The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

Newsletter 2020

Well, wasn’t that an interesting year, to say the least! If having a disastrous bushfire season in eastern Australia wasn’t enough, it’s been topped off with a global pandemic. Yet, for all the disruptions, I had an exceptionally busy year.

The year began for me in southeast Queensland holidaying with friends from church in the Gold Coast hinterland. This provided an opportunity to enjoy numerous bushwalks in dense rainforests. A highlight of the week was riding the eMonster up to Springbrook from the bottom of the mountain. This involved climbing 900m in 20km in the middle of the Queensland summer. Others thought I was mad, but this had been established long before! Although, I would not have attempted this without electric assistance. I certainly enjoyed the ride, especially the run back down the mountain, even if speeding down mountain roads isn’t the eMonster’s forte.

This time last year, I was still waiting on the final verdict on my Master’s thesis. I was notified in March that my thesis had been accepted, and I was to graduate on the 18th – which just happened to be the day we all went into lockdown due to the pandemic, hours before the ceremony. I am still yet to graduate, and still very much looking forward to marking the occasion with friends and family.

I was looking forward to resuming my paid duties, visiting churches and Presbyteries promoting the work of disability inclusion, and having a long break from the intensity of writing and research. Well, the pandemic put an end to those aspirations, and my role at Jericho Road quickly changed and I was doing much more pastoral work. I was asked to write pieces to encourage others in what was a very unsettling time, which some have you have read. This was a massive privilege and a blessing. I wanted to take a deep dive into Scripture my own spiritual welfare, so, I was extremely pleased and thankful that I was able to do this and to take others with me on the journey. This lead to a series on Genesis 1–11 looking at who God is, and how we are to respond to him in the context of this current crisis. When the situation began to “normalise” (using that word very loosely), I began a second series on the corporate Psalms of lament looking at how we can adjust well to this current season. This time also included numerous online conferences discussing the current issues which also prompted my thinking. So, I’ve spent a good part of my work thinking about the current social and political movements from a philosophical perspective, how to connect with people who have disabilities digitally, and what it means to bear the image of God. I also have briefly researched the millennium debate (that is, the circumstances around Jesus’ return), and taken a deep dive into 1 Corinthians. The all have been very interesting to research, and has led to some profound insights.

The pandemic has also impacted other ministries. After visiting the Cerebral Palsy Alliance in February and March, the lockdown brought a premature end to this ministry. I expect most, if not all, of the residents have been relocated into their group homes dispersed throughout the community. Neither has there been any of the adult Christian disability camps that I have been a part of in previous years. At the present time, it’s not possible to say if or when these camps will resume.

As would be expected, the pandemic has had an impact on me personally. From March through to December I hadn’t been attending church, even when in-person services resumed. So, that gave an importance of meeting with others whenever and however I could. This was usually over a bike ride or a walk. Limiting my movements has also meant not going on the monthly social rides with the recumbent club – even when it was permitted. It was also frustrating having a nice new camper van in the drive and not being able to use it. But I was happy to see the Queensland border reopen so I could make my winter escape in July – a week before the border closed again! A highlight was riding the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail from Linville up to Blackbutt and back. 45km of car-free cycling, all of it on dirt. Linville allows camping at the old train station with a pub across the road where patrons can get a hot shower with a meal order. This sounded like a deal to me!

I snuck another trip in during September out to the Pilliga. This was for an organised 50km Tour de Gorge bike ride by National Parks. Unfortunately, my derailleur was ripped off by a stick after just 5km, and the eMonster made an unceremonious exit from the bush on the back of a ute. I’m still dealing with the mechanical consequences of that little misadventure. But, I expect I’ll be back next year.

With all the trips I have done, the van has served me well. While there are still some minor adjustments that need to be made, I’m happy to say that the overall concept is working, and life on the road is very comfortable – perhaps too comfortable!

I have no idea what the new year will entail – as none of us do. A week after returning to church, there was another outbreak on the Northern Beaches forcing tighter restrictions. This has been a reminder of how volatile the current situation is. Still, I am looking forward to having a road-going electrically assisted trike (one of my older trikes is having an electric assist conversion done). So, I’m looking forward to doing some shorter trips in the van and riding some quiet country back roads and mountains. Apart from that, I look to serve in whatever way I can. For the most part, that’s going to be on the computer researching and writing as this seems to be the main medium to teach and encourage others.

Thanks for your support and prayers. Remember, wherever the new year goes, we go in God’s grace.

January 30, 2021 Posted by | Newsletters | Leave a comment

Newsletter 2019

2019 was an exceptionally busy year with the completion of my master’s thesis, countless other projects large and small, ministry, and maintaining my health and fitness. The year has left me feeling somewhat tired, which is why my news is coming out a little later than usual.

The focus of the year was on my thesis addressing the topic of how Jesus’ healing ministry fulfils the prophecies in Isaiah. Despite working on it for 3 years, I was well into this year when I still hadn’t come up with an answer. With the deadline fast approaching, thankfully I was able to find some resources to form a methodology and scratch some bits of evidence together to form an answer. I was able to submit it with a month to spare. Now, I’m waiting to hear back from the examiners, which should be at the end of February. Plenty of time to chew nails! Jokes aside, I expect to graduate in March, and will send details when I have certainty.

With so much time and energy spent on my thesis, I haven’t done as much with Jericho Road this year. In fact, most of my annual leave that I had accumulated since starting work was spent on my thesis. Thankfully I still have some left for a bit of a holiday with church friends in January. Still, for work, I was able to attend a conference and present a paper, and do plenty of reading and writing, some of which was an extension of my thesis work. How I loved it when that happened!! I am so thankful for the support I have received from work in allowing me the time to focus on my thesis.

Ministry at Allambie Heights continued with church services going through the healing miracles of Jesus. This was not a coincidence! I was able to use what I had learned in my research to teach about what Jesus was doing. I also learned this year that this ministry in its present form will be coming to an end. The Cerebral Palsy Alliance will be closing down Venee Burgees House and moving the residents into group homes out in the community. I was surprised given the age of the residents, but of the ones I spoke to, they were largely positive about the change. At this stage, I can only pray that God will send people to their new homes to look after them spiritually. The plan was to have all the residents move out by the end of 2019. But as with any building project, there are always delays. So, we’ve been able to have one last Carols service, and I will continue services next year until the centre is finally closed.

