Friday, December 19, 2008

incarnational bedlessness

Last year en-route to my bothers wedding and an Aussie Christmas, we had a planned night in Honolulu airport during our 43.5 hour trip down under. This week on our way to Bakersfield for Christmas with Jessica's family, we had the quickest itinerary ever, with one 50 minute lay-over in LAX. However, arriving at Vancouver airport to find several inches of snow on the ground, I thought we might be in trouble to make our connecting flight...
No, United Airlines aren't getting a new color scheme, rather our plane needed to be de-iced before take-off, adding to our delays...
The city of Richmond (just south of Vancouver) beautifully blanketed in the white fluffy stuff when we finally got off the ground...
As we taxied into LAX, we saw our prop plane taxing out to take-off for Bakersfield... bummer! It was 4pm, we had missed our connecting flight by about 5 minutes. The next flight was at 10:40pm (painful!), but the flight was full. United offered us bus tickets to make the 2.5 hour journey over the mountains to Bakersfield, but the I5 over the mountains was closed because of the snow, so we were wait-listed for the flight 7 hours later. Making the most of dud situations is a way to redeem unplanned circumstances, so we called our semi-famous actor friends in Hollywood, Josh & Rachael and enjoyed some In-N-Out Burger (animal style!) and a coffee with friends who we rarely get to see.
Back to the airport, we didn't get on the 10:40pm flight... but got confirmed on a 6am flight to San Francisco and then an 8:37am flight to Bakersfield... you guessed it, another night in an airport awaited! We pulled two airport lounges together to make a bed as we attempted to fall asleep to the Christmas carols and TSA announcements that blared over the loud speakers all night. I think I got about 2 hours...

Jess thought our bed-less nights in the Christmas season were most appropriate... Joseph and Mary's travel plans didn't work out as they expected either, the Inn was full, their child was born in a barn. It is good to occasionally challenge the notion that we are entitled to a proper bed each night...

It was nice to finally arrive into Bakersfield 24 hours after leaving Vancouver (it would have been quicker to travel to Sydney, and I think we would have arrived in better shape too), the sun was shining and the surrounding mountains were blanketed with snow...

May you have a blessed Christmas, as you celebrate the bed-less birth of our Saviour and Lord...

Friday, November 07, 2008

relational trade [part 4]: visiting Level Ground Trading

…continued from [part 3]

Sitting around a large custom-made table in the boardroom, Mark asked “How is Level Ground structured?” Hugo’s face lit-up as he told Mark he was sitting around the structure. Hugo had insisted that Level Ground have a round conference table (made environmentally friendly of course), since rectangle tables place someone at the head and give that voice more importance, yet all voices at Level Ground are valued. There is of course a hierarchy at Level Ground, but it doesn't seem to dominate the culture. Hugo admitted that certain hierarchical questions, like “How do you decide how much different people in different roles gets paid?” was really tough to answer. Level Ground have several bonuses available: a “quality bonus,” based on team performance, rather than on the individual; and a “fair share” bonus based on the business' growth paid monthly, which can add up to about a full months pay over the year.

The relational principle is extended to how Level Ground pays and intensifies their sales staff. When a new sales person starts at Level Ground, they get to choose what kind of remuneration structure would suit who they are: a low base salary and a high commission rate is good for some people, but others want the peace of mind of knowing a steady salary will come in, with the opportunity to make a small bonus based on their performance, the third option being a mid level base salary and a mid-level bonus. From my own experience, working from a low base salary is very difficult; it doesn’t work for me. At Level Ground the emphasis on knowing people makes possible a remuneration structure that will work for the employee and the business – win, win!

Walking around Level Ground, there are pictures and branding material on the walls. Hugo is an avid photographer (a Nikon D300 shooter) and takes all the snaps of the producers, their farms, and their communities himself. As we walked around the building, Hugo paused to tell us the names of each person in the photographs and part of their story. Most businesses will get their marketing agencies to choose “stock” photographs from libraries for their promotional material and pay a royalty fee for the use of the photo. Level Ground however only use their own photographs, taken from when Hugo and other Level Ground employees make their annual or bi-annual trips to see the producers and their farms. Hugo also insists on paying the producers a royalty fee for being in the photographs that Level Grounds uses on its packaging, website and promotional materials. I didn’t notice it, but Hugo pointed out in one picture that a girl’s (I can’t remember her name, but Hugo knows her) teeth were a bit dirty and she was missing one earring because her ear was infected. Level Ground had made the decision not to “air-brush” any photos, but rather present the coffee producers as they are.

Hugo and his partners have lived-out their Christian faith in the way they do business, taking the Fair Trade concept to every part of Level Ground by having "righteous relationships" as a central frame for each business relationship. For me, Level Ground is a great example of how Christian people should conduct business. Hugo has a dream, in fact a “life goal”, to be an example of how fair trade and righteous relationships can be practised across different industries and business models (the recumbent bike market may be next…).
What if Christians could change their attitudes towards business, and what if Christians could begin to change the attitude of the world toward business?
Wayne Grudem, How Business in Itself Can Glorify God
It was never my intention to write about Level Ground from a consumer point of view. However, I know my focus on Level Ground as a business centered upon righteous relationships has resulted in a few purchases of Level Ground’s products. If you would like to buy Fair Trade coffee and support a company like Level Ground, then please make the switch, here is where you can buy Level Ground products:

North Americans:

  • can get 2lb bags of beans from local Costco’s
  • through local Ten Thousand Villages stores @ 2909 West Broadway, 1204 Commercial Drive, 929 Denman Street
  • at The Well @ Regent College & Dunbar

South Africans:
[part 1] / [part 2] / [part 3] / [part 4]

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

some sober words for the church on a big day for the USA (and the World)

I appreciated Matthew van Leeuwen's words to the Regent College Community today in his piece, A Brief Election Day Suggestion, as editor of the "etc", Regent's weekly student newsletter.

