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UKRAINE: RIVAL PROTESTS ESCALATE AMID MILITARY TENSIONS
Ukrainian Christians gathered for prayers as pro-Russian activists attacked a pro-Kiev rally on Ukraine's disputed Crimea's peninsula with clubs and whips on Sunday while thousands took to the streets across Ukraine in rival demonstrations. The protests came while Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk vowed Ukraine would not cede "an inch" of its territory to Moscow.
Yatsenyuk was reportedly to visit Washington for consultation, after pro-Russian forces prevented more than 40 international observers from entering Crimea, after taking control over military bases across the area.
"Our country and our people are facing the biggest challenges in the history of modern independent Ukraine," he said. "Will we be able to deal with these challenges? There should only be one answer to this question and that is: yes."
However the international community appeared unable to halt the Russian military movements with observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) facing warning shots, explained Hungarian Gábor Ács, who heads the mission.
Ukraine's parliament has voted to oust President Viktor Yanukovych after the leader said he would not step down and described events in Kiev as a coup. Legislators also agreed to release opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
The influential Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate) says it has removed prayers for the government from its liturgy, after as many as 100 people died when a truce broke down between security forces and anti-government protesters. Thursday's clashes came while European Union ministers attempted to talk with the embattled president Viktor Yanukovich.
CHRISTIANS ACROSS THE NATION TAKE PART IN NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER AND FASTING
About 1000 people attended the Great Hall of Parliament House in Canberra yesterday as part of the National Day of Prayer and Fasting while hundreds of churches around the country also paused to mark the day.
Matt Prater, chairman of the day, says he was aware some churches had replaced their Sunday service with a prayer event while others had included in within a service.
"There's lots of different ways people did it," he says.
Prayer at the national event in Canberra - which attracted Christians from across Australia and spanned a variety of denominations - covered everything from revival in Australia to Godly marriages, sexual purity, an end to abortion and the breaking of the drought in parts of Australia.
WORLDVIEW: MEXICAN STATE URGED TO COMPENSATE EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS FOR SUFFERING
Christian activists have welcomed a report by the top human rights authority of Mexico's southwestern Oaxaca state which recommends to compensate evangelical Christians for "torture" and damage done to their forcibly closed church building.
In a report, the Oaxaca State Ombudsman’s Office confirmed what it views as serious religious freedom violations in the municipality of San Juan Ozolotepec where in April 2013 local authorities declared the area a "‘Protestant-free" zone and closed the Pentecostal church with concrete tubes, chains and padlocks.
The municipal president, Pedro Cruz Gonzalez, reportedly called for the destruction of the church building and demanded that the church members pay fines of some 7,000 Mexican Peso ($US530) for "not being Catholic".
In November, tensions escalated when Cruz Gonzalez called for the Protestants to be lynched, imprisoned and tortured, Christians said. Four men associated with the church were reportedly arbitrarily detained and tortured and only released after state and federal intervention.
BosNewsLife reports on reactions to a report recommended evangelical Christians in Mexico's Oaxaca state be compensated for "torture" and damage done to buildings... | more... |
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NIGERIA: COUNTRY 'AT WAR' WITH BOKO HARAM
The Nigerian president’s spokesman has said that the conflict with Boko Haram is a “war situation”.
Speaking to Lagos-based Channels TV on 28th February, Doyin Okupe said: “We are dealing with a very, very serious enemy. We are engaged in a war that has been internationalised.”
The statement appears to contradict President Goodluck Jonathan’s assertions that the government is winning the battle against the Islamist insurgents, and that normality will return by May 2014.
The president has also accused its eastern neighbour, Cameroon, of not cooperating by failing to allow cross-border pursuits of Boko Haram members, who he claims return to Cameroon after attacks in Nigeria.
On Sunday (2nd March), one soldier and six Boko Haram members were killed after an assault in northern Cameroon, local media reported.
