Audio Advent Calendar

This year the Creative Writing Passion-Group on board were asked to make a series of brief reinterpretations of the Advent story for every day at lunch-time on board.

Here’s my two contributions:

Daniel (Part 1)

Listen Online

Phone Rings You have reached the extension of Meshack, Permanent
Secretary for the office of Internal Affairs, Babylon. I’m afraid
I’m unable to take your call, but if you leave a message and contact
information, one of my scheduling staff will return your call. BEEP

Daniel: Mishack, this is Belteshazzar, if you could contact me please
that would be great. I’ve had a bit of an odd, er, experience I’d
like to talk about with you. Shalom, Click

Phone Rings You have reached the extension of Meshack, Permanent
Secretary for the office of Internal Affairs, Babylon. I’m afraid
I’m unable to take your call, but if you leave a message and contact
information, one of my scheduling staff will return your call. BEEP

Daniel: Oh for goodness sake Mishael – answer your blasted phone! It’s me again, Daniel. Look, the dreams have been getting stranger. I swear I’ve not touched a drop of the King’s wine. So there were these beasts, coming out of the sea, all mixed up – a leopard with four wings, a lion, a bear, hideous. This wasn’t some stupid nightmare. Nightmares are way more mundane.

I can remember so vividly, like I was actually there – I’m not going to tell you every detail now… it all ended, somehow with me seeing into the thoneroom in heaven itself! And there, a “son of man”, like, how you described the fourth man in the furnace? The same! And he shows up in the throneroom, and was greeted royally, and then gets made ruler of the whole planet! An eternal kingdom, full of every kind of people, diverse and spectacular, immense and unlike anything we’ve ever seen, Mishael.

So I went and asked one of the court guards what on earth was going on – and he told me it’s all about the future, the beasts are kings who are coming, and eventually the Most High will judge the last kingdom, destroy it, and hand it all over to an eternal kingdom of His people.

Look – I honestly don’t know what it all means, brother. Or why on earth I had this dream. I thought these dreams from the Lord were supposed to be meaningful? How can I make SMART goals or an Action Plan from something like this?!

It’s terrifying, seeing the horrors of so far in the future – I know the Lord will send this Son of Man in the end – but it’s such a long way off – why tell me now? I wrote it all down – maybe you could come by to read through it. Perhaps someone else will find it encouraging. Call me. Click

Daniel (Part 2)

Featuring the Prophet Daniel (played by me) and his Life Coach (played by Dan Potter).

Advent 2018 – Daniel Part 2! Listen Online!

Doorbell, Door Opens

S: Belteshazzar! It’s good to see you again…
You missed the last 3 sessions… How have you been?
I hear from Shadrack that you’ve been sealed in your rooms?
What progress did you make on your action steps?

D: I’ve prayed. I’ve fasted. I’ve repented. I’ve wept.

S: That’s great, er, none of them were things we talked about
last time – but they all sound… useful?

D: Yes. I had a vision.

S: That’s good, right? You’re the one who interprets the King’s
dreams and visions so…

D: I don’t. The Lord does. And He tells me what they mean.

S: Yes, of course. So, what did the Lord say this time?

D: It’s complicated.

S: That’s surprisingly candid, coming from Him.

D: Stop it. So I read Jeremiah’s prophercy, it’s we’re almost
finished with the 70 years until the Temple and our people
are restored – and we’re nothing like ready. That’s why I’ve
been praying and fasting and repenting – How could we
possibly be ready to return?
And while I was praying, the Lord sent an Angel, who told
me many things…

S: Like, er what?

D: Our people will return, we’ll finish rebuilding, the sacrifices
will resume – and in then a while later, the Messiah
will come.

S: That’s amazing!

D: But He’ll die – appearing to have accomplished nothing.

S: But – but – all the other prophercies say all kinds of things
he’ll do!

D: I know. I said it was complicated… and the Angel said
appearing to have accomplished nothing.” So maybe he’s
going to do things in secret? Or somehow won’t be noticed?

S: That doesn’t sound very Messiah-like.

D: I know.

S: This is fascinating, but I think we’re getting a bit distracted…
What would you like to take away from our conversation?

D: I’d like to get some clarity about sevens.

S: Sevens?

D: Yes… Apparently they’re quite important. And we’re going
to have an awful lot of them before the Messiah comes.

S: Er, right. So, what are the key points of understanding these

D: I’m not really sure. An Angel told me about them. His name was
Gabriel. He was really nice – He told me that I’m precious to
The Lord. I have a feeling he’s involved in this all some how.
And then he started talking about all these sevens… 70 sevens,
then another 7 sevens, and then 62 more sevens after that.

S: Is there a cultural Angel to understanding this angle? Or cultural
angle to understanding the Angel, I mean.

D: Do Angels have a culture?

S: I don’t know! You’ve met more than I have!