Today is election day in the United States. Let us keep in mind today that neither a Republican president nor a Democratic president will bring about the reign of Christ on earth. Neither candidate will remove the requirement of the church to proclaim the Lordship of Christ and to daily pick up its cross. Neither candidate frees the church from the need to learn the art of departure, from imagining exodus from oppression in all its various forms, from standing at the crossroads with Jeremiah and discerning the ancient paths, from finding the good way and walking in it. Let us, whether we vote or abstain, resist putting our faith in the democratic process. Let us keep in mind that Adolf Hitler was elected in free elections with the full support of many Protestant Christians such as ourselves.
Lord, have mercy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

relational trade [part 3]: visit to Level Ground Trading

Over the summer, I met Hugo Ciro, CEO of Level Ground Trading [part 1]. I am really impressed with Hugo and his business from a ‘relational trade’ perspective [part 2]. This week I took a trip out to visit Hugo and see Level Ground Trading first hand [part 3]. Mark, a good mate from College who also met Hugo over the summer and is doing a Marketplace concentration, came along.

It was a big day, ride to the bus, bikes on the bus and two buses to the ferry terminal, the 95 minute journey to Vancouver Island and then a 17.5km ride to Level Ground. When planning the trip, I thought was only appropriate that public transport and pedal power get us there, in honor of Level Ground’s environmental endeavors. Hugo’s recumbent bike was parked outside; Hugo greeted us and had a lengthy discussion about his experimental transit machine. We were sweaty, hungry and late, but Hugo was pleased to see us.

It was 2pm: after handing Hugo my two empty coffee bags (that can't be recycled, but can be turned into energy), brewing espresso from Café La Paz was the first order of business. I usually don’t take sugar, but thought I had to try Panela de los Andes – the cappuccino was sweet! We sat down, got to know each other a little better over a sandwich and coffee - all very relational – and we started to talk about Hugo’s background and the story and motivations that led to Level Ground’s birth eleven years ago.

On the ferry, Mark and I agreed we should start our time with Hugo by trying to understand his personal story and how that brought about Level Ground’s “relational business model” (how Mark and I saw Hugo’s business [see part 2]). Hugo told us about his childhood, spending two months a year on family coffee plantations in Columbia, then working in San Francisco and finally ending up at Regent College to think through missions work, where he felt affirmed by Eugene Peterson that he could be a Christian and pursue a career in business. Combining his knowledge of coffee, his desire for mission, and his entrepreneurial talents, Hugo came up with the idea of starting a Fair Trade coffee business. Hugo noted that it was the Mennonite missions group, Ten Thousand Villages, was the Fair Trade pioneer and gave Hugo the opportunity to distribute Level Ground’s coffee, on the condition that the coffee was excellent quality, and it is...

Here is where the four owner families of Level Ground got involved, contributing capital and expertise. My burning question was how and why did the four families agree on the relational trade model, instead of the typical profit-maximizing business model? For Hugo, this was easily answered – the four families had a shared story and values, they were followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. My sense was that relational trade wasn’t an ideological position for them, but rather it flowed naturally out of their identity in Christ. This still amazes me… my experience is that Christians don’t agree on much within the church, let alone in the marketplace, except that they often have nothing to say about how faith interacts with business. Yet, as Stacey (Hugo's business partner) put it, "everything we do is about relationships", and in a separate conversation, Hugo said his desire was to have "righteous relationships" as central frame for what Level Ground was about, which manifests itself not in "free trade", but in "fair trade".

Yet, Level Ground never considered itself a “Christian business.” Rather it is a business run by Christians (about half of the 30 staff) on Christian principles and values, as if there was no other way to run a business.

We weren’t long into the conversation when Hugo mentioned that an excellent question was raised by a reader in [part 2], about how to raise capital relationally. Hugo was excited, and after I heard what he had to say I was blown away! From before its first day of business, Level Ground has always raised capital relationally. It all started with a loan from one of the four founding families to buy the first shipment of coffee beans and has evolved into Level Ground issuing promissory notes to friends and family of the business. Level Ground pays 7.5% per annum and will pay back the money on demand. In today’s economic and credit climate, unsecured promissory notes are risky business. But, the friends and family of Level Ground like the business and are engaged with Level Ground’s ongoing story, and are happy to risk their cash. The money is loaned in trust in a relational context – as Hugo said it “we aren’t going to shaft our friends and family”.

Touring Level Ground’s facilities was an education, we learned how coffee is grown, picked, dried, shelled, shipped, stored, roasted, packaged and sold. It was also great just to be in a vibrant workplace – everyone was friendly, relaxed, in good spirits and not fazed that the CEO was walking through the facilities - there was a great vibe!

