Cambodia

9 04 2013

A fertile forest-covered Asian nation of 16 million people, on the Mekong River – and bordered by Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.

Sadly, whenever Cambodia is mentioned, many immediately recall images of the brutal leader, Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge and ‘The Killing Fields’.

However, this – like all nations – is an amazing place, with a history of survival from deep suffering, poverty, corruption and difficulty.

Cambodia

Cambodia

  Capital: Phnom Penh – 2 million people

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Cambodia 2

Operation World says: “One of the world’s poorest countries and heavily dependent on foreign aid. Years of war and genocide followed by venal and corrupt governments have hindered development and kept most of the population poor; 38% live below the poverty line. Significant progress is being made in economic development, but the rural poor are being left behind. Agriculture, garments and tourism are the biggest earners, with offshore oil/gas deposits promising future income. Illegal logging and the sex trade enriches a small number of wickd men, but causes suffering to many.”   [* Public debt is 63% of GDP]

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Religion:

Buddhist 83.34%   (12.5 million)

Ethnoreligionist 4.8%

Christian 3.13%   (471, 162)

Chinese 2.85%

Muslim 2.3%

Other 0.26%

Hindu 0.22%

“Buddhism has been the national religion since the 15th Century.  The Khmer Rouge sought to eradicate all religions; 90% of Buddhist monks and most Christians perished. Since 1979 there have been periods of more tolerance, and since 1990 Christians have been allowed to worship openly, but a few limitations on mission activity have been legislated as well” (OM. p. 185)

Christian Churches: (interesting the great strength of the Pentecostal/Charismatic brands)

Foursquare Gospel Church (“the biggest!” at 62,000 and 135,000 affiliates – wow);

Others, include Catholic Church, River of Life, Assemblies of God, Methodist, Baptist, Khmer Evangelical church,Seventh Day Adventist, Harvest-time Ministries, New Life Fellowship, Cambodia for Christ.

Prayer Points:

1. Give thanks for the unprecedented – and unexpected – church growth over the last 20 years.

2. Pray for healing of hearts and lives:

“the scars of the terrible genocide of 1975-1979 remain evident.  Nearly two million were killed over 60,000 lost life or limb to landmines and most of the population over age 30 need deep healing from the trauma of their losses and suffering”.

Pray for Justice to be seen to be done; International tribunals are having difficulty in bringing government and judiciary on board with the justice process, and the culture of corruption and impunity holds sway. The Khmer Rouge trials should assist greatly.

3. Spiritual Darkness persists – ubiquitous ‘spirit-shrines, Buddhist opposition to any ideological rival, moral collapse, structural-sin, pray for light. Jesus said: “I am the Light of the World”.

4. Pray for a break in structural-sin seen in bad patterns of (i) Land Grabbing, (ii) Child labour, sex trade victims (100,000) – 20% of tourists exploit this trade, homeless children and orphans, HIV, (iii) drug trafficking and drug abuse has increased greatly – not good for any future in any nation, but especially here.

5. Give thanks for the triumph of Christ and His Church in Cambodia. It has ‘survived against all odds’. As Jesus said, ‘I will build  my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it’. CMA missionary workers laboured for 47 years, from 1923 until they saw a breakthrough. Then the Church was nearly extinguished through the slaughter of the 1970’s. During the 1990’s however, churches spread well to all 19 provinces. And so we pray for continued freedom of religion, freedom from the past’s terrible sin and hatred, for children and young people to be discipled to follow Jesus and know the power of his love to heal and re-establish a nation, for a great vision to be realised where the 11,000 villages without a church may have one established.

6. For Mature Leadership for the churches – this is the greatest challenge. For Bible schools, existing Pastors, Unity among churches, foreign Christian workers t come and help.

7. Christian ministry to physical needs is a major concern. Murder of the educated and those with skills, makes expatriate input essential. ‘Rehabilitation, orphanages, reconstruction, health care, projects for agriculture, fisheries, water management, education are all areas that can benefit. But not merely making ‘rice Christians’ with handouts! This is resented by the Buddhists. 

8. Prayer for the less-reached peoples, among the Buddhist majority, the Cham – almost entirely Muslim, Fojihed Muslims – with magic and superstition, the tribal peoples – 18 major southeast Asian people groups remain ignorant of hearing the gospel, ask for new witnesses to go.

