Monthly Archives: September 2012

Church Sign of the week 14

Jane, April and Siôn, have a great BigMouthCamp.org.au

Occasionally there are somethings that profoundly change your life. Even rarer though is the opportunity to take part in something that not only changes your life but the lives of others: Big Mouth Camp is one of those things. This weekend three of our church members get the opportunity to change lives and have their lives changed. This weekend is the BIG MOUTH CAMP!

For those of you who don’t know what Big Mouth Camp (BMC) is here is some information from the camp website (www.bigmouthcamp.org.au);

The Big Mouth Camp is a residential camp for students from 6 to 15 years of age, who use speech generating devices. The camp is also for their families and carers. The primary aim of the camp is for the children using the device to improve their device use and become much more competent communicators in a fun and relaxing atmosphere.
Intensive communication therapy will be provided each morning and the afternoon will involve activities and opportunities for everyone to practice the skills they have learnt in the morning. Separate sibling recreation sessions will be conducted in the mornings, and this time will also provide parents/carers to discuss and work on issues around augmentative and alternative communication.
The camp will also be offering mentoring from experienced adult communication device users, training from device manufacturers / support staff, sessions on related disability computer software and much more!

BMC was set up by Jane Farrall (one of our church members) and has been running for 9 years. The Church helps support Big Mouth and has for most of the camps. It is one way we see to help the community around us.

The camp changes lives – it changes the lives of the volunteers who staff the camp. Speaking from personal experience; I went to the first camp having no experience talking to children with complex communication needs and physical disabilities. I will admit I was anxious, even scared as to how to approach and interact with the kids. It took me less than 10 minutes to discover that these were just kids, in every way. One young girl, who was 7 and who shall remain nameless (but SHE knows who she is), took great delight in calling me a pig. She can’t talk without her communication device but her sign language is very clear! Over the next few days, every time she saw me, she would make the sign of ‘pig’ and laugh so hard she would nearly cry. She still does it when we meet! She was just a little girl having fun at my expense. There are girls in church who do similar things every Sunday – call me names and laugh!

Another year one of the boys found out I played rugby (very badly) and we spent hours chatting – him on his device and me with my loud voice about the rules and the great players and the Wallabies and the All Blacks.

A role model comes every year. An adult who uses a communication device who can tell the kids and the families about their experiences – the good and the bad. All these role models (and there have been several of them) are wonderful people who I am proud to say call me their friend. Meeting them at camp never fails to impress upon me how great some people are!

But it isn’t just me who has had my life changed – I think you could talk to almost anyone who has volunteered at BMC and they will tell you similar stories of how their lives have altered. Some of the therapists at this year’s camp were students a few years ago and have qualified and asked to come back and help. Big Mouth has that effect on people. It changes you – forever.

But it is not just the staff who gain benefits from BMC. The campers and their families also see the amazing things that happen – and in fact the camp is designed for them. I will tell you one story of one family from one year. Maybe 50 families have come to camp over the years and all would have great stories to tell.

So let me tell you just one story of one family from one year. A child came to camp (let’s call him Dylan) with his family. Dylan didn’t use his communication device often and therefore didn’t really have a voice. All the family came, mum, dad and brother and it was quite obvious that dad really didn’t want to be there. At the therapy session on the first day Dylan saw all the other kids there using their devices and talking away and he started to use his. By the end of the morning he was getting the hang of it. It was slow going and he made a few mistakes but he kept on working. The day wore on and Dylan kept learning.

That night there was footy on the telly and Dylan’s dad sat down to watch his favourite team – let’s pretend it was the Bulldogs. Everyone was doing their own thing waiting for the evening activities to start. I went off to sit in a corner to catch my breath and grab a few minutes rest.

Stuff began happening, games were being played, fun was being had. After about an hour I sat back in my quiet corner and heard two people talking – one male voice and one child’s voice coming from a device. I also heard crying. I popped my head around to see if everything was alright and saw Dylan and his dad deep in conversation about their beloved Bulldogs. Dad had tears streaming down his face. They stayed there for hours – father and son talking footy.

