Our National Director, Jannine Jackson recently spoke with our Bush Chaplain, Paul Glazbrook about the recent tragedy that swept over the community of Mannahill, SA. Here is Jannine’s account of what happened, and how grateful she is that we have our Bush Chaplains across Remote Australia.
When I think about the differences between country and suburban living they are stark. We often envy the sense of community that’s so strong in the bush, it seems everyone knows your name. You can’t walk down the street without having a chat with the locals; they celebrate your successes, and also share your pain. Growing up in a country town I understand the differences. In the bush there’s a greater sense of community, but the “Bush Telegraph” is real. There are somethings you just don’t want to share with the world; yet somehow the whole town knows what’s happening – it’s hard to hide. But unfortunately, there are things that happen that are out of our control. The accidents, serious illnesses, farm closures, and other tragedies that deeply impact people’s lives. I wanted to share the importance of the role our Bush Chaplains play in the bush. Pastor Paul Glazbrook has shared with me his recent experience in Mannahill.
A few months ago, the small community of Mannahill (approx. 153km SW of Broken Hill) was rocked by two tragic events. The first was a freak quad bike accident that caused the death of a well-known farmer. Hundreds of people gathered together to share their grief and say good-bye. The suddenness of his death and the randomness of the accident really hit the community. But a few weeks later they were struck by another tragedy – that of a farmer and his wife in what appears to be a murder/suicide. To date his wife still hasn’t been found and now their 2 young children will grow up without parents to care for them. I was deeply saddened to hear of such tragedy and loss. It’s not an exaggeration to say that grief swept over the town of Mannahill like a powerful dark wave. It was another sudden and devastating loss leaving many community members wondering if they could have done more for the young family.
While we don’t know what events led to that terrible event, we do know the rates of suicide, mental health, and self-harm are higher in remote and rural areas than in the city (according to a report released by the Royal Flying Doctor Service). I am so troubled by these statistics because behind each one is a person that we need to reach or to help.
In fact Australians living in remote areas die from suicide at twice the rate of city people. Yet their ability to access mental health services or support of any kind is one-fifth the rate of city dwellers. I am deeply upset by these statistics. Fortunately, the people of Mannahill were not alone Frontier Services Pastor Paul Glazbrook and Reverend Jenny Swanbury knew people living in the Mannahill district would be hurting and quickly arrived to help. That’s why your support in Frontier Services is so precious. Without it, remote communities like Mannahill would be totally alone and struggling to cope with such traumatic events.
We thank God for our Bush Chaplains. Pastor Paul has really showed the value of our Bush Chaplaincy by giving amazing support when it was needed most. We are so touched by the generosity of spirit of Paul who immediately went to help the community.
I need to ensure our Bush Chaplains, like Pastor Paul, are there to help isolated communities this Christmas. We are hoping to raise another $120,000 to fund the vital work we do.
The challenge of offering support to rural communities is twofold. First, the small population is spread across thousands of kilometres of rugged terrain. The second is the fear of reaching out in case others in your community discover you aren’t coping. Living in a close community means every aspect of life is under the microscope creating a real fear of public humiliation or embarrassment.
At Mannahill, Pastor Paul and Rev. Jenny needed to find a gentle way to reach out to a community in mourning. The location was simple – the historic pub in the centre of town. It’s the true hub of Mannahill located opposite the railway station and includes the post office. They had to be welcoming and reassuring for people to come to talk to them. “We chose chocolate because chocolate is the language of love” said Pastor Paul. They had heaps of it along with piping hot tea and coffee. Those two ministers sat in that pub all day, every day for 2 weeks chatting to people, offering love, support and lots of chocolate.
It might have taken a few visits to “get some delicious chocolate cake” before grieving community members would open up. But they did. The Bush Chaplains also took calls from people who couldn’t make it into town. Sometimes the callers were looking for someone to listen to their concerns and provide words of encouragement. Other callers just wanted to thank them for being there because they knew how valuable their presence was for others.
Frontier Services Bush Chaplains are there to support communities, they lend a helping hand and provide spiritual guidance when requested. They cover huge areas, currently we have 10 Bush Chaplains to cover all of our patrols across outback Australia. As support services reduce, the need for our Bush Chaplains continues to grow.
It’s easy to overlook the many benefits of city living. While we may complain about city traffic or long queues, we generally have easy access to the medical and support services we need. We even have a choice over which service providers we use. Our farming families and rural communities don’t have this luxury. Very often, all they have are our Bush Chaplains for support. Frontier Services is needed more today than it has ever been.
Providing a basic salary, rent, and a 4×4 car with maintenance and fuel costs about $120,000 a year for each community. We know we need more Bush Chaplains on the ground so we can help other communities and provide post support for when times are really tough.
Are you able to help this Christmas?
A gift – no matter how big or how small – could help entire communities cope with life’s saddest events by offering chaplaincy and support services where there are none. Your gift will ensure our Bush Chaplains are there when they are called on.
Christmas is a time to celebrate God’s love for us and to spend time with our family and friends. We hope you have a joyous and safe Christmas and we thank you for your support and prayers throughout the year.
Can you help us this Christmas? Your gift could support those living in isolated communities across remote Australia. Click here to give now!