Sunday, 20 December 2015

Happy Christmas to all our followers

I stopped for a break and strolled around a conservation area - in the middle was this shelter shed and seeing it made me think of the Nativity scenes you may have seen in shops and people's homes at this time of the year.  I was on my last road trip for the year, heading for a small school's presentation night in Nyngan.  It was a great night. They talked of the work from the camp that was run in Nyngan with the Uniting Church's help, linking the private schools and growing and helping the community. I returned to my motel after the break and worked out that, for tomorrow's run to Walgett (which was just up the road from Nyngan by 3 3/4 hrs!), I would need an early start, even allowing for stops along the way. I had a tag along friend with me for this trip - someone to talk to, to point out different trees etc.  This was great fun plus good yarns about the school and setting up work for next year.
Kel checking out a tree - just loves it but a bit hot in the low 40's!
The School Presentation held in local hall cool .
This year has been a busy one, a year of connections affirming the need for our ministry. I am finding great acceptances from the community-based services eg "Hi Rev Phill. Can you come to such and such a day?"  I even got a Christmas card mailed to me that had been hand written.  I'm proud of the work of all of our Chaplains -  I hear "Pst David did this" or "Rev Jo and Lou called in".  Julie's work with the mental health handbook and the joint School Camp that the Uniting Church ran is held in high regard.  Our work is based on Matthew 25 "For as much as you do for them, you do for me".  I have been building connections with churches who are looking to do missions through giving, and with community to find those in need.  As I slow down for a holiday and to reunite with loved ones it will be good to see them in person, as  these school Celebration nights have replaced those event I miss for my own Grand children in Sydney.  Our ministry covers vast areas - at meetings we share the area we cover and people ask "how can you connect to those you only see for short periods of time?"  I feel God works on after we have left a place, and of course before we get somewhere too.  How do they know God loves them?  We come to their event, letting them know that we've come to see them, to participate and to help.
Hot pool with hoops at Burren Junction  
We do not put those we meet "through hoops" and thankfully admin is the same  - there is a process but it works well allowing quick responses to calls for help.  Also we don't use "hoops" for those we build community with - a word from the Holy Spirit leads us which, so many times, leads us to be in the right place at the right time.  Everywhere I go Jesus opens up conversations.

The sandstone caves between Narrabri and Coona in the Pilliga - lots of Gods art and help from those who first walked this area 1000's years ago
The caves again reminded me of that First Christmas - was it a shed or a cave?  But it also reminds me the colour of an Australian Christmas - the sandstone grays to pink grooves; cracks hanging together. That's what God call us to do, to be shaped by him; different colours hanging in and on but falling is a new start . Allow time for God to shape you, guide you, and allow yourself to be.  Sit and enjoy the Christ child and allow him to fill you with a sense of joy, hope, love and peace.

Thanks to all who support our work in prayer, and in other ways.  From Julie, Jo, Lou, David and me. And to you for reading!  A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Friday, 4 December 2015

The way back

On the Saturday of my last trip, I attended the Riverina Presbytery meeting in Finley.  Part of the day was going through the great work of the committee, which included reading their reports, and discussion about other aspects of the running of this presbytery.  We then had a light lunch which was provided by the good folk of Finley. I had helped with some of the prep work the night before in the kitchen - I was given the washing up to do.  In the afternoon we had the Grand Launch of the "Faith In a Basin Future", a project about sustaining vital and resilient communities in the southern Murray-Darling Basin for future generations.  This has grown out of the Murray-Daring Basin Group that has been meeting over the last couple of years - running forums and tours - but also joining with a number of like-minded groups such as Uniting and Catholic Earthcare.  There is an Advisory Group that have been working hard to get this multi-linked project up, aimed at young people between the ages of 16-35.  They call themselves "Community Action Teams" (CATS).  I'll put a contact link at the end of the blog so you can read for yourself . The sad part of the day was when the battery died on my camera which meant I ended up getting some videos but only one photo.  I'll try to borrow photos for this blog, from someone who was there.

