Author: Ron Graham
This page holds the reports on my voluntary ministry activities for 2009 —for the information of those who take a special interest in my work.
Dear Brethren... This report covers the final quarter of 2009.
New Korean service Sunday afternoons — The service on Sunday afternoons for Korean field workers has continued with attendances including between 10 and 25 Koreans. The translation of the lessons has grown easier as James translating, and I preaching, learn to work together. In December we moved the service from 4.15pm to 7pm temporarily to accommodate workers who, because of the busy season, were working late into the day. In addition to the church work for the Koreans, a social evening was hosted for them by Ray and Cheryl at their home. These Korean young people are outstanding. They are sober and sincere, attentive to the word of God, appreciative of our cooperation with them, and very generous givers.
Highway billboards — Another two billboards are about to appear on main roads around Bundaberg, advertizing simplybible.com and the Bundaberg church. This will bring the number to six. I can't take much credit for this large outreach effort. I only designed the billboard. The billboards do three things. First they teach a simple message, "Listen to Jesus". That may only be three words, but it is hard to think of a more important message for the world, and when God chose to speak from heaven, he did not say much more: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear him." Second, the billboards give the internet address "www.simplybible.com" and third they give the address of the church building. The sign was carefully thought out in wording, content and appearance. It has already brought visitors, some who have been to several services and continue to attend. Of course there will be results that are not seen by us.
New Tracts Published — A long time back, I was printing lesson handouts because visual aids are rather limited at Bundaberg and a handout has the advantage that people can take it home. However I was getting concerned at the waste of paper in leftovers that were not of much use. So I decided to make the handouts in the form of a pamphlet and put the leftovers in the tract rack. They proved to be popular so I continued the practice. Ray Ward had salvaged a brochure rack from somewhere. It is large, neat, and suits the size of the pamphlets. He has installed it in the hall. A couple of ladies have offered to keep the tracts in order, put some together as sets, and print off extra tracts when needed. I have prepared an indexed disk containing 84 tracts in pdf format, making them easy to find and print. God willing I will make a second collection in 2010 as I make new ones.
Sermon and class topics — During the quarter I spoke at 42 services, presenting lessons on sin, patience, the book of Revelation, and the sermon on the mount, as well as several miscellaneous titles. There were 31 different lessons delivered. At the year's end I have reached 399 speaking engagements at Bundaberg since taking on a pulpit ministry there. My first lesson at Bundaberg in 2010 (God willing) will be the 400th engagement —accidental but a nice neat number nevertheless!
The website for the internet www.simplybible.com — Good results this quarter with page requests/visits averaging more than 2,500 daily. The daily average in October was 3,132 pages visited per day. I added ten new Bible study pages and did a number of jobs to enhance the site's appearance and usefulness.
My main emphasis with the website was setting up a system to make lesson pages print friendly. Browsers these days seem to have minds of their own when it comes to printing a web page, and a lot of my pages did not print well. So I worked out a system where a print icon or button would show automatically on a page and this would allow the user to bring up a print-friendly version of the page, stripped of everything except the main article —without the web page banner, footer, sidebar, and other items not needed on a printout. In this form, a great many articles on simplybible.com will fit nicely on an A4 page.
I also worked out a system that allows longer articles to be split into parts so that each part will fit on an A4 page. This added another layer of organization —the site is now divided into topical series, each series into lessons, and each lesson into one or more parts. For very popular lessons and other selected lessons, I make a tract which users can print out. The tract (a pdf document) will automatically present itself to the user instead of a print-friendly web page.
It took quite a lot of thought and work to build all this new setup into the site in such a way that minimal editing is needed to apply the system to a lesson —since there are more than 1000 lessons.
I was not able to complete the Revelation series. I did complete seven more lessons. There are now 69 lessons in the series, with eleven more to go.
The website had its 8th birthday, seven years on line. As a birthday present I gave the site a new banner which looks a bit more modern and clearer, and allows more of the page content to be seen “above the fold” before the user scrolls down.
Thanks once again, your servant and Christ's,
Dear Brethren... This report covers the third quarter of 2009.
New Korean service Sunday afternoons — To cooperate with the Korean members of the community, a new Sunday afternoon worship service was commenced in September. As far as possible, the service is in, or is translated into, the Korean language. It is held in the late afternoon to allow those employed on farms and market gardens to attend after work. James and Candace, a South Korean couple, are the enthusiastic driving force behind this project, assisted by some other Bundaberg members. The whole church is hoping this will grow into a worthy work for the Lord. Nine Koreans attended the last Sunday in September, all young people. It would be lovely for Bundaberg to become a multi-lingual church and to enjoy the opportunities for service and outreach which that brings. My part in the project is to help with conducting the service for a time, and to teach in English working with the translator. Susanne and I will spend the afternoon in the Bundaberg area.
