Monday, December 8, 2014

Nappy Valley - Community within a community

Today was my first day of  experiencing what it's like to lose a family from the Nappy Valley community. If you don't know what Nappy Valley is, I'll digress from my previous statement to explain real quick what is is. It's a residential area for married students, or students with families attending Avondale college. It's nothing flash, a small village-like block of 2 bedroom units nestled on the outskirts of the college, and just across the road from the Cooranbong shops. The houses may have been built around the late 70's or early 80's with paper thin walls and a somewhat foamy-feel floorboard. But if you just looked at the physical location and build of the units you miss the magic of this place.

From the moment we moved in to Nappy Valley (the official name is College View residences). It was evident that the majority of families were here to help each other out. A friend helped me move my gear in, (Junior who lives off campus) and my then neighbour (Peau and Tupu) had prepared a meal for us after sweating out the move. Then I returned to Brisbane to finish up work, my wife and kids were at the mercy of the other villagers, who transported her to the shops when needed among other errands.

When I finally arrived 6 weeks later, I instantly felt the sense of community when I saw the kids playing outside with each other. Kids would come in our house, and my kids would go in the other houses. Nights where we would just chat and have feeds together. It taught me that this culture of hospitality and fellowship isn't a Samoan thing (because it's in the Samoan setting I usually experience this), it's meant to be a christian thing.

Many times when one or two families are in need, others will assist even though we don't have much to offer. And it's not always the same family, eventually the time will come when it's my own, and sure enough, we get help on the wings of impeccable timing. Any bible student would understand that this resonates with the church found in the book of Acts. And this has happened many times over in this village.

But sadly, all of us residing here have a reason and a purpose. To finish our collective courses and contribute to the corners of the world that awaits us. The first year for my family and me is complete, and with this, we have families that are leaving us. Two families that have been a huge influence on me are Pats and Maika's.

Pat who will always be the most resourceful Samoan I've ever met, who exercises hospitality like nobody's business, and is a testament to the tenacity of God's calling since he came with limited English vocab and is now currently a few units short of graduating with a Bachelors Degree. And Maika, who's brain works at a capacity that sometimes I question whether he's autistic but reads the emotional climate like a barometer and has a heart of gold. I'm going to miss these brothers. But I know our departure from this place is inevitable.

Nappy Valley seems to have served as a the practical teaching to the theory of what I was learning about the church of Acts and the early church. It makes me realise that when it's time for my family to make moves......we're going to miss this too one day.

It's a darn shame that it's taken me to live in a place like this for just over a year to realise how much we miss out on in general suburbia. I remember feeling this when I was in Samoa, but hadn't felt it in NZ or Australian suburban life, However, I do know it use to be this way once upon a time.

Maybe, just maybe if Christians did live out what we're suppose to, we could counter the private, keep-to-myself, look out for number one culture that's been imposed on us and bring back the old school. The school of hard knocks but tight-as relationships.

God bless you brothers, and your families. You will be sorely missed from Nappy Valley, but we know that you'll be blessed at whatever God does when he takes you from the Valley and climbs with you to Mountain heights unimaginable.


Friday, July 11, 2014

The Monuments Men

"The highest art is always the most religious, and the greatest artist is always a devout person." - Abraham Lincoln

I've often heard Christians around me describe God as an artist, and I agree with this notion, because of the creation of nature, and the vast differences in peoples characters and the list goes on. But only recently I've been impressed with a refreshed outlook of this insight of my creators character.

Earlier this year a movie was released with some big names featured in it, this blog is titled similarly. It stirred some interest as to what this film was about, and I've recently done some research into it. The Monuments Men (who I knew nothing about) are heroes from World War II, not so much in the sense of the number of soldiers they added to their kill count or saved on the battle field, but for a strangely unique battle, making them heroes in their own right. 

The film hovers around 5 characters, however the Monuments Men in reality were made up of roughly 345 men and women from 13 different nations.

"Many were museum directors, curators, art historians, artists, architects, and educators. Together they worked to protect monuments and other cultural treasures from the destruction of World War II."  (

These people could see the the utmost importance of preserving historical art. In learning more about these people, I had to try and understand why they were willing to put their lives on the line (and some did lose their lives for the cause) for the purpose of art. I didn't really appreciate classical works of art from the likes of Michelangelo, Leornado Da Vinci, Picasso, Van Gogh etc. I did a little bit of art back in high school, and honestly the way the teacher harped on about these artists didn't make an impression on me. But I've since learned a lesson about art from the Monuments Men. 

They describe art as markers on human history. How human beings of that time interpreted their surroundings, experiences and emotions onto canvas, ceilings of chapels and so on, giving us an intrinsic insight via visual media rather than reading literature and imposing our own personal experiences into the context. Art gives us a full spectrum of how it was, and how it could be, and forms an essential basis for the human culture.