We talked at length about Level Ground’s advanced payment of a micro lot of beans from the Montaños family in Bolivia. The advanced payment was made by Level Ground unsecured – paid back at harvest time in coffee beans, the first crop that the dryer would produce. Quantities weren’t negotiated, contracts not signed, but a relationship was the basis of this deal to allow the Montaños to build their business long term, and to provide Level Ground with the best-of-the-best crop. Hugo admitted that any number of Level Grounds producer deals could go bad by doing business this way, not writing contracts, only letters of intent to buy X number crates of beans. Yet no deal has ever gone bad for Level Ground, the deals are made in relationships where faith and trust abound.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

relational capital: lessons from Islamic finance?

In my previous post on relational trade, a question was asked about how to raise capital in a relational model - I offer an example of alternative capital raising in the comments. Perhaps Islamic finance may have a few lessons to teach us…

An interesting article appeared on this week: Islamic finance rides the storm. This is not the first time I have read about the rapidly growing industry of Islamic finance, but in light of the world financial crisis that is unfolding, and the Islamic finance industry's resilience to the turbulence of plummeting world markets, perhaps this is a good time to peer outside our dominant capitalist model to see how else things could be done.

There are several relational elements of Islamic finance (pulled from the article) that are appealing, such as:
  • the partnership between the lender and borrower is arranged such that the risk is shared, and therefore the lender does a better job at evaluating the risk before granting loans
  • interest is not charged because it is considered immoral as it does not take into account how changes in the value of the loan's security can affect the borrower
  • the short sale of shares is not permitted because it stops traders profiting from assets they don't own
  • depositor know their money will not be invested in unethical industries
I don’t have the expertise to layout a comprehensive analysis between our system and the “sharia” way - Clancy Yeates does a good, but basic job in the article. However, I find it fascinating that Moslem's have seen the incongruities between their faith and Western capitalist finance, and in response have developed a model that does not sacrifice their faith to the prevailing model. If Christ reigns over our world, and our economies and financial markets, why is it that Christians have assimilated their beliefs, largely uncritically, to a financial model that isn’t congruent with Kingdom values?

Readers who know more about financial markets and systems - any reflections in light of the credit crunch would be most appreciated. As would anyone who knows of examples of alternative, and perhaps Christian motivated, financing arrangements?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

relational trade [part 2]: Level Ground Trading

Studying some marketplace theology at Regent College, I have been reflecting on my experience of working in the business world and looking to find examples of businesses that are run by Christian people, who don’t follow the pervasive rules of strict profit-maximisation that the capitalist market economy demands, seeking instead to run their businesses by different rules, with multiple bottom-lines, perhaps even going as far as God’s Kingdom rule here on Earth. During summer school, I met Hugo Ciro [read part 1], a founder and the CEO of Level Ground Trading, a business leader and a business with which that I am deeply impressed.

Being involved in the fair trade movement, seeking to bring economic justice and opportunity to small-scale producers of coffee, cane sugar and dried fruit is impressive in itself. Hugo’s company however seems to take the ‘fair trade’ concept far beyond a simplistic definition, and thread the ‘fair trade’ ethos throughout the whole of Level Ground’s business activities and relationships. Here’s how they do it:
  • Fair trade & relationships with producers – there are established minimum premiums that are paid to producers in order to be certified as a ‘Fair Trade Company’. However, instead of meeting the minimum, Level Ground seeks to know their producers personally, and thus their producers' needs and circumstances. As a result, they frequently pay in excess of the minimum requirements, to ensure a fair deal is negotiated.
  • Level Ground goes beyond the traditional B2B supplier relationships, by donating time, money, and expertise to enable its supply partners to produce more efficiently and develop communities, thereby supporting farmers who are seeking to experiment and farm using sustainable techniques, like an organic farmer who uses “a bio-digestor that converts his compost and manure into usable cooking fuel.”
  • Level Ground seeks to be actively open and accountable to their stakeholders, including customers, by making information about "what the farmer gets" available online, and be audited to prove it.
  • Fair trade & relationships with the environment: through composting, twelve recycling streams and smart purchasing decisions, Level Ground only trash one shopping bag of waste each week – a growing medium sized business achieves a feat that would be impressive for a small household! Plus, they try to be aware of where they are failing, be open about it with their customers and seek solutions.
  • Hugo arrived at Regent College, coming from Vancouver Island not in the company car, but on his recumbent bike (see similar bike). Level Ground also support their staff who are seeking to make environmentally friendly decisions that are connected to their work: “On an on-going basis, staff who regularly cycle, bus or carpool to work are paid a monthly green transportation bonus.”
  • Hugo’s business card was “Printed on 100% post-consumer paper”.
  • Fair trade & relationships with employees – They try to recognise that employees have different motivations and commitments outside of the workplace and seek to be flexible to accommodate these needs to achieve an effective, rather than just talked about, work/life balance. In-turn, Level Ground has been recognised by the provincial government with a WorkLife award.

    To me, this model of business is remarkable in how the ‘fair trade’ concept is permeating all facets of Level Ground Trading’s business, or in Level Ground's words:
    “Level Ground Trading envisions a world wherein lifestyles are simpler, relationships are deeper and justice is inherent in each exchange. We remain focused on Direct Fair Trade through dialogue with producers, payment of a fair price, respect for the environment and transparency in the marketplace.”
    In class discussion, Hugo told us of interactions with other sellers in the coffee industry, who could not comprehend why Level Ground would not want to maximise their profits by paying the premiums they do. Hugo then challenged us to re-think our business relationships, ensuring that they were fair. The ongoing success, growth and profitability of Level Ground Trading gives me hope that seeking fair trade relationships in all aspects of marketplace exchange is viable, and much of the exploitation, injustice and dehumanising tendencies of our global economy can be overcome, if we have the will to pursue fair trade relationships.

