‘Grey nomads’ bringing new life to Forbes/Parkes
By LAUREN MARTIN
Late last year, Judy Brown and Wendy Broome were happily living their ‘best retired life’, travelling the country in their RV and taking volunteer jobs whenever they felt a calling from God to stop and help.
When they were asked to put down roots to revitalise the Army’s work in two small Central Western NSW townships – Forbes and Parkes – they initially laughed.
“We said, ‘No, why would we want to do that?’” Judy and Wendy quipped when they recalled then NSW/ACT Divisional Commander Lieut-Colonel Miriam Gluyas’ offer to take a one-year paid position as church leaders and store managers of Forbes/Parkes Salvation Army.
The mission expression had been without an officer since December, but two family stores were still operating. The brief Judy and Wendy were given was to minister to the congregation and manage the stores – of which Forbes was not financially viable. Sounds easy, right?
“We thought about it and talked about it and prayed about it and had a peace that there was no reason why we shouldn’t do it,” says Judy. “It certainly has continued to feel like that – even though we’re exhausted. We’re not spring chickens!” the 65-year-old laughs.
Getting to work
A few months after relocating, the pair (along with a friend and fellow Salvationist holidaying from Hervey Bay) closed the Forbes Family Store on a Thursday afternoon, completely gutted it of stock, had the carpet cleaned, did some repainting and completely “jooshed” it up for a Monday reopening.
“People were so encouraging,” says Wendy. “They come in saying it looks so different – and it smells different – better!”
Weekly takings are up by 90 per cent. But more exciting for Judy and Wendy is that the store, in the main shopping area of town, is attracting lots more clientele and people who are not only buying their stock but stopping to have meaningful conversations.
“Judy has had opportunities to pray with people in the store over and over and over again,” says Wendy. “People are taking volunteer pamphlets, and lots of people come into the store and talk to us about their circumstances.”
Through those relationships, Judy and Wendy are asking God to raise up workers for the harvest and to reveal to them his unique plan for The Salvation Army in the country towns of Forbes and Parkes.
A country congregation
“It’s a very little congregation,” says Judy. “What we are trying to do is listen to the Salvationists that are here. If the Army is serious about staying here with a church expression, then something has to happen.”
The Easter weekend saw a new contact from one of the stores attend the Good Friday service, and a different contact from the store attend on Sunday. Already, God is showing the Salvos of Forbes/Parkes that he’s moving through store-based relationships.
“We’ve always said since we walked in the door of the store that The Salvation Army expression here in Forbes has to be through the open door of the store,” says Wendy. “Our office is located at the store, and it’s the only place that The Salvation Army is open, Monday to Friday. This is The Salvation Army in town ... the hall is only open on Sundays.”
The pair is excited to see what opportunities open up for store-based ministry but are mindful not to start things too quickly. Instead, they’re making connections in the townships and seeing how they can join God with what he’s already doing.
Recently a small group from the corps joined with Havannah House Ministries, which works with local disadvantaged women, and helped them run a family fun day in the local park. “We did a barbeque there and cooked 500 sausages,” says Wendy.
The focus for this year is not to start many ‘new’ things but to consolidate relationships built through the two family stores, build up a team of volunteers and see what God does through the people he brings. Judy and Wendy are passionate about the work of The Salvation Army in country locations like Forbes and Parkes but say, “Our big fear is – and we have seen it all around the Army – empty and boarded up Salvation Army buildings. The thing that would break our heart is if we poured our whole heart and soul into the place, and then it just shut because there was nobody else to follow us.”
Their underlying prayer theme is from Matthew 9:38, that God would raise workers from the harvest to continue his Salvation Army work in the area. Now, that’s a prayer that we can all pray for Forbes/Parkes Corps.