More billboards on main highways — Two more billboards have been rented, taking the number to four. One is south of Maryborough as you travel north, one coming out of Gin Gin as you go toward Childers, another on the way from Gin Gin to Bundaberg, and another on the way from Childers to Bundaberg. The latter is brightly illuminated at night. These billboards advertize www.simplybible.com and the address of the Bundaberg church.
Sermon and class topics — At Bundaberg I presented 5 lessons in July, 6 in August, and 16 in September, 27 in all. These included two brand new sermons never preached before, two other sermons on subjects requested, some other lessons on prophecy, and some others on law. In September midweek we began a study of the Sermon on the Mount, and Sunday mornings a series on patience as it relates to grace, faith, hope, love, suffering, service, and self.
Attendances improve — Attendances at Bundaberg have improved generally, especially midweek (up around the 15 to 20 mark). That's always good to see.
Visits to Victorian churches — Mid July to mid August, I accompanied Susanne to Melbourne where we were able to meet with the church at Heidelberg West (two Sundays) and Bairnsdale (where I was asked to preach). We also met in Brisbane twice with the Point church. It was good to see folk at these churches whom we have known down the years and to catch up on the news.
The website for the internet — Page requests (actual page visits) in www.simplybible.com continued to be more than 2000 per 24 hours. Daily averages were 2,214 for July, 2,238 for August, and 2,768 for September —2436 daily average for the quarter. The total of page visits for the quarter exceeded 221,000.
There were three main projects for the quarter. First, I went through the simblybibleFinder search engine looking for inefficiences and found several which I was able to fix, providing our users with noticeably faster results. In most cases this meant certain changes to the logic in order that unnecessary processing be avoided. While on this project I actually discovered two "bugs" in the program which I was able to fix as a bonus.
The second main work on the website consisted of adding a synopsis of each lesson in all of the listings including those generated by simplybibleFinder. This was a big task (among other things I had to compile over 1000 synopses) but has greatly improved the presentation of lesson lists and indexes. Instead of just a list of lesson titles, the user is now able to read a short description of what a lesson is about before clicking on the title to request the page.
The third job was to complete the index for the Revelation series and to complete all existing lessons that were not quite finished. This is preparatory to adding new lessons on Revelation, and hopefully completing the entire series by the end of the year. The series on Revelation is the largest on the site with 62 lessons to date and several more to come.
Thanks once again for your interest and encouragement in the work,
Your servant and Christ's,
Dear Brethren... This report covers the second quarter of 2009.
Two years in Queensland — We have passed the two year mark living in Queensland. Of course I've lived in Queensland previously, and my wife is a Queenslander — she was raised here. But I'm speaking of the two and a quarter years since our move from Bairnsdale in Victoria. We are happy in Queensland, especially in Childers where Susanne's father was born. He and his father served the Lord in the church of Christ in Childers (and other places of course). We often sit on our verandah for a cuppa break, look out at the rolling green hills, and talk of God's grace in letting us come here to live. Winter has begun, but the days are mostly warm. After many years of very dry winters, Childers is getting a wet one. The sugar cane harvest has begun and soon we will be hearing the cane trains pass by.
Bundaberg congregation — Attendances at Bundaberg have generally held up and even improved despite several illnesses including the very serious. Some younger people, some from Korea, have been coming along, and this is encouraging to a church whose membership has been aging. To everyone's delight, we have even had a baby coming to most of the meetings, and he brings his family along with him. Still on the subject of attendance, I have noticed that several people leave at 10.30am on Sunday and don't stay for the adult and children's classes until 11.15am. In several of my Sunday sermons I announced a related or supplementary lesson to follow in the adult class ending at quarter past eleven. This seemed to encourage a few more people to stay.
Sermon and class topics — In the quarter I presented thirty two lessons at Bundaberg. Midweek we continued to study the various Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus followed by a brief look at the premillennial interpretation of prophecy. For Sundays We completed the lessons on the seven good influences and on Paul's journeys. I then gave two lessons about healing through prayer. These were followed by lessons from Colossians, and Marks of the True Church. We finished the quarter with three sermons on nothing. That last sounds like I was desperate, but there are some very important Bible verses about nothing. Since starting to preach at Bundaberg, I have delivered 328 lessons, all different, no repeats. It doesn't hurt to repeat lessons, but so far I've had no reason to do so.
The website for the internet — I have been extremely busy upgrading simplybible.com and have at last completed the major work. Whilst still keeping the original design and unique feel of the site, I have given the pages a more columnized look to make them easier to use on today's wider screens. The main addition is a sidebar at the left of the page. This contains extra information and navigation assistance and is fully programmable to suit each individual page. The user has the option to hide and reopen this sidebar. On some pages I have shifted supplementary material into a right hand column or box, so that the main content of the page is simplified and cleaner.