Using my phone to search, I found a place to drink from  - a well on the side of the road near the Black Stump

The old phone is not working all that well but I did get to take a few shots here.  However if I had known what was happening up the road I would have kept going!  I arrived in Hillston for a picnic on the lawn under a tree. It was Julie's last day at church as she was getting ready to move to the inner suburbs of Bathurst.  I went into town and picked up some coffee and food for myself, then joined the crew in the shade of the trees.

Hillston manse 

The road from Hillston to Cobar - a picture say's it all! On and on it goes.
I hit Cobar ready for a quiet night with Jo and Lou but there was a big night for Paris on in the town's main park and Jo led the prayers for that city.  I know I have a friendship with Jo but it was wonderful and moving.  I was introduced to the Mayor who is a lovely lady.

Above is phone shots of the candle light service at Cobar.  Well done Jo!  Outside services are always hard with people spread throughout the park grounds.  I caught up with David and Julie the next day, as well as Jo and Lou.  Good conversation, looking at a number of issues relevant to all our work.

Last Sunday evening the Uniting Church in Narrabri hosted a combined church service, which was well-attended.  I was asked to speak on my work as Rural Chaplain and I can thankfully say that no-one fell asleep during my message!  Shalom Phill Matthews

Faith in a Basin Future project: FBF project Manager 

Friday, 27 November 2015

Ridge To Bridge

I left on Wednesday to meet a "voice on the end of the phone" at Lightning Ridge an honest-sounding voice that spoke of pain in the heart for the loss of a space for her but mostly, for her children. I called her after speaking to one of the workers I connect with, in that region.  We arranged to meet, so that I could give her some funds to help her as, after 2 years of drought, they needed somewhere not awesome but a nice space in which to live life. and a nibble for "no ears" (a Roo with no ears that visits become a friend)
The Ridge looks good - green growth by the road and groundcover growing in among the trees.  Water lay around.  My question to someone was "How are you doing?"  The response I got was "I tell my son to pray for rain every day." A deep breath, then he asked "Why? The clouds come so close but no rain falls." I said "That must be hard."  I told him that we need to keep on asking "How long Lord?"  Don't forget them as they ask of You in Your name for how long is too long?

I went to Dubbo, helping out some small schools and setting up a way forward for some end of year activities.  I had a meeting and quick chat with various people about life currently on the farm.  Rain damaged the current crop, and some had to leave it in the ground full of weeds while others got some off, though they're not sure what it's worth.
Down the road I phoned a friend - it's always good to keep alert and take your mind off the fact that you only had one coffee (should have stopped at the Golden Arches!).   I rang a friend they where an hour up the road and waited on ya B.H and Margret. No coffee nice bacon roll B.H had one too must be ok . yarning time to go sleep, so I spent the night in Narrandera and after coffee the next morning, drove down south  to Ned Kelly country.  I had morning tea by the lake which was very nice.  On I went to Finley but no-one was home so took at trip to Mulwala to see the bridge.  Last time I was here I was driving a MDB in 2014.  I crossed the bridge and the weir, then back over the bridge again but heading out saw a yellow sign so, not wanting to waste the chance, I stopped in "that other State" then came back into NSW(!)  I was then stopped  by traffic, the likes I have never seen in NSW!  A passport check to leave the State? No, it turned out to be a major police RBT and drug testing operation due to some Event that was being held there.  20 mins sitting in the queue (hoping my last coffee was safe!) when a friendly police person of the male kind asked me to blow one long breath (long winded sermons crossed my mind but this was not the time for jokes so I stopped myself from making a comment!). "Well, I think you're going to answer no if I ask about drugs on board" the policeman grinned.  I said "I only have a couple of prescription ones" so he said "Have a good one" and waved me on.  So I drove back into NSW and up the road, to be at Finley for the meeting tomorrow .
Lake Mulwala

Bridge in NSW alongside Victorian border 

Finley Lake 
Finley Museum

Well I'm still on the road with places to go.  I've been home to see family in Campbelltown, Dubbo, Bourke and Coonamble and still have Cobar and somewhere else to go to yet.  Life is moving forward even though there's not always good news around the world.  If we pray for things to change, for rain to fall, peace to come; if we love even when it is hard and seek a way to live our faith (not shape our faith to fit our way) then someone will see and try it too.  And so on 'till Thy Kingdom come. Shalom.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Do you have a Disaster Management Plan?

