By Susan McPhee at Armidale District Baptist Church
Dr Seuss wrote a poem, ‘Oh the places you’ll go!’ which was published with wonderful pictures of the highs and lows that might happen along the way. Yet, in spite of the troubles along the way, it is a poem about striving and success, an exciting adventure awaiting the recipient. This as-yet-unfinished story is about what has happened since the author said, ‘Okay, God. I’ll just start step by step and see where this goes.’
As happens every year, NSW Baptist Women2Women (BW2W) holds a retreat at Camp Elim. I am not usually on top of their calendar, so it seems total happenstance that I saw something about it in the week before, invited someone to come along and got accepted after the closing date to come for a night. The drive from Armidale to Forster was uneventful. The drive home taking ‘the other route’ with assistance of the car’s sat nav, took us on forestry roads, through fallen logs recently cut to allow cars to pass. Perhaps that was an indication of things to come!
We brought home with us information about the BW2W drought relief initiative. “Women! Write a note to a woman affected by the drought, telling her that you’re thinking of her.” When I spoke to one of the elders about this, she said, ‘Why just women?’ Another person with connections to the world of farming suggested looking up names in the telephone book, when asked, ‘How can I find the names of farmers and graziers locally?’ The search brought up a few names from the local community of Black Mountain.
The Armidale District Baptist Church building came into existence 100 years ago this year because the farmers and graziers of the Black Mountain Baptist Church were concerned to see a Baptist church in Armidale. Today, the church comes under the Armidale church which sends folk the 20 minute drive once a month to hold a service. Those in attendance include one Black Mountain family, one Black Mountain woman and a family from Guyra, 10 minutes north. The rest of the congregation are from Armidale. Sending notes to those affected by the drought in that community seemed a logical step for the Armidale church in that it has the potential to reconnect people to that congregation.
An enterprising small group created some notecards to raise funds for Global Interaction during May. Included in the set were a couple of images from Black Mountain. Would it be possible to create a set of cards that were all Black Mountain scenes? Yes! The school, train station, Baptist church and the manse (which is no longer standing) became the subject of 30 sets of notecards. Then, I learned that the community was holding a homecoming day, Back to Black Mountain, at the end of October. The church family already had a role selling raffle tickets from the school and were only too happy to sell the cards as well. Twenty-five sets were snapped up.
The remaining cards have been matched to 40 surnames with initials, a property name and a location. The list was reviewedby a couple of local families. One said that they thought the area was a bit of a green pocket, however the other person could say that in spite of recent rains making things look good, it hasn’t affected the need for producers to hand feed stock. Sometimes the book cover promises a read that isn’t inside them!
This opportunity was launched to the congregation last Sunday. Into the envelope with each card is a sample letter (for those who get writers block) and a list of local contacts so that if they do speak with the producer they’ve written to and learn that they’re not managing well, the writers have people to refer them to.
Around the time of the retreat, the church was studying Lamentations. One of the important things I took away was that we need to learn how to sit in the uncomfortable place of listening to the lament of those who are affected without trying to fix it. By listening, we validate their experience and earn the right to contribute to their future. With the help of the Baptist Churches of NSW and ACT, we are blessed to have something more than we first imagined to offer the farmers and graziers of our local community who reply to our letters, continue the conversation and possibly let us know how they are really doing.
Dr Seuss’ poem ends this way:
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
The Holy Spirit has taught me lessons through mountains. One of these is that the only way to the top is one step at a time. Another one is that the view from the top is usually pretty spectacular. Right now, with 39 letters still waiting for someone to write them, I’m a bit unsure about this climb, but I do know that the one who is leading has taken things this far for a reason. I’m also excited to see what the view will be when we get where we’re going.