    I am thinking about making a ‘field-trip’ to Level Ground Trading's HQ on Vancouver Island; I think taking my bike on the ferry would be the appropriate way to travel, and I will take my empty coffee bags with me, so that Level Ground can turn them into energy (as they aren’t yet recyclable). I want (or need) to ask Hugo about what is the primary motivation behind his company:
    • Is it that Hugo is a Columbian-Canadian, who knew first-hand of unjust trade relationships in Columbia?
    • Is it a shared Christian faith among Level Ground’s founders that drives them to seek shalom in this world?
      Are they seeking to live out Micah’s challenge ‘to act justly’?
      Are they seeking to be aligned with Jesus, as he read from Isaiah’s scroll ‘to release the (economically) oppressed’?
    • Or something else?
    I would like to ask Level Ground’s Canadian based employees…
    • If they feel like their work is more fulfilling and rewarding because they work for this fair trade company?
    • How so they think fair trade relationships could be encouraged and implemented in other business?
    Over to my readers: please post a comment…
    • Are you impressed with Level Ground Trading?
    • What else do you think I should ask Hugo and the Level Ground staff?
    • Do you value fair trade relationships enough to sacrifice a ‘maximum profit’?
    • What do you think Jesus would say about the need, or lack of it, to pursue fair trade relationships?
    • Do you know of any other businesses that adopt Kingdom of God ethics to their relationships in the marketplace?
[part 1] / [part 2] / [part 3] / [part 4]

Wondering what the Mosers are up to?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Whistler Summer

The last week has been hectic - long days and late nights getting summer school assignments finished, so I haven't yet had a chance to write my follow-up post on why I am impressed with Level Ground Trading. Having worked hard all week, we thought we'd enjoy a few days of Whistler in the summer-time before we start classes again today.
I spent a ski season in Whistler in 2002, but after three days of mountain biking through the valley and hiking in the alpine, I feel like I have discovered so much more of this spectacular place than I got a chance to experience in the winter. There are endless mountain bike trails, both paved and off-road with skier type difficulty ratings (Green, Blue & Black), which wind you along streams, golf courses, railway tracks and to beautiful lakes, parks and vistas throughout the valley. We spotted a HUGE black bear from Green Lake lookout, wandering through the 'Golden Bear's' Nicholas North Golf Course.
Hiking the High Note trail (see map) from the top of the Peak chair through the alpine and meadows on-top of Whistler mountain was incredible! Wildflowers were abundant, views of the 'Black Tusk' and Cheakamus Lake superb, and finding a posing Hoary Marmot a real treat!
After an energetic few days of hiking and biking in spectacular Whistler, we are now feeling ready to start the Fall semester at Regent College...

[more pics of our time at Whistler @]

Thank you to the various 'sponsors' that helped make this trip possible: H. Ross (Truck loan), Sung-Ock (Hostel $), Pinpoint (Universal Gift Card for food), UBC Lodge (Cheap beds for Regent students), Intrawest (Free tickets to the Peak).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

summer school + relational trade [part 1]

If you read our blog, you could get the impression that all Jess and I do is spend time in places like Hawaii, the Rockies & the vineyards of South Australia – it isn’t true… so here is a post that branches out from one of my Summer School courses a few weeks ago.

The one-week course was called The Christian Leader in the Secular World of Work, which I took for my marketplace concentration. Peter Shaw, a former senior British public servant who is now an executive coach, ran the course. Peter has written extensively to both Christian and secular audiences looking at the life of Jesus to see what we can learn about how Jesus lead (as a visionary, servant, teacher, coach, radical and healer), made difficult decisions, used conversation as a tool, and made the most of each moment. While enjoying the discussion, at times the approach was perhaps a bit too reductionist and had the danger of straying into ‘eisegesis’, or reading stuff into the text.

The highlight of the course, however, was the discussions that Peter facilitated, which formed a solid chunk of our time together. The group consisted of about 25 people including a former big business CEO, a CFO, a high profile Vancouver lawyer, several management consultants, senior pastors and a teacher. This mix of people brought wonderful insights from the range of experience people had, which was truly valuable. Each day we sat in a different seat and in pairs got to share parts of our leadership and workplace journeys. By the end of the week, I got to know five people well.

One of the guys I got to pair up with was a CEO, this time of a smaller business. Hugo was part of four families who formed Level Ground Trading, a fair trade company, established in what seems to be the pioneer-days of the fair trade movement, in 1997. Hugo was a fascinating guy, and it was great to hear about his experience as well as his values for operating in the marketplace. Hugo’s business really impresses me too, and not just because he’s buying coffee beans at a price that is fairer to the farmers who work hard to produce them. In my next post, I’ll explain why I am so impressed with Level Ground Trading.

This morning, our coffee beans had run out, so I went to our cupboard and reached for the new two-pound bag that we bought last week. I got a pleasant surprise when I realised that we have been drinking Level Ground’s Café Mbeya since March. We were astounded to come across Fair Trade Coffee at Costco (a large wholesale chain in North America) and we were even more surprised at how good this organic dark blend from Tanzania tasted, and at the great price of $15. When I first came across the coffee’s packaging, it was the big bright pictures of the local communities, their stories, and a map showing where the beans were from that stood out to me, and not the Level Ground Trading logo. As a marketer, I could critique this as a mistake, but after learning more about Hugo and his company, I think the packaging’s emphasis is just right.