D: True. hm. It’s a good question. A cultural angle..
Well – creation took 6 days,
plus the Sabbath – but 70 weeks is less than 2 years – it can’t
mean that… we used to have special celebrations every 7th
year – I think it’s seven years… so about 500 years,
in total, I guess?

S: So… what actions will you take to move forward?

D: 500 years is a really long time! I could do a lot of action
steps in 500 years.
I think I need to go pray some more.

S: That’s always a valuable thing to do…
What do you want to remember from today’s conversation?

D: I thought this was just all something to do with us returning
to the Jerusalem soon – but I think it’s something bigger.
The Lord isn’t just preparing us for the end to our exile –
There’s so much going to happen.

S: Hmm. So you said you wanted to get some clarity about this…
Out of 10, how clear is it now?

D: Maybe Seven?


This was written by our friend Becky Breckels and me, and then read by my amazing wife.

Door opening and shutting

Elizabeth: Zechariah! You’re home! How was the Temple? Anything exciting happen?

Pause as is if Zechariah is speaking

Elizabeth: What’s that love? I can’t hear you!

Slightly shorter pause as Zechariah gestures wildly

Elizabeth: Well I can’t understand you if you’re just going to stand there gesturing! *deep sigh* Fine, we’ll play charades.

Your eye. A drink? A can. Tying something… a knot? Oh! “I Can not”, you cannot what? Talk?

Elizabeth: What do you mean you can’t talk? You’ve never had any problems talking before!

Zechariah starts gesturing wings.

Elizabeth: What are you trying to say? Wings…a bird?

Zechariah shakes his head

Elizabeth: No…? Not a bird…well what else has wings?

Zechariah starts gesturing a halo

Elizabeth: What’s that supposed to be?! A circle above your head!?

Sounds like a heart? A Triangle? Half a triangle? That’s still a triangle! Second half of triangle? Ngle? Sounds like ngle?

Zechariah starts gesturing both wings and a halo

Elizabeth: …AN ANGEL! You saw an angel! Blessed be! An angel! Well…what did he say?

Zechariah starts gesturing writing

Elizabeth: He told you to write something?

Zechariah shakes his head

Elizabeth: You know this would probably be easier if you had your writing things. Now, where did I put them…(fades out)

Sounds of pots and pans clattering

Elizabeth: Ah! Here they are! Now, what did the angel tell you?

Sounds of writing on a blackboard or tablet

Elizabeth: We’re going to have a son!?

This is all a joke, right?

More writing sounds

Elizabeth: His name will be John?! But that’s not a family name!

This must be a joke. I’m going to go make dinner.

OK! Fine, I’ll wait. You’d better make the punchline worth it.

Continued writing sounds

Elizabeth: (Writing sounds throughout) …No alcohol…filled with the Holy Spirit! Spirit and power of Elijah! You’re serious? This isn’t a joke? Turn many to the Lord…prepare the people for the coming of the Lord! …For the coming of the Lord! The Messiah!? He’s coming soon then?

Zechariah shrugs his shoulders

Elizabeth: What do you mean you don’t know! … You didn’t ask!? You had an angel of the Lord standing right in front of you! And you didn’t ask him when the Messiah is coming!?

Zechariah shakes his head

Elizabeth: Hang on, you haven’t told me what any of this as to do with you having no voice…What did you say to the Angel?

Oh come on, don’t be embarrassed.

What did you do?

You thought it was a joke too? Oh come on. An angel shows up, of course it’s not a joke. Who would think such a thing?

You told the angel he was crazy?

Well, serves you right if you can’t talk any more.

Er, how long are you going to be silent for?

Until the baby arrives?! I guess we’d better buy some more writing equipment. And you really need to start working on your mime skills.

Story Telling (Part 3) – The Hero’s Journey (aka, Story Circle).

So this is Part 3 of my seminar / workshop on Story Telling that I did with the Logos Hope On-Board events Team. Here’s Part 1, and Part 2.

There’s an interesting alternative theory called, “The Hero’s Journey” (or “Monomyth”). There’s books written about this, some really cool ideas.  A very approachable version is by Dan Harmon, the creator of Community.  Ant Webb was the guy who introduced me to both Community, and the Hero’s Journey.  We’ve been discussing it and used it as part of Matt’s Blog.

Slide16The Hero’s Journey theory says good stories are circular. You end up back where you started. They’re a journey from home, from comfort, from the concious, down into the subconscious, uncomfortable far away place, and back eventually home again. Of course, changes happen along the way.


The full theory has all kinds of Freudian stuff to do with being forced out of the mothers arms by the call of the father, eventually defeating the father, and returning eventually as a mother or father all that… (Seriously, Freud had issues.) Also, there’s loads of details that are reasonably important, and do make the story more compelling, but also, with much added complexity.Slide19So lets go look at Dan Harmon’s Story Circle instead.

Dan Harmon's Story Circle MainHe takes the circle concept, and breaks it into 8 simple parts.

