By Dave Morgan - BCA Field Staff, Paraburdoo/Tom Price, WA
Moving to the Pilbara has reminded me vividly of the massive size of Australia. The town we live in is five hours from the closest McDonalds (which some would consider a blessing), and even the closest Coles is 80km away.
We minister in two mining towns in the Pilbara - the North West’s mineral rich region famed for iron ore, Red Dog and Karijini National Park.
Resourcing gospel ministry for such a vast country has always been a challenge. For one thing there is always the need for the gospel in cities, but there are also great needs and opportunities in the Bush. There are about 6000 people living in our two towns, plus a massive amount of fly-in fly-out workers at the mining camp, plus a lot of tourists through the winter. If you go a little further afield there are some bigger centres - Port Hedland, Karratha, Broome, etc… These centres, on top of thousands of local residents are also host to tens of thousands of tourists each year. On top of that there is the important work of numerous centres set up to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of visiting seafarers. Many of these towns have gospel ministry happening in them, but I know of at least one town (Onslow) where there is only one church service a month for a town of over 1000 people (and the nearest town is hours away).
Jesus said “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”. I am deeply thankful to God for the generosity of those who make it possible for us (and other BCA Field Staff) to serve here, but there are so many more opportunities. If only there were more harvesters!
The work here has its challenges. Most people are indifferent to the gospel. Some Christians here are having a few years off church while they make money to pay off the home loan, others have a break from church because they are unsatisfied by the style of ministry provided at the only church in town. There are a small group of faithful disciples who work hard to serve the Lord Jesus in their work, family, community and church, but we are certainly few.
Recently Priya and I were in Sydney for the BCA Field Staff conference. Almost all the BCA workers from around the country gathered together for fellowship, Bible study and training. This was a really encouraging time but once again I was struck by the tremendous need and challenge which our country presents us with. Just a couple of people I was blessed to meet include:
Brad and Joh Henley serve on Kangaroo Island off the South Australian coast. They are responsible for leading three church congregations in different towns on the island 150km apart. The members are all in their 70s and 80s and as much as Brad and Joh long to start some ministry with young families and the primary school of 500 children, they find this very difficult with their existing commitments.
Bruce Chapman (serving in Darwin with his family) is the Youth Minister of the entire Northern Territory! He also serves as the part time Assistant Minister at Nightcliff Anglican Church.
It’s wonderful that God has sent these (and many other) faithful ministers into His harvest field, but imagine the help a few more harvesters would be to them. We need committed Christians to move to these areas and help in all kinds of ministry - especially children’s ministry and evangelism. My home church has a weekly attendance of about 600, there must be over 200 faithful Christian families. Some ministers would thank God for fellowship with just one such family. What a tremendous opportunity God’s people have to be profoundly useful and encouraging in His service.
Jesus challenges us in all kinds of ways doesn’t He? Jesus - “Love your enemies”. Us - “What!?”, Jesus - “Forgive others as you expect your Father to forgive you.” Us - “Ouch!”
But how about this one? Jesus - “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head”. How do we respond to that?
Maybe there are godly reasons for us to stay where we are (especially if that is a place that Christians often move away from and therefore has greater gospel need), but perhaps our response should be to move to a place where our gifts, and fellowship, would bless God’s servants there and be a powerful witness to the lost. Are you a teacher? A nurse? A doctor? A tradesman? A community minded person? A pensioner with a heart for people? If so there are literally hundreds of towns in this country where your mere presence would be such a blessing for the gospel. Why not give it a go for 2, 4 or 10 years and see what the Lord will do? In some towns such a move, under God, could be world changing.
The Christian who moves to a small town for the sake of the gospel will be a profound gift and blessing to God’s people, to those who minister to them and to the lost.
The Christian who moves to a small town for the sake of the gospel will have the opportunity to serve in ways they never imagined (an average guitarist in Sydney is an exceptional guitarist in Paraburdoo!)
The Christian who moves to a small town for the sake of the gospel will learn so much about community, the world and themselves from Christians and non-Christians alike.
The Christian who moves to a small town for the sake of the gospel will suffer, but God will use that suffering for their ultimate good.
Christ has given us new life and hope, and work to do; the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Where now will we live? Where now will you live? Wherever you live, may you live there for His sake.