Mar 31, 2008

Amazing Love: Our Australian Angels

The Cairns Seventh-day Adventist Church

Our class poses with our new friends from the Cairns Seventh Seventh-day Adventist youth group at the table tennis stadium, Saturday night, March 22, 2008.

Our kind benefactors, Tom & Paula Nelio, Ken & Ruth Stewart, and Pastor Anthony

"Y" and "S" and "J" and Riki ride the wakes on our waterskiing outing courtesy of our new Australian friends. Monday, March 24, 2008.

Riki and I get ready to kneeboard!

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in. . ." Matthew 25:35

Jesus said that one of the identifying marks of those welcome in His kingdom is their treatment of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger. In that case, the good folks at the Cairns Seventh-day Adventist church surely hold places of honor in His kingdom. They fully reflected the spirit of love and generosity Jesus extolled.

I'm still amazed by the kindness shown to us by the members of the church in Cairns. I'm touched and humbled by their selfless service and generous care toward our group during our stay in Australia.

It all began Friday night when John Castleden, the head deacon of the Cairns SDA Church stopped by our hotel to make sure we were okay. Not five minutes after he left, the Cairns SDA Church youth leader, Tom Nelio and his son Grayson showed up bearing gifts--a crate of mangos and a huge sack of oranges. We were hungry and they gave us something to eat! We would be feeding--both literally and figuratively--on the generosity of Tom and his friends for the much of the rest of the week.

"M" embraces our bounty of fruit from Tom Nelio of the Cairns SDA Church.

On Sabbath we'd planned to walk to church from our hotel, as it was only a few blocks away. But again Tom turned up to ferry us over to the church in his car--this would be the first of several rides he and the other members would give us over the next few days--in many cases, driving us some considerable distances. I'm sure that "I needed a ride and you picked Me up" might have been included in the Lord's commendation!

Mai and the girls sing special music for the church service at the Cairns SDA Church.

Our boys and a new friend after church on Sabbath, March 22

We were fed once again by the church with a delicious potluck after services and then Saturday night, Tom and his team appeared again to take us down to the local table tennis stadium for an evening of fun, food, and fellowship. We were strangers and they invited us in. That Saturday night we got to know Tom's wife Paula,as well as Ken and Ruth Stewart a lovely Aussie/Kiwi (respectively) couple, and Pastor Anthony, the energetic associate pastor who works for the Lord but drives like the devil (much to the students' delight. They all wanted turns riding in his sporty, turbocharged, Honda Civic). The kids hit it off with the Nelio and Stewart kids as well as the other members of the church's small youth group. In short we all became fast friends, and when the evening came to an end, we were loathe to say goodbye. We ended up making plans to go waterskiing with them on Monday.

Table tennis on Saturday night at the table tennis stadium!

The Cairns youth group is fascinated by our plain green money (much as we were fascinated by their multi-sized, multi-hued currency). Saturday night, March 22.

But our Australian angels would come to our rescue before then. Sunday morning our plan was to play laser tag at an outdoor course just outside Cairns. However, it quickly became apparent that transportation was going to be a problem. The city buses didn't go out that far and two round trip taxis would costs at least $240! Car rentals for a single day would run about $170 for a van that would carry us all. In desperation I called up Ken Stewart, and he and his team saved the day for us. We paid for the some of the kids in the youth group to play laser tag with us and we all enjoyed a fun couple of hours in the forest shooting at each other. I was truly amazed by the generosity of Tom & Paula (who's car actually broke down while we were off playing and who spent much of their time the rest of the weekend trying to get it fixed), Ken & Ruth, Anthony, and another new friend we made that day, Wendy. Wendy's son and his friend joined us for the games while the adults sat and waited for us to finish. What a sacrifice of time on their part! Not only did they drive us all the way out there but they sat and waited for us (keeping Babs company--laser tag and unborn babies don't really go together) to finish playing. I'm sure they had plans that they put on hold just to help us out. For someone like myself who is so schedule-conscious and often stingy with my time, I was truly humbled by their gift of time.

Monday, we went waterskiing with the Cairns group as planned, with Tom, Ken, Anthony, Ruth, Paula, and Wendy driving us the hour and half to Lake Tinnarroo in the Tablelands. We had a great time flying across the water on the biscuit, kneeboard, and slalom ski behind Ken's boat. Once again our friends were the very picture of hospitality.

I try my hand (or should I say knee) at knee boarding. Very strenuous stuff!

On the drive back, I talked with Paula quite a bit and she shared with me about the various ministries they have to reach out topeople in need in the area. It was then I knew I had to come back to this warm and loving church. Only next time, I wanted to give back. Freely we've received, so now I want to freely give. My goal is to take REAL Christian Theater to Australia in 2009 to perform in and around Cairns and contribute to the ministry efforts of the Cairns SDA Church. So if God opens the doors, hopefully we will be back in Australia in a little more than a year working side by side with our Australian angels to share the love of God with the people there.

There is a praise and worship song that describes the "amazing love" Jesus had in laying down His life for each of us. One of the ways we as Christians respond to that precious gift of love is by laying down our own lives in service to one another. This is what the people of the Cairns SDA Church did for us and so, in their own small way, they reflected the amazing love of our Savior.

Good on ya, mates!

Tom and Paula, thanks for the fruit and the friendship! The spirit of Christ shone through in your kindness and hospitality to us. If you ever decide to come up to Saipan we'll be happy to return the favor!

Ken & Ruth, thanks so much for organizing the laser tag transportation and treating us to the fun day of waterskiing. I'll never forget your open and loving hearts! God bless you and your family.

Pastor Anthony, thanks for giving our kids the ride of their lives. I appreciate you coming by to check on us Thursday night before we left--I'm sorry we missed you. I wish you the best in your new ministry in Cairns and I hope we'll be able to work together next year.

Wendy, it was so nice getting to know you. Thanks for driving for us and being willing to squeeze us all in to get us home. I pray God richly rewarded you with extra study time in return for the precious time you shared with us.

Pastor Anthony's "cool car." The kids all fought over who got to ride with him. Riding shotgun with this fiery servant of the Lord was an adventure in of itself!

This is how our boys spent the vast majority of our day of waterskiing. I confess I was more than a little embarrassed by their blase attitude,especially as our hosts had gone out of their way to create this special day for us. Fortunately, Ruth Stewart was finally able to convince them to take a whirl on the biscuit, just before we packed up and headed for home. Of course, they had a great time.

The boys on the biscuits (finally!)

The girls and one of their new friends after a day of watersports.


Paula said...

Your photo diary is awesome! Your kind words about us is overwhelming, we are, but servants to His cause. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to befriend your Year 8 students and the staff from Saipan SDA church school. It is truely a privelage to make our visitors feel welcome and appreciated, no matter what part of the earth they may be from. You have truely blessed us, in as much as you,yourself have been blessed.
Can't wait to see REAL Christian Theatre next year!
Take care and God bless.

Julie Groenewald said...


Love your blog. I am a fruitarian and love your fruit pictures over there!

I am also SDA.