1-youWe start off at “You“. This is where “you” the audience relate to the main character(s). Preferably, the character should be in a place of comfort, or at least, be connected to some kind of easy-to-relate-to “home” situation. This could be a sailor at sea on the bridge, or a little bear playing a balancing game, or Garion at Faldor’s farm, a new student enrolling at community college, etc. It’s a starting point that the audience can relate to, and feel comfortable understanding. They don’t have to dig deep emotionally to connect with the main character. It happens automatically. This is the concious, mental understanding area.

2-need Next is the “need“. Something isn’t right, or some how the stable situation will be pushed off-balance. This is pretty close to the “problem” concept from the 3-act play model. Note, we’re still basically in the stable conciousness.


So, since there’s a need, I guess we’d better “Go” do something about it. This is where the Hero decides to actually leave their safe familiar environment, and go out into the world to solve the problem. We finally dep3-enter-unknownart the concious, and head into the scary subconscious / unconscious. The going can often be the most emotional part of the story. Or at least, the most emotionally motivated or driven part. Once the Hero is actually off fighting dragons and saving maidens, they’re too busy actually doing stuff to be all soppy and emotional.

Slide27Now that we’ve actually left, comes the big difficult part of the story, the Seeking, or Searching. We may not exactly know what it is we’re looking for yet – but we’ll find out. Many different avenues can be explored, different people met, etc.  This can be long, arduous, and challenging.  The main character should be growing and changing here.

5-findEventually, we Find what we’re looking for. This is where we can start looking at the more interesting parts of the theory.  Up until now, it’s all been pretty pedestrian, but behold: the magic!

Slide32Each point on the circle has an opposite point.  OK, to be honest, that’s more like geometry than magic, but whatever.  They’re kind of similar.

Slide33Find is directly opposite on the circle from You, for instance. All opposites have extremely strong ties to each other. So “You“, signifying conscious comfort and familiarity, can either be used here with direct parallels, or with polar opposites. But either way, it’s linked. Garion is tempted most by Torak by images of family and a safe life with Aunt Pol. Little Bear realises it’s dark and thinks about going home. Frodo and Sam reminisce about home, talking about planting the acorn from Loth Lorian in the Shire, deciding it’s all worth it to stop Sauron’s Hoards pillaging and burning everything they hold dear.

Let’s move on:

Slide29So we’ve found it – but to actually Take it, there’s a Cost. As Rumplestiltskin so repeatedly says in Once upon a time, “Magic always comes at a price!”. Here, again, is a link across to “Need“, the opposite number again.

Slide36If the need doesn’t balance the cost, then why would you pay it? Too high a cost, with too little benefit, and the audience feels like the hero is crazy, or just doing it because the script says to. Too small a price, and the audience feels cheated. It’s too easy.  So again, making links between the two helps strengthen the story.

Note: Often the Find and Take are very close together, the 8 points on the circle don’t need to each have equal screen-time.

Slide30Having paid the price and Taken it, now we need to Return home. This is where we can start to bring home the conscious message of what we’ve taken. It’s the balance point going back into the safe lands again, and can be quite emotional again.

Slide35There’s nothing really left to do, so it’s beginning to relax time, which means all the stress of the journey can begin to surface and be dealt with.

Slide31As the Hero returns home, presumably, hopefully, they’re somewhat Changed. If the hero hasn’t actually changed, then really, what was the point of the whole thing? This is where sit-coms and soap operas cheat like mad. Since they don’t actually want to seriously change the situation, but leave it ready for next week, they have to paint lots of obvious messages about what the characters have learned, even to the point of having characters sitting around saying trite crap about, “I guess now we know that…”, “So next time I won’t do that again…”, so that the audience feels like they’ve seen a change, although actually, next week, they’ll all act exactly the same as before. (Sad, isn’t it?)

Slide34The Link with Changed is Search.  It’s usually through the questing / searching / learning part of the story that the Hero has changed.  This is done extremely obviously in Lord of the Rings (the books, of course) when the 4 hobbits return to the Shire and kick out Saruman and Wormtongue.  The LOTR movies don’t have that section, so they try to show that they’re “changed” through a soppy emotional “Oh Gosh How Deep We All Are Now” load of rubbish with the 4 hobbits making calves eyes at each other.  They do show Samwise actually going to ask his sweetheart to marry him, finally, which is good.  But still.  There is actually a reason for the section they cut out.  And the  movies suffer for lack of it.

Let’s look at our example, Little Bear, again…

Slide45And so that’s the basic overview version of The Hero’s Journey.

Pretty cool, innit?

