Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Greetings

I think that at this time of the year we make a special effort to greet, thank and wish well those that we spend our lives with throughout the year.

There are some people that we are able to say Merry Christmas to, and pass on well wishes for the coming year. There are others who have left our physical lives and live away. We may send them a good old fashioned Christmas card with a note about what's happening for us and our families. Or, we may be up to date and email, text, twitter or send greetings on Facebook.

I am choosing this blog to send my wishes to the many people who make my life interesting, varied, hopeful, challenging, colorful, worthwhile and fulfilling.

The people I am talking about could be the person who lives next door to you. I think that the Christmas story illustrates for us that our God chose the every day situation to be with us and I believe still does. Our Lord is with us in the ordinary, the mundane and the every day. So it is at this Christmas time in the special time we celebrate the presence of Jesus in our lives in the ordinary times to come.

Last but not least I wish to send my love and best wishes for Christmas and the year to come to Julie my colleague. I give you thanks for your patience, understanding, graciousness and the new ways you continue to inspire myself and others. Merry Christmas Julie.

The photos I have chosen are of my friends in Corowa, the Burrowes. Merry Christmas. Kel Hodge

How many different ways can Santa arrive?

Forget reindeer!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Flooding across the Riverina

A meeting was help in Wagga Wagga last week with a large variety of service providers and community members to look at what assistance was available for Primary Producers who had been impacted by floods a wet weather. Over the last couple of months there have been thousands of hectares flooded and tens of thousands with rain damaged crops.

Government assistance tends to concentrate on Local Government infrastructure and there is virtually no assistance with agricultural losses. This can be a problem for those farmers who have lost all their crop and need to money to get through Christmas and buy food, let alone repay loans, plant next years crop etc. Kel and I are experiencing a marked increase in the number of requests for welfare help. The Riverina Presbytery has also asked Fred and Anne Humphrey, who did pastoral visiting in the drought, to return and work with flood affected farmers.

The group that gathered in Wagga Wagga expressed concern at the situation and also the potential for increased levels of stress and depression in Jan when farmers are able to see how their harvested ended up and how much they don't have. I suspect there will be an increase in calls for pastoral support.

As you will have read on this blog the Uniting Church as launched it's Rural Appeal. any support you can give will be gratefully received. It will provide food vouchers for families and also help to pay some of the Humphries expenses as they visit people.


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Young producers

Last week both Kel and I went to Young at the invitation of the local Uniting church there to see how the church might respond to the devastation of the cherry harvest in the area. The cherry growers in the area have lost between 60%-70% of their crop. Of course this also has implications for the local economy with less money coming in from casual labour employed, and from the producers themselves.

The local congregation was keen to see how they might help, so after their Sunday morning service Kel and I had a great planning meeting with them.
On the Monday we organised, with  the Primary Industries section of Industry & Investment NSW, a meeting with service providers in the area to talk about what sort of support could be offered. It was agreed that most primary producers in the area were very busy harvesting what fruit or crops they could and were too busy for much else, but some meetings were planned for Jan.

How can you help - wherever you can buy cherries and other stone fruit from Young or Orange. The growers are finding that their markets for the fruit they have picked  is drying up because of the public perception that it's all spoilt. This is not the case so please support growers by purchasing their fruit when you can.

My thanks to Young church for not only wanting to do something useful but also with helping to organise all this.


Monday, 20 December 2010

A travelling companion

Julie: The following was written by Jane Schrader who recently spent a few days travelling around with me. I'm always happy to have people from other Uniting Churches who want to see what this type of ministry is all about.

When I think of my time spent with Julie, recently, I think of vast distances travelled, friendly country people, connecting with small bush communities, coffee in the pub at Mt Hope on the way back from Nymagee.

A welcoming Sunday service at Hillston run capably by lay people and then lunch with the lay teacher Jenny and her husband Joe afterwards.
A trip 200klms down the track to Hay across the green Hay plains that would normally be red dust by now. A visit to Bishops Lodge there and viewing the dental implements a visiting clergy person carried with him in years goneby on his visits to the outback.

I remember very well our trip to Louth across muddy outback roads which were very wet and full of pot holes..I remember sinking in the red mud as we walked across a clay pan. We enjoyed wonderful hospitality there at the Old Post Office B and B.

The next day saw us in Bourke. Julie connected with some local workers in the areas of Aboriginal Affairs, rural outreach and the liaison person for the rural mental health project. I visited the local Bourke Outback centre which was very informative and enlightening . I have a better understanding of life as it was and is now.

