7:00am An urgent text message comes in from Mihail, the director of the Betel work in a closed country in Central Asia. “Please pray for Sasha, the men’s house leader in ________. Three days ago he left the house to do an errand and has disappeared. His family have not heard from him and his room is how he left it. All his clothes are in the wardrobe. He is not answering his phone. It all points to a kidnapping, which is common is this country, where people are seized off the street and forced into slavery.” Myk and I immediately stop what we are doing and pray, sending a text message of support back to them.
8:00am Today is my turn to do the devotional message for the men here, so I walk the 200 metres to the men’s residence. We are gradually going through the Gospel of Matthew. The devotional has to be pithy and relevant to men who, though currently in a drug rehab community, often come from a prison background and are hardened by the experience.
8:30am I set off with CW, who has a court appearance in Dandenong. Myk gets ready to take MG, one of the other residents, to his dental appointment. CW has been bailed to us and the Magistrate may or may not put me on the stand to testify in his favour. Normally this can take up the entire day, but today we are blessed and his case was up first. By lunch time we are back in the community and celebrating the second chance the Magistrate gave him. No prison while he remains in our community. MG is finally getting the dental care he has been putting off for years. Antonio C, the men’s program director, takes out a team of men to maintain the gardens of the clients who have booked them. Priscila goes into the office to pay bills and organise the accounts.
1:00pm CW and I feed the hay out to the cows and then together we collect and split firewood. Whilst doing this, CW all of a sudden opens up about his life. Up until now he has been a ‘closed book’, but today’s court appearance and the Magistrate’s unusual compassion left him amazed. He won’t say “God” but he is aware that Someone had to be watching over him. He then asks for a Bible.
1:30pm I get a phone call from Keith, the director of Betel India. They are planning a leadership conference in New Delhi for next year, and he asked if Myk and I can be there as speakers. We talk about dates and then Keith shares about the progress of the building program for the new headquarters in Gurgaon. The land was donated and they have received half of the funds needed in order to complete the project. Keith is amazed at the faith that the Indian leaders exhibit and the burden they have to reach out into other cities and even neighbouring countries.
1:50pm Priscila calls out because two of the cows have got out and are on the main road. JR and I eventually get the cows back into the paddock and then we seek to discover how they had got out. The electrified fence had stopped working and the cows had found a weak point in the wire fence.
2:00pm Myk and MG arrive from the dental appointment and other errands. In the car on the way home, MG shared with Myk the deep resentment he holds inside towards his father, from whom he is estranged. His mother died from cancer 12 months ago and MG breaks down in tears. They chat about all that during the 45-minute drive home. Once home, Myk, MG and another resident, NS, help to clean up the garden cuttings and rubbish from yesterday and take them down to the burn pile in the back paddock, talking together as they work.
3:30pm Myk checks the emails and is pleased to find that the Betel Mongolia team have sent the photos we requested of the new community in a border town city. This particular community is located 3 kms from a closed country whose
people the Mongolians want to reach. We need the photos to present at a missionary conference this weekend. Priscila, Myk and MG then start preparing for the evening meal. There will be 15 of us tonight as we will have three extra visitors.
3:35pm NS suddenly announces that he wants to leave and has already packed his bags. After unsuccessfully trying to convince NS to station, JR drives him, with his luggage, to the nearest railway station. NS’s abrupt exit leaves us all feeling a bit flat. Could we have done more for him?
3:45pm The landline phone rings and it is Jenny from the local garden club where Myk is a member. Can we host a Christmas in July luncheon for 20 guests? They discuss prices and a date is settled on. Back to meal prep.
4:00pm My phone rings again. This time it is Antonio M and Erika, the directors of
Betel Italy. Two of our sub-leaders were taken to prison yesterday by the Caribinieri because they had unwisely lit an outside burn-off pile on a prohibited day (it is summer in Italy). When the Carabinieri checked if they had a police record (and, of course, they did!) they were immediately arrested. Would we please pray as Antonio, as legal representative, has also been indicted and has been ordered to present himself tomorrow at the nearest police station — he also has a police record. A few of us hastily gather in the kitchen and pray.