From a blog last year  - "Planning for Disaster: Fire, Floods, Storms" 

Dubbo showground was the venue for a Recovery conference run by the Red Cross. We had all of the disaster recovery services in attendance, both government and non-government, paid and voluntary.  Even had some lovely folk who had lost everything in the Coonabarabran fires a couple of years ago. They told the human side of the fire; how it was for them and how it felt, then after they were allowed back to their farm.  They also shared what they had learnt along the way. Then we heard from all of the Services, about what they did, all in their flash uniforms.  We heard about the new large plane that can hold a very large amount of water.  It has to fly from Richmond and then back to reload (takes about 1.5 hours to the Dubbo area). RFS is always seeking new ways of attracting top people to giving of their time to save us and our property. Then we looked at what Evacuation Centres are and all who staff them.  This included a DRCN   Pst David Shrimpton spoke on our role, as rural chaplains. The Salvos provided the catering throughout the day, as happens in Recovery Centres.  I find that networking over lunch works well - eating, sharing, gathering info, catching up with those you don't yet know. "What have we learnt?" was a question in my head.  A rep from a Service present was passionate about "DO NOT BRING GOODS!!",

Thank you but what do you want me to do with these?

This is a very difficult situation we face very often.  Sadly the best work of people or churches ends up at the recycle place or the landfill.  Why?  Lack of planning would be my guess.  So does your group or church have a plan?  The storms have started, the heat is rising.  Fire warnings are being heard in many areas.  It is time to plan for your safety but also maybe what you can do for others!

Giving is an act of kindness; it makes us feel good and we hope those we give to feel good too.  But the important thing is we meet the need.  Who's need, I respectfully ask - ours or theirs?  We mean well but have we thought well?  A home is destroyed by flood or fire or storm; everything is gone, so we send old beds and tables and white goods.  Great!  Where will they put them?  It can take a very long time, from the loss to the time of moving back in.  If they even go back.  Some might say use a church hall or showgrounds for storage.  But then what?  Plan B could be if you like to collect things, do that BUT have a "Garage Sale" and send the money to a Recovery Fund that has been already set up so that your work actually helps the people who have lost everything.  For example, the shop owner or the local person who works in the shop can hopefully still keep their jobs.  What a lot of fun your church group can have, raising these monies.  The money reaches the community at all levels.  Another suggestion is hold another similar event.  Check with the local church in area; with the Rural Chaplain, with the people from the Shire office.  Often the second wave is bigger than on the day.

As a person you can give blood to the Red Cross and other aid services, or your church may have a project like Rural Chaplains.  In the Uniting Church we have set up the Moderator's Disaster Fund.  This Fund is used many times for those hit by disaster.  As I said, second and third waves are a common part of a disaster recovery, after the TV stations and those who "make a fuss" find their needs have not been met.  Their plans have fallen apart due to outside decisions.