More about Hugo and Level Ground Trading next time… but in the meantime, I invite you to check out, which is a beautifully presented website and really informative too.

[part 1] / [part 2] / [part 3] / [part 4]

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Road-trip through the Rockies

After putting my mum to work for a week painting our unit in Vancouver, we figured it would be good to go and do something fun together. So, a couple of days after my dad arrived (yes, we put him to work during those two days too!) we took off for the Canadian Rockies. Now, I was the only one of the group who had never been through the Rockies here in Canada, so I had no real idea what to expect. After a long day of driving, we arrived at the edge of Jasper national park, where we spent the night. The highlight of that evening was certainly the surprise waterslide at the hotel pool. At three stories high and far faster than I imagined, the slide was good fun and Andrew, dad and I queued up with the 10 or so kids to make use of it.

While many visitors to the Rockies never get to see Mt. Robson, which is just outside of Jasper, we were blessed with a spectacular blue sky and sunshine to see Robson in all its glory. In many ways, this set the tone for the rest of the trip, in which our timing seemed to be right for viewing just about everything, from the kamikaze kayakers who took on a waterfall to our 8 bear sightings in two days.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip, though, was in the realisation of my father’s dream to spend the night at the Chateau Lake Louise. Andrew and I volunteered to camp so that my parents could enjoy the 7th floor suite and full-lake view on their own, but (fortunately for us) they wouldn’t hear of it! In classic student fashion, Andrew and I made a dinner on the ‘free’ hors d’oeuvres and tried to use every single available amenity, even taking quite a few of their signature teas as a souvenir. After High Tea in Banff Springs Hotel the following day and a “shortcut” through the BC backcountry where we found wild raspberries and more bears, we returned to Vancouver and our freshly painted walls, new light fixtures, and heaps of other decorating touches thanks to my mum’s hard work. Now, Andrew and I are enjoying being at home, just the two of us, for the first time since April 21st (that’s 4 whole months!). Needless to say, there’s no place like home...

On YouTube: Kayakers on Overlander Falls & Grouse Mountain Grizzlies

serious about food

If you spend anytime with Jessica’s family, you will quickly come to see that they are serious about their food! You will often hear certain dishes reminisced about as “the best I have ever had,” where the particular ingredients in a sauce were brought back to the taste-buds years later. When planning a road-trip, you are almost certain to be told of great places to eat along the journey (and encouraged to plan your trip around these stops). The Boyles have also been known to drive 2 hours one-way to eat at a particular restaurant – now that’s commitment!

So in a week of culinary road-tripping with Steve and Linda through the Rockies, I was privileged to sample: caribou steak, bison burgers, venison hors d’oeuvres and a saddle of rabbit. Not bad for a ‘practical vegetarian’ like myself who rarely gets to eat meat.

While there is much eating-out to embrace this culinary passion, the Boyles don’t sit back and let others prepare all the food. Rather, at the sight of wild berries off a dirt-road, they are likely to screech the car to a halt, jump out and start picking wild raspberries for the next mornings muffins (they were incredible!).

It’s not all about fine-dining either… without a doubt, if were an In-N-Out Burger in Canada, we would have stopped for the customary animal-style burger, fries and chocolate shake.

It’s safe to say… I always enjoy eating with the Boyles!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Aloha: Hawaii stop-over

On the way back from our 10 weeks working in Sydney, we had to fly through Honolulu. On our last visit to Honolulu in December, we spent the night in the airport - this trip, we thought we'd spend 4 days seeing Oahu.

On advice from some Hawaii residents that we know from Regent, we stayed well clear of Honolulu city and Waikiki beach, and instead spent most of our stay on Oahu's beautiful North Shore at Shark's Cove - Waimea Bay was only a 10 minute walk to the east, to the west Sunset beach and Pipeline were very close by, and across the road we had access to some great snorkeling with abundant fish life in one of HI's top shore Scuba diving spots.

We ate most of our meals at the local 'shrimp vans' that operate out of camper vans that are parked in nice locations around the North Shore. The food was tasty and cheap and served local produce cooked in typical HI style, our favorite being the shrimp and vegetable shish-kebabs. One van served it's food using exciting new 'disposable' plates, cups, straws and cutlery... made from corn or potato starch, with no petroleum and 100% compostable (visit The use of these products over wasteful plastic was representative of our experience of North Shore locals, who all seemed very concerned to look after their beautiful corner of the world.

It was nice to visit a place outside of Australia with truly magnificent beaches! Waimea Bay beach was our favorite - the water lapped the shore in an amazing array of tropical blues and greens, the sand was bright and clean, and you could stay in the water and feel refreshed, but not cold, all day long. During the summer, the North Shore beaches are calm, which is hard to reconcile with the winter swells that bring some of the largest waves crashing down on their shores.

On our last day, we hired a car and drove around the islands. Lunch in Waikiki was enough time there, see the 'zoo' photo. We climbed the extinct volcano crater, Diamond Head, and took in some amazing views of southern Oahu and were refreshed by some 'shaved ice,' a local treat, at the bottom. The mountains on the west side of the island were also spectacular - these scenes have been used in many movie and television settings, because of their lush green coverings, and their long and steep descents that seem to plunge from the sky into the sea - quite spectacular!

