Immigration is boosting the Christian population in Australia and the changing demographics affects the nature and dynamics of Christian communities. Are there lessons to be learned for the Uniting Church in South Australia?
The Manna Hill working party that restored a son’s faith in humanity
Posted in News
Photo caption: Working party volunteers install an accessibility ramp at the front door of Betty and Monty's home.
Frontier Services’ celebrates its birthday on Thursday 26 September. For more than a century, this Uniting Church agency has lent a helping hand to people who live in rural and remote Australia. Here in South Australia, the remote area ministry covered by Frontier Services is traversed by two dedicated bush chaplains: Pastor Gary Ferguson in the Ceduna region, and Rev Sunil Kadaparambil (Sunny) in the Parkin Sturt region (the Parkin-Sturt Patrol covers a large area stretching north to the Queensland and Northern Territory borders, and east of the Stuart Highway, from Port Augusta to Marla in the Far North).
Frontier Services often organise working parties to help out farmers or remote communities and individuals who are doing it tough. They partner with volunteers who can offer their time, expertise, chats or simply a smile. Most of the time, these working party volunteers make a great difference to the livelihood of isolated people. This story of a recent working party to Manna Hill – population six - did exactly that.
The working party was a result of Sunny having met the sixty-something year old Betty Burford a few months earlier, on his way through the Barrier Highway town to Cockburn.
Weeks later, on his second visit to Manna Hill, Betty once again spent time chatting to Sunny and he learned of her dream to fix and paint her house, clear out the clutter and build a ramp for her easier access for her sick husband, Monty.
Monty, he learned, had not left his room in over four years. Neither had he spoken to a single person other than Betty, as depression caused by his ill health had him withdrawing from society.
Sunny put together a working party to lend Betty a helping hand with jobs that she would never be able to complete on her own. Betty only started to believe that help had genuinely arrived and that her simple dreams may just come true once Sunny pulled up to her house with a trailer full of materials, tools and a week’s worth of supplies for 15 volunteers.
A marvelous team
“It was really a full week for my city friends who stayed at the Manna Hill Community Hall, with no hot showers, no potable water, and no air conditioning,” recalls Sunny. “Nightly temperatures were on its chilly side of 1 degree Celsius. Days were cool and really windy. A few of our volunteers were staying in tents and the ladies were sleeping on air beds on the hall floor.”
By the end of the week the volunteers had completed more work than originally planned. They had fixed new floors, painted the house, put up a new carport, fixed a new fence, built an accessibility ramp to the front door and even painted the front wall of the hotel building in town.
“I felt like I was really blessed with this marvelous team. The final night they all gathered around with tired, but glowing faces full of happiness and satisfaction”.
The volunteers clearly felt blessed too. One wrote to Sunny afterwards, saying: “From the first day of work, I felt the spirit singing within me, and knew this was where God wanted us to be, we relished getting to know some of the people in this isolated community.”
A shocking surprise
But the biggest blessing was yet to come. Betty, who had been helping the team where she could, kept Monty updated of the work’s progress and showed him each day’s results at night. The day before they finished up, Betty excitedly called Sunny over with the news that Monty would like to speak to him.
“It was a shocking surprise for everyone. After four long years, he would like to meet someone. I talked to him just for a short time, but that was more rewarding than this entire week’s satisfaction of helping someone out,” says Sunny.
Betty’s son, Wayne, also helped with the work as if he was one of the team members. Later he wrote to Sunny: “I have a renewed, positive outlook on life and people after this. My faith in humanity has been restored. The work we completed here this week needed doing for two decades and my words fail to explain the emotions of this wonderful experience”.
To volunteer is a blessing
This Manna Hill example of how Frontier Services can make a genuine difference in the lives of people living remotely is just one of many that occurs right across Australia every week. Frontier Services currently has at least two upcoming working parties planned for remote South Australia. If you would like to volunteer for either opportunity or can provide support in any other way, please get into contact with Sunny on 8648 6754 or 0428 941 393 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, register your willingness to asssit via the Frontier Services website, frontierservices.org, for opportunities and outreach experiences on a national level.
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