Sometimes the Recovery team may need certain necessary things in a first response.  They will organise an appeal.  Check for the exact items needed and how many; can they be second hand or do they need to be new.  I pray this and your Disaster Management Plans help you during this storm time.  But I pray for relief; for good rain and gentle winds.  For a joyous and special Christmas lunch for RFS, SES and Red Cross Doc's, for DRCN, Salvos, Anglicare and all the other great groups and local community workers and you. As I finish this off I in a Motel in Coonamble  and as the last time I was here it is raining outside  this time the harvest here in full swing. Life is a challenge pray always for those who live on the land I taking leave to celebrate Lyn's Big 60  My Son birthday and Carolyn his lovely  wife, time off drive then pick up the Van great week.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Lord we cry out to you for those who are waiting

I found this spot after my 2pm meeting in Walgett was cancelled. I had a 5pm one still happening so after a nice coffee I went looking for the 2 rivers from which the name Walgett comes from, the Namoi River which comes through to Narrabri and the Barwon / Darling river and this was confusing to me as my basin map has it as Barwon River,  you have to be out here to learn things

The Info booth was a great help explaining the history of the Name from the Gamilaraay peoples word "Wilgay"where two river meet and we changed it to Walgett as we do. The Darling River start between Bree and Bourke but here it still is a part of the system but called the Barwon River. I was in Walgett on Wed 23rd. Sept. for the same 5 pm meeting setting up a Suicide prevention network. I  keep a photo diary of at a location call Cryon between Barren Junction and Walgett . The green shots where taken on September 23rd the brown shots are Wednesday the 14th. October the heat has burned off the growth again. It has been like this from my first trip in March 2013 no crop no income .Pray for them and the Local shops and service industries schools and the Shire, drought hits all of Community.
As I saw this change I cry to the Lord The Joy for these folk was short lived lost crop is worse that no crop as you spend $ on fuel and seed time and effort with Hope

The Crop has failed from the heat and dried up from such a promising start.

This is the salt bush corner the change in those 3 weeks and I hear the crops in the South also have been hit by the heat too  "Do not forget them O Lord they need your help only you command  the seasons and the weather they need you to hear their needs amen .

Hi hope you understand it all had my editor away and my backup could not access  all of the blog but the pictures tell the story.  

Saturday, 3 October 2015

What does working for Community have to do with Church?

"Go into the world and preach the Gospel, and use words when you have to" is a famous quote from St Francis (I think - someone might correct me!) I find sitting in meetings with community leaders and community members a great place to be. They find it hard at times to work out why I am so involved, and for that matter so do many church people wonder that too! I never compromise my faith; I will walk away from activities I feel are outside of where God would sit and if I get this wrong I seek His Grace.  At the Field Days put on by UME and RMU, Mark Berry talked about us looking "outwards". I think many church folk do this but do not see it as church. CWA, school canteen, some service type groups that help those in need here or overseas. These are some examples. Our work as Rural Chaplains takes us to some great groups of people both in and outside the church and this "coming together" leads to awesome things happening!
This is the body of Christ's church in a living shed

This is now just a church building - no life in this

The group above went on to meet about things to do with health and wellbeing in their community. I often look at these two photos of "church" and I think the lack of walls in the shed at Weill make looking out so easy to do as compared to the old formal closed one on the side of the road. "Looking out" is more than day dreaming out the window - it's about us getting connected to out community or to  someone else's.  I know many of you do, through the RMU in the last couple of years with the drought, and this has been a great help.  And will continue to be. 

As I said last week, there are still many folk not getting ahead. I see many church folk working in the area of Mental Health and in schools, but as I interact with people in churches, very few bring up what they are doing in their community. Praying up your community I think brings it into the life of the congregation.
Pamper packs or giving money allows church groups to touch people in places hard for them to go to personally.  In our line of work we always ask for money over goods - this is the most helpful.  Money saves space - the packs here fill the hall of the office then need to be stored at the Chaplain's place, before being handed out in needy areas (often they have to be re-packed due to travel damage). It's great to be a part of the giving of theses as they are loved by most of those who receive such gifts, from caring folk in a church. But if we had passed on money we could call on local shops to supply discounts on the items needed for the Packs, as the shops would be getting cash from us upfront. This keeps shops going and meets the need of those on the land and other Agri industries as it is not just the farmers but the towns' businesses that suffer. eg school activities plus school fees for those in boarding school; having funds to assist for those one off things we have to pay for at times.

