Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Healing Hand of God - Sometimes Yes, Sometimes No {Two Stories}

Growing up in conservative Baptist churches in Australia, instantaneous miraculous healing was not something I ever encountered or witnessed. It's not that we didn't believe in it, it's just that...I don't really know how to finish that sentence. It's been like a 'dormant' part of my Christian worldview: I certainly believe that God can heal people instantly if He chooses to, I've just never seen it.

In September 2014 I visited three children I sponsored with Compassion in the Philippines. On the visits to Cashofia and John Dave I was privileged to pray for healing, with vastly different results. This experience caused me to dig right down to the foundations of what I believe about God and why.


Cashofia

While visiting Cashofia’s house, they asked me to come and meet her grandmother. She is 49, though she looks a lot older, and had been paralyzed for a few weeks after a work accident. She was lying prostrate on her back, helpless, weak and distressed. I was asked to pray for her, which is something I don’t take lightly.

I was not able to put my hands on her spine, since she was on her back and could not move, so I put my hands on her head and we spent the next 15 minutes just praying. It was incredibly profound. The Pastor and the other staff who came along joined in with me as we called on the power of God to bring healing in the name of Jesus. We knew that such a miracle would do wonders for bringing hope to that community.

On this day there was no instant cure, and we knew that no matter how much begging, pleading, beseeching or proclaiming we did, ultimately it’s up to God as to when, how and even ‘if’ He heals her. It’s hard walking away from something like that with no immediate visible results, but it’s a challenging exercise in faith and trust, believing that the One who is mighty to save and heal will do it.
                            


John Dave
Two days later I visited John Dave
in Bacolod. Early on in the day John Dave had been subdued and visibly distressed due to a persistent toothache. I was really worried this was going to affect our day together or even cut it short. When I prayed for the family at their house, I laid my hand on his face and asked God for healing in Jesus' name. I closely studied him for the rest of the day and there was not a single time he put his hand to his mouth or showed signs of discomfort. I am convinced that God answered my prayer and healed John Dave to allow us to enjoy our day together, and to demonstrate His power and might.


On the issue of miraculous healing I know there are extremes. Some believe that if nothing happens when you pray you either have sin in your life and not enough faith. Others believe that miraculous healing stopped when Jesus ascended back to Heaven.


Ultimately I don't have a snappy Twitter-worthy conclusion. Because we look at life differently to God, His ways and decisions can seem arbitrary and random to us. I guess it's unsatisfying, but in life sometimes God says "Yes", other times He says "No" and either way we just have to accept it and have faith that some good will come out of it.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Compassion Advocacy Galore! (and it's only March)

"If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. (Isaiah 58:10-11)

I have been a sponsor and advocate (or "Global Poverty Fighter" as I like to call myself) with Compassion International for eight years now. As part of this advocacy I have written countless letters, visited many countries, talked to many people. As I have said before, I am not a Compassion employee or official spokesperson. Just a little guy who has seen how God is working through Compassion and the local church to transform lives and I want people to get involved.

In 2014 I spent ten months working at an orphanage in the Philippines called the Ruel Foundation. I was of the view that my years of Compassion sponsorship and advocacy were God preparing me for this role, which I initially thought would be a long-term thing. I had connected with the children and families through giving, writing and visiting, and now it was time for me to actually GO and literally be the hands and feet of Jesus, teaching and caring for the orphans. God provided sponsors for all of my Compassion kids and away I went.

As noble as this was, the bottom line is I was not prepared for it. While I grew to love the Ruel Foundation and the amazing work they do, personality and culture issues collided and I returned home after ten months, disappointed with the way things finished up.

During the year, one thing was obvious: Compassion still had a major piece of my heart and I could not let it go. I knew that to fully immerse myself in Ruel's ministry I had to try and "separate myself" from Compassion and I just could not do that. I had seen and experienced firsthand the way God was moving through the local church and Compassion in 26 developing countries, transforming lives, and I still longed to be a part of that through sponsorship and advocacy.

It didn't help that during the year I wrote my now-published book about Compassion and my travel experiences, and I also went on another incredibly impacting trip to visit my Filipino Compassion kids who were now sponsored by friends and family.

