Our memories of Doug Orr: Serving those who serve  

Mark & Monica Short

Doug & Frances Orr

Monica and I warmly remember Doug Orr as the man who first inspired us to try camping on four wheels.

Resisting the temptation of on-site cabins, we hired a trailer to attend the first BCA Nomads’ gathering at Nundle (and later started borrowing a much simpler camper trailer from the dear and generous Raymond & Helen Howes). We’d safely navigated our way up the New England Highway only to find ourselves totally befuddled by the mysteries of reversing and then erecting this strange, hired contraption. It was then that Doug and a team of Nomads sprang into action to help us, almost managing to convince us in the process that we had actually done it ourselves.

This story captures something essential about Doug’s character. He was a big man with a big heart, an enthusiast and an encourager. Even as a child growing up in the Sydney suburb of Ryde, God had inspired Doug with a passion for adventure and the outdoors. It was a passion that found expression in yearly family holidays navigating the backblocks and the outback.

That passion reached a new stage in 2011 when Doug & Frances took over the leadership of the BCA Nomads from Max & Jan Boyley. This ministry was the perfect bridge between Doug’s love of the bush and his desire for people to know the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Doug loved welcoming new members into the Nomads family. He enjoyed getting to know them, hearing of their walk with Christ and identifying the particular skills, gifts and experiences they could use to bless God’s people in far-flung places. He would also ensure they were presented with their numbered Nomad badges – not since the days of Get Smart had individual numbers meant so much to so many! All these details would find their way into his meticulously tended database.

Doug also loved getting to know BCA Field Staff. He was concerned to understand their challenges and opportunities, personally and in ministry. He gleaned this knowledge from visits, phone calls and face-to-face conversations at Field Staff Conferences and deputations. People mattered to Doug. The BCA Nomads was never about building an empire or even running a program. It was about connection between brothers and sisters and nothing brought Doug greater joy than matching a heart ready to serve with people ready to be served.

This passion for connection saw Doug & Frances introduce new ideas into the Nomad ministry that built a sense of collegiality between Nomads from different churches and different regions. These initiatives included a Nomads Facebook page and a new focus on mission initiatives that brought Nomads together in larger groups to bless a community and reach it with the good news of Jesus.

However, it was at the Nomads gatherings that Doug was truly in his element. For months in advance he would be hard at work booking sites, organising speakers, musicians & seminar leaders and liaising with local churches about opportunities for fellowship and mission. Once the gathering commenced Doug flourished. The Orr caravan was a haven for cups of tea, coffee and conversation. Doug & Frances would be on the look-out for first-time Nomads, making sure they were included and welcomed. Locations like Nundle, Junee, Forster and Narromine will remain special for many and it should be no surprise that one of Doug’s last actions before he was hospitalised for the final time was to make sure the next Nomads gathering in Deniliquin was booked and the speakers organised.

It was a blessing to work alongside Doug & Frances during my time as National Director, which was between Brian Roberts and Greg Harris and their great work. Monica and I enjoyed Doug and Frances’ hospitality on many occasions and always looked forward to those occasions when we could dream together about how we might reach Australia for Christ. It is sometimes said the greatest tribute to someone’s leadership is not what happens to a ministry when they are there but how it flourishes after they have gone. In that light, I have every confidence that God will continue to grow the tribe and ministry of BCA Nomads for His glory.

At Doug’s memorial service we were encouraged by these words from 2 Corinthians 4:16–18: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Thank God for Doug Orr, who never lost heart.