Church, Cultural Differences

Lost

One thing that’s struck me lately is just how lost people are around us. We live in a sin-cursed world, but I’ve been pretty sheltered all my life. Now that I’m living around non-Christians in a pretty secular culture, I’m struck by how many people have no rhyme or reason to their lives. The neighbors across the street have to sell their house because they’re getting a divorce. The man was married previously and had two boys from that marriage. His ex-wife just recently died, so the boys’ mom has been this man’s second wife, who he’s currently divorcing. They also have two daughters, so now those daughters will have to deal with a broken family, and the two sons no longer have their step-mom in their lives. It’s such a sad situation, but one that I’m finding is common. They don’t know what’s up or down, but yet they don’t want “religion.” I want to shout to them the good news that comes with Jesus, but they’re not ready to hear.

 

The two moms of ballet students with E are in the same boat. They live their lives, raise their kids, try to find ways that their children won’t become a statistic (drugs, pregnancy, molestation) but don’t know how they can avoid the seemingly inevitable future of something bad happening. Again, I want to tell them that there’s hope, and I have, but it seems to fall on deaf ears.

 

Although the darkness is all around us, it makes me so thankful to know that I have a Savior who loves me and still loves the lost. He hasn’t returned yet, which means there’s still hope for those who don’t know Him. Christianity isn’t some crazy cult like they may think–it’s a way to find true happiness, the happiness they were created for. How I wish more would believe!

Church, Cultural Differences, Family

Witnessing to our Neighbors

I realized something this week. I went to Christian schools from K-12th grade, then 2 Christian universities, then seminary, and I’m just now, at 34 years of age, able to say I have non-Christian friends. 34 years. I’ve had more than 20 years of training around and by Christians, but only half a year of actually being friends with non-Christians. Now, I’m not saying I was never acquaintances with them before. I worked in secular jobs for years, so my co-workers were mostly non-Christian. And I was an au pair in Holland for a non-Christian family, so I got to live with and intimately know non-Christians for a year. But this is the first time that I’ve actually been able to say I hang around some non-Christians and can have conversations with them about life, our kids, and other things. I’m ashamed to say that, but it’s true. I have been so blessed to be able to be trained in the Word, but I haven’t done a good job in using that training to witness to those around me. I have squandered many years of my life because I’ve been scared to get out of my Christian bubble. It’s become a part of who I am, so much so that leaving it was almost impossible.

 

Then I had kids. And moved to a foreign country. Both these things have made it almost impossible to NOT leave my Christian bubble. If my kids are to have friends, I have to go looking elsewhere for them (although we do have kids at church their age, which is a blessing). So, E’s ballet class and J’s music class have been good outlets for them. Although J’s music class is now on hiatus (we were sick too often to make it worth it), E’s ballet class has served and continues to serve as a wonderful outlet to meeting new people. She’s been in class with the same three girls for 1.5 years now, and just this past week, I was able to have two of those girls and their moms over for a playdate. It was so much fun! The ladies and I already normally chat on Mondays during ballet, but this past Tues., we were able to have two hours together. We covered so many topics, including my church, but it was just so laid back and refreshing. One of the ladies is a Buddhist (I’ve had a good conversation with her before about Buddhism and Christianity) and the other one is nothing, but her daughter goes to E’s school, so she’s been exposed to Christianity. Not only did E enjoy playing with the two girls (she’s really good friends with one of them because of preschool), but I had fun talking to their moms.

 

I remember a non-Christian girl in my neighborhood growing up–I don’t know where she lived, but I remember her coming to our door a couple times. She wasn’t a Christian and would swear, so I was told not to hang out with her anymore. I also remember trying to think of ways I could tell her about Jesus, but because I didn’t hang out with her much, I couldn’t share with her. I had a desire to tell others about Jesus, but I never got to meet many non-Christians, and the ones I did meet were more threatening because they were so different than I was. I started to get too scared to say anything to people, and that fear eventually killed my evangelistic heart. The Christian bubble wasn’t necessarily to keep me safe at that point–it was just a way I could hide from what God was urging me to do. E, on the other hand, has such an evangelistic heart–she and I both prayed before the girls came over that we could tell them and their moms about Jesus, and that God would make them believe in Him. She is always excited to tell people about heaven and Jesus and has no fear that they may seem threatened or put off. Oh, to have the faith of a child! She humbles me and makes me more bold with others, partly because I sometimes have to explain some of her statements she makes to them. 🙂

 

God has given us so many opportunities since being here of sharing the Word, and He’s growing us in wisdom about when to share and when to stay silent. He’s taking us all out of our Christian bubbles (and Christian society–living here is SO DIFFERENT than living in Texas) and putting us into the world so that we can do what we were meant to do as Christians–share the good news that is within us. It’s what we’re commanded to do…it just took me 34 years to really do it. We pray that our kids learn it right from the start.