Your congregation becomes part of this work by looking outwardly.  This also works with community needs in your area and wider world issues.  But don't just send a donation - pray in your prayers for the people; for us and for those other groups.  Bring us into your congregation by prayer.  Hold us but also connect us to you and your community. Direct connection would be good, if you know of people who feel called to work in areas of community development or welfare in your town/area.  They may not be part of your church but support them in pray as their work brings local needs into your congregation.  Life with all those guidelines to keep people safe.  But it also lets them know you care enough to think of them.
Street festivals are great for connecting with community

I get to do and be "church" in some different settings but God is here  
There is a great song Robin Mann wrote titled "Wherever I go, Whatever I do".  It celebrates the fact that God has gone before you so you're never alone. There is a mission not overseas or even in some other place to where you live - it could be just outside your front door, for you to connect with others eg Clean up Australia, Community Gardens, teaching/helping someone learn English as a second language, teaching/helping someone with computers, cooking knitting and so on.  Open up your church not for the income but for the connection.   Go out to the Dirt Bikes. Get involved with groups but look outside your congregation.  Yes, care for the older and sick in the church but focus on the Kingdom of God and see what you can join or give to. God drops in when you least expect it.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

God is always ahead of us

Narrabri Wee Waa Road 
Well, the last couple of weeks or more had the cars in the yard and the bag sitting in the corner! The first week was writing the blogs for the time I was away - it was frantic remembering the stories of two great events. I "mind dump" when I do the blog.  Sue (and now Kara) has to work out the punctuation ('?!.,) I leave out, but I also miss things like "I (put the) bag in car".  Often I have a thought and start typing, but then get called away so the sentence is left "hanging".  Or it runs into the next thought.  Sometimes my "editors" can work out what and where I'm going or trying to write, or else I get a "red pen" phone call asking "What do you mean here?". The hard part is when I can't remember what I was trying to say!!  I could not do this blog if God didn't put people in places to take on this extreme literary challenge.

NENW Presbytery Retreat (L and R photos)   

Being home also has meant that I had time for some local events.  I attended a training day on Code of Ethics prior to attending the New England North West (NENW) Presbytery Retreat, led by the Moderator.  The retreat was great.  The Moderator spoke of being a "slow" church - we need to stop filling life with things we think we have to do, because we always have to be doing things that light us up, that empower us.

I have also been doing some work with a local based service I am involved in, called "Life Worth Living". I led a service in a local park for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.  The first part was poetry and we let some balloons go, saying prayers and messages.  I really felt God was there.  A young man came to be part of the service, as he was passing through town on his way back home.  He had travelled north to be with his mum as she was dying.  He said to me through tears that he had not been a good person; that he had done drugs and he asked if I could pray for him and his mum.  I was going to do a prayer service for those who wanted to stay, so asked the group could I pray for this man first.  This young man stopped in the right car park and at the right end/time.  God's care and love is evident every day!

I headed back on the road again this week, to Walgett.  This region has been doing it very hard.  As I sat talking to Robyn, the local Rural Resilient worker, I talked about the  growth I seen on way over, "that is now dying off again" she said.  Small things break hearts:  I told her I talked to the farmer doing it tough (she had give me their phone number) and how as we talked about a problem she talked about the hot water system,  (with strian in her voice) Robyn then told me of another lady she knows , who is seeing her beautiful garden fall into ruin and as she hasn't got time nor the youth on her side  to be able to fix it back up to what it was.Answer she needs help  children on school holidays Problem no money,   Some might say "small things", but  the rain should come it's  been two years (the Walgett area normally has  2 to 1 year cycle 2 drought then rain  but it might be too late if not here in  next week or two after 3 years of doing without small things Become BIG .

The photo below is of a place that's suffered drought - what it was 2.5 years ago (first photo) to Wednesday this week (second photo).

This is the tree, now dead, shown in the above photo and several salt bushes. 