Aside from my master’s (have I mentioned that yet??), the other big project was the building of my camper van. That also entailed a lot more than what I had expected. I took delivery of my new van in April and had a builder lined up to do the conversion. It would seem I was given the right guy as he did what I asked him to do, and not what he wanted to do – a crucial point for me. The conversion would take the next 6 months, and I’d often be on my computer designing different bits and pieces, and solving problems – of which there seemed to be no end! In the end, I got pretty much what I had in mind. Given this was the first time I designed a camper van and the space I had to work with, I did OK. In just 8 square meters I’ve managed to cram in a bike shed, bedroom, wardrobe, kitchen, dining room, toilet, and more storage than what I need. So, naturally one can expect some compromises! But all the functionality is there, and it just needs a little more tweaking. Oh, and the name of this vehicle? Considering that it’s a “Renault Master”, and that I will have my master’s degree, and it’s my home away from home, it seemed appropriate to dub the van the “Master’s Quarters”. Quite dignified, don’t you think?

It’s already had its maiden voyages (yes, plural). A week after submitting my thesis (that just keeps popping up!), I took the van out for a shakedown. I  decided to head south to get away from the threat of bushfires only to find myself in the middle of a “catastrophic fire danger zone” at Kangaroo Valley. So, I spent a few days running away from bushfires – just what one needs after 5 years of intensc study! But it was good to catch up with friends at Kiama. I had a better time of it a month later when I went to Holbrook for a recumbent rally.

Through all the business, I have been able to stay on my bike to maintain my fitness. I’ve enjoyed a number of rides throughout the year. I continue to meet with a recumbent group in Sydney for a ride around once a month. I now know how to navigate most of my way around Sydney by bike safely, and finding it an enjoyable place to ride. Having an electric assistance motor on the Monster (my off-road trike) has made a huge difference and has opened up a lot of opportunities not enjoyed before. In May I did the Oaks Trail with friends – a bush ride through Blue Mountains National Park from Woodford to Glenbrook. Last time I did this ride was over 20 years ago. Having the Monster with the motor meant I could easily cover the 25km without ending up exhausted. In fact, instead of getting into a car at Glenbrook like last time, I turned around and rode back up the highway to Woodford where my old truck was – another 25km. I had two others with me which was good. As mentioned, I went to Holbrook for a recumbent rally which involved a ride covering 70km in just over 3 hours riding time. I was really glad to have the motor for that one! I’ve also been able to explore bush tracks around my home which has also been enjoyable. The Monster has done 2,000km with the motor, and apart from some initial teething problems, it’s been 100% reliable. The rest of the trike is wearing out, and possibly even its owner, but the battery and motor are fine! I’ve been so impressed with the ebike concept, I’ll be electrifying one of my other trikes for the road early in 2020. I expect this will open up a whole lot of other possibilities that I haven’t been able to enjoy – or at least not without completely wrecking myself! But I will keep one trike non-powered to keep me honest. I’ll use this on shorter rides and training runs.

I also started walking at the end of 2018 as part of my exercise regime to maintain that skill. I also found it to be a good counter to cycling. Where cycling tightens up my muscles, walking actually loosens them. So, the day after a long ride, I make sure to go for a walk to work out any cramps. It’s amazing how effective this is! I usually walk 1.5km every second day for 25mins.

Next year I hope will be a little quieter so I recover from my latest, shall we say, “academic experience”. I intend to enjoy some bike riding and camper-vanning, and returning to my book writing as part of my work.

Thanks again for all your prayers and support, it’s awesome! I’m very much aware that what I’m doing is not a solo effort. So, I give thanks and praise to our God and Saviour for the support I do receive. Thanks to you all.JASON

December 27, 2019 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | Leave a comment

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

Newsletter – Christmas 2016

2016 has been the year of the project, or more accurately, the projects! I’ve always had one project or another going, and I’m not happy unless I have a project to work on. But this year there’s been more projects than what I’d like.

Working with Jericho Road has seen many projects, from trying to get my head around the NDIS, to reviewing policies, to becoming aware of issues people with disabilities face. A large portion of the year has been spent reviewing the Commonwealth Government’s Senate Committee Report on violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings, including the gender and age related dimensions, and the particular situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, and culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability. There’s a title if there ever was one! Strangely, even though I grew up in the “disabled world” the report revealed a side to Australia I was blissfully unaware of, and one which I found very disturbing. The day I wrote this newsletter, I read yet another report of a school student with a disability being sexually harassed by another student, and others left on a school bus and neglected. Yet, reflecting back on my experiences, in the final analysis, none of this really surprises me. I have now finished summarising my summary of the summary of the enquiry which still summarising! It’s a big issue, to make an understatement. Nonetheless, the greater task at hand is to work out how, as a denomination, we can begin to the respond to these issues. If Christ reached down to the depths of human depravity in order to redeem it, then so must his church! But to achieve that, we’re going to need a bigger think tank that comprises of more than just my head!

Other projects have been in the transport department. I had been spoilt by my last trip to New Zealand 2 years ago. Even though the camper I rented was a bucket of rusty bolts (the one’s that were still there!) and was horrible to drive, everything on the camping side of things was usable and made for the best holiday I’ve had. So I began to think seriously about converting my truck into a camper. Then the head gasket blew – big dollars there! So, I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about what sort of camping setup do I want, should I be changing vehicles, and if so what vehicle, and how I would want it set up? In the end, I was reluctant to spend the money converting a vehicle that is now 20 years old. It’s at the stage where something will go wrong with it. The question is what? This doesn’t bother me unless I’m a long way from home. So, I’ve made the decision to change vehicles in the next few years, and find someone who will fit out the new vehicle the way I want – not someone who thinks he thinks he knows what I think I need… I think. It’s not an urgent project, but it’s simmering away in the background.

Trikes, trikes, and more trikes. How many trike projects can one person have going on at once? 3, apparently! It’s now been over a year since my fastest trike has come out of the shop. A critical component failed in 2015, which is no longer made. The part was shipped off to the manufacturer, and after 3 months, the manufacturer decided they couldn’t repair it! Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it. It hasn’t helped that I keep changing my mind every 5 minutes! I had intentions of buying another trike with full suspension, and build it for the road – I do like suspension! But, with a new van in the pipeline, I decided this probably wasn’t wise, and made the decision to make my existing trike as fast as possible. Some may find this a scary prospect!
While this was going on, I was given a tandem recumbent trike, complete with a trailer that the occupant can peddle. I didn’t want it, but I feared it would end up on the scrap heap if I didn’t take it. A machine like this should not be on the scrap heap! It should be out on the road being enjoyed. I looked at the trike the morning after it was dropped off and decided it was a strip down and rebuild job. My bike mechanic agreed. So, I took it upon myself to have it restored. Hopefully I can find a buyer who can appreciate its value and use it.
Then there’s the never-ending story of the Monster (my offroad trike). I picked up a friend’s mountain bike and realised I was never going to compete with that – at least not going up hill. The decision was made to fit an electric assistance motor – which is still sitting on my living room floor. It’s a decision I’ve been resisting. I like competing with friends, even though my trike twice the weight of their bikes. A motor would take all that away. But, the way I was going up the steepest hills, I was either going to break the trike, or break myself, or possibly both! Besides, I’m hoping the motor will give the trike more versatility, and open up other opportunities.
Meanwhile, my touring trike is the only vehicle that hasn’t needed major repairs! It’s done 2,500km between since its last service, which is astonishing – although it needs a service now. This has allowed me to build on my fitness. With everything going on, I’ve changed to shorter, more intense rides less often. This seems to have had an impact. Even though this isn’t my fastest trike, I’m matching some of my fastest times. Some may wonder why I put so much prominence on cycling. As I found out a few years ago, it’s quite simple – if I’m not fit, I don’t function. So, I remain thankful that I can get out on my trike.

