Donkeys

The BBC news item about donkeys disturbed me this week.  Besides poaching of elephants tusks, rhino horn and other wild animals, now they are poaching donkeys!  And particularly so in Kenya where there are plenty.  Their skins and body parts are wanted for various purposes in other lands.  Some concerned people are providing refuges for their safety and security – I was surely glad to hear that.  This is what I wrote a few years ago when I saw the heavy workload of donkeys in Kenya where I lived.

Reflections on DONKEYS
December, 2010

Today I saw a donkey pulling a heavy load of water containers. His legs were wobbling, his master was hitting him and he was struggling with the load.

On another day I saw a bloated dead donkey on the side of the dirty busy road in the shopping centre. He was offered to me for a few shillings!

Another time I saw a donkey briskly pulling a cart along the road with the driver standing on the cart talking on his mobile telephone. It was an incongruous sight.
On the very property where I live there was an interesting sight one Christmas. I was driving quietly out the gate when I encountered along the road a delighted looking owner and driver of the cart and donkey. On the cart was piled a newly acquired set of armchairs and sofa. The donkey was labouring along the road while the driver sat comfortably on the sofa with a beaming smile. He was taking home his newest acquisition to the family and the donkey was delivering the Christmas parcel.

Every time I venture outside my house I see donkeys, plenty of them. I see donkeys tied together pulling carts piled high with wood, water, charcoal or furniture. I see donkeys grazing through the rubbish on the roadside. I see pregnant donkeys and I see donkeys with bruised, sometimes lacerated backs and scarred legs.

When I see their masters beating or hitting them to urge them on, I use my car hooter, glare at them, wave my finger or call out to say – ‘stop hitting that donkey.’
Every donkey looks sad and forlorn. I often wonder why. They seem to be such gentle creatures, compliant and obedient without a complaint. Occasionally from my house I hear them braying in the night. Are they objecting to their lot? Are they crying out for mercy?

The Bible stories include donkeys. There’s even a story there about a donkey that talked! Donkeys are featured in pictures of the Christmas story. I wonder did they know that the baby Jesus would grow up to be scorned, mocked, used and abused as they are?

Donkeys deserve more respect and kindness. Animals are dumb creatures which means they cannot speak to us. We humans are to take care of them. When animals are loved and respected harmony can exist between man and beast. One Christian writer said this long ago: “The animals were created to serve man, but he has no right to cause them pain by harsh treatment or cruel exaction…..He who will abuse animals because he has them in his power is both a coward and a tyrant. A disposition to cause pain, whether of our fellow men or to the brute creation, is satanic. Many do not realise that their cruelty will ever be known, because the poor dumb animals cannot reveal it. But could the eyes of these men be opened, as were those of Balaam, they would see an angel of God standing as a witness, to testify against them in the courts above. A record goes up to heaven, and a day is coming when judgement will be pronounced against those who abuse God’s creatures.”

They are intelligent. Sometimes I see donkeys slowly plodding their way home, along the pathways beside the road, around furniture for sale, gas cylinders, stalls of fruit and vegetables and past parked cars and trucks. They are on their own and know the way home. I hope they are greeted well when they get there.

Does anyone hear the cries of the donkeys or of the crying women and children of the world? I suspect God does and maybe He cries too. I’m going to keep speaking up for donkeys and for the hurting people of the world.

 

 

 

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The Poverty that Exhausts

Today as I sit in the early morning sun streaming through the Dubai airport windows, I am feeling tired. Tired of the scenes I have just experienced for the past 2 weeks in Africa and specifically Kenya. As I watch the huge jets and airliners speeding on the tarmac and launching themselves up into the sky past the rich sky-scrapers and desert below, it is a far cry from what I saw in Kenya. There were no skyscrapers there – but thousands of miserable shacks and millions of people struggling to survive in the dirt and dust of the slums of Nairobi. And – many of them are my friends.

The animals and beautiful scenes I went to see and share with my friends, were all spectacular. Nakuru Lake with its dense bush and wild animals thrilled me. The Thompson’s waterfall and old colonial hotel, with carefully tended gardens, reminded me of better times. Mt Kenya, hidden in the mists but quietly brooding above the game park is an inspiring example of permanence and stability. The wide swollen Ewasi Ngiro River in the Samburu Park with its rich wildlife and the elegant antelope and finely striped zebra is a thrilling place to visit. Masai Mara with its teeming numbers of wildebeest, zebra and antelope is a fantastic sight.

