Monday Missive – January 28th, 2013

Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave, back with you again on a wet and balmy January evening in Sydney.

As is the pattern in Australia, the weather shifts between passionate extremes – going from hot and dusty to a flood situation in a matter of hours!

Every January is like this – floods in the north of the country and bush-fires in the south. We in the middle tend to be blessedly spared most of the calamities. Indeed, the only negative impact the weather has had on me today is that it blocked me from doing my Monday half-marathon, which is a shame as I had about half a dozen lads from the church and Fight Club who were going to join me tonight. Never mind. There’s always next week!

Mind you, next week I head off to Syria too. I think I will be taking my running shoes with me, but I might leave the boxing gloves behind.

Getting Ready for Syria

I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to everybody who has sent words of encouragement for the Syria trip. In truth, I’ve been quite overwhelmed by the show of support!

I’m afraid I need to be a little vague at this stage about my precise itinerary. There are understandable security concerns for our peace delegation, but I do intend to keep you up-to-date every step of the way if I can, most probably through this blog if I can get consistent Internet access.

One exciting piece of news that I can tell you is that it appears that Fighting Father Denning (my noble assistant) may well be coming with me!

Denning’s hope is that he’ll be able to film everything we do there and put together a documentary of the event. I think this would be fantastic, and could be invaluable to us in our efforts to spread the words about the ‘Mussalaha‘ (reconciliation) program when we return.

As for the many of you who have expressed grave fears for our safety, let me assure you that our delegation will apparently be accompanied by an armed escort everywhere we go – by government troops when we are in government-controlled areas and by rebel security forces when we are in rebel-held areas.

In all seriousness, I think the obvious protection we have on this mission is that it not in the interest of either side of the Syrian conflict to have us hurt. Both the government and the rebels are working hard on their public image, and it won’t look good for either side to be responsible for the deaths of a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a group of prominent bishops and other clergy!

Indeed, the only persons who could stand to benefit from our peace delegation having an accident would be power-brokers in my own country or in those of our ‘allies’ outside of Syria who benefit from having the country in turmoil. Keep that in mind, and if anything does happen and you hear that ‘the regime’ is to blame, don’t believe it!

Anyway, I’m not going to think further on that tonight as I have something far more weighty on my mind!

Geale vs. Mundine!

In truth, I don’t know if anyone outside of Australia (apart from truly fanatical boxing fans) would even know who these two characters are, but I can tell you that in this country Geale and Mundine are household names, though that’s not to say that most people would want both men in their households (and almost certainly NOT both at the same time)!

They are fighting this coming Wednesday night in Sydney. I will be in attendance, and I may be in a position to give you a free ticket. I’ll give you the details on how you can get that ticket before we end this missive, but first I want to talk about the fight!

There’s been a fair bit of antipathy shown in the lead-up to this fight, and a lot of that is just showmanship, but it has left a lot of people hating Anthony Mundine, and I get the feeling that a lot of the people who are buying tickets to the fight are doing so in order to see Anthony Mundine get his comeuppance!

Anthony 'the Man' Mundine, sparring with me at our box-a-thon, April 1st, 2012

Anthony ‘the Man’ Mundine, sparring with me at our box-a-thon, April 1st, 2012

Let me say straight up that I make no apologies for being a Mundine fan and supporter. He’s been a great supporter of our Youth Centre, has boxed with me on a number of occasions now to help us raise funds, and has never been anything but a gentleman in the respect he has shown me. Even so, I understand why he puts so many people off.

Anthony has been outspoken on a number of matters where I think he would have been well-advised to keep his opinions to himself, starting with his 9-11 comments given back in October 2001 (for which the US has never forgiven him) but by no means ending there. Indeed, at some points he seems to only open his mouth to change feet!

The lead-up to this latest fight has been a case in point. Anthony has said some things for which he later publicly apologised (such as comments about his opponent’s family) but the things he hasn’t apologised for were just as damaging.

He questioned Daniel Geale’s Indigenous heritage, and suggested that he should not wear an Aboriginal flag on his shorts! He even made the brash statement that “I thought they wiped all the Aborigines from Tasmania out”, and so managed to offend not just Geale (who is a Tasmanian) but the entire Indigenous community across our most southern state!