And that concludes my mini-series from the workshop.  In some ways, I wish I could have just told the Events Team “Go Read Dan Harmon’s Blog Posts, and watch Glove and Boots!”, but the ship’s firewall blocks half of it for profanity, and it would shock the heck out of the team for actually containing said profanity, and doing a workshop is actually a lot more meaningful to many people than simply reading it on a blog.  But since you, dear reader, have read my blog, here’s a link to the stuff Dan Harmon wrote about it. It’s also in several parts.  And probably quite a lot clearer than what I wrote.  My audience was a bit different, and I was simplifying in different ways because of the direction I’m trying to influence them.  Read what he wrote.  There’s good stuff there.

Glove and Boots also did a video about The Hero’s Journey, which covers the more character-centred side of the theory:

Anyway, I should stop waffling now.  I’m writing a lot of this while sitting on a cold floor in Changi Airport in Singapore with my wife and 1-year-old son sleeping next to me at 5:30am.  I think I’ll wait until I get home to proof read it once more before publishing…

Story telling (Part 2) – Of Aristotle and Acts

This is the second part of a 3 part series, transcribing / “article-ifying” a training seminar I ran with the on-board events team on the Logos Hope.  Here’s a link to the first part.

Aristotle and a suuuper simple model

Waaay back in 350 or so BC, a clever Greek dude (Aristotle) said that he reckoned a good story (or theatrical performance) had 3 parts to it:

  • Beginning
  • Middle
  • End

Yep. It’s what you’re taught in primary school creative writing. Expanding those a bit:

  • Beginning: Introduction to the main characters, and “The Problem”
  • Middle: The struggle or conflict, where the main characters confront “The Problem”
  • End: Where either the main characters or “The Problem” win, and everything resolves.

In some ways, the most important thing from this is that without a problem, there is no story. There has to be “something rotten in the state of Denmark”. Or else what keeps your audience more interested in the programme, than in what’s on their phones?

“3 act plays”

Taking this concept a bit further, is the traditional “3 act play”. Often our events aren’t done in acts, but the concepts are useful for thinking, “Where should I put the refreshment breaks?” and thinking how the story energy levels should map out best.  Whether or not you actually use this model, it’s still an interesting one to look at, and see if it helps you.

The 3 acts are pretty close to the “beginning, middle, end” concepts from before, but expanded.

Confusingly, sometime the 3-act-play can be broken down in to 4 parts:

3 acts, 4 parts

which progresses through the main character (and audiences’) perception of ‘The Problem’.

There’s “potential” for an interesting story – you set up the main character(s), and the problem.  But they’re not actually in conflict yet (at least, as far as this specific narrative goes.)  There’s resistance to the conflict – things get in the way, the problem isn’t fully understood yet, etc.  Finally the conflict itself, actually doing something, rather than just trying to understand the problem, and finally the outcome, and cleaning up.

I mentioned that the Main Character and the Problem may not be in actual conflict yet.  Just to note here, this is for the purposes of this narrative.  For instance, in David and Goliath, Israel and Phillistia are at war at the beginning of the story.  However, the Main Character, David, isn’t actually in personal conflict with Goliath, until much later.

So how do these 4 parts map onto a “3 act play”?4-parts-3-acts

Act 1.

Starting off the play, you need some kind of event which introduces the reason for the story.

The children of Israel are at war with the Philistines. Jeff Winger starts at his new Community College; Darth Vader boards Princess Leia’s diplomatic space ship and takes her prisoner; The orb of Aldur is stolen; Little Bear is playing, and it’s getting late.inciding-incidentSometimes, this is called the ‘inciting incident’.

One thing to note is that this might not involve the main character. It’s setting the scene for the whole rest of the story, and may in fact be the cause for many different stories to happen. A murder has happened, but at least so far, the main character may not yet have been put on the case.

As “The Problem” now develops, at some point it’s going to bump into the main character, and eventually, somehow, they’re going to have to do something about it. They may not be keen on the idea, they may need to be persuaded, or dragged kicking and screaming into it, and often it’s more fun if that’s the case.

first-act-turnThis point, which causes the main character(s) to actively attack the problem, is sometimes called the ‘First Act Turn’.  David visits his brothers on the battlefield, and sees Goliath challenging them all, and no-one having the guts to do anything about it.  Luke Skywalker’s Uncle and Aunt are killed and he decides to go with Obi Wan; Mr Wolf and Aunt Pol tell Garion that they’re going to leave Faldor’s farm; Little Bear decides to ignore Mama bear, and play instead.

Now you’ve actually got the audience hooked to the story – they’re interested in the character, and now the character is about to go do something interesting. This is a good ending point for the first act, so you might as well try and sell some refreshments, as you know the audience will come back to find out what will happen.

Act 2

Curtain up again, time for Act 2. It’s been joked about that you should just skip Acts I and III and just go with II, as that’s where all the interesting stuff happens.

In the four stages listed above, you can see act 2 divided in half.  The first half is typically about understanding the problem, the second half about actually going to do it.

So first, we learn more about the problem. Often there’s a lot of discovery, trying to understand the problem first, and then later transition into actually doing something about it.  David starts asking his brothers about Goliath, and they despise him. The Prodigal Son is burning his inheritance, not realising the consequences.

