Jun 172018

Since  civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, about 300,000 of its people have died and about 3.5 million have become refugees. Over a quarter of a million are living in Bidi Bidi in north-west Uganda, the largest refugee settlement in the world. A large number of South Sudanese are in refugee camps in Kenya. They “just want to go home”.

Aballa Ojulu’s youngest brother, Rev’d Samuel Otwel Ojulu, and his cousins, Rev’d Joshua Ojulu and Rev’d Buba Aballa, are living in Kalobeyei Refugee Camp in north-west Kenya which has a population of 38,600, of which 74% are South Sudanese. Samuel and his cousins went to Nairobi, about 1,000km south of Kalobeyei and met the Archbishop of Kenya, Dr Jackson Ole Sapit, who agreed to setting up an Anglican church at Kalobeyei. The three cousins were made Ministers,  led by Samuel. As some members of St Philips Cottesloe (SPC) had supported Samuel’s high school education and training at the Bible College of East Africa and provided financial assistance to the new church, Samuel asked that the church be called ST PHILIPS, to which Archbishop Sapit agreed.

In April 2018, an appeal to SPC for funds to help St Philips, Kalobeyei (SPK) build a shelter for protection from weather, raised $10,400 in three weeks. The roof structure consists of on-site-fabricated timber trusses and the roof and walls are clad with corrugated steel. It has four steel corner poles and local acacia tree trunks and branches to support the roof and sides. It has been well built as shown by the straight roof ridge capping and straight bottom of the roof. Graham has sent diagrams showing where bracing is needed to ensure that the building withstands the strong winds experienced there.

The largest age cohort among the South Sudanese are 5-11 year olds. Currently no schooling is available. Christian education and general education is so important for the children. Archbishop Sapit told Donna Shepherd that he would not have been given an education as a child without being supported by World Vision. We have  retained sufficient funds to enable the church to appoint a school teacher for one year. The church leaders have appointed 36-year-old Okumo Oboya Owitti, who was a teacher in South Sudan and is an experienced Sunday School teacher. Funds have also been provided to purchase materials for both teaching and learning.

In April, a group of women at SPC kindly sewed flowers for the women at SPK. The Kalobeyei women were deeply touched on receiving the sewn gifts. They want to reciprocate and are keen to start sewing and learning English, to strengthen the ties between our congregations.

So it is very appropriate that, at the start of REFUGEE WEEK in Australia, SPK is having a celebratory service on Sunday 17th June. They will be welcoming church visitors from Lodwar, the nearest Anglican Mission, about 200km south-west, and from Kakuma, the nearest town and refugee settlement, about 80 km east of Kalobeyei. They will conduct a baptism, Holy Communion and prayers for the new church shelter.

Let’s join them in giving thanks to God for His grace and faithfulness. And please keep upholding SPK by your prayers.


Graham Whitley and John Pearman


Jun 102018

As I write this, I’ve just got home from seeing a film put together by the Centre for Public Christianity, For the Love of God: How the Church is Better and Worse Than You Imagined. It is a great historical account of some of the ways in which Christians have been a huge blessing in society, as well as some of the atrocities that Christians have been involved in through the ages. The hope of the people involved in putting it together is that those who see it will recognise which of these things are in line with the founder of Christianity, the one that we Christians profess to follow, Jesus. For more information on the film as well as further materials along these lines that will become available online in early July, have a look at

One of the things that struck me in the film is the amount of good that followers of Jesus have done in the world and the way in which our fellow Christians have stood for justice in a whole range of ways. It’s stunning when you reflect on it.

I was reflecting on my day as I was driving home  and was struck by the number of our congregation members that I’ve connected with  who are also involved in standing for goodness and justice in the world. As I arrived at church this morning, one of you was dropping food off for another of you to take for distribution in Willagee. I have had texts with another person about ministry with refugees. I’ve had a conversation with a person in the congregation who is involved with running a ‘MAD – Make-a-Difference’ workshop for teenagers.

This morning we prayed for the prison ministry that several of our congregation are involved in. I’ve spoken about ‘WITH’, a new group in our church for women who are captured by Jesus’ heart for the poor and marginalised and who wish to join with Him in bringing hope and light into those places. I have had some conversations about AMUC (Among the Urban Community) that Suzie Brans is involved in leading this July. This is a mission exposure week in Perth where you have the opportunity to visit various agencies who work with marginalised people; also, to participate in workshops on different issues relating to justice and to have teaching sessions about how the justice issues relate to the gospel. This was one of my most favourite – though most challenging – weeks of the year over the five years I was involved in leading on this program. To round it all off, one of our congregation raved about a book they are currently reading (Generous Justice by Tim Keller), which explores these issues so well.

That’s just a snapshot from my day showing the ways in which some of us are living as followers of Jesus, being His hands and feet around issues of justice. I’m acutely aware of so many other things I could mention that others of our congregation are involved in – and there are plenty of other activities that we will never know about.

It’s so good to be part of a community where so many of us are active in participating in the rule and reign of Jesus in all sorts of ways. Be encouraged in the places where that’s you. And if all of this sparks your interest, maybe something like AMUC is for you. I’d love to chat with you about it – or perhaps some other avenues for exploring these things.