The World Watch Monitor reports on ongoing violence in Nigeria, now characterised as a "war situation"... | more... |
MUSLIM GUNMAN KILL 16 CHRISTIANS; DESTROY NUMEROUS HOMES IN LATEST ATTACK
Armed gunmen believed to be Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked a cluster of villages in Plateau state earlier this week, killing 16 Christians and destroying numerous homes, Christian leaders said. Morning Star News reports... | more... |
NUCLEAR: PUBLIC HEALTH AND HUMAN RIGHTS NEED FAR GREATER PROTECTION DURING DISASTERS
Public health and human rights remain woefully unprotected from nuclear disasters. This is a key assessment of a “Human Rights and Natural Disasters” workshop, three years after the Fukushima disaster and 30 years since Chernobyl. The workshop was hosted by the World Council of Churches (WCC) on 28th February in Geneva, Switzerland.
The workshop was called to provide input to a major United Nations conference on disaster risk reduction next year in Japan. That conference will be a critical opportunity to establish much-needed standards, said Dr Michel Prieur, a French specialist on environmental law who helped organise the workshop. However, barriers raised by the nuclear industry, regulators and governments remain high, according to medical and legal researchers present at the workshop, having come from Japan, France, Switzerland and Belarus.
Tragedies like the Fukushima disaster demonstrate that risk reduction measures, emergency procedures and long-term care for the victims lag far behind health and human rights requirements, said Prieur, president of the International Center of Comparative Environmental Law in Limoges, France. Few disaster response agreements at present include human rights, and few human rights conventions include disasters, he noted.
In an article first published by the World Council of Churches, JONATHAN FRERICHS reports on the findings of a workshop looking at the aftermath of nuclear disasters... | more... |
SYRIA: CALL FOR A MILLION VOICES TO BE RAISED TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN IN ONGOING CONFLICT
People around the world have been urged to add their voices to a global appeal demanding an end to violence against children in Syria along with an end to the blocking of humanitarian assistance to people within the country.
The No Lost Generation Appeal was launched this week by relief agencies including UNICEF, the UNHCR, World Vision, Save the Children and others including USAID and MercyCorps.
It aims to collect at least a million signatures on a document which, along with demanding an end to violence against the children of Syria and an end to the blocking of humanitarian assistance, also calls for an end to attacks on humanitarian workers and facilities such as schools and hospitals, a “renewed commitment” to reconciliation and tolerance, and greater investment in the education and psychological protection of all children affected by the conflict.
DAVID ADAMS reports on a new appeal to end violence against children in the Syrian conflict... | more... |
Security Council resolution demanding access for aid to Syrians welcomed by humanitarian organisations... | more... |
INDONESIA: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM "IN PERIL"
A new report paints a bleak picture of religious freedom in Indonesia.
Indonesia: Pluralism in Peril, which was launched at the UK Parliament on Tuesday, says that in the world’s most populous Muslim nation (251 million, 86 per cent Muslim), minority religious groups such as Christians are subject to “spiralling intolerance”, which threatens to destroy Indonesia’s erstwhile reputation as a place of inter-religious harmony.
The report, written by Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s East Asia team leader Benedict Rogers, says extremist ideology has spread nationwide; that local, provincial and national authorities have been guilty of inaction and complicity; and that the majority of Indonesia’s Muslims have failed to speak out against intolerance.
While stressing that he deeply admires all Indonesia’s achievements as a multi-faith society, Rogers says that as it approaches national elections this year, it is “crucial” that the new president, who in July will replace Susilo Bambang after a decade in office, steers the country back towards its roots as a pluralistic nation whose founding motto was “Unity in Diversity”.
As the World Watch Monitor reports, a new report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide expresses concerns over the future of religious tolerance in Indonesia... | more... |
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Come and have a browse through the bookshop and let us know what books you'd recommend...|
D V E R T I S E M E N T
OPEN BOOK SPECIAL - HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: JESUS TALKS STRAIGHT WITH A RICH GUY
This is one of the best known Bible stories. This rich fellow knew his inheritance did not make any difference in God's eyes. He was rich and powerful and wanted to know more about the inheritance God provides. Jesus explained that God's generosity would mean he just had to give his own inheritance away. The man turned away rather than trust Jesus for his treasure in heaven.
Jesus taught His disciples the meaning of this discussion: How hard it is for those who are rich to enter God's kingdom! This fine fellow had walked away, sad. And Jesus was sad too. He understood how hard it can be for some. Read it over...slowly.