Sometimes, around about the mid-point, there’s a good point to stop, pause, and say, “Right. Now we know what we need to do, lets do it!”


The mid-point can be the major turning point in the story.  David’s questioning about Goliath finally reaches the ears of King Saul, and he calls David before him.  The Prodigal son’s money finally starts to run out.

Now we’ve finally got to a place where the Main Character will come into actual conflict with the problem.  David tells the King that he’ll go fight Goliath.

However, often the “doing” is more complex than originally thought, and it can all go terribly wrong.

The King tries to give David his armour, but it’s far to big, and David falls on his face.  The Prodigal Son thinks he can still be self-sufficient, but his “friends” reject him, and goes on the hunt for jobs.  Eventually he finds he has no skills at all, and ends up feeding pigs.

Obi-wan dies fighting Darth Vader; Garion decides to leave his friends, his Aunt, his safety, and go to fight Torak himself; Little bear realises it’s dark and he’s all alone, and he doesn’t know the way back home.


This sudden swing – it looks like the hero will be defeated, or the current route is blocked is a really good way to bring the audience up short. Things might have been challenging before, but at least it was going somewhere. Now what’s going to happen? This is the “Second Act Turn”. Again, roll out the popcorn and drinks; art doesn’t pay for itself, you know.

Act 3

The third act needs only 2 main features:

  • Resolving the conflict (The climax)
  • Tidying up the loose ends and making the audience feel good.

3 acts with points

OK, you may not always want the audience to feel good at the end. Sometimes a tragedy is more moving, and you know what, frequently life sucks. But you want them to feel satisfied that they got their money’s worth, and that it’s probably worth coming again.

There are other subtleties you can add to this basic overview, such as adding “The Question” as a (sometimes hidden) subtopic to The Problem. The Question can be something more personal, or more meaningful than just solving The Problem, and it’s only through The Problem that the main character can understand The Question.

So, that’s the “3 act” model of telling a story (at least, a version of it).  In some ways, quite complex, but it explains pretty well how the energy-concepts from Part 1 can map onto a longer story.

As a bonus, here’s Good Night Little Bear:

Slide44Next time, I’ll go into the “Hero’s Journey” model.

Story Telling (Part 1) – Energy

Recently I had the opportunity to do a workshop / seminar with the Logos Hope Events team about Theatre & Storytelling.  I love theatre, and am very passionate about making (especially Childrens’) events into engaging stories, rather than just variety shows with a 5 minute message tacked on the end.

This is kind of a summary of what I covered, with some of the slides I made.  There’s quite a lot of content, so I’m splitting it up into 3 posts.

Warning, guides


To start off, we looked at 3 of David’s books, which I brought along.

  • Mealtime
  • Peekaboo Forest
  • Good Night, Little Bear

Mealtime is basically just a list of items you might find at mealtimes:

Spoon and Fork,
Sippy cup,

and so on. Not staggeringly inspiring. Often, however, events are organised in a similar manner. Get a list of things we want to put in (Introduction video, Korean fan dance, Refreshments, Sermon, Singing), have an MC or host link them all together (“Wow, that was amazing. Next we have…”) and suddenly you’ve got a programme.


In terms of energy levels of the audience, it looks something like this:Mealtime-energy-flowEach individual item may be all right, but they’re not really connected, and nothing really keeps the attention.  And it doesn’t get more exciting, and … well. I forgot what I was … er, better check facebook.


Peekaboo Forest is quite a bit better. Each page asks a question:

‘Who is hiding behind the spruce?’

there’s then a nice crinkly page to turn over:

Peek-a-boo! It’s the Moose!

So each page has quite a nice “energy” flow:


with good anticipation, etc. But in terms of overall story-arc, it’s very dull.


It really doesn’t go anywhere, and often programmes are like that too. Each individual item may be great, but you don’t lead the audience anywhere, and don’t have everything tied together.

Good Night, Little Bear is much more interesting. We read this to David almost every night, and even though it doesn’t have crinkly pages, he still seems to really enjoy it. The story is (essentially) little bear not wanting to go to bed, instead he goes off to play, until eventually he watches the sunset, it gets dark, and he realises he should have listened to Mama bear, and in fact he’s lost now and can’t find his way home. But then Mama bear, assisted by Little Bear’s friends, Mouse and Squirrel, come to find Little Bear. He hears them calling him, and runs to Mama Bear’s arms. He’s now feeling tired, and goes to bed. It’s really well told, with lovely pictures, and so on.

Little bear energy

A much more complex rough energy flow chart.

So that’s the “energy flow” concept.  Reasonably simple to grasp.  If we are making an event which is a variety show / sandwhich programme, or a concert, then it’s worth thinking about this stuff, and saying “How do we want to start?  Something big and fun to grab the attention, and then we can settle down a bit, work our way up to a climax, and then slowly bring it to a close…”.

