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Journeying with our farmers, whatever the distance

9 August 2018

Journeying with our farmers, whatever the distance

Majors Peter and Jean Ridley who served together as rural chaplains for twelve years.

While farmers and their communities are facing some of the worst droughts they’ve ever experienced, Salvo rural chaplains are on the ground, offering practical and emotional support. Our rural chaplains show people that no matter how remote they are, or what they are dealing with, they are not alone.

The Salvation Army is committed to helping people in need across Australia, and every day our ministers, corps (churches), chaplains, staff and volunteers are making a difference in regional communities as they provide a range of programs and services to meet material, emotional and spiritual needs. People need more than financial assistance or vouchers, and that’s why the work of our rural chaplains is especially important.

Travelling tens of thousands of kilometres, they visit some of our most remote communities and families, helping fight the isolation distance can bring. For many people, they are the only face-to-face contact they may have in months. The chaplains offer opportunities for people to share their struggles, often simply through having a chat. It’s about showing people that they aren’t alone, and that someone cares – especially God.

In the course of their role, chaplains do more than simply visit rural communities; they become part of it, working alongside people to learn how best to help. They know that the only way you can understand the struggles of country Australians is to be there alongside them, and that it’s hard for someone on the other end of a telephone to see the whole picture.

It’s part of the country mindset that everyone pitches in to get things done, and chaplains are no exception. It can involve getting their hands dirty, helping with jobs while talking, and providing some extra muscle and company. 

Despite limited resources, chaplains help where they can with immediate needs, working with other Salvation Army services to provide assistance to people struggling to make ends meet. They also assist with organising community events, helping to bring people together. 

Rural chaplains are often first at the scene when disaster strikes, offering support in the midst of tragedy and helping people access the help they need. After the immediate disaster has been dealt with, they are there to help rebuild.

They also act as a connection between regional Australia and the rest of the country. This might include finding a mental health provider for someone struggling with depression, or arranging transport and accommodation for someone who has to go to the city for surgery.

Communities are the heart of regional Australia, and rural chaplains work towards building healthy communities. By bringing together local businesses, service organisations, health providers and community members, the community can decide what will best meet its needs, and what they can do for each other.

At its heart, everything a rural chaplain does comes back to one simple idea – that the most important thing you can do is be there for people. Knowing that someone cares enough to come and say hello, to ask how you are, can be the difference between isolation and community. That’s something the Salvos believe everyone deserves, and our rural chaplains won’t let any amount of distance stand in their way. 

Story by David Goodwin

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The Salvation Army acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.

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