9. Literature, the JESUS film, Audio, Video and radio resources all are appreciated – pray for their success in reaching Cambodians, with the living Word of the Living Christ Jesus. Praise the Lord for what we see happening in this nation, and pray for a greater awakening.





Botswana

4 02 2013

Capital: Gaborone, with a population of 201,000.

The Kalahari Desert covers 80% of the total area of this African Country. Understandably it is very dry and prone to severe droughts.  Life expectancy is a mere 53.4 years.

People: 95.4% are Bantu. Others: San (Bushmen) – 2.8%, Zimbabwean, South African, Asian, British.

Language: English, and Setswana.

Politics: A stable democracy (very rare in Africa), independence from Britain in 1966.

Economy: Diamonds, copper, nickel, gold, beef, and tourism are good exports and industries.

Religion: Complete Freedom.  Christian 65.56% with Ethno-religionist 32.6% [note: tiny make-up of Muslim 0.45%]

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Baobab Trees, Meerkats, Rhinos, Giraffes, Lions – lots of enjoyment among the creation in this part of Africa.

Prayer Points:

1. Praise first: Economic Growth is steady, corruption rare, freedom of religion and a multiparty democracy is the norm. Biblical influence: Wow.

2. ‘The Tswana people were the first Bantu people in Africa to respond to the gospel. several tribes turned to God in the 19th Century through the LMS from England. Other ministries followed. Today, the majority of Tswana are Christian in name. Sadly, there is widespread immorality, drunkenness and a breakdown of the traditional family structure, including a high proportion of illegitimate children. Other less numerous groups resent the Tswana’s socio-political influence in Botswana.  Pray for a reversal of the moral decline and for renewal among the Tswana.

3. AIDS has devastated the country. Botswana has the world’s second-highest prevalence of AIDS after Swaziland – spread by sexual promiscuity. 28 yrs loss of life expectancy. Over 100,000 AIDS orphans exist in the country. Staggering.

4. Pray for Ministry to the Less-reached peoples:

a. The Kalanga – under cultural domination from the Tswana.

b. The Yeyi (20,000 in the Okavango Delta)

c. The Nambya (15,000 in the northeast)

d. The San – have suffered almost complete destruction of their desert-adapted way of life, due to ranching, mining and tourism. No longer nomadic at all, but resettled in towns and villages. ‘Response is slow but several thousand San may now be Christian in about 20 congregations through the efforts of a dozen agencies. Pray the Lord will help them adapt to the changing world.

e. The Mbukushu and Herero peoples fled the Okavngo Delta due to civil war, and violence spilling out of Angola. Pray for their congregations to flourish.

5. Pray for Ministry to Young People, given the lowered life expectancy and high teen pregnancy, and the impact of AIDS. Pray for AIDS prevention through good discipleship.





Bangladesh

15 09 2012

Several weeks ago, I met two doctors in Australia, from Bangladesh. They have moved here for their safety, their future, and for the sake of their young son. While they wait to upgrade their qualifications, they have applied for and accepted very menial tasks in a factory here. In a most enlightening conversation, I learned that they are Hindu people. I also learned that they had been subjected to severe pressure, and aggressive behaviour from members of the Muslim community in Bangladesh. Since they are now in the minority, they find themselves bullied for money and favours. They said, that life would be far worse for them, if they were not a general and a specialist doctor (medical practitioners)respectively. Being doctors, they were privileged to live well, in the upper echelon of society. However, for Hindu people in lesser jobs and place in society, life is most difficult amidst the now strongly Muslim nation. Although they come from a family of medical doctors, they feared for the future of their son in Bangladesh. Unless he too, qualified as a doctor, life ahead looked to be very difficult indeed for him. It was unsafe. People were aggressively dishonest. Law and order was breaking down badly. A car left on the road would simply be stolen. Unlike in Australia, where cars are left there unattended overnight all the time. Few, by comparison, are ever stolen. This shift to Australia, was very difficult—away from the people, and the land they loved. But alas, pressure, pressure, pressure. By contrast, they said that the only pressure in Australia, was for money to live and pay expenses. The couple said that they did not know any Christians back in Bangladesh—perhaps one they thought, on recollection.

