In Going GREYT! we feature stories of some of our ‘more experienced’ people within the LCA , who have been called to make a positive contribution in their retirement. We pray their examples of service will be an inspiration and encouragement to us all as we look to be Christ’s hands and feet wherever we are, with whatever gifts and opportunities we’ve been given.
The beguiling warmth and swaying palms of the tropical north paints a picture of paradise, God’s own country. But amidst this serenity are communities which face the same societal challenges as in southern climes, people simply in need of love and support.
And just as God has called us all to shine his light in the world, he has placed a veritable lighthouse of his love in one little congregation in Queensland’s northern outpost of Townsville.
For the past 13 years, Townsville retiree Ann Hudson, 64, has prayed with and ministered to hundreds of local individuals and families as a volunteer with the Family Support Ministry (FSM) of St Paul’s Lutheran Church.
Practical help is combined with a friendly face and a quiet prayer over a cuppa at the suburban Mysterton centre, in the heart of the 200,000-strong city.
The ministry includes a clothing exchange, weekly morning teas, baby baskets, meal bank and, most importantly, a prayer ministry, which aims to help people who may be disconnected from family, or who are lonely or in need.
‘We do nothing in our own strength, but with him all things are possible.’
‘It has been an amazing blessing to me! So much joy and fun in the things I am privileged to be part of, a sense of purpose and joy at being able to tell others of God’s amazing love for us all’, Ann says.
At the clothes exchange, it is about so much more than the well-arranged racks of clothing and accessories.
‘There is also a need for people to be able to meet with others and to encourage and support each other. This is especially so for young mums, who just need to be able to talk with other adults for a while and have the chance to see that they are not alone – to know that others are facing similar challenges’, Ann says.
‘Some people come in who are struggling with financial, family, or other worrying issues. We have no professional advice to offer but, by God’s grace, we can listen and offer to pray for them if they would like us to.
‘Through the clothes exchange there is the opportunity for us to pass on to others some of what we have been blessed to receive. There is a need for everyone to feel that they are loved and cared for. I know that I am just so privileged to be able to have this opportunity to share God’s love with others who come in, and I am blessed by their words of encouragement, wisdom and insight.’
The intergenerational mingling of FSM brings many joys for the mother of two and grandmother of four, who has been married to Allan for almost 44 years.
Ann, who was born in Clermont, in Queensland’s central highlands, says the centre provides a place where young and old are able to meet in a safe, non-threatening environment.
‘There is no pressure to spend money or be anything other than who God made them to be – themselves’, she says. ‘Some young mums have actually told us that they tell their friends to meet them at the clothes exchange for a coffee! How wonderful is that? Praise God that they feel so comfortable there!’
Ann, a former preschool teacher aide, cleaner and stay-at-home mum, has lived in Townsville since the age of 11.
‘It is a humbling experience having others share some of their heartaches and joys with me’, she says.
‘I believe that God, in his love, has placed each of these areas of ministry on my heart. (He has) used the gentle encouragement of some wonderful, committed people to nudge me into the areas where I was too timid to venture, except with the reassurance that we do nothing in our own strength, but with him all things are possible.
‘Because it’s all about God, He is the centre of it all. Without him nothing would have meaning or purpose. Any efforts on my part would be futile and amount to nothing. It is only by God’s grace and love that I am able to do what I do or be where I am.’
Ann is quick to acknowledge the ministry’s team effort involving committee work, financial and material donations, cooking, as well as jobs as diverse as preparing baby baskets for young mothers at Townsville General Hospital, and packaging, delivering and shopping for meal bank supplies which go to needy youth. ‘And last, but not least is Pastor Steve Cronau, who pops in most weeks to say hello to the ladies and is available if someone needs to talk to him’, she says.
And the fuel for this passion to serve? Ann’s favourite Bible verses provide a glimpse: keeping a focus on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1–3) and praying about everything and rejoicing in the Lord (Philippians 4:4–8).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
This feature story comes from The Lutheran July 2017. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.