So I returned to Australia at the end of November 2014, partly disappointed about the way things finished at Ruel and also excited about the way God was going to use me in the lives of others. I returned to find the first print run of my new book "Go Into All The World" and my Compassion advocacy was up and running.

I contacted my friends and family who had sponsored my Compassion kids and let them know that if for any reason they were unable to continue sponsoring, I would be happy to take them back. Immediately I was able to reconnect with six of my previously sponsored kids, which was a blessing.

As soon as I arrived back in Australia I saw God's hand of provision at work. On the day I arrived back I popped into my old school, Heathdale Christian College, where I had both worked and attended as a student, and was offered seven days of work to finish off the school year. Considering I hadn't earned any income for ten months, I jumped at the chance. The funny thing was that it was actually my Mum's 5th grade class I was filling in for, since my Dad was having an operation and mum was taking some Carer's Leave. The kids had been praying for me all year in the Philippines and now I was their teacher for a few days!

The six weeks of holidays in December/January was a hard time of waiting, as I had no idea what God had in store for me in 2015. I couldn't wait for February to come around so I could start working again. In my impatience I started up a small business, DC Fun and Games, which basically involves going to schools, birthdays and community events and playing games (definitely my kind of job). I invested in equipment, registered a business name and built up a contact list.

The week before school started I was sitting at home watching the Australian Open tennis, when I got a call from my old school. I had made a good impression with the work I had done before Christmas and they had a job for a couple of days a week teaching PE. An hour later I was sitting in front of the senior staff in an interview! Now, I had previously worked in the PE department a few years back, so I knew all about it and I got the job. We are now four weeks into the school year and I have ended up working full time, since I have proven myself as a competent "gap-filler", which is just the way I like it. I have so far taught classes in every year level from 5-12.

God's provision didn't stop at employment. I've also had many opportunities to advocate for Compassion, speak at churches and promote my book.

On Sunday February 15th, about 55 people came to my parent's house and helped me celebrate with an official "Go Into All The World" Book Launch. It was a glorious summer day and I was able to share my heart for Compassion with some good friends. I put together a 40-minute video featuring some of the more impacting stories from my Compassion travels. My aim was to highlight what life is like for people in the developing world, as well as the impact God is making through Compassion and the local church.

On Friday February 20th I shared with 200 Grade 5 and 6 students at my school about Compassion during their assembly. I decided to share the stories of two of the kids I sponsored and visited who were the same age as them, so they could relate to it. I think it's important for kids to know a bit about what's going on in the developing world because it can be easy for us to be caught up in our own little bubbles and grow up not caring about the poor. I've been blessed in my role as a teacher to have many opportunities to share these stories with students and plant seeds of generosity and compassion in their hearts.

Through my publisher Ark House Press I was invited to record a TV interview with Wesley Mission in Sydney for their program "Impact TV", in which Rev. Dr. Keith Garner interviews people about their faith journey. They flew me up on Saturday February 21st and it was an enjoyable experience. During the interview I actually had a bit of mind blank and stumbled my way through the first couple of minutes. I had too many stories rattling around in the ol' noggin and wasn't able to have anything written down, so I initially struggled but I think it got better. It also finished sooner than I anticipated and all I could think about was what I didn't say. My interview will air on Impact TV on Sunday May 24th, 5.30am Channel 9 (Australia) and will be on the internet a week later.

The next day I had been invited to speak at my Dad's church, Essendon Church of Christ and share a bit about my Compassion journey. I also sold four books.

On Wednesday February 25th I was excited to have a radio interview with Matt Prater from Vision Radio Network (Australia-wide Christian radio) and History Makers Radio and TV. It was an awesome 15-minute chat for which I was much more prepared and was able to say everything I hoped to. A small part of the interview was aired on Vision Radio that night, and the full thing will be on History Makers Radio at a later date.

I also have some more church visits over the next few months:
* Berwick Salvation Army, March 29th
* Bacchus Marsh Life Church, April 26th
* St Paul's Lutheran Church Box Hill, June 14th

I am just so grateful for the way God is using me to advocate for Compassion. I am hoping to see many children and families released from poverty in Jesus' name, and I can't wait to see what's ahead in 2015 and beyond.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Man On A Mission Writes Book To Encourage Others (transcribed newspaper article)

I spent a few days over the New Year period staying in a little town called Portland in south-west Victoria, where I lived and worked in 2008, 2009 and 2012.