But outside the parks where rich tourists ride and roam, the majority of the 48 million Kenyans, almost half under the age of 15, live in squalor and often hunger. They all seem to be rushing about trying to find work and food anxious to procure my attention and money. Education is elusive and although most appear to be trying hard to survive, there are some who just have to beg and keep asking for more.

When I visited my friend’s lodging down a dusty rough and pot-holed track, worn by the tyres of the many trucks and cars that force their way through narrow openings and over rocks, I was overwhelmed. He, with his wife and family live in 2 rooms facing another 2 rooms with a narrow track and muddy water in a gutter between them. The solid stone structure has tiny windows facing into the track and iron sheets at either end of the track to keep out intruders. There is no kitchen or place to prepare food. There is no bathroom. There is no privacy. There is nothing pretty or attractive to invite people to stay awhile.

The lodgers go outside the building to a corrugated iron stall and stand on a cracked concrete slab with a container of water, which they have fetched from far away, to wash. They walk further down the track, across an open rubbish littered field, to another corrugated iron stall with a hole in the ground covered by rotting boards, to defecate. Many people share this.

I was overwhelmed and wanted to cry.

Having known my friend for many years now, I have watched and listened to his pleas for help. I have visited his previous residence, which was no better than this. His children have grown – they are all teenagers now and trying to get a good education. Meshack has been an ADRA worker. He has been a faithful gardener. He has tried to sell books. He is always cheerful and genuinely polite and gracious to everyone. He has provided a few shillings for a young neighbour so she can go to primary school. He encourages the mother with the three children who lives on the opposite side of his room, and they look to him for help. He has been very sick and so have some of his children. His wife is discouraged having lost two of her brothers in a lightning strike. I don’t know what they all eat.

I don’t know what to do. Africa has tired me.

Lucy and her young son Arnold came to see me. Lucy has a chronic sickness and needs medication. Arnold is doing well at school and thankfully kind donors enable him to do that. Lucy’s husband has been a gentle man and hard worker but he lost his job some time ago due to attending too many funerals for his family members. No new prospects are in sight although he keeps searching. Poverty has sent him mad and he has turned to drugs and alcohol to escape and mask his deep discouragement and hopelessness. He throws stones at people, he beats his wife, he burns his boy’s books. Lucy has chased him away because he is dangerous. This gentle, kind man is exhausted and ruined because of poverty.

Poverty has exhausted me too.

The road on which I travel to and from Nairobi passes through Ongata Rongai where my friends live. Both sides of the road are littered with rubbish, rotten cabbages, plastic bags and through it all rummage hungry donkeys, goats, cows, dogs and sheep. Thousands of people are everywhere – in the shops, selling their wares at ramshackle stalls, on bikes, pulling carts, piling onto the noisy buses and matatus. Amidst the dirty scene these people walk and ride with dignity. The men are dressed well in clean shirts and suits. The black tall elegant women with their elaborate plaited hairstyles and smart suits look as if they have stepped out of a Vogue magazine. And any white item of clothing shines brilliantly. How do they do it?

The poor inspire me. They encourage me and I look at them with admiration and deep respect.

This is not the way I want to or could live. Yet I have been exposed to the poverty of Africa and somehow I am caught up in it and can’t escape the impressions and calls on my capacity to give something of myself.

Brenda accompanied me to the slums and as I lamented and held back the tears, she reminded me that the poor will always be with us. We can’t escape that reality. But I want to escape it. I want to fix it. I want to get all the money from the rich and share it around. I want to help all those children go to school. I want to teach the women that contraception is okay – it is safe and can work. I want to show the children and the youth that they can rise above this. I want to tell them there is a better way. I want to tell them there is hope.

But – I am inadequate. I am overwhelmed and I am sorry. I am glad I was born elsewhere.

Poverty is exhausting and never-ending.

Florence, who works with the poor, told us that we must just do our best in our corner – “Clean the corner where you are and if everyone does that, the whole world will be clean,” she says. I want to believe her and I will try.

Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco – Turning Point in Kenya

Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco – Turning Point in Kenya

Today I came to Kenya again arriving at 5.30 am. I soon felt a sense of excitement, vitality and movement that I don’t feel in other places. Everyone seems to be on the move. There are new roads, more buildings, young people everywhere, people with plans and lively discussions about how to improve Kenya.

After negotiating immigration and customs who were all friendly and seemed glad to see me again, I exited the airport but without my baggage – it was held up in Dubai, Pushing that worry aside I was whisked away with Pastor/Doctor John Macharia and Florence to visit the WCTU and Turning Point Rehabilitation House set in Ongata Rongai, a large sprawling slum outside Nairobi. This was a ministry initiated by Pastor John some years ago, along with many other portfolios he carries.

Here I was warmly received by Douglas Onsando, the manager and counsellor of the eight beautiful young people there to be helped escape from the ravages of alcohol and drugs. Pastor John, Florence and Douglas make a marvellous team with their dedication and animated friendly personalities blessing the growing number of youth who come for help. The three are totally committed to helping change the lives of those who ask for help in this country where the concerns about the use of mariguana is growing and has become a menace to contend with. Their friendliness and positive attitude was contagious for me and the residents. They are entirely suited for this ministry.

We enjoyed a hearty breakfast of boiled eggs, wholemeal bread, maize and beans, oranges and hot chocolate. We were a family of parents and young people seated around the table. The six young men were all handsome, strong and well educated, most of them with degrees from university and had been working in prestigious jobs before succumbing to the DAT poisons and finding themselves unable to function properly. One was a bio-chemist, another a musician with plans to be an anthropologist. Yet another had enjoyed a thriving yoghurt making business following his university education. The one young woman, now 26 years old, was beautiful and self assured although feeling ashamed because of her addiction to mariguana. She had been introduced to it by an older student at university and had used it for the past 7 years. Her degree was in business with two more post graduate degrees, one in criminology. I was amazed and impressed.

They had all come by word-of-mouth and their parents or themselves were endeavouring to pay the fees required. They stay in the small compound for 90 days straight where Douglas and other professional people come each day to teach, instruct, train, pray and care for them while they begin a new life without the mind destroying substances. Already some have begun their new lives and become Christians or recommitted their lives to Christ. One is now training to be a minister.

Pastor John reminded them that this was only a ‘comma’ in their lives and they were now going to move on and up even into eternity. The atmosphere was charged with love, compassion and positive attitudes. I was privileged to tell them more about WCTU and its history and current position in the world. The young men wanted to know if it was only for women. They wanted to be part of such a vibrant organisation.

Douglas, now 35 and unmarried, is paid a stipend but never enough for a man such as himself. Other counsellors and helpers who come from time to time are offered stipends only. The facilities are sparse and the needs are many but they use what they have wisely. Florence, the treasurer, together with Douglas, is working towards having the Rehabilitation centre accredited by the government which will help with insurance and help to lower the costs for the residents.

After continued prayer for sometime the centre has recently been able to acquire a rental house right next door to the existing men’s house for young women. They firmly believe this is God’s leading. Maureen is the first to benefit from this facility. The women’s house needs some dressing-up with curtains, a mat, some cushions and pictures. The centre needs a keyboard and an oven. Often a resident is musical. There are plans to make bread and sell it.

Thanks to donors from USA and Australia, this centre has become a reality although there is much to be done yet. Some gymnastic and fitness equipment has been purchased with donations from WCTU in West Australia. The young men are delighted with a treadmill, a full gym machine and a punch bag.

To see how this ministry has grown from a room in a dusty slum town where counselling happened a few days a week to a dynamic small Rehabilitation centre, blessing the lives of many, is utterly gratifying and exciting. It is the only one of its kind in Kenya where the Gospel, together with a message of absolute abstinence from alcohol, other drugs and tobacco, is taught.

This gives me and those who see it, great cause for rejoicing. We shall continue to talk about it wherever possible and teach parents, teachers and carers that addiction is a disease and needs proper treatment. This can be found at WCTU Turning Point House in Ongata Rongai, Nairobi, Kenya.
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New Zealand women – were/are they lunatics and criminals?