Just before we flew out for California, we were able to visit the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. 1177 young men died there on 7 Dec 1941 - the memorial was a moving tribute to a horrific tragedy. The museum and a 20 minute video were quite informative, revealing, in hindsight, a series of errors that left the American forces fatally exposed.

Mahalo Hawaii!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Adelaide quick-trip

The Queen's birthday seemed like the perfect opportunity to take-off for Adelaide to visit our Regent College buddies, Matt & Leanne, and to enjoy some of South Australia's delights with them!

Adelaide is blessed by being surrounded by world-class wine regions that include the Barossa, Clare Valley, the Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale. We were able to enjoy being with Matt & Leanne as we taste-tested our way across the country-side from winery to olive grove to winery to boutique beer-house and again to more wineries... it was a taste sensation!

The pick of the weekend for us was Coriole's Fortified Shiraz, which went down really well with some 70% Cocoa Lindt chocolate for dessert. For beer lovers, the Porter and American Pale Ale from the Lobethal Bierhaus were really good. The Olive Grove was a great spot for lunch, with locally sourced food platters, their 2005 McLaren Vale Shiraz exploded with flavour, and the Shiraz Jam was brilliant, but perhaps a little too indulgent for the humble piece of toast on a daily basis.

On Sunday, we were able to visit Glen Osmond Baptist Church where Matt works part-time, and later have lunch at a missional cafe, Soul Food Espresso, connected to Matt & Leanne's church network that is seeking to build relationships with the local community over good food and great coffee.

Thanks Matt & Leanne for a wonderful weekend away with you guys!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

pay-cheques: big, small, and not at all

On the 28th July 2006, I worked my last day as a Marketing Professional. 21 months later, I have made a return to my old employer for a 9 week 'summer holiday' stint. I've had to do some hack-work for sure, but I am also managing a project for a high-profile financial services company - so it has been interesting and challenging work to be involved in.

While not "working full-time" as most people would regard it since July '06, I feel that I have been working harder, longer and better ever since. My work has involved a full-time study load, 2 part-time jobs, plus a paid ministry position. Jess and I work very hard, and really enjoy the work that we are doing in these chapters of our lives.

I am also using my 'summer work' in Sydney for my Masters degree requirements, which involves a workplace placement, quite consistent with one of Regent College's goals of teaching and modeling holistic living. So right now as I type, I am actually meant to be working on a journal entry, communicating my experiences of "re-entry" into the marketplace - the challenges, frustrations and compromises that I am experiencing in my 9-5 (or 8:30-7) job [blogging should help the writing juices flow... that's my justification anyway, but I am sure Jess wont be happy with me for writing this and not my journal entry].

In general, there is other "work" that I do too, the house work, D.I.Y. work, some yard work here in Sydney, some web work for Jess' moms ministry, and volunteer work in Mexico last summer. I'm finding that more and more I really enjoy and get great satisfaction out of the work that the market (probably) wouldn't pay me to do (or at least pay very much).

It's a quandary for me, because I enjoy the work 'outside' of my professional work more - I find the work healthier, better relationally and perhaps it contributes more to God's Kingdom. Is part of the quandary living with the curse of Genesis 3, where as a result of sin, for Adam "all of your life you will struggle to scratch a living from the ground"? Perhaps, the Kingdom contribution work isn't as much of a struggle? Then is the challenge, to find work that the market values and builds the Kingdom? Or to turn elements of the market work to the Kingdom's advantage? Or to just see the good things in the market work that contribute to the Kingdom everyday? I also think that a more free-embrace and non-monetary valuing of the other work (which doesn't pay at all) is important too - the implication is that I don't let market forces dictate every choice I make in regard to all of the work I enter into.

I am looking forward to taking a course, starting in September, which will wrestle with a "theology of work." I am sure that being back in the full-time professional workplace for a stint and these reflections on all kinds of work will be good fodder as I dive into that course material. For now, for a short 9 weeks, it's also nice to receive a pay-cheque in the "thousands", rather than the "hundreds" which I have grown use too as a student.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


At Christmas the Hugheses gave the sons and daughters-in-law each a gift-certificate to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge together, voted Australia's #1 tourist attraction, to redeem on our return to the beautiful harbour city.

The day was perfect, blue-skies with views to Manly and the Blue Mountains. I was surprised how easy it was to get up to the top, only 4 ladders to reach the 'coat-hanger,' and from there, it really is an easy ascent on stairs and then a flat path to the 'summit,' 134 meters above the water.

Doing this with the family was an obvious highlight, but I also really enjoyed all the unique views of Sydney: looking down on the traffic on the bridge, gazing over the curves of the land to different parts of the harbour, and seeing the skyline from a new perspective. I think I could have spent all day up there with my camera, but they don't let you take anything along with you.

To finish the experience well, Mum joined us all at the Australian Pub and enjoyed some pizza and beer together, including a pizza with one of our national emblem animals on it, the Emu. Kangaroo and crocodile were also on the menu.