Jesus had just told His disciples that they must welcome the children. The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these! And Mark tells us that this fellow ran up to Jesus. He was urgent and full of energy. Perhaps he had heard reports from servants and had decided he wanted Jesus for his Rabbi. He had inherited a lot of wealth, a man of his community, respected by all. He wanted to eyeball Jesus for himself. Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? He was courageous and admitted to Jesus that he did not have it all, that he did not fully understand the law and the prophets. He was asking Jesus to tell him what to do.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE take a look at a passage in Mark 10 in which Jesus speaks with a rich man, eager to find out what he must do to follow Him...|
THIS LIFE: MISSING THE PROPHETIC FOREST FOR THE CHAPTER AND VERSE TREES
Jesus is recorded as having shown to the disciples, after His resurrection, that the Scripture made it clear that the Messiah must suffer and die and, on the third day, rise from the dead. (Luke 24:25-27, 44-47).
It seems a very straightforward claim, but when one goes hunting for chapter and verse looking for this evidence in Scripture, there isn't much to find.
Now this is not simply a conundrum because Jesus said it, but because followers of other religions, and atheists alike, delight in pointing out this apparent inconsistency. Where are these prophecies?
PAUL CLARK looks at how he sees evidence for Christ's resurrection in the Old Testament... |
WHO DO SCHOLARS SAY JESUS IS? PART II - WHY WE REJECT THE JESUS SEMINAR'S CONCLUSIONS
1. People who reject the supernatural can never lead you to faith
They have prejudged the issue. A humanist philosophy can never understand the New Testament Jesus. Belief is necessary to know Jesus. The Seminar scholars believe every naturalistic explanation over the power of God to perform miracles. If you dismiss the power of God before you start, can you then find it present in Scripture? Can such people ever then lead you to faith?
2. People who reject the Bible have no other basis for knowing Jesus
The seminar fellows accept as valid documents the early church did not accept. The so-called Gospel of Thomas was known by the early church and rejected as inaccurate. The sayings of Jesus are only known from the Gospels themselves. No other such Gospel has ever been found. To dismiss the sayings of Jesus on the basis of the Gospel of Thomas and a Gospel never found as against the four New Testament Gospels is quite incredible. There is no evidence other than from the Bible. To dismiss 82 per cent of the New Testament for what does not exist carries little competence.
In the second part of a two part article, Rev Dr GORDON MOYES looks at what some scholars claim about Jesus...|
POSTCARDS: "GARBAGE DUMP BOYS" START GOSPEL MUSIC GROUP IN RWANDA
Garbage and filth surrounded their makeshift shanty in a small-scale dump in Kigali, Rwanda. Five years ago, three street boys, David, Pacifique, and D’Amour lived in this squalor, their minds obsessed with survival and numbing their pain.
After they were taken in by a ministry that operates a small home for wayward boys, they never dreamed they would one day become Gospel artists, with their first song receiving local radio play.
“They had no hope before they came to us,” says Hilliary Anderson, founder of Hope for Life Ministry (HFLM), based in Kigali. HFLM’s aim is to transform the lives of vulnerable street kids by providing housing, Christian counseling and discipleship, and resources to break the chains of poverty.
Last year the three boys formed a Gospel band called Shining Hope and produced their first song, You Are Precious, singing about their transformed lives since they began to follow Jesus.
“When we recorded this song they were so excited,” Anderson notes. “They never believed anything like this could happen.”
MARK ELLIS, of Godreports, writes of how God has transformed the lives of a group of "garbage dump boys" in the Rwandan capital of Kigali... |
THIS LIFE: THE WORD OF THE LORD CAME TO ME...
In the Old Testament the prophets had a phrase they used when God came near. The Word of The Lord came to...Abraham, Jonah, Ezekiel. The Word of the Lord came to me!
Over and over we hear this refrain as prophet after prophet tried to reform the people; Form the people; Warn the people; Comfort the people; Inspire the people.
Each instance was a divine visit upon the people, when the Lord came near! The Word of The Lord came to me.
