Christmas Greetings 2009

from Hazel and David

A village United Church, near Rarongo Theological College, Rabaul district, Papua New Guinea

Dear Friends

A rainy Sunday afternoon - Yes, the rain is something to celebrate here on this dry continent. Just as its time to celebrate long friendships and relationships and the news flow from our home to yours. Keeping contact with 'old' friends saw at the start of the year the brief but delightful visit on a cruise ship from the U.S. Melinda, the daughter of the Minister who had married Ron and Hazel in 1959 at which David had been Best Man. As well, the cruise was taking Melinda to PNG, which unexpectedly we would also later visit.

It was HOT in January and February - dry yellow grass or bare patches - hot searing winds up to 47C in Melbourne - and water restrictions. The bushfire season in February was worrying, indeed the worst ever in Victoria. Simon, Anita and their 3 children were fortunately in Melbourne on "Black Saturday" when many people died in the area where they lived at the Outdoor Education Centre of St Kevins College in Flowerdale. The Centre and their home were completely destroyed, but they were all safely in Melbourne, for which we can be very thankful, but very sad too because they were there for the funeral of Anita's father who had died of a sudden heart attack. They are now living in a rented home in Hampton, near us and Anita's mother. Simon works out of St Kevin's main campus, waiting for a decision on rebuilding. They have been well cared for and are so thankful for the support of so many. Others of our family were also affected: Bruce had to evacuate his home in the Dandenongs a couple of times and David collected the more precious things from our Wesburn house on several occasions.

Rabaul Volcano & Kerevat Market

June saw us off to Papua New Guinea, joining a group at Harris' village, Illahita, in the East Sepik region, to open with much ceremony and celebration the "Community Haus" Harris and Peter have built to encourage people to visit and offer their skills for the village. We were greatly honoured by Harris' family and the village people, with gifts of bilums, axes, pottery, their singing, dancing and friendship. A Melbourne-Illahita Community Association has been operating for some time sending books and computers for the school library, and medical supplies to the Health Centre, and facilitating the visits of others, such as the engineering students who worked on their water supply. Besides a few days in Port Moresby and our trip to Rabaul, we enjoyed a couple of nights at the 'In Wewak' boutique Hotel before and after our village adventure - recommended for any visit you may be planning! It was interesting to note that we 'white skin' guests were in the minority - different from Hazel's last visit to PNG in 1994. We flew to Rabaul, to visit again the area where Hazel and Ron lived at Rarongo College from 1964 to 1977, seeing the devastation caused by the continuing volcanic eruptions on the once beautiful town and staying at a 'dive resort' (previously part of a plantation) next door to the college. It rained so hard one day we thought the ceiling sagging with water might descend on our bed. Swimming at Rarongo beach was as idyllic as ever and our long walk back along the beach from Sunday church at Vunairima, greeting villagers and their children along the way, gave us a chance to meet many friendly and welcoming folk.

Opening of the Community House at Ilahita in the East Sepik region PNG

In Port Moresby we met Kenneth a cousin of Harris who was recently in Melbourne and shown around by his friend Hilda-Anne who is one of the promising young graduates in professional employment. We stayed at MAPANG, a missionary guest house, meeting locals, mission staff and other professionals passing through from the hinterland. There we also met with Rev. Samson Lowa, Moderator of the United Church, an impressive leader for the challenges being faced by PNG. Despite the guarded shops, somewhat dilapidated buildings mixed with modern offices, warnings to 'be careful', and few 'white skins' around, we walked the streets and enjoyed the buzz and energy of the city. The National Museum (where we seemed to be the only visitors) is excellent and next door to the Parliament building, also a 'must see'. However the guard made sure we were accompanied on the 5 minute walk between the two. Security is a problem there, but we felt quite safe at Rabaul and in the village. On our return to Australia we sadly had to relinquish a handmade piece of pottery given to Hazel by Harris' sister. Quarantine law is very strictly adhered to here. The string bag bilums were fumigated, but the gift of a stone axe with its wooden handle was taken. However we still have the stone.

Family and grandchildren events are fairly frequent. In November, we were altogether (on the Beswick side) celebrating Robert's 50th birthday. David delighted in searching out old photos and putting them on a disc to show on a computer at the lunch. Mathieson (2), Robert and Catherine's son, is so like Robert, was at his age. Andrew, just back from a trip to London for Amnesty International, along with Paula and their two children Amelia and Thomas are a busy family with Paula, like Bruce, also working on her PhD. Helen and Mark and two of their sons James and Tim, both now doing university studies, with Alice (14) in High School, were up from Port Fairy, a 5 hour drive from Melbourne. Helen and Mark have just sold the art gallery and coffee shop they bought a couple of years ago. Mark has resumed teaching and is acting principal of a school near Warrnambool, and Helen has another job in social work on health promotion in Aboriginal communities. We were in Tasmania in September for a gathering of the wider (and it is wide) Beswick family for John (David's brother) and Dot's 50 Wedding Anniversary in the gracious main hall of historic Hobart Town Hall; a warm and enjoyable occasion.

Two of Hazel's family are on opposite sides of Australia. Barton and Jo continue to enjoy Perth with their two, Charlton and Sienna. Sara and Barb have now moved back to Canberra working for the Federal Govt. on environmental and sustainability issues. We will miss their home in Brisbane, a warm sub-tropical refuge from the Melbourne winter. Drew and Gabriella in Melbourne have had a 'big' year accompanying Adam through the VCE process completing high school - not so exciting for them as their trip to the USA at the end of last year, when they went and discovered Ron's thesis at Boston Uni., Drew's birthplace in Gardner, Mass. along with Las Vegas, L.A. and N.Y. It has whetted their appetite for more travel. Simon, Anita and family are leaving soon for three months in Europe on study leave.

We two continue with our academic, church and community interests, delighting in our family and our life together now already over seven years, maintaining reasonably good health but with the years showing some signs of wear and tare. We are most thankful for the life we have and for all God's gifts, especially in remembering the birth of Christ at this time, and we pray for fulfillment of our hopes for peace and justice in the world at large.

With love and best wishes: our thoughts go out to you, our family and friends far and wide.

Hazel and David Beswick