A day in the life of ... Majors Michelle and Niall Gibson
As Rural and Remote Chaplains for The Salvation Army, Majors Michelle and Niall Gibson share the gospel in the Top End of Australia – on foot, by car or by plane! A year into their appointment, Others Online writer Jessica Morris interviewed the Gibsons about their ministry.
Can you give us an overview of your job?
We are Rural and Remote Chaplains, previously called Flying Padres. We fly or drive to visit remote communities and isolated people who
live on stations across the Top End of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, taking the Christian message and being a listening ear. We can be someone to talk to in times of crisis and times of celebration. We are available to conduct funerals, weddings and child dedications. Another area of our work is taking Christian Education classes in isolated community schools. You could say that we take the church to the people. We also attend camp drafts, rodeos and other events that station people take part in.
What does a normal day look like for you?
Our job is quite varied. When we fly, Niall firstly studies where we are going – the flight path, details of the airstrip etc. the day before. On the day, we are up early as Niall has pre-flight checks to do on the plane. Then, once we arrive, it depends on where we are visiting as to what it looks like. When we go to a station, we have a cuppa with the manager and whoever else is available. When we go to a school, as well as having fun with the children, teaching them a Bible story, singing and doing crafts and activities with them, we visit with the staff and listen to their joys and worries. Then we fly home, refill the plane and put it in the hangar ready for next time. Most days are not as exciting but are spent preparing the Christian Education classes, contacting stations to ask if we can visit, and, of course, keeping up with the administrative tasks that we all have to do
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
This would be working out where to visit and contacting them. Some places, especially the remote schools and communities, don’t have the best internet and phone reception. Station people are very busy, so catching them on the phone can be a challenge. There can be challenges with flying and driving. With flying, it is getting to know the various airstrips, avoiding the RAAF jets (recently we had to take a detour around where they were flying), and watching the weather. Driving, we have had flat tyres, and you always have to keep an eye out for stray cattle and wildlife.
Working as a chaplain in rural and remote areas (and often flying to see people) means you are always on the go. How do you take care of yourself and stay motivated to show the love of Christ every day?
We spend time with God, both individually and together each day, praying and reading the Bible and devotional books. Having been corps officers for the past 22 years, we are enjoying attending Katherine Corps, both for Sunday meetings and Discovery Church (Bible study). We also have a weekly time of fellowship with the other ministers in town and attend the monthly Combined Churches Men’s and Ladies’ Breakfasts.
How did your time appointed in rural Western Australia prepare you for working with communities in the Northern Territory?
We were corps officers in five different corps in WA, three of which were in rural communities and one which you could call remote. I laugh a little bit, as most of the places we have lived in the past 20 years have been in the wheatbelt and sheep country. Up here is cattle country, and I often say it’s a whole different language! We had never heard of a camp draft and hadn’t been to a rodeo before. It’s a learning curve but a fun one. Having lived away from family most of our married life, both in Australia and PNG, we appreciate some of the difficulties people here experience with distance from loved ones.
To connect with Majors Michelle and Niall about their ministry as Rural and Remote Chaplains, click here.