Thinking about the age-group as well is very important.  How long are attention spans, what is important or exciting?  If there is going to be a verbal message / talk, then at what point will the audience be willing to sit and listen?

If we want to make the event into a story, then we’ll need to go a bit deeper.

For that, we’ll have to wait until Part 2…

Today was the captains dinner, like a special programme for high up local port officers, VIPs and so on, and I was asked to play background music while they were eating for 20 mins or so. There is someone I have played with before a few times, doing guitar/voice/ clarinet French songs, which seems to work really well. So we were going to play, but then today at about 4.30 I found a note in my workshop saying “Sorry, I can’t play tonight, but this STEPper will…” I’d never heard the guy play before, except once when he came around playing Christmas Carols with a few others (who couldn’t sing…). So I was moderately terrified. I’d rather not play at all than play badly. Not everyone else feels that way, alas.

To continue, I went for the sound-check at 5.15, and he said he could play classical guitar, and went and found one, and played a few classical pieces (I’m sure he could be good, but I think is very out of practice…), stopping and starting all the time, and I improvised around him. Also a few old hymns and stuff (Greensleeves…). Then tonight we went and performed, and it in fact was not so bad at all. Nothing too amazing, but they were all eating anyway, and so it doesn’t matter too much the few mistakes there were… we kept going and it sounded kind of OK though our monitor, anyway.

Tomorrow I will be MC for a programme in the morning, for 200 or so 12 to 20 year olds. Then in the afternoon/evening it’s I-night again, and I’ll be playing a small part in a drama. It’s possible that I may be in the Irish cultural dance as well. I went to the practice today, just to watch them prepare for tomorrow, but one of the guys didn’t show up, and they muttered a bit about if he didn’t turn up tomorrow… I’ve only been to 3 practices now for that! And it’s really quite complicated! Anyway. I don’t think so tomorrow.

My official and rather boring report of the A-team:

Our A-team was sent to Melacca to work with the Calvary (AOG) Church there.

We were involved in teaching 2 drama and 2 dance workshops, running a mini i-night / cultural evening with the other Melacca A-team, a school visit, children’s home visit, a programme about unity at a pastors’ fellowship breakfast, a bunch of church services, 2 Sunday school meetings, practical chores in the church building, one epic adventure across the city in search of pizza, and lots of eating.

The church looked after us very well, providing a beautiful “condo” for us to stay in (with a swimming pool downstairs!), plenteous food, bottled water, transport, and schedule.

They briefed us well when we arrived, giving us times we would be picked up and dropped every day, information about each programme, and so on. We then followed the schedule almost exactly for the whole week (I believe this is a first in Doulos history.)

One of the main highlights of the week was the cultural evening on Wednesday. We joined with the other Melacca a-team to provide a whole range of cultural items including dances, drama, videos, songs (in 3 or 4 languages), and much more. The students from the dance and drama workshops were able to perform two dramas, which was amazing after the short time we could spend with them, and we hope and pray that they will be able to continue to work and use their many gifts in the future. All in all the cultural evening was a great success with many compliments and expressions of thanks afterwards.

We were able to spend quite a bit of time just talking with the people of the church at meals, before and after programmes, and at our condo after hours. One girl sent in the first application to join the ship while we were there! Another guy was very interested and spent a few hours one evening with us, asking questions and telling us about his life, with all of us sharing with him our own testimonies, and of how we were able to join the ship.

I’m going on A-team next port!! Yes! Another Doulish word with an unintelligible prefixial letter. In this case “A” stands for “Action”. Which gives absolutely no help in understanding what an “A-team” actually is. What is an A-team?

*Open “Unauthorised Revised Doulos Dictionary.” *

A-team – Noun. Abr. “Action Team”. C 1980-1990AD (Origin unknown). A short (1 to 3 weeks) land based team, leaving from the ship for however long to be involved in any number of different projects. Some do building work for a local charity or children’s home, some travel a lot, visiting a different village every night putting on a short programme, possibly taking a video projector along. Some run a youthgroup’s summer camp, and so on. Most Douloi guys go on 2 or 3 “A- teams” during their 2 years on board. Most Douloi girls go on 2 “A- teams”, and during the two dry-docks go on “Land Teams” which are basically the same as an “A-team”, but only girls, and during dry- dock. Some people go on up to 5 “A-teams” during 2 years.

So. Cool, eh? My a-team is comprised of all drama-ish creative people, and we are going to be mostly doing drama/dance/creative workshops for a local church/youthgroup. I will probably be speaking at one or two church services. So all in all quite interesting.

OK. “Quite interesting” is a bit of an understatement.


Very exciting!!

So if you want to pray for me (us!) until about the 15th or so of August it would be really nice. One or two very strong willed (lovely!) people on the team. And a LOT of time together, so pray that we will be able to work together, and help the people we meet.