Later I learned what had happened. Dylan had gone over to his dad as he watched the game, got his attention and asked, “Why are the Bulldogs so shit this year?” Dad looked at Dylan and said it was due to the fact they had bad players. Dylan disagreed and so the conversation began. All dad had ever done with Dylan was take him to the footy and Dylan asked questions about every game. Dad answered and as the conversation went on the tears flowed. Dylan and his dad had never really spoken before but that night a man and his son bonded over a fairly mediocre footy team.

Dad wrote to the camp organisers a few weeks later, a letter of thanks in which my favourite lines were, “Thank you for finding a way to let me talk with my son. Now I can’t keep him quiet, it’s brilliant!”

That’s what Big Mouth does – it changes people, forever!

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Church Sign of the Week 13

If only closed minds came with closed mouths.

I doubt Jim Wallace will read this but if he does I would like to politely ask him to shut up. To paraphrase the great poet Jon Bon Jovi, “You give the Church a bad name.”

If you’re not aware of Mr. Wallace’s wonderful work may I direct you his latest profound and well thought out idea which has been paraphrased in the media as, “Smoking is healthier than gay marriage.” It is important for us not to get to lost in the media hype and to understand what Mr. Wallace actually said. At the end of a debate with Tasmanian Greens leader Christine Milne, Mr. Wallace was answering a question from a student on the relevance of his views, he said health statistics among the gay community were worse than those for smokers.

“I think we’re going to owe smokers a big apology when the homosexual community’s own statistics for its health – which it presents when it wants more money for health – are that is has higher rates of drug-taking, of suicide, it has the life of a male reduced by up to 20 years,” he told the audience. ( Taken from: http://www.smh.com.au/national/smoking-healthier-than-gay-marriage-20120905-25eca.html#ixzz266hJlvu6)

(What if you’re a gay smoker? You are going to die, yesterday!)

So Mr. Wallace and his friends at the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) with one simple, (and I use that word in all its depths) with one simple statement have destroyed months of work churches have done in various communities.

Churches that have been working hard to build up relationships in their local area (churches that have nothing to do with the ACL and do not agree with their ideals) are being tarred with the same brush as the closed minds that spout these so called ‘truths’. These ‘sound bites’ played over the media are taken by the general public as the stance of every church and so every church suffers when ideas such as these are broadcast over the airwaves. The ACL may have been misquoted, Jim Wallace may have been wrongly paraphrased by the sound bite loving media, but that doesn’t change the fact that the initial statement is still ludicrous.

Being in a committed relationship with someone of the same sex should carry a health warning like smoking does. It’s THAT dangerous! Look out! Being gay means you might die 20 years sooner than if you are straight. “I think we’re going to owe smokers a big apology when the homosexual community’s own statistics for its health….has the life of a male reduced by up to 20 years”, or as the media put it “Smoking is healthier than gay marriage.”

What your typical Australian sees (rightly or wrongly) is the headline. They see the Church making stupid statements, they do not see that is isn’t all churches doing this, just a bunch of right wing fanatics with a warped view of God. A typical Aussie sees our Prime Minister refusing to go to a meeting with ‘the Church’. They don’t see that the people who made the statement do not speak for all Christians, they just see Ms. Gillard refusing to go to an ACL meeting (and Julia was right not to) and make the assumption that these people speak for all Christendom.

THEY MOST CERTAINLY DON’T SPEAK FOR ALL CHRISTIANS!

To the people of Australia who are thinking that the ACL and their kind are what Christianity and the Church is all about please understand not all the Christian community in Australia are the unthinking, hate-filled homophobes Mr. Wallace and his chums make us out to be. Many of us (maybe even most of us) are not mindless robots who accept everything that is spoon fed us from the pulpit. Believe it or not most church goers do not think that gay marriage is as dangerous as smoking. I know that not every Christian agrees with the idea of same sex relationships but even if they don’t most would agree that Mr. Wallace and his cronies have the wrong end of a very pointy stick.

