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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