So yeah. By the way, my “boss” the senior waterman just told me yesterday while we were chatting about books how he hates “chatty” books that are written in spoken English style (many modern books), rather than written English (like C.S. Lewis). It’s probably a good thing he doesn’t read this blog. I think he may find it too much spoken English.

We did our crane training yesterday. Which pretty much completes the basic deck training. Now only advanced lifeboat/firefighting/etc training to go (I think). We do training so sporadically though for these sorts of things. Drills every week though. I think I must be OK with the crane, as the teacher (my ex-teamleader) told me I was pretty good and she may even change my mooring station to the “standby” team (who start the unloading first), presumably as they need a crane driver. Pretty cool! Then again, standby team is quite boring most of the time. I’m currently in the forward mooring party, which is the nicest, I think so far. It’s a big open deck, with lots of space, and you get to watch the port and everything really easily.

That’s about it so far! Watermanning is going well. I haven’t flooded anything else yet. I greased the crane though. Tomorrow probably I’ll grease the main windlass. Huge, ugly, with about 100 points to find and squirt grease. And the grease gun is about empty, so I’ll have to fill it again, which is quite complicated and very very messy.

I ought to go now though; It’s dinner time.

GREAT day 2 days ago… Plan was for morning planning/preparing, afternoon teaching drama and creative stuff to teenagers, a kids’ programme after, and then a café on board in the evening where we would be waitering and stuff.

The drama was really really good. I got to basically run the whole thing, teaching drama, basics, games, etc. Kids loved it, really joined in, did so well. I hadn’t realised how much I miss drama/theatre work though until then. I miss it a lot! Teaching drama is so wonderful.

Then the kids programme after that was v. disorganised, on a street corner. ok. kids enjoyed it, I think. Did the usual dramas, silly songs, etc.

Then as we got back to the ship to prepare for the café, (which I was not looking forward to. Normally I end up sitting at a table with two people who dont speak English, I don’t understand their names, music is too loud for me to concentrate or understand anyway, and when after half an hour or so we begin to get a conversation going, before I can say anything they both leave. I dont enjoy…) one of the line-up people said to me,

“Are you free to come out? I need musicians!”

I said I was in the cafe, he said no problem, went and got me out of the café, and told me to get my clarinet. So I did, and we went to a café run by some local people. They are trying to make a new safe cafe/restaurant, where it isn’t all cabaret and sex and stuff, but friendly, good music, and so on.

So we set up music stuff, and played for 2 or 3 hours. The other musicians were amazing too. One of them was a bassist who went to music college to study bass. Between sets, he started playing
“Amazing grace” … he’s THAT good! We did a bunch of Christian songs, English, French, etc. Then after that the bassist brought out “The jazz real book” and we played a few songs from that: Georgia on my mind, Moonriver, etc.

Lovely, lovely. Clarinet and bass go well togeather, I think. He said he may be able to teach me some jazz theory before he leaves (2 or 3 months!!), whcih would be really good. and also maybe I
should teach a standard music theory course, as many musicians on board have no theory at ALL.

So that was a really really really good day.

Two days ago we got the new deck schedule for this month. no news about jobs or anything, BUT, I found I had an extra 2 days of 12-4 gangway watch this week, as some people are on re-entry training. That’s not good news. So I did 12-4 today. I’m SO tired. I wasnt ready and so didnt get enough sleep or anything, and I still have tomorrow to do.

BUT the good news: one of the other blokes wandered into my cabin just now, we were chatting, and he said, “just 2 days of 12-4? That would totally wreck your whole sleeping pattern. 1 day is fine though. How about we swap tomorrow? I’ll do your 12-4 tonight and tomorrow afternoon, and you can do my cleaning team.” He just phoned to say he confirmed it with the bo’sun. COOL!!!!!

He said he quite likes gangway. So many people tell me that. I just dont get it.

Re-entry training is brief 2 day training about getting ready for going back home. We have about 8 or 9 deckies leaving in the next few months, so it may be quite unlikely that I leave deck any time soon. I hope I’ll get the lifeboat job and that it works out as well as I hope.

I spoke with the bosun, and he knows that Im quite practical and good with my hands and stuff, and so he would quite like me in lifeboats, but the watermen want me to join them too (specifically asked for me). And he knows I’d quite like the lifeboat job. I told him that I am interested in moving from deck into creative ministies or AV or videographer job in the future, so if it is better for the deck to get someone who doesn’t want to leave deck ever (which would be good if there was someone to do lifeboats for 1 and half years! very good for the department), then maybe is better I stay in normal deck work. He was happy I told him. unhappy that I may not stay a deckie, but he really appreciates openness.