Of the 165 million people, 14.6 million live in the capital, Dhaka.

89% are Muslim, 9% Hindu, and Christiansen: a mere 0.66% off the population. Even less were Buddhist or other faiths.

Prominent in our minds in Australia, are the bodies of the weak, starving masses shown on our TV’s some years ago, during times of great hunger and war. We give thanks to the Lord, that there has been some progress in recent years in the fight against poverty. May it continue.

Micro-credit has helped many people to begin to re-establish a fruitful, useful life once again.

Religion: “Bangladesh was a secular state from 1971-1988. However, in 1988 Islam became the official state religion. Officially there is religious freedom, but this is being steadily eroded by Islamist pressure and a legal system lacking safeguards for ethnic or religious minorities. Islamists are a strong and growing minority.”

Bangladesh was part of Pakistan for 24 years. Independence came in 1971 after a bitter civil war; there has been political instability thereafter, with assassinations, 18 military coups and a nine-year military dictatorship which ended in 1991. One of the Islamic world’s only democracies is rendered ineffective by unrest and personal animosity between two women, who have led the two main political parties. Military and Islamist groups remain influential and ready to pick up the pieces should the state fail. Often rated among the world’s most corrupt nations. Many have been the floods and cyclones.

Among the world’s poorest nations… Nearly half the population lives on less that $1 per day.

A solid social foundation for progress is lacking. Education levels are low. There is very little in the way of infrastructure. There are very few natural resources. Most people work in agriculture or textiles for “scandalously low wages”. Overpopulation creates many problems. There is a frightening vulnerability to changes in climate and economy. Floods, swollen rivers, rising food prices, monsoons, and so much money needing to be spent on food, makes improvement and security issues, seem a long way off.

Prayer points. Please pray:

  • For the preaching of the gospel to bring many to know Jesus Christ.
  • For honesty (corruption is endemic and deeply rooted). in government.
  • For more than political lip service to democracy, showing Christ to those caught up in favour of Sharia Law.
  • For a deep change so that Islamists will not merely dominate people’s lives.
  • For the churches, that have been “growing faster than the population rate“. Wow.
  • For the people-movement tribal churches among the Santal, Munda, Khasi, Garo, Maramei, Ralte, Mizo, Poi.
  • For the churches among the lower caste Hindu section of the community, who love the good news of Jesus!
  • For the Outreach to new people continue to succeed.
  • For means by which believers and churches may be self-sustaining.
  • For leadership for the churches.
  • For the Key Interdenominational residential schools (College of Christian Theology Bangladesh, and the Christian Discipleship Centre).
  • For the Denominational Bible Schools and Seminaries—AoG, GFA, ABWE, Free Baptist, Anglican, Adventist, Lutheran and Church of Bangladesh.
  • For Indigenous Bible Schools offering training in local community outreach, tailored to the needs of culturally Muslim followers of Jesus.
  • For the NGO’s – over 20,000 registered which almost seem like a “second government”.
  • For the Bengali people—by far the largest unreached people in the world, numbering around 240 million globally. Of these, 140 million are in Bangladesh alone, and are often bound to ‘folk Islam’ a blend of Sufi and Hindu.
  • For Hindu Bengali people, where there are 228 Hindu people groups/ or castes of which 204 are classified as least-reached/unreached. “Only among 14 groups has there been any significant response. The upper castes have remained resistant to the gospel.”
  • For the tribal peoples who’s very existence is threatened as the population explodes and pushes further into their lands.
  • For the Bihari Muslims (Urdu speaking) who are unwanted by Pakistan and stigmatized as traitors in Bangladesh for their role in the 1971 war. Most still live in dozens of former refugee camps.
  • For the Rohingya Muslims. As many as 250,000 of them have fled persecution from the Buddhist Myanmar government, and are huddled in refugee camps facing starvation—they have never been given the gospel.
  • For more evangelism and church planting.
  • For at risk people—the poor children. So many hundreds of thousands pushed into being child labourers, and millions of them forced into being sex workers—a living hell.
  • For Christian business investors seeking to show mercy—they are welcomed by this country.
  • For Scripture to reach those who want it. It is in huge demand. Pray for those working on the production of literature, and in media outreach.
  • For those millions who are illiterate to hear the Word through others, who tell the stories of Jesus, and the work of His Cross, for the nations of the World in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Risen, reigning Lord Jesus, we pray for the people of Bangladesh to hear of your presence now, and your resurrection victory over poverty, death, evil, cruelty, and godlessness, and may they receive with joy your Holy Spirit, and be assured of salvation amidst the terribly difficult problems they endure. O Holy God, Father of orphans, humble friend to the oppressed, may your grace flow out upon this nation, that they may grow and live to your glory, your future, your plan and your joy—even now. O Lord, we groan as we ponder such a large mess amidst such a mass of humanity, where every person matters to you. O Father! Amen.