However, the biggest project started this year has been my research master’s of theology. I had to begin by completing a research methods subject. To be honest, I thought this was a bit rich. After 10+ years of study, I’d expected I would know how to put a paper together! It turned out I didn’t, and found the subject quite useful. Studying at this level is a whole other ball game. I realised a research master’s is pretty much a baby doctorate. It’s just shorter, and not quite as intense. But my supervisor keeps assuring me I can do it. No doubt I can!
At this stage, I’m preparing a proposal for my topic to present to the academy. This is a big enough project in itself, which involves a lot of study. The more I know what my paper will contain, the better I can present the proposal. I’ve never read so much in my life! It’s almost like I need to come up with an answer, then get permission to submit my answer. Not quite, but almost! There is flexibility to make changes after approval. So far, I’ve narrowed my topic down to, “How does Jesus’ healing ministry to people with disabilities fulfil the prophecies in Isaiah?” There’s three big topics right there – the development of perceptions of disability, the gospel of Luke, and Isaiah. To put the question simply, “Why did Jesus heal people?” I’m really am responding to liberal theologians who see the healing by Jesus to be metaphorical, and conservative theologians who see disability as being a direct consequence of the Fall, thus Jesus’ healing ministry is part of reversing the effects of the Fall. Neither position I agree with. That is, I agree Jesus came to reverse the effects of the Fall, but I don’t think the elimination of disability was part of that reversal. Hence my question. So far, I’ve been very much enjoying it, and I praise God for the support I’m receiving from Christ College. I’m being looked after very well. I’m also thankful for my work who allow me to manage my time as I need I expect to graduate in 2019 – mark the date!

I did manage some travelling this year. Though, for once in the past four years, I managed to stay in the country. I had four days in the ACT when I went to visit the Presbytery for work in late February. That made for a nice short break taking in some of the sights of Canberra, included the War Memorial, which was quite an experience! I had another week in the ACT in June working with Gungahlin Presbyterian Church as part of my advocacy work. That was a non-stop week. I even managed to get a 30km mountain bike ride in with one of the members, which I really regretted the next day when I had to preach! But it was a lot of fun. It reminded me a lot of mission trips with college, except the mission team this time consisted of one – me! I managed to do a quick 10 day trip to Victoria, taking in a conference on Spirituality and Disability as part of my work – I didn’t present (probably a good thing given the theologically liberal nature of the conference). This also gave me the opportunity to catch up with friends around Victoria. Later on in the year, I enjoyed a couple of camping weekends with friends from church at Belbora and Newnes. Happily, the Monster came out both times, and had I some enjoyable rides.

The ministry at the Allambie Heights Cerebral Palsy Alliance continues. By now, I was hoping to have offloaded some of the work. But no one has stepped up. Services are now once a month, and if I’m away, or sick, that makes for a big gap between service. Yet, the regulars remain eager to come, and occasionally, one or two extras join us. We had our Christmas service at the start of December and a number of people came along who aren’t regulars. This was exciting to see, and I pray something of the gospel caught their attention. I’m also thankful for the many people who help me with this ministry.

2017 is shaping up to be another big year. Some how, I need to keep cycling, so I can keep working, so I can keep studying, so I can know God’s word and apply it all the more. The trick will be to manage all this without becoming overworked. So, as always, I appreciate your prayers and support as we all enter the new year by God’s grace.

December 27, 2016 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | , , | Leave a comment

The Minister’s Desk Newsletter – December 2013

PDF Version (16MB)

So, where was this all leading? That was the question being asked for many years as I studied. My exit thesis was accepted on the second submission and came back with a distinction. Subsequently I was licensed to preach on the 17th March – an acknowledgment that I had completed my training. Yet the question remained, “Where was this all leading?” It wasn’t until mid March that any prospects of employment began to take shape.

The newly appointed CEO of Presbyterian Social Services asked the question I’ve long been waiting for, “Jason, what do you want to do?” Around 3 weeks later after further correspondence, I was appointed as the Disability Advocate for the NSW Presbyterian Church for 14hrs/week. The task: to educate the church on matters of disability and to equip the church to respond to the needs of people with disabilities and their carers – no small task for anyone! But there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. Consequently, 2013 was very much a whirlwind of a year.

Prior to taking the position, I had agreed to co-author a conference paper with Lindsey Gale (CBM, Melbourne) for the ‘Disability, Theology, and the People of God’ conference at Carey Bible College, Auckland in July. Happily, all this was considered part of my new position as research and development. This was a compilation of my exit thesis “The Role of the Holy Spirit in a person with a Disability and their relationship with the Church”, and Lindsey’s research into the results of the National Church Life Survey in regard to disability in the church. It was a mammoth project. Somehow, I think I had the easy end of the deal! All I had to do was come up with the theology – most of which I had already written. I just had to “de-nerd” my thesis by taking out all the Greek, which grated me… Anyway! Once upon a time, I didn’t know Greek either. I have since learned our paper has been accepted by the publisher for the conference book which is great news – and a relief!

So, this meant some travelling. In April I went to Melbourne to begin co-authoring the paper. This also provided an opportunity to catch up with friends, and share my faith at one of the schools. I also went to Auckland for the conference. Last time I was in New Zealand, I didn’t take the opportunity to have a look around after my training placement. This time, I was determined to take the opportunity! With the OK from work, I hired a motorhome for 10 days and toured parts of the North Island. It’s certainly one of the best holidays I’ve had. Some of the highlights were the Coromandel Peninsula, Hobbiton (Lord of the Rings movie set), and Rotorua. I really enjoyed learning about Maori culture as well. The geothermal areas were a freaky but intriguing place to be. I was really blessed with the weather. Of course, it rained. But it didn’t affect my activities. Hobbiton was well timed. Just as I was leaving, it began to rain – YES!! I found their winter isn’t that much colder than their summer, so staying warm and confortable wasn’t that much of an issue.

