This weekend we explored the Brisbane River Valley to the northwest of Brisbane city — visiting the villages close to the Somerset and Wivenhoe dams which provide the water supply for the southeast Queensland metropolis.

Esk Multicultural Festival, July 2010

Woodoo had a doctor’s appointment early in the morning, so when he got back to our place, we packed up and drove to the little town of Esk. Esk is just over an hour’s drive from Brisbane and nestled in a valley between several deep granite escarpments. Little more than a main street, its main attraction is the annual Esk Multicultural Festival (held today) which attracts the usual market-stall-holders as well as specifically “ethnic” promoters, plus a medieval village set-up complete with jousting matches and a blacksmith.

We were also able to make an arrangement to meet with Esk local Tom Varney — a man whose life story is truly fascinating. He was a wild young man, violent to the extreme, intent on killing police officers, certifiably mentally ill and inevitably ended up in prison.

However, when God responded to his simple prayer to take away his cravings for alcohol, Tom was reborn. Absolutely and amazingly, his life was transformed.

In his recounting of Varney’s story, Gordon Moyes writes, “Eventually a letter came from the Government of Victoria granting him a full pardon in the light of the remarkable change within his character.” How often do you hear about someone like that? And then finally get to meet the man in flesh?

David + Tom Varney, July 2010
After reading Tom's story and corresponding with him for several months, it was terrific to finally meet him.

Tom really loves the Lord and devotes his time to sharing informally with people that he meets. He came to the festival to just hang around, talking with people and sharing God’s love. David spent a couple hours talking with Tom while I took the girls around the festival tents and watched the performances on the main stage.

Esk Multicultural Festival, July 2010
This circle of ladies were dancing in a traditional Indian dance. It looked like a lot of fun.

Esk Multicultural Festival, July 2010
Following her performance on the main stage, the harpist "Celtic Raven" was kind enough to invite the girls to try strumming her harp.

Aisha, 5yo, Calista, 2yo, + Brioni, 3yo, July 1010
Dressing the girls alike means its easier to keep track of them all in a crowd. (Of course, you can't see the crowd in this picture — but there *were* other people in Esk that day!)

Esk Multicultural Festival, July 2010
Women in hoop skirts (and puff sleeves!).

Esk Multicultural Festival, July 2010
Off to one side, tents were set up and jousting fields were roped off.

Esk Multicultural Festival, July 2010
I found the medieval village most interesting.

Esk Multicultural Festival, July 2010
A lot of work had gone into making the armour and props scattered outside the tents.

Esk Multicultural Festival, July 2010
This coat of mail weighs 10 kg.

Esk Multicultural Festival, July 2010
There were many people in costume. I think it would have been fun to join in!

Knight at Esk Multicultural Festival, July 2010
Some of the costumes were particularly good.

Esk Multicultural Festival, July 2010
We stopped to watch the fighting which is closely monitored under a set of very strict rules.

Esk Multicultural Festival, July 2010
When someone is "slain", the dying is *very* dramatic. (But Calista found the fighting very traumatic and cried although I kept telling her it was just pretend.)

Esk Multicultural Festival, July 2010
This little boy shed his pint-sized armour before he napped in his parents' tent.

Esk Multicultural Festival, July 2010
A blacksmith had different swords on display (blunt, of course).

Bonnie the dog with Calista, 2yo, + Brioni, 3yo, July 2010
The girls stopped to pat a friendly little dog, and I chatted with its owners.

Lauren and 4 daughters, July 2010
The dog's owners offered to take a picture of us... Aisha and Cali refused to cooperate.

One conversation with the dog’s owners led to another, and we met each other again back at another tent, where I introduced Sue and Ran to Woodoo and David. They knew Tom Varney by reputation, so we introduced them and ended up sharing a good conversation together. (It still surprises me how people can come together in unity because of the life of God that is in them.)

At the end of the afternoon, Sue and Ran invited us to come to their house for the night. They lived in the little village of Toogoolawah, 18 km from Esk, so we packed up and followed them to their house.

Brioni, 3yo, + Aisha, 5yo, July 2010
Listening to stories in the truck.

Delaney, 7 months old, July 2010
Delaney dozing in her carseat.

Lauren and 3 daughters, July 2010
After arriving in Toogoolawah, we opened the top of the truck to survey our surroundings.

Sue & Ran Schneider, July 2010
Sue and Ran are a lovely Christian couple. They were so kind in offering their hospitality to us, even though we were complete strangers!

Girls playing in tent, July 2010
The girls played outside the house while we talked inside.

At the Schneiders' house, Toogoolawah, July 2010
Every new friendship starts with strangers, and we had such a good time getting to know each other.

We stayed up late talking with Ran and Sue. I put the girls to sleep in their beds in the truck, and Hugh eventually stayed in the Schneider’s spare room.

We experienced true fellowship — we talked, sang (Sue played a guitar) and prayed together. God filled the room with His presence, and we blessed each other.

It was wonderful to have a place to stay — we had left for the weekend, not knowing how it would turn out, but certain that God had something good planned for us! He doesn’t disappoint, does he?