Back from Damascus

Meeting with the Ministers of Sport and Foreign Affairs
Boxing with the boys of the Syrian Olympic sqad
a great night out with our best mate Chris
with Hanny and Sally from Attaa children's charity, and my best mate, Tom
with journalist and great Syrian patriot, Nana Lancaster
in Jodidi - the place where St Paul fell off his horse and met Jesus!
touching base with the Mufti
at the tomb of the great Salah Al Din (Saladin)
wandering the streets of the old city of Damascus
Imogen was a big hit with the local kids!
catching up with Vanessa Beeley
in Maaloula with Father Toufic
the ancient caves of Maaloula
in the house of Saint Ananias, where Saint Paul was baptised
in the wonderful art school in Damascus, receiving gifts from the children
with Father Alexi of Gopa Derd - the largest faith-based aid agency in Syria


Hi Fighter,

Dave here – back from Syria and finally ready to debrief the experience.

It was my eighth trip to Syria in the last six years, and it’s been remarkable to see how the country and the people have evolved over that time. Back in 2013, I’d look out from my hotel room in Damascus at night and see the glow of mortar fire encircling the city. Now the talk is all about rebuilding, or at least about the hope of rebuilding. The horrible sanctions we’ve placed on the country make rebuilding difficult in the extreme.

Of course, there is still fighting in Idlib, and those who have a vested interest in keeping the conflagration going seem to be doing all they can to slow the progress of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) as they attempt to clear out the remnants of Al Qaeda and ISIS. There is also a fear amongst many in Damascus that an American war with Iran is about to begin, which could mean the beginning of a whole new battlefront in Syria. I trust that none of that will happen though. Despite the rhetoric, I’m trusting that the Americans are not stupid enough to start another war they could not possibly win.

Back to our trip. It was intense and stressful for me in many ways, but wonderful too, and I believe all our team – Dr Lou Lewis, Mike Lekkas, Henri King, my daughter, Imogen, and me – all gained a lot from the experience.

Happily, we were able to achieve my two primary objectives:

  1. To establish a sister-church relationship with St George’s church in Maaloula.
  2. To meet with the Mufti and ask him if he would write a forward for my about-to-be-published book, “Christians and Muslims can be friends”.

We had a wonderful time in the ancient Christian village of Maaloula, which is one of only two places in the world where Aramaic (the language of Jesus) is still spoken. We were able to give Father Toufic some money that we had raised and commit to praying for one another as churches. I’m trusting that this will be a long and mutually enriching relationship. If you’d like to see the video of my interview with Father Toufic, it’s part of the video archive of the trip that I’ve posted on www.prayersforsyria.com.

As to our meeting with the Mufti, it was wonderful to see that he is still in robust health, and I hope to have that forward from him within the next couple of weeks.

Let me share with you just one other story from our visit. It happened when we visited the village of Jodidi, which is on the road to Damascus, and is supposed to be the place where Saint Paul fell of his horse and met Jesus.

I’d been told that we had been invited there to be a part of some special Christian festival and service, but when we arrived the service was well underway, taking place on the outskirts of the village, whereas, waiting for us in the centre of the village, was a troop of young boys wearing boxing gloves!

I held the pads for a stream of enthusiastic young lads, after which parents brought out their children and asked me to pray for them. I was deeply touched by this but became concerned when people started murmuring “bring out the blind girl so that he can pray for her”. I started to wonder whether I was getting in over my head!

A young girl, about ten years old, was led out to me. She had apparently been blind since birth. She seemed a lovely young girl and I prayed for her. The parents then asked me whether she could be healed!

I wasn’t sure what to say at first but then remembered that I had Dr Lou Lewis in my group. I called him over. Lou gave her a quick examination and took a picture of the girl’s eyes with his phone camera. He then told the parents, “She has cataracts. These can be healed with a simple operation.” The parents were flabbergasted! After this people started lining up to see Dr Lou. I could hear one man asking Lou about his skin condition and Lou saying, “that’s called ‘eczema’ and can be cured with a cortisol cream”.

The whole scene was starting to look like something out the Gospels, where Jesus would go into a village, praying for people and healing them. I was doing the praying and Dr Lou was doing the healing! And then the scene was made complete by the appearance of a Pharisee!