About KATE SHEPPARD
New Zealand WCTU Leader – Suffrage Campaign

The temperance cause was intertwined with the campaign for votes for women in New Zealand in the 1880s and early 1890s. At the time all women were denied the vote, along with ‘juveniles, aliens, lunatics and criminals’. Kate Sheppard, the WCTU’s national franchise and legislative WCTU department’s superintendent was a woman of courage and persuasion, filled with energy, passion and commitment to the aims of WCTU – For God and Home and Every Land.  She was no lunatic. The WCTU had been established in 1885. She and they believed, along with some others, that if women had the right to vote, governments would be more likely to pass laws to reduce or ban alcohol consumption. Therefore Kate mobilised, encouraged and coordinated women across the country to sign the suffrage petitions in 1891, 1892 and 1893. Nearly 32,000 signatures were obtained which represented nearly 30% of the women in New Zealand at the time. This resulted in New Zealand becoming the first country in the world in which women were granted the vote in general elections.

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Those original signatures, on a long glued-together parchment roll, are now safely stored in a new depository and display cabinet in the National Library of New Zealand. The official opening of this new exhibition took place in Wellington, New Zealand on 19 May, 2017. Kate Sheppard, along with other early NZ history makers, was honoured. I was there at this historic He Tohu (signs) event along with some hundreds of Maoris and European descendants – all New Zealanders.

In1895 the WCTU began publishing its own newspaper, the White Ribbon. Kate Sheppard was the papers’s first editor and women contributed, wrote and managed this first women’s newspaper in New Zealand.

Kate had come to New Zealand with her mother and siblings in 1869 at 22 years of age, after the father had died. She and her sister soon became concerned about justice for women and children. She was an early cyclist, just like Frances Willard, the radical women’s leader of WCTU and suffrage movement in America, and helped modernise clothing for women. Kate travelled to and campaigned for women’s suffrage in England and America. She married Walter Sheppard, a wealthy merchant and they had one son. She outlived both of them and her one granddaughter. Kate helped set up the National Council of Women in New Zealand and she became the first president in 1896.

Memorials, streets, bank notes, houses in schools, a play – have all been named in honour of this excellent lady.  When I crossed the the road near the Parliament buildings in Wellington, I was surprised and delighted to see the green pedestrian light revealing the silhouette of Kate, walking determinedly.  She died in 1934, aged 87 years and is buried in Christchurch, New Zealand. She will long be remembered and is honoured on Women’s Suffrage Day or White Camellia Day on 19 September each year.

She was never a lunatic or criminal but she was probably a ‘fierce female’ as Hana Olds said in her presentation at the He Tohu event. I take pride in being one of those women from New Zealand and work hard to help the hurting and abused women of the world and rather than a lunatic I would be glad to be known as a ‘fierce female’ from ‘down-under’.

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Some ‘fierce females’ from New Zealand.

 

On Being a Grandmother

Being a grandmother is an excellent thing and I want to say ‘unique’ but that is impossible – the world has always had and still has millions of grandmothers. My own grandmother was absolutely a massive and beautiful influence in my life and I would like to be like her. She accepted and loved me and my siblings unconditionally and showered us with security and love. As long as I live I will cherish her memory and endeavour to emulate her warm and charismatic personality.

My grandchildren are beautiful, intelligent, cute, funny, loveable and adored by me. They will forever be etched on my heart as the most precious people in the world. My children are all sensational parents, wishing and planning for their children to be happy, healthy and wise. I hope they all will succeed. I’ll do whatever I can do support them in their endeavours to make them healthy and to instil good manners, honourable principles, decent citizenship and kindness into their hearts. I will love them no matter what and I will be there should they need or want me.

And I want to say – Thank you God – for making me a grandmother, for giving me this amazing opportunity to bless my grandchildren. And I want to say – Thank you God for giving my grandchildren a kind and generous grandmother and now a great-grandmother to their children, Peggy Butler is my mother-in-law. Her acceptance of them and gentle manner to the little children who cluster about her knee as she sits in her chair is precious to watch. She has always been an open and accepting listening ear for me when I have bragged about my children (for the past 42 years), and now I brag about the grandchildren. When she eventually goes, I will miss that enormously. There is no one else in the world who can listen to such boasting than a grandmother. I will also offer that ear to my children when they tell me about their offspring.

Grandmothers are a most important part of a family – that I have experienced and now want to carry on that tradition for my own grandchildren. God help me.