Jun 032018

I want to tell you about an exciting book I’m reading called This is Our Time: Everyday Myths in the Light of the Gospel by Trevin Wax. It’s not often that I find a real ‘page turner’, but this book definitely is. The book is basically trying to equip Christians with gospel lenses through which they can critically evaluate 21st century cultural issues. It has chapters that deal with technology, Hollywood, the pursuit of happiness, sex and marriage.

The Framework

Trevin provides a really useful gospel lens through which we can evaluate many ‘cultural narratives’. He says to look out for the longing, the lie and the light of the gospel.

The longing – “We need to see that there is usually something good and right in the stories our society tells” (p. 10). For example, in The Shape of Water, there is a longing for a society free from racism, misogyny, oppression, discrimination and abuse. There is a longing for institutions that are compassionate, just and kind.

The lie – It’s not enough to affirm the longings, “we must also challenge what is bad about the myth. The gospel doesn’t simply affirm the deepest longings of humanity; it also challenges and reshapes those longings; and in doing so, it exposes the lie” (p. 11). The lie in The Shape of Water is that the freedom we long for can be attained through unrestricted and unlimited sexual expression, in this case between a human and a beast (yuck!!!).

The light of the gospel – “Christians who shine the light of the gospel on the myths of our world do not simply say, ‘This is right and this is wrong,’ but ‘This is better.’ The gospel tells a better story” (p. 12). So let’s apply this to The Shape of Water:

* If you long for a society free from racism, look at Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan, where Jesus makes a ‘filthy’ Samaritan the hero and the ‘upright’ Jews the villains!

* If you long for authorities who use their power to serve others and not themselves, look at Jesus, with all authority and power, laying down his life for his enemies!

* If you long for a society free from bigotry and misogyny, look at Jesus’ dealings with the sinful woman surrounded by misogynistic religious leaders in John 8!


The Balance

He goes on to say that we all tend to be either ‘Lie Detector Christians’, focusing on exposing the lies, or ‘Complimentary Christians’, always focused on what we can affirm. “If Lie-detector Christians err on the side of exposing lies, Complimentary Christians err on the side of making Christianity sound just like the world” (p.13). But neither of these will do. I’m more of a Lie-detector Christian, so I need to work harder to identify people’s longings. What about you?

To conclude, let me tell you what I long for: I long for Christian parents who are able to provide their kids with gospel lenses with which they can evaluate the myths that their devices, movies, games and tv shows are telling them. Do yourself a favour and buy this book!





May 272018

Throughout the past year, the St Philips community has been journeying alongside James Duff (and his family) as he has stepped more fully into The Common, a church plant in Palmyra. We’ve prayed and heard stories along the way and kept track of the development of The Common community. It’s exciting that James is now able to concentrate his time in the leadership of that community. As a church, we are supporting them financially, in prayer and in other ways. [continue reading…]

May 202018

Our family has been in Perth for just over a month this week and we are still finding our feet. We have had a wonderful time getting to know people, the playgrounds,  the seaside and Swan River. I want to share some things that I’ve been impressed with and for which I give thanks to God. Prayer Meetings You may remember that my very first word to you, from Colossians 4:2-4, was to ask you to pray, for an ‘open [continue reading…]

May 132018

There are days and weeks when everything you thought was going to happen goes out the window and your hours and days are consumed in a completely different way. This last week has been one such week for me – precious hours and days but nothing like what I thought I’d be doing or where I thought I’d be. At this time I’m sitting on a train in Sydney heading over to scan photos of my aunt at one of [continue reading…]

May 062018

It’s the end of the first week of Term 2 in the school year. I wonder what that means for you? Are you even aware of it? I find it fascinating how things like that have so much relevance when we are in particular life stages or in specific jobs or contexts, and then how out of touch you can get with those things at other times in life.  Some of the ministries that I’m currently involved in are strongly [continue reading…]

Apr 292018

I repeatedly remind you that, ‘God owns the room’.  I always loved it on the US Presidential drama The West Wing when President Bartlet would say, “Give me the room!” and everyone would scurry out. You can do that, you know. You can say to God, “This is your room,” and it is.  And, you get to stay! I come close to God’s room when I read the bible attentively.  I really believe God spoke to me through one of [continue reading…]

Apr 222018

On Sunday I shared a little about how we ended up here in Cottesloe. Now I want to put that through the grid of the five main ways God guides his people (stolen from Nicky Gumbel). I want to show how God led us through each of the five ways in the hope that it will help you with godly decision-making. Five Main Ways God Leads Commanding Scripture (the Bible) Besides the obvious command to ‘go and make disciples’ (Matt [continue reading…]

Apr 152018

“The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it”, C.S.Lewis, The Abolition of Man. In starting a new church, I need to understand the prevailing culture The Common finds itself in, to see through it and identify its idols. Then we can see how the gospel destroys the idols and saves people from them. The context for the Gospel here is not The Common’s congregation but the culture of Palmyra. The task of identifying idols in [continue reading…]