Friday, 28 February 2014

Waste Not Want Not - Still Going Strong in 2014

A group of volunteers for Hillston Waste Not Want Not (WNWN) left early the last Friday morning of January, headed for local farmer,Tim Watson’s farm to pick watermelons. It proved good fun and exercise for the group who collected 10 crates of melons weighing 4-12 kg each in an hour and a half! Obviously, young or older -age is no barrier to participating.
These photos show the volunteers, Steve Chapman, Bill Kocks, Max Sartor , Don Woods, Joe Rose, Pat and Joy Gannon, Lou Revelant, John Sheridan and Freddie Craig, still smiling despite heat and the weight of the melons! Another Men's Shed and Uniting Church member, John Kirton was also present earlier in the morning.

 Most of those helping on the day were from the Hillston Men’s Shed with Joy and Jenny, Steve, Principal of Hillston Central School, Lou Revelant, the Foodbank Produce Manager based at Griffith and John Sheridan, who is a member of the committee which oversees the running of WNWN in Hillston.
WNWN in Hillston is an active enterprise,mostly running itself as farmers are keen to donate their left over produce rather than see it go to waste. Sometimes,as here, and depending on what it is, the food needs to be collected from the field but most other times the farmers themselves arrange for produce to be sent direct to Foodbank.

Friday, 21 February 2014

"For as much as you do this for the least, you do it for me”

Jo's Induction, Cobar.
Hi!..... Just back from a run out West, which covered meetings in Weilmoringle and an Induction service for Rev. Jo Smalbil , at Cobar. I also did a short run to Bankstown to see my mentor and friend, Rev Neil Smith retire.

 In the Western part of the state is where I joined a DPI Road Show, this was nightly BBQ with a Men’s Health focus. This was the most informative talk I have ever had the pleasure to be at. An average of 30 people attended from 7-to ….well…. as late as 2.30am!.... but an average of 12 pm !
The tour covered many small villages around Bourke and the Queensland border. As I had to go to Sydney I did the Weil, Enngonia and Louth section. The Road Show took the form of a BBQ, then a talk by Steve Carroll, our health worker. It was aimed at the people of the land and their communities and it was hilarious!

                  But …Back to the Drought......

Bourke - " Grey as far as I could see"
I had not been in some places since before Christmas and one I never been to before. The land is grey for as far as I could see. Even the trees had lost their colour with grey looking leaves! Many had big limbs lying at angles from the trunk, some fallen over with the wind.  Stock were in rows eating from the line of whatever they had been given, hay or cotton seed; others hung close to the road under trees for shade. The temperature gauge in the car said 42c at 3pm in the afternoon!

Creeks and dams were empty, dry or muddy. The emus looking, and poor roos, still looking, at 11 am, for water and food.  This is what you see from Coona to Cobar up to Bourke out to Bree and Louth.  The radio tells of a new plan that will come. The farmers say,” Yes, well, we did all we could.Sold last November all but the breeders. Low interest loans, freight costs covered back to January” and on it goes.

"I hope it does rain!" -  Planting in hope.
What do we, as Chaplains, do in these situations?
Pray for rain every day and for people we meet
Go to meetings with stake holders and listen. Allow those who need a space to vent their feelings of frustration a place outside the home and work space.
Talk to staff sent out with very little to offer the communities and others who bring speakers and pass on a message and pamper packs.
It’s also a time to get together, laugh and talk.

In most places, later in the night we expressed the need to keep talking to each other and people are always thankful for us coming, taking the time. I was made to feel part of the groups wherever we went.

Sheep sometimes have to work hard to find feed.

Also at the Weil group I was told , ”It would rain soon!”
“OK? “
 “Well -you see the moon…. ?
“Yes, and so…. ?”
“So,..…..saw a porcupine * walking,  or smelt a dead kangaroo on the wind”
I add, ”Yes, my knee hurts”.

We all laugh but “Hey, it rained 3 days later -20-40mm………. Hmm ?!"