It is repeated exactly like that over a hundred times in Scripture and hundreds more in other forms. The Word of the Lord came to me.
One of the repeated messages of the prophets was that the Lord was God alone! There were no other gods, and don’t even think about making an image of God.
PAUL CLARK reflects on how a Biblical tradition of God speaking to his people through prophets relates to us today... |
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28th August, 2013 My son and I met someone on holidays who was in a wheelchair. He was paralysed on the left side of his body due to a virus that effected his brain.
He told us that he could have been healed if the doctors had diagnosed his condition within 72 hours but they were not able to. He had since been in a car accident where he was hit head-on by a drunk-driver, an accident which caused further permanent health issues.
Looking to encourage or inspire others or simply share how meeting God has changed your life? We're looking for your story - perhaps the inspiring story of how you came to know Jesus or an incident in your life in which you saw God's hand at work. MyStory - an addition to our existing LifeStory column - is a new regular feature where we'll publish your story for the benefit of others. Simply write your story in 200 words or less and email it to email@example.com and we'll post it here under our MyStory banner. We're looking forward to hearing from you!
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HEART FOR THE HOMELESS
With the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing homelessness in Australia has grown by 17 per cent since 2006 and an estimated 105,000 people are homeless each night, the need for assistance is growing. But how to get your unwanted goods into the hands of someone who really needs it? Enter Heart for the Homeless, a new website that connects people who find they have goods to donate as they downsize into a smaller property or simply move house, with local charities. "There's no silver bullet to homelessness says founder Leighton Walters, a former real estate agent.
DAVID ADAMS writes about a website that helps make donating easy... |
SENTNESS A TIMELY LOOK AT HOW THE CHRISTIAN MISSION SHOULD SHAPE THE CHURCH
Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw add another important voice in Sentness on how to live out the Great Commission. They challenge the modern poison of Western churches, even spirit-filled churches, where Christians attach a form of faith to a lifestyle they are comfortable with. They are particularly scathing of the consumerist mindset of shopping church until you have the product you are looking for.
But, as the title suggests, this book is more about shaping what being sent looks like. It is about getting to the doing rather than throwing around ideas on a topic. Christians are witnesses, ambassadors, disciples and sent ones on mission fields near and far. So how does this foundational trait of a church community shape its ethos, culture and activity?
If you are looking for an evangelism program to fit your church or seven easy steps to a more rewarding faith experience you will not find what you want in this book - but you will find what you need.
LLOYD HARKNESS looks at Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw's Sentness... |
THE PERFECT WAVE AN IMPRESSIVE RETELLING OF IAN MCCORMACK'S STORY OF REDEMPTION
It was always going to be tempting to make a film out of Ian McCormack's amazing story of how God gave him a second chance at life. So while the making of The Perfect Wave shouldn't come as a surprise, the fact it's been done so well, may.
Sure, there's some moments when the acting doesn't quite hit the mark and the film does take a while to get going but overall it's an impressive and moving retelling of McCormack's story of redemption.
McCormack, for those who don't know, was a young New Zealand surfer travelling the world in search of "the perfect wave" when, while visiting the Mauritius, he was fatally stung by box jellyfish. As McCormack tells it, he asked for God's forgiveness as he was taken to hospital where he died. Thanks to his prayers - and the ongoing faith of his mother back in New Zealand - when McCormack died, having first visited hell, he met with God who gave him a second chance of life.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at the film version of Ian McCormack's story of a second chance... |
THE TCM UPDATE: EASTERFEST, AND THE RETURN OF NATURALLY 7
Toowomba is getting set to ‘wow’ the crowds attending this year’s Easterfest.
The festival – held in local parks, pubs, shopping centres, theatres, restaurants and main streets – reportedly attracts around 30,000 to 40,000 people annually.
And this year, there’s a real ‘buzz’ about seeing the return of Hawk Nelson, Jars Of Clay, and Jimmy Needham.
Hawk Nelson’s lead singer Jon Steingard says the band is looking forward to coming back.
“We’re so excited to come back to Australia. We’ve been twice before. The crowds are so awesome. Something culturally reminds me of Canada (where I’m from). It’s weird to fly so far away to find a place that feels like home. So we’re really excited to come back,” Jon says.
