Friday, 29 August 2014

"I’ve been everywhere......"

Remember that old song?
Well, that has been my theme song the last month. I’ve been to Dubbo, Taree, Wauchope, Urunga, Tamworth, Bourke and Wanaaring- oh, yes and home at Narrabri. It was a good trip as I caught up with many friends and along the way I made some new ones.

The view from the driver's seat.
 I drove out to Wanaaring today as part of a planned 4 day Drought workshop but due to an influx of people there was “no room at the inn” so plans changed slightly but the workshop still went on. This program was pulled together by a group of services providers including the Uniting Church Moderators Bush Fire appeal. We called on the skills of a writer to facilitate the workshops.
It was great to sit in the groups hearing their initial nervousness but then Stephanie,our facilitator, drew on our stories and made us aware of the blocks we build or which others built, and helped people find their voice. It was good to hear the negatives turn to positives by lunch time; celebrating their wonderful town, on the edge of the unincorporated land and Bourke Shire, a town on the cut line where the line goes through town.

David Shrimpton 

Pastor David Shrimpton of the Flying Patrol flew in and was happy to join in with the groups. It was a great chance to meet a number of the Wanaaring locals in one place. I also introduced him to Chris, the principal from the school and Chris’s family.  It was a worthwhile day! An earlier plan to spend longer with these people, would have been great but plans change and we can’t always do everything. How we deal with that is crucial. We can stress, wish it wasn’t so or we can move on and see what God has next.

 David's flying patrol plane, a perfect symbol for Phill's words-
"we can move on and see what God has next."
As I am heading down to Albury this weekend for the Murray Darling Tour, I can take time to catch up with some people or have a rest, write this blog and send it in.  Being busy is what we do but Godspots like this are not for us to jump in and fill up but to find time to reflect on what we have been doing, spend time recharging but also to be open for whatever HE has planned. As a church and as people we measure how well we doing by how much we have done. Working with the services I do with drought work at present we see lots of $$ have been given but the sad part is it’s often about doing a heap of short term one offs. These are quality, in most cases but the key people are  having constantly to reapply for their positions and this means that come the end of the year these positions will be gone. People wonder if that work will continue in any way or does it all start over from scratch again. Time spent on reflection instead of jumping in would be very helpful in dealing with situations like those which exist in rural NSW.

Hopefully, these remote rural areas will have follow up rains soon but for many they still will be dealing with life coming out of a drought. Our prayers are that programs like this one in Wanaaring will give them another tool to draw on in that recovery as they rebuild and work on their stories.  

Phill Matthews. 

Friday, 22 August 2014

The Griffith Carevan.

Ever thought to yourself, as an individual or a congregation,

"What can we do to help someone who doesn't have it as good as we do?"

That's where it is very useful to have a Rural Chaplain in your congregation. Every church should have one! Not only are they experts in getting grants for projects to meet needs in rural areas, but because they are very much in the community and listening to the needs of others, they are full of ideas about how you can become involved in taking the love of God to the wider community.

There are endless examples of this but the Griffith Carevan project is the current one for Hillston Uniting Church.

Griffith Carevan has been operating for 6 months and meets up to 130 people each week, providing meals, conversation and care.The need is growing as the number of homeless people and families who struggle to put good food on the table, is increasing, even in rural towns like Griffith. To assist people with their personal hygiene the Carevan staff have requested kits be made up with essential  items like tooth brushes, toothpaste soap and more.

A generous couple from Pymble Uniting Church has offered $1,000 to pay for these small personal hygiene kits to be handed out to homeless people who meet up with the Carevan in Griffith.To save transport costs and spend the money in the rural economy, they have given the money to the Chaplains,who will make it available for Hillston Uniting Church people to spend it on the items listed by the Carevan staff. Congregation members will then pack the kits as a community project.

If you want your church to part of one such exciting adventure please contact Phill or Julie and they will have a project for you. Age or size of the group is no barrier.There are projects to fit every situation.

Just ask them by sending a message via the blog, facebook or email - Phill -
or Julie -

If you get this blog on facebook, please like our page and send it on the your friends.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Hillston Uniting's Christmas in July

Question :-

What do you get when you put 11 Koreans, 1 Chinese Australian, 1 Japanese, 1 Polish Australian, 1 British Australian, 1 Australian who’s lived in Argentina, 1 Australian with a Welsh name, 2 who’ve lived in Hillston for over 70 years and 1 bog ordinary Australian, all of varying ages, into a room?

Shepherd, Joseph, Baby Jesus, Mary and an angel.
Answer: A night of fun at Hillston Uniting Church’s “English for Non-Native Speakers” Christmas in July.

Young,Tommy,Woody and Andrew open the bon-bons.

We weren’t able to explain why the jokes in the bon-bons aren’t funny but who could? But we wore the hats and ate the food and had a great night of conversation and fun. The hall was decorated with tinsel and a tree, with tea light candles lighting the way up the path to the hall. Everyone brought a small gift to share, which was put under the tree and handed out lucky dip style later in the night.
We sat down to a 3 course roast chicken and veges traditional dinner, complete with a huge plum pudding.

 Kibeom “David”Kim treated us to a Korean sweet, ho-dduk. It looked like a potato scallop but comprising mostly of sugar and cinnamon, it was much sweeter! Yum!