This is a paddock up the road.

But the paddocks are looking pretty good at the moment - good rain has changed things.  The last photo is how the area all looked before the rain. But much of it is on the edge.  I am getting calls to help people who could "fall through the cracks" as they aren't part of main community groups and services.  I am so moved by what I am hearing and seeing, but am in awe of how God provides ways to meet the needs of those who struggle to make ends meet.  Matthew 24 calls us to do what we can for all, big or little.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

RMU Field Days

As I washed the red dust from all I owned it was time to change from a bus to a hall.  A new lot of travellers plus some old friends and I would be in the same room for the next 4 days.  I picked up the Broken Hill group, David and Sharon, as they flew down.  The day's program was set out like this: devotions, sessions, lunch, sessions.  The Key Note speaker was Mark Berry from Safe place community in England.  We also had some dinner events.

Mark Berry session with group taking it all in 
Lou resting after setting up Worship space

I had time to regroup and now can look back and reflect, rather than inform of things happening. I came home from the River Tour pretty worn out. I then had to get the Blog out for the Tour, which was a massive task - writing, finding the right photos then putting it all down in a logical sequence.  My brain was overflowing with information; with sight, sounds and smells. What happens when we're with who.  I hope you were interested and it has got you thinking "Why is our church seeking to hear the voices of the river people, all of them?"  
The time at the Field Days was not a photo time - it was a listening time, a time of talking and sharing, of much catching up.  Letting what was being said flow out of the set of notes but also allowing it all to soak in.  For example, Braydon from UME spoke on generation stuff (the next gen XY baby boomers, how they mix or don't mix). Chris from Uniting Care showed us tools to map and build community development plans for our churches.  He used Broken Hill as a Live project.  Unfortunately I missed the second part of this session as we had two sessions running concurrently and I had chosen to attend the Mental Health Matters session.  Julie had been working on this.  Brenda from Coona ran the session, as she has done the "Train the trainer" course.  It was great work all round. I feel if I new nothing before the session, I have been given the tools to do some real good now. This is what we need - ordinary folk reaching out to their town.
The EDs came and sat with us.  Executive Director Peter Worland talked to us about the new way ahead for the Uniting Church, as it is no longer UnitingCare.  It sounded really good.  I told him about the great work the local Uniting service providers have been doing.  Then John Kitchener spoke about money - a good message for a church reaching out of the old paradigm into a new way ("I ask for caravan he told me "I'd have to do a good job and we would see" with a smile) 
Money, buildings, Relationships, God calls us to be His people, trusting in Him and loving those we meet.
Mark's stories of his work in England reminded me of the Rosemeadow and Claymore Airds time of my life and Maz and Neil Smiths.  But putting it altogether God calls us to be the Church that meets to inform and renew and praise Him as we go out into the world refreshed, renewed and reformed because if we just keep being the same we miss what is fresh and the new relationships growing out of the scattered.

My first church, the bus (Left) and my first Field Day session

The fire kicked out but take from it back to your camp

Well time has flown.  New things are shaping our world .  This last week we have been moved (or some of us have been moved) by the plight of those seeking a new life; of just being able to work, play and be.  I'm happy to say I have heard much talk from our NENW Presbytery Retreat, our Leader the Moderator, worship leaders and then my own church leader speaking of the challenge for us to be Christ in today's times.  Take the fire and let burn in your life.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Camp Fires, Holy Ground - The Way Home (Part 3)

Looking across the dry Lakes - beauty to behold but also fear if the rain falls; we could be stuck for days!
As we left Menindee we turned into the National Park.  I had been here in 2012 and remembered the road was closed then.  I wondered "would history repeat itself?" but this time I have a few mates with me!  The Park has awesome views of this wonderful country (as the picture above shows).

