Author: Ron Graham
Ron Graham’s Ministry Reports
—For the year 2003
This page holds the reports on my voluntary ministry activities for 2003 —for the information of those who take a special interest in my work.
Report for Feb-May 2003
This report covers events over the period Feb 1, to May 18, 2003.
It is Autumn, the best time of the year in Bairnsdale. The bushfires are gone at last, but not their effects. Some of the poor folk in the high country who got burnt out had just finished replacing their fences when a freak four inches of rain fell in less than a day. Rivers of black mud washed away their fences and left their bare fire-charred fields devastated. The high country's tourist and cattle industries have been decimated. Down here, near the lakes and sea, we have been getting some light rains, just enough to let the garden show a flush of flowers.
Support. Since my last report, I've continued to receive some personal support and some help with my working expenses for which I am very thankful.
Bairnsdale congregation continues to be a happy, united, and faithful group, with full attendance at all our meetings. Four members miss one evening meeting each week, one being elderly, two unwell, and another a truck driver on the road. Beyond that, it is rare for anyone to be absent, and there is always a good reason.
The parents of one of our members have moved to Paynesville just down the road from Bairnsdale. This has added to our number.
I continue to preach and teach at Bairnsdale, taking the midweek class, Sunday adult class, and my turn at preaching. Two other men, John Wall and Rod Poynton take turn with the Sunday morning preaching. For a long time now, our Sunday evening meeting has consisted of songs, Bible readings, and prayer. There are three readings, three chapters on a theme, for example, or three selections from a book. When this was started, I was a little dubious. However, I can see now that this has proven to be a very good practice.
The Sunday classes have concluded the studies on the first epistle of Peter. After that we studied a series called "The ABC of the Devil". This study looked at various aspects of our adversary Satan. Each of the topics starts with a letter of the alphabet: Angels who fell, Binding of Satan, Chapters on the devil, Designations and descriptions of the devil. We have now begun a verse by verse study of First Timothy.
Midweek on Tuesday nights we followed the study in Revelation with some other related studies on prophecy, especially the three-and-a-half symbol including "a time times and half a time". We have now taken a rest from prophecy, and have turned to a study of the soul, spirit, heart, mind, or inward man. We have begun with a study called "True and False About the Soul". The topics are (1) The soul is not breath, (2) The mind is not the brain, (3) The soul is in God's image, (4) The soul survives physical death. The point of these lessons is to emphasise the eternal and immortal nature of man's spirit.
The website for the internet has grown to 350 pages, including more than 300 Bible lessons. I have received a variety of emails from readers and users indicating that the site is being used increasingly around the world. Apart from the static teaching which the site does of itself, I have been able to do some personal direct teaching to individuals through this medium using email. Latest additions to the website, include an adaptation of a series on the Sermon on the Mount which I taught some years back. This series includes puzzles and interactive questions which I have been able to make work on the web pages quite well with very little trouble.
Thank you again for your encouragement and support as I try to serve the Lord. Please pray for me, as I do for you.
Report for May-Sep 2003
This report covers events of May 19 to Sep 15, 2003.
It is Spring, and warming up. We've had useful rains, though could still do with more. We are still burning our wood fire some days, and the wood pile is down to the last row. There is serious talk now about getting natural gas to Bairnsdale. So perhaps by the time I'm too old to chop wood, I won't have to. This winter seemed warmer, because I filled in the back verandah and made it all one room with the dining and kitchen area. Now our laundry, toilet, and third bedroom are all inside the house instead of "out the back".
We decided to make the third bedroom our office, and the second bedroom, where the office was, is now the spare room. This turned out to be more complicated than we imagined, and held me up a bit. However it enabled us to have one of those sometimes necessary sort outs, and I am now blessed with a much more suitable work area.
Support Since my last report, I've continued to receive some personal support and some help with my working expenses. I appreciate very much your helping me in this way.
Bairnsdale congregation continues to be a faithful group, getting along well with each other. In August a former church member came home from England to get married in Metung on the shores of the lake. The young couple are Christians, and all members of Bairnsdale church were invited. Each one had some part to play and some contribution to make, and did so with enthusiasm. Although it was the middle of winter, the two days were glorious, sunny, warm, and still. The wedding day was a lovely occasion. The next day, Sunday, our church attendance was three times normal because of the number of Christian visitors who had come to Bairnsdale for the wedding. Robert Dow (whom the church helps to support) preached for us. On the Sunday afternoon about sixty people came to our house for lunch.
