WCTU Convention – Adelaide, March 22-24, 2022

by Joy Butler, President, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Australia Ltd, 2018 -2021

Come alive – this is our theme. The women of the 19th century CAME ALIVE. My question this evening to you is – are we going to STAY ALIVE??

There have always been women who spoke up for the good of humanity.  But in the late 1700s women were beginning to stir to help society be better for women – the industrial revolution had changed society (1712 – first steam engine) and evil was afoot as it always is and we were on the move at the same time.   The first temperance society was formed in USA in 1808.  In 1832 eight men in England formed the Total Abstinence movement.  In 1838 Total Abstinence societies formed in Perth, Sydney, and Hobart and then Adelaide and Melbourne came later in 1842.  They had already formed a Temperance group.  Brisbane came later.

The first wave of feminism was afoot – 1848-1920 and women were involved – women concerned about their families and the huge amounts of alcohol being consumed and money being wasted.

In 1874 the USA National WCTU organised in Ohio – thanks to Doctor Dio Lewis who urged women to pray for their men.  

1882 first WCTU in Australia formed in Sydney 

1883 world WCTU formed – Frances Willard became a prominent force

1884 Mary Clement Leavitt of US – first round the world missionary visited Victoria

1887 First organising conference of Vic WCTU held in the YMCA and a deputation to government.  Women medical students admitted to Melbourne University for the first time!

1892 – First Convention National WCTU Australia – in Melbourne, 25 May

1892 – First White Ribbon Signal published 7 November – we are in our 130th year!!

1893 – Women’s franchise in NZ – first in the world – Kate Sheppard led this – she was an officer/leader in the WCTU there.

So many firsts and WCTU was right there praying all the way – on their knees.  Thousands of women joined the organisation and huge strides for women, for people, were made.  Whippings ceased, homes for prisoners and prostitutes were set up, working girls cared for, kindergartens started, food for the poor distributed, clothes for sailors were provided, education on temperance in schools, tea rooms set up, street marches held, votes for women campaigned for, Domestic Violence addressed, laws were changed, politicians were hassled, camps for children conducted, booths and displays at shows, literature – brochures, books and pamphlets – all this done by WCTU!

Now we’re still alive and still going 130 years later in Australia.  I love history and love reading about the past – the glorious days.  When there were 100s of members – some of you were even alive then and attended conventions.  But we’re still here and in some places, flourishing, in others, languishing.  That’s what happens throughout history – ebb and flow – but we are faithful.  Now we are past the 2nd and 3rd waves of feminism and into a 4th!  We have believed in the 3 Ps – we have been persistent, persevering, persuasive.  Up until the 1970s there were departments in the  WCTU and some were Status of Women, Prisoner’s Aid, Native Races, Promotion of Fruit Juice Drinks, Health and Nutrition, Anti-gambling and many others.  In the early days of WCTU there were over 40 departments.

We continue because we feel socially responsible – as Christians, as people of Australia.  In the book ‘Post God Nation’ – by Roy Williams, published in 2015, he says – this nation was built on Christian principles by people who were versed in the Bible but, he says, religion has fallen off the radar for this country and he suggests what might be done to get it back on and he implores Christians to be more active.

Because religion has gone off the radar, our society is riddled with issues surrounding the SAD (Smoking Alcohol, Drugs) poisons – alcohol is ruining lives everywhere and is the biggest cause for violence/accidents/death.  Drugs are easy to come by and ruin thousands of lives every year.  We still have work to do and I’m glad we have joined forces with other groups in Australia recently – Taskforce 4 Drug Prevention.

Key findings from Aust Govt – Aust Institute of Health and Welfare – 2021

The non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs is an ongoing concern internationally

There is a strong link between problematic alcohol or other drug use and experiences of homelessness

Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of preventable health burden in Australia

People with mental health conditions are more likely to use tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs

Billion of dollars are spent on issues relating to all these concerns – the burden of disease related to these matters is ‘over the top’.  Drugs is an enormous concern in rural areas, more than cities and 40+ yr olds suffer the most.  Homelessness and break-ups of homes and marriages contribute as a top cause to the raging alcohol and drug consumption.  We feel compelled to help

Our Motto is – For God, Home, and Humanity OR Every Land – it fits well.

I believe that the WCTU has always been and is and can still be part of that remedy for Australia.  There are too many atheists and agnostics in this nation and we have let that happen.  We are responsible. I plead with you to support, to join, be part of WCTU – don’t let it die – help it COME ALIVE.  And the wonderful thing is – we are women from all the churches – united in our efforts to make a difference.  Some of us have children and grandchildren who have been ruined because of these SAD poisons – we know the deep sorrow.