Apart from higher academic works, I’ve also had articles published in the Presbyterian NSW state magazine, ‘The Pulse’, and the National Magazine, ‘Australian Presbyterian’. I’ve been visiting churches and Presbyteries promoting Luke14 – the education initiative developed by CMB. Highlights have been to visit Mittagong Presbyterian who have an active ministry to include people with disabilities, and to visit Toukley Presbyterian on 2 occasions. Never had I received a reception to one of my sermons such as I did at Toukley. It was very encouraging. Much of the work is done at home, such as reviewing Scripture teaching material for children with intellectual disabilities, and continuing research into theological developments and current affairs in the area of disability.

A big blessing has been to have my church on board with my work. Gosford Presbyterian agreed to host all 5 Luke14 workshops dispersed throughout the year. This is giving me the opportunity to get a feel for the workshops and find out what works, and what doesn’t work. It’s been great to have a team of people supporting me as I run these workshops. So far, I’ve run two workshops, with the next one on Kids and Teens on the 9th March, 2014. I’m continually praying that churches will recognise the need, and make a decision to take positive action.

It was thrilling, then, to formalise this work with my ordination into the Presbyterian Church as a minister on the 20th October – something I was wondering if it would ever happen at the start of the year! To hear Dr. Ian Smith open God’s word, and have so many of my friends and family there was such a blessing. A few of my friends came from deep in the woodwork. This was an encouragement and a surprise. Being ordained and appointed to my position now means I have a say in what happens in the denomination the same as other ministers. I think this is a very good thing for the NSW Presbyterian Church, and not just for me.

So work is only 14hrs/week – what do I do the rest of the time? Again, I taught year 2 Scripture at Wyoming public this year. This is still a challenging exercise reinventing the lessons so I can deliver them with my limitations. I expect to be doing this again next year. I’m still running church services at Allambie Heights’ Cerebral Palsy Alliance. This year, we finished the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ series. We went through 1 John – which worked remarkably well. Now we’re half way through the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus in John’s Gospel. It’s been particularly encouraging this year to see these people affirming the Gospel. I’m also giving pastoral support in my own time, and leading my Bible Study group when required. I’m still involved with disability camps at Springwood, largely helping out with the teaching side of things So, life is full, and I have found myself some weeks with my head in 4 different parts of the Bible, in more than one language. I’ve enjoyed the interaction I have online discussing points of theology, and nuances in the Greek.

I have also made a point of bike ridding and exercise – not that it’s happened as much as I wanted. But I have grown acutely aware that the fitter I am, the more I can do. If I’m to keep up this work rate, along with looking after myself, I need to be fit! So I’m thankful that my work is only 14hrs/week with all the flexibility that I need.

Apart from tripping around in a Kiwi motorhome, I’ve also had opportunity to take shorter breaks. I took the opportunity to end a 12 year absence of attending Katoomba Easter Convention – a weekend of Christian teaching by international speakers. It was very refreshing. And I had a few days relaxing at Jervis Bay with friends this past spring.

So, where is this all heading? No idea! But God knows, and I very much look forward to the adventure. God had brought me thus far, doing what no one has been able to perceive. And I’m thankful to have your prayers and support along the way. College might be over (for now), but the hard work has only just begun.

In case anyone is wondering, I’ll still be writing under the title The Student’s Desk. “The Minister’s Desk” is only a celebratory title. I may no longer be at college, but I still consider myself as a student of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. That’s what the word ‘disciple’ means – student. If I’m not a disciple, then it’s high time I resign from the ministry! Evidently, I’m intent on remaining a disciple. Then there’s the prospect of a research master’s… one day.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

December 23, 2013 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | 2 Comments

The Student’s Desk Newsletter – December 2012

2012 saw the end of a course of study that began in July 2002. To think I entered PTC timidly, concern I wouldn’t meet the standards required of a degree, to come out the other end being able to debate interpretations of the Bible from the original languages, along with other abilities, has truly been a blessing from God. It was also the kind of year where meeting an Ewok look-a-like Cavoodle that did meerkat impersonations didn’t seem all that out of place! More of the dog later.
I began the year with optimistic valour. I thought, “Just a language to learn, and a thesis to write. How hard could that be??” I had to ask… When I learned Greek,  I thought that was hard. But, compared to Hebrew, Greek was a walk in the park! Or should that be ‘a walk in the λάχανον’? Anyway, I found Hebrew extremely difficult, and I can now understand why everyone I spoke to discouraged me from doing it. But I had to be stubborn! In the first 3 weeks, while my classmates were flat learning the language, I was flat out learning how to access the language.
Not being able to use paper and pen means doing everything via a computer. At the start of the year, my main computer was my Windows laptop. Changing from English to Hebrew and back again wasn’t as straight forward as one would hope. So then I tried my Mac which, thankfully, was much more streamlined. Then I found sophisticated word processing applications (like MS Word, Mac Pages) couldn’t handle right to left text (Hebrew runs the other way to English). So I had to buy a word processing application that could handle bidirectional text. Then I found many of the processes and methods I had developed for learning Greek weren’t going to work for Hebrew.
At every step in the journey, I incurred frustration. I seriously pondered whether I needed to withdraw. But, I was told of some vocabulary applications for the iPhone, and they pretty much made all the difference. Then I was left to struggle with the same issues as everyone else – vowels that changed for no apparent reason, and vocabulary that had no bearing with English. But now, I am ever so pleased I had taken on the challenged – and succeeded! The strange thing is, while Greek was easy to learn, it’s hard to read, Hebrew is hard to learn but easy to read. Many others have made the same observation.
As for my thesis – ey! Emotions are still raw as I write this. I only submitted it in recent days – for the second time! It was toward the end of November. My thesis had been submitted 3 weeks prior, my final Hebrew exam had been completed, and I began to celebrate. My studies were over! So I thought. Alas, those celebrations were short lived. 4 hours later, my thesis came back. Not good.
    The topic I had chosen was ‘The work of the Holy Spirit in the person with a disability, and their relationship with the church’. Now, if you ever wanted a challenging topic to write on while adhering to the Reformed theological tradition, this would be one of them. I chose this topic for 3 main reasons. Firstly, my Pentecostal friends often speak of the Holy Spirit, and I wondered if he really did some of the things they claimed. Secondly, I wanted to provide a theological basis for disability inclusion. I have come across disabilities ministries that are completely segregated from mainstream churches. They do a wonderful service in ministering to people with disabilities, but I wondered if they capture God’s vision for his people (there’s only one!) and the ministry of reconciliation. Thirdly, as a would-be Presbyterian minister, I wanted to state very clearly what my theological agenda is from the perspective of disability – I want to see people with disabilities included in the life of main stream churches as an expression of God reconciling all things to himself through Christ.
So the thesis gave me an opportunity to explore these issues. Unfortunately, the examiner wasn’t happy with my arguments (and rightly so, I’ll readily admit), although they applauded my efforts. So in the past month, I’ve had to come up with a new argument, and rewrite half my 8,000 word thesis. Not to mention attending several speaking engagements, organising a Christmas service, and going to Melbourne for 3 days during the process. Now, 8,000 words may seem allot, but when you have a mind as hyperactive as mine, I can assure you it’s not! My biggest frustration was cramming all my ideas under the word limit. I have enough discarded bits and pieces around here to publish a book. That’s before I develop them any further so a nonacademic could actually understand! Of course, I’m happy for people to read my thesis, so long as they’re prepared to contend with Greek, and a bit of Hebrew. As I write, I still don’t know whether I’ve actually finished my studies. I’m still waiting for the result.

