Father Dave’s Missive – January 6th, 2014

Hi Fighter,

It’s New Year’s Day as I start this missive and, as is inevitably the case this time of year, I’m reflecting on both the year that’s past and the year ahead.

2013 was a big year for me personally, for my family, for our church and for the Order of the Fighting Fathers.

Personally, I was able to travel to Bali, Malaysia, Lebanon, Iran and Syria, and I had the privilege of meeting two heroes of mine for the first time – Mairead Maguire and George Galloway. I also caught up with some wonderful old friends such as Mother Agnes Mariam and Dr Chandra Muzaffar, and was able to share in their creative work!

On the church front the year was somewhat dominated by the fire that burnt down our hall complex. We lost our Youth Centre and boxing gym and a whole lot of history that night, and the boy responsible still hasn’t been arrested! Even so, it was wonderful to see the whole community come together to support us, and both the Youth Centre and the gym are now up and running again on premises owned by our dear sisters and brothers of the local Salvation Army Corps.

On the family front, each of the children had their own particular struggles but each ended the year in good health and spirits (thanks be to God) and Ange started teaching full-time for the first time.

We shared a wonderful Christmas together. I know that Christmas is such a difficult time for so many people and I do not take for granted the privilege of being in a stable domestic and financial situation. I share with you the following Christmas pics in the hope that your Christmas was also an enjoyable (or at least a bearable) one.


Christmas Angels!
Our Christmas Concert
Our Christmas Angels steal the show 🙂
Our Christmas Pageant
Even the most professional performers need a support team
Carols on the Rectory Lawn is a great success!
Imogen and I lead the Christmas Day service


(note that you can hover your cursor to pause a slide and click to move to the next one)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the year ahead and I’ve set myself five goals for 2014.

I am a great believer in settings goals and sharing them with friends. I find that people achieve their goals a lot more often when they are shared. Perhaps it’s because the embarrassment factor kicks in? We hate the idea of failing to achieve a target that’s been made public? Even so, I’m told that more people achieve their goals even when they write them on a piece of paper and put the paper in a drawer – telling no one!

I’m making my goals public and am going to do my best to achieve each of them. This list is not exhaustive and contains nothing about rebuilding the Youth Center (which may not be completed until 2015). The list is nonetheless ambitious:

  1. Found a monastic Order
  2. Win a world boxing title
  3. Help end the war in Syria
  4. Help establish a state of Palestine
  5. Help each of my kids get through their years at school.

The last goal may well prove the hardest. At least it doesn’t require much explanation. I’ll give you a bit more detail on the other goals.

The Monastic Order

I have a real vision for developing Binacrombi as a place of prayer and reflection.

As you probably realise, Binacrombi is set up as a remote centre for extreme sports – primarily trail-bike riding and fight training – both of which may seem completely incompatible with a contemplative lifestyle. In my view though extreme action and focused contemplation are two sides of the same coin! We already have the boxing ring, wrestling cage, 530 acres of untamed bush, and a whole lot more there to cover the sporting side. What we need now is a chapel!

To cut a long story short, I’ve been talking to a certain Bishop over the last couple of months and it seems that he may have an old chapel that can be lifted from its current location and replanted at Binacrombi.

Of course there’s much to be done between now and our first monastic chant, and I’ll probably need to raise some cash in order to fund the replanting. Even so, I’m hopeful that we’ll have pews on the ground before the year is out and I’ve already got someone designing special monastic habits for me (habits that are light enough to train in).

What I’m looking for from you right now is a commitment to pray with me – not just in your bedroom but on location at Binacrombi. Would you be interested in taking off a few days or a week or even a month to come and pray with us in the bush? If enough of us start spending extended time in prayer out there the rest will follow naturally.

Boxing

Like most old pugs I’m feeling I’ve got one more good fight left in me. I’m sure there must be some obscure world title for 50-something year-olds that I can compete for! If not in this country then surely in the USA?

My first step will be to trim down about 10kgs and get back into fighting shape. I’ve given myself to the end of February to achieve this.