Another group of boys had come and asked me if I would referee their boxing match. I said, “of course”, but then I felt someone tapping me on the shoulder. I looked around and saw a young priest, fully dressed in liturgical garb. He asked me what I was doing. I told him. He said, “you can’t do that!” I said, “why not?” He said, “because you are a priest, and because the service is still going”. He then moved on.

Indeed, the service was still going on about 200 meters away from where we were but we were not interfering. I thought “what would Jesus do?” and I went ahead and refereed a few boxing matches. 🙂

I’ll resist telling any more stories about the wonderful places we visited and the wonderful people we met. Syria is a beautiful place with so many wonderful people. Hopefully the pictures above and the videos I’ve posted on prayersforsyria.com will give you a glimpse of that beauty.

Keep praying for the people of Syria. Pray especially that the sanctions imposed by the US and supported by Europe and Australia will be lifted. Sanctions are designed to weaken the government by making life impossible for ordinary Syrians. In other words, they are a form of warfare against the civilian population. They need to end.

Pray for Syria, thank you for your support in helping us get there again, and try to come with us next time – probably around the same time next year.

Sermon Time

I’m adding my sermon on the Parable of the Good Samaritan below (Luke 10:25-37). You may have heard me speak on this before. Even so, it’s so relevant to the issue of prejudice against other races and religions. I had to include it here today.

In closing, I must report the sad news too that my darling daughter, Imogen, didn’t make it through to the final selection for Miss World, Australia. I was personally flabbergasted that the judges could overlook her. She took it in her stride, saying “I’m not a pageant girl.” The shame of all this is that this pageant might have given Imogen a platform to raise funds for Syria.

Our friends in Gopa Derd (the Greek Orthodox aid agency in Syria) have started a fantastic program supporting women who have been victims of violence. This includes not only cases of domestic violence, but victims of sex-slavery and similar atrocities committed by terrorist groups. Tragically, this has been very widespread.

Expect to see us come up with some alternative strategies to raise money for this worthy cause over the coming months. Stay tuned!

Yours in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.holytrinity.org.au
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.boxersforpeace.com
www.warriorweekends.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Needing Prayer

my darling Veronica graduates with first class honours 🙂
my darling Veronica graduates with first class honours 🙂
Iftar dinner with the Mufti
Iftar dinner with the Mufti
Al Quds Day Iftar
Al Quds Day Iftar
Christians and Muslims supporting Julian Assange
Christians and Muslims supporting Julian Assange
night with dad (and Honey the bunny)
night with dad (and Honey the bunny)


Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave, and I’d appreciate your prayers.

For any who don’t know, my family is having a rough time at the moment. Ange and I are not currently living together. Two weeks ago, Ange and my son, Soren, moved to an adjoining suburb. My youngest daughter, Fran, stayed with me. It’s been a tough time for all of us.

Situations like this are always difficult, and there are special difficulties involved when you’re pastoring a church. Suffice it to say that the future for me is uncertain. Even so, I am currently getting some wonderful support from the church, from my boxing club, our Binacrombi team, and especially from my children. Indeed, last week Imogen decided to move back in with me and Fran, and last night Veronica organised for all of the kids to join me for dinner. It was lovely.

I won’t say any more on this subject for now, and we’d appreciate not being bombarded with questions. Your prayers are what we need, and plenty of divine grace.

I know that people in these situations are often counselled to take immediate leave, rather than deal with the stress of work on top of personal struggles. My advice to others in these situations has generally been the opposite – to maintain your routine as far as possible.

I think of how the captains of the old sailing ships would respond when they were hit by a devastating storm. They would lash their arms to the wheel so that they could maintain a straight course through the storm. That’s the approach I’m trying to take myself at the moment. Accordingly, I’ve been continuing to plan ministry and mission activities a plenty.

Christians and Muslims supporting Julian Assange

We had our first meeting of “Christians and Muslims supporting Julian Assange” on Saturday. It was an Iftar dinner held in our church hall with about 35 people in attendance. I am hoping that it will prove to be the start of something big.

I believe that all attempts at social activism face an almost insurmountable problem. It’s basically impossible to achieve anything on your own, but once you form a coalition of people, powerful enough to make a difference, that group becomes subject to the same forces of corruption that affect all large groups.

