Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Not here...but I'm actually here...

A very good friend of mine might get that title. Every time I get a call from him, he says..."Me here." and then there's a whole dialogue we go through after that.

For now, I'm at the beach. Well, near enough to it. It's very good to not be behind the coffee machine for a while. Four weeks actually. And boy, do I have an absolute pile of reading to do!

Meanwhile...enjoy some scenery!

Beach Detail


Sand Crab Standoff

Sunday, December 7, 2008

St Lukes...They Came...They Saw...They Ministered...They Went...

It's been a week of highs and lows...

High water but not as high as it could have been and certainly lower than expected!

Ok...I'll stop trying to be funny now.

There were floods about but nothing that stopped us from doing anything we wanted to do. It has held up some of the harvest still. I know that there are a lot of farmers who will just be glad to see the end of this harvest. The rest of us had to deal with some inconveniences but generally speaking, it has been GREAT answer to prayer that the rain and water has finally come. I know many farmers were pumping as much water as they possibly could. The first decent water in what seems like many years! And I don't think that the rain has finished with us yet.

So, it was a rather bemused local who sat in a 4wd during the week, surrounded by excited citysiders who were acting like true tourists and taking photos and video like mad of the minor flood that had crept up behind one part of the levy bank. Then as we cautiously and slowly drove through the .4 of a metre water, my mind was cast back to an earlier flood, in an older 4wd and going through a much deeper causeway.

It was back in the floods of 1998 when Crop-Jet was still operating on the cotton farm to the west of town. The floods had prevented us from using the normal way to get to work as the road was near the river. So, we had to take a big drive around the farm to get out and back home. And that drive was not all dry either as one of the farm levy banks had failed and part of the road was cut, meaning we'd have to tackle the water in the Landcruiser.

My experience of driving through water up to this point was not all good!

When Mark and I had been courting, we had gone down to Boat Harbour near Cronulla in Sydney. It was a known four wheel drive park and we went in there late one night after a date. Actually, I think it was part of the date...well, I know still a strange place for a date. Mark was determined that it was going to be my four wheel driving lesson. And it involved water.

So, my first experience was not good. It ended up badly with me getting cranky that we seemed to be getting deeper and deeper into the water, as it was coming freely over the bonnet of the old 40 series Landcruiser and it was seeping in through the foot vents and door sills. Not good. With Mark beside me, er...encouraging me to "keep it going", I think I finally managed to stall it trying to climb out of the deep ruts and up onto what I could see as dry land. Remember, all of this happened in the dark!

After that, I flatly refused to drive through any more water and actually handed over the driving to Mark. Yes, willingly, I relinquished control of the vehicle to Mark. Amazing but true. But let me reassure you...only for a short time and only to get him to get us out of the mess he'd let me drive into!

Well, here we were, leaving work this day together. As Mark is telling me which way to go to get out of the farm, that in itself an interesting experience given his ability to navigate from the air was far superior to his ability to navigate on the ground, we finally come across the flooded road. The road at this point, is not actually a road in all reality. It is just a tractor graded track into the black soil, which is notorious for turning into the worst kind of mud ever on the entire planet!

We come to the flooded road and immediately, I want to bail. I'd rather walk across than drive the car. Even with its four wheel drive capabilities. Mark is beside me, telling me its easy and that I can do it. The man has complete and utter faith in me and reckons that I can do it. I don't even want to think about doing it, let alone do it! He reassures me that everyone has been driving through this floodway for the past few days and that there won't be any problem. It has a gravel bottom, not a black dirt surface like every other road. I'm still not convinced and insist that he takes the wheel and drives us across. Mark insists that I need to learn how to drive through flood water and that nothing will go wrong. At this point, we could have been arguing this for about ten minutes or ten hours...the truck wasn't getting anywhere!

The trick with floodways and flooded roads, is that the water is not still and is actually travelling somewhere itself. Usually, gravity is pulling it fairly quickly down stream. This is the thing that most people forget when traversing this sort of water. Still water is simple because it is still and not going anywhere. All you're having to do in your vehicle is push it out of your way. With water that is moving, it is wanting to push you out of its way.

This is the scary part of floods. Many people have been pushed out of the way by flood water and they've not always been rescued or returned. Of course, they've also forgotten that cars can become boats before becoming lead weights and sinking to the bottom like a stone.

Finally, I think we got across the floodway. Otherwise, I wouldn't be telling you this story I'm sure! I think as we drove across, yes, Mark at the wheel, I felt the car get lighter and move slightly in the wrong direction. The cool headed pilot kept his head and kept the car on the go, never slowing or going too fast, the nervous passenger gripping the grab bar in front of her and watching in horrified fascination as the muddy brown water swirled all around us. It was deep water, I can't remember the exact depth but certainly deeper than .4 of a metre.

From that time on, I swore I was going to be going to work in far better style than driving through flood waters. And yes, the next time it flooded, we got airlifted to work in a helicopter.

So, back to the present with the happy tourists and myself sitting in the rear seat of a car, driving once more through flood water. We were heading on out to Cuttabri, a place known as the oldest licenced wine shanty in Australia, for dinner. The signs on the road warned of the water and I was a bit surprised myself to see so much there but the river was after all in minor flood! We made it through no problems, not even with a bow wave, like Mark and I had done in the Landcruiser all those years ago. But still a fun experience and rather exciting for those who'd never done what we in the country do get to experience every so often.

So, St Luke's visit has come and gone again for another year. This year, the team got to see the country at some of its best. Lush and green with plenty of things to bite you! And that's not just the mozzies I'm talking about!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's Official...

Today marks another milestone in the saga that is my life and was Mark's.

It is today, that I am officially allowed to talk about what was in the final report from the ATSB on the safety issues that may have been brought up by the accident that Mark had.

One thing to keep at the forefront of your mind when reading anything from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau is that their brief is to find a safety issue. If you find yourself trying to make sense of this report for any other reason, well...I'm afraid you probably won't make it. These guys are trying to find if there was a safety issue that needs to be addressed so that this type of accident does not occur again.

Sadly, there was no safety issue found that they could address so as it won't occur again.

If you would like to read the report in its entirety please head over to...


Remember, that this is a report that has been written with safety issues in mind. It is not a report that has been written to give conclusive answers. Those may never be found or given. The hard reality is, we will most likely never know the full picture of what Mark experienced in those last minutes of his final flight.

What I can say with absolute certainty, is that Mark is where we can only dream of being at this time, and that is with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.