Dirty Church

The church floor was filthy.  I had never seen such a dirty church floor.  Clods of black dirt covered the shiny white tiles and black bare feet stood on it or traipsed in more.  At first I thought, “Why don’t they clean this up and take more pride in their church?”

But then I looked at the eager devoted faces, then at their dress, then at their feet.  If they wore shoes they were all now left at the door and by removing their shoes at the door, they were showing reverence for God’s House.  This was the church at Bulolo in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

The flower decorations were brilliant and vases of bright lilies and crotons filled the many vases at the front of the church.  Obviously the women had contributed and created these marvellous displays.  Besides, I had seen them preparing the church with flowers on a previous visit.

Hundreds of faithful church members had come from near and far to see and hear the important people from the church Union office in Lae.  They wanted to hear the news of the world church, to hear a sermon that would encourage them and to share their music with us.  A number of fine singing men’s groups sang their hearts out and the congregation joined in beautiful harmony  when we sang the old time hymns.  The deacons passed the offering bags along the rows and over the heads of the many children filling up the aisles.  They bags were bulging when they reached the rostrum.

When they were told that PNG had the highest offering/tithe percentage per membership in the South Pacific region, they were elated and broad smiles precipitated a loud applause.  They were justifiably proud of their church.

The divine service proceeded followed by the Sabbath School lesson because the electricity would be cut off at that time and no loud speakers would be available.  The teacher was an enthusiastic school master and many men responded to his proddings and questions.  The president of the Union, Leigh Rice and then Bob Butler, CFO, spoke after the lesson time with more news and current event stories from across the country of PNG.  Many men again asked further questions or asked for clarification about this or that.  Not one woman spoke although all had eager anticipation written all over their faces. 

I turned to the women near me and said,  “Why don’t you ask something?  You must have some questions.  Ask what the church is doing for women.”

They shyly looked at me and said “Oh no, the men can speak.”

I was disappointed with this lack of confidence but was well aware that these same women led the community with their activities of caring for their own homes, for the cooking and cleaning of homes and churches, for the flower arranging, for the teaching in the Sabbath School and the nearby church school, for the heavy gardening work they would do and the carrying of huge loads of firewood on their backs.  They were the ones who put together the exquisite flower arrangements in the church – put there to honour my visit and to bless me with their kindness.

I knew that ultimately they held the society together and without them, this church would be empty, the town would be wild, the streets dangerous for it is here that there has been big tribal tensions with men warring with each other.

But I wished that these same women might feel freer to stand up, speak out and be leaders in their church – equal with the men as Jesus taught us.  PNG has one of the highest rates of domestic violence and abuse in the world.  It is time for my church to help change that by demonstrating their acceptance and support of women in equal partnership in the church.

I thank God for the women of PNG who clean the church floors, arrange the flowers, care for the children, grow and cook the food and are wiling to sit back and let the men speak.  I suspect they might be just a bit too tired.

Written July 25, 2015

Street cleaning in PNG

IMG_6085 The hymn “Lead me, Lord” is very meaningful as I sit at my desk today and consider my situation. “Lead me, Lord, lead me in Thy righteousness. Make Thy way plain before my face. For it is Thou, Lord, Thou Lord only That makes me dwell in safety.”

Beautiful words and a beautiful tune that captures my agitations today. Living in Lae is not that comfortable although my house is in the best street in town with the Botanical gardens opposite and the Memorial cemetery just up the road. Not many cars go past but there are many lingerers and passers-by either on their own or in groups – walking, shuffling and parading past, day and night. Some even stop at my gate and talk to our Big Bird, the cassowary, too scared to put their fingers through the wires in case he bites them off.

Some people don’t walk on by, they actually stop outside my fence and sit, cavort, argue, fight and make love. When a man threatens and hits his wife, I shout out for him to stop. Some nights are quite unnerving as the sounds of thuds and screams echo through my open louvre windows. There are even threatenings to kill or screechings of “but I love him, not you.” After that can be heard running on the rough road and shouting as a crowd gathers and ‘takes off’ after the trouble makers. The shouting can be heard for a long time as the group swells and moves off into some other unfortunate area of town. Who knows what tragedies occur after these scuffles outside my gate? I often wonder who got hurt or who was murdered.