Photo taken by David Richardt
Camp fire Bindara Station, our camp for the night 

Dinner came with a talk about the life on the Darling River; the good, the bad and the scary. Barbara told of the "boom and bust", the drought and flood years - of no rain and the river drying to pools. Government red tape was hard to deal with - Barbara told of a time when water was to be let from the lakes but the banks had broken.  The banks of the waterhole next to the pump had fallen and needed a bit of work. "This will be seen as damming", she was told by a government official.  "You have to pay for a permit to fix the waterhole.  Because we will then need to check what you've done, this will take some time".  But Barbara said that water was going to be let out of the dam in a shorter time frame than what the red tape was going to take. 

Things did get sorted out but it involved hard work building up a damaged bit of the bank.  Life here is hard enough without government "red tape".  When a flood comes these communities can be isolated for 3 months, though more often than not they have time to stock up and move animals around.

Dawn on the Darling River 
The Bus
                   Lake Mungo tour

As we arrived at Pooncarie it was time for fuel and a coffee, thanks to one of the great fellow travellers.  We went from here to Mungo Lakes again, but as we were late there was no time for photos.  John Williams explained the sand dunes and the changing sizes of trees/shrubs. John and Austin Evans gave us great info on the changes in the landscape. Graham the guide gave us some info on the way out too. I'm not writing too much about this part of the trip, as I wrote a lot when we visited this area last year.  I could go on and on as I find this place so good.  Go, if you get chance!

Next we headed for Wentworth and a boat trip to the end of the Darling River, where it flows into the Murray system. We did the cruise just so we all could be on the water.  We also had David Richardt talk and hand out his book "Release the River!" which came out of his study over 10 years ago.  A number of people joined us on the cruise, who had been a part of his work back then, so their church got a copy of the book too.

Up next, we had communion in Junction Park around a park table.  Three of the group led a reflection of what the Tour meant to them then I presided of the communion and finished with a prayer. To serve the group again is such a humbling moment with such mixed people at the beginning, to now a community.  Then we prayed for the two who had to leave our Tour. Having done this we fuelled up and headed back to Broken Hill for the last Forum.  What a great welcome was waiting for us!

We were blown away by the work put into this scene of Creation in the Hall at the Broken Hill Church (see above).  The Forum followed  the wonderful dinner we sat down to. The photo to the right is of the speakers at the Forum: (left to right) David Reichardt, Austin Evans, Miriam Pepper and John Williams. (Ivan Roberts missing from photo.)  We left for Nyngan the next day, taking a last look at the Darling as we passed through Wilcannia.  A few of our group took photos of the bridge (looks the same as the old Bourke bridge) but this one is used only as a foot bridge, not for vehicles.

We took off to Emmdale Roadhouse for fuel and good coffee, plus clean loos and nice food.  I am known at this road house!  This is also the geographic edge of David Shrimpton's Patrol area, part of the Broken Hill Patrol.  Lunch at Cobar was a great time of fellowship and good church food. Our accommodation that night was at the Nyngan Tourist Park.  For dinner I took a group out to Don and Mel's Farm, where they put on lamb & veggies in a 1950's style shearer's hut.  It was a good night even though I couldn't find their drive in the dark!  We didn't get lost, I was just confused! The next morning was church at Nyngan Uniting Church, led by Rev Jo Smallbill.  Jo, with husband Lou, work as patrol ministers in Cobar and the Nyngan area.  A great service.  Our input was a talk from Rev Myung Hwa Park , our Moderator, then Di and Ted Torrens sang for us. Di is Chairperson of  UAICC NSW & ACT.  It was so good having them as part of the group on Tour; their wisdom and such warm friendship meant a lot to us.

Well, the Tour has ended! I have learnt much, but more than learning I have connected with a number of people I had never met and with others, a deeper connection has grown. The River moves but we humans try to control the water and hold it.  That water has brought life over time.  Yes, and death sadly to some.  But for me God's creation is a gift of life for all and how we see it has to change - from a throw away gift to one that is treasured and valued, for a better one is coming.  I sense the Kingdom of God is!


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