Last Sunday I held a book launch for my Compassion book "Go Into All The World." I did publicize it but it only ended up being a small gathering, with lots of people away and many others choosing instead to enjoy a day in the sunshine (can't compete with that). I also didn't have any actual books with me to sell, due to a communication mix-up with the publisher and the printers.

The positive to come out of it was I had the opportunity to sit down with a friend who is a journalist with the town's local newspaper, the Portland Observer, and tell him a little about my Compassion journey and about the book.

The article was published in today's edition of the newspaper.
    


There were a few small errors, however I am happy with the content and exposure of the article. I have transcribed the text below, error-free.
_______________________________________________________________

Man On A Mission Writes Book To Encourage Others
Portland Observer, Friday January 9th, 2015

Travelling overseas to an unknown location can be daunting at the best of times; however, travelling to some of the more impoverished, crime ridden areas of South America can exacerbate those feelings of trepidation.

For David Chalmers, the poverty or crime rates did nothing to deter him from visiting his sponsored children.

A sponsor with Compassion International, a Christian child sponsorship organization which provides aid to more than 1.4 million children, Mr Chalmers took the plunge.

Six years and 12 countries later he has put together his thoughts and writings into a book - Go Into All The World - One Man's Journey With God and Compassion International.

In 2006 Mr Chalmers began sponsoring a number of children with Compassion and was invited to visit the children and their families so that he could see where his money was being spent. "This all spawned from my worldview that God wants me to help others," said Mr Chalmers. "That's my motivation. My first visit was in 2009...I became hooked."

Mr Chalmers would work as a teacher during the school term, including in Portland at St John's Lutheran Primary School, then visit families during school holidays. In September 2009 he visited Sehila (Bolivia), Daila (Colombia) and Rosa (El Salvador).

"I have visited 12 countries in my time and was encouraged to write a book by a number of friends," added Mr Chalmers. "I wrote about the work of Compassion and their effectiveness. From what I have witnessed, kids from poverty are growing up to become doctors, teachers and even government leaders....I believe people want to help, whether they are Christian or not, they want to help others."

Last Sunday a small but supportive crowd gathered at Portland's South West Community Church to hear the journeyman talk about his work with Compassion as part of his unofficial book launch; the official launch will take place in Werribee in February.

"The book contains stories about my involvement (with Compassion). It's not an easy read, as the stories contain to contrasting moods: home visits versus project visits. The home visits are very confronting because of the poverty, family disintegration and violence, but when I write about the Project visits, there's a sense of hope. I hope that people are challenged, encouraged and inspired from this book."

Copies can be bought direct from Mr Chalmers via his blog (http://supernintendo81.blogspot.com.au) or through Abundant Life bookstore in Portland.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015: Lots to Look Forward To

As you may know, 2014 was an enjoyable and challenging year for me. I spent ten months working at an orphanage called The Ruel Foundation: teaching, taking photos and promoting the work of Ruel online through blogging, Facebook and YouTube. I learned a lot, grew a lot and made a difference to the lives of many people. Ultimately relationship struggles and culture shock proved too much, and I've been back in Australia for a month-and-a-bit, with no regrets.

While I sometimes feel like that by leaving the Philippines I've "hitched up my rich-boy pants and gone home," serving God by using what I've been given to help others is still my primary goal. I'm still planning to live a life of God-honoring sacrificial generosity as I have in the past. I've made peace with the fact that a person can have just as much impact on others from a position of prosperity if we use our resources in the right way, whereas I previously thought that leaving everything behind to go and serve orphans was the only legitimate way to make a difference. Definitely not the case.

2015 is looking very exciting, with lots of opportunities and possibilities.

Family:

I am a doting uncle of five little people and being away from them was one of the hardest parts of 2014. I am blessed that I have a good relationship with my siblings and have such an active role in the lives of my nieces and nephews. 

"Go Into All The World" book:

I recently published a book about Compassion International and stories from my travel experiences. I am excited about what God will do with this book. My ultimate goal is to see people challenged and inspired, and kids to be sponsored.

