Who are we loyal to?

We’ve had the Olympics and now it’s the Paralympics. In January next year there will be the Special Olympics Winter Games.

Some times we’re a bit schizophrenic about our allegiances. Firstly, we’re Kiwis living in Australia. That in itself can cause all sorts of problems. We’ve a split household. I’m a die hard for the Aussies, except when the haka is on, I’m for the Kiwis. Everyone else goes for the All Blacks.

The Olympics and other world competitions are a whole other story. We’re super proud of the Aussies and we even bought Liz an Australian flag, which she draped over the couch when watching the games. It was cool that the Kiwis did well. There’s so much friendly banter between the Aussies and Kiwis, but underneath things, it’s serious business.

Everyone knows the Kenyans and Ethiopians are the best long distance runners in the world, and we back them. When the athletes came out at the opening of the games I couldn’t help get a bit teary eyed. The sacrifice that everyone (including their families) have made, the stories of hardship and victories are inspiring and especially so for those from countries where every day is a struggle.

I’m biased to the African nations and make no apologies for it.

In a couple of months we move to Nairobi, the place we’ll call home. When it comes to ANZAC Day, we’ll be there with the other Kiwis and Aussies. We have New Zealand passports but have a great relationship with the Australian High Commission.

The fact is, we live in a global society. Home is where the heart is, and for us, Kenya will be it. Yes, we’ll still cheer for the All Blacks, and are proud to wear Aussie colours but we’ll be Kenyan through and through.

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Third World Travelling

Actually, it’s better known as travelling in a developing country, but it’s not as catchy as a title. It doesn’t matter if it’s Africa, India, Indonesia or any other place in the world that isn’t as ‘flashy’ as yours.

Losing your passport in New York is one thing, but to do it on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is a whole other story. Here’s some key things I’ve learned over the past 20 years of global trotting.

 

1. Your Passport

You lose this and you’re in serious trouble. Before you leave home scan a copy and email it to yourself. Remember to take at least 2 recent headshots of yourself.

Carry your passport with you, but not in your back pocket. Forget the bag, and scrub off your list a bum/fanny bag. Any decent thief can strip you of these in seconds.

 

2. DFAT

If you’re an Australian, register your travel plans with DFAT just in case anything happens to you. If you are from another country, register with your agency. If you can’t find anywhere, at least email the high commission in the country you will be visiting.

 

3. Make a Conversion List

This is really handy as it’s sometimes difficult to remember how much an item is in your national currency. Make a list in Excel, starting at 50c (for example), the next line $1 and then up to $100. In the next column put the conversion in the country you are travelling to. A good conversion rate can be found at xe.com. If you are travelling to multiple countries then put in multiple columns. Print it off, cut it out and put it in an A5 book or on your phone for easy reference.

 

4. Mobile Phone

Global roaming is a killer on the wallet. You are much better off paying $20 for a mobile in the country you’re visiting and putting up the number on your social network site. At least if you lose your phone or it’s stolen, you’re not losing an iPhone or Blackberry worth much more. Don’t forget to put autolock on your phone.

 

5. Safe Transport

Safe transport is a bit of an oxymoron in lots of countries in Africa. Ferries are always overloaded, you don’t always need a helmet on a motorbike and minivans made for 14 may have 30 people packed into them. On buses from one part of the country to another you may end up sitting on a bag of maize or share your seat with a chicken.

However, there are some things you do have control over.

– Always negotiate the price of a taxi ride before the car takes off.

– If at all possible don’t travel a long distance after dark.

– Travel in pairs.

– Ask for a receipt.

– Keep your bag with you, attached to your front not your bag.

– Wear minimal jewellery.

– Don’t hitchhike.

 

6. Who is your Toilet Buddy

We had an ex-SAS officer train our team before their first visit to East Africa. His opening line was ‘Don’t worry if you get kidnapped, they only want your money’. However, he did give some good pointers:

– Don’t wear pj’s to bed, if you get kidnapped, that’s what you’ll be wearing for a while.

– Nominate a toilet buddy. This is the person who has to come with you if you have to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. It’s also the person who goes with you if you need to go to the shops or for a walk up the road. Even now our grown kids still say ‘whose my toilet buddy?’

– Don’t act like a tourist. Take off the camera, expensive jewellery and anything else that says ‘Come steal from me’.

– Don’t be the hero. In a conflict situation forget wrestling the man with the gun. Your life is more important than your belongings. Many people have been killed trying to protect their stuff. Stuff can be replaced, you can’t.

