Rain event at Junk Bay

The Hong Kong project was near its end.  My wife had joined me, and I had two more seismic traverses to do, both on the hills around Junk Bay.  It would take only a half day, but rain clouds were hovering over Hong Kong island.  It was generally regarded that if rain threatened Hong Kong, it would be raining in Junk Bay.

Nonetheless, we headed out to the Junk Bay area in hopes that the rain would hold off until we could finish our work out there.

As Junk Bay came into view, our Chinese crew let out a loud groan.  Dark, lowering clouds hovered over Junk Bay, but it was not raining.

We had a half-mile walk to the traverse site, down a steep hill in which steps had been cut, followed by an uphill climb.

As we walked the hundred yards to the beginning of the descent, a light rain started.  Pausing there, I hesitated.  The rain grew slightly heavier.

Then I recalled about the Christian teaching about taking a step of faith, I made a short, silent prayer and stepped forward.

Instantly the rain stopped.

We walked to the work site and completed the traverse, with no rain.

As we walked back to the car, it began raining a little.  Silently, I prayed that while I didn’t mind the rain, the workers were with me to do a job, and the rain was a nuisance.

The rain stopped.

As we arrived at the second traverse location, the rain started again, somewhat heavier. Silently I prayed, ‘Lord, please stop the rain.’

It kept raining.

I prayed further: “Lord, in Jesus’ Name, please stop the rain.’

The rain lightened a little, so I knew that God had heard the prayer.  But what else did He want from me?

Then I remembered.

While it was still raining I prayed, ‘Lord, thank you for stopping the rain.’

Instantly the rain stopped.  I immediately said, “OK, let’s go to work.”

We completed the traverse without a sprinkle.

As we were walking back to the car, it started drizzling.  I turned to my foreman, and said, “Harry, it’s going to rain now.”

Harry replied, “That’s OK, we’ve finished the work.”

I repeated, “Yes, but it’s going to rain.”

We didn’t get more than a quarter mile down the road, when the rain came down, so heavy that Harry had to reduce speed to about 30 MPH.


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What grabbed my arm?

One of the paths we followed on our way to our exploration sites led past a number of Christian burials.  These graves were burials like those found in European and American countries, with a headstone, often having a picture of the departed person.  Some were defaced; one had what had been a small cross, but the top part of the cross had been broken off.  Some had been removed, leaving an empty hole behind.

As we were returning from a day’s exploration, we walked down one of these paths.  Suddenly, as I stepped down on my left foot, there was nothing solid underneath it.  I was falling into an open grave.

At that moment, something grabbed my left arm, breaking my fall.  My foot touched the bottom of the grave, lightly.  I easily stepped out of the grave.

Then I looked around, thinking that one of the other workers had caught my arm, saving me from injury.  No one was behind me; all the workers were ahead of me.  I looked for a branch, limb of a tree, anything that my arm might have landed on, to break my fall.  Nothing.

Yet, something broke my fall.  I say no more.

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Lunch on the hills near Tai Po

One main goal of the new land reclamation initiative in Hong Kong was to fill part of Tai Po Harbor with dirt from the nearby hills, so our work took us to the undeveloped hills behind Tai Po Harbor.

There being no good places to buy lunch nearby, we carried our lunches with us.   The hills had tombs where the recently dead would be placed.  These tombs always had ‘Ho Fung Shway’ (a pleasant aspect for the dead person to enjoy), so we’d look for one nearby, where we’d eat our lunch.  Typically they had benches where visitors could sit.  Often, as we climbed the hillside to a tomb, we could see nothing but hills and brush around us, but at the tomb we would have a great view of Tai Po Harbor.  Tombs were fine places to eat lunch.

Once, while approaching a tomb, I found a small rock with some paper under it.  Curious, I looked at one of the small papers.  It looked like a bank note.  It had a large number on it, something like 100,000 and the words, “Hell Banknote”.  One of the workers told me that it was ‘Hell money’, left by relatives and friends so the departed had some money to buy things in Hell.

The non-Christian Chinese apparently had no illusion about where they were going when they died.

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Another Hong Kong project

Sir Murray McLehose, then Governor General of Hong Kong, touring the Hong Kong colony north of Kowloon, was appalled at the squalid living conditions of some ‘boat people’ living in a tidal basin.  The small inlet that held their tiny houseboats was no more than an open sewer.  Sir Murray immediately began a new project, filling a nearby harbor to make housing for the boat people.  Maunsell Consultants Asia called me back to Hong Kong to locate fill for the harbor project.  It grew into several other projects, all to expand living space for Hong Kong’s millions.

