Bell called Velvet Elvis, I'd definitely recommend it. Do you ever read a book and feel like the author has just been reading your mind?! Here's what he has to say about being a Christian:
'It is not about what you don’t do. The point is becoming more and more the kind of people God had in mind when we were first created.'At the end of the day people say what they see and they believe what they experience from their contact with Christians, and no amount of me or anyone else telling them they are wrong is going to change their opinions. We need as a church, as the body of Christ, as an army of Christians (that means everyone) to start doing the stuff Jesus tells us to do and impacting people's lives and our communities. Then people might really begin to experience faith in action and so change their definitions. I mean if we don't do this then are we not all just goats? I don't know about you but i'm not so keen on what happens to the goats in Matthew 25.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Ive had a fun weekend! On Friday night i completed the watching of 24 Season 5 - it's an amazing finale. For any of you who haven't seen it yet i won't spoil it but you will love it!
I've also been playing lots of Settlers over the last week. For any of you who haven't a clue what i'm talking about it's a board game. Its a hard game to explain but if your interested click here. Anyway ive introduced the game to a group of lads from church and so there's already been a few late nights of competition! The sad thing is that i haven't won a game yet against them!!! My time will come! Settlers is a great relational tool also, which is what i really like about it. I definitely feel that we have bonded over late nite Settlers sessions!
Anyway, i feel ive loads to get done this week cos I'm off to Summer Madness on Friday which will be followed with Streetreach until Sunday 9th July. We've got about 35 young people going to Summer Madness so please pray for them all, that God will really move in their lives. There's also about 8 of us staying for Streetreach so please pray for that too.