I can’t believe it has been a year since I gave you an update on Cheers. Not only are we still here, we have been going well. Even though there have been serious hardships in the neighborhood, our anchor-points have been strong: family, work, and Cheers. This has helped support us in the struggle to assist in the neighborhood.
Last report, I mentioned our ache and prayer for Communitas. IT HAPPENED! Around November, the Elliots visited. Pippa (our daughter) took the initiative to meet Lachlan (their son of the same age). The Elliots then spent their summer in Colorado, then returned to Banksia Grove in Feb, and Lachlan was looking forward to school because of the contact Pippa made. Since then a really strong friendship has formed between us and them, but also with others in the neighborhood. Belinda has a natural pastoral way (a gift we needed), and Nigel has been very keen to understand what he has been observing and participating in here.Both of them have been a great encouragement to Sal and I, even though they may only be here for a year, as they are working their way around Australia from Cairns. Please pray God shows them where to settle for the short term and longer term.
Family Camp was very good this April. the topic was Joining the Dots of community development. 8 families came, and made strong commitments to follow through with standing together back at home. And they have. There’s now a strong core of women who meet on Tuesdays, and they have been working through the E100 Bible verses from Scripture Union, but it’s the honesty in their discussions that provides great learning as well as mutual support. God often comes to them through each other. They also do an exercise-book similar to Cheers 13, and have seen many answers to their prayers.
Cheers 13 answers have included:
- Healings (including my heart surgery & electrical problems)
- Emergency Acomodation for battlers
- Blossoming of teens we’ve been hosting for years, into fine young adults already
- Movie nights on the lawn
- my book (Treading On God’s Heels) has been written, and proved very timely & useful for people here
- difficult meetings and confrontations going better than expected
- reducing street violence in the neighborhood (especially three specific situations)
- positive reinforcement at the primary school (where parents were just leaving before)
- personal changes in a few men, as well as the women mentioned before,
- and better development of individuals growth and participation
We continue to be involved in running The Round Table of stakeholders in the suburb, to collaborate in solving problems including street violence and saving the water aquifer from industrial zoning. I also introduced them to the primary local aboriginal elder. We have local Sports on the Courts each third Sunday. And we kept the Residents Association alive – that’s an interesting one: the Residents Association started and auspiced two new groups: The Pod community garden) and Spring in the Grove (local community event), which now want to incorporate and stand alone, and took volunteers with them, which has reduced the Residents Association volunteer energy below critical mass. All we can do is keep it in a holding pattern until more interested people arrive.
Cheers 24 has persevered with the “Show And Tell” approach using the bookmark (right), and it is paying most dividends for those who bring something, but also by adding more insights to the topics than one person’s preparation alone.
One big highlight was after some street violence that directly traumatized one of our families. We decided that everyone had to bring something from the Bible about suffering and trauma. And this family did – it was by far the best contribution, simply involving some Bible verses, and pictures they drew about: what they experienced on the night; what they felt like doing; and what God wants them to do.
We’ve been working our way through different ways to approach God, and have been using chapters from Treading on God’s Heels. There are always fresh insights for us all.
We have been using Dropbox online, so that changes to the program can be seen by everyone. People can change the document themselves if they need to also. We are literally on the same page.
The Hard Stuff
The local school has taken by far the lion’s share of our time and efforts, not in a good way. We have had to lobby, and argue, and contact the Ed Dept only to be let down by them. Over 40 families are concerned about the many escalating behavior management offenses at the school, but the principal won’t look at those parents’ testimonies. He has a different philosophy from the staff and parents – it’s very difficult.
The point is, Sally and I are at the forefront of this conflict. We don’t like it, it’s stressful and energy-sapping, and means we don’t have time for other more positive initiatives with Cheers. But we can’t not do it, because so many families (100’s) are affected by what is going on there. We have not seen our prayers answered yet. So we struggle to see how this is the best use of our time.
We pray, we tune in to God and try to discern His will for us. And sometimes we simply do what we can. Sometimes we are uncertain, but all we can do is our best. Hard as it is, family, work, and Cheers have being doing well. A great support. Thank God.