Not Over yet!

Last thing –
I was in Sydney. It poured down and it rained all the way up the New England but as I pulled into the Narrabri Shire it was 33 c at 4.30pm ,dry and blue skies. We only got 17 mm in the old rain gauge others got more. What I am saying is -Do not think that just because it rains where you are, or even up here it is all OK  (it’s a help but not an end.)

We need your prayer and government help as we work our way forward.

"It 'll take years." 

Remember the two kinds of rain? – dams, creeks and ground then follow up? We need both kinds and winter warmth so growth can occur, no frost to burn the grain. Farmers need to find feed for stock and to buy stock back. It will take years. Even if we have good years they still have to pay back all they owe the banks and shops, rural and retail rates,BILLS ,wages if you can get someone to work for you.
It will take time to recover but with your prayer and support it will happen.

What can you do?
Buy holidays in Australia, drink coffee, eat cake in the smaller towns …..”For as much as you do this for the least, you do it for me”
This was the text for the close of my friend’s service and it fits the situation I am describing.  

You have the power to help by shopping, holidaying and praying.
It’s not much to save a way of life for our neighbours across the breadth of this land.
To finish- 
3,155 km of dirt, dust and flies.
Am I tired?
Yes, I am.
                     It was it worth it.

The Darling -still pretty but slowing to a stop.

Every moment, from the plains to the mountains and in the city, God has been at work.

* Aboriginal people in NSW use the word “porcupine” when referring to the echidna.

Friday, 14 February 2014

What's a Drought?

As you listen to the news you will, of course, have been hearing about a drought that has hit in the North West of NSW and Southern parts of Queensland. 

Those of you who, like me, live in the areas caught in the drought know what it looks like and its effects on daily life. But as I have also spent time in the city and on the coast I know it is sometimes hard to envision life with little to no rain. 

I’d like in this blog to try and give you some image of Drought, not an expert opinion, just some images, to help you focus your prayers, and your mind, as to what it is.

 Flood is an element of nature that comes with a rush, you can build walls around sheds and move homes to higher ground. A fire can also be fought. Drought often goes on for a long, long time. It is something you get ready for- resources are stored up, if you can; above ground dams are made; bigger bores are dug deeper; stock are sold off, if you get in early and the stock are ready.( But how many to you sell or keep?)
These are things many farmers did after the last one but when the rain does not come in the right amount again.....!?
For us city folk rain is rain but on the farm you need 2 kinds of rain- “soaking rain” good for crops and grass and then there’s “run off rain” that fills the tanks, dams and our rivers.

Cattle on "the long paddock".
Farms need a balance over the year to get back from drought. This just has not happened. The rains have been hit or miss in many areas of the North West.
Some areas of NSW did well- down South - for example. But here in the NorthWest, there was, in many areas, no rain last year to plant a crop.  Sadly some country had enough to plant but not enough to make it grow so not only “no crop” but a bill for planting and loss of seed for next time. This drought is hitting cattle and sheep farmers as well as crop farmers. To sell your stock off you risk getting little to no money. Some put their stock on the road.

Droving has come back with a bang but the stock routes look like mowed lawns as hundreds of hungry sheep and cows munch their way along the roadside - plus what do they drink? 
Out here a drought is not just a few days or weeks or months. At home the house tanks would be dry so farmers buy water by the truck load. We in towns get upset with water restrictions! For the people on the land it not the lawn, it is their livelihood; not just a job but a way of life! 

Breeders of livestock care deeply about their herds, dogs and stock horses. They love the land they have built up to grow food and fibre to feed and clothe us.

But it does not end at the farm gate. This flows on into the towns. Drought hits every business, not just Agra- business, all the shops suffer. You may have goods going out but often it’s on the account. Drought dries up not just the land but can dry up communities.   There are lots of sad things that happen that I’m not going into here. We hear lots in the news and other media. These are the hard things a farmer has to work out and through.
There are many people who, like Julie and I, visit and run events. 

