Friday, 27 June 2014

The Road to Wanaaring.

In my last blog we talked about “Chances. “- what happens when we just trust in God and allow Him to lead us.
This week it was a planned visit.
I had met Chris at the 4 schools camp and felt it would be good to connect with him and his small community and explore what this could lead too.  The road to Wanaaring is said to be the worst road in NSW and it is even in a song which tells all about it. 

But I found the road was in good condition and being graded as I drove over one section. Such a surprise coming round a bend with three big yellow graders coming towards me! But they stopped and I drove by with a wave of the hand to all three drivers. There are a few bits of tar but after the first section they’re not very long. Funny thing the speed limit on the dirt is 100k but on the tar bits -60k.

Got love the bush! There was lots of life; 4 Utes passed me from a leading Telco company and I passed one ute with a trailer plus the  kangaroos and emus,*  goats and other four legged friends.

When I hit the last bit of tar, I was in Wanaaring.
 I did a lap of the town, found the shop, the school and the pub, tied the car up to the rail and walked in. A big fire was blazing.  Narelle says,” G’day Phill bring the car round the back and I’ll show you your room.” 
 Then she asked had I been up to school yet.
 “No I drove past. When do they have lunch?” I asked.
  The cordless phone came out of the pocket “Yea, the Rural Chaplains here. When you guys on lunch? Righto! “  
 “You can go now.” she informs me. So off I go.
 The roo proof fence and locked gates had me stumped, then Chris sings out down the other end.  “Phill.” 
I got to meet his family and then his staff. All very friendly.
The afternoon was spent in a great conversation about highs and lows and great stories of outback resilience’s.  I say “outback “as this really is Outback. If it rains now I could be here for a long stay.

The river is running, the water has come down from Queensland and with it the yabbies. Chris and his family are trying their hand at this food source. He told of those who get 30or more.  “How are you doing?”  “Yes, we got a few.” I leave it at that, but like all fish o’s information for the new guy is less than helpful.  Question “So where is a good spot?”  “In the river. Near the bank. “Chris will have to track them down. 

Luckily Chris shared more info and his dreams for the school and village.  I then spent a wonderful night with his family over a BBQ. We talked and listened to the children share their adventures in their new home. 

Over breakfast Narelle, Chris’s wife, and I talked about the drought and the hard part of living 200+Ks up a dirt road. Mail comes twice a week and if it looks like rain – well, it is cancelled.   The school has to fly a pool repair person in but there is a sense Community.

 The long dry time is getting worse but Narelle was quick to say it’s even tougher up the road at Hamilton Gate. Lots of the stock have gone or are out on agistment down south. The hay drops happen in Bourke 200+ks away as driving into Wanaaring is too big a risk but some locals have got some bales in on small trucks. I am awaiting a local leader to contact me regarding their needs.

When we start in new areas we need to go slow, lots of listening and some well-placed questions, many follow up calls plus follow up visits.

The good and bad thing about Wanaaring is that it has no mobile cover for phone or internet. It was funny having a 24hr fast from IT but as I pulled into Bourke the phone told me “You’ve got Mail.”

The plan was to head off to Lightning Ridge but as I drove out of town I changed plans and headed home as Lyn was heading out for a few weeks work. I took her out for dinner and I’m heading to the Ridge* this week. BJ has headed out last seen sitting on the back seat of Vick’s Ute -big grin on his face.

Wife gone, dog gone – Hmm, is it me?

Till next time.
Thank you all for your prayers and kind words.

                                        Phillip Matthews, Rural Chaplain.

*Editor's note-Apologies to those of you expecting a report from Phill on Wanarring last week.
I decided to put in a Thank you to Unitingcare ahead of it so when Phill says "this week" it now means the week of the 23-27th June.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Unitingcare is everywhere!

One of the underlying themes of the last few blogs has been the funding we have received through  grants from various bodies within Unitingcare which have enabled communities to enrich their cultural and educational life in several areas.
                  We want to take this opportunity to say, "Thank you Unitingcare!"

Unitingcare is a very can - do operation. You may remember last week -

"Can you have this done by Synod?"
The question is asked with no expectation of a positive answer, but why not ask?
"Sure!" is the confident reply."

