Thursday 12 June 2008


Yes. we have finally arrived safe and sound in Canberra, with quite a tale to tell about our final days in Indiana - and our trip actually getting here:

We had to work VERY hard in intense heat and humidity (about 80 to 90 %) and about that hot, too -- for the whole last week without any air conditioning and the constant threat or experience of rain every single day. We were especially disheartened on Friday, because a sudden unexpected cloud burst that afternoon while we took a break for ice cream with our pastors at Dairy Queen, damaged our "stuff" and
effected the bulk of the final packing and sorting process, as items selected to put into shipping containers were exposed out in the yard.

So...we had many loads to dry out to avoid mold problems later on. With already feeling "behind", being slowed up by intense heat and humidity both inside and outside the house and garage all week, and not in our own place anymore but in a house we were sitting for friends gone to Europe...I had no choice but to miss the wedding of my nephew on Saturday, though Carole Anne was able to represent us and glad to get in air conditioning for the day.

A couple of friends from church made a fantastic contribution of their time and energy Friday evening, and a couple more on Saturday, bless their good hearts. I gathered a whole crew of friends from church on Sunday morning in the final hours packing all the shipping crates away, and taking the other stuff to our "permanent" storage location. (It's a good thing our church meets for worship on Sunday evenings!)
Sunday morning was especially an intense "cooker" for those working and grunting out in the garage and lugging containers.

After final clean-up of the house we were "sitting" for the week, and finally leaving Goshen for O'Hare Sunday afternoon in the Toyota mini-van I'd rented in Chicago the week before, we almost got blown off the road by tornado-like blasts followed by a blinding rain storm near South Bend, IN, for about a half hour. I knew I had to keep moving forward, somehow, in order to make the plane. Most sane people were stopping and hiding their cars under overpasses.

The main thing is that we DID somehow, by the sheer grace of God, make it onto the plane we had booked (although they initially told us it was waaay to late for us to board - another story to tell there!) Plus we had to take time to process the extra bags, paying extra for those and the "Big Wheel" in its special case. A whole list of things went right that day (some due to careful forethought) after so much had not gone well (some due to not-so-good anticipation of the unforeseen) but in spite of many great challenges "we made it!" We sank down into our seats on that international flight with but three minutes to spare, finally able to truly relax for the first time in days.

We first had a four hour leg to San Francisco, then what was supposed to be a 14 hr flight from there to Sydney after changing planes (but same flight number - go figure!) The biggest surprise is that we encountered NO HASSLES OR QUESTIONS WHATSOEVER from the immigration officials in Sydney, upon arrival, as I had expected otherwise. I was prepared to prove that we would be leaving the country in 89 days for New Zealand for a week, then coming back in, on the renewable 90-day business visitors' visa. It turns out I probably won't have to. (* See the paragraphs at the end, below. for that explanation.)

The ride in the Boeing 747 from Frisco to Sydney went better than expected because I managed to get us seat assignments in the middle row (four seats wide) in the back where we took both aisle seats but had two empty seats in between. Thus Carole Anne and I could take turns stretching out all the way on "the bench" formed by three seats with the arm rests propped "up", while the other person slept (or in my case, tried to sleep) in the remaining seat tilted back. Carole Anne was able to get her feet up for a good portion of that part of the trip that way, which really helped deal with the swelling of feet, a persistent problem for her when flying that long. But what was supposed to be 14 hours turned into 20.

We actually made it a day earlier than expected by those in Canberra (there is another whole story there) but even that turned into a MUCH better situation for us than we originally planned, since we stayed in Sydney overnight in a hotel where we could "crash" after the extended delay of five hours getting there (and the extra hour getting through customs) due to getting rerouted to Brisbane first! Our plane sat on the tarmac for two hours - with no ability to call anyone or get off into the terminal - because all planes to Sydney got diverted that morning due to heavy fog. Happily, all our baggage arrived safely with us, including the "Big Wheel!"

We had 7 major checked bags, plus 4 carry-ons and a VERY large "purse" of Carole Anne's to deal with. You should have seen what the carts looked like when we left the airport and sought the shuttle to the hotel! We needed to take basic fall and winter clothing, plus the books and materials I would need, plus other things to stretch us out for three months here without knowing for sure (up until just a few hours before I'm writing this) whether the whole endeavor was "rock solid" viable enough, financially, to justify shipping all the rest of the stuff we had crated up for the "long haul." It seems now that it will be - see that explanation below.