I continue to preach and teach at Bairnsdale, taking the two weekly classes, namely Tuesday Bible study and Sunday adult Bible study, and also taking my turn at preaching every third Sunday or so.
For the Sunday classes, I prepared and taught a new series of studies in Paul's first letter to Timothy. This took up the whole period of this report. This series is becoming available on the website, although that task is not finished. Attendance at Sunday classes is often increased by visitors. Brethren on holidays, and members' children who live and work in Melbourne, often turn up. So I have to make sure each lesson I teach on Sunday is a "lesson in itself" that will benefit those who are not here for the whole series.
For the Tuesday night home bible study we completed a great many lessons on "The Soul". This series was arranged around a diagram which shows all the possible states of the soul, all the possible transitions between those states, and the event portals through which those transitions are made. Moreover, it includes the four possible deaths a person can die. This series was also converted to web pages along with the diagram. This study also took up the entire period of this report. It was wide ranging but eclectic, for I suppose one could go for a year or more on the subject. I concentrated on three main things: (1) Understanding the relationship between body and soul, (2) Touching on some "New Age" errors, (3) Most importantly, understanding the true path that every soul should take, and how a soul who has strayed from that path can be brought back to it.
The website for the internet has grown to 380 pages, including more than 325 Bible lessons. I have received several more emails from readers and users. It is interesting that I get about three hostile emails for every one email that is friendly and encouraging. I am not sure what that means. One very kind email came from a man in Texas USA who has apparently benefited greatly from the training pages called "Success in the Pulpit". He is unable at present to attend a training school, so the internet, including my website, has helped him.
During the period of this report, I have given considerable attention to the background work required to keep a large website manageable. One important thing that I did was to secure a domain name (simplybible.com) to make promoting the website easier. The actual website address (URL) is horrible for people to type. The URL simplybible.com is nice and simple. You can put www. in front if you like. The domain name uses two key words from the full name of the website, "Simply Christians Australia Bible Study Resource". Put the words "simply" and "Bible" together, and you have "simplybible.com" which I chose for three reasons: (1) it is expressive of the site's nature and purpose, (2) it is easy to spell without mistake, (3) it was available (no good thinking up a great name if somebody has already bagged it). I went for a "dot com" name because the newer TLDs such as .org just don't have the same ring to them.
Another task has been to gather together into one place and system, much of the material in my possession that I have written over more than 40 years. Fortunately I have kept my work reasonably organized down through the years. However I have some work handwritten on paper, some typewritten on paper, some on disks in various computer files, some in copies of old publications and some in the listener guides for my video Bible studies. The danger of this is that much the same material for a particular lesson may exist in various versions, in various stages of development, in various places. If I am to make a lesson into a webpage, I need to have any previous work on that lesson to hand, so that I don't re-invent the wheel or spend time researching and developing what I have already researched and developed. I anticipated this problem when I first started the website, and assigned a number between 1 and 999 to each lesson.
I have been collecting together all my paper files and all my computer files into this one simple numbered system. This was a little tedious and consuming of time, but not too much so, since my work was mostly not disorganized, but merely organized in several separate systems which did not fit well together. They did, however, lend themselves to being fitted together as one simple system - I suppose because the same simple mind was behind them. This task made me think how each of us as members of the body of Christ is different from the other, yet because we are all guided by the mind of Christ, we are able to be fitted together as one. There you are, you see: a wonderful analogy can always be found in the most mundane task. Remember that when you next wash the dishes.
In case anyone reading this report would like to know how I have been organizing my work,I'd be happy to share that with you. It is quite a simple system and requires no database and search engine software, just what Windows provides.
Thank you again for your encouragement and support as I try to serve the Lord. Please pray for me, as I do for you.
Report for Sep-Dec 2003
This report covers events of Sep 16 to Dec 5, 2003.
