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?

What to do about Refugees in my neighbourhood?

Reflections on the Refugee scenario here in PNG, June 18, 2016

We (Bob and I) have become involved with a few refugees emanating from the exit of refugees from Manus Island Refugee centre. They are men who have come to Lae, being posted here for work with businesses who are offering help to these people.

We became involved because of David Fedele, a journalist from Melbourne who first saw Bob’s name in the Melbourne Age and The Guardian. Somehow those newspapers found out the story of Bob caring for one refugee, Logman, who had turned up on the streets of Lae.

Bob came home one day from the office, which is right next door to our house on the compound in Lae, to find the backyard full of ‘street boys’ or ‘raskols’ as they are called here in PNG. They are boys who have run away, been lost or have nowhere to live because no one wants them. These boys actually live in the bushes behind the SDA church near our house. Those raskols had found Logman on the street near the police station. He did not look like them because he was from Iran so had a lighter skin and certainly had a different accent and manner. They told him he would die if he stayed on the street because strangers are not welcome on the streets of Lae. Besides, Lae has the reputation of being the most dangerous town in Papua New Guinea.

So, together with Jacob, our long-term street boy friend, they brought him to our yard where they waited for Bob, the only trusted friend they knew who might help them and hopefully, Logman. Bob listened to the story and although reluctant, he allowed Logman to live in the flat under our house. He hoped to share good news with him and offered him a job with the mission. He considered the possibility in the future of helping Logman go to a Christian school, get an education and a chance for a new life. But – Logman, was restless and didn’t stay long. He soon left and eventually found his way back to Manus Island where he is back in the centre for refugees where life is easier for him.

David Fedele read about this in two newspapers and immediately found his way to PNG with a visa to stay for 2 months, lived in the flat under our house and endeavoured to get to know Logman and other refugees around town. At the same time David met the street boys and invited them every day to our house where he and Sandrine, an ADRA employee’s wife from Ivory Coast, Africa, taught the boys English and simple mathematics. David gave them a meal each day and it was a good arrangement which was to last only a while. David eventually left and the classes came to an end.

But … we now employ the main street boy, Nickson, provide him with food and hopefully a future at a good school. He is faithful and we believe he has hope.

The other refugees we met, struggle still. They live in Lae in accommodation now provided by the Australian government. They have jobs but struggle to integrate into society. Especially so for our Sudanese friend, Mojeeb. Mojeeb is a tall handsome young man with a long sad history to relate, leaving Sudan and so wants to have an education and a good life. He cannot go outside his accommodation because the PNG people don’t relate or want to know about Africans. He has been attacked, robbed, shot at and threatened with a knife. He is afraid to venture outside. He has nowhere to cook food and has to rely on the restaurant at the Inn where he stays and for which the government pays. He would much rather they pay for an education for him.

And so right now – we are struggling to know just how to help this beautiful young man, so worthy of a future and a right to a decent life. He doesn’t know where to turn.