Thanks Dad!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

four weeks

Some of you may wonder what we’ve been doing for the past month, given our silence on our blog. Well, in mid-March we headed to Mexico and San Diego to spend time with our friends in Ensenada and with my family. It was, generally a great time except that my mum gave me the stomach flu. That was bad enough on its own, but my grandparents and aunt and uncle were noticeably smiley and somewhat unsympathetic for the first 24 hours. I later found out that they were under the very false impression that I may be pregnant (I mean, if you are 29, married, and having stomach problems, what other explanation could there be?) Once they realised that the killer stomach cramps, fever, chills, and associated issues were not, in fact a child, but a viral or bacterial infection given me by my mother, the sympathy level increased noticeably.
We returned to Vancouver two weeks ago with four weeks remaining in the term. In those four weeks, we had the following tasks to complete (this represents only a fraction of the work for the term).

3000 word (10 page) history paper
2x 1000 word exegesis papers
2500 word exegesis paper
3x 500 word history tasks
Plus numerous small tasks for business ethics

3000 word literary theory paper
3000 word thesis proposal
2x 1000 word exegesis papers
2500 word exegesis paper

As well as lead a church retreat and cook on said retreat for 26 people. And work 3 jobs (Jessica) and 2 jobs (Andrew). And we had 13 people for Easter dinner.
As I write this, I have completed, in two weeks, 7,000 (23 pages) of my 10,500 words to round-up the term. Andrew, likewise has finished 5,500 of his 9,000 words, so the end is in sight. The problem is, at this point we are running out of things to say, especially academic things to say, which is why I’m writing a blog rather than writing an exegesis assignment. Fortunately, the end is in sight and we will soon be on a plane back to Sydney, where at least we’ll get to . . . work full-time.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Taste of the World

Last night, we enjoyed Regent College's annual 'Taste of the World'. An event that celebrates Regent's rich international diversity by offering the Regent community a chance to taste the culinary delights of each country represented, see people dressed in their national attire and be entertained in a manner that represents the culture of each country.

Roast lamb & vegetables, cheesy-mite scrolls, Pavlova, Anzac Biscuits, LL&B's and fairy bread were on the Australian menu (sadly Regent's insurance policy didn't allow for Aussie Shiraz to be part of the offering). As for Australian attire... Rugby jerseys, Driza-Bone hats, fly-swatting-cork-hats (do they have a real name?), and of course the Aussie flag turned into the national cape all featured.

For Australia's cultural entertainment, the community was quizzed (or rather informed) on the meaning of some Aussie slang and instructed on how to respond to an Aussie if they simply couldn't understand a word they were hearing... "fair-dinkum?"

Due to a technical glitch (it worked in the test-run... arrghh)... the audio/visual offering that Jess and I prepared did not get seen... we gathered together the personal photos of some of Regent's Australian contingent (+ a few surfing pics from AY). The result (on YouTube for you)... a small taste of Australia:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

D.I.Y. drywall + the journey to manhood

My time in Mexico (May/June '07) building houses is bearing more fruit. First we installed a toilet, a week ago we fixed a 60x60cm whole in the wall. I have never done a drywall patch-job before, but after helping to install drywall from scratch into several new houses in Mexico, I was confident we could do a patch-job (a look at a D.I.Y. web tutorial and a call to Grandpa Clyde were also reassuring, that I was on the right track). I am amazed at how far a little know-how and experience can take you, not to mention save you $. This job cost us $12, including the cost of buying a new tool. Our hole appeared after we had to get a plumber to install a new faucet set into our bath/shower (on the other side of the wall), a job we could not do by ourselves.

Here's how we did it (click on the pics to see a bigger picture and read the info more clearly):

While I was in Mexico, I indulged in some replenishing reading, and turned my attention to John Eldredge's The Way of the Wild Heart. Eldredge quotes a guy who has followed the modern path and "ceded mastery of his world over to hired hands" by outsourcing every job around his home to tradesmen of every kind. The cost:benefit analysis reveals it doesn't always make sense to D.I.Y., but neither does reaching the point of not being able to do any simple job yourself. What are we going to outsource next... finding a partner? As Eldredge would probably ask, how can we impede our initiation into manhood anymore? Besides, there is something incredibly satisfying in using the tools well, testing yourself with the work and having a great D.I.Y. finished result (plus, I now enjoy going to hardware stores!).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

a fork in the (Anglican) road

In December, I wrote two posts on the 'Anglican crisis' that is affecting the church we attend and work at, St John's Shaughnessy Anglican Church:
Tonight, St John's held their annual vestry meeting. All of the usual (and fairly mundane) agenda items featured: financial reports, adoption of previous meeting minutes, ministry snapshots etc... but that wasn't why the church was as full as I have ever seen it. Rather, the members of St John's showed up to vote on a "motion to accept or reject the offer of temporary Alternative Episcopal Oversight" from the Diocese of the Southern Cone, an Anglican diocese based out of Argentina.

The reason to seek such oversight, in a nutshell, is that the Anglican Church of Canada and the Diocese of New Westminster, who oversees St John's, have been "walking apart from the Anglican Communion." The parting comes primarily in regards to different views of the authority of scripture, of which the "tip-of-the-iceberg issue" is the blessing of same-sex unions. Much of he Episcopal church in the United States is in the same boat as much of the Anglican Church of Canada in regard to these issues.

3 of 4 pics by kim y

So tonight, it was up to St John's members to decide. Voting "Yes" would go against the Bishop of New Westminster's sincere wishes for those in his diocese, a vote for schism as he saw it. Or in the word's of J.I. Packer to vote "Yes" was to choose "not schism but realignment" - a move back to the rest of the Anglican communion who has repeatedly stood against the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal church for their trajectory of adopting a liberal approach to understanding the scriptures.