Church, Cultural Differences

Some Big Differences

I just updated my other blog with some pictures and events from this past month, including M’s 4 month birthday summary. These last 4 months have flown by! It helps that we’ve had a lot of guests and church events to keep us busy, in-between the sickness and school and …. I don’t even know what else. But at night, when all the kids are in bed and John’s working, I’m left to check off things on my to-do list. I also get to think about the big difference between America and Australia, now that we’ve been here almost a year and a half.

 

This homeschool conference I attended last weekend helped put things in perspective for me. Homeschooling in the States is pretty common. Chances are almost everyone reading this blog know at least one family who is homeschooling. All of my sisters-in-law have done it or are doing it, and many of my friends are taking the plunge. I always said I would never wade in those waters, but as E gets closer to attending Kinder (as it’s called here), we’re weighing our options and our best one so far is homeschooling (gasp and groan). It’s been around for so long in the States that it’s not a shock to hear of families choosing that option for their children. Here, however, it is still very rare. Although it’s apparently going through a boom at the moment (someone at the conference said there are 15,000 registered homeschoolers in ALL of Australia, and that isn’t counting the ones who aren’t registered), it still is nothing compared to the amount in the States. When asked by those around us what we are planning to do with our kids, they look shocked and very skeptical when I say we’re considering homeschooling. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say that their worries could be more because we’re foreigners, and homeschooling may not help integrate us into life here as much as sending our kids to school would, but I think there is an element of shock for the actual act of homeschooling itself. We would be the first family in our church to homeschool their kids, and the homeschool community in the Illawarra region, although present, is definitely not large. There are no co-ops available so I would be responsible for every subject. There are homeschool get-togethers at parks for the kids to socialize with each other and for mothers to have a community, but that’s pretty much it. It’s slim pickings for homeschoolers in Australia. Plus, the laws in some states (including New South Wales, where we are, are insane! We have to register with the government and then they send a representative out to look over the curriculum, make sure it meets their extensive requirements, and to evaluate the learning environment. If you pass, you can either get a 6 month, 1 year, or 2 year license to homeschool and then you will need to be reevaluated when that license expires. Oh, the joys of a nanny state.)

 

Looking at America and Australia is like a Tale of Two Countries. They were both founded at about the same time and by the same country, Britain (I’m obviously simplifying history here, as I know America had more than one founding country, as well as Australia). However, the people founding them couldn’t have been more different. America started (in some colonies) as a way for people to gain religious freedom. They were educated, competent, hard workers, and eager to create a new life and community in a new world. Australia started as a convict nation. Britain sent their castoffs here as a punishment, to be guarded by people who were cruel and hated by many. The church in America served as a way to bring people together and created opportunities for the new arrivals to integrate into the culture. The church in Australia was a part of the oppressive force of the leadership, meant to keep the convicts down.

 

This plays out so much in how these two countries are different, even today. We live near Wollongong, a city with a university, so we have many uni students who attend our church. One big complaint of theirs is that many of their uni profs don’t speak English. They are continually frustrated by the fact that the people meant to teach them can’t even speak to them clearly in their language. That’s not as big of a problem in the States. I’m not saying it’s not there, but there are far more English-speaking professors in America. I think this stems from the fact that Americans want to better themselves with education (thus, more Americans become college professors, whereas in Australia, not many go on to become professors). How many people do you know who have not only a college degree, but a graduate degree as well? It’s pretty common for friends to go on for further education after they’ve graduated from college, especially if you’re going into law, medicine, or business (which is a large majority of people). That is definitely not the case here. We haven’t met many people at all with graduate degrees. It’s not a popular route to take. Most people around us are “tradies,” or blue collar workers, and proud to be so. It stems from the wariness Australians have of white collar workers or highly educated people. Those were the people who ruled over them in their convict days, and, I’m serious, this isn’t made up or a generalization, it’s a “tall poppy syndrome.” They are wary of those who think too highly of themselves. Australians don’t like fame, don’t like to gloat over their education, don’t like to be the best at everything. It’s the exact opposite in America, and I think it stems from how the two countries were founded.