I will be holding a book launch on February 15th in my town Werribee, Victoria. Anyone in the area is welcome to come and help me celebrate. I am also hoping to speak in schools and churches around Victoria (hint hint) sharing the message God has put on my heart, that He wants to use us to end poverty and give people hope for the future.

Australians can buy the book here:
Word bookstore:
http://www.word.com.au/Go-Into-All-The-World/David-Chalmers/9780992572600

Koorong bookstore:
http://www.koorong.com/search/product/go-into-all-the-world-david-chalmers/9780992572600.jhtml

Ark House Press (my publisher):
http://www.arkhousepress.com/shop/go-into-all-the-world.html
Or contact me directly: dachalmers@gmail.com

International friends can buy the book here: https://www.createspace.com/5215742

Compassion Sponsorship:

Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes knows that Compassion sponsorship is my "main thing." It's the ministry through which God has revealed His purpose for me, the reason I've been created: to use what He's given me to help others.

When I was heading to the Philippines, I got the sense that working at Ruel was the "next step"; that God had used seven years of Compassion sponsorship as a kind of preparation, but now it was time to move to the next level and actually go to be with the kids in person. Sounded good, and God provided sponsors for all the 29 kids I sponsored at the time. However, as the year went on, it became clear that I couldn't let it go. Compassion sponsorship still had my heart in a big way, and I've ended up returning to it.

I have reconnected with six of the kids I previously sponsored and visited, and I look forward to continuing the sponsorship journey well into the future.

DC Fun and Games:

Ten years ago I worked for a small company called YMCA Funworks. It was only a casual job I had while at University, but it was the best job I've ever had. We took a variety of fun recreational activities around to schools, parties and community events and basically got paid for playing games with kids! So I have decided to adapt that business idea, and "DC Fun and Games" is the result.

If I can land a teaching job that will still be my main source of income, but if I can build up enough contacts to make a living out of this business then I will be all set. I have an initial database of 370 schools and 30 local councils ready to go when school goes back in February.

https://www.facebook.com/dcfunandgames
https://dcfunandgames.wordpress.com/

Basketball Coaching:

I have coached basketball since 2002, everything from Under 8s to Rep to Div 4 Men out in the country. It is one of my great passions and I am looking forward to getting back into it. The little team in this photo was the Heathdale Hornets Under 10s of 2004. They were like a little machine, going through the season undefeated and I haven't had another team like them.

Above all else, I am looking forward to seeing the way God uses me in the lives of others, whatever I'm doing. I am very intentional in the way I live life. I am very aware of my strengths and abilities (and weaknesses), and I only commit myself to doing the things that I know will have a positive impact on other people. That is my ultimate goal.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

In Dark Times, One Thing We Can Hold On To...

Recent events have sent the world spinning. People are despairing and asking more than ever "What is going on in this world?" and "What has the world come to?" This past week in particular, darkness just seemed to surround us, leaving people grasping for answers.

Most notably we have witnessed:
- The "Sydney Siege", in which a crazed lunatic claiming to represent Islam took hostages in a cafe for 17 hours. Two people plus the gunman died.
- 8 children killed in their own home in Cairns.
- 149 people, mostly children, killed by the Taliban in a Pakistan school.

As a Christian, I believe wholeheartedly in the reality of the battle between good and evil and the existence of God and His enemy, (the created being) Satan. For reasons we don't understand, God gives Satan a certain amount of power and dominion over this world, and while Satan is ultimately doomed to destruction in the end, he's certainly making the most of it while he can, achieving his mission to "steal, kill and destroy."

We live in a broken, messed-up, fallen world and I believe turning to God is the only thing left to do. People will continue to mock, scoff and deny this view, but until we let go of our pride, stubbornness and rebellion toward God we will continue to grasp for answers and things won't make sense (although oftentimes they still don't, despite the strongest faith. Some things only God knows). Jesus never promises to take away the storms of life, but He does promise to be with us through those storms. It's our choice to trust or not.

One mistake we make as humans is that we don't "right-size" God. We limit Him, customize Him and shrink Him down to fit our little definitions and boxes. He becomes some sort of magical on-demand Genie or Santa Claus-type character, and when our demands aren't met straight away we curse Him, deny Him, rebel and turn away completely.