The only solution, I believe, is to have our activism rooted in faith communities such as churches and mosques. These groups are not necessarily immune from corruption (particularly at the higher levels) but faith communities by definition maintain a doctrine and an idealism that binds people together and empowers their activism – especially at the grass-roots level. This is what gave birth to my vision for a Christian and Muslim coalition for justice and peace.

The imprisonment and torture of Julian Assange is an obvious point of common concern for both Christians and Muslims. The rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press are important to all of us, and the revelations that the US wants to indict Julian on are specifically related to the war on Iraq – a particularly sensitive issue in the Muslim community. I believe this is an area where we may be able to achieve something significant if we can pool our energies and work together.

If you’d like to join “Christians and Muslims supporting Julian Assange” let me know. Once we’ve helped to bring Julian back home to Oz we will redeploy as “Christians and Muslims supporting Gaza” or “Christians and Muslims against domestic violence”. Maybe we’ll even expand to become “Christians, Muslims and Jews for peace”. We are a work in progress. Let me know if you’d like to be a part of it and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

Manus – the movie

Julian was the focus of last Saturday’s meeting. This Saturday we’ll be focusing on Manus Island again with a screening of Angus McDonald’s 15-minute documentary, ‘Manus’.

Manus is made up almost entirely of footage from our trip to Manus Island in November, 2017 – the final days before the detainees were forcibly removed from their decommissioned detention centre. There were three of us on that trip – Jarrod McKenna (of “Love Makes a Way”), Olivia Rousset (our videographer) and me. Livy and I, along with Angus, the director, will be present for Saturday nights’ screening and will field questions afterwards.

Saturday, June 8th, from 7.30 pm
Trinity’s Community Centre
(2 Herbert Street, Dulwich Hill)

And if you’d like to join Angus and Livy and me (and Fran) for dinner beforehand, just let me know.

Father Dave’s Last Stand

Having still received no response from the Combat Sports Authority after having my March 23rd fight cancelled at the last minute, I’m taking matters into my own hands and having a stoush with the same opponent in my own boxing ring.

This will not be an official boxing match. It’s unofficial and unregistered. It won’t even technically be boxing. It will just be two blokes jumping into the ring and doing what they do best. I’m told that under these circumstances the Combat Sports Authority (CSA) don’t have any jurisdiction over us.

There will be ZERO cover charge – that’s requisite to not having the CSA involved. We won’t even take up a collection. However, following the event in the ring there will be a sausage-sizzle fundraiser for Boxers for Peace in the adjacent church hall. Everyone is welcome to join us for that too, but there is no obligation or expectation.

The ring-events will simply showcase the talents of the ‘Boxers for Peace’ team. We leave for Syria the following day. Meet the team and hear about our work.

Saturday, June 22nd.
Doors open at 6 pm with main event on at 7 pm.
Trinity’s Community Centre
(2 Herbert Street, Dulwich Hill)

Sermon Time

I don’t think this was the best sermon I’ve ever given but it was one of the toughest. It was delivered on the same morning Ange and I announced our new living situation.

The Gospel text for that week was John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Preaching the Gospel is always a challenge, but sometimes especially so.

A final favour

Before letting you go today, I have one final request. I need help with web design.

I need to upgrade two of my sites – www.binacrombi.com.au (our bush retreat site) and www.christiansandmuslims.com, which will soon become the launch site for my new book, “Christians and Muslims can be friends”.

I’m quite happy to pay someone to help me upgrade these sites but I can’t afford the prices I see some people charging. If you think you can help me yourself, or if you know someone who you think is capable and decently priced, please let me know.

That’s all for now. Keep us in your prayers, please, as I do you.

Yours in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.holytrinity.org.au
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.boxersforpeace.com
www.warriorweekends.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Peace in Palmyra


Hi Fighter,

We are back from Syria.

We’ve been back for a a couple of weeks now, in fact, and I apologise for not publishing much about our journey until now. In truth, I’m still trying to process it all.

It was a magnificent trip. We saw some amazing things and met many amazing people. As has always been my experience in Syria, we were greatly blessed by the generosity and grace of the Syrian people. They took us into their hearts and homes, showing us great love and hospitality.