 

This difference is shown in many ways here, but one way is in religion. First of all, Australia is a secular nation. Even though many people in our town go to church, I almost never hear any mention of Christianity when I’m out and about. I mentioned it in a previous blog post that it’s just not done. Religion has been something you keep to yourself. I did, however, just read a new study that came out that stated Australians are more open to religion than previously thought. However, one way they would be turned off to a religion is if a famous person became a spokesperson for that religion. That is SO different than in America. Look at all of the famous preachers in the States! And all the celebrities who claim to be a part of one religion or another! What do you do if you want your church to be well-known? Get someone famous to be the mouthpiece for it! Yeah, that’s not the case in Australia.

 

There are so many other big differences, but these are a few that have caught my attention lately. I don’t have a preference for either culture, although, since I have a graduate degree, I wish it counted for more out here because of all my blood, sweat, and tears that went into that MATS, but that’s just a pride thing. And I’m good at pride. It’s kind of a staple sin for Americans. That’s the advantage to living in another culture–I can see more clearly my pet sins, sins that I can “get away with” in America but sins that come to the surface and glare at me here in Australia. I know it goes both ways and I’ll develop new pet sins here, I’m sure, but as it stands, I’ve enjoyed stepping out of my culture and into a new one, one that shows me more ways that I am a fallen creature, desperately in need of Christ’s forgiveness.

Cultural Differences

But I’ll Miss TV!

One thing I knew would happen when we moved to Australia was that I would no longer get to see my favorite American shows on TV. Not too big of a deal, right? Besides, I’m not a huge follower of television shows. The big one John and I have been watching over the past few years is Blacklist. And now, This Is Us is a favorite.

 

However, what’s been a pleasant surprise since coming here is that Australia plays American tv shows! They don’t have a lot of their own original Australian shows because the airwaves are so taken up with British and American shows. In America, we didn’t have cable so I didn’t have a chance to watch some of my favorite HGTV shows like Fixer Upper, House Hunters, or various home improvement shows. Here though, those are on free-to-air tv! I’ve watched Fixer Upper from the comfort of my recliner–hearing the Texas accent again makes John and I feel like we’re at home–and then we hear Australian accents in the commercials and we’re brought back to the land we currently live in. They have House Hunters, House Hunters International, and House Hunters Renovation. For the guilty pleasure watchers, they have Keeping Up with the Kardashians and The Bachelor/ette. And they have Call the Midwife, other BBC production shows, and Downton Abbey. Some of these shows are older episodes that air a couple years behind, but some of them air the next day.

 

For those shows that are no longer on TV, like The Office, we rely on Netflix. However, Netflix Australia is different than Netflix America, which is sad because most TV shows on the American site aren’t on the Australian site–The Office is one of those shows. Although that may not seem like a sad thing, it was hard for me to overcome, especially when I was pregnant. I’ve watched The Office through every pregnancy. There’s something about the humor and the comfortability of knowing each and every episode, character, line, and joke that makes it a show I come back to time and time again. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone through the series, but I’ve watched it in bed when I’ve been sick with morning sickness, I’ve watched it on the iPad in the hospital when I’ve been in labour, and I’ve watched it at night when I’m hugely pregnant and nothing makes me laugh except Michael being his awkward self. Knowing that we couldn’t watch The Office for this pregnancy was a hard pill to swallow. However, John is a wiz at computers and figured out a way for us to watch The Office on American Netflix legally and above board, so I didn’t have to give up my pregnancy TV craving.

 

One good thing that comes with being able to get American TV shows on our Apple TV, even in Australia (because of my husband’s genius computer skills) is that we can also get all American TV app networks like NBC, CBS, FOX, and ABC. When Blacklist airs in America and is put on the site the next day, we’re able to watch it here as well. Or when This Is Us has an incredibly emotional episode (although which episode ISN’T emotional), I’m able to watch it the same night!

 

I know this may seem like a small thing, especially to those who don’t watch any TV, but it’s just another thing that we thought we had to give up when coming to Australia, but then it turns out we didn’t have to. It’s nice living in a globally integrated world–although I’m sad Australia doesn’t have a lot of their own TV shows, I enjoy being able to watch my American shows, even from an ocean away.