2012 also saw plenty of opportunities for me to speak and teach, which I’m most thankful for. In March I preached on John 9 at St. Clements Anglican Church, Mossman. The same sermon was delivered at Temora Presbyterian Church in June where I also spoke to them about how they could be more inclusive of people disabilities. This is where I met this strange dog that would frequently sit upright on its hind legs with its front paws drooping downward, and have a good look around the room. It was quite funny to see. I was able to preach the same sermon again to Buxton community church, which was an eye opener into the workings of community churches in December. In October a ministry for people with intellectual disabilities called ‘Jesus Club’ invited me to preach at their supporters night on Matthew 28:16-20. This was a great opportunity to meet new people and encourage them.
Raising the awareness of disability also kept me busy as I introduced the Luke14 program (a disability inclusion initiative by Christian Blind Mission), to Anglicare in Campbelltown in May. I was also able to speak to the Presbyterian Women’s Home Mission Committee in June about the needs of people with disabilities and their families, and my desire to equip churches to meet this need. Similarly, I had the opportunity to speak about disability at the ‘Flourish’ Presbyterian Conference in July. St. James Anglican, Turramurra, had a disability awareness Sunday asked me to speak for 10mins on ‘Loving People with Disabilities’ in relation to 1 John at all 3 morning services in December. This also was very well received. My answer? We love people with disabilities the same way we love anyone – the way God has loved us in Jesus.
My last college mission saw me going to McClean on the north coast of NSW. There, I was able to give my testimony to the local Presbyterian Church. One of the members saw an opportunity, and the next thing I knew, I was off to Grafton Christian School to give my testimony there as well. It was very encouraging to see how the students responded to what I had to say. I think I’ve remembered all the speaking I’ve done… My apologies if I’ve left out anyone!
Aside from these opportunities, I continued to teach year 2 Scripture. This has been an extremely valuable experience for me in learning how to relate to kids. It’s always interesting looking at the lesson in the teacher’s manual thinking, “That’s not going to work for me…” Then coming up with my own approach. Computer produced find-a-words based on a Bible passage and colouring in pictures from the internet have come in very handy.
Church services at the Allambie Heights Cerebral Palsy Alliance continued this year, and it was great to have so many willing volunteers to help me out with the ministry. This year we went through Genesis 1-12, looking as some of the fundamentals of the Christian faith: that God loves us, he provides for us, he wants to restore us and the rest of the world from sin, and we need to trust him in that regard and obey him. Recently we’ve been going through the Sermon on the Mount, understanding it as an appropriate way of responding to the grace God has given us. At the end of the year we had our Christmas Service. A number of people got a band together so we could sing carols. Everyone involved put in a huge effort. People came to the service who don’t usually come, and they were able to hear about how Jesus gives us peace with God, which is where peace on Earth starts. It was a really encouraging time.

So, all that was quite allot on top of my studies. Pending the response to my thesis, I’m assuming the formal part of my studies is over. So what happens next? In a word: DUNNO! However, I’m hoping to be licensed to preach on the 3rd January (again, pending the thesis result). This does not mean I’ll be ordained, it’s just one of the last steps toward ordination. How and when ordination will happen remains a mystery. Nothing has been planned in terms of employment for 2013 (that I know of!). There are a couple of leads I’ll be chasing up in January. Apart from this, I’ll continue teaching Scripture, running the church services at Allambie Heights, and providing a bit of pastoral support. I’m hoping that the opportunities I have to speak and teach around the place will continue, and develop into something sustainable.
Apart from this, I have a small stockpile of books to keep me occupied. In many ways I feel I’ve only done the preliminary part of my studies, and now I’m free to get on with the real work. There’s a number of issues I’d like to address, as well as developing my thesis further. In terms of further formal study, I’ll be taking a break to recover from the prolonged pressure of study, and to discover what ‘normal’ now means for me. But the possibility wont be too far from my mind. As such, The Student’s Desk will remain, even though my former studies are over (for now). I look forward to exploring and learning even more.
It’s been a really, really long journey, and I’m thankful that so many have stayed with me on it. Especially those who have been with me from the beginning. Whatever happens now, I feel hugely blessed by, not only in being able to do theological studies, but to actually excel in them. This is a privilege and a grace.

(c) The Student’s Desk, 2012

December 24, 2012 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | Leave a comment

The Student’s Desk – January, 2012

What a crazy, crazy year 2011 has been! Usually I write twice a year. But in June, instead of writing The Student’s Desk, I was remodelling The Student’s Desk. And for half of December, I wasn’t even to be found in the country! More on these in a minute.

2011 began where 2010 finished – in Melbourne. I returned to Melbourne in January to do the second half of my block placement. This time, I was working much more closely with CBM (Christian Blind Mission) preparing training modules for their Luke14 program which looks to equip churches to be more inclusive of people with disabilities. By year’s end, I found myself becoming one of the volunteer regional co-ordinators for both Central Coast and Sydney. This means I’m part of a team that visits churches to run a training seminar, among other things. This also led to the opportunity in September to present a theological approach of relating to people with disabilities to couple hundred men at a ‘Men for Christ Ministries’ conference with Rob Nicholls from CBM.

In March I graduated with my theological degree, and was also awarded the ‘Koorong Prize’ for Excellence in Biblical Studies. This was unexpected, and I felt very honoured to receive this prize. It was a brilliant night for all, being reminded of the biblical truths we hold to. I was so glad to have many of my family and friends there to mark the occasion. I wasn’t so crazy about wearing a tie, though! As exciting as it as to graduate, it was a bit of an anti-climax to wake up the next morning to more essays as I continued working towards my Advance Diploma of Theology – required for ordination in the Presbyterian Church.