Watermen job is (in my opinion) not fun. Others think it sounds great. Basically no hard physical work at all; they are in charge of the ship’s drinking water, so when trucks come, they have to come and get it attached and coming to the right tanks, moving water from one tank to another so the ship doesn’t get lopsided, checking the water making sure it’s OK, testing the depths of each tank. There’s also a bunch of other random jobs (like looking after the baggage locker, making the new keys for the ship, repairing shoes, etc) mostly it doesn’t require too much work, but not exciting.

AND… many times they end up being “on call” all evening, and having to rush off to do water trucks at all hours, which would be really really is bad for me, as I’d almost never be able to totally confirm with a programme organiser, “yes I can be in a programme to do a drama” so they would not want me in dramas at all, as I might have to keep rushing off. So you can see how some people like the job. No hard physical work.

Sometimes they don’t ask if you want a job, though, they just assign. It’s the chief mate’s decision in the end. Apparently what happens is that all the department heads meet up to discuss what people they want, and then negotiate it all out, and then after that each deparement head assigns jobs out within the department according to which people they have left, and so on.

According to the AV people I’m almost certainly on the list of people they will request, but because of me being quite strong and a guy, I will almost certainly stay in deck for the first year. The thing is, AV will be SO short staffed in the next few months. I know I could do the AV job, and many people could not, and so I dont want to commit to the deck department of getting the extra training and stuff of the lifeboat job, if I will then end up having to dump them in a few months if AV cannot find enough other people. Its not fair to the department. So it’s all quite complicated. That’s why I told the bosun.

At the moment, though, I’m just glad about not having 12 to 4 again tomorrow!

I missed lunch today as I had to give a tour for my “little brother”s family at 11:30. So I went and brought an icecream from the book-ex shop, then made a chocolate spread and jam sandwhich and put the icecream on top. Scrummy. Then I had some dinner too, but not much. I put the rest in the fridge for later. But i’f I’m not on watch I wont need it…

Gangway watch is so bad for eating too. You never feel hungry at normal times, and then need energy quickly at random times, and waking up at like 2 am, and so end up eating really bad stuff, chocolate spread sandwhiches, choclate bars, tea with loads of sugar,cereal with sugary squash juice stuff as the Doulos milk is not nice.

We were supposed to go on an extra trip on my off-day, all of our group, to do a special programme at an old peoples home. But the driver didn’t turn up, and so we were waiting for ages. Then when he did turn up, we got taken off to the wrong place – the same place where we did some building. They wanted us to start building again, but none of us were in building clothes. All the girls were in punjabis and all . I remembered the house of a local guy we had met before, so we went there, and phoned to the real guy, and explained the problem … and then it began to totally chuck it down with rain. So we hid under the veranda and played music and sang songs with the local slum kids, which was really cool. They sung us their Sunday school songs. Really nice.

Then somehow the guy turned up, found us a jeep, and drove us back to the ship. On the way we stopped at a really nice cheap Indian fast food/resurant place and had lovely lovely lovely Indian food. A whole huge meal. The whole meal, plus drinks and dessert, and auto ride home cost us 50 rupees each!!!! 50 rupees is about 50 CY cents [approx $1 US].

It was too late to go where we were supposed to go – everyone had gone home.

Today has been pretty good. Sunday service music practice at 7am. I went early, to warm up, then we practiced until 8:20, service started at 8:30, so about 5 minutes for breakfast. Then after the service cleaning duty, so went outside to start cleaning. Barely started when an absolute torrent of rain started. So we ran around lashing down all the canvasses, lowering the engine room hatch, etc. Got totally soaked. Totally!

Ship seems SO clean now. It’s lovely. Everyone said “God is on cleaning duty today!”

Yesterday was i-night, at an outside quasi-amphitheatre venue, a 4000 seater. We packed it!!!!! We were praying for no rain on Saturday for the last 3 weeks or so. So it was really great getting soaked today, and thinking, “This rain might have come yesterday, and ruined all our equipment, and wrecked the whole night, but God made it rain today!” so we didn’t mind getting wet at all.

Then after lunch I did the rubbish, had a 10 minute rehearsal for a drama, finished the rubbish, had a shower, went and performed the drama, played guitar for a few minutess, got some props from creative ministires, practised with 4 others for a drama tomorrow. Then I got ready for gangway relief, went and did relief for half an hour while the watchman (watchwoman) went for dinner. Then I put the lights on on the ship, lowered the flag, ate dinner myself, then came back to clean up my bunk a bit. It was covered in random stuff from i-night and all.

I was in two acts in the i-night. Scottish dance, and then TWO minutes later, the “parade of nations” as Cyprus, so very rushed to change. I wear the closest I can find to Cyprus costume: black trousers, white shirt, and a black “Spanish” waistcoat from the costume locker. Looks kind of silly to me, but (a) no one in the audience knows any better (b) if it really looked stupid, they wouldn’t keep assigning me to parade of nations (c) most of the costumes look a bit “made up” or fake, so yeah.

Oh, and i’ve got jazz dance practice in 15 minutes.