So, again, I had to leave my family for months, but I could also renew acquaintances in Hong Kong.

This time, though, I looked forward to bringing Elle to Hong Kong to visit me, at the end of the project.

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An extraordinary Sunday in Sydney

After my experiences with missionaries  in Hong Kong I was well into the charismatic movement, both in Hong Kong and Australia.

One Sunday I attended a mass evangelistic meeting at the Hordern Pavilion, a huge meeting hall in a Sydney suburb.   An emphasis at the gathering was the extraordinary effect that strong faith could have in one’s life.

At the end of the meeting I gave a ride to an attendee who was from out of town.  As we headed for his hotel I asked him if there was any particular thing that he needed, that we could believe God for.  He said that he was hungry, and did I know of a restaurant?

It was Sunday.  On Sunday all businesses in downtown Sydney were closed.

Nonetheless, we agreed that after what we had heard about faith in God, we would believe that God would provide him with a place to eat.

I asked him what type of food he would like.  He was a Greek immigrant.  He said that Greek food would be his choice.

“OK, we’ll believe God to lead us to a restaurant serving Greek food!”

Only a moment or two later we saw a huge sign in Greek lettering on the side of a building.  In its windows we could see what appeared to be people sitting at tables.

“Praise the Lord!  Look at that!  Your prayer has been answered!”

I stopped by the building and waited for him to check whether he could eat there.  He soon returned, said that it was a Greek club, and that they would serve him a meal.

After I left him and had crossed the Sydney Harbor Bridge heading for home, I came upon a stalled car in the middle of the highway, with a lady inside.  The car was on an uphill grade; the car needed to be pushed off the road.  Clearly, it was too much for me to push by myself, and the rather slight lady could not offer much assistance.

As I spoke to her I learned that she was returning from the same evangelistic meeting I was coming from.

I told her, “OK, you get in the car and steer.  I’ll push the car.  We’ll believe that God will get your car off the highway.”

Just as I put my hands to the car, I heard a huffing and puffing behind me.

A huge, young athlete, out for his afternoon jog, came up beside me and pushed the car with me.  We got the car to the roadside quickly.

He didn’t wait for thanks.  As quickly as we got the car to a safe place, he was gone.

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Australia’s dangerous waters

The waters in and around Australia contain many perils, from living things and other dangers:


The white pointer or great white shark is well known in Australian waters.  Their fierce reputation is well earned.

When we visited my wife’s sister in Perth, Western Australia, we swam at the well-known City Beach.

The newspapers reported that the City Beach Surf Life Saving Club spotted a European swimmer far away from the shore.  They rowed out to rescue him, but he refused to be brought into the boat.  He said he was training to swim to Rottnest Island, about twelve miles offshore.

Every day he was seen at the beach, swimming farther out each day.  The newspapers dubbed him ‘Mr. Shark bait’ and published cartoons of sharks talking about him and licking their lips.

One day he went out on his swim and disappeared.  He has not been seen since.

The swim to Rottnest Island had been made by swimmers that swam in cages to protect them from predators.  (More recently, the swim has become an annual event with hundreds of people swimming, while attending boats keep predators well away.)

The greynurse shark is ubiquitous in Australian waters.  It has had a reputation as attacking people, but it is largely undeserved.

Many popular Australian beaches have shark nets to protect swimmers from roving sharks.

The Blue-ringed Octopus is a cute little thing, about the size of a human hand.  They turn bright blue when angry.  Their bite is almost always lethal.  There is no known antivenom.  Click here for first aid information.

Sea Wasps and other jellyfish live in tropical waters around Australia.  A sting from their tentacles can be extremely painful or fatal.

Sea snakes should all be regarded as poisonous.

Rip currents are fast-moving currents along a beach that can sweep in and carry swimmers out to sea.  Any beach can have them.  Bondi beach, Australia’s most famous beach, has them regularly.  If caught in one, don’t fight it, just wait for the surf life saving club to rescue you.  Typically, the current might sweep you half a mile out to sea.

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Christmas in Australia

As a native of the Northern Hemisphere, I found that Christmas in Australia was really different from what it is ‘up north’.

Australians observe many English traditions, even though they really are unsuited to the hot weather.  Many families serve heavy dinners of roast goose or other meats, along with calorie-laden vegetables and all trimmings.

Then, things could get more Australian.  The younger set might grab their surf boards and head out to the beaches.   Most other people, if they could shift themselves after the heavy dinner, might go to the beach, or if they had a sailboat, would go out into Sydney harbor to catch some wind in their sails.  Larger craft would sail out through the ‘Sydney Heads’ into the Tasman sea, either to sail the open ocean, or to head for some other river outlet to explore those shores.