We are/were well known in Australia.  Most older people still know the name, many politicians know the name and it is said – Ellen Chandler quote “politicians looked with dread if they saw an appointment made in the name of the WCTU”.

Now we realise and are facing some hard facts – we have fewer members than ever before.  Some predicted this long ago and saw the demise of WCTU.  We also realise that we need younger more modern thinks and ‘do-ers’.  Some of us are getting older.  This was alway the case of course and some old cartoons show us as ‘wowsers’ and angry looking women with captions which talk about our lips never touching yours. “The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.” The last line of an anonymous poem from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) became a popular mantra in the efforts by prohibitionists to stop all sales of alcoholic beverages in the United States: It seemingly was a threat by young women to their young men to stay away from the booze or skip the kissing routine. But – we are few and want help – we are about 166 members in Australia.  We have active Unions or groups in Victoria (as has always been the case) and Tasmania joins them.  There is a small group in NSW and a very active group in South Australia – that’s why we’re here and that’s it.   

We want direction and help in knowing how to face the future – a future in a messy world filled with troubles of every kind – including alcohol and drugs which cause most of the messiness, if the truth be told.  We have money, we have faith, we have hope and we want your help.  God has led us thus far and we are trusting Him for the future.

Now let me tell you what we have done in the last three years – since we met in Newcastle in 2018.  We have not been sitting idle and commiserating – we have continued to work despite our dwindling membership and lack of meetings (meetings we are famous for) because of Covid and all its repercussions.

Connector – new innovative online newsletter and thanks to Victoria for the name.  We send this out by the 10th of every month and it includes letter from the president, news of each state, educational items and prayer requests. We believe it is a good way to keep in touch with members.

WRS – White Ribbon Signal.  We produce this quarterly – since 1892.  It is now in its 130th year although it says Vol 127. In this magazine we share news, history, important items regarding what I call the SAD poisons – smoking, alcohol, drugs.  Much thanks is attributed to Ellen Chandler, previous editor to me.  She relinquished that responsibility in 2019 after 20 years.

Drug Free Kids – magazine – quarterly and online – huge thanks to Glenda Amos who has cared for this for 20 years. Glenda has done this for long enough and has gone past her due date.  This is magazine that is interactive, online and excellent for children.  But the distribution has dwindled.

Internet/Social Media – Connector via Mailchimp, WRS – printed and online.  Website …..thanks to Michelle Ward for those two.  I have  groups on Facebook …..  Instagram …….  Pinterest ….. Youtube

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Public communications campaigns targeting drug and substance abuse – Alex Antic a member of this committee  – May 2021

The committee was informed that social media can be an effective tool in

public communications campaigns, noting that social media is a medium like

television or radio, as opposed to a type of campaign such as social marketing. Social media usage has increased significantly in recent years, with current statistics showing that worldwide, 2271 million people use Facebook, 326 million people use Twitter, 1000 million people use Instagram, and

287 million people use Snapchat. In Australia, 60 per cent of the population are

active Facebook users and 50 per cent of Australians log onto Facebook at least

once a day.

Social Media is so important and we need to use these tools – we need more and more expertise to put it together.

Sober movement out there – I would like to believe it’s part of our success.  I’ve found myself on a Sober group to encourage young people.  It is now called the Sober House.  It was titled  ‘The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober.’  Another group is SOBER IN THE COUNTRY or its acronym SITC – It’s Ok to say no to alcohol – Alcohol in the Bush – Shanna Whan.  She says she was ‘bubbly by day/raging drunkard at night.’

Taskforce 4 Drug Prevention – 5 groups.  We are one. Drug Free Australia, Dalgarno Institute, Drug Advisory Council of Australia, Teen Challenge Tasmania, and WCTU

We have left literature all over Australia – in remote places

We have Spoken at many churches and events

Sharon Bird and others in the outback focus on the First Nation people of our land.  There is so much more to be done in this area.

Buses – signs on in Newcastle, Blacktown, Tamworth, Kempsey and Port Macquarie – NSW  at a cost of $23,000

Doctor’s surgeries – advertising clips regarding FASD in NSW, Queensland, and West Australia at a cost of $12,000  – currently in 7 venues.  Have been in 15 altogether.

FASD – We’ve continued our promotion of no alcohol for pregnant mothers with literature and handouts. 

Petitions and Votergrams to politicians – thanks to Anne Bergen who led the way

We give donations to various entities – there is a strict protocol and application procedure. Glenda’s work with our treasury is exemplary.  Read her report carefully.  We are so grateful to our most efficient treasurer. She does far more than just treasury.  Total of what we’ve given away in the last 3 years – $30,600.

Support for international groups – Kenya and PNG are a focus  $13,000 to Kenya – some for a Drug Rehabilitation Centre called WCTU Turning Point Solutions.

