Nearly two years on from the devastating bushfires of 2019-2020 Mallacoota in East Gippsland continues to face challenges with housing availability and trauma recovery, but Bush Church Aid ministers Jude and Andy Benton continue to reach out to their community with a bright light of hope through the gospel of Christ.
Jude and Andy have been part of the Mallacoota and Cann River communities for 3½ years now (1½ supported by BCA) and recently bought a house there. Moving from bushfire recovery to pandemic has created challenges for face-to-face ministry, but God has opened doors for Jude to continue preaching through radio church.
She was given the opportunity to do a weekly radio broadcast during the first lockdown in 2020 and returned to the airwaves in 2021 during lockdown number five in Victoria. During her weekly spot, Jude has worked through the book of James and even used books by Dr Seuss to set the scene. Last year she spoke a lot about bushfire recovery using the resurrection narrative.
“I’ve tried to make it relevant,” says Jude. “We play four or five songs that are upbeat and have a time of prayer for the community, the wider world and we finish with the Lord’s Prayer.”
Jude is usually on the air for about 40 minutes each week. The live radio broadcast continues to be a wonderful form of outreach as there are many listeners who do not usually come to church, and it also reaches those who are unable to attend church due to age or a decline in health. One of her weekly listeners is Jude’s partner on the radio, Don, who happens to be an atheist.
“As my friend and one of the radio’s DJ’s, Don was the first one I rang when I was told I needed a presenter to run radio church with me,” says Jude. “He has partnered with me for every one of our now 57 radio church services.”
(Jude is returning to face-to-face services from this weekend.)
“When we went back to face-to-face church last Christmas, Don kept that morning spot, with a service called ‘This is not radio church’ so if I ever needed to come back, he would be there for me, and as soon as restrictions occurred again, we were back on air together. When the songs are playing, we get a chance to talk about what I’ve been speaking about. It’s a great outreach not only to Don but to all the non-churchgoers who mention in passing that they’ve heard the service and they liked ‘this or that’. I love doing radio church.”
Recently the station began broadcasting live on www.3mgb.org.au and so people in Cann River and further afield can now listen. Jude was blessed to receive encouragement from one faithful BCA prayer supporter who tuned in one Sunday from locked-down Melbourne and really enjoyed the program.
Zoom has become a much-used resource during lockdown and Mallacoota is no stranger to it. Recently Jude and Andy hosted an Op Shop online zoom party. Jude modelled outfits and Andy videoed her on Zoom.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for connection and laughter, and a good mix of community and church people attended. And people are keen to do it again.”
A big project that has been in the works for some time is the Cann River Reflection Garden, being headed up by Scripture Union-sponsored catalyst worker, Kate Cowden. The garden will provide what is currently the missing link in a walkway where people stop for a break where the Monaro and Princes Highways meet. Generous donations to this project came from two Anglican schools in Melbourne, and applications have been made to Anglicare and Zoos Victoria.
“We’re working with Landcare, the community centre and one of the local Indigenous elders to build something that the Indigenous community can utilise and that can also be used for outdoor services.”
Article reprinted with permission of BCA.