Most Australian cities have fabulous beaches.  We often went to Sydney’s famous Bondi beach; others that we visited were Maroubra and Manly beaches.  Other excellent surf beaches are up and down the ocean front, all the way past Brisbane in the north, and south to Melbourne, and beyond.

When our boys were young we took them to Balmoral beach on Sydney harbor, away from surf or rip currents; really a pleasant way to spend the afternoon on sea and sand.

All Sydney beaches, both ocean and harbor, have shark nets to keep the predators away from the beaches.  For the more remote beaches up and down the coast, swimmers and surfers just take their chances.

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An unearthed, unexploded bomb

After a few months back in Sydney, Maunsell and Partners sent me to a short project in Singapore, followed by another project in Hong Kong.  The Singapore project involved geophysical work on the site of a new ships’ drydock in the Sembawang district, on the north side of the Singapore island.  The drydock was to be the largest in the world, capable of handling the world’s largest oil tankers for repairs.

The Sembawang district had been the target of many bombings and artillery attacks during World War II.  Construction workers were always looking out for unexploded bombs and artillery shells while excavating for the drydock.

One day, while working in the drydock excavation, someone mentioned that a large artillery shell had been uncovered.  When I asked where it was, the worker pointed it out.

The warhead was only about ten yards from were I was working.  It looked to be about six inches in diameter.   It was full of undetonated explosive, which could have become unstable in the years since the war.

It made me uneasy.

Before I could get out of there, a military vehicle with four soldiers drove up to the shell.  They appeared to be smiling and joking as they jumped out of the vehicle.

Transfixed, I watched as they lifted the shell, threw it into the back of the vehicle, and drove away, bouncing over the uneven dirt.  I fully expected the shell to explode at any moment.

If it did, it would instantly kill the soldiers, and probably me, as well.

My only thought was that the farther they got away from me, the less likely I was to be killed or grievously wounded.

I didn’t breathe easily again until they had left the area entirely.

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Concern for Australian friends

While at a prayer meeting in Hong Kong I had asked for prayer for Geoff and Pat, a couple that my wife and I had met at church in Sydney.  They were not Christians, and were new migrants to Australia from England.  They were having family struggles and had decided to find a church; for no particular reason they selected our church, Lane Cove Methodist.  When we met them we invited them to a retreat our church was having that weekend.  We became fast friends while on the retreat; a friendship that is still ongoing as I write this.

While flying back to Australia at the end of my first trip there, I realized that after praying for them I would have to talk to them about accepting Christ into their lives.  This was new stuff to me, and it made me nervous.  Would we lose their friendship?  Would they regard me as a religious nut?

When I stepped off the airplane in Sydney, Elle was waiting for me.  Her first words were, “Pat has had a violent conversion!”

The Lord had made it easy for me to talk to Geoff and Pat about spiritual things, even though Geoff had not shared in Pat’s experience.

Some short time later, a charismatic evangelist couple from the United States who went by the name of the “Happy Hunters” had a series of meetings in Melbourne.  Pat wanted to go; Geoff was reluctant, but went along with us.

The Happy Hunters were strongly charismatic and had a healing ministry.  Pat was enthralled.  Geoff left the meeting and waited for us outside.

(A month or two later, Geoff had a more sedate experience in receiving Christ.  To this day they both remain strong in the faith, very active in church and evangelical work.  Geoff joined the Gideons International, a group that places Bibles in hotels and other locations.  He has since been elected to state-level offices with the Gideons.)

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‘Run, Baby, Run’

Just before the end of my first Hong Kong project, a young Chinese acquaintance lent me a paperback  titled, ‘Run, Baby, Run’, by an evangelist named Nicky Cruz.  Mr. Cruz had been a notorious and violent leader of a Hispanic gang in New York City, the subject of another book called ‘The Cross and the Switchblade’ by evangelist David Wilkerson.  The young man that lent me the book was a great fan of Mr. Cruz, as he himself had been deeply involved in gang activity in Hong Kong before becoming a Christian.

I read the book as I flew back to Australia.

When back in Sydney, I learned that Nicky Cruz was to have a series of evangelical meetings in Sydney.  When Elle and I went to the meetings I brought the book, ‘Run, Baby, Run’, with me, and had Mr. Cruz autograph it.   When I returned to Hong Kong for my second project, I returned the book to the young man, with Mr. Cruz’s autograph inside.

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