Stories That Tell: The War Stories

25 04 2012


“Thou shalt not kill”
(Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17)

 In mixing with members of SAPOL in recent years, I came across a saying, which is a bit of a take-off of the old diggers in Australia. They say something like ‘we were all standing around telling war-ies’. This term war-ies is short for ‘war stories’, and is a slang term synonymous with ‘tall tales’, bragging, or embellishing old exploits.

Geoffrey Bingham’s War Stories are not really that sort of thing. While some of them may truly recount and even embellish certain funny or even strange historical incidents, the stories are written not merely for entertainment, but in order to convey something of the truth of life, during war times, as a person of faith has seen, understood and experienced it. Most of the war stories, like the other types are undoubtedly written in the hope of helping to lead a person to ponder life more deeply, and in particular, to consider God and all his works in creation and redemption.  Christ has come to meet us amidst all of life, including painful, poignant, tragic, sad, miraculous and even, or especially in the humorous days of war.

THE PACIFIST POSITION—A BRIEF WORD

There are many Christians who regard pacifism as the only authentic response to war. One Internet blogger recently wrote: “Participation in the military… is a violation of one’s commitment to Jesus Christ”.[1] Familiarity with Geoffrey’ Bingham’s writings, and his own decision—as a pacifist—to join the armed forces during WW2, have helped me to think through this issue in a helpful way. The following extract is taken from Geoff’s theological teaching, and a subtitle: ‘The Christian and War’[2]

A “just” war might be said to be one, which, resists oppression and defends righteousness and freedom. Whilst killing in war is evil it is pleaded that the evil of tyranny, especially that which results from such forces as Nazism are worse evils and a choice between two is necessary. A realistic recognition of man as he is will determine a person’s view, e.g. whether a view of depravity is taken, or a humanistic view of man’s innate potential of good. The problem that complicates the decision about “just” or “unjust” wars is that it is rarely, if ever, that the evil is on one side. So many elements complicate the matter entirely. Such elements could be aggrandisement by one country against another, armaments interests, sub-Christian views of retaliation (for wrongs done or imagined), racial hatred, and personal lust for power by leaders or nations.

(f) The Pacifist Position

There are Christians who are pacifists. The question of whether Christianity is pacifist is a wider question. Some reconciliation of the use of war in the Old Testament and the forecast of war to the end-time in the Scriptures has to be worked out by one who would be a pacifist or a non-pacifist. The whole question of righteousness, as of love, must be sorted out, with an understanding of penal elements within the context of nations and international relationships. Realistic views of man’s sin and depravity must be taken and then decisions made. In this regard it is to be considered whether pacifism springs from a Christian or a humanistic source, and if from the latter whether it is, nevertheless consistent with general Christian teaching where the Bible does not give a specific direction. A further consideration is that wars spring Out of the evil of man and simply to accept them as a necessary evil in passive fatalism is a contradiction of the moral powers the believer possesses and may even become moral (immoral?) acquiescence. The pacifist believes in non-resistance, non violence, non-killing. He claims that man being evil does not excuse wars. Positive pacifism alerts others to war’s evil and seeks to outmode war. Retaliation is sub-Christian as also selfish aggrandisement and all national and racial hatreds. Whilst wars may be predicted as continuing this is no reason for acquiescence in any. Christ took the way of non-resistance and accomplished his goal. Because pacifism has not worked, nor may not work is no reason why it should not be espoused and followed. Evils such as slavery have been diminished by teaching. If all refused to fight wars would cease and governments would wish to gain the support of their people by not fighting. It is not a utilitarian question but a (totally) moral one.

(g) Pacifist or Not Pacifist?