We finally obtained a good long sleep at the Ibis Hotel near the airport in Sydney, instead of having to endure a couple more hours of wearying travel by car down to Canberra yet that day, as earlier planned. Don White from the Canberra Baptist Church graciously drove up to Sydney with his own car yesterday to stay at the same hotel and haul us with all our gear including that oversized unicycle in his car -- "packed to the gills." I was fully expecting to have to take a train with my wheel" ("38" in diameter) but we amazed both our selves by somehow getting it all in, with just enough space left for me to squeeze my body, somehow, into the back seat.

This evening (Wednesday) is the first chance I've had to connect to the Internet, and I'm forcing myself to stay awake until another hour or two so that I can go to bed for another loooooong night's rest, and hope to be "OK" by Thursday morning. I find that I am adjusting to the jet lag better than Carole Anne, because she conked out about mid-afternoon already. We arrived at about noon today to our home in the Bruce district of the ACT, only about five miles from the centre of the city of Canberra. I went shopping for food straight away, driving around (on the left side of the road and negotiating many rotaries) to get oriented to the city, then had a meeting with pastor Jim Barr, who shared much encouraging news on the employment and visa front.

Carole Anne and I are feeling very thankful right now that a whole number of prayers are being answered, even as we prepared to leave and as we traveled. We experienced MUCH grace and mercy, overcoming a whole handful of obstacles along the way, even as we traveled (involving details with schedule, the weather, details in returning the rental vehicle, and several other pressing matters at the airport too complex to go into here -- any one of which had the potential to completely wreck that trip.) We are sooo relieved and happy to be here.

Thanks to many of you reading this, for sticking by us, for your many prayers and expressing concerns about our health and safety as we made the transition. We know we'll be OK, after catching up on sleep and getting off the allergy medicines (to deal with the cat where we were staying) and getting oriented to our new surroundings. I will officially start my work this Sunday, as originally scheduled, attending worship with folks eager to meet us at the Canberra Baptist Church. (It could more accurately be referred to as the Canberra Anabaptist Church, reflecting their theological bent, but that would really be messing with tradition!)


* I wrote on the immigration card turned into immigration in Sydney that we would be in Australia for three months -- that I would be serving as a "pastoral care program consultant" during that time (which is the truth) having aquired a special short-stay business visa via the internet last week. However, I will be applying shortly for a renewable two-year religious workers visa which will allow me to be employed (paid in the usual manner) and now have some important meetings planned for next week to work at finalizing memos of understanding with the appropriate parties involved , namely myself, the hospital, the local church, and those officially employing me. Besides contracting for services as chaplain manager with the Canberra Hospital three days a week, I will spend part-time (two days/wk) as a consultant in pastoral care and visiting the sick and family ministry, as part of the ministry team of the Canberra Baptist Church - through the end of 2008.

We have a verbal commitment now for the long haul, with written stuff documented soon, confirming that I can be" sponsored" (then contracted out) by Baptist Chaplaincy Services of New South Wales. NSW is the state surrounding the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) where we live. What this means is we will be setting some precedent in the ACT for improved ways of delivering chaplain services here that will be consistent, finally, with how things have normally been done for years in the rest of Australia via other ecclesiastical entities.

My coming here has apparently pushed all these changes along, but these particular discussions and possibilities didn't emerge until after we heard (only two weeks before moving here) that the hospital was denied, by Australian Immigration authorities, the ability to be my direct employer as a part-time religious worker. And waiting two whole months to hear that! Being affilated with the Canberra Baptist Church for the first six months, something that was decided separately - but providentially, in hindsight - makes this other new arrangement possible!

All of this created much distraction from the sorting/packing process, with it being needful to maintain many important communications with key folks in Australia, reapplication for a different visa, planning for alternatives and booking some flights out of AUS before the 90 days temporary visa runs out - all of this with genuine wonderment how it was all going to work out (but harboring faith that it would - in the face of much genuine questioning from family and friends) in those final hectic days before we left.

THANKS BE TO GOD for being so faithful to us in the midst of our frailty and human fallibility!
-Clair (for both of us)

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