For World Vision Australia’s chief advocate, it seems the more he gives, the more the world gives him.
1982 | Germany
When my wife, Merridie, and I were studying theology in Zürich, Switzerland, we visited then communist East Berlin for the first time. Though we went on a tourist visa, we were permitted to say a few words at our friend’s church service. You could tell members of the Stasi [the feared State Security Service] were in the congregation because they wore dark glasses.
Our friends never believed the Berlin Wall would come down, that they’d experience freedom, so each time we left there’d be tears because they didn’t know if they’d ever see us again. The people in East Berlin had a word for the despair they felt – Mauerkrankheit – literally “wall sickness”. I was in Berlin again last year – a magnificent city with such a story to tell.
2012 | Uganda
Lira is a city in northern Uganda, an area that suffered at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army for years. Every January for the past six years, I’ve gone there with Ridley Bell, a blueberry farmer from Lismore [in north-eastern NSW], and his wife, Mieke, a nurse, who are generous donors to World Vision.
The first time we went, we met Connie, a midwife at an outlying health centre, who, given the basic conditions, had to deliver babies with a torch between her teeth. With Ridley and Mieke’s help, World Vision has now built three new health clinics. Connie is matron at one of these. Lira is one of the poorest places I’ve been to but so rich in humanity. When we open a clinic, there’s music and dancing and tears. The joy and gratitude is overwhelming.
2017 | Tasmania
My wife and I have friends at Turners Beach on the north coast of Tasmania between Ulverstone and Devonport. It’s one of the few towns in this country where you can look north and see water.
We went there on Boxing Day last year for two weeks and pretty much had this beautiful, long stretch of coast to ourselves. Every morning, we’d pick up a coffee at La Mar Cafe – it’s the only café there – and go for a swim. The local kids would jump into tyres and float down the river into Bass Strait; it was exhilarating but perfectly safe.
As a Victorian who used to holiday on the Mornington Peninsula and not be able to get a car park at Christmas, I found the absence of crowds fantastic. ￼