CAM WANT with this week's edition of The TCM Update...|
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
KNOW IT ALL: THE WINTER OLYMPICS
The Winter Olympics are kicking off in the Russian resort of Sochi and so we thought it was a good time to take a quick look at some facts and figures about the 'other' Games...
• The first official Winter Olympics was held in the French ski resort of Chamonix in 1924.
• Held every four years, the Winter Olympics were originally held in the same year as the Olympic Games but this changed in 1992 when the Winter Olympics were moved to alternate with the summer games (they were next held in 1994).
• The only time the Games have been cancelled was during World War II - in 1940 and 1944 (the Games had been scheduled to be held in Sapporo, Japan, in 1940).
DAVID ADAMS looks at some facts and figures about the Winter Olympics...|
TRENDSPOTTER: CHECKMATE - OR IS IT A KNOCKOUT?
Chess and boxing aren't two sports (do you call chess a sport?) that you'd normally put together but an emerging sport - aptly called chess boxing or chessboxing - does just that. Challenging participants both mentally and physically, the sport sees opponents facing off with alternate rounds of chess and boxing. Competitions involve six four minute rounds of chess and five three minute rounds of boxing with a 12 minute respite during the game of chess. Matches can be won in several ways, including by a checkmate or a knockout. The Berlin-based World Chess Boxing Organisation describes the sport as the "ultimate challenge" for body and mind and notes that the sport follows a trend for multi-faceted athletic disciplines such as a biathlon.
DAVID ADAMS on the rising sport of chess boxing...|
SIGHT HELPDESK: MAKING YOUR SMARTPHONE PHOTOS 'POP'
Mobile phones have come a long way since the basic function of making and receiving phone calls. In fact, one of the most used features of today's mobile phone is the camera. And as the photo sharing site, Flickr, shows, smartphone cameras are used more than any other camera.
Smartphone cameras, though, can have difficulty taking photos that show detail due to the lack of settings available and the size of the lens. Some areas of an image will be underexposed, leaving areas dark while others will be overexposed, with the sky looking white.
Of course, there are ways around this after the photo has been taken. For instance, you can use photo editing software to edit those light and dark areas for a consistent photo.
But what if you'd like to share a photo while you are out and about and you don't have the time or tools to correct the image? In that case, you can use what's known as High Dynamic Range photography.
ALAN TAYLOR uncovers an app that can transform your smartphoto pictures...|
It's always interesting to look at something from another angle and the Bible, with its layers and depths of meaning, always has more to reveal. Here's a word cloud of Revelation, chapter 22 - the final chapter in the whole of the Bible. Let us know below what insights you find... | more... |
THE BIG PICTURE: LET JESUS PUT YOU BACK TOGETHER
I once met a very old man who was sexually abused in terrible ways. It happened a long time ago in a religious institution from his adoption as a baby up until he was 14-years-old.
Despite the years passing, he still grieves. Each day there are memories and musings about injustice and what might have been. Although he was handsome and played sport at a high level, anxiety stopped him from asking out girls. He told me that he has never experienced an intimate relationship with a woman. Year after grinding year he’s been a ‘hard man’ working in a factory – a heavy drinker bottling his rage and trying to forget.
Yet this man made it clear that he has no issue with Jesus. It’s going to a local church that’s the struggle. He just can’t trust a church. What if his church is abusing little children?
To see Outreach Media's March poster and read the full text, follow the link... | more... |
We meet again.
Kind and generous,
Peaceful and serene.
The spirit alive
In all that is
And not what could be.
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THEY SAID IT
"Today's aeroplanes are incredibly reliable and you do not get some sudden structural failure in flight. It just doesn't happen. It just won't happen".
- David Learmount, Flight Global's operations and safety editor, speaking after Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared on Saturday, 8th March, 2014, enroute from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with all 239 passengers and crew. There are reports of debris being found off the Vietnamese Island of Tho Chu (as quoted on BBC on 9th March, 2014)
For more of They Said It, follow the link... | more... |
THIS WEEK ON THE WEB
10th March, 2014
About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, a chronic disorder of the brain which is characterised by seizures. In a photo-diary, Briton HELEN STEPHENS and her photographer boyfriend Matt Thompson document what it's like to live with the condition. You can read Helen's thoughts in a piece published in The Observer...