Syria

There’s talk of a major peace mission to Syria happening over the Easter period this year involving church leaders from around the world. I’m hoping to be a part of it.

Moreover, I have a more specific project in mind that I’ve shared with you before – teaching boxing to kids in refugee camps in Syria and along the Syrian border. This might seem far-fetched but I have a feeling that a number of high-profile boxers would jump at the chance to get involved if I can set something in motion. I’ve put it to prayer.

Palestine

As you may know, this year has been declared “Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” by the General Assembly of the United Nations. I am hoping and praying that this will be a decisive year for all Palestinians.

My hope is that we can again make a small contribution through our boxing. You will remember that we had members of the Palestinian Olympic team visit our Fight Club last November and we started planning then to sponsor a Palestinian team to tour Australia and possibly the UK as well. Who knows where this might take us? I am trusting that it will all contribute to the greater quest for justice and peace.

Those are my public goals for 2014. What are yours? I’d encourage you to make yours public too, even if only be sharing them in the comment section below.

Sermon Time

I’ve been preaching rather incessantly over this Christmas period so I’ve got no shortage of sermon material to share. I’m offering you today the one I did on the Sunday before Christmas where the Gospel text focused on the person of Joseph, Mary’s husband, who is without doubt the least dynamic person in the entire Christmas narrative.

We know very little about Joseph and he seems to contribute very little to the Gospel story. He is a minor character in a great drama, which makes him a lot like us.

[imaioVideo v=1]

(If you can’t view this video, click here)

Before I let you go today, fighter, I’d ask you to share a prayer with me for our dear brother Mordechai Vanunu – Israel’s nuclear whistle-blower.

If you don’t know the story you can Google him. If you don’t know my connection to Morde, it’s simple. He stumbled into our church one Friday night back in 1986. We became good friends. Then he was kidnapped by the Mossad!

This year marks 27 years since Morde’s abduction. 27 years was notably the same length of time Nelson Mandela spent in custody.

  • The first 11 of those years Morde spent in solitary confinement!
  • The next 6 years were spent in a regular prison
  • Over the remaining 10 years Morde has been constantly harassed by Israeli authorities, has been refused the right to leave the country, and was re-imprisoned for a month for the crime of speaking to foreigners!

On Christmas Day just past Morde once again appeared in court, pleading for the right to leave Israel and live a free life. As usual his appeal was refused.

My friend Eileen Flemming has put together a petition to put an end to Morde’s endless punishment. Will you sign it please?  It’s a small gesture, I know, but apart from prayer and petitions I’m not sure what else we can do for this dear brother at the moment.

Morde Vaunu and me in 2004

With Morde after his release in April 2004

One last thing please …

By way of an annual appeal can I encourage any of you who want to support the work of the Fighting Fathers to do so by taking out a membership at www.fighting-fathers.com?

It will only cost you $10/month and you get plenty for your money. As well as a great library of eBooks and software in the members’ area you get the privilege of being part of the greatest online community on the planet! You’ll also get to help me cover the monthly cost of maintaining our online infrastructure (which seems to get heavier by the year).

Please do consider joining the team but be assured that, either way, I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight.

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.zerocostwebsite.net
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. Forgive this act of pure self-indulgence below but I added a slideshow retrospective of personal highlights of 2013. It was an amazing year!

I turn 51
February 17 - Imogen is confirmed
Meeting John Shipton (Julian Assange's dad) and joining the Wikileaks Party
March - We hold our first Binacrombi Boot Camp!
April - Francesca turns 4
Soren Lee turns 11
April 21 - the Youth Centre is on fire!
May - Welcome to Damascus!
Meeting Mairead Maguire!
Overwhelmed by the Grand Mufti of Syria, Dr Hassoun
Meeting up with dear Mansour again in Tehran
June - Guest speaker at the Muslim Youth Conference!
July - Mother Agnes at Holy Trinity!
Meeting up with Kevin 07 in Canberra!
Meeting up again with Dr Chandra Muzaffar in Kuala Lumper
George Galloway comes over for coffee!
September - Imogen turns 16
August - we reopen the Gym and Youth Centre in the Salvation Army hall!
October - Imogen and I go to 'Fight Night' at Movie World
Francesca makes her own scary Halloween mask
November - the Palestinian Olympic team joins us at Fight Club
December - the great Youth Centre bush camp!
The great Bali wedding!
Christmas Angels

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About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – May 13th, 2013

Hi Fighter,

I left Syria yesterday and, quite frankly, the days spent there were amongst the most intense and meaningful of my life! I sensed as I crossed the border into Lebanon that I had left some of my heart behind in Damascus!

