Over the weekend, I had the amazing blessing of being a leader on the Salvation Army Easter Camp. Running from Thursday Night until Monday Morning, we had an awesome time having fun, learning about God, and making new friendships. The theme for the weekend was Torn, based on the part of the Gospel story that when Jesus died on the cross, the curtain of the temple that shielded the Holy of Holies was ripped in two from top to bottom. Continue reading Easter Camp 2010
I’ll freely admit that I’m a bit of a nerd. Actually… a lot of a nerd. And what do nerds do to have fun with friends? Game. I’m what you would call a casual gamer – I don’t really play computer games all that often by myself, but will generally try to get to a LAN at least once a month with a few mates to have a gaming session. What we play at these nights are often an RTS – Real Time Simulator – such as Supreme Commander, Red Alert, or Warcraft 3 (if we’re feeling old school) and a FPS – first person shooter – such as Unreal Tournament 3, Left 4 Dead, Call of Duty, etc. We’re all mature gamers – I’m the youngest at 23 – and I don’t think that any of us would be affected by the violence of such games.
However, I’ve been challenged in my thinking just recently. It was all sparked by the refusing of classification in Australia of Left 4 Dead 2. I was discussing this with my mum, arguing that I felt we needed an R18+ rating for games, especially considering that the average age of gamers in Australia is towards the mid-20’s and growing older all the time. I was saying that the people of are affected badly by violence in video games are in the minority, and generally have some underlying mental illness. My mum then used an argument on me that I had used to help me understand some new commitments in my faith. Continue reading A Christian Gamer?
Then he turned to the host. "The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people." That triggered a response from one of the guests: "How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God’s kingdom!"
Jesus followed up. "Yes. For there was once a man who threw a great dinner party and invited many. When it was time for dinner, he sent out his servant to the invited guests, saying, ‘Come on in; the food’s on the table.’
"Then they all began to beg off, one after another making excuses. The first said, ‘I bought a piece of property and need to look it over. Send my regrets.’
"Another said, ‘I just bought five teams of oxen, and I really need to check them out. Send my regrets.’
"And yet another said, ‘I just got married and need to get home to my wife.’
"The servant went back and told the master what had happened. He was outraged and told the servant, ‘Quickly, get out into the city streets and alleys. Collect all who look like they need a square meal, all the misfits and homeless and wretched you can lay your hands on, and bring them here.’
"The servant reported back, ‘Master, I did what you commanded— and there’s still room.’
"The master said, ‘Then go to the country roads. Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house full! Let me tell you, not one of those originally invited is going to get so much as a bite at my dinner party.’"
From a Salvation Army Media Release, dated 9 July, 2009.
The Challenge to Slash Homelessness by 2020
The Salvation Army welcomes the release of state and territory Counting The Homeless 2006 reports today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. These provide the benchmark data for the efforts required to address homelessness in Australia.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Counting the Homeless 2006 reports were co-authored by Associate Professor David Mackenzie from the Institute for Social Research at Swinburne University and Associate Professor Chris Chamberlain from RMIT using 2006 Census data, data on users of SAAP services combined with data from a national census of homeless students. Australia is unique amongst Western countries in having good data on the homeless population and on service usage.
Homeless has remained at about 100,000 persons – men, women and children for a decade and in the past period little priority was given to addressing this issue. Some 30,000 units of public housing were lost and real funding for homelessness services steadily decreased. At a time when Government revenues were recording unprecedented surpluses and unemployment reached a fifteen-year low, homeless people were not able to benefit nor was public money invested in the issue.
The Rudd Government has given homelessness a high priority on its social policy agenda. The White Paper released in December, 2008 by Minister Tanya Plibersek was a landmark document with strong policy positions. However, the global financial crisis has caused huge dislocations in the international economic system and unemployment rates are beginning to rise. Reports are coming in of disadvantaged people being especially affected.
The number of rough sleepers in the inner-city areas of capitals throughout Australia has increased, with the exception of Melbourne, along with the number of children 12 years and under and elderly people 65 and older.