A letter (dated 6 February) by the current Bishop, Michael Ingham, was distributed to members of St John's as they entered the meeting describing the proceedings as "schismatic," threatening "immediate termination of license or removal from office" as well as the possibility of civil proceedings were directed at St John's clergy, wardens and trustees, and noting the diocese's "fiduciary responsibility to preserve and protect the assets of the Church for its future ministry", ie, take St John's financial and property assets out the church's control.

After 5 years of battling with the Bishop, having no episcopal oversight, not being able to hire new ordained staff, and having so much of the church's energy directed towards this crisis, St John's came together (for a 3 hour meeting) and voted on the motion, to either accept or reject the Southern Cone's offer of episcopal oversight and in doing so leave the Anglican Church of Canada, with the following outcome:
  • Vote "YES" = 475 (96% accepted the Southern Cone's offer)
  • Vote "NO" = 11 (2%)
  • "Abstain" from vote = 9 (2%)
A decisive result, which indicates a strong degree of unity and gives St John's the ability to move forward with the Southern Cone while being largely undivided. Rev. David Short, said the decision "closes the door on uncertainty, and opens the door to other uncertainties" as the possibilities of lengthy legal proceedings now await.

Being an Aussie and only in Vancouver for a limited time, in some ways I feel like an outsider at St John's (even though I work there). From that outside perspective, tonight I witnessed and joined-in to vote with a congregation who chose to define themselves as part of Christ's church, who together are desiring to honor God's word and seek the Lord first ahead of the possible legal, financial and leadership risks that lay ahead. It could be costly discipleship for St John's, but is there any other road to pick up a cross and follow Jesus down?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

two (personal) firsts

This winter we have embraced (or accepted) the cold and wet weather, and have gotten out on our bikes a whole lot more. Mostly for convenience in getting places since we don't have a car, but also for exercise and to enjoy the beautiful city in which we live. The beanie under the helmet, wind-proof gloves, a scarf and some new cold-weather active pants (for Andrew) make the 'fresh' conditions bearable and often enjoyable.

I am not sure what inspired us to do so, maybe it was the Long Way Down adventure that we just watched, which took Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman on their bikes across fourteen international borders in Africa, but yesterday we did our first trans-national ride from Canada to the United States - first #1!

We stayed the night at Ken & Julie's cabin in Pt. Roberts Washington, got some reading for our classes done, watched two James Bond films from Ken's collection, cooked ourselves a Mexican meal and drank some cheap (but good) beer - a good time! We woke up to freezing weather and accumulating snow. So our #2 first was riding out of Pt. Roberts to Tsawwassen on the Canadian side in about an inch of snow. Sadly, we have no pictures to capture the experience. Imagine cars struggling for traction, and trying to stay very straight and upright as you peddled, otherwise the slip and slide would take over. Small steps of adventure...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

"Canada not so safe: website"

Apparently we aren't safe here...

"CANADIANS have been left bewildered by an Australian Government advisory warning travellers to be cautious when visiting their country.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Smart Traveller website warns potential tourists of terrorism, dangerous winter driving, heavy snow, ice and wind chills, as well as tornadoes, earthquakes and forest fires.

Canada is listed in its second-safest category while countries such as Chile, South Korea and Latvia are regarded as safer.

ABC online reported yesterday there had been no response from the Canadian Government but plenty of public reaction, with many residents wondering where Australia was sourcing its information.

There is no warning for Australia on Canada's Foreign Affairs website, except for an advisory to be wary of pickpockets and avoid demonstrations because they could turn violent, ABC online reported."

source: smh

I would be more inclined to go with the Canadian's advice, as someone has tried to pickpocket me here. Other dangers we have experienced/heard of:

  • the risk of freezing to death after Jessica's clothes were stolen from the university pool
  • being hit by a slap-shot hockey puck
  • starving to death due to the low minimum wage and high price of cheese
  • (and sadly and realistically) being Tazered to death in Vancouver International Airport

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sydney Visit

Our four weeks in Sydney are quickly coming to an end. The trip has been a wonderful chance to bask in the summer sun unfilterd by a pesky ozone layer, enjoy some excellent and controversial cricket, talk long bushwalks through national parks and "shortcuts" through suburban backyards, and a truly delightful sail on Sydney Harbour. Of course, the reason we came in the first place was for Rob's wedding, which seems a very long time ago now with all the eating, drinking, and merrymaking that filled the remaining weeks. And, as a "souvenir" of sorts to inspire envy in our winter-bound friends, I have ignored the Australian skin-cancer ads and engaged remorselessly in tanning, at times without suncream.

While it has been wonderful to be in Sydney, it will also be good to be back with our friends in Vancouver and to recommence our studies; we both have challenging and exciting classes to tackle next term. Even though it is almost impossible to get our minds around the fact that the weather in Vancouver continues to be only about 2 degrees and raining, this jumping between summer and winter worlds means that we get swimming at Manly beach and skiing at Whistler within a week of each other, which is hard to beat!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

re-claiming old photos (and memories)

Our international lifestyle doesn't bode well for carting photo albums across the oceans. With some time on our hands in Sydney, we have been re-claiming some old photos (and all the memories that come with them), with my Dad's new scanner. Jess' parents have been doing this too, to fill their Christmas gift, a 'digital photo frame', with pics from yester-year too. Flashback...