Each person must abide by his own convictions whilst he is sure they are right. He does not go against his own conscience for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. He is responsible, however, to make sure – as far as possible – that his convictions are correct. That honest believers see two views in the Bible is patently clear, i.e. war is right (in some circumstances) and war is wrong (in all circumstances). These conclusions ought to be reached only when the total Biblical portrayal is considered. No conclusion is valid which omits the fact of man’s depravity, of constituted authorities and of the working of penal elements of God’s wrath in history. The question may not seem, finally, to be an “either-or” but a concession that whilst war and killing are evil of themselves it may be simplistic to work from this basis alone. The whole matter of morality and judgement is also involved.

In war, or even if a crazed violent attacker is shooting people in any society, Christians must face the moral question of ‘what shall I do in order to truly love my neighbour?’ How do I lay down my life in love, to care for or protect others?  To my shock, Mennonite Christians often view police as merely agents of State violence.[3] 

THE FIRST WAR STORIES

Geoffrey Bingham’s first book of short stories was entitled ‘To Command the Cats’. It was published by Angus and Robertson in 1980; however many of the stories had been previously published in the Bulletin, a weekly Australian Magazine, in production from 1880 to January 2008. Geoff writes:

On return to Australia a story written in the POW camp—‘Laughing Gunner’—was snapped up by the Bulletin as soon as I submitted it. That was why I chose it s the title story to this book. Thirty-three more stories were accepted y the same journal within a few years, and I was dubbed as their most prolific writer. I owe most in my writing career to the poet and short-story writer Douglas Stewart, who was literary Editor of the Bulletin for twenty-four years’[4]

A SHORT PRÉCIS OF SOME WAR STORIES—AND SOME QUOTES

It Sometimes Happens But Not Often

A professor – a Dutchman – held captive as a P.O.W. loses hope, and intends to die.  But his dear friend, an army Chaplain prays constantly at his bedside.  Then a miracle occurs. A hen arrives and lays an egg on the bed – most suitable for making eggnog –, which the Dutchman loves. Hope returns – a mystery – and miracle of mercy takes place before their eyes, and in their hearts and lives. Geoffrey heard about this event:

The Dutchman had watched it from beginning to end. He had lain still, afraid lest the hen be scared away. When it had gone, his nerveless hands had fumbled towards the warm, smooth fruit of the fowl.

‘Oh, no!’ exclaimed the chaplain. ‘Don’t touch it. It’s too precious.’

Nevertheless he did let the skinny Dutchman feel it with his long, spatulated fingers, and then he took it.

‘Wait for the eggnog,’ he cautioned cheerily, and went away to beat the ingredients together, to grind the precious shell into lime-powder, and to make the drink complete and nourishing.

The Dutchman was sitting up, this being the first time in many weeks. An orderly had arranged a couple of pillows for him, borrowing them from empty beds.

‘Praise be!’ the academic was saying. ‘Praise be!’

‘Praise be!’ agreed the chaplain. ‘Now drink this up.’

The professor needed no urging. His hands trembled as he held the rusty cup, but he insisted on holding it himself. He kept sipping and sucking and sighing, and then heaving away with asthmatic joy.

‘Gott is goot!’ he said eagerly.

‘He is good!’ agreed the chaplain.

He watched the last precious drops disappear into the pink mouth of the patient.

The Dutchman was rubbing his hands together soulfully, glee­fully.

‘A hen, eh?’ he said. ‘Just a little hen, eh?’

He chuckled to himself, and then shook his hand feebly towards heaven.

‘What a humour, eh?’ he asked. ‘The goot Gott He sends the little bird to lay eggs all over the old professor so that the old professor must not die.’

‘That’s right,’ said the chaplain, scarcely knowing what to say.

He added, ‘The good God needs the old professor, eh? He doesn’t want to lose all that training, all that wisdom, all that knowledge.’

The Dutchman stared at him. ‘You t’ink that, hey?’ he asked. He looked admiringly at his old chaplain friend, shook his head and went off into his asthmatic gurgle.

‘Oh, the Gott, He is goot,’ he said. He kept chuckling. ‘He is very goot.’

Then he remembered the hen, and his gurgling became deep, even more asthmatic. After a time he was gasping, and the tears were coursing out of his fine old eyes, and on to the silver-grey thatch on his torso.