Today I went outside the gate with my ‘haus-meri’, Ellen. We armed ourselves with plastic bags and proceeded to go through the security gate, walk up and down outside our compound on the roadside and carefully pick up all the rubbish. It was strewn with plastic wrappers and bags, broken glass, bottle tops, ripped cardboard, pieces of newspaper, squashed plastic bottles, styrofoam containers, icrecream wrappers and lots of bits of condoms and their wrappers. It was a horrible task and we did not like it. Groups of surly looking men walked past us and I felt uncomfortable, the only white lady on the street. Who else would be stupid enough to do this? I came home and washed my hands over and over.

But, today I was determined to clean up the mess. I hate rubbish lying around and outside a mission compound is no place for it to be on display. Sometimes I dare to hope that others will see the difference it makes when everything looks tidy and clean but I also know it is not likely. I must continue to do what I can and leave the rest without judgement or anger.

God loves us all and despite our failings and hopelessness, He is still there for us all. He is still there for me with my arrogant and ignorant ways. He will make it right. I am just here to help, to make a small difference in my corner and to shout when God tells me.

Sydney – my reflections – June,2016

Spending time in Sydney and the busy metropolises of Australia is always a mixture of good and bad. I love to visit my family, spend time with the grandchildren and see friends at church and other meetings. But the traffic and constant quiet noise of the cities is a cause for unrest of the soul.

Sydney’s roads are clogged with vehicles of every kind including thousands of huge cumbersome trucks carrying cargo to who knows where. Cars contend with those huge engines, dozens of wheels and exhaust fumes while being squeezed into narrow lanes on the urban roads. Hundreds of people scurry around railway stations and congregate at bus stops searching for a way to get somewhere or back to their hideaway houses in the suburbs where few know their neighbours.

While visiting my niece in the north-western suburb of Kellyville I was shocked to see the long rows of brand new houses in narrow streets. On one side of the street towered the double storey mansions set side by side with a narrow space between, no front yard and a square of grass at the back surrounded by tall green tin fences, blocking out any view of the neighbours. On the other side, modern brick and stucco bungalows stood similarly – spacious inside, beautifully furnished but somehow hollow. Until very recently, for 100 years, on this land there had been small farms of 5 and 10 acre blocks growing fruit, vegetables with chooks and a few pet animals. The city had expanded considerably and continues to do so every day. This phenomena surrounds Sydney in an urban spread curve on the west side from the north to the south. It seemed like turning the clock back to how inner Sydney was in the early 20th Century and which had become slums before being re-gentrified. I wondered what Kellyville would be like in another 100 years?

To get anywhere in Sydney takes considerable thought and planning. One must choose the route carefully and decide on an appropriate time to avoid congestion. That usually means one must drive at a certain time and make turns and twists into streets that avoid the main roadways. If one has to get to the airport at a certain time, it can be fraught with anxiety if there has not been a very early start.

If it rains at a peak hour the roads can be dangerous, especially if it is dark. The lights are a mass of colliding colours dazzling the eyes and brain. It is very difficult to see the marked lane ways in the shimmering haze. Fortunately for the Aussies, they seem to be a disciplined bunch of drivers and few mishaps happen although I’m sure if those drivers were as carefree as some I know in other countries, there would be chaos and tragedy.

Fortunately Sydney is expanding and upgrading their traffic ways. New roads, railways, freeways and tunnels are constantly being built. This will no doubt help for a time. At the same time more vehicles are appearing on the roads. More L and P plates are appearing. More senior people are continuing to drive to an older age. Thus – more noise, more fumes, more chaos, more danger, more clutter. It’s all a recipe for disaster and decline in the comfortable life Australia is known for.

Which brings me to the topic I am feeling agitated about – POPULATION – and what should be done about it. This must be addressed.

Angie at Haus Clare

Every Thursday afternoon I visit the Haus Clare – a home for unwanted children. It is just up the road from my house opposite the SDA church I attend on Sabbaths. Here children are sent from the police or Social Welfare department to wait to be processed and sent back to parents or a safe place. Many are found on the streets too young to fend for themselves. Others are dropped off at the gate while some are delivered by the police. I go there to read or to be read to. Most of the children are poor readers mainly because of lack of opportunity, love and not being listened to.