I’m afraid I was a right pain to those I sat next to on the flight to Abu Dhabi, and to staff and companions in subsequent airport lounges, as I can’t stop talking about what I saw and what I learned. I’m conscious that I could prattle on endlessly in this missive too if I’m not careful, so I thought that today I would share with you only four encounters with Syrians that I met – two men and two women – and leave the rest for another time.

Our team visits Baalbek refugee camp in Lebanon before crossing the border into Syria

At Baalbek refugee camp in Lebanon, before crossing into Syria

The woman in black

Our hosts – the Mussalaha organising committee – encountered a fair degree of difficulty in obtaining the 16 visas needed for our team. When we finally crossed the border into Syria there was a great degree of jubilation, and this only increased when we arrived at the Dama Rose hotel to be greeted by a team of well-dressed delegates.

The Dama Rose is a five-star hotel, and even though we were in the middle of a war-zone, it was hard to escape feeling like members of some royal family – we were treated with such warmth and appreciation! The reality started to sink in though when I was grabbed by a middle-aged woman in the foyer, dressed in black, who started to tell me about her 12-year-old son, Mohamed, who had recently been killed. 

She was speaking in Arabic but had an interpreter in her other hand who was trying to keep up with the woman’s pain and passion. She said that the rebel soldiers had put a bomb in his pocket and that he was blown apart (she gestured grotesquely). “And why did they kill him?” she cried. “Because we are Shi’ite”.

She pulled out a crumbled photo of the boy from her pocket and kissed it repeatedly. I borrowed the photo briefly and kissed Mohamed too.

He was walking to work when a mortar shell blew off his leg

He was walking to work when a mortar shell blew off his leg

The Woman from Mount Qasioun

I shared dinner with a very articulate woman who lived on the slopes of Mount Qasioun, which is within jogging distance of the centre of town.

Mount Qasioun is the mountain that was bombed last week by Israeli jets. This woman told me that she had been thrown out of her bed by the force of the explosions!

The Israelis claimed they were targetting a convoy of weapons bound for Hezbollah, and the US President excused the attack accordingly. This woman though told me that three very precise targets had been hit:

  1. The barracks of ‘Brigade 14’ – Bashar Al-Assad’s elite ‘royal guard
  2. The ammunition dump
  3. The military research centre

This would suggest that the attack had nothing to do with Hezbollah, though sources in Lebanon have said that seven Hezbollah personnel had been killed in the attack. Either way though, this was a direct attack by Israel on Syria and not on Hezbollah, and it has the potential to lead to World War III.

This is the third Israeli assault on Syrian soil. The plan seems to be to continue to provoke Syria with small murderous acts until Israel gets a response. That response is not likely to come from Syria (whose resources are completely tied up with its internal struggle) but from Iran (whom many believe are really in control of Syria now). Once this happens, the Israelis will have the excuse they need to launch an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

It seems that the US has not given Israel permission to attack Iran. If Iran attacks Israel though Netanyahu won’t need permission. He’ll then be able to drag the US into the conflict as it escalates into a regional war. One can only imagine the consequences!

We present the Minister for Justice with a petition for the release of 72 non-violent activists

We present the Minister for Justice with a petition for the release of 72 non-violent activists

The Sheikh with one ear

We met a Sheikh with only one ear in our visit to the hospital in Damascus.

This man had been abducted by rebel troops, tortured, beaten with rods, had his ear cut off, and was eventually shot in the throat and left for dead. Somehow he survived, but now he is unable to leave the grounds of the hospital as he knows that there are people on the outside waiting to kill him.