‘Oh, so goot,’ he was saying in helpless joy. ‘Oh yes, and oh, so lovink.’

When the chaplain slipped away because he could not hold back the tide of his own tears, he heard the Dutchman repeating to himself, like some endless refrain: ‘Oh, so lovink. So lovink.’[5]

Laughing Gunner

The story of a soldier – an unusual man – who held a strange obsession for machine-guns.  Nicknamed Tiger, he was not at all interested in the duties of a regular foot soldier, with gun and bayonet. However, he was very eager to operate the machine-gun. He was passionately involved in the fighting prior to the fall of Singapore, during World War Two. He revelled in his task, taking his stand with the machine-gun, as the Japanese invaders made their relentless approach.

The Life and Death of Puggi Mahomet – (This is not a précis, but is a small direct extract)

“How many times, down through the years, I have thought about that event, and Chikka has also! As I said before, Sproggie, Blower and Chips got theirs in action. Joe and Don R had to live with the thing for all the years they worked on their sheep sta­tions, but they never wrote to us, or rang us about the matter. Every Anzac Day we would not mention the subject, be­cause there was no way of settling the matter. We would just sit to­gether in the Botanical Gardens in silence, thinking about it.

The seven of us agreed that Puggi was a slippery cuss, and would worm his way out of any trial. What was worse, he knew the whole signal system now, and if the Japs came we were done for, with that sort of communication.

The six men said to me, ‘Danny, we make this decision to­gether—the seven of us—but only you can veto it.’

In a way, the decision was left to me, and I knew we had to do something. We were not at war with Japan, but give us a few days and we would be. Of that we were all sure. To let this man go free meant disaster.

‘The court decides against you, Puggi Mahomet,’ I said, but even then I felt a bit sick.

It was then Puggi rushed us. He was an expert in karate, and had Chips and Sproggie toppled in a second. He grabbed Sproggie’s rifle to keep us at bay. This decided the other men, and in a flash Blower’s bayonet went through the old ‘point, withdraw’ exercise. Puggi fired his .303, but the bullet went into the air. Joe and Don R rushed him with their bayonets, and we were all sick in the moment that we had done it. Whilst he writhed, I fired a shot and that finished him.”[6]

The Rim

An autobiographical account of a World War 2 gun-battle: a charge near Singapore.  Australians with rifles, against a Japanese machine gunner, other soldiers and snipers; one of the many Australian men charging is badly wounded by a bullet to the leg, and as his blood flows out onto the ground. New thoughts of life and death and survival and recovery come to the man as he lays still on the ground, until help comes; profound questions of duty, heroics and folly – are raised.

The Skylark of Takafau           

The freedom of a little bird, singing in a cage, in Osaka, signals something profound to Prisoners of War, during World War 2. A story of imprisonment, hope and freedom.

Three Rice Cakes

A crisis of faith occurs in the life of a Prisoner of War. Should he continue to take the smallest rice cake, and suffer personal deprivation and hunger – out of love for others – or should he abandon this principle, and select the largest rice cake for himself? Amidst an inner personal battle of immense importance, the prisoner reasons to himself that if there is no such thing as true law, and judgment then ultimately nothing matters. If nothing matters, then self-preservation at the expense of others is nevertheless the only truly logical course of action for him to pursue. An unseen miracle occurs – and a hidden resolve is strengthened – which has ramifications for the remainder of this man’s life. Autobiographical. (Also published in the booklet of the same name). [7]

The Power Within

Upon what strength does a person draw, in order to maintain the integrity needed for a moral life? This story from WWII is of a man who can behave well, and talk well, and even tell extremely funny yarns, yet can be a person who is driven, solely, by his own self-sufficiency. It illustrates how a person can behave with high morality, and do so entirely from one’s own resources. However, the great deceit is that a person, can—of themselves—be virtually faultless and blameless in thought, speech and action.  Such deception, of oneself, is a failure to face the reality of the human race as we find it, and share in it; if not faced, this way of being can end, sadly, in self-justification and ultimately, self-destruction. Faith draws upon true power. (Also published in The Raymond Connection and other stories, and in At the End of His Tether).

