14 years of ministry in Port Hedland

Philip & Elke Knight

St Matthew's, Port Hedland
St Matthew's, Port Hedland

 

How should we describe 14 years of ministry in Port Hedland? There are many and varied experiences we have had in the time God has granted us in this unique town. For the sake of this article we will only be able to provide you with some snapshots of our time here.

We arrived in Hedland on 27 January 2006 with 4-year-old Annabella and 6-month-old Lilly. The warm welcome we received from the whole church matched the warm  weather and made up for the multitudes of flies, frogs, cyclone alerts, red dust, more dust and then some more dust and other ‘delights’ we had to adjust to.

Bill and Jocelyn Ross were the ultimate professionals in welcoming us and making us feel at home, Philip was a newly minted deacon under Bishop David Mulready (who also priested Philip later in 2006). 

Philip loved his time as associate minister to Bill who was the archdeacon of the Pilbara. Although they were different, they complemented each other well and have fond memories of their time together. After two years Bill and Philip swapped roles, Philip becoming the senior minister and Bill the associate. We had never heard of an archdeacon doing this before and are forever grateful to Bill for the grace and humility he demonstrated in the transition. It was then that we officially came under the
banner of BCA.

At the first four services we attended in the parish people stood up and said that they were leaving. It was a massive shock to the system coming from a very stable Sydney parish. Bill just said this was part and parcel of being in the Pilbara.

Did we ever get used to the revolving door of church members coming and going? Yes and no. Yes in that it was and is indeed just part of life in the Pilbara, and no in that it’s never easy to let go knowing that precious relationships now have the challenge of distance added to them. 

Regarding the size of the church often expanding only to be shrinking again, we simply saw it as an opportunity to learn to trust God more and build His Kingdom rather than our own. Those are invaluable lessons that we take with us.

The biggest highlight of our time in Port Hedland would have to be seeing people become Christians. It is always such a joy Port Hedland Church Philip and Lilly enjoy cooling off and privilege to be able to walk alongside individuals as they discover who Jesus is and that He is worthy of us putting all of our trust in His finished work for us. Being
able to reinforce the glorious doctrines of faith alone in Christ by grace alone, as we got to disciple people has been our greatest joy. This was not just when it came to new
Christians but also everyone else as we never move on from needing to hear those glorious gospel truths.

Other memorable occasions have been various church events such as ladies’ evenings and men’s breakfasts, Bible study, discussion, prayer, friendship and good food. We also loved our annual church camps with a variety of excellent speakers, regular Sunday lunches at the church and last but definitely not least sitting in a creek after a
good cyclone-related drenching.

Speaking of cyclones, we did get to experience Cyclone George in 2007 which was close to a Category 5 and sounded like a big jet engine was continually revving in our backyard. Evidently this did not disturb our girls in the slightest as they slept through the whole thing. There was a fair bit of damage around town but the rectory
was fine, thankfully with only uprooted trees and the like having to be dealt with. Probably the worst thing was being without power for a few days in very sticky, humid
conditions and having to explain to the girls that no power also meant no TV to relieve some of their boredom.

On a Diocesan level, we have absolutely loved our Pilbara deanery meetings which were always a wonderful time of fun and fellowship with other ministers (and sometimes their families) as well mutual encouragement and support which is so essential for persevering well in ministry in remote areas.

Our biannual Diocese of North West Australia Fellow Workers Conference as well as the biennial BCA Field Staff Conference were great sources of encouragement to us. Encouragement was also found through mission teams visiting from Holy Trinity Doncaster, BCA deputations to Sydney and Melbourne, BCA Nomads coming to stay and help in many different ways and people writing us cards, emails and letters.

While at times it may have been tempting to give in to feelings of isolation and loneliness, we were much loved and cared for by the body of Christ which is something we will always remember and treasure. Even in the parish we are going to in Melbourne, there are BCA supporters who have been faithfully praying for us, so we were never alone.

Last but not least, we have had a number of opportunities to be involved in the wider Hedland community. Highlights there include Philip’s involvement with touch footy, doing Scripture seminars at the local primary schools for a season, being part of ANZAC and Remembrance Day celebrations, encouraging high school chaplains and being involved with the Seafarers Centre.

We will miss our church family at St Matthew’s very much and are thankful to God for bringing us as well as keeping us here for the time He has sovereignly determined. He has changed and shaped us as He will certainly continue to do as we venture out into a new ministry opportunity in Melbourne at Forest Hill.