4:15pm Antonio C phones from the garden team to say they will be late as the tree lopping job they quoted a customer on is taking much longer than planned, and so the four of them will be late for dinner.
4:30pm Myk yells out that a strange odour is coming from the direction of the public toilets… I go with JR to investigate only to find the floor drain bubbling up with excrement on to the passage way which runs downhill towards the dining room. (We discover much later that a root has grown into the drain and blocked it off.) The next hour is spent with rubber boots and gloves to clean up the mess and wipe all surfaces with disinfectant.
5:30pm Antonio C phones again. The Toyota ute has a serious mechanical fault and they can only go 30 kph, as they are towing a full garden trailer. Their arrival will be even later than anticipated. We phone a mechanic friend who is busy, but he mutters something about the exhaust gas recirculation being the problem — a fault that will require time and expertise to fix. That will put all the garden jobs for the next days on hold, so Antonio C sets about rescheduling everything.
6:00pm Dinner is served and those of us at home sit down together with our three visitors, while we put four plates into the microwave to be heated up for the garden team when they arrive. During the dinner, Myk shares with everyone at the table the prayer points regarding Sasha and the Central Asian team, as well as Antonio M and the Italian team. She also shares a further prayer point from Betel Argentina as Blas, the former house leader whom the guys had been praying for, has died overnight from an AIDS-related sickness.
6:30pm It’s Washup Team A’s turn to do the dishes which means JR, MG and me. All the others retire to their various quarters to watch the evening news.
7:00pm Mihail sends another text message. It is the next day there and Sasha has turned up on the doorstep. He hadn’t been kidnapped after all. He had got angry and had decided to go AWOL for three days and, of course, relapsed into using drugs again. He came back humbled and repentant, to ask for forgiveness and for another chance. He is no longer the house leader, of course, and has to start again from the beginning. Though cross at him, the team there are feeling relieved, thankful
that he had not fallen into the misfortune that they
7:20pm The garden team finally arrives home, cold, hungry and tired. The four plates of food are reheated and we sit with them as they recount their adventure. We discuss what to do with the garden ute and what substitute vehicle they could use for tomorrow.
7:30pm I head off to the weekly training at the CFA (Country Fire Authority) where I am a volunteer firefighter. Antonio C and JR sit down and draw up the work-list for tomorrow. Myk watches her favourite weekly TV show called ‘Grand Designs’. Antonio C and Priscila retreat to their apartment to put two-year- old Christina into a bath and then to bed. The guys watch a rented ’Hacksaw Ridge’ DVD with the three visitors.
9:30pm The three visitors leave.
10:00pm I arrive back home from CFA training. As it is 1:00pm in the UK I make a quick, prearranged Skype call to Kent, the Betel UK director, and respond to a couple of emails before going to bed.
02:00am We are suddenly awakened by my squealing CFA pager alarm. It’s a call-out to a motor vehicle accident. I quickly get dressed and turn up at the fire station, change into PPC and climb aboard Tanker 1 with four other volunteers. We arrive to find an upturned SUV and a woman trapped in the driver’s seat. Police are already on scene as is the ambulance. The woman is extracted from the upturned vehicle — shaken but not seriously injured. She is taken to hospital while we wash away the oil and fuel and remove the debris from the road surface.
03:30am I return home to a warm bed and a praying wife!
Some days are like this, others are somewhat quieter — and yet others can be even busier. Nevertheless, through the banality and the frenzy of community living there is a real sense of ‘doing life together’ with our Betel family, both locally here in Victoria’s Yarra Valley and on the other side of the world. Sometimes we get it right. Other times we wish we had done better than what we did. Through it all, however, there is that undergirding awareness that God’s people are supporting us in prayer and that somehow God is using all those untidy threads to create a tapestry that one day will make sense to us!
By Lindsay McKenzie