Young people (aged 12 to 25 years) are a significant group in the homeless population on census night – 32,444 individuals in total. The good news is that the number of homeless teenagers on their own has decreased by some 21% from 2001 to 2006 and this is attributed to the impact of early intervention. However, over the same period the number of homeless families increased by 17 per cent. There were 2714 homeless children under 12 in Victoria on census night 2006 – compared with 2618 in 2001 – an increase of 7 per cent. During 2006-2007, the AIHW report Homeless people in SAAP for Victoria reported that 20,500 children had accompanied a parent(s) who were clients of SAAP services.
The Salvation Army is committed to working with the Commonwealth and State Governments to develop effective responses to homelessness. We are particularly concerned about the growing numbers of homeless families. The Global Financial Crisis and the crisis in supply of affordable housing impact this group significantly. It is imperative that we develop early intervention strategies to prevent more families becoming homeless and that interim housing options are put in place for those who lose their homes.
The bold targets set in the Rudd Government’s Homelessness White Paper are achievable but can only be realised if community groups, local communities, corporate and government work collaboratively at the local level to prevent people becoming homeless and respond quickly and appropriately to those experiencing housing crisis. These Census figures assist us to confront these challenges.
Southern Territory Comissioner Jim Knaggs recently posted that The Salvation Army was voted by consumers the most trusted brand in Australia. And with good reason – the Salvos are very much into working with those who are overlooked. Their homelessness programs, their domestic violence refuges, their counselling and drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs have enabled them to help a great number of people. That help can’t happen without financial support, so why not consider donating to the Salvos – you can do so from their website.
"Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.
"Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege.
"Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?
"Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get. "Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.
"Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.
"Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance— isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’
"These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
"But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards."
When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying—quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.
Tonight I attended 2Love Training – divisional Youth Leadership training with the Salvation Army. It was interesting to see how it differed from my past training experiences with the Anglican church. In the Anglican training I’ve been to, there had been maybe 20-30 participants, which would be representing maybe 25-30% of the congregations in Perth. At the Salvos training, there were again about 20-30 participants, which would represent perhaps 75-85% of the congregations in Perth. Obvious size difference there – and something I’m still getting used to. Of the 20-30 participants at the Anglican training, I might know 2 or 3. At the Salvos, they all knew each other. Connections, networking and relationships are of a higher significance in a smaller denomination.
In the Anglican training, they were introducing us to a new program that they were bringing in from the Eastern States, a form of running youth group that would build up the youth in the parish, and then hopefully they would bring their friends, all while preventing burn-out in the leaders. In the Salvo training, we just focussed on leadership – no specifics of what to do, but ways to find out what to do.
Now, of course, it’s far too early for me to be able to say whether one was better, or not, for in reality, they were both incredibly useful. Just different. But this training I’ve just received gave me far more to think about to help develop my personal leadership style, while the Anglican training was teaching me about a program that could work in a certain situation.
One thing that I did pick up was that identifying your strengths, weaknesses and passions is an essential part of being a leader, and identifying who has different passions is essential in building up a leadership team. You need a mix, in order to cater for all possibilities.
In our corps, we feel we’ve got a good balance between the youth leaders (though lacking in the actual youth), but our main lacking is cultural knowledge. All living outside of the corps area, we lack that local knowledge to know where the youth are, to know what the issues are. If we’re going to experience growth, this is something that we need to address.
In my blog, I also want to experience growth. For the last little while, I’ve not known what to do with my blog. In the past, I have written about my music, and my life at uni. Now that I’m no longer performing all that often, or even playing violin all that often, I need to refocus. I need to rediscover where my passions lie, where the direction for this blog will go. It is important to identify your passions, strengths and weaknesses in order to be a good leader, but it is also important to reflect upon them often, to see if they have changed over time. This might be a little bit of a challenge for me, as for the past 5 years, my passion has been classical music – though at the moment I feel that slipping away from me as I get interested in other things. Confronting as this may be, letting it go and focussing on my passions will eventually lead to growth – growth in my leadership abilities, growth in my blog, and growth in my personal self.
Big shout out to Captain Collo, who was running the training tonight. Big pleasure to meet the writer of a blog that I’ve been reading for some time now. Not exactly as I’d pictured in my head – though I have no idea why the image in my head was what it was – but great to meet him, and was encouraged by what he had to say.