After a break of 1450 days, the Bush Church Aid Society (BCA) Field Staff Conference was held in the first week of October on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. This conference brought together the BCA family from 30 locations across regional, remote and rural Australia.
When you hear people speak about their colleagues, you don’t often hear the word family, but family is what the BCA community has been referred to for much of its 103-year history. This feeling of welcome, warmth, care and love was so evident among the 140 parents, kids, BCA office staff, nomads and kids’ ministry volunteers who gathered on the Sunshine Coast.
Although I have been BCA’s National Director since late 2019, this was my first Field Staff Conference and after years of planning I came to the Sunshine Coast with high hopes.
The kids have connected in real and meaningful ways with others who love Jesus and have made friends for life.
One of my hopes was that the Field Staff would get to know one another. Even though they had been praying for one another for years, and were part of the same community, many had not met face to face.
I have heard some great stories of how excited Field Staff have felt meeting fellow workers from the other side of the country. Some of our Tasmanian Field Staff have been spending a lot of time with Field Staff from far Northwest Australia, and their meeting was only made possible by the conference.
We had 55 kids at the conference, and in some cases, they are the only kids in their church or the only Christians in their school. The kids have connected in real and meaningful ways with others who love Jesus and have made friends for life.
I wanted to help our non-Indigenous Field Staff better understand and get a good foundation for how they serve our First Nations Peoples.
Our conference guest speaker was Stuart Robinson, rector of South Head Anglican in Sydney. I chose Stuart because of his interesting background; he has a lot of connections with BCA, and a heart for rural ministry, having been the Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn for ten years. This allowed him to speak across the spectrum of where all our Field Staff serve. He really gets it.
A major part of the conference was cultural awareness training led by BCA’s Indigenous Ministry Officer Neville Naden and his wife Kathie. They spoke about inclusivity, equality versus equity and acceptance. I wanted to help our non-Indigenous Field Staff better understand and get a good foundation for how they serve our First Nations Peoples.
Most of all, I really wanted our Field Staff to relax, I wanted them to be blessed because they do the hard yards where they serve. And as I told them on the first day of the conference: for those who come for the colder climates, this is what warmth looks like; for those who come from the red dirt, this is what the ocean looks like; and for those who come from warm areas on the coast – tough luck!
It was a really blessed week of meeting together and we plan to gather again in another two years to feed, nourish and equip our Field Staff who really go the distance in reaching Australia for Christ.
Greg Harris is the National Director of BCA.