The maroon-edged fabric runner adorning the wall in Doreen Sabburg’s dining room says it all.
Covered in a patchwork of pictures, from praying hands and a church and cross, to cakes, jams, a tennis racquet and a rainbow, the runner symbolises more than half a century of quiet love and service that Doreen has given to her local Gatton community.
The fabric labour of love was presented to Doreen at Christmas last year by the members of Peace Lutheran Church’s Ladies Guild, to celebrate her decades of faithful leadership to the group, her church, and her town.
Doreen was born in Gatton, in the heart of the Lockyer Valley of South-East Queensland, almost 89 years ago. The mother of three boys, grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of five boys still lives independently, in the same house she entered as a new bride in February 1949.
It’s the town where she has dedicated her life to helping others. The threads of Doreen’s life are intimately woven around the church and community, just as the fabric runner attests. ‘It’s amazing’, she says. ‘It sums up all the things that I do.’
The pictures of cakes and jams on the artwork represent the years of catering, trading tables and cake stalls to which Doreen has contributed since first joining the women’s guild in the early 1950s, a group she has remained president of for more than 50 years.
Despite the guild’s catering committee numbers dwindling to 11 members, they still cater for birthdays and funerals.
Each member has a culinary forte, whether it is slices, cakes or jams. ‘My specialty is tomato onion relish’, Doreen says. The runner’s appliquéd tea and coffee cups are a reminder of the morning tea Doreen organises each Sunday at church, just a spritely walk up the road from home, except when she’s helping the church elders take home communion and fellowship to the area’s sick or housebound elderly.
Just as the fabric runner proves, she does do a lot of things.
For as long as anyone can remember, Doreen has hand-delivered the congregational and parish newsletters to members who can’t attend Sunday services. She also sends messages of encouragement to the sick in hospital, where she visits almost every bed each week.
Most of her activity is powered by shoe leather. Doreen never got her driver’s licence. She walks everywhere. She did have her learner’s permit once early in her marriage to husband Martin, who died in 1992. One day she bumped into the gate, which fell against the car. ‘I said, “that’s it!”, and I gave it up’, Doreen recalls.
The rainbow on her fabric runner represents the Rainbow Group, a musical group which visits the region’s aged-care homes. Doreen and her troupe of eight, all in their 70s and 80s, entertain the residents of at least five different homes with lively wartime, gospel and country tunes. Doreen is the group comedian, sharing jokes from a large repertoire, supplemented with jokes from the back pages of her monthly The Lutheran magazine.
‘I must have a thousand jokes … the ones they don’t laugh at, I cross them off’, she says.
Back to that runner on the dining wall, the tennis racquet, complete with balls and tennis court, represent her weekly Wednesday tennis matches – yes, she still plays a pretty good game. The oldest club member of the Gatton Tennis Club, the ever-humble Doreen doesn’t discuss her past wins. ‘I had no style, but the Lord always helped me win’, she says.
The church picture on her runner reflects Doreen’s tireless church service, from cleaning, welcoming, and Bible readings, to serving on church council and volunteering with the parish’s disability services organisation, ANUHA, which raises money through recycling and cleaning airline headsets.
Why do so much? Doreen’s just happier helping and giving. ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’, she says.
‘My secret? Just trust God, it’s amazing what God can do’, she says, citing a recent example when she made a big batch of jams and pickles and ran out of bottles, and someone had coincidentally left more out on her doorstep.
Finally, her runner’s praying hands and the cross symbols reflect the reason behind everything that Doreen contributes. As chair of her congregation’s Council of Elders Neil Huth says, ‘The good news of the gospel is the motivation for all that Doreen does’.
And it is the good news of her favourite verse – John 3:16 – that reminds Doreen that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’.
Neil affirms that Doreen’s longevity and faithfulness within the worship and leadership of the church is truly amazing to those who know her. ‘Her leadership, energy, example and inspiration would be hard to replace, simply because of the sheer volume and experience she has provided each and every week’, he says.
This involvement extends to times before many of her fellow parishioners were born, and she’s not planning to change. As with all Doreen does: ‘I leave it to the Lord’, she says.
Helen Beringen is a Townsville-based communications advisor who has been richly blessed through a career as a wordsmith. She is inspired by the many GREYT people who serve tirelessly and modestly in our community. She hopes by sharing stories of how God shines his light through them, others will be inspired to share his light in the world.
Know of any other GREYT stories in your local community? Email the editor email@example.com
This feature story comes from The Lutheran April 2018. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.