Sight now has a Pinterest page where you can see some of our images. To see it, head here...
GIFT OR RIGHT?
6th March, 2014
We have a strange phenomenon in Western culture - what began as ‘gift’ has become ‘right.’
Welfare and pensions began as gifts of grace from a compassionate society to those struck by hard times – to ensure no-one would starve.
Yet now they are seen by many as ‘rights’ that we deserve, or are even ‘owed.’
This subtle difference changes everything.
Musings is a regularly updated, column featuring short snippets reflecting on daily life from a Christian perspective...|
A STAR WARS TAPESTRY; THE FRUSTRATION OF VENDING MACHINES; AND, THE BIG MANGO MYSTERY...
It's a Bayeux Tapestry for the 21st century - London-based Star Wars fan and artist Aled Lewis has recreated the entire six movie storyline in a 10 metre long, hand-stitched tapestry. 'The Coruscant Tapestry', which depicts scenes from the movies and quotes from the films written around the border in the fictional language of Aurebesh, is currently on show at a gallery in Los Angeles and has an asking price of $US12,000.
ADAMS writes about the odder side of life...|
HEY, AUSTRALIAN GOVERN-MENT!...
Hey Australian Government - This is NOT WHO WE ARE, it is NOT our heart, it is NOT our right to treat people like this.
It is way beyond time that this Government and the world hears our roar of compassion and outrage and justice around the response our own Government is giving to the people in 'Detention' in Holding Camps on our watch. Many, many voices have spoken of the despair, the trauma and the mental breakdown in these places.
WOJCZUK's blog about 'life, the universe and possibly everything' now has a new home...|
BYZANTINE-ERA CHURCH DISCOVERED IN ISRAEL FEATURES BEAUTIFUL MOSAIC FLOORS...
Archaeologists in Israel have unearthed the remains of a 1,500-year-old church featuring beautiful mosaic floors including one featuring a symbol of Christ surrounded by birds.
The remains of the Byzantine-era church were discovered in the village of Aluma - about 50 kilometres south of Tel Aviv - during a salvage excavation prior to the construction of a new neighbourhood in the area. The Israel Antiquities Authority - which announced the find this week - has spent the past three months excavating the site.
THOUSANDS OF CHRISTIANS IN JERUSALEM FOR FEAST OF TABER-NACLES... Despite the recent tensions in Syria, over 5,000 Christian pilgrims from nearly 100 nations will descend on Jerusalem for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem's annual celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.
The festival began last Friday evening in Ein Gedi at the Oasis Hotel and continues to Jerusalem's International Convention Center for the remainder of the week of Sukkot. The weeklong celebration is expected to generate $US16 million in revenues, and is the largest annual tourist event to Israel.
Can you think of a time when someone has been brutally honest and vulnerable about themselves and it's taken you by surprise? For me it happened about 20 years ago at a church I had just started attending.
As I remember it, the person leading the service that day asked anyone to come forward who wanted to share what they thought God had been doing in their lives recently. One young guy got up - he was probably about my age at the time - and told about his relationship with his girlfriend and how he had recently gotten her pregnant, and how he had walked away from his faith. He then shared about the support he had received from the church community through his struggle.
NILS VON KALM'S blog on faith, life and how it all might fit together...|
OUT OF AFRICA: TAKING YOUR BLESSINGS FOR GRANTED...
I have been thinking a lot lately about how blessed I was living in Australia. Sadly much of that blessing was in a sense ‘lost on me’ because I didn’t see it for what it was. The longer I live here the more I realise the day-to-day difficulties people face in the majority of the world. I am amazed that people are able to keep their hope when so many things seem so difficult.
Things I have always taken for granted - access to water, nutritious food and good medical assistance - are, at times, just not available here. I am horrified at the number of times people come back from our local medical clinic saying that there is no medicine or even occasionally no doctor.
LENA JOHNSTONE's blog about life in Malawi, Africa, where she works with the Mphatso Children's Foundation...|
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