The Welcome congregation Of the Parkes Uniting Church
Love your neighbour
Parkes NSW, a town of around 12,000 people and is most famous for a very large telescope, being the Elvis capital of Australia, and having such amazing community spirit that I can barely tell this story without crying a little. In 2001 A group of people from Parkes decided that the poverty and despair that was left behind in Timor Leste, after the unceremonious exit of Indonesia was not something they could live with. The first group of volunteers from a Koinonia Fellowship Uniting Church in Peak Hill teamed up with a church in Emerald and embarked on what would be a yearly trip to Timor under the leadership of a local Parkes farmer and pastor Geoff Steventon. They decided to work in a particular needy village (that isn’t even on the google map) called Weberek.
Through this ministry mortality rates, living conditions and the health of the villagers has been dramatically improved, not only in Weberek but in villages throughout the south coast. People are alive today that would not have been, but for this community of people who decided they were not happy to ignore the needs of their neighbour. Out of this work has come a friendship between the City of Parkes and Weberek. In 2010 the Mayor of Parkes Ken Keith, signed the formal Friendship Agreement on his trip to Timor with the Chief of Weberek. This, in recognition that Timor needs the help of its neighbour to get on its feet, and local community is a perfect place to start. Out of this ministry has come this organisation Para Marcia, this website and myself sitting in Brisbane typing this story, in awe of these amazing people. This ministry has drawn people from churches of such various denominations, you are unlikely to see in a room together, it now involves people from churches and communities around Australia, but it started here, in the heart of these people. Regular Christian folk who refuse to accept a faith that involves only a Sunday social club. This little story is about the container that is now on the ocean heading for our desperately poor neighbour full of hospital gear and humanitarian goods but actually it is about what the love looks like.
From left to right: Scott Morrissey- Linfox, Gary Potts – Potts Removals, Malcolm Stacey – Lachlan Health Council, Ken Keith – Parkes Shire Council, Bill Shallvey – Parkes Uniting Church
The Latest container from Parkes
Parkes, and its neighbour Forbes, are both very fortunate to recently have had new hospitals built. During the planning process Lachlan Health Council representatives asked what was going to happen to the equipment that wasn’t going into the new hospitals. Parkes Shire Council and the Parkes Uniting Church Welcome congregation knew of the need and were keen on the idea of sending the surplus equipment to Timor Leste. Forbes Shire Council agreed to make it a combined Lachlan project, which was then endorsed by Lachlan Health Service (which manages the two hospitals) and Western NSW Local Health District. It couldn’t have happened without the support of Western NSW Local Health District and Lachlan Health Service, which collected and delivered the equipment to our storage area. Thankfully Don McLeod was able to store the hospital gear in his Austop buildings until the money was raised. In the absence of corporate funds and hearing the plight of the local team of philanthropists the Parkes and Forbes Shire Councils came up with an amazing offer to fund the shipping costs under a section 365 Community Partnership Fund. Gary Potts of Potts Removals in Parkes has supported this project from the beginning, and with Linfox donated the logistics from Parkes to Sydney. In addition the Welcome congregation of the Parkes Uniting Church donated another $5,000 to purchase additional medical items to send in the container. This is an enormous blessing and in addition to the $5,000 they have donated toward the work the team are going to Timor to perform this month (more of that latter). Other donations came in from Parkes Rotary Club, Parkes Services and Citizens Club, and the Assemblies of God Church in Parkes who together donated over $3,000. The rest is a bit of a blur to me, all these emails started circulating, people volunteered, lists were made, the shipping container was booked and the workforce got mobilised in a big way. We have a picture here of our workforce courtesy of Fairfax media.
The camera shy workers.
My job in this organisation is pretty much to do this, put it out there, let people know where their donations are going and brag about what we do. The problem with this bunch is, no one wants to toot their own horn. We have a belief in the Christian world that you do your good deeds in secret, which is very admirable, but it makes for a really boring website. So when I asked for pictures of people rather than equipment, there was reluctance to say the least. A few church photos where handed over (with the comment that they were “no youth group”), then I had to get the others from Fairfax Media, after they did a story in the local paper. They tell me they are not a great looking bunch of people, but when I look at them I remember sitting in the waiting room of the ill-equipped hospital in Timor listening to the cries of a dying baby, and I think they look beautiful, because I know this is what love looks like.
So In short our Thanks for this project goes to Parkes Shire Council, Forbes Shire Council, Parkes Services and Citizens Club, Parkes Rotary Club, Assemblies of God Church, Garry Pots, Linfox, Don McLeod, Uniting Church congregations, Lachlan Health Service, Western New South Wales Local Health District. We promise your contribution with change the lives of everyday Timorese.