We travel another couple of hours later in the day and stayed the night with Ian who is the minister for Cobar/Nyngan as well as part-time person with Frontier Services. Good to connect with someone from this wonderful service.

I travelled back to Oberon the next day. A 6-7 hour trip as the roads through Dubbo and Bathurst were show due to the rain and some of the local bridges being out of bounds.

Thankyou Julie for allowing me to spend time with you on your journey with people of the outback of N.S.W. I now have a better appreciation of the hardships and benefits of life, there.

Jane Schrader(Oberon Uniting Church- member)

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Uniting Church Flood Appeal

The recent weather wet weather events in NSW have caused great economic and emotional damage across the state.

The Moderator of the NSW Uniting Church Synod Rev Nial Reid has launched an appeal as one of the responses of the church to the devastation.

I would urge those of you able to donate to go to the link for information about how to donate.

Kel Hodge

Monday, 13 December 2010

Pulling together for Operation Christmas Child

Each year Samaritan's Purse runs Operation Christmas Child which encourages people to gather Christmas gifts for kids and pack them into shoe boxes. The boxes are then packed into shipping containers and sent to various developing countries.

Two Hillston women have taken this project to heart and this year managed to bring many people in the community with them. Hillston collected enough gifts to fill 80 boxes and had a very successful luncheon to raise the money to pay the shipping costs. Thanks to their encouragement all sorts of organisations and individuals around town got involved, from kids to seniors.

Well done to Doris and Dot who put a lot of time and passion into this project. Next year they tell me they are aiming for even more boxes.


Saturday, 11 December 2010

Safe families in Bourke

A new initiative in Bourke aims to bring together various government agencies that are involved with families to try and coordinate responses to keep kids safe.

As part of their community engagement they are looking to form good relationships with the Aboriginal elders in Bourke with a series of morning teas. I was fortunate to be in Bourke for the first of these and was allowed to "gate crash" to meet some of the local elders and workers.

The meeting was held under the covered area outside the office, which was an ideal setting on a hot humid day.

This is an initiative that very much needed in the area and it is good to see a willingness to work with the local indigenous community.

However, last week in the Bourke area was not without it's challenges and this picture shows my car after the trip from Louth to Bourke - and this is after I washed the windows so we could see out of them! Thank heavens for a big 4WD.


Friday, 10 December 2010

Eugowra Floods Again

The Mandagery Creek has burst its banks at Eugowra this morning for the second time in a week.

This is typical of the flooding affecting much of NSW at the moment. The wet weather has diminished the value of crops and damaged a lot of property in rural NSW. A farmer mentioned to me just lately that as bad as the droughts have been he always lost more from too much wet weather.

The locals in Eugowra are used to having their village cut in two during flood episodes. It must become frustrating to clean up after the water leaves behind mud and debris.

A couple of years ago a flood event hit Eugowra and the sand bagging of the Uniting Church allowed me to perform a wedding after the waters receded.

Our land is certainly a land of contrasts.

Kel Hodge

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Stressed growers

Those of our readers who live in NSW will be aware that we are having extreme rain events across the state. In many places this has resulted in the destruction of crops or downgrading to feed quality (worth less than half of good grain). We also have had, and are in the middle of,  widespread flooding.

The wet often has results that we don't think about. I was talking to someone who has a property outside Weilmoringle. They had 500mls (20 inches) last Christmas so the kids and their families couldn't get home for Christmas, and this year is shaping up to go the same way, so Christmas will be cancelled again. It wasn't something I had considered.

People often ask me what impact this has on farmers and I came across this interview done with my old boss from the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, Prof Brian Kelly. As usual Brian puts it very well but he also has some good advice about helping people cope. News interview

For those who like to pray you might like to pray especially for those who have been evacuated from their homes and those who have had significant losses due to the rain.


Thursday, 2 December 2010

A Gathering on and in the water


Each year the Rural Womens' Network organises a gathering for rural women in NSW. This year it was at Wentworth, where the Murray and Darling Rivers meet. It was a fabulous weekend with over 300 women, but no only were we on the banks of the river, but the torrential rain felt like a vertical river.
But rain did nothing to dampen the fun and fellowship. With over 50 workshops, talks by a wide range of speakers, laughter workshops and fabulous entertainment it was impossible not to have a great time. The Rural Chaplains Network organised chaplaincy services for the weekend and ran a workshop on "Sustaining Hope in the Bush".

For me, one of the highlights was being able to kayak where the rivers meet, and have an opportunity to explore some of the area by water. It was especially poignant as earlier in the week I had been kayaking at the other end of the Darling at Bourke.

Next year the gathering is in Gloucester and if you can make it, a good time is guaranteed.


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