Former Lutheran Women of WA president Rosemary Davidson has willingly given of her time and talents in many ways in her church and community over 50 years.
But she doesn’t think of herself as a volunteer, rather those who know her would say helping others has just come naturally to her. Some people she has cared for see Rosemary as a mentor and an inspiration.
One of her inspirations is from Ephesians 2:10, in which St Paul says: ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them’ (ESV).
As a young wife with three children, in the country town of Pingelly, approximately 150 kilometres south-east of Perth, she and husband Robert volunteered in community clubs, sports clubs, the theatre and through school and church connections.
Later, she was on the Christian Women Communicating International committee, was a KYB (Know Your Bible) study leader, was involved with prayer groups, taught dancing and organised debutante balls. She also helped out through connections with local Christian churches, taught first aid for St John Ambulance and became a Grade 2 ambulance officer.
For 10 years she taught Scripture lessons at the local school and became
an accredited first aid trainer. Later, while living in Perth, first aid training became her paid employment. One door that work opened for Rosemary was the chance to go to Bali to teach first aid with longtime Lutheran friend June Westhoff.
In the early 1980s, during her work as a part-time nursing assistant at Pingelly Hospital, Rosemary was nominated for the Mrs WA Quest to raise money for cerebral palsy support. It was a daunting experience, but turned out to be a wonderful witnessing opportunity.
‘As a 29-year-old country girl, I had hardly been to Perth, so it was a shock to be attending the judging with 43 ladies in career and homemaker sections’, she says. ‘I received the award and I knew that I was to speak about my faith as a Christian and sharing knowledge about those who were disabled.
‘I thanked God and told the parents that one day, in heaven, their children would be running free and beautiful. They were crying with faith and hope of this, as life is not easy with disabilities.’
Rosemary was also presented with a Community Service Award by the Pingelly Shire in 1984-85, while her husband Robert was awarded the Pingelly Sportsman Award in 1986-7. ‘This was a tremendous honour for me as there are so many other people who work quietly and faithfully for years’, she says.
Rosemary believes that when people use their gifts and talents to serve others, this builds community – and allows God’s will to be ‘done, on earth as it is in heaven’. However, she believes when we judge others or fail to show gratitude to our volunteers, we risk turning people off being involved.
‘The church would draw people to want to belong, if only we could care and serve with more love and outreach, and less judgement’, she says. ‘If a volunteer becomes tired – or even perhaps sick and tired! – they need a rest. Our mental attitude to serve needs to be willing, able and joyful, with thanks to God for being able to serve. When volunteers become critical, snappy, judgemental and bitter because of their commitments, we are allowing ourselves to drive away those who are watching our actions, hearing our comments, complaints and disputes.
‘To remain joyful in volunteering, one has to feel wanted and appreciated.’
In 2009 Rosemary completed the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) course at Royal Perth Hospital in order to become a qualified chaplain. The CPE course required students to complete 200 hours of voluntary service on the wards, learning and applying principles. In 2013 she was installed as an accredited Lay Worker at Parkwood Lutheran Church in suburban Perth.
Rosemary believes there are always people who need care and that anyone can offer this in the simplest of ways.
‘Because of our sinful state, everyone will experience sadness, fear, sickness, loneliness or trials that will cause conflict to our peace’, she says. ‘We may be able to offer a hand of care and presence like making a cup of tea or coffee. We can support by listening, encouraging, assuring them of God’s love or just sitting near them.
‘Telephone calls, emails, texting, a caring card, flowers or sweets, or food, can mean all the difference to someone’s wellness and hope for the future. A smile, a hug, a song, a Scripture verse, Bible tract, or even a donation to the needy can begin to heal and comfort aching hearts.’
Living at Bremer Bay on Western Australia’s south coast between Albany and Esperance for the past three years allowed Rosemary to meet, show hospitality and care for people from that community.
‘It has been a joy to visit and share, pray and fellowship with the faithful Albany St Paul’s congregation and the women’s fellowship’, she says. ‘I have just retired from three-and-a-half years as President of the Lutheran Women of WA. What a growing and humbling experience this has been, learning that prayer, obedience and trust in God is our refuge and strength.’
Due to Robert’s declining health, the couple has very recently returned to live in Perth where Rosemary is his full-time carer. But this does not mean she has given up her natural instinct to show others love, too.
‘With Robert’s approval we can both laugh together, demonstrate hospitality, make the occasional visits to homes or hospital, send cards or emails, make phone calls and give gifts to support those who require encouragement’, she says.
‘God has blessed me with supportive, caring lifetime friends and family, pastors and mentors, who know my personality and my shortcomings. I am very thankful and want to be teachable and humble, but courageous demonstrating my faith in Jesus as Lord.
‘Our service is not of ourselves, but God giving us the energy and desire to serve. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.’
Rosemary, who with Robert is a member at St Paul’s Albany and worships at St Johns in Perth, says helping out in our local congregations has many benefits and that God is ready to work through anyone who is willing to serve in this way.
‘We all need to belong, so if we can help out in church we will belong and it will be “our” church’, she says. ‘To volunteer is to offer ourselves as we are, as a living sacrifice. Be encouraged that God will use you as a vital volunteer, as he has gifted you, and you will grow in patience, a healthy sense of humour, understanding and love, as you exercise your faith to serve him.’