How did this man become so hated? He said that the rebel fighters had asked him to bless their troops. He refused.

We meet up with a local Mussalaha peace team

We meet up with a local Mussalaha peace team

The Mufti

I had the enormous privilege of meeting, on our last day in Syria, the Grand Mufti.

I don’t normally get excited about meeting big-name people, and indeed we met many during our stay, including the Prime Minister of Syria, but no one made an impression on me like the Mufti! Indeed, I don’t think anyone has ever made such a strong first impression on me!

I’m still not sure how to articulate the experience, but the man simply exuded gentleness! Both his words, his manner and his touch embodied the sort of love that, as a Christian, I aspire to.

He spoke about how his son had been killed. His son, he said, was not remotely political. He was a university student, absorbed in his studies. Even so, he was targeted and shot. He then shared how he and his wife had determined not to hold the ‘blood-guilt’ of their son against his killer. Instead they had committed themselves to forgiveness and reconciliation!

I can’t tell you how shocked I was when, after hearing this, I was singled out (along with only two others from our group) to receive a special gift from the Mufti! When he reached out for me I instinctively took his hand and kissed it. This is not proper protocol, of course, as it is a sign of submission – inappropriate for a cleric from another religion. I felt him begin to pull his hand away, but then he relaxed, and then he embraced me and kissed me on both cheeks and held me close for quite some time. It was an extraordinary moment.

I know that many people will shake their head and think me an idiot for my behavior  Some will even think me a traitor to my faith! All I can say is that I was struck by the Spirit of Christ in this man, and I will treasure his gift till the day I die!

The Grand Mufti of Syria - Dr Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun

The Grand Mufti of Syria – Dr Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun

Pray for Syria

I must wind up my Syrian story for today though there is so much more I want to share with you. I haven’t even mentioned the joy of working alongside Mairead Maguire – a true woman of God – and my dear Mother, Agnes Miriam of Homs.

There are a few other snippets strewn across the web if you want to hear a bit more:

  • I’ve created a reasonably comprehensive photo album of the trip on the Fighting Fathers member site (here).
  • I did a blog post on day one of the trip on the same member site (here). I’d intended to do one per day but …
  • I uploaded pics and video of our trip to the Palestinian and Syrian refugee camp on the Lebanese/Syrian border to israelandpalestine.org (here)
  • My friend and team-mate, Paul Larudee, gave an excellent write-up of his experience   of Damascus on the Free Palestine Movement website (here).
Praying together for peace at the Umayyad mosque

Praying together for peace at the Umayyad mosque

You can expect more Syrian stories to trickle down from me over the coming weeks and months, as I have no intention of relaxing my efforts at peacemaking and, indeed, I am hoping that you will join me in this work.

The needs are so deep and the stakes are so high! If Syrian society falls apart, the overflow of refugees will almost certainly take Lebanon down too, and if World War III starts as a result of the collapse, nobody on this planet will be safe.

Moreover, the people of Syria deserve better than what they are receiving from the International community. They are being treated as cannon-fodder in a global battle where the ‘great‘ powers are vying for strategic control of their region. Let’s plead with our governments to get their grubby hands off Syria and let the Syrian people determine their own future, through dialogue rather than violence.

I read today that the US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, had met with rebel leaders this week, promising more weapons to fuel the conflict and saying:

“Let me be very clear. The US position has not changed. Approximately two years ago, we announced that Bashar al-Assad had lost his legitimacy, and that he had to resign. We still say that Bashar al-Assad must resign, he must resign. And the Syrians must create a new transitional government that excludes him and his inner circle.” (from Alternet.org)

Here is a man who not only tells the Syrian people what sort of government they must have, but who is also happy to help spread death and terror across the country until Syrians come into line and do what he tells them to do! God save us all from this sort of ‘humanitarian intervention‘!

I’ll climb down from my virtual pulpit now and see you next week.

Until then I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,

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

P.S. And 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!

with Mairead Maguire in Beirut - my hero!

with Mairead Maguire in Beirut – my hero!

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About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four