Book we produced – Women of Purpose – available for purchase – after last convention – inspirational to read

Youtube – 10 parts Connie Hain and I produced this series available online.  It is about all things pertaining to WCTU – take a look on our website and share.  We need much more on Youtube

South Australia has been a light (long history)…. tea rooms …. yet to see for me  -… would love to repeat this in every state

(Resolutions and Pledge)

Finally – I should mention our Tuesday morning Zoom Prayer Group – we have persevered – a diligent and faithful group of 6-10 women meet every week.

In closing I wish to quote from the Parliamentary Inquiry into Communication Campaigns Targeting Drug & Substance Abuse from Dalgarno Institute, January 2020

 ‘Awareness and re-shaping public perceptions is not a one-off pitch but an

ongoing commitment to purposefully, insistently, creatively and credibly,

informing every successive generation.

In alcohol and drug education it is roughly estimated that for each person to

change knowledge required roughly 15 hours, to change attitudes needed 30

hours and to change behaviour required 50 hours. But in Australian schools it

was estimated that only 44 per cent of students aged between 12-17 received

more than one lesson on illicit drugs in the past year.

 ‘Australia is revealed as a not a sleepy, remote backwater but a key

criminal base with pre-existing established longstanding and high-level ties to

international networks that have not only continued to flourish but laid the

foundation for the virtually unabated manufacture, supply and distribution of

illicit drugs.

 ‘The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates the harm-related

economic impacts of the use of alcohol and other drugs as:

Ÿ $17.76 billion Opioid use (illegal and off-prescription)

Ÿ $14.35 billion Alcohol

Ÿ $4.5 billion Cannabis

Ÿ $5 billion Methamphetamine (2013–14)7

1.8 The above $5 billion cost estimate of methamphetamine use is for costs such as

harm reduction and treatment, health care, crime, premature mortality, road

accidents, workplace accidents and productivity. This $5 billion does not

include the estimated cost of up to $12.2 billion in harms to partners and

children of people who use methamphetamine.8

 ‘Since 2004, Courageous Mothers [in Dutch language Moedige Moeders] has been actively making it clear to members of parliament that drug tolerance has serious consequences for families and society. ‘

We have not been idle – we have been alive – although I might add – it has been hard going – and with some discouragement.  We are not organised in the way the organisation was in the past with various departments – we wish we could be but we don’t have and can’t find the expertise. So we have done what we could.  But you can see and hear what has been accomplished and can catch a vision of what can be accomplished if we COME ALIVE even more.  We crave and want your support.  We want good leadership, we want more people, more young people and we want YOU.

There is much more to be done.

I was encouraged by the Scripture reading and emphasis for World Day of Prayer this year – Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

God bless you and thank you for coming – thank you for listening.  Thank you for your support.

The best drink – grape juice from the vine.

Sad Stories of Women in PNG

Domestic violence against women here in PNG is not a subject that many people want to talk about but it behoves me to share some of the stories I know so as to remind people that this is a reality in this beautiful country so ravaged and spoiled by the troubles people have to contend with.  And then as a result – hopefully – people will respond with strong words, action, and interventions to curb this cruelty to women which holds the nation back from making progress.  There is such potential in this land of lush forests, teeming birdlife, turquoise seas and exquisite vegetation and flowers.

The following stories are those I have either heard or seen during my sojourn in this ‘land of the unexpected’ where people are kind and friendly to me, but often hurt each other mercilessly.


Women in remote parts of the country are often accused of being witches and sorcerers, just like it was in the medieval times in England.  A woman was found tied up and about to be burned with tyres in the river near my house in Lae.  She was rescued by the police and brought to stay in an apartment next to my home where she was safe from her predators.  Last year in July, 2019, in the Highlands, a number of women and children were hacked to death and tied up in bags to be burned.

Chopped fingers

It is not uncommon for angry husbands to chop off parts of their wives’ bodies.  While I was shaking the hands of the women after a teaching programme I was involved with in Port Moresby, a young woman with a baby on her back, gave me her left hand because the right hand was covered with a dirty rag.  I ventured to ask ‘why’ and she uncovered the hand to show me a few fingers chopped off.  She then quietly told me that her husband had been angry because she had provided money for her brother to attend a church school and so chopped off her fingers.

Nose cut off

My American friend works for an Aviation company in Goroka in the Highlands of PNG.  He loves children and found a family in need of care and support because the father was cruel.  He took them to his home and provided food, clothing and schooling for everyone and a safe refuge.  Eventually the father came looking for his family and persuaded his wife to return home where they would work things out.  She faithfully went and he promptly chopped off her nose!  How she found help to recover from this atrocity I have no idea.  But … some time later she has had yet another baby to this man!