Studies in first semester included Grace and Eschatology, and John’s Gospel (in Greek, of course!). Eschatology led me to engage with the millennium debate, which discusses the circumstances of Christs return. I’m not sure if I fully understand the debate, and I’m not sure if many people do! What did astound me is no one has seemed to venture to explain how the millennium is functioning in the text (Revelation 20:2-7). I would’ve thought it was a fairly fundamental question, but apparently that’s the wrong question for a systematic theologian to ask (??). I hope to make some progress in answering this question myself before returning to college this year. Studying John’s Gospel gave an up-close and personal insight into the person of Jesus, and was again confronted by the significance of Jesus, and the fallen state of the world.

The mid-year break saw the remodelling The Student’s Desk, which was a much bigger project then I had imagined. You know how it is – you start working on one thing which leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to “I should never have started this!” Such was the remodelling. I had the idea of moving my studying out from the 2nd bedroom to the loungeroom for over 2 years, centred around a large, custom-built desk (which I had already drawn up plans). Then I had a brainwave (always a dangerous thing with me). With modern TVs having the ability to be used as a computer monitor, why not buy a big TV, hook up my computer, then get a table on wheels to place a wireless keyboard and mouse with enough room for 2 or 3 books? With the analogue TV signal being phased out, I would’ve been buying a new TV anyway. Well, that’s exactly what I did, along with buying some storage draws and cupboards, and it’s worked really well. Even though I had people assembling and moving furniture and cleaning the place up, it was still a big effort for me getting all the bits together, and moving books is not easy! I’m just glad the vast majority of them are on my computer.

This time also saw the addition of new technology – a Mac, of all things! After years of taking the micky out of them and those who own them, I bought a Macbook Air. What I’ve wanted was an “up-and-go” mobile computer. None of this turn it on and wait for something to happen. And wait, and wait, and wait! Hence why I previously bought an iPad, but found it too limited in what it could do. The Mac has surpassed all my expectations, allowing me to take it everywhere and to work anywhere on a full computer system that’s responsive and reliable. I’ve found myself a few times commuting to college on the train preparing a talk. I’m so impressed with the Mac, I’m now looking to replace my main computer with one, once Apple starts putting today’s technology in them, and not yesterday’s!

After 10 years, services at the Allambie Heights Cerebral Palsy Alliance (formerly NSW Spastic Centre) continue. Recently we’ve been slowly working our way through John 14-16, looking at what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I’ve found this very interesting and quite confronting, yet encouraging. What’s been noticed is Jesus makes some big demands on his followers, but he doesn’t leave them to their own devices. As Christians, we are given all we need to do Jesus’ bidding, and we mustn’t ever forget that grace! It’s also been encouraging to see new people come along and participate, if only for a short time.

In the latter half of the year, I also frequently found myself in a school surrounded by ten year 2 students, teaching the Bible. I wanted to learn how to relate to kids, and in the first half of the year returned to assisting with Scripture in a special education school. I was unable to continue in the second half of the year, and was reassigned to another class at a mainstream school, except, I wasn’t to be an assistant. I was to be the teacher! Oh boy! How on earth was this going to work?? The kids were attentive, and I did have an assistant to help with communication. The school was also very supportive of what I was doing. Again, technology came to the fore as I quickly learned how to use a smart board to present lessons.

In the second half of the year, I took another 2 subjects:  Pastoral Skills and Methods and Synoptic Gospels (again, in Greek). I found Pastoral Skills really helpful for ministering to people one-to-one, although I really didn’t like writing the essay on ‘divorce’, but understand why that topic was chosen. Synoptic Gospels really enforced the importance of reading the books of the Bible as literary units, and not isolate passages and interpreting them by ones own presuppositions, as significant as they may be!

I finished my lectures for the year, and from then on, life became really crazy! I thought I had 3 leisurely weeks to learn 6 chapters of Luke (in Greek) in preparation for my exam, and to pick up my fitness for my upcoming block placement in New Zealand. Our legal system had other ideas. I was summons to jury duty which reduced my study time to 1 week. Any thought of getting back on my bike went out the window as I crammed 5 out of 6 chapters into my head. Then it was a case of completing the exam one day, packing my bags for New Zealand the next day, board the plane the day after, and run around New Zealand non-stop for 3½ weeks. After all this, I popped out the other end with a High Distinction for Synoptic Gospels. Don’t ask. I’ve got no idea how that happened either. I’m just chalking it up to God’s providence! While I’m relieved to have completed the Greek side of my studies, I’m also disappointed it’s finished. As crazy as it may sound, I really enjoyed getting into the Greek text. I am very glad that I insisted on doing Greek, and am thankful to the college for their support.

New Zealand was a huge effort, but well worth it. I can’t imagine flying off to another country for the first time on your own is much fun for anyone, much less someone with a disability. But, this is what I did. I was still experiencing difficulty getting a field placement for my studies when this opportunity with Christian Ministries with Disabilities Trust in Auckland came up. I went back to my college and negotiated to do a 2nd block placement in lieu of a field placement. So the endeavour to become a Presbyterian minister became an international effort!

            New Zealand was a fantastic experience with friendly people who have a tremendous sense of humour. One person tried telling me I was from the ‘West Island’. I had to pay that one. There was plenty of opportunity for me to preach and teach, encouraging people one to one, and try my hand at other ways of presenting. It also gave me an opportunity to find out the inner workings of CMWDT, and start thinking about what might be possible in Australia, and the best way of maintaining Biblical standards. I really enjoyed my time in NZ, although there were some very difficult moments. So it was with a measure of sadness that I boarded the plane to come back home. The photo on the left is Lion Rock at Piha.

Looking to the year ahead, it’s shaping up to be a quiet one on the study front, but I’m anticipating this will be a very busy year. It is with immeasurable joy that I can say this will be my final year of study (at least for this course). I only have Hebrew to learn (how hard can that be?? I was also told Greek would be hard!), and my exit thesis to write. Beyond this, I am praying that opportunities will be opened up around the Central Coast and Sydney, and I’m already seeing some movement on the horizon. It will be very interesting to see how this year unfolds.

January 16, 2012 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | , , , | Leave a comment

The Student’s Desk Newsletter – December, 2010

Each time I’ve sat down to write one of these, there’s been something significantly different about the previous semester. The later half of 2010 has been in keeping with that trend. This time, my training for the ministry landed me in Melbourne. Which is why this edition of The Student’s Desk is a little late. But more of that in a minute.