 

7. Food & Water

Never, ever get ice in your drink, specifically ask for none. Get the waiter to open your bottle of drink in front of you. Only drink bottled water. There are very few who travel to a developing nation who don’t get an upset stomach, but you can minimise the risk.

We tend to shy away from salads as they’re great disease carriers from not being washed properly, even in good hotels. If you end up out in some far flung village, you’re going to be pretty sure that your meat is overcooked. Nothing like barbequed meat that’s like charcoal!

 

8. Baby Wipes

These are my best friend when travelling. It doesn’t take much to pick up a bug, but you can reduce it with baby wipes and hand sanitizer. You need to get into the habit of sanitizing your hands after every handshake, greeting, before meals and afterwards. Great hosts offer hand washing facilities, but there’s nothing quite like the assurance of hand sanitizers and baby wipes. Just remember to take a clip lock bag to take away your rubbish.

 

You can have an absolute bast if your trip is well planned and you are flexible when things change. Life in Africa is complex and basic at the same time. There aren’t all the conveniences of the West, but there sure are some wonderfully unique things that you’ll only find in the developing world.

Feel free to ad your suggestions in the comment box.

Yes I am excited

The number one question people ask me is ‘Are you excited about moving to Kenya?’. Not ‘How’s your support level going, do you guys need a hand with anything, is there anything I can pray for?’ No, it’s about our excitement level.

We’ve started selling off our gear, finalising what we’re sending over in boxes and deciding what clothes we can fit into our 23kg allowance. Our unit is looking emptier and messier at the same time.

There’s so many logistical things going on that kind of steals away the joy of the journey.

As with most mornings, I’m down at the beach after a run, walking up and back to a certain point praying up a storm. Today there was the song ‘God of this City’ by Chris Tomlin going through my iPod while I was conquering the stairs at Dee Why Beach.

I just love the words:

You’re the God of this City
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation

Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City

 

So when people ask me am I excited, yes I am. I’m excited to see what God will do. I’m excited to be a part of a team working with young people. I’m excited to learn new things and I’m excited to resource people so they can lead more fulfilled lives.

While most people think that God has gone on holiday and not interested in our world, He is actively involved in our world. While a whole lot of crapola is going on, He is majestically working away in the lives of individuals. It’s the kind of stuff that won’t be on the six o’clock news, but it’s out there.

Greater things are yet to be done in our city. Whether that be Sydney or Nairobi. Now that excites me!

The Curse of Poverty

At the moment I’m reading two books. One is for prepping to go to Kenya, the other one is just for pleasure.
‘When Helping Hurts’ (Steve Corbett) is about how not to do missions. It’s aimed at the American Church, as if they’re the only ones doing something. It’s taken me about half way through the book before I didn’t want to throw it away.

If you’ve seen The Blindside then you should read ‘I beat the Odds’ (Michael Oher). The Blindside is on my top 10 movies to watch but the book gets inside the life of Michael which isn’t portrayed in the movie.

The thing about both of these books is that they look into poverty and how we think we should ‘fix it’. I’m not going to discuss that as much as what the curse of poverty does.
While we all go through times of not generating enough money, abstract poverty is way more than that.

Here’s some of my thoughts on it, and I look forward to your comments.

1. Poverty gives you no options.

Probably one of the few options it does give you is which child will go to school. Beyond that there isn’t much else to tell. Even though you know that fruit is better for your children, you can’t afford it so you buy something full of sugar. Coke is cheaper than water in Kenya. The quality of what you can buy is low, which actually means you spend more on replacing them. You are forced to work two jobs, leave your children unattended, and can’t ensure they’re actually going to school or doing their homework. If there is one meal a day, regardless of how hungry you are, there will be no more food.

2. Poverty does not allow you to create a future.

When you are stuck in the cycle of poverty, you cannot foresee a future because all you are worried about is surviving today. The thought of going to university or some form of training that will increase your chances of earning more are not even thought of. Your next meal or the next rent payment is all that can consume you.

3. Poverty is a cycle that goes around and around.

Just when you think you might get a break, something else happens to steal away an opportunity. When you’re in this cycle there is no option for saving for a rainy day, the present consumes all resources. For those whose income is derived from agriculture all it takes is for the rains not to come or be delayed for months. This may go on for years. A sick child may take all the money you have, and because in places like East Africa you must pay all before they are discharged, you have to borrow the money from other family members.