It is Summer and the early summer rains have been splendid. The long drought has broken, and we give thanks. Along the lakes' shores, there has been an unusual pileup of seagrass. I took my little ute to a nearby lake and got four truckloads with which to mulch our front garden. This will hold in moisture from our good rains, to help the garden through the heat of midsummer. The garden, made mostly from cuttings, is looking lovely, and better still, it is mostly looking after itself now. Susanne "steals" roses for the house, gives big bunches of them to friends, yet still more keep coming, such that you would never know any had been taken.
Support. I have been busy as usual with the Lord's work, and will bring you up to date in this report. Since my last report, I've continued to receive some regular personal support and help with my working expenses. I appreciate very much your helping me in this way. I also received two grants for the work done on the website, one from the local congregation, and one from another church. This helped me through a tough two months and I appreciated the help.
Bairnsdale congregation continues to be a united and happy group, and another new baby, has arrived. The whole congregation is like a family to these bonnie bairns, and they have brought bus much joy and pleasure.
Video ministry. As well as the grant mentioned above, the church here is helping me to convert the master tapes of the Australian Video Ministry into digital form on digital video disk (DVD) which is taking over rapidly from video tapes. I am concerned that my master video tapes are deteriorating and the men of the church share that concern. So we plan to spend a thousand dollars on equipment to convert to DVD . This will allow me (1) to conserve the master recordings, (2) distribute the video programs in a choice of formats, video tape or DVD, and (3) take a step toward future video editing capability. There are more than 100 half hour video lessons, and I am pleased that I have been given this opportunity to take a step toward adapting these programs to new media.
I continue to preach and teach at Bairnsdale, taking the two weekly classes, namely Tuesday Home Bible study and Sunday adult Bible study. The brethren here have recently said that they feel "blessed" to have my teaching. That remark quite encouraged me.
For the Sunday classes, we commenced a study of the book of Hebrews. This is a new study. I have wanted to prepare a course in Hebrews for several years, and am finding much satisfaction (although never enough time) in doing it now. The series is a work in progress on the website too. The study in Hebrews follows a topical outline, in which the passages relating to each topic are examined together. The Hebrew writer treats a number of related topics, and may return to a given topic several times in the course of his letter. This series has taken up the whole period of this report, and will, God willing, take us well into 2004.
For the Tuesday night home Bible study, we embarked on a new series about correctly understanding and interpreting the scriptures. These lessons are mostly taken from material used in the "URGE" outline study sheets which I produced some decades ago. I am, however, editing and adding to the material to make it more wide ranging. The lessons are kept very simple. This series is also being added to the website under the heading "Authority".
The website for the internet has grown to 403 pages, including 353 study pages. Recently, when in Melbourne I spent several hours at the Museum Infozone where I had unlimited free access to the internet on broadband. This allowed testing of the website in an advanced environment. It performed well. I was also able to research compatibility with developing standards.
A well managed website needs to be maintained and upgraded on a regular basis, and about 20% of the time put into the website is concerned with its functionality, whilst 80% of the time is concerned with the Bible study content. I am aware that a website can have excellent content, yet function and present very poorly. Hence the 20% attention to functionality and presentation. This includes issues of coding methods and languages, coding standards, compatibility and adaptability, choice of media formats, domain name management and relationship with the server, effective indexing and lesson linking. Because one could easily get bogged down in this side of things, I have not attempted to include sound and video on the website yet. I have confined myself, for the time being, to the textual base overlayed with some dynamic elements such as puzzles, quizzes, and charts.
There have been some encouraging emails from users of the website. One young person described it as cool. My aim is to present the truth and present it effectively. Whilst there are thousands of church websites out there in full view, some are poorly managed. As one example, through apparent neglect of domain name management one Australian church website now comes up as a sex industry advert! A professional ministry on the internet takes regular time and attention, and I'm very thankful for the support that gives me a reasonable amount of time to do this responsibly whilst still building the website's scriptural teaching content.
We have been having visitors to the church services here in Bairnsdale, mostly family members from the city, and Christians from other congregations travelling through. Recently some of the town's aboriginal children asked if they could come back to Bible school, and so we are including them in the children's Bible classes.
May I wish you all happiness for the season, as another year draws to a close. May you be blessed in the new year. I look forward to continuing our relationship in 2004. Thank you again for your kind help and support this year now gone. May the Lord bless us as we work together for him, and may he make our efforts fruitful.