            I only did one subject this semester – Other New Testament Writings in Greek. It was the only subject available to me. While that may seem like a light workload, it wasn’t. I still had to only learn 8 chapters of Greek like last semester. But unlike like last semester, the 8 chapters were spread over two books. So that was two lots of themes, two lots of literary styles, and two lots of arguments. And when one of those books is Hebrews – yah. You should be getting the picture by now. Understanding Hebrews in English is hard. Understanding Hebrews in Greek is fine – so long as you have nothing else to do! I once joked by saying I looked at the first verse in Hebrews in Greek and about the only word I could recognise was kai. Basically, kai is one of the most frequently used words in the New Testament, and means ‘and’. If you can’t recognise kai by this stage of Greek, you shouldn’t be doing Greek! The other book was 1 Corinthians which was a piece of cake compared to Hebrews. I only had to learn half the vocab as I did for Hebrews, and the sentences actually made sense – which is always a bonus! At least I was able to get on top of my vocab by streamlining the production of my vocab cards, which meant drawing on some computer skills from last century – seriously! I made a list of the words that I didn’t know in a spreadsheet along with a definition, the occurrence, and parse. I then imported that information into a word processor to produce vocab cards, which I could then view on my computer or mobile phone. Every time I came across a word I didn’t know while translating, it went into the spreadsheet. It was quite quick to do, and got the vocab into my head – at least long enough to get through the exam! I still make a practice of it when I translate the Greek for my own preaching and teaching.

I’m continuing on with church services at Allambie Heights Spastic Centre, which really has been a privilege. I took them through Jonah this semester before returning to the miracles of Jesus. I struggle with providing teaching from a variety places within Scripture as the people there find it much easier to understand the gospels. But I consider it important to teach from all areas of the Bible. Next year, I intend to go through book of Judges, emphasising the theme of ‘God’s unlikely servants’, drawing out the idea that God can also use people who are different from most to bring about his purposes.

Well, just how does a candidate for the Presbyterian Church of NSW end up doing a training placement in Melbourne? It starts with prayer. Several times over a number of years a suitable training placement has been sought for me, all to no avail. Last time I wrote, I mentioned I had an opportunity, and I asked for prayer that it would lead to other opportunities. It did! The opportunity I had was to be involved in a 1 week intensive subject in July raising the awareness of disability in churches. Here, I met Lindsey Gale who heads CBM’s (Christian Blind Mission) Luke14 disability inclusion program, and asked about the possibility of doing a training block placement with CBM. Lindsey also attends Donvale Presbyterian Church, and discussions began about the possibility of a combined placement. By September, I was on a plane to Melbourne to finalise those discussions, and by the end of November, I was packing the Hotel Royal (my truck) to drive to Melbourne for the training placement.

            And what an opportunity it has been! Donvale was keen to have me teach their people all I could about disability, and I was greatly support in this. I learned so much about pastoral care, and the work of CBM, and am keen to learn more about CBM. I was also given the opportunity to preach at their night service, and my sermon was very will received. I now have a very clear vision of what my future ministry will look like. I still have no idea what I’ll be doing, or for that matter where. But I know how which is helpful for me, and those who’ll be working with me.

            Normally, the placement is done as a 4 week block, but I’ve been allowed to divide it into two 2 week blocks. So mid-January I’ll be doing the run to Melbourne again. I’m looking forward to much of the same as last time, and will also be discussing future possibilities of ministry. All these opportunities couldn’t be more timely – praise God!

Why are these opportunities timely? Perhaps it’s because of the highlight of the year – finishing my degree! On the 9th of March next year I graduate with my Bachelor of Theology. But don’t get too excited, this is not the end of my studies. To fulfil the requirements of my candidature, I need a second award. This is an Advanced Diploma of Theology. I can now say with unswerving confidence that this will take no more than two years to complete.

So what does one do after two years of Greek? Well, they do another year of Greek, of course! Next semester I’ll be doing John’s gospel, and being “fisherman’s Greek” I’m expecting a much easier time of it than Hebrews with it’s “scholar’s Greek”. Although, who knows what the examiners will pull from their bag of tricks just to make it more interesting. I’ll also be doing Grace and Eschatology and I’m looking forward to deepening my knowledge of grace.


We’re nearly there folks, we’re nearly there! One challenge almost done, another one rapidly coming – a ministry placement. Thanks for your prayers and support.

December 26, 2010 Posted by | Newsletters | Leave a comment

The Student’s Desk Newsletter – June 2010

Last semester was yet another intensive time, in more ways than one. Although I was only doing 1½ subjects, which left people with a confused look when I told them. I guess it was like telling them I boarded the train from platform 9¾. The 2 subjects I was doing were Romans (in Greek) and Intermediate Greek. Intermediate Greek taught us how to use our editions of the Greek New Testament, and, well, basically to remind us of everything we learned last year and had since forgotten. As well as looking at how the Greek works after having been reminded of the basics. But the only assessment required was turning up.

This allowed much more time and effort to be given to Romans. Now, if you’ve ever studied Romans as part of a Church Bible study group, or simply read through it, you know something of the juggernaut that the letter is. So imagine studying it from the original language it was written in – Greek. Are you starting to feel the intensity? I sure did! We were given a choice of questions for the main assessment, and I picked the place of [Old Testament] law in the life of a Christian being answered from Romans 7. I picked this question because the issue was brought to my attention last year, and I wanted to be much more clued up to form my position. So for me, this wasn’t simply an academic exercise in ticking a box. I worked very hard at understanding not just the issues in Romans, but the issues more broadly. By the time I had done all my research, my head felt like it was stuffed with cotton-wool, and I really struggled to write the essay. But, I managed to squeeze it out, and my essay was well received. Unfortunately, I’m reluctant to share it around. The essay looks like it was written by someone who swallowed a Greek New Testament, along with a few Greek dictionaries – and I’m not sure that I didn’t! I’d have to write a much more pastoral work before I distribute any of my conclusions.

Occasionally, I’m reminded by friends what a privilege it is to study God’s word at Bible College. Such reminders seem to come when I’m stressed, or recovering from being stressed. So I tend to respond with a silent grumble. But I can honestly say, even at the heights of the stress, it was an absolute privilege. I rarely give unqualified statements, but anyone who says studying Greek is a waste of time is WRONG! I really thank God for my stubbornness in not heeding the advice not to do Greek, and the determination to keep going with it. I was able to draw our so much more from Romans. I don’t want to discourage people from reading their English translations. Everything you need for salvation is made clear in English. There is no secret knowledge to be had in reading Greek. But being able to read Greek helps me understand even more what I’ve come to know from the English translations.

