The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

Newsletter – Christmas 2017

Is it Christmas already? What just happened? If 2016 was the year of the project, 2017 was the year of the revolving door (metaphorically speaking). It has been a constant cycle of work, study, and cycling. It’s been tempting to put cycling on the back burner, but I know what happened last time I did that, and I’m not going there again!

Work has involved research in the disability studies area, which may seem strange – why would a person with a disability need to read up about disabilities? Alas, I’ve had to, which I’ve found quite challenging. I’ve uncovered some hard truths which I would have been happy to remain blissfully ignorant of. Much of it has to do with the way disability is perceived by “expert” figures. At the same time it’s been good to find out why I’m so frustrated these days. All of this is relevant for developing a pastoral approach towards people with disabilities, which I’m still working on.

Work has also meant traveling. In April I met with Central Tablelands Presbytery at Bathurst to promote my work. This also provided an opportunity to having a weekend off camping at Mt. Canobolas, Orange; catching up with friends at Dubbo – including a lap around the zoo on my trike. I’m not sure which was the bigger attraction – the animals or my Monster trike! I also spent two nights at the Warrumbungles. After gaining special permission to take my trike onto the trails (mountain biking is not permitted), I managed to destroy one tube by trying to inflate it, and my spare had a hole in it. So I didn’t get to go cycling! It was nice to get away for the weekend, nonetheless. I’ll have to go back there and finish what I started.

In June, I had a quick dash to Albury to run a workshop, and there’s nothing quick about a dash to Albury! This was well received. I also had 5 mins to speak at their Sunday service about sharing the gospel with people who have intellectual disabilities. This had a positive impact in ways that I was not expecting. A variation of what I shared is in this month’s Presbyterian Pulse magazine.

In August it was another quick dash, this time up to Northern NSW visiting the Presbyteries of Northern Rivers at Alstonville and the North West at Inverell (I know, Inverell isn’t really northwest!).  Again, what I shared was well received. By this time, one of my trikes had managed to find its way back out of the shop and onto the road reconfigured for the road. So I took this one with me and went for a ride at Iluka. It was here I really found out narrow tires really don’t work on coarse road surfaces. There was also provided an opportunity to catch up with a college buddy who’s about as crazy as I am, just in different ways. In all, I covered around 1,500km in 4 days. I knew about that afterwards!

In December I flew to Melbourne for a Luke14 co-ordinators gathering (Luke14 being the training program I use at work for including people with disabilities). It was nice to be in Melbourne again, catching up with acquaintances and seeing how we can continue to advance this work. I also had the honour in November of being on a Q&A panel at a conference in Parramatta discussing where scholarship is on the topic of theology and disability. It was interesting being on a panel with one person coming from a medical perspective, another from a Pentecostal perspective, and me with a conservative perspective all with first hand experience living with disability. It was also interesting having just read a doctoral thesis on the image of God in people with cognitive disabilities which promised so much but delivered so very little! So I had some things to say on that. My oh my, there’s work to be done!

One big thing to happen this year was the acceptance of my proposal for my research masters thesis, which I spent over 6 months trying to figure out what I wanted to write about. In fact I still wasn’t completely sure when I submitted it. I had a broad idea, but some of the particulars hadn’t been worked out. My topic is looking at the relationship between Jesus’ healing ministry and the prophecies in Isaiah. Anyway, I’ve been given the green light, and I’ve been going flat out trying to get my head around Isaiah – which I’ve been told is not possible. But, I’m not very good at listening, so I’m trying regardless. Am I going to get my head around Isaiah? Probably not! But I dare say I’ll have a better understanding then most. At least I’ll know enough not to impose modern concepts of disability onto an ancient text just because I, as the reader, detect a parallel with some mentioned conditions. Discussion to be continued.

Last time I mentioned a number of trike projects, so an update is probably in order. The tandem is still in the shop in the non-functioning state I dropped it off in. As mentioned, my road trike is back on the road, and that’s been an interesting (and expensive!) lesson in what does and doesn’t make a trike fast. The Monster has been in the shop for a number of months having the electric assistance motor fitted. It’s been a nightmare of a job having to fabricate and modify parts to get things to fit, and ensure it can all take a beating – it will need to! But, progress is being made. In terms of rides, while holidaying at Elizabeth Beach (south of Forster) in December, I had my road trike and took the opportunity to ride part of the Wootton Way between Bulahdelah and Wootton. It use to be part of the Pacific Hwy and was a notorious section of road, infamous for motor vehicle accidents and major delays. Since the motorway has been completed, it’s become a forgotten ribbon of bitchumen winding across two mountain ranges. It made for and awesome ride. Hard, but awesome!

Nothing more has happened on the camper van project apart from looking into which vehicle to go for. I’ve been waiting to get the Monster back so I can throw it in the back of some vans and get an idea of how everything is going to fit. This could throw all my thinking out again and I could need to rethink my whole approach. I hope not. While holidaying at Elizabeth Beach, I began to notice my truck is really getting old. It still pulls like a train, but peripheral issues are starting to occur more often. So, I think I’m going to have to do something about a new van in 2018.

Another big thing this year was getting on to the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme). Initially I was knocked back because I was too “high functioning.” All my life I’ve been encouraged not to worry about what I can’t do, just focus on what I could do. For all its propaganda, the NDIS does not share this focus. What ensued was a 2,700 word document detailing all the ways having cerebral palsy impacts my life – or in less politically correct terms, how my disability makes me a victim! As strange as this may sound, it’s something I really hadn’t thought about. I’ve always just worked out what I wanted to do and went looking for a way to do it – always with a bit of help to get things set up to start with. But, as I’ve learned, such an attitude goes unappreciated by the “experts.” Apparently, there’s an expectation for me to sit back and have everything done for me. Well, I don’t operate that way! The NDIS doesn’t understand this. So now my diary has appointments to help “manage” my “problematic” life. On the whole, I feel the NDIS has taken away some of my independence rather then enhanced it. But, it’s what I have for now, so I’ll just make best of it until I’m in a position where I can set things up the way I want. Having said that, it is nice to have regularly physiotherapy to iron out all the spasms in my back. That does make a difference which I’m very thankful for.

Church services at Allambie Heights continue once a month. It’s been several years since we had gone through the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. So we’ve been revisiting the accounts  seeing how God can bring about his purposes through very difficult circumstances. This is something we all need to remember. It’s been interesting for me to go through these accounts while studying Isaiah. There seems to be a number of typological connections to the life of the nation of ancient Israel. Not that I went into such detail with the people there. The focus was on trusting God no matter what. Some new people have started to come along regularly which has been a huge encouragement. They are very intentional about following Jesus, and are interact with what I’m saying.

That pretty much sums up my year. It’s been a very full year, and I’m not expecting 2018 to be much different. The pressure will be on to get my thesis done, so I just need a keep chipping away as much as I can.

Thank you for all you prayers and support.


December 24, 2017 Posted by | Newsletters, Sermons, Site News | , | Leave a comment