Come on world! The reality is that God doesn't owe us anything. He is God, the eternal creator of the universe and can do what He wants, when He wants to do it. Every breath we breathe is a gift of His mercy and grace. It was this mercy and grace that compelled Him to leave Heaven and come to earth, first as a baby, then a boy, then a man called Jesus, in order to make us right with Himself and be able to live with Him for eternity.

Recently I filled in as teacher of a Grade 5 class at a Christian school, and for morning devotion I was able to share with them from a book by Louie Giglio, one of my favourite authors. I love the way he contrasts the reality of our smallness and God's "bigness," particularly with his focus on astronomy and the solar system. 

I read to the students this excerpt from Louie's book "I Am Not, But I Know I AM" (pages 47-53)


Light flies, yet the universe that so easily blows our minds is nothing more than a speck to God. Scripture tells us that “By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth. He spoke and it came to be; He commanded and it stood firm. In other words, God created the cosmos without lifting a finger. And when He created the universe, He did it all without a “how to make a universe” kit, an existing photo, a template or a diagram. God was creating in the truest sense of the word, speaking the world into existence out of absolutely nothing. God is the One who makes light fly.

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers to Him. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. “To whom will you compare me, or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them all by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

God is more massive than our wildest imaginations, bigger than the biggest words we have to describe Him. And He’s doing good today; sustaining galaxies, holding every star in place, stewarding the seemingly chaotic events of earth to His conclusion within His great story. God is constant. He blinks and a lifetime comes and goes. To Him, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like one day. All of human history could be written on His fingernail, with plenty of room left over for more. And God is doing well today, thank you. He has no dilemmas. No quandaries. No counsellors. No shortages. No rivals, No fears. No cracks. No worries. He is self-existent, self-contained, self-perpetuated, self-powered, self-aware. In other words, He’s God and He knows it.

After an eternity of being God, He shows no signs of wear and tear. He has no needs. His accounts are in the black. He’s the owner, not to mention the creator, of all the world’s wealth and treasure. He made the gold and silver and the trees we print our paper money on. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and all the hills the cows are standing on. He holds the patent on the skies above- not to mention the earth, the seas and their depths below, the breeze, the colours of the sunset and every flowering thing. They are all His invention, His design, His idea.

God does whatever He wants. His purposes are a sure thing. There’s no stopping Him. No containing Him. No refuting Him. No cutting Him off at the pass. No short-circuiting His agenda. God is in control. He sends forth lightning from His storehouse, He breathes out the wind, waters the earth, raises up rulers, directs the course of nations, births life, ordains death and, in the midst of it all, still has time to be intimately acquainted with the everyday affairs of everyone on the planet.

God knows everything about everything and everyone. His eyes race back and forth across the cosmos faster than we can scan the words on this page. There is not a bird flying through the air or perched on a branch that escapes His field of vision. He could start with Adam and name every man, woman and child who has ever lived, describing every detail about each one. To Him, pitch darkness and midday are as one and the same. Nothing is hidden from Him. He wrestles with no mysteries. He doesn’t need to wait for a polygraph machine to decipher the truth. He sees clearly and comprehends all He sees. He’s never known what it is to have a teacher, a role model, an advisor, a therapist, a loan officer, an adjuster, a doctor or a mother.

God’s rule and reign are unrivalled in history and eternity. He sits on an everlasting throne. His kingdom has no end. Little gods abound but He alone made the heavens and the earth. God has never feared a power struggle or a hostile takeover. He doesn’t have to watch his back. He has no equal. No peer. No competition. It makes perfect sense that His name should be I AM. And even more sense that my name is I AM NOT.

You and I are tiny. Miniscule. Transient. Microscopic. A momentary and infinitesimal blip on the timeline of the universe. A seemingly undetectable alliance of particles held together by the breath of God. The sum of our days is like a vapour; out accumulated efforts are like chaff in the wind. Among us, even the richest of the rich owns nothing. The strongest of the strong can be felled in one faltering heartbeat. Frail flesh. Little specks. Phantoms. If this fact makes you just a tad bit uncomfortable, you’re not alone. Invariably when I talk about the vastness of God and the cosmos, someone will say “You’re making me feel bad about myself and making me feel really, really small,” as if that’s the worst thing that could happen. But the point is not to make you feel small, rather to help you see and embrace the reality that you are small. Really, really small.