 That team which responded so positively and brought a smile to our faces is the  UnitingCare Mental Health Project and Ability Links NSW” . Tina McManus is the Operations Manager who voiced the "Sure!"
God chooses to work in partnership with us in His world to bring good into it and after we look (and hear) with His eyes (and ears) and realise what must be done, one of the things He needs us to say is "Sure!"

So thanks Tina and your team!

                                                  From little things,big things grow.

The funding for the Creative Solutions grant which allowed computer classes, ESL groups and tutoring and Merriwagga craft to do some exciting things was provided by Unitingcare Ageing Council West,which as well as supplying funding, has the amazingly efficient and friendly, Danielle Sullivan, right there on the other end of the phone when you need to ask a question. No waiting and no phone muzac, which is a miracle in itself these days!


Friday, 13 June 2014

"Can you have this done by Synod?" - Mental Health Care ToolKit

"Can you have this done by Synod?"

The question is asked with no expectation of a positive answer, but why not ask?

"Sure!" is the confident reply.

We look at each other over the teleconference hook up with smiles on our faces. Our mental health has improved already! Synod is an excellent opportunity to present,explain and promote, the new Congregational Mental Health Toolkit to the wider church.

Julie in rural gear at the 2012 Synod.
Mental Health is a big issue in rural NSW and there are less resources west of the mountains to deal with it. Julie is sometimes called to deal with the aftermath of a suicide in a rural town. Suicide is a devastating thing for all concerned and can be from all walks of life. But even before it gets to that stage the sadness, fear, withdrawal or irritability of someone suffering poor mental health is difficult to live with, not only for them, but for their families and friends. People often want to help but don't know how and worry about doing or saying the wrong thing.

This Mental Health Toolkit aims to equip congregations and then the wider community on appropriate ways to be friends with and show love to those with mental illnesses. It will be a general package talking about some if the issues around mental illness and practical ways of caring.

The package will include a theological statement about God's love for all people, particularly those poor in spirit, resources and information on mental health awareness and mental health first aid, as well as providing a lead in to further training in the area.

Not only the Chaplains but the RMU (Rural Ministry Unit) have identified mental illness as one of the major issues in rural areas. This Toolkit will be delivered and trialed through the Presbytery structure to congregations who want to be involved. More will be revealed at Synod.

Friday, 6 June 2014

"I was a stranger and you welcomed me." Matthew 25: 35

David, Woody, Sue and Lusi at Tuesday night Conversation Group.
Second lesson in for the Tuesday group and Lusi joined David and Woody, two twenty-something Koreans working here at the cotton gin. One of the activities had us all looking at our national flag and explaining what it means to the others in the group.
It shows that students are the same the world over (and also the kindness of most people) that, as the activity had us all scratching our heads, when it came to Lusi's turn, Woody was helping her cheat by looking up the Fijian flag on his phone! They had only known each other for an hour but were friends already!

Woody places the farmer's hat on Lusi's head to play Animal, Vegetable, Mineral  to practise asking questions.
Inspired by a talk by ESL TAFE teacher, Alanna Townsend, Sue decided to start conversation classes in Hillston and applied for a Unitingcare Innovations Grant to get TAFE help with training and support.We have such a diverse population here at most times of the year that it was just too tempting to have a go at this community building exercise. It has been a wonderful opportunity to help new comers, who do not speak English fluently ,or at all, to learn the language and be made welcome. And as always with God things - we end up getting more out of it than we put in.

Huong , student and local. at the Hillston Flower Show

At this stage there are four tutor/student pairs working. These students are from various ages and backgrounds -Vietnamese,Chinese, Indian and Korean and aged 25 - 50.

Woody - Best Hat Wearer on the night and quickest guesser.

In addition there are two conversation groups, held on Monday and Tuesday nights with 3 members in each plus native speaking locals. It has been a real jigsaw exercise finding times which suit everyone's work commitments  but we did it!

Although Lusi may challenge him in the hat wearing stakes!

Sue has written a program for the conversation groups to follow,with a mix of fun and informative activities designed to get everyone speaking. On Tuesday, having started at 8.30 pm supposedly for an hour,we finally left at 11! We were all having too much fun.

 No complaints but David takes a step down from his usual sartorial splendour to wear the Hat. 


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