Ch 23 “Caring Christians”
With such an increase in people Sue and I could not keep up with trying to look after or mentor everyone. The downside of the “bring them up like you do babies” approach was that it takes huge amounts of time and personal contact, so it broke down when there were lots of new converts.
Some were able to go to church. For instance Inez as doctor’s wife with 20 years of community service and leadership in the town, could walk into church with impunity. But as I explained in an earlier post, the self appointed "gatekeepers" in the church made it impossible for most of the new converts to go to church.
The Sunday school was also functioning as a nurturing ground for women who came along as helpers, as was the band mothers ‘committee’.
But there were still gaps. “Caring Christians” was really a motto for what we were all trying to become, but we also used it as a name for one method God used to get his new spiritual babies looked after.
In some ways this method was reminiscent of olden day families of a dozen or so children where the older children 'mothered' the younger ones. In these “Caring Christians” solutions, it was very much new believers looking after other new believers. It was mutual helping. First it might be a slightly more advanced believer helping a newer one through a rough patch; but a bit later it might be the newer one returning the favor and helping the other through their next rough patch.
For the women. Rosalie led the way here organizing the newly converted women to look after each other. The ethos was “you’re down this time so I’m helping you, but were all on this journey together, next time it may be me down and you helping me.” I cannot give a lot of detail because I was not closely involved, I only heard the sort of things they were doing. But together these women struggled with adversity, in a situation where things like abusive husbands were common. They struggled to live a new life in Christ when they often had little more than childhood memories of Christianity to go on and many years apart from God but under the influence of their 'old life' and habits which they were now trying to undo. They failed often, but they had Christ, and they were there for each other.
They could also do things I could not. I tried calling on one woman whose kids belonged to our Sunday School. She had announced she was leaving her husband to go off with another man only to find that her in-laws (who were also parishioners) said “We're not taking your kids!” and her boyfriend said “I don't want your kids coming too!”. So she returned home – obviously feeling publicly humiliated as the whole town knew the story. She would never answer the door to me. One of the “caring Christians” girls went. She knocked and, like me, got no answer. But she just went ‘round the back and shouted out “Open the door you silly bitch, I know you’re in there.” The door was opened.
That domestic tragedy had a good ending. She got her act together. She had in the past acted very superior which had alienated people. She swallowed her pride to go about the town in public. The townsfolk admired her courage and she actually went up in their estimation. It was remembered and discussed that her husband had had an affair a bit earlier. Finally she and her husband were reconciled.
Then there were the men. One was Ian. He was a long time church attender who grew tremendously in his faith during this time. No, I don’t suppose he had ever heard of “the 4 spiritual laws” I know he would never have expressed his faith in any of the formulae that slick evangelists are so fond of. But he knew “Whose he was and Whom he served”! With Ian we set up a practical branch of “Caring Christians”.
This was a dairy farming area. For a dairy farmer on his own, sickness was unthinkable – the cows had to be milked! (I remember burying one old man who finished the morning milking despite his heart pains and then crawled back to the house to die.) But the unthinkable sometimes happened. Ian as a retired farmer made himself available and several times I recall did the milking for days on end for some sick farmer who had no one else to turn to.
John, Rosalie’s husband did his bit.
I talked to John many times, he was all for Jesus “except”. Lots of people have there “except