  • We trained with the Syrian Olympic boxing team in Damascus
  • We celebrated the liberation of Palmyra by boxing in its ancient amphitheatre
  • We taught our sport to hundreds of young orphans in Homs
  • We travelled into remote villages in Latakia to touch gloves with the locals.

That is a very superficial summary, of course, but I’m going to resist the temptation to say too much more about our experiences here as I want to focus on inviting you to the exhibition that we have organised.

The Peace in Palmyra exhibition

The Peace in Palmyra exhibition opens this coming Sunday – June 19th – at 3pm, and will run for the entirety of Refugee Week (June 19 to 25). It will be held in our church’s new Community Centre in Dulwich Hill (2 Herbert Street, Dulwich Hill).

The exhibition will include photographs, video and live art (ie. boxing) that chronicle our 2016 Boxers for Peace mission to Syria, with a special focus on our time in Palmyra – the site of so many famous ancient ruins – overtaken by DAESH (ISIS) in 2015 but retaken by the Syrian Arab Army on Easter Sunday (March 27) 2016.

PALMYRA AS A SIGN OF HOPE IN REFUGEE WEEK

If we really want to solve the global refugee crisis, we have to tackle the problem at its source. We need to create conditions on the ground where people no longer have to flee from war and famine but can live in safety, and those who had been forced to leave can return to their homes.

In Syria, more than half of the country’s population has been displaced since the outbreak of violence five years ago. Millions have fled overseas, but millions more have fled into other parts of Syria. This exodus of Syrians from their homes had seemed irreversible, and yet in recent months, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been able to return home as their cities have been liberated!

The retaking of Palmyra was especially significant in this regard, not because of the magnitude of the refugee exodus from the city but on account of the place Palmyra holds in the hearts of all Syrians. As one Syrian army officer said “when my son died defending Homs, I didn’t cry. When my men were beheaded by DAESH, I didn’t cry, but when they took Palmyra, I cried.”

Palmyra, with its rich history and spiritual beauty, is the beating heart of Syria. The liberation of Palmyra was not only a major defeat for DAESH (their first major defeat since their inception) but a victory for all Syrian people, and for all of humanity! Homelessness and destitution do not have to be the final word! Liberation happens! Refugees can return home!

  • You can download a poster with the details of the exhibition here.
  • If you’re coming, please register on the exhibition’s Facebook event page.

Video time

We took a lot of video footage during this last trip to Syria and you can see all the stuff we’ve published so far on www.father-dave.org/syria

What I’ve published below is a wonderful short compilation put together by boxer, artist, and much-loved team-member, Luke Cornish (ELK). It speaks for itself.

Let me close by thanking once again everybody who supported us on this mission trip. Quite literally, we could not have done it without you. It is only  because of your generosity and support that we are able to make any of these initiatives work.

Mind you, I know that a number of you guys tried to send us a donation through Paypal and most of those contributions were rejected! Unfortunately, Paypal has automatic filters that are tripped when anyone mentions the word Syria.

This is understandable. What is less understandable is why it took them more than a month to work out that we are not supporting terrorism but are Boxers for Peace (and this despite my repeated calls and emails), and why they cancelled donations rather than put them on hold until they worked us out!

If you did get your donation rejected or if you’d still like to support the work, let me encourage you either to:

  1. Take out a $10/month subscription to Fighting Fathers Ministries through our member site (fighting-fathers.com)
  2. Buy an item from the Fighting Fathers’ online shop (fightshop.biz).

With regards to the shop, I’m pleased to announce that there is a whole new batch of Fighting Fathers monastic smocks have recently been delivered. They are a unique style – modelled on traditional Benedictine design but short enough to allow full leg movement, allowing the wearer to both run and train as well as pray!

The Fighting Fathers' Monastic Smock on display in Palmyra

The Fighting Fathers’ Monastic Smock on display in Palmyra

I hope you can make it to the exhibition, fighter, where I’ll be very happy to talk your ear off about the Syria trip. For those who can’t make it, I’ll be publishing more photos and videos and stories to www.prayersforsyria.com.