Many Christians struggle, think and reason through the problems of our faith and we come to understand that the God we believe in is a loving God who is far bigger than the close minded, right wing Christian lobby would want us to believe. We know that not everyone is perfect (we at Melbourne Welsh Church sure as hell aren’t) but things you have no control over should not be the reason you are not welcome in a church. Next we’ll be banning left handers, people of different skin colours, the poor and women. Oh wait those ideas have all been tried already and thrown out as stupid!

So I return to the wording of our sign, it would make our church’s work and the work of those who are trying to show the love of God to a world in desperate need so much easier…

IF ONLY CLOSED MINDS CAME WITH CLOSED MOUTHS!

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Church sign of the week 12

LIVE SIMPLY, SPEAK KINDLY, LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY

This week’s sign, in it’s own way, is every bit as controversial as last week’s. At its heart this message, though simple in appearance, is very disturbing. Most of us, if we are truly honest with ourselves, would find it difficult to do any one of these three phrases justice.

Live simply

How many of us really live simply? Here I am, sitting in a coffee shop drinking a very nice orange juice typing this on my iPad while waiting for my mobile phone to ring so I can go off and meet a couple of people who wish to spend $10000’s on their wedding.

We do not live simply and we do not live in a simple world. Even the two monks I know have iPhones and laptops. We sip our lattes and eat our focaccias, sitting in our designer clothes, behind our designer glasses, while surfing the net our tablets on the wifi that is ubiquitous in our cities. Certainly anything but the simply life.

I doubt it is possible for most of us to live simply in the true sense of the word. Life is far too complicated and we are to imbedded in it, but I’m sure it’s possible for us to live simpler and share the gifts we have been given.

If statistics can be believed – if we have any food in our fridges and any money in our pockets we are better off than 92% of the world’s population. You and I are in the top 10% of people that live on this planet – surely it is our duty to live simpler lives and help the 90% of our neighbours that don’t have what we do, food and clothes for example.

Speak kindly

This one is the easiest of the three, of course we can speak more kindly to people. How hard can it be to be a bit nicer – smile a little easier – be a little kinder? We can all do it, but I’m of the opinion that this quote should go a little deeper. Perhaps it would have been more accurate to say “think kindly”. As easy as it is to speak kindly it is not so easy to think kindly. Behind our grinning faces and honey coated words many of us (me included) would be horrified if people could hear what we are thinking.

“How are you?” we say. “Please don’t tell me, I don’t have the time” is what we think.
“Would you a coffee” we ask. “Say no!” we think.

Yes speak more kindly but let us think more kindly too!

Love unconditionally

Good luck!

If you find how to do this let me know – let everyone know – it will make the world a better place.

“God IS love” is in the Bible. I believe it. He is. I also believe he loves us unconditionally. He does not love the people we could be – he loves the people we are.

We, however, are not divine. We put boundaries on our love. There are conditions on our affections. We put limits on the type of people and the individuals we love. These limits can range from whether they share our views on things to do they fit into our idea of attractive and a million other variables.

We also find reasons not to love people and these reasons can be even more diverse than our reasons for loving people. We don’t like their attitude to they have a funny smell or any number of other ideas. It is impossible for us to love unconditionally – but it is not impossible for us to try! And that, I think, is what God asks of us. To love as much as we can and as hard as we can whoever we can.

As we get to know him more the loving of others becomes easier, never unconditional but with fewer and fewer conditions.

‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:40

A brief explanation of the origin of these week’s sign.

I love quotes, I have loads of them scribbled and stored in various places. From the profound to the profoundly funny and everything in between. This sign is, for me, very hard to put up as I know it is misquote. More than that, it is a deliberate misquote. Deliberate misquotes are dangerous things. I have taken a few words out, rearranged the order and changed a word from Ronald Reagan’s famous words,

“Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, leave the rest to God.”

I don’t usually do that because it changes what the person was trying to say. Consider this minor change in a couple of the Ten Commandments –

“I am the LORD, your God. You shall no other god before me. For I am a jealous God, thou shalt kill….”

A minor change of words, a major change in meaning!

Hopefully my changes to this quote are not as radical and bring a better meaning, not a harsher one, to light. S.

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