But that’s not where the story ends. Though we are transient dust particle in a universe that is expanding faster than the speed of light, the unexplainable mystery of mysteries is that you and I are loved and prized by the God of all creation. Simply because He wanted to. He fashioned each of us in His own image, creating within us the capacity to know Him. And if that wasn’t staggering enough, in spite of our foolishness and rebellious hearts, God has pursued us with relentless passion and patience, fully expressing to us His unfathomable love through the mercy and grace of the cross of his son Jesus Christ.

Sure, just a glimpse of His glory instantly resizes us to microscopic proportions. But God is not trying to deflate us with a Milky Way-sized put down that erodes any sense of self and reduces us to a pointless existence. Just the opposite. When we see just how tiny we are, our self-worth and our God-worth can become one and the same as we are stunned with the reality that we have been made in His very likeness and invited to know Him personally.

I am not, but He knows my name.
I am not, but He has pursued me in his love.
I am not, but I have been purchased and redeemed.
I am not, but I have been invited into The Story.
I am not, but I know the creator of the universe.
I am not, but I know I AM.

Let the depth and wonder of the words sink in. I am not, but I know I AM.

That’s the complete story, the whole truth about who you are. You are small, but you can be on a first-name basis with I AM. You’re beyond tiny, but every ounce of you has been bought and redeemed by God’s Son. You are a galactic nobody, in fact 99.99999999 percent of the people on earth have never heard of you. But God knows everything about you and calls you His own. What more could we possibly achieve on earth that is greater than what we already have? We are already friends of God. What greater prize or position could we hope to gain? What praise of men could eclipse the voice of I AM speaking directly to us?

_____________________________________________________________________

I know that is a lot for a bunch of Grade 5 kids to take in, but my job is merely to plant seeds, and I hope that this picture of the reality of God spoke to their hearts in some way.

A thought that popped into my head while I was reading this to the students was "It is good that there are some things in this world that are mind-blowing, unfathomable and unexplainable (such as the "bigness" of God) because this makes us contemplate them, study them and think about them over and over again. Contrast this with simple facts like 2+2=4. We hardly ever think about these simple facts because they're basic and we just know them to be true; they're within our sphere of understanding."

The love, grace and mercy of God are indeed unexplainable and unfathomable, and rather than ask "Why?" like I used to, now I just say "Thanks!" and do my best to live a life that brings glory to Him.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"And That's The End of That Chapter..." (Reflecting on the Philippines)

I'm not sure what the appropriate length of time is before you should write about and reflect on an impacting cross-cultural experience. It's been 20 days since I arrived back in Australia, so if that's too soon then I guess you should take what I write with a grain of salt.

When I arrived in the Philippines on January 29th this year, I had every intention of staying for a long, long time. I boldly predicted my first stint to be "3 or 4 years." I sold almost everything I had, including household items and my car, resigned from my teaching job after a year rather than just take a year without pay and see what happened after that. I had had enough of going from place to place and job to job. I was confident that THIS was the job God had created me for and it would be a long term thing.

So now I find myself back in Australia a mere 10 months after I left, and I'm sure many people who followed my journey are scratching their heads wondering "What happened?" Fair question, and that's what this blog is about.

There are several reasons why my time in the Philippines was cut short. The main one is relationships (or lack of). I am a quiet white male and these three traits combined meant that it just didn't work. Pure and simple. In ten months I didn't connect with any Filipinos beyond "Hello" and some small talk. I'm not blaming anyone, that's just how it worked out. It's partly my personality, partly cultural ("we're shy" was used a lot). As a result the isolation and loneliness built up until the only decision that could be made was to come home.

Early on, I stood up in front of the group of Filipinas I worked with all year, made myself vulnerable and basically stopped just short of "begging" to be involved and invited into their lives. This didn't happen, and once again I don't blame anyone. It's obviously a cultural thing. However it hurt to see other volunteers come in for three weeks and be invited to the movies, the beach and even to their kids birthday parties, and when they left they were like best friends. By the end I was struggling to even get a "hello" out of many of the caregivers, which made it an uncomfortable and awkward place for me to be (please note: this is not meant to be personal criticism against anyone I worked with, but it was my own true experience. They are all lovely people but we just didn't connect).