This is what we’ll be doing over the coming weeks, attending community events. Some we will set up, others we be part of.

Good Day Out -Weilmoringle 2013
What do we do?

We listen- allow people space to share. Isolation is the biggest problem -self-exile to the farm, not going out, working too hard as you have let the workers go to save money. Just getting people to talk to one another gives them the knowledge that it not” just ME!
We can provide events to bring them out- not self-help groups but Good Days Out like the one at Weilmoringle, with info and support round a BBQ -a lot can be done.

What can you do? 

Pray for the people who work our farms and those who run business in country towns and villages that they can hang on and know that those in the city’s care
Take holidays in rural towns
Spend money in their shops and coffee shops (If they close!!... err!)
City Churches -Send letters of support to country churches - let them know you’re interested.  Ask them to send you pray points and take on that church as a pray partner.  
Rural Churches -Share your needs or contact the CWA - as many places may not have a worship centre
Give to drought appeals but DON’T send goods unless asked for.


Life is hard but it’s not hard to show we care. All it takes is a few snags, some bread, heaps of laughter, a mouth that’s closed and 2 ears listening.

 Contact Julie or Phill for more information.


Phill Matthews

Friday, 7 February 2014

Phill's Snap Shots in Broken Hill - Part 2 -Being there and on the way home.

The rest of my time was spent with Rev.Will Pearson and some old friends - Rev. Ian Tucker and Rev Graham Mc Grail, who were in town for Jo Smalbil’s Ordination. She’s our newest Rev and is going to Cobar.
Jo Smalbil's ordination service
One of the main things I do when not at meetings or events, is to talk to local Ministry agents, if they're open to it; giving them a place to unload or just talk about life.
As a Rural chaplain I am independent and it means it is not just their life partner that has to deal with any frustrations or listen to their planning. Most of all it’s companionship on their journey of working in remote areas, work that can be hard and lonely. I do the same with Tracey and others and I have offered Jo the same as a new Minister. She has support in many formal ways but what I offer is different.
One of my other goals in going West was to meet with the new Department of Primary Industries worker just starting in Broken Hill. It turned out she was part of the Far West Legal Services management committee. She is planning some work on the road in the same week I’ll be here for Jo’s induction.
                                                     Our God works in great ways!
 Here are some more –

As I headed out on my own up the Silver City Hwy about 20ks out I stopped and made some lunch and was eating same when a ute pulled up. Rusty was a worker with an earth works contractor. We talked about the drought and he told me of his life from aged 15 working in the bush on properties and mines.
 “It’s never been as bad as now,” he said, “Tanks empty” (“Tanks” are dams. Once passed a spot on the map they change name from dams to tanks. It’s a measure of how far out you are.)

This is part of my work. I love the random connections I make. People see the Rural Chaplain signs and stop for a chat in the caravan park. I had a number stop and just talk but it was now time to head the rig East and start back. In a great few days-new friends met and old friendships built on.

I think as the Church we often do not remember that in building God’s Kingdom we have to start by engaging with the people God sends our way in a real way. I believe when people see us living out our faith in the everyday -like building honest, open relationships, that meet people where they are, listening to them rather than telling them what is wrong with them and seeking out common ground if they need support.

 Ask, if you can you help, don’t just take over. Remember the important thing is that God loves you for who you are. Love them for who they are. As God loves you, so love them and allow it to grow at their pace not yours. IF you can’t, don’t. Get someone who can and pass them on.Not all have the same gift. Seek out yours and understand it and seek those in your church who can complement so together you can reach out to your community and build partnerships and relationships. 
                                  Is that not how you came to know our loving Christ?
The other thing is- you never know what your meeting may plant in others. We do not always get to see the outcome but we all have a part to play in the journey.
Did anyone say emus?


PS -I did also get some time with Will to wander up some dry creeks and take the odd 700 shots of trees, sand and emus and we did some off road sight-seeing too."


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