Small servings of the roast were collected on the first round of eating but plates were piled higher the next time. “It’s a good sign when they go back for seconds.” Roma, one of our native speaking volunteers, commented.
The shortbread and cake were a hit too.

In what turned out to be a highlight of the night we played a team game at the end where each team had to create a costume for a Christmas character out of newspaper and sticky tape. The results-Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, an angel, a shepherd and sheep were amazingly creative!

An international food night is planned to be held in a few months. These social events and English classes are made possible by the same grant from Unitingcare, obtained by Uniting church rural chaplains, which provided for computer classes in Hillston and craft days in Merriwagga, all administered by Hillston Uniting Church.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Meeting People Where They Are.

I spent a great day out at the Nyngan Field Day. 

We had subzero temp early on in the day but it was a fine sunny day as the day went on. Lots of locals, families and visitors filled the show ground. We had a constant flow to our little info table. 
 It was also a coming together of 3 Uniting Church services -Local Minister Jo Smalbil and Lou, her husband, who both fly the Frontier Services patrol flag in the Cobar and Nyngan area, visiting farmers on farm; Uniting Care Burnside Children & Family Councillors, Catherine Thompson and Natasha O’Neill from Dubbo Office and Kate Mudford from Interrelate, a service about building relationships, located at Dubbo too.

At back - Phill, Natasha and Catherine. Front row -Jo and Lou 

The goal of the day was to make connections and bring some light into the darkness of the day to day grind of the drought on their farm and in the communities. The question I am often asked is - “Do people talk to you at such events?” Answer “Yes, they do.” Not always at the stall but on a break people stop us and asked questions and have a conversation. We had many connections at both the table and wandering round.

The cleanest animals in Nyngan -until they leave the table!

As you can see on the table we had information and DVDs as well as our animals (?)/ Stress balls. We had two big storage tubs of the stock and all our stock went by 2 pm. Children would look sideways and we’d ask “Do you want one they’re free?!” A quick look to mum and or dad would bring them over, they’d pick the one they like, have a short yarn and look at the handouts.
 “Can I get a pen?”
 “I might take one of these too”…. and so info would be out there. 

We did not push, just listened and smiled and explained what our roles are.  Even the store holders would be interested. We found that the cool room for the bar was in the little room behind us, so we had this stream of cases of beer moving through our space and so had good relationship with “the Boys.” “Use the trolley.” We’d sing out as they carried their load. “ Last load, they used the trolley.” “Yeah?“

Meeting people at these events allows them to meet you, not at an office or a service. It was also good for the profile of the Uniting Church to been seen in the community offering a warm, friendly smile and information, reaching out together to all who stopped - families from the land, their children and young people, even grandparents . The team made all welcome and all could take the extra cow, sheep or pig for whoever.  The feedback was positive from the families but also from the Field Day organisers as they roamed around the sites all day.

I will be working with a number of services across the Western District in coming weeks, offering people time out, access to info and an ear to hear their story. Sadly though some areas are moving slowly forward there are still areas doing it tough and maybe doing it that way for some time to come. Much of the government funds have a use by date of December, so there are a host of activities for now but this may not be continued after that at this stage.

The Uniting Care Burnside team are building links so people will have resources in the coming months. Frontier Services will keep calling across the Nyngan- Cobar area and Dave Shrimpton, our Flying Patrol, goes into the far outback.  The Rural Chaplains? -  we will continue Uniting for the Common Good .

Where to next?  Wanaaring, Louth and then the MDB tour.

 Thank you all for your prayer support.  It is a great blessing for us.

                   Matthew 25:40 is the basis of the work we do as Rural Chaplains. 

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

Phill Matthews     

Friday, 1 August 2014

Waste Not Want Not goes from Strength to Strength.

Nearly 150 tonnes in three years. These are the startling figures from the WNWN project in the Carrathool Shire since its beginning in 2010. The project, a joint collaboration between the Uniting Church, the Carrathool Shire and Foodbank, was designed to send fruit and veges  that do not meet the very strict specifications of supermarkets to Sydney. They may be too big or too small, or have a small blemish on the skin, and so are rejected by the large supermarket chains.  Potatoes, oranges, pumpkins, olive oil, watermelons and other fruit and veges are all part of the project.

Julie receiving an award from Foodbank CEO, Gerry Andersen
When the project started in 2010 it was envisaged that we might be able to deliver 0.75 tonnes a year – a number that now seems ridiculously small.  Not only have we vastly exceeded this but we now have projects in Leeton and Griffith, and Foodbank has part-time coordinators in Griffith to also source produce. The fresh fruit and  veges going from the Riverina is now averaging  440 tonnes a year. Some produce is also staying in the region and the Meals on Wheels, Red Cross Breakfast program and Griffith CareVan are all benefitting from the supply.

Supportive Carrathool mayor, Peter Laird, also receives an award.
The enthusiasm of the local Hillston community for the project was demonstrated as 32 people gathered for the AGM and dinner. We were delighted to have Foodbank CEO Gerry Andersen and his wife Pat join us for the evening, along with many of our local producers who  have contributed so much.
This project has truly managed to bring together the whole community to work for the benefit of others. From the school kids to those in their 80’s, lots have helped to pick or pack the produce. There has also been extraordinary generosity on the part of local producers.
It is a lived out example of God’s call to us in Matt 25:35, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat  …..”

Julie Greig


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