Hitler attempted to steal ALL the famous works of art, in fact there's every likelihood that some of the missing pieces that were never retrieved were destroyed by the Nazi's. And as pathetic and ridiculous as this concept of stealing art in the middle of a World War may appear, the agenda actually makes a lot of sense. Hitler may have been a self-proclaimed aesthete, but I lean towards more of the agenda of trying to strip the world of experiencing our history through artists eyes.....thus, removing the basis of their identity. By doing so, he could've (and I'm certain would've) introduce new forms of art, albeit propaganda, to induce a new identity.

I can't help but draw the parallel of this amazing part WWII history, and the cosmic warfare between God and Satan. In the beginning God created, and in six days He made some amazing pieces. The melody He sung painted on the canvas in the sky, carved mountains out of the earth and  His hands formed the masterpieces of pottery which was the pinnacle of jaw-dropping artistic forms. The Man and the Woman. He married them, put them to work, and the very next day he called it a holiday (holy day).

God's finishing touches points to family, the right context of work, and taking regular time out from work to ensure that relationships with God and family are in check. Namely, the three pieces of God's art that I believe that are being cunningly stolen away from us while we focus on the illusive battle of power, territory and status, is the importance of Marriage, the ethics of good,hard and relevant work, and the Sabbath.

As these areas of our human culture erode, we suddenly find ourselves in a chaotic cycle of making, and breaking families, working to the bone (saying it's for the family) and never taking a break because we can't afford to. And thus, we find ourselves swallowing the propaganda that this world offers us and like me back in high school, have no sensitivity to being impressed with the classical works of our true identity.

Here's the rest of the paragraph from the aforementioned quote "
In the last year of the war, they tracked, located, and in the years that followed returned more than five million artistic and cultural items stolen by Hitler and the Nazis. Their role in preserving cultural treasures was without precedent."
As the theory of evolution permeates into the root of every educational institution, and consumerism becomes a philosophy by default, I realise that this role to track, locate and restore God's art is a mission I'm willing to die for. Where there was no desire for me to look upon structures, paintings and the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, it is now there. I've now been shown the high value that these pieces stand for. I'm willing to put my life on the line for people in this world to see their true value, not because of any natural motive of my own, but because God did it for me. I'm certain there are others out there that are willing and able to take on this mission too. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Big Changes

I've been really slack in blogging, but there's an explanation. I've changed vocations. I've left my job (well not really, I'm on long service leave at the minute) and am now a full-time student studying theology. If you don't know what theology is, it's studying to do full-time pastoral ministry. I'm going to try and be more regular with my blogs, since we're encouraged to reflect, and this is a good medium to reflect. For me anyway. So here's my first entry:

I haven't been able to shake off something our SDA History lecturer discussed the other day. He rattled off his understanding of higher education and the views he had as a child. Namely, acquiring a higher education would corrupt his spirituality, and there was no need to acquire given the imminent return of Christ. 

This was the same attitude our pioneers had, only they had a personal vendetta against the scholars since they had strong arguments against them when they had specified a time in history when Christ would return. That left a bad taste in their mouths, because decades later they still didn't quite encourage higher education amongst their peoples. But they finally came around, and we now have SDA academics around the globe.

But it's funny, I shared the same attitudes as my lecturer did. Earlier in my childhood I wanted to go to uni, but as I got to high school, I started to formulate in my incredibly matured 15 year old brain (sarcasm intended) that I probably wouldn't need a uni degree to get through life (afterall Biggie Smalls and Tupac didn't go Uni). By the time I gave my life to Christ, I was convinced that the education system had apostatised and that I needed to remain pure. I second guessed any person that had some type of academic credential. They seemed to always question things, and questioning things is bad.....very bad. So because of their lack of ability to see things as black and white, I painted all higher educated people with the same brush...little did I know it was a toothbrush.

But, here I am,an adult student, and loving every class, research, students and the insight that comes with these studies (note I didn't list the fees, and deadlines). I'm seeing my Jesus in a new way, bigger, deeper, stronger, smarter and there's heaps more to learn and experience. I shared this with Tulaga Aiolupotea in one of our may Nappy Valley conversations, and asked what he thought. He opened up with Peter and Paul, comparing the two leaders as one getting his education straight from Christ and on-the-job training, and then there's Paul, a well-experienced academic (and then some) who's responsible for writing more than half of the New Testament.

Yes, my brain is already opening up to new ideas although it's only first semester. I'll probably be the guy you'll be questioning whether I've defected from the faith. I'm not saying I'll be like Paul, I relate more to Peter......but who knows? I never expected to be here, so God-willing, I could be a Paul! (with wife and kids though). Whether you're going to get higher-education or not, there's ample supply to learn and experience more. He came to give us life, and life abundant! So any of my friends that have been twiddling their thumbs on this, and you know you're meant to be here, don't hesitate to drop me a line, I'm more than happy to share my depth of half a semester knowledge. No seriously, I got enough people to back me up that you can poke a stick at.