Six lively women

While speaking at a convention in the Highlands of PNG I stayed with six women in a house built on stilts and surrounded by tall fences and locked gates.  During the day we talked and shared with hundreds of women camped on the hillsides nearby.  Each evening we shared our stories in the house and laughed and cried.  One of the women told her story about when she discovered her husband was having yet another affair.  She had endured years of unfaithfulness and now was very angry.  She ordered all the visitors at her house to leave and then promptly viciously beat him up.  He was rescued and taken to hospital.  The staff told her she had almost beaten him to death.  There are many women in prisons in PNG because they have beaten their husbands to death, often in self defence or desperation.

Haus Clare – safe house for children

Living in Lae has given me a beautiful opportunity to support children in the nearby Haus Clare – a house of safety for street and rescued children.  It is a sad place yet is brightened by beautiful paintings on the walls, good toys, colourful patchwork bedspreads and an extensive library.  But many of the children there are sad, disturbed and distrustful.  Some have run away from dangerous homes; others have been chased away by their parents or a step parent; many are unwanted and wander the streets. There really are no orphanages for such children in PNG because the extended family is supposed to care for them.  One gentle young 10 year old boy was quiet, withdrawn and had a very sad face.  I felt drawn to him and I shall never forget him – he had been strung up in a tree by his parents so his neck was very scarred.  He was worried that his siblings might suffer similar cruelties.

Helicopter services for mothers

My son is a helicopter pilot and he works for a small company that operates a few helicopters.  He is on call to fly to remote places in the mountains, on a stoney river bed or beside the blue sea – all exquisite places if you were a tourist.  But he goes to rescue women in difficult childbirth or others who have been stabbed or hurt and someone has had the tenacity to call for help.  Last Christmas he was called high into the hills near Lae to bring newly born twins to the hospital along with their Aunt.  The mother had died while giving birth.  The distance to find help was too far to walk or be carried and anyway the clinic was closed on Christmas day.


“TTT for PNG” – Taps, Toilets and Transformation for Papua New Guinea is a project I have undertaken to help upgrade and fix broken and disgusting toilet and bathroom facilities in as many schools as possible in PNG.  This is a difficult and tedious task but I must pursue it.  There are thousands of children in PNG who suffer indignities every day in abominable ablution places. Already we have been able to upgrade, paint and provide better toilet facilities in two schools.  In one school there was no bathroom – the girls walked to a nearby stream beside a busy road, to bath.  The toilets were in a corrugated iron and wooden lean-to out the back of their dormitory.  This is entirely unsuitable and unsafe for teenage girls in any place.  Another school has a broken concrete block shower structure which is old and covered with black slime and no privacy.  The toilets are bowls with no water and excreta and rubbish litter the floor.  No one has taught them how to use them properly.  No maintenance men or fix-it people enter these dismal places and the girls don’t complain – they have lived like this for most of their lives and don’t think to ask for something better.  I believe that if girls can be taught respect for themselves at an early age by having decent ablution places, they will grow to be women of responsibility and dignity and thus require respect from the men in the community.  Thus there will be less violence and cruelty perpetrated on women.

God help us all.img_9559

On Being an old Missionary


Here we are today at Avondale College – a group of old missionaries who have served in the Pacific Islands and Africa.  These special people represent some hundreds of years of collective ministry in Papua New Guinea, West Irian Jaya, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Fiji, Kenya, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe.

Many of them home-schooled their own children in remote places where they rarely saw another person like themselves.  Some of the women spent lonely hours and weeks waiting for their husband to come home.  Others delivered babies in inadequate hospitals far away from those they loved.  Some of the men spent days traipsing through jungle and forest in the rain and heat determined to share the Gospel message they were compelled to tell.  At least two or three of these men built hospitals, schools and churches throughout the Pacific with dedication and determination, often using inadequate tools and equipment.  Some were shot at, speared or robbed, experiencing terror and hoping to stay alive.  One survived a devastating plane crash in which others were killed.  Most of them spent hours on the seas in small mission ships ploughing through giant waves desperate to get to the meeting or home again.

All of them are glad they went.  They quietly live with their memories and hopes for a future where they will meet the many people they went to serve.  They anticipate the time when they will be together again with the loved ones they lost in the homeland while they were far away.

Most of them live with divided hearts – some of it still in the mission field, some of it in their homes of origin or habitat now.  Some of them have never settled after experiencing other cultures and different world views.  They all long for that blessed Hope, they have taught and trusted in, when all will be well.

Some names – Anderson, Boehm, Butler, Cozens, Faull, Fehlberg, Ferris, Hill, Lambert, Martin, Mulligan, Smith, Stellmaker, Tasker, Townend, Twist, Wilkinson, Watts.











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.




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.

New Zealand women – were/are they lunatics and criminals?

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.


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’.


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.