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Settling Down Permanently Down Under
Iarrived in Australiafrom America via Fiji and Sydney at BrisbaneAirport just afterNew Year’s Day 1981. Rev. Kettniss and about fifteen other Presbyterian Leaders welcomed my plane at Brisbane Airport. I had not slept since leaving Tyler Texas in the morning of Wednesday 31st December 1980 — before the three-hour drive to Dallas, then the flight to Los Angeles and a many-hour wait there till past midnight, and then the further flight right across the Pacific via Fiji and Sydney, and then after a further delay on to Brisbane in the afternoon of Friday January 2nd 1981. I was sweaty and weary indeed, and must truly have been a sight that gave all the Queenslanders at Brisbane Airport very sore eyes!
But Rev. Guido Kettniss and his lovely family kindly looked after me for several days. While staying there, I preached for him (my first sermon in Australia). After the service, a visiting Minister told me at the door of the church: "You sound just like an American Negro!"
On the day after my first Sabbath Down Under, Guido shut up his Christian Reformed Bookroom for five whole days. Unheard of! Why did the dear man do that?
Because, for the next working-week, he sacrificially did nothing else but drive me around from car-dealer to car-dealer and from house-for-sale to house-for-sale. I ended up buying a large Datsun, after Guido had dickered down the price to $4000 even. Then, when I liked the fortieth house Guido showed me, he had his (and from that moment onward) my friend the Christian Architect Chad Palmer put his imprimatur on it — before I bought it (together with most of its furniture).
To this day, 24 years laterin thesame house, Iam greatly indebted to Guido forall hethen did — with one exception! That one exception is when Guido then dragged me off, most unwillingly, to be interviewed (as the Presbyterian Church’s new Professor) by the left-leaning local newspaper (the Courier Mail).
Theinterviewerwasayoung know-it-allwhoimmediatelyidentified himselfasanAtheist. I told him "So was I, when I was your age!" When he next discovered that I admired both Ronald Reagan and Queensland’s conservative Christian Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the Courier Mail soon printed a cartoon ridiculing all three of us (Reagan, Sir Joh, and me).
I was not amused. For different reasons, neither was the local Labor Party Senator (Mal Colston). He had the cheek to enquire publically what kind of visa had been issued to me, and accused me of intermeddling in the politics of Australia.
Soon after that, I met the legendary Sir Joh in Parliament House. Sir Joh had seen the cartoon, and decided I must be worth meeting. In his office, he then warmly welcomed me to Queensland. WhenItold himaboutSenatorMalColston, hereplied: "Don’tyouworry yourself about him!" — and then gave me a Queensland state flag, which I still treasure.
Closurewas setonmy newhomeforJanuary 22nd 1981. Till then,Iwentandstayedwith Guido’sElderBruceLovely(whosedaughtertheweightlifterDeborahsubsequentlyrepresented Australia at the recent Olympic Games).
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While with the Lovelys, they fed me at least one huge mango for breakfast every day. I contracted mango fever, and my whole face turned into a round and orange-coloured halloween pumpkin, complete with slit eyes and stupid grin.
I was not yet fully recovered and normal in appearance, when on January 20th I went to Brisbane Airport with Guido and the Seminary’s new Principal Professor Norm Barker — to collect my wife and children who had just flown in from South Africa. Very tired, they were installed into our new home on the same day — just several hours after the seller and her family moved out, on the closure date itself.