They are very responsive to love and attention. Most want to sit close and touch me. They all want to be hugged and kissed. They range from babies to teenagers. Teen girls are there because they have wandered the streets, some have been raped or beaten and others chased way from their homes.

We sit in a community room which Iris and I decorated with paint last year – into a Happy Room. The brightly coloured walls are a reminder that there is beauty in the world and that these children are loved by someone, somewhere. Many children participated in the painting with Iris painstakingly and carefully guiding their hands and hearts. It was a labour of love.

Last week I met Angie. She is only 16 and comes from Goroka. She had only just arrived at Haus Clare. She is there because she had been packed raped by her biological father and his friends. She has grown up with adoptive parents in an Adventist home. That father is short tempered and beats the children when he wants to. She is not able to go outside the gate because her first father is looking to kill her if he finds her. She reported his crime to the police. She asked me for a Great Controversy to read and other Adventist books. She is beautiful, softly spoken and wants to be a lawyer so she can help sort out family problems like she has experienced. How can she ever pursue her dream I wondered?

Daniel is a gentle big boy, just 11 years old. He has been there for a few months and can smile freely now. When he first arrived, he was sullen and frightened and looked very sad. His parents had tried to hang him and the scars were all around his neck and face. He enjoys reading and I encourage him to help the young ones. As I hug and encourage him to trust in God I wonder what will become of him?

Sarah is a small pretty 8 year old girl, mostly full of shy smiles. She cannot read but loves to look at the pictures and speak out the simple words she recognizes. She craves attention and sits very close. Last week she fell over on the gravel and began to cry uncontrollably and loudly. I called her to come and sit on my knee. As I held her tightly she calmed down and although with a sad sullen face, we read a happy story. What parent could resist this beautiful child I wondered?

Every week there is someone new to love and read to. After the reading time they all go to their main meal of the day – usually rice or sweet potato. Their carers know them all by name and do their best to take the place of a parent. Many of the carers themselves come from broken or sad homes.

Every week my heart is broken again as I sit with these precious children and hear some of their stories.

Every week I wish I had a magic wand to fix all their troubles.

Every week I wish I had more money to bestow on their families and provide decent food and housing for them.

Every week I wish I could ease the heartaches of them all – the children, their parents, the helpers, the poor and suffering people in Papua New Guinea.

Unfortunately I don’t have the answers but I can help to bring a little love and friendship where it is so desperately needed.

Muumuu at Gabensis

Recently I drove with Bob to Gabensis Adventist School about 45 minutes from Lae. The scenery at this place is rather beautiful – green, lush forests, quiet hills, rushing rivers, tree lined road to school and a quaint church down a coloured flowered pathway, overlooking the hills. Hundreds of church workers, pastors, teachers and office workers from the Morobe Mission were there for a retreat conducted over a few days. They had all brought their tents and had set them up in the classrooms, beside the buildings or on the verandahs. They were being instructed, admonished, taught and generally encouraged to be good SDAs, follow all the doctrines and fundamentals and be ready 24/7 for the defensive or the charge.

The people were friendly and looked happy enough. They enjoyed the camaraderie and the close proximity of their tents. Their food was provided from a temporary kitchen and twice a day they lined up to receive their portion – lots of rice, root vegetables, some chicken or tinned fish and sliced paw paw and watermelon. The children ran freely, the young teachers jostled and joked with each other, the mothers attended to and rocked their babies. The ministers looked serious and determined. The singing, as always, was beautiful and the harmonies coming from the church was food for the soul.

The most surprising and shocking experience for me was the opening of the muumuu on Sabbath – the special Sabbath lunch. The banana leaves were stripped off the huge stone covered feast in the ground. Steam and smell belched forth and here was hundreds of dark grey taros and a whole cow! Bones and brown meat soon separated as the men pulled the meat and vegetables out and onto large tin bowls. They used rib bones of the cow as spatulas and serving spoons. The large leg bones were separated and given to the dogs. What a massive feed they would have! It was a horrific and sad sight and a very smelly experience. Soon the campers lined up with their dishes and plates to receive their share of meat and taro along with some watermelon and paw paw slices. This was their delightful Sabbath lunch! I wondered if there were any vegetarians there and what they would propose to eat. I wondered was there anybody who cared about animals, about their health, about the original diet. Was anybody trying to live a more healthful life?