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Trip Start Sep 27, 2012
Trip End Oct 12, 2012

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Wow! A long and full day.  The program of the conference is back to back sessions and is challenging for those who have just arrived from other time zones - I am glad I have had some time to adjust.  Another beautiful sunrise over the lake; I think I would never tire of the view if I lived here. Breakfast is at 7am and the program starts at 8am, so it means early starts to be up and ready.

Peter Dueck's opening devotion was delivered in German, translated by the lovely young teacher I met last night, Ruth.  It was a masterful weaving together of his own family history told around his grand mother and her faith and strength. He told the history of the Anabaptists and Mennonites and their exile to Russia, where they set up schools and had 95% literacy, compared to the 20% of the Russians. Then they were persecuted again and his grandfather was taken away and never came back.  His grandmother and family then walked (that's right, walked) to Poland, then in 1945 back to Germany and were then sent back to Siberia after the war. Then to Kazakhstan where Peter was born. His grandmother was imprisoned for teaching children about the bible and the family went back to Lithuania, then finally returned to Germany where he is the CEO of a group of 6 Christian schools, with many students of Russian- German background.  He says that he is a Christian today because of his grandmother's faith and modeling.  It was riveting and I realize that I have never heard German evangelical Christians speak before.

Peter wants to vist Australia next year with some of his principals and board members so I offered to arrange a Melbourne itinerary if the want to come - people only think about Sydney. I said he would do better to come to Melbourne than to go to Queensland! (Later note:  he did come to Melbourne with a group of 18 educators and we had a wonderful week hosting them),

I won't tell all the stories, but I could listen to Luk Bussiere all day with his French accent. He told us of the challenge in Switzerland and France where the standard of living is very high but the suicide rates are the highest in Europe. He had some wonderful quotes from  history about education, from Chrysostom to Bonaventure. Luk was given a vision of a castle with children in it and eventually saw one for sale in the paper and bought it. Today he is the principal of the school in the castle and also pastor of a church!

Then a New Zealand presentation from Richard - within a couple of sentences I could detect South African roots beneath the NZ accent - followed by the lovely Samson Makhado from Africa whom I heard in Darwin. He gave us a fearless critique of what has happened in African Christian history, and then drew out some 'grace lessons' and what they mean in Christian education. Eg if Verwoerd could succeed in his plan to keep colored Africans in their place, then so can Christians succeed in raising them up. He is such a lovely man.

Best German joke: a film clip where a German coast guard hears a may day call from a boat, and someone yelling, 'We are sinking, we are sinking!'. He thinks for a while then asks slowly, 'Yes, vot are you sinking'...

I am going to have to stop eating whatever is put in front of me! We are having a 3 course lunch with a hot main course (today it was soup, salmon and veges, citrus tart) and then a cooked dinner with dessert and fruit. And then there is morning and afternoon tea - help!

Tonight was a fun night of celebration with the European delegates providing the entertainment. We had everything from an Austrian couple doing a beautiful waltz to Strauss' music, to a Celtic song from the Irish, a plastic bag rendition of Mozart, a film clip of 1400 Hungarians doing the Resurrection dance in Budapest,to the Germans singing two songs that I found very moving. The first was Martin Luther's great hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God. It felt as though the reformation had come alive on the stage to see and hear a dozen strong and warm German people singing this great hymn.  They then sang a song written for his fiancee by Bonhoeffer in jail two weeks before he was executed. Although I have read a lot by and about Bonhoeffer I have never come across this song. It affected me strongly when the group sang it after explaining what it is about and I looked it up in English later on. These are the words: 

By gracious pow'rs so wonderfully sheltered
And confidently waiting come what may,
We know that God is with us night and morning
And never fails to greet us each new day.

Yet is this heart by its old foe tormented,
Still evil days bring burdens hard to bear;
O give our frightened souls the sure salvation
For which, O Lord, you taught us to prepare.

And when this cup you give is filled to brimming
With bitter suffering, hard to understand,
We take it thankfully and without trembling
Out of so good, and so beloved a hand.

Yet when again, in this same world you give us
The joy we had, the brightness of your sun,
We shall remember all the days we lived through
And our whole life shall then be yours alone.

He's one of my heroes.
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