4. Poverty steals your dreams.

While you may want to follow a certain profession, the reality is you will never get there. Not an if, but or maybe, just a never. That’s because the education system culls students who don’t make the grade, or your parents have to pay a bribe to the teach to let you through. Even if you get qualified there aren’t enough positions. There are many taxi drivers across Africa who are qualified engineers. Unemployment rate in such countries is often 50% or more.

5. Poverty is a curse.

There is nothing good to come from poverty, there’s no upside to it. It keeps children from attending school, is a cause of death for unborn babies, creates an environment that encourages corruption and makes people desperate enough to do things that are morally wrong. There are desperate parents who watch their family members die off because they don’t have a way to get to the hospital nor the money for medication.

I am so looking forward to getting my hands into training young people to help them get themselves out of poverty. As Michael Oher states in his book, the odds even though they may be stacked against you, can be beaten.

Go the supporters!

Yesterday we joined 85,000 people running in the City2Surf. Actually we didn’t run, Pete and I waited for our team of 6 to get past the finish line with food and goodies to help them recuperate. It was well below 10 degrees and there was a howling onshore wind. When I say howling, I meant screaming.

We had all of our gear on that we wore up Mt Kilimanjaro and we were still cold. That wind was wicked.

We had 2 jobs, one to find the crew (no phones work there) and the other was to cheer them on if we saw them running. Well, no one turned up at the assigned spot, probably because as soon as they finished they jumped on the buses to go somewhere warmer. But one of us couldn’t leave just in case someone did arrive. In the end Pete stood around talking with people about our work in Africa.

I couldn’t stand the wind coming off the ocean so decided to wait it out at the finish line seeing if I could spot any of our guys. Some came in at 65 minutes, the last at 2 hours. It was a very long morning.
It did get me thinking about the people who are committing to support us while we work in Kenya this coming year. It aligned a lot with what I experienced yesterday.

1. You don’t always know what’s going on but hope they’re okay.

All we knew was the team was starting at a few different times and were making their way to Bondi Beach.

People sort of understand what we’re going to be doing in Kenya but no matter how much we explain it, until you go there, you don’t really get it.

 

2. Sometimes technology lets you down.

Mobile phones generally didn’t work at Bondi Beach, there were way too many people.

In Kenya the power will go off when it feels like it or will be incredibly slow. This may mean a delay in us getting back to people. We’re lucky though. We know some people in Mozambique who’ve only just got the internet!

 

3. At some stage someone has to pay to help someone else to make it.

We got out of bed really early, travelled over an hour to get to a place that was freezing for no one else to turn up. That was after going out to buy all the food that no one came to eat.

People who partner with us are actually putting a meal on our table and a roof over our head. It’s very humbling to know your reliance is on other people who are giving up their personal money for you.

 

4. There’s real joy in knowing they’ve reached their goal and you were a part of it.

It was great to be able to message and talk with some of our team who ran in the race. Their times were outstanding and I am always amazed and how we can push our bodies. I was super elated to be able to watch our daughter Lizzie get to the finish line and cheer her on.

When supporters hear about our work they know it’s happening because of them. Some look at their donation as a very small part but to us it’s huge. Any prayer, kind thought or encouraging word goes a long way.

5. It’s nice to get home and enjoy your life.

Pete decided that it would be a good idea to walk the 26km’s back home as part of our training to climb Mt Kilimanjaro again, just like we did last year. We made it to the city which is about 10km’s and then called it quits. We were tired. It was so nice to come home to eat food and watch a DVD.

I’ve always told people that they should never apologise for their TV, living conditions, number of cars or the house they live in. Everyone works extremely hard and if you live in Sydney, you live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Battling poverty at a grass roots level is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s ours. So enjoy your life, it’s the only one you’re going to get!

 

Let’s hear it for Bobby & Guy

Every now and then I get people saying ‘Gee, you guys must be rich to do what you do.’ While we have been blessed with lots, financial freedom has been not one of them. Of course, if we decided not to travel every year to serve communities in Africa we certainly would’ve had the house, great dental work and the most up to date fashion.

I decided in this blog to let people know that you can actually do what we do, and probably even better by doing it sooner than us.

1. Decide where you want to spend your money.

For one week keep a notebook of everything you spend cash on. It will shock you when you realise how much goes onto things that you can’t show for.

I added up how much money Pete was spending on buying one coffee a day, over a year and it added up to around $1,500 a year. He could buy a really good cappuccino machine for that!

For us, we decided that we wanted to spend money on travel. We wanted to give our kids a global world view and let them see that the whole world isn’t white, English speaking and in the mid to high economic sector of life.