My feeling is that it really all comes down to Anthony trying to model himself on Muhammad Ali just a little too closely!

I appreciate that Anthony is fast like Ali was fast, and he has tried to emulate Ali’s graceful style as a boxer. He converted to Islam just as Ali did, and he’s tried to speak out on issues of faith and justice just as Ali did. The big difference though was that Ali had the charisma and the quick wit to pull it off, and Anthony just doesn’t have those qualities to the same degree!

Who can forget the way Ali tried to insinuate that George Foreman wasn’t really black, but that he might have some Dutch heritage. He did this in Zaire – in a country that had formerly been under Dutch colonial rule! It was a terrible thing to say, but he said it with that boyish twinkle in his eye, and you knew he wasn’t really serious, and you could not but think of him as a loveable rogue!

When Anthony questioned Geale’s ethnic heritage, he was trying to emulate the master. Indeed, he apparently even used the words ‘Old Tom’ at one point, which was the derogatory term Ali applied to Frazier in the lead-up to the ‘Thriller in Manilla’. The problem Mundine has is that he doesn’t have the twinkle in his eye, and so instead of coming across as a loveable rogue, he just comes across as a rogue!

OK. I wont’ say any more about the fight or the fighters today but I do want to tell you about the free tickets. Surprisingly perhaps, they’ve come to me courtesy of Mr Geale!

I’m being sent the tickets on Tuesday, and they’re earmarked for kids across this community who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to go. Having said that, there may be some tickets left over and if there is, I’d love to have you join me.

The problem is that I won’t know how many tickets I have left over (if any) until Wednesday morning (ie. the day of the fight). So you’ll need to ring me or email me first thing on Wednesday to find out. If you do email me, make sure you include a phone number where we can reach you as I’ll need to work out how to get your ticket to you.

Faith and Fighting

I know that some people really struggle to understand how a committed peace-activist like myself can simultaneously love sports pugilism! In truth, it’s not an uncommon combination!

I will never forget my time out the front of Ashkelon Prison in April 2004. I was part of a peace protest made up mainly of Jewish students. We were standing outside the prison in which my dear friend, Mordechai Vanunu, had been detained for 18 years. We were waiting for his release and calling for an end to nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

There were thousands of us there, and at least 90% of those people were NOT friends of Morde’s. On the contrary, they were baying for his blood! There were soldiers with machine-guns everywhere. There were police cars and armored vehicles. Slogans were being chanted. Abuse was being shouted. The noise of the helicopters flying overhead was sometimes deafening! And what do you think I was talking about with my two buddies on the front line of that protest?

Who was going to win the fight between Anthony Mundine and Danny Green?

I’ll never forget those intense moments, and I’ll never forget that both of my Jewish mates that day were wrong about the fight! They both picked Green, just as most punters now are picking Geale. Personally, I’m not so sure, but I do think that it will be a larger-than-life event!

Jesus and Family Values!

I can’t offer you Sunday’s sermon today (as I’m afraid it wasn’t recorded this week) so I’m going to share with you one I did a couple of weeks ago that is almost guaranteed to annoy you!

It’s the sermon I gave on the first Sunday after Christmas, on the ‘Feast of the Holy Family’. My passage from Luke chapter 2 concerns the boyhood of Jesus, and it seems like the perfect occasion to get hold of our children and drill them on how to be more Christ-like!

But the truth is that the boyhood of Jesus offers us a rather shocking pattern for anyone to emulate! Do we really want our children to disappear for days at a time, only to show up in a Cathedral somewhere!

And this is just the thin edge of the wedge! All the glimpses we get of Jesus’ earthly family suggest that there was a lot of tension and turmoil there!

You’ve been warned!

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(and if you can’t view the sermon, click here)

That’s plenty from me today, fighter.

Please keep me in your prayers as I do you.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. As I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – January 7th, 2013

Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave back with you, and wishing you a ‘Happy Epiphany!’

I appreciate that Epiphany (which is the day when we remember the wise men who came to worship the baby Jesus) isn’t celebrated by many people, and certainly not as vibrantly as Christmas or New Year. Even so, so far as ‘feast days’ go, Epiphany is my personal favourite, and I’ll explain why a little later in this email, but there’s something on my heart that I want to share with you first.