Over 1000 Study Pages —There are now over 1000 Bible study pages on the simplybible.com website, not counting the 130 service and information pages or the mobile phone pages. When I started building the website seven years ago, I prayed and hoped that I might be able to publish over 1000 lessons. The Lord has granted me that after seven years I should exceed that goal. Some of those Bible studies are really not one lesson but two or three all on one page. Therefore even the 1000 number is understated in terms of actual lessons that will fit into a normal 25-30 minute study period.
Over 2000 Daily Visits to Pages —There were 70,562 page requests in April (daily average 2,352 ), 70,679 in May, (daily average 2,279 ), and 71,677 in June, (daily average 2,389). These figures represent pages visited. I have had a couple of people imply that I have mistakenly counted all file transfers. However, on my site the "hits" count for all files is in the hundreds of thousands monthly. But that's meaningless. The figures I have given you show the number of pages from simplybible.com that have been opened in people's browsers after being retrieved from the server. During the quarter these amounted to over 2300 every 24 hours, or about 100 every hour. By the way, this number does not include the possibly common occurence of users revisiting pages retrieved offline from their browser's own cache rather than online from the server.
A bit more on simplybible.com — During the quarter Google made a rather disappointing job of indexing my website. I would normally have expected this to reduce page requests by as much as half. However search engines like Yahoo and the new Bing have indexed the site very well —Bing especially produces very good results. So fortunately the usage of simplybible.com has stayed between 2000-2500 page visits daily. No doubt repeat users and some advertizing of simplybible.com such as on the roadside billboards has also helped to maintain a steady stream of visitors to the site.
Till next time God willing —To those who take a personal interest in my work and pray for me, another big thank you and may God bless you. Your servant and Christ's,
Dear Brethren... Ron Graham’s Report for first quarter of 2009.
Autumn in Childers — We have come to the best time of the year in Childers —pleasantly cool mornings and evenings with glorious sunny days between. We miss the autumn colors of Victoria, but there are other colours here around the hills and fields of Childers. Our days are very busy. Susanne is working at her art, and is achieving a very high standard. I am working hard on the website and getting odd jobs done around the house and garden. We had a jungle down the back which I recently cleared, and I built a set of steps down to the back area, using timber left over from the replacement and improvement to our old kitchen steps in 2007.
Bundaberg congregation — We continue to attend Sundays at Bundaberg. We go midweek too except when there is rain, because we cannot manage driving in rain at night. The congregation has done another excellent piece of community outreach. I mentioned last quarter the pamphlet sent out to thousands of homes. This has been followed by the placement of two large billboards on the Bruce Highway (National A1), one near Gin Gin and another near Maryborough.
Ray Ward worked hard at organizing the billboards, notwithstanding he is in the midst of a very busy time with a personal project. All I did was design the sign! The billboards have drawn a lot of comment from both visiting Christians and from the community. Hundreds and hundreds of cars go past them every day, and the signs are highly visible.
Bundaberg sermons and classes — The Sunday adult class consisted of 13 lessons, four studies in James, four lessons on various topics, and five studies of Paul's Journeys in Acts. Of Sunday sermons, I preached 13, seven on various topics and six in a series called "Seven Good Influences". Midweek I presented 10 lessons, five on various topics and five lessons on Prophecies fulfilled by Christ. Total for the quarter, 36 lessons in 13 weeks. Attendances at the Sunday classes runs at about a dozen, although it sometimes goes up to as many as 25 some Sundays.
Producing pamphlets — A couple of reports ago I mentioned the tracts that I had begun producing. There are now a large number of them because I have been producing them as handouts for many of my Sunday sermons and for most class lessons. I will shortly be able to distribute them to you on a cd if you wish, so that you can read them on your computer, and even print copies. I wanted to get a large number prepared and all the series completed before making them available.
The website for the internet — My Internet Service Provider was unable to provide data for about three weeks, but from the data I did get, the usage of simplybible.com appears to remain at 2000 to 2500 page requests per day. There were a few days over 3000. I've been working hard at upgrading pages and improving the appearance and facility of the site. I also added 15 new study pages. There are now 975 study pages on simplybible.com and more than 1100 pages over all. It would be a nightmare for people to navigate such a big site, if not for the care I take to providing navigation helps. I have continued to develop simplybibleFinder as the main aid, and it is now at a very advanced state and is now being used around 100 times daily. My next project is to introduce an optional side bar to the web pages which will help and encourage people to browse the site fruitfully.
Regular support — I still receive adequate support for my circumstances and am grateful for this.
Till next time God willing —To those who take a personal interest in my work and pray for me, a big thank you and may God bless you. Your servant and Christ's,