 

2. Incidental Saving

When we came back from Africa in 2011 Pete had broken his leg, was self employed, no income protection and had plenty of work to complete. It meant that for 8 weeks we had no income besides what I brought in and the few jobs of his I could do (but nowhere as good as him). Thankfully we have very little debt (highly recommended) but Pete wasn’t even entitled to the sickness benefit because we were 2 months short of being here for 10 years (Govt requirement).

Even though cash was in short supply we spent $5 and bought one of those metal money tins and made a decision that ANY coins that entered the house had to go into that tin. It didn’t matter if it was $2 or 20 cents, it all went in. We decided that the money would go towards our setup costs in Kenya.

The first tin had just over $500 in it. The second tin, which is bigger, is just over half full now. It’s Incidental saving, but it’s worth it.

We’re actually going to the States for 2 weeks before we head to Nairobi. We’ve always wanted to go to Disneyland so I’ve worked it out how we can get there for not much more than going directly to Kenya. How do we get there? Save Lizzies board money, all of it of course! We have always paid for our travel with cash, never putting it on a credit card. No point in going then spending forever to pay it off.

 

3. God is our provider

The last 2 years have been financially challenging that’s for sure. I turned down going into the corporate sector where I could’ve made 5 times the amount of money so I could set up BeyondWater and help with Afri-Lift. Last year we had no income for 4 months, 2012 hasn’t been fantastic. The bottom line is we can never bring in enough for what we want or need to do, that’s God’s job. Our role is to work hard, seek Him (Matt 6:33) and be good stewards with what we’ve been given.

 

4. Sacrifice

While you can have most things in your life most of the time, you can’t have everything all the time. For us that meant for two years in a row there was no going to the movies, buying CD’s, clothes shopping or buying anything that wasn’t related to a trip to Africa. It was the whole family sacrificing, not just us as parents. Any board money has gone into trips, we’ve cancelled our Foxtel (painful during the Olympics) and although we desperately need a new car, the old one will have to do for now. In fact, we’ve only ever had one car, public transport has been great in Sydney.

 

5. Be happy

Giving up, sacrificing and saving is a great thing, don’t treat it like it’s a burden to bear. The most important thing is to satisfied no matter what the situation looks like. While sacrifice is considered a swear word these days, it’s a good value to have in your life. We are in an instant world and if we don’t get it now, put it on credit and then spend years paying it back, then it isn’t considered worthy. We need to get a bigger vision, one that is worth sacrificing for.

Phil 4:11 states ‘for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances’.

‘If you are worried about something be happy because if you keep going it will be double worry’ that’s what Bobby McFerrin said in 1988

I prefer Guy Sebastian’s version – HERE

 

Our situation in the Western World is financially miles ahead of that of Developing Countries, yet most of us are in debt that is like sinking sand in our lives. I highly suggest freeing ourselves up to be able to do the things God wants us to do.

High School Musical Was Right

When our girls were in their mid teens it was the same time as the hype of the High School Musical trilogy. Hannah still would love to marry Zac Efron, that I am sure of.

The song they used throughout all their movies was the one that had the line ‘we’re all in this together’. Besides the fact that it’s the type of song that annoyingly stays in your head, the lyrics are cheesily good:

Here and now its time for celebration
I finally figured it out
That all our dreams have no limitations
That’s what its all about

Everyone is special in their own way
We make each other strong (we make each other strong)
Were not the same
Were different in a good way
Together’s where we belong

We’re all in this together
Once we know
That we are
We’re all stars
And we see that
We’re all in this together
And it shows
When we stand
Hand in hand
Make our dreams come true

As believers, we follow the God who gives us dreams, but we also need to be knitted into a community of faith, and we find our strength in that community. Like it or not, no man is an island, and the Church is here to stay.

For us moving to Kenya has not been something we can do on our own. We’re working extra long hours to make money for the extra costs of shipping gear and paying huge amounts on insurance. We’re having endless coffees and meals with friends to tell them what a worthy cause this is to invest into. Then there’s the visiting of friends churches, friends of friends and incidental meetings with strangers. We literally don’t make a move without consulting the communal calendar to fit everything in.

Some times it all gets a bit much and even though there’s eleven weeks to go there is no breathing space.

That’s why it’s good just to have a laugh with friends, watch a mindless movie (or the Olympics at this stage), drive out of town to catch up with people we haven’t seen for years, and eat chocolate!

While our whole family is all in this together, our larger family are too. That family extends across several parts of the world and we are thankful for their encouragement. All I can say is KEEP IT COMING!