Sailing at Jervis Bay

Enjoying a rare puff of wind sailing on Jervis Bay

It wasn’t only studies that made the semester intense, but physical activity as well. I was invited to go sailing for the beginning of May at Jervis Bay. I jumped at the chance, but quickly thought, “I know what an afternoon of sailing does to me. What’s a whole weekend of sailing going to do to me???” So I was quickly back on my bike in the weeks leading up to the trip to get my fitness back up. This was just as well! There wasn’t much wind the whole weekend, so lots of peddling was done (remembering these boats can be sailed, peddled, or paddled). While returning to camping on the Saturday I was treated by a pod of dolphins, porpoising right next to my boat. I hadn’t seen wild dolphins before. I could have just about reached out and touched them. It was and amazing experience. Happily I got through the weekend without any sign of exhaustion.

The services at the Spastic Centre are continuing. Though it’s becoming increasingly evident that this is an aged ministry, and not just a disabled ministry. Often we have had to pray for members who are quite sick, or dying. Even still, glimpses of extraordinary faith can be seen at these times, and these are such a powerful testimony to the grace and work of God in their life. I attended the funeral of one such man. Although Paul was not a full-time resident of Venee Burges house, he was there when recovering from operations, and was determined not to miss out on a church service – even in his last week. His funeral was none I had experience before. It was more a time of celebration than one of mourning. Paul was confined to a wheelchair, and had no speech, and very little use of his body. Yet, this man was able to have such an impact on people’s lives for the gospel, and had a great influence on his church, simply because he exercised his faith, and refused to let his disability to get in the way of anything! This was a great encouragement to me to keep persevering, and to see my disability as an opportunity, not as an obstacle, to minister. Unfortunately, many have considered my disability as the latter, much to my discouragement. So hearing of Paul’s life and faith was a great blessing. It is also a reminder what a privilege it is to be able to teach the Bible in this place, that people may hear and respond to the grace of God.

I was also given the opportunity to speak on college mission. This time at Forster. I was to speak at a youth discipleship group, and to give my testimony (that is, how and why I became a Christian) at a men’s breakfast. I don’t pretend for a second that I’m easy to listen to. Even still, both talks were well received. Especially at the men’s breakfast where my message had a big impact as I found out later.

The worst part about mission was not being able to go sailing. Anyone who’s been to Forster knows the water is a clear, light blue colour. I considered it a great injustice to be forced to drive past the water each day, beckoning me to sail it when I couldn’t. It left me exclaiming, “I WANT MY BOAT!!!” Which of course really isn’t my boat. I did get out on the water thanks to Jason Summers, which was an interesting experience doing a precarious balancing act with 3 other grown men in a tiny dingy. But it was fun!

Well, looking at the college timetable to choose my subjects these days is like arriving late for a party only to pick at the scraps of food left over. That can only mean I’m getting closer to the end of course. Next semester I’ll be studying more Greek looking at the letters of Hebrews and 1 & 2 Corinthians – a man can never have too much Greek! But when I’ll actually finish is still uncertain. Somehow, I’m still intent on studying Hebrew! It also means my anxiety is increasing concerning future ministry. I keep praying for opportunity, and I have such an opportunity at present. So I am also praying that this will lead to other opportunities. I ask you would do the same.

June 26, 2010 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | Leave a comment

The Student’s Desk Newsletter – December 2009

I am very glad to get to the end of another year, and for once my final exams could not come quick enough. And I truly am amazed and what I’ve managed to cram into my head! I just hope it all doesn’t fall back out over summer. I’ll need it for next year.

This past semester I studied Homiletics (or preaching), and the second half of the Greek course. Greek was particularly challenging as the pace was really ramped up. It seemed we had to learn three times as much material compared to the first semester. Most of it was variants of what we had already learned (supposedly!). At least I had my study methods worked out, and I was able to get to work on it straight away.

Homiletics was a very interesting and exciting subject to study. Though I must admit, I was expecting a semester of being told how to suck eggs! I thought, “I know how to preach. I’ve been preaching for years!” About the third week into the semester I realised, I didn’t have a clue when it came to preaching! I had always struggled to make my talks relevant to the people listening. But the method we learned of witting a talk helped me a great deal to make my talks relevant, and I put it into practice straight away with my talks at the Allambie Heights Spastic Centre. Part of the assessment involved preaching three sermons. I was very interested to see where this would end up given my communication difficulties. Nonetheless, my sermons were very well received, encouraging comments were made, and my results were much better then expected.

Another important discovery was mind mapping software. This allows me to jot down ideas and link them to other ideas. This way I can quickly put all my thoughts down on a given subject and the write the essay or talk once all my thoughts are clearly laid out. I have found it very helpful for writing talks, and should be even more helpful in writing lengthy essays.

Life Beyond the Theology Books

Church services at the Allambie Heights Spastic Centre are still going on strong. Some people have left, others have come, and I still get around 10 people coming along. We have continued looking at the miracles of Jesus, and I, personally, have been enthralled by the biblical presentation of Jesus in contrast to the popular sensationalist ideas that tend to float about our modern society. Jesus just did not fit in to his own time and culture, and was really quite controversial. The reason for this was he was bringing in the Kingdom of God with values that were very different to the culture of his day, and even our culture. I hope some of my excitement has rubbed off on the people there as we’ve talked about the miracles of Jesus.

One thing I am growing more aware of is I’m not only ministering to people with disabilities, I’m also ministering to people who are aging. So it is sad to see people who I once communicated with fluently, now struggling to hear or comprehend anything that is said. Still, it’s always encouraging to see the come along. We recently had our Christmas service, which was again enjoyed by all who came. I also am very grateful to those who help me put the service together. The job seems to get bigger each year, and having the right people on the day makes a big difference.

Well, now that I’ve done 1 year of Greek, what else does one do other than another year of Greek? Seriously! Next year I’ll be doing Intermediate Greek which looks at how the language is actually used, along with canonical issues (that is, why we have the books in the Bible that we have); and Romans which will be looking at what the book is all about, except I’ll be doing it, you guest it, in Greek! I’ve already been introduced to one of the debates that goes on which has left me confused, so I should be in for a fun year! So to prevent all my Greek from falling out of my head before then, I’ve decided to start translation Romans over the Christmas break.

The really good part is I’m getting closer to the end of my degree. From what I can work out, I’ve only got a few years to go, which in my time frame isn’t that long. That’s if I study the Hebrew language as well, which I’m still very keen to do.

There is still no clear direction on what I’ll be doing after my studies, so now is the time to start thinking seriously about this, and praying for opportunities so I can get the right training now when it’s available.

December 17, 2009 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | Leave a comment