Jean Larson - Letter - Williams Convention, West Australia, Australia - November 2, 2007

November 1 - Williams, West Australia West Australia, is the name of the state, and not just the geographical location.

This is the first day of convention in this part of Australia. Williams is about a two-hour drive south of Perth, and Perth is the largest city in this largest state of Australia. I'm told that West Australia has about one and a half million people, and that Perth has about a million of those, and about 85% of the rest live within a couple hours of Perth. The size seems to be about one third of the country of Australia.

The Earnshaws, who are the owners of the convention place, are sheep and hay producers. They raise Marino sheep, which produce very fine wool. These sheep only produce one yearly and the farmers are content with that as it is better for the mother and the wool. Convention has been at the Earnshaw home since the mid-80s and they have about 500 at each of the two conventions held here.

The country seems to be rolling hills with not much growing on them other than what has been planted by the farmers. There are no trees that have colored leaves that are native to Australia. Lots of gum trees, which shed their bark every year. Some of the gum trees are eucalyptus, which the Kaola enjoy. We hear lots of birds but they do well at hiding themselves, as I haven't seen so many. Apparently I haven't asked the right person yet regarding what bird does what song because I haven't found anyone who knows. I did manage to see a Willy Wag Tailed, who has a nice song. A small, grey and white bird.

To back up a bit: we had Sunday evening with Laurie and Janet Harris, in Sydney. They are Mark Hendrager's in-laws, and very hospitable. They invited several others in for "tea" Sunday evening (tea is what we would consider supper, and supper is a tea! Go figure). Five of the couples there have fellowship meetings in their home. It was a nice evening.

Monday morning, Jean Kitto joined us and we went to a Koala farm, and was that ever a treat. We were able to pet a mother Koala, who was carrying a baby on her back. The baby will travel that way until about a year old. This one was the size of a couple month old kitten and is all ready eight to nine months old. The "farm" also had kangaroos, which we also were able to pet, and a wombat! (ditto regarding petting) And every time I think of the wombat (Matilda, by name), I want to smile. She is about the size of an almost grown pig, and has eyes that appear to be slits, and brown fur - and the guy holding her sat with her back to his front and his arms around her waist, (she likes to bite) so she looks like a sack of potatoes bulging over his arms and on to his lap. There were also peacocks, wallabies, echidnas (similar to our hedge hogs), and a dingo.

Then to the airport and I can tell you the planes they use across country are far more comfortable than the ones they use for International flights! The food was also good: lamb with eggplant. I haven't enjoyed eggplant before but this was actually good. It was a four and a half hour flight. This is a big country. (I've had more lamb in a week here than in a year over there!)

Peter Doecke and Ray Corbett met us at Perth. Trevor and Betty Rowe also met the plane and they are the ones who drove us out to the convention grounds. Trevor is Ian's brother. And for those who don't know, Ian is in the work in Kazakstan. We had a nice visit as we traveled along. No time to actually get a view of Perth, as we were to be at the convention place in time for "tea." Hopefully I will see more on Sunday, when I return to Perth for my Monday flight out.

The West Australia staff consists of fourteen workers. Some are from this state but a few have come from Victoria, one from New Zealand, one from New South Wales, two from Queensland They have a vast territory to cover so would be nice if there were more.

Bill Macourt, who has been the overseer had a stroke earlier this year and now is in a nursing home and Peter is taking on the responsibility. Another brother, Bruce Smith, also ran out of steam this year so the state has lost two, and gained one: Jeff Ditton.

There are 9 visitors here: Karel vanHeerden (Holland), Neil Mitchell (Victoria), Craig Winquist (Minnesota), Hermann Rothmund (Germany), Gaylen van Loon (United States of America), Eunice Aicken (New Zealand), Ray Corbett (Queensland), Marion Crawford (Alberta - and this is the only convention we share), and myself. (OREGON!) We all speak twice except for Eunice.

Many things here are just like "home," but I'll mention a few that are different: no napkins on the table - the evening "tea" is a sit down affair though no plates, most of the heating is done with wood (Jurrah, which if I had room I would bring some back for those who like to work with wood. It is used for furniture and they tell me it turns out a beautiful piece.). One of the jobs for young boys, maybe 8-10, is filling small wheelbarrows with wood and then delivering it to the different areas. It's cute seeing these little boys, with their mateys walking along beside them, pushing the wheelbarrows around the grounds.

I have disgraced myself by not knowing the difference between a bread and butter knife and a dinner knife (about a half inch in length). Where is Amy Patterson when I need her? All the food is on the table before we enter and then just two people serve the tables, usually a man and woman.

They don't use cafeteria here, so there is a second setting. There are 71 tents for women, most containing three cots and not much room for anything else; and 55 for men. The poles for the tents stay up all year so the brothers say they can put up the canvas for all of them on one day. The set up would probably remind some service men of their days in "tent city." There is no "nursery" and no private tents or trailers (caravans, as they are called here).