That’s enough for today. Keep me in your prayers as I do you.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.holytrinity.org.au
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.zerocostwebsite.net
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.warriorweekends.com
www.how2changetheworld.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Getting ready for Syria

about 80 people joined us for our Syria fundraiser
the food was fantastic
Bianca and Jemma put on a great display
Danny refereed a few friendly rounds between me and Nader
Some of Australia's greatest boxing personalities were with us
keeping them under control was a problem 😉
Fran loses a baby tooth! 🙂
we shared our training weekend at Binacrombi with a band of hardened bikies (all under 10 years old)
I pushed the limits of my fitness
Mungo managed it all far more easily
I did some great rounds with Kaveh
Mungo put in some tough rounds with Mahmoud
I had a great team to work my corner on Saturday night
A TKO in the 1st minute of the 1st round
a big thanks to the team

Hi Fighter,

This is Father Dave with another far-too-infrequent update for you.

I’m afraid the last three weekends have been a roller-coaster ride for me and I am somewhat exhausted:

  • Week 1: we had our fundraiser dinner – raising more than $6,000 towards sending our boxing team to Syria.
  • Week 2: we took another dozen kids on a Warriors’ Weekend at Binacrombi Bush Camp, in the heart of the Australian bush
  • Week 3: I fought for the NSW super-middleweight title (old bastard’s division), winning by TKO in the first minute of the first round.

With regards to the fundraiser dinner, there are so many people I need to thank:

And thank you to all 80 people who showed up on the night – members of Holy Trinity Church, the Salvation Army Dulwich Hill corps, our Fight Club, and all you subscribers who made the effort to join us. It was a wonderful night, and thanks to you we almost have the funds we need to make the Boxers for Peace 2015 Mission to Syria a reality!

Sermon Time!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

If you had a solid Christian upbringing like I did, this verse is very familiar to you. I don’t think modern translations still use the word ‘whosoever’ but what I typed above is the translation that has been in my head since I was a child. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know these words. They were taught to me at an early age as a one-verse distillation of the Gospel message!

What has really struck me more recently is that this familiar verse is not at all familiar to many people I live and work with. Moreover, I’ve found that the concepts contained in this verse are rather difficult to explain to those who haven’t had a Christian upbringing. Indeed, I’ve realised on further reflection that the concepts contained in John 3:16 are not self-explanatory by any means but rather mysterious!

So I’m not sure if my goal in this sermon is to explain John 3:16 to the uninitiated or to confuse those who feel comfortably familiar with it. Hopefully there’s something in it for both groups.

As I said above, I’m a little exhausted by the antics of the last three weeks, and now we’re in the middle of Holy Week, shortly after which we are taking off for Syria, so there’s no time to rest, especially as we still need a bit more help before we can go.

We almost have all the funds we need for the Boxers for Peace mission. We need roughly another thousand to cover everything. It would be great if you could help me reach the goal and I’d like to offer you something of value in exchange for your support.

Tom Toby - auctioneer extraordinaire!

Tom Toby – auctioneer extraordinaire!

The picture above is of our good friend Tom Toby auctioning off a signed poster of the Boxers for Peace Syria 2015 team. It’s in A3 size and is signed by each of the team members. I have two more of these signed posters and am ready to pass them on in exchange for a decent contribution towards our peace mission.

If you haven’t seen the actual image, which was the work of master-photographer John Clutterbuck, you can see it here.

My thought is to simply ask for contributions via my buy me a drink page (click here). You’ll find that you can make donations of any amount there, with a suggested starting point of $5. Whoever makes the two largest contributions will get the posters.

So make sure you include your address with your donation. I’ll post to anywhere in the world. If you live locally and can pick your poster up I’ll frame it for you. Otherwise it will come rolled up in a water-resistant tube from the post office.

Join us this Easter!

And if you’re free to join us for worship this Easter, Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill would love to have you. Services on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday are at our usual time of 9.15am. If you don’t know how to find us, there’s a map on the Holy Trinity website.

And if I don’t see you this weekend, do have a happy and holy Easter. 🙂

I’ll do my best to be in contact again before we depart on the big trip.

Until then I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.holytrinity.org.au
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.zerocostwebsite.net
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.warriorweekends.com
www.boxersforpeace.com
www.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. Support the work of the Fighting Fathers by joining our online community at  www.fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month and the first month is free.

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four