From Singapore to Sydney           

An autobiographical account of the release of prisoners from the Changi P.O.W. Camp on Singapore Island (in 1945) – the story – a true one – includes some interesting personal impressions as it traces the journey, beginning with the boarding of the transport ship – Oranji – and the subsequent return to Australia.  The whole account is very moving indeed, and the service of love and kindness rendered by the Australian women in the Red Cross imparts a beautiful insight into the mystery and communion of the human race, as a male-female entity.  One feels like applauding, as Geoff Bingham captures with words, the scene of the welcome in Darwin. One is drawn to contemplate the glory of Australia as a unique and grand nation.


[2] Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘Christian Ethics and Their Practice’, Living Faith Studies, Series 3, No. 30, N.C.P.I., 1978, p. 218

[3] Andy Alexis-Baker, ‘The Gospel or a Glock? Mennonites and the Police’, in The Conrad Grebel Review, Volume 25, Number 2, Spring 2007, p. 23-49 (Note: “Glock” is the name of a company that manufactures handguns popular with police departments for decades). Alexis-Baker says: “Because of the idolatrous character of the police, because police represent a threat to church order, and in the spirit of the early Christians and Anabaptists, Mennonites should ban police occupations for all current and potential members, and do so with the historical recognition that the police have served as the bridge for wider acceptance of warfare, idolatrous collaboration with the state, and further breakdown of community discipline and life” (Baker, p. 40).

[4] Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘Preface’ in Laughing Gunner and Selected War Stories, Troubadour Press Inc. Blackwood, 1992, p. xiii; This book as been very well received in Australia, winning the 1993 Christian Book of the Year award, from the Australia Christian Literature Society. It is a great gift suitable passing on to others, especially around Anzac Day, each year. Further to this, a most comprehensive summary of Geoffrey’s war years is included in the highly recommended book by Geoffrey Bingham, Love is the Spur, Eyrie Books, North Paramatta, 2004.

[5] Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘It Sometimes Happens, But Not Often’ in Laughing Gunner, p. 154-155

[6] Quote taken from G. C. Bingham, Laughing Gunner, p. 21-22

[7] This story appears in numerous books including G. C. Bingham, Angel Wings, p. 77-85.





Suffering—physical, emotional, spiritual

11 05 2010

Suffering produces endurance‘ (Romans 5:3)

We all learn to endure a certain amount of physical pain. Some people seem tougher, and have a higher pain threshold than others. However, physical suffering does more than just ‘hurt’. It often has far wider affects upon a person. It affects one’s emotions, which in turn can deeply affect one’s spiritual well-being, and responsiveness to God.

When we read of the sufferings of others, whom we admire, it often helps us reflect more with-faith, upon our own battles.  For example, we learn of Martin Luther, that he suffered from excruciating kidney stones and headaches, with buzzing in his ears and ear infections and incapacitating constipation and hemorrhoids.

This physical pain affected his emotional state, and—in the inter-connectedness of all things—it affected him spiritually, too. In writing to his friend, Philip Melanchthon, Luther wrote the following:

“For more than a week I have been thrown back and forth in death and Hell; my whole body feels beaten, my limbs are still trembling. I almost lost Christ completely, driven about on the waves and storms of despair and blasphemy against God. But because of the intercession of the faithful, God began to take mercy on me and tore my soul from the depths of Hell” (Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, p. 323).

Again, Luther wrote to Melanchthon from Wartburg castle on July 13, 1521 while he was supposedly working feverishly on the translation of the New Testament:

“I sit here at ease, hardened and unfeeling—alas! praying little, grieving little for the Church of God, burning rather in the fierce fires of my untamed flesh. It comes to this: I should be afire in the spirit; in reality I am afire in the flesh, with lust, laziness, idleness, sleepiness. It is perhaps because you have all ceased praying for me that God has turned away from me…. For the last eight days I have written nothing, nor prayed nor studied, partly from self-indulgence, partly from another vexatious handicap [constipation and piles]…. I really cannot stand it any longer…. Pray for me, I beg you, for in my seclusion here I am submerged in sins” (E.G. Rupp and Benjamin Drewery, eds, Martin Luther: Documents of Modern History, pp. 72-73).

* These helpful insights are John Piper’s written up in The Legacy of Sovereign Joy, Crossway Books, 2000, p. 104-105. I have here, imparted his work, not my own. I greatly appreciate John’s gems, such as this, which he keeps opening to us!








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