Some new vocabulary words: dustbin, mob (in this case referring to a flock of sheep); uti (pick up, from the word utility) and whinge (complaining, probably from whine). One lady told me her husband's name was "Marco," or at least that's what I heard. Turned out it was "Michael."

The Aussie have a "tradition" that is known as the "Aussie Wave." They wave while they speak to you; wave while you are speaking in the meeting, wave when they give their testimony: but it's not out of friendliness: it's to get the flies off of them! Some refer to it as the Aussie national pastime. The flies are smaller than ours but have a decided preference for the corner of the eyes, nose, and ears! Yuck.

Should we ever build up a new convention place, they have an idea here I like: one wall of the dish-washing area is open to the dining room, about 8 feet in width. When the dishes are washed, they are placed on wooden trays, which have handles. Cups on another, bowls on yet another. Then the trays are slid on into the metal rails in that opening, and those from the dining room can slide the trays out from their side and reset the table. Same with large boxes for silverware.

Very pronounced "Amen" at end of each prayer and testimony - and thus far I have seen no jeans being worn. All the men are dressed in dress slacks and good shirts, and the brother workers are wearing suits. It seems respectful some how. After all each meeting is like a Sunday morning meeting, and we usually dress in our best for that, don't we? They have "paw paw" here (does anyone beside me remember the old song that contains the words "the paw paw patch"?) which are a papaya with somewhere between orange and red meat. I can't believe that the old song was referring to papaya as I don't think we grow it in the continental US??- There are only three meetings in this convention that have three speakers in them: all the rest are only two. The evening meeting is a Gospel Meeting but doesn't sound like they test the Saturday evening meeting. They also use the Friday morning meeting for one of the staff to speak on baptism and then have their baptism on Saturday morning.

The Kangaroo and the Emu are on the fifty-cent piece and they represent Australia because they can't go backward, only forward: good spiritual thought isn't it?

And speaking of Kangaroos: Tuesday evening, some of us piled into the back of a ute and Mr. Earnshaw drove us out into his wheat fields. Soon someone pointed out two ears peeking up over the grain and as we drove closer up jumped a kangaroo and off they bounced and jumped. Really quite powerful. They are in the fields like our deer are in our fields. They don't hurt the crop much until it's close to harvest, and then if they break it down, there is damage. They can run at 30 miles an hour for a brief spell. Their skull is quite fragile and if a man could hit it in the head, even with their hand, they would go down. We saw several that evening and one of the brothers got it on his camera, and gave me a copy.

I want to tell you a little about a sister worker who labors in this State: Georgina Georgiou. She looks to be close to eighty, if not eighty plus. She was born in Egypt, of Greek parents, heard the Gospel there, and started in the work there. (I hadn't realized workers had ever been there.) When the government became unstable, it was suggested they leave and since her family had emigrated here, Georgina came to West Australia. She labored here for 28 years and then was asked to go to Greece, and was there for eighteen years and now is back. She could be called the "Singing Prophetess" as you can hear her start a hymn, singing just for her self, as she works in her room. She told me her mother was always singing when she was home. Georgina is my image of a Greek: tiny, dark, and vivacious. The sisters say she is hardly able for the work now but she is usually part of threesome.

Some of the friend's testimonies: When I was younger, I would wake in the morning and ask the Lord to go with me, and I often seemed to be in trouble. Now I wake and ask that the Lord would lead me and things go much better. I have had a beautiful feeling come over me several times this year and it is the feeling of belonging. I belong in the meeting, I belong in the Way, I belong with the brethren, and I belong at convention. I'm not worthy but I belong. And I don't want to ever lose this feeling. A stranger said of an elder, "You can find no contradictions in his living."

Because I am brought up a little higher here, I should go out and live a little higher. Someone said we should choose "assisted living" over "independent living." My father gave me help when I didn't ask for help and trusted me with personal things that I never expected him to trust me with. My heavenly Father has done the same and I find being trusted strengthens me and wants me want to be worthy of that trust.

Also, everyone ends their testimonies with the words, "For Jesus' sake."

Harold, I know you can write short letters when on your out of state trips but I just can't!

Sunday night, I will be going home with Chet and Kayleen Nelson. (Kayleen is Dave and Gladys Christie's daughter.) They have been here for two years but return to Texas, on November 11th. They have loved it here.

We have arranged to meet Lojeka Mathaba's dad, Leslie, that evening at the Nelson home. I hope nothing changes those plans. It would be nice to make that connection.

Heidi, I met the Chivers and Heather Garlick . And Shari, I met Mrs. Ward, whose first name I haven't retained. Nice to have those connections made.

I fly out for Sydney and then Brisbane, on Monday. Another five and a half hours all together, of flying. I wonder if Quanta's shares frequent flyer miles with NorthWest??? My destination that day is Biddeston, Queensland.

I hope all is well at home and with each of you. You are remembered at the throne.