I had a visit tonight from a man who I suspect may now be dead?

I was just about to head off on my half-marathon run tonight when there was a knock on the front door. It was an older guy who looked in pretty bad shape. He asked if he could talk to me for a few minutes and I assumed he was going to spin me a yarn as to why he needed $50 to visit his brother in hospital …

But … hang on a second … I know this guy! His name is Bernie.

I had only met him once. It was at the Retired Boxers Association meeting towards the end of last year. I had been the guest speaker, but this guy had got up after me to make another speech.

I’d thought I was the only speaker, and evidently most of the guests thought the same, as none of them seemed to be paying any attention to Bernie but were chatting away to each other instead.

Bernie stammered out “I’m not very good with words … I’ve got brain cancer … I haven’t got long to live” All of a sudden the room went very quiet.

What followed was a beautiful and moving story where Bernie told us about how his son had been diagnosed with cancer as a child, but how the two of them developed a love for boxing and how his son became a die-hard fan of a particular Aussie boxer – Heath Stenton – and how father and son had followed Stenton around the country, attending every one of his fights.

Bernie spoke of the wonderful love and respect that Stenton showed his son, often having him on his knee during press conferences, and how other boxers, such as Danny Green and Anthony Mundine had likewise shown kindness and respect to the ailing young man and his dad.

Bernie’s speech was not beautifully-worded nor eloquently delivered but it is was certainly the most moving tribute to the greats of Aussie boxing that I have ever heard!

And now he was here at my front door! Why?

He wanted me to give a message to Anthony Mundine.

That sounded very odd. I can’t pretend to know Anthony well and I don’t know his address. Moreover, it shouldn’t be too hard for Bernie to track down Anthony himself. Why involve me? As he expanded on the story, it all started to make sense.

“I’ve been at St Mary’s Cathedral today”, he told me. “I’ve made my peace with God. I’ve said goodbye to my wife. I’m making this final pilgrimage to tie up some loose ends.”

Bernie explained to me that he’d seen his own father die of brain cancer and he knows how it can change your personality for the worse. He said he can feel himself changing already. He wants those he loves to remember him as the man he is, not as the man the disease could turn him into.

I made a few stammering remarks about ‘not needing to hurry the process along’ and told him that I’d watched both my parents die of cancer and that it didn’t have to be an undignified process. Bernie smiled and thanked me for my concern and farewelled me. I embraced him and said “we’ll meet again”. He left.

I don’t know where he went from here. I didn’t see any point in trying to stop him leaving. Should I have called the police? Would it have done any good?

I don’t know anything about this man apart from his first name and his beautiful story. I don’t know how to contact his wife or family. If you happen to know any of those details can you pass them on to me ASAP please. I don’t want to just leave things at this point!

One thing I certainly will follow-up on is a meeting with Anthony Mundine.

I asked Bernie to jot down some of the details in my notebook so that Anthony could place their meeting. Bernie didn’t think Anthony would remember him but that didn’t seem to bother him. He just wanted ‘The Man’ to know how much respect both father and son had for him! It was a parting gift!

Well … there’s not much more I can say about that, but it’s left me feeling rather emotional.

I offer you the story of our brother Bernie today, and I offer you my Epiphany sermon.

Why do I like Epiphany so much? Because it’s all about inclusiveness.

Yes, I know it’s about three wise men and their gifts of gold, Frankenstein and myrrh (or at least that’s the version some of our kids remember) but the whole point of the story is that these people are outsiders.

These people are not good Jews. They aren’t Jews at all! From a Biblical perspective they are from the wrong country, wrong culture, wrong language-group and … wrong religion!

I won’t go into that more here as you’ll get it in the sermon if you’re interested. The point to make here is simply that if there’s room for those strange wise men in the Nativity scene then there’s room for all of us – you, me, and certainly dear brother Bernie.

Enjoy the sermon!

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And if you can’t view the video, click here.

I’ll be back with you next week.

And while you know I hate asking anyone for money, if one of your New Years resolutions happened to be ‘give more support to Father Dave and Fighting Fathers Ministries’ a $10/month subscription to our member site would make all the difference in helping us cover our costs.

May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
dave@fatherdave.org
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.how2changetheworld.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four