I was also talked about behind my back. On one such occasion toward the end of my stay, a person told me that I drive the tricycle too fast and recklessly with the kids on board, and "it's not just my opinion, everybody thinks so," which I thought was a lovely parting gift. I was actually a cautious driver compared to the madness that was going on around me, and always got the kids to and from Ruel safely.

The bottom line is, I got stuck in the second stage of culture shock (variously known as the frustration/hostility stage) and couldn't get out. The first six months were amazing, I was living the dream. I found out later that that was the "honeymoon" stage of culture shock. Then, like clockwork, things started to go downhill, and things which I'd overlooked or not let worry me before became increasingly irritating. I was like the perfect text-book case study for culture shock, but I was on my own and ill-equipped to handle it. By the end I was overtaken by both frustration and hostility at everything I saw, and leaving was the best choice I could make.

I couldn't handle being so different, and being a freakshow out in the community. The staring, pointing and even mocking did not let up the whole ten months I was there. For the first five months, when I was walking I would smile, make eye contact and say hello but I would very rarely get anything in return. After a while this gets demoralising to a person's spirit. In the end I just put my sunglasses on and just walked. I became "that grumpy-bum white guy."

The other main reason I returned is Compassion. If you followed my journey throughout the year, you could probably tell I was not able to let go of Compassion sponsorship and advocacy. It still has my heart in a big way, and I am already a Compassion sponsor again. Some of the friends who sponsored my kids at the end of 2013 were unable to continue, so I've taken them back. I've heard from a few of the new sponsors that the kids keep mentioning me in their letters. I find it quite cute, but I can imagine it would be rather annoying continually hearing about "the other guy" if you're trying to form your own connection with them. I look forward to resuming my job as a "Global Poverty Fighter" which is what all sponsors are.

I don't for a moment regret leaving everything behind and coming to the Philippines, despite the short stint it ended up being. I know God has used me and grown me in amazing ways. I have learned lots about myself, and I have matured in certain ways. The weather was fantastic, the cost of living was incredible and the workload was anything but demanding, teaching a class of four kids for half-days. There was a lot to like. I particularly enjoyed the promotion role, introducing thousands of new people to the work that God is doing through Ruel via the blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel, which I set up myself. Ultimately I knew that what would keep me here long-term was not what I was doing, but the relationships I built, and that didn't happen.

As a "task-oriented doer" I put a lot of importance in and often define myself by things I achieve and accomplish (disclaimer: except when it comes to my salvation. I know I'm saved by grace alone, and my works and deeds are in response to being saved, not in order to be saved). So, just for the heck of it, here's a list of just some of the things I've been able to do this year

- Provided United Evangelical Church with 3 new guitars
- Provided UEC with a paved basketball court
- Bought a tricycle and taken the kids to soccer, church, mall
- Given two boys the experience of a soccer tournament on a different island, and coached the team
- Become the host, or "the guy who knows stuff" when Pauline is away and we have visitors
- Been in charge of the petty cash and banking
- Written a 200 page, God-glorifying adventure-of-a-book
- Facebook page "likes" increased from 780 to 1340 through my advocacy
- Blog: 84 posts, 6015 views
- YouTube channel: 69 videos
- Provided the kids with a father-figure to teach, play with and love them

I believe that in one way, my decision to go to Ruel was actually an "attempt to escape." In 2013 I traveled to 11 developing countries with Compassion, and each time I came back I struggled to adjust to our culture of prosperity, abundance and wealth. I struggled to balance the things I had seen "over there" with the way we live life "over here." Internally I grew angry at Christians who I perceived to be living lives no different to the world - self, comfort and materialism, and silently demanded that they do more. I had to get out!

The invitation to live and work in the Philippines, at Ruel, was like a lifeline for me. It was my ticket out of this culture of greed, wealth, pride, disgusting over-indulgence and ingratitude. Deep down maybe I also thought that living in a simpler, less affluent society would somehow turn me into a better version of myself. Funnily enough, that didn't happen. I struggled with the same sins and bad habits and I was no more social or outgoing.

And so I conclude by saying I am 100% comfortable and content with my decision to come back to Australia, returning to the very culture I once despised and tried to escape from. I still fully intend to live a God-honoring life of sacrificial generosity as I have been with my Compassion sponsorship. As noble as it is to leave everything behind and serve orphans, I know I can have just as much impact from a position of prosperity, using my God-given material wealth in the right way.

I am sorry I have not been able to provide a wonderful, glowing, Disney-esque account of my time in the Philippines, and I apologize if you were in my life in 2014 and are upset by something I've written, but I can only write the truth about what I experienced and how I feel. I will always support the amazing work that Ruel Foundation does and I was privileged to have a front-row seat in 2014, but at this point there's no hint of "my heart is aching to return." I'm quite happy to assign this experience to a moment in time and now move on.

Looking ahead to 2015, this is what's in store for me:
- Family. I've already reconnected with my five nieces and nephews aged 2 to 6, and I LOVE being Uncle David.
- The recently-published Compassion book, including a book launch and a TV appearance in February
- Teaching. Currently unemployed, but I've signed up with an agency and there's always plenty of work where I live.
- Basketball coaching, which is a real passion of mine
- Sport - I'm looking forward to possibly returning to stats roles with high profile sports clubs Werribee Devils (basketball) and Werribee Tigers (Australian Football)
- DC Fun and Games is a new business I've just started up, which is basically playing games with kids (my kind of job!).
- Church. I've just started going to Destiny Centre in Werribee and was attracted by the sense of community they offer, which is something I need. I think that a season of positive learning and growth is ahead of me.

Looking forward to the next chapter, and thanks for coming on the journey with me in 2014.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ten Months in the Philippines - A Picture Summary #1

I've been back in Australia for three weeks now, and of course there's some debriefing and processing going on. I'm incredibly happy to be back and looking forward to what God has for my future, but you can't spend ten months in a country without it affecting you in some way.

As part of this debriefing process, I have put together this little picture blog to capture my time at Ruel Foundation in 2014. During my time there I took thousands of photos of other people, so it was good to be able to get out from behind the lens on occasions.

In the schoolroom (three of the kids in this pic were adopted this year)

With Little Miss J, Little Miss S and Little Miss R at McDonalds

Celebrating Miss P's 9th birthday

With soccer balls sent by our Australian friend Fiona

Christmas trees up and about in September

Grabbing the spoils of a pinata

Celebrating my 33rd birthday at McDonald's, thanks to a generous donation from our friend Fiona 

About to try and catch two soccer balls at once

Enjoying the novelty of owning my own tricycle

Enjoying our brand new bamboo hut

In "intense soccer coach" mode. I did enjoy the day.

With two of my favourites, Miss R and Mr B. They were both recipients of cleft lip/palate operations

Enjoying an ice cream at the mall

Most of the kids were excited to be watching the movie 'Frozen', but it was all to much for Mr B 

A special time with these three siblings before they joined their adoptive parents in Spain, back in August



Saying goodbye to our new friend, Ate Sarah Tibben.

Enjoying some presents from our friend Ate Irene Bilson from Portland, Australia

Last special outing with four of the little guys

Enjoying some presents from our friend Linda and the children from Melbourne Praise Centre

Little Miss S enjoying her birthday cake (all over her face)

Shenanigans in the school room

I was privileged to provide United Evangelical Church with this basketball ring and paved surface

With some proud-as-punch kids showing off their soccer medals

Last outing with the lads

Enjoying some gifts sent by our friends Rita and Mick Handreck from Portland, Australia

With some of my soccer team

Last outing with the little ladies

Celebrating Miss R's 11th birthday with our new friend Ate Bridget

Trying to get little people to look at the camera is a fruitless endeavour

Mr J was always good for a wacky photo
Baby Girl C

Baby Girl D (returned to her family)

Little Miss L

Mr J

Miss R


Miss M

Mr JJ

Miss J

Mr B (returned to his family)

Baby J

Little Miss R

Baby Girl J (returned to her family)

Mr J (adopted to Canada)


Little Miss S

Mr P

Little Mr C

Miss P (adopted to Spain)

Miss R

Little Mr MM

Little Mr J

Mr W


Miss N

Baby Girl J

Little Mr S

Little Mr A (adopted to Finland)


Little Mr I

Mr J

Little Miss J

Mr J

Little Mr R (adopted to the US)

Miss P

Little Mr E


Mr F (adopted to Spain)