Gra Nomad Wanderings

Saturday, April 29, 2006


This afternoon I was escorted into the Newton Correctional Facility. The fences and walls were tall and stark. They were uninviting and unwelcoming. No one was smiling. No one was laughing. We went through one door or gate after another with countless officials watching every step and every movement. It was nearly 6 pm. The sun wasn't out. The skies were grey. There'd been some rain around nearly all day.
Bryan escorted me into a large room. It turned out to be not only an assembly hall but also a large gymnasium. There were seats for 320+ people... and there were at least 320 people in the hall. There were inmates, officials, guards, relatives on inmates, people involved in prison ministry and a few guests like Fay and I.
Bryan had said, "I've got permission to get you into the prison, but I haven't got permission to get you out yet!" (Typical Bryan comment).
Bryan and Marcia are involved as volunteers in a program called Inner Change Freedom Initiative. The program goes for 18 months. There were 29 men graduating. Others there had done the program, some were currently doing the program and still others were going to do the program. It's about how to change lives... finding an inner change to Jesus Christ. "The program doesn't change you... only Jesus can do that" Bryan reminded me.
These men were awesome! They shone with Jesus Christ! They encouraged each other! They sang with gusto!
They received their certificates with honour and pride and were greatly encouraged by everyone else present. "These guys are really hungry for the Lord," Bryan added.
So, at the end, I did get "released"!
I've made a commitment to pray for this program regularly and one fella in particular. The program is operating in the following states: Texas, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota and Arkansas.

We're enjoying Iowa. We had a beaut time with Harvey and Lynn (pictured with Fay) from Oak Park (Chicago). They're Servas friends. And the Banana Split? It did 17 miles chasing Harvey in Chicago and then about 10 miles chasing Mike Thayer in Newton!

Have you ever been to prison? Or to a butterfly garden?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


[Sorry there's no pictures... yet!]
We had driven 1,166 km in a day (over 700 miles) from Hartford CT to Colombus OH so we could get to Dayton/ Miamisburg the next day. The goal - to meet Jennifer (Idle Rambling Thoughts) and Julie (Sometimes Reluctant) - and go to church with them and their families. I had never met either of them. They were from Blogsworld... and maybe they didn't actually exist!
It was a tremendous thrill to finally meet Julie and Jennifer and their spouses, Will and Page. They are beautiful, intelligent, caring, capable young ladies! (They asked me to say that. ...LOL... Just kidding.)
After spending an hour or 2 in church with them, we headed to a diner. We really felt like part of the family at Miami Valley Community Church. These families attend a warm, friendly laid-back church. We felt right at home. There is a heap going on there. It was great to fellowship with them and hear Pastor Tim's teaching as we searched to find what it means to have the kingdom of heaven here on earth. He sure enjoys messing with your theology that Pastor Tim! That was good. We need a bit of that if we're going to grow. And the music... with Jason Bicknell, Connie Anderson etc. Wow! Think a fair bit of the stuff we sang they had written themselves.
We had a great lunch with them and the lovely Noelle (Jennifer and Page's daughter). Then ... as quickly as it had started... it was time to depart. Hey, we'd just met them for the first time! Who knows when our paths will cross next?
Now here we are in the Flamingo Motel in Tipton. Tomorrow we'll head into Chicago to deliver the Camry. Where to from here? God alone knows, so we shall leave it in His hands. (Is that from Fiddler on the Roof?)
Now in Chicago, staying with Harvey and Lynn.... and went on a 17 mile trip on Banana this afternoon. Harvey and Lynn are going to tour in Europe this summer. Might see them over there!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Well, 2,000 miles later and we've made it from Dallas, Texas to Hartford, Connecticut. The good news was we were able to fold the Banana Split & fit it in the back of the Jeep Liberty we were taking to Hartford.Then all our bags, suitcases, backpacks and tucker bags filled up the back seat.
We were delighted to catch up with Len Edwards, a mate from Dubbo, and his mate John (whom I'd met in Dubbo). Len is involved in Golden Years ministry where he ministers to people in nursing homes, retirement villas and such. Back in Dubbo I used to have a coffee with Len and a bunch of other Christian blokes every Monday morning. So it was great to fellowship with Len and John briefly in Dallas before we left.
On our way to Connecticut (CT), we called on one of Army's sons, Michael. He and Theresa and daughter Alexis looked after us in beautiful Norfolk, Virginia. As a high ranking officer in the US Army, Theresa got us onto a huge aircraft carrier. They have wharves for something like 100+ vessels here at Norfolk, whereas in Oz, I think maybe half a dozen big ships would be the most we can handle. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) We also managed a 30 mile bike ride with Michael. Theresa loves cycling too, but she was on duty...Alexis duty. What a gorgeous little one - a very happy little kid. I played "gramps"! Getting some practice in Deb/Bren.
After leaving Norfolk, we called into a small church - Miracle Deliverance Tabernacle! Wish I'd taken the camera in! It was a lovely warm place to worship & Denise (our welcomer) looked after us admirably. They were nearly all black people and the coloured clothing they wore just added to the day's excitement - HE IS RISEN! Man do they know how to sing!
It was beautiful travelling along backroads and staying off interstate highways for much of the trip. I was able to collect some license plates (or tags as some folks call them). I picked up Alabama, Georgia, South & North Carolina and West Virginia. Still need Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and District of Columbia. So... nearly there!
The Jeep did the trick OK. We have to visit a few folk round here near Hartford and then collect a Camry and head to Chicago. We might go via Canada. Then we'll train to Milwaukee and collect a Ford van which is due to be taken to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It'll sure be great catching up with Bryan and Marcia in Newton. It's great here in Glastonbury staying with Lisa, Wayne, Noah, Adam and Nadine. They are new to Servas, but are excellent hosts. Once again... we don't really want to leave!
Anything to see between here and Chicago? (1,000 miles). Or Milwaukee to Cedar Rapids? (Not too far.)
Pictures above are: Lisa and Wayne trialling the Banana Split, a huge aircraft carrier, Fay and I checking the ships out, 8 mnth old Alexis and getting a South Carolina license plate from James. You work out which is which. Thanks Wayne!!!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Well we sure have had a beaut time here in Texas! People here have been REAL friendly. Special thanks again to Madolyn and Helen for making us so welcome.

But 3 bits of good news...

(a) we've picked up a Jeep Liberty (not very big but it has a 3.7 Litre 6 cylinder engine) and we've stuffed the Split in the back! As long as we fit in the front!

(b) we've had three responses from Servas folk in Connecticut already. Great. So, there will be somewhere to stay. We expect to take about 7 days to get there. May call on Michael Armstrong in Virginia if we can find him.

(c) caught up with Len Edwards from DUBBO!! He just happened to be in Dallas while we are here. Great to see he and friend John from Dallas. John came out to Oz a couple of years ago.

Still full from the shrimp taco I had for tea (dinner) tonight. Beautiful. It was lucky Fay and I went out and did an hour and a half ride before that.

The lovely ladies in one photo are just typical young gals from Texas. Good to know my charm still works! The other photo shows Fay and I with the "folded" tandem ready to put it into the trunk of a car for the first time. That's Ron's tandem in the background. (Keep training Ron! Bike Across Kansas is getting closer!)

Peta and Jeremy (2 of our kids) should have touched down in Chicago today. Maybe some of the Aussie cricketers might think about doing some sight-seeing rather than playing cricket!!

Monday, April 10, 2006


Staying with Madolyn and her sister Helen Harkness (pictured) in Garland (north of Dallas.) Helen is a pioneer in the area of career management programs. Check out Career Design! She's written a few books on the topic.
Madolyn is a Servas host. We've had a ball here. Madolyn also has a flash pad down in Miami that she rents out. Looks pretty good to me. Interested? Have a look and then send her an email - It is ON the beach!!!
We went to church this morning and enjoyed fellowshipping with Larry Pastor and his flock. They are a friendly bunch at South Garland Baptist Church. (If there's a photo of a bloke (fella) on this post, it'll be Larry. Thanks Larry, and all the folk who made us welcome. What a blessing that God's brought us out here to Garland (near Dallas).
We are leading up to one of the most important periods for Fay and I - Easter. A time when we remember how our Lord died for each one of us. Pretty hard to get your head around it eh? I hope you can find time to visit a church over the Easter period. God alone knows where we will be on Good Friday and over the Easter period, so we'll leave it in His hands. But we miss family - our own and our church family at this time.

Maybe in a few days' time we'll be heading off with another car from autodriveaway! Where to? LA? Connecticut?
Tell you next time.

Thanks Madolyn and Helen for giving us such a beaut time. Sorry we stood you up and didn't make the symphony evening.... I know you've forgiven us.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Just had to put this photo in. Taken on the beaches of Miami! Just beautiful. But of course we've moved on from there and we're now in Kansas and heading for Texas. Loved Chicago and St Louis. I'll try and post some more photos.... special thanks to Ron in Wichita (that's right... Derby!)
Staying with Servas folk in Dallas and maybe going to symphony tomorrow night! Fay said, "In these clothes?" (We didn't bring much!)
Have to deliver the Chevy to Waco, and then... who knows. Hope the treedoc can figure out where to from there.
Thanks Ron and Chari for great time here in Wichita, and for doing all that computer work. Photos are great.
I can't believe the Banana Split is folded in the boot of the Chev Monte Carlo! Good ad for them I guess!
Keep watching those storm warnings for us PJA.
Is 26:3 Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee because he trusteth in Thee. (Thanks Dana.)

Monday, April 03, 2006


While in St Louis, Missouri, we went to the Holocaust Museum. It's pretty hard to comment on it appropriately. We spent over two hours there and found it extremely powerful. It is unbelievable to think that while I was being born - just 60 years ago - these attrocities took place. They exterminated SIX MILLION PEOPLE! They trained them from various parts of Europe to the Killing centres. The people didn't know. I find it unbelievable. A chilling record, but extremely well recorded and presented.
Also well presented was the interactive display on the Cahokia Mounds at St Louis. Their civilisation was particularly well organised and quite large. So many hundreds of years ago. We climbed Monk's Mound (the largest) after spending time in the interactive museum. (Think Jennifer from Ohio would've enjoyed it immensely.)
We also had a boat ride on the Mississippi, went bike riding (on our Bike Friday tandem) on the Katy trail beside the Missouri River on 3 separate occasions and places, and saw a brilliant play put on by the Black Rep Company - Before It Hits Home. Thanks Joyce and Stephen for taking us to the theatre.
Now here we are in Kansas City, Kansas and ready to return the F150 from Autodriveaway that's served us so well. Wish we could have it for another 6 weeks!!! When you look that up it should let you know what vehicles are available from which cities. Pretty handy.
Who knows, before the day is out we may have a vehicle to take to Waco, Texas or we may be heading to Witchita, Kansas to visit Ron and Chari or to Parsons, Kansas to visit Ken and Corrine.
It's been beaut staying with Kathy in Chicago, Joyce & Stephen in St Louis, Thalia and Timos in Chesterfield and now Claudine in KC. All great Servas hosts.