A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM THE “POINTY END” OF AUSTRALIA
The Closing this month of Rev Ron Watson's ministry on Cape York Peninsula leaves us reflecting on the quiet persistence of this wonderful patrol minister, who, accompanied by his wife Heather, a nurse, became familiar faces on the Cape. From their base in Weipa, in the Dry Season, Ron and Heather would go on patrol for weeks at a time on the Cape. The rugged and sometimes inaccessible country includes Aboriginal communities, cattle stations and tourist spots.
In 2017 Frontier Services' most northerly patrol will be included in the Kennedy Patrol. Kennedy will encompass Cape York and parts of the former Flinders Patrol, and likely be based in Mareeba. In the meanwhile Ron Watson looks back on his years of ministry on the Cape. Over his time he has kept circle of friends and supporters updated through his regular prayer letters.
Ron's writing often reads like modern parables infused with observational humour covering the joys, sorrows and pathos of life on the Cape. As well as encounters with Cape characters, are glimpses of the wildlife like the time the crocodile sunning itself went skimming back to the water just as Ron was about to cast his fishing rod on an idyllic little beach.
Through his regular prayer letter, Ron gave his friends and supporters, often thousands of kilometres away, insight into the working life of a patrol minister in remote Australia. His most recent is also his last letter from his patrol and revisits two stories Ron previously shared with readers. As with the best of human relationships, these two stories continued to grow and change across time, their outcomes still being revealed to the participants themselves ...
Dear Friends, as the end comes to our time of ministry up here on the Peninsula, I got to thinking about the day we first met Peter and Joan. It was back in 2011.
Our meeting occurred in the driveway of a servo in Coen, a place so isolated it's claimed you'd have to drive 500 km before you'll hit a bitumen road. As I pulled into the petrol pumps and looked across the back of the 4WD and saw this couple, "bushies" for sure and so I sauntered over and introduced myself as the Frontier Services patrol minister.
Immediately, hearing I was a minister, the walls went up!!
"We're not religious" was their first response.
"Nor am I, really. But we would like to come and visit."
Silence... You could hear a crow crying in the distance...
"Well how about if we come we won't talk about God, religion or Jesus."
Well they thought about that-
"Well, you can come and have a cup of tea or a beer."
And so we did.
Thus began a five year friendship. They lived in a 260,000 acre property. So I started to "drop out" and by that I mean take a one and half hour diversion off the main road to their front gate. For four years we kept our side of the bargain, until last year, when on the way to Bramwell Races they stayed with us for a few days.
"So, you folk are Christian?"
"Yes", we said.
"What's a Christian?"
And so we explained the basic tenants of the Christian faith: the Incarnation and Jesus dying in our place for our sin.
Two days later we found ourselves preparing to do a church service at Bramwell.
"Peter, Joan, tomorrow morning at 6.30 we'll be at the Bramwell Bar doing church."
"But it is going to be about that stuff that we said we wouldn't talk about- God, religion and Jesus."
"We'll be there."
Two weekends ago we did their son Ben's wedding with Yenny. There we prayed, read the bible, shared Christ's love with them, and conducted a Christian wedding.
That's the ministry of Frontier Services.
And do you remember the young Aboriginal stockman called Jimmy? Jimmy accepted Christ in the midst of cattle yards as I prayed for him. A deeply troubled young man; for the first time he experienced the peace of God washing over him.
Unfortunately within a year he had taken his own life.
But that encounter with Jesus changed his family forever.
Just a month or so ago I asked the Anglican priest, Father Wayne Connelly at Kowanyama how Jimmy's mum and step-dad were going?
"They're still coming to church. They are still walking with Jesus."
These five years on the Peninsula has been a privilege. We have shared our lives with many, and they with us. We've prayed, at one time or another, with about half of the property people. We've shared the wonderful good news of Jesus to some degree or other with most.
And you good and dear folk have made that possible. You've supported us, you've sent us cards and emails and letters and gifts. You've encouraged us at vital times when we've been down. You have prayed for us. And by praying for us, we have been strengthened, renewed, and gates and doors have been opened to us and to the God we serve. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
As to the future, I am not sure what it holds. While Cape York patrol will be 'moth balled' for 2016, it is expected that an enlarged patrol will be reopened in 2017 with its base in Mareeba. I have been asked if I would consider it, but that is a year away.
In the meantime we'll head to our home in Gympie where Heather will work full time in her beloved nursing home; this time as one of the bosses- a CN. As for me, I will finish our house by building verandas on three sides. (We started building 30 years ago and it is still small.) After that, I am not sure, but I have had lots of offers. For me, discerning God's will though good, is sometimes difficult.
In the meantime, the celebration of our wonderful Saviour's birth is just about upon us.
May you and yours, know and experience the Christ of Christmas.
Ron and Heather"
In January 2016 Rev Craig Mischewski will move from Flinders Patrol to provide congregation-based ministry to Weipa and Mapoon Congregations, and a new Kennedy Patrol is planned to commence in 2017. Encompassing the former Cape York Patrol but likely based in Mareeba, the Kennedy Patrol’s borders will extend into the former Flinders Patrol. The western parts of the former Flinders Patrol will be serviced by the McKay Aerial Patrol.