Wednesday 6/27/2012 – Our last full day in Australia by Ian Shepherd

At 6:55 am we set off for our Half Day Straddie Tour. We got to Paddle across the tranquil waters of the Gold Coast, keeping an eye out for dolphins, turtles, and stingrays. We got to visit two of Queensland’s secluded islands where we were served a delicious continental breakfast on the beach. We go to snorkel with hundreds of sub-tropical fish off Wavebreak Island (1hr approx.) then, we took a short paddle to South Stradbroke Island and got to enjoy a stroll across one of the best surfing beaches in the world. Some of us even got to see Spot, the Swamp Faced Wallaby, only found on South Stradbroke Island.

Later on in the evening, Dr. J and Dr. S cooked tacos for all as we celebrated our last night together. It was really cool to see the relaxed friendships and camaraderie that has formed with the group. Students became friends. Faculty became mentors. What a great experience for all.

We leave at 6:25 am in the morning for the USA. Pray for our safety as we travel. We have three students diverting and staying in Manly for a few days (they will be surfing some more). I will be staying with Ethan and Leah at my mother’s for 3 more weeks as we work on mum’s house and do some repairs.

What a great experience. It is with mixed emotions that we say goodbye to new and close friends. Travel well!

Final Goodbyes…! By Ian Shepherd

The day started at 5:00 am for most of us as we had to finish packing and check out of our rooms by 6:30 am. We told the students that they needed to be downstairs by 6:25 and everyone made it on time. After a group photo we grabbed our breakfast in a box and headed out to the bus for our 30 minute ride to the Gold Coast Airport. We really enjoyed our stay at the Mantra Sun City. They were centrally located and well within walking distance of the shopping center and fun activities for all. I would stay there again with our group.

On arrival at the airport we were unable to check our bags all the way through to final destinations. This was odd. On arrival in Sydney (after a smooth and uneventful flight) we all met for one final time at the baggage claim to grab bags and make our way to our own private destinations. As we hugged and shook hands it struck me how close we had become as we shared this wonderful experience.

Some of the students told me how life changing this trip had been for them. That made me feel good. My greatest fear as tour leader was that the activities and classes were not challenging and did not meet the expectations of the students.

We have learned so much on this trip. Darryl and I plan on another trip to Australia in 18 months (if approved) during the Christmas break of 2014. This would be another 3 week class that leaves the day after Christmas and returns for school in January. The trip will come into Australia through Brisbane and then divert into two groups. One group will continue on to do operations research in Sydney and another group will go to the outback and teach technology skills to Aboriginal children on reservations. We will then meet up again in Sydney for a few days before going on to Auckland NZ to finish out the trip. The outback trip will be very “rustic” and may not be suitable for all students (extreme heat and camping type accommodations).

As this is our last post, I hope and pray that this trip has in some way changed our students to be more global in their perspectives. I pray that in some way they will always have a special place in their hearts for the people from down under. Ouray mates! You were a bonza group of true blue Christian representatives for ACU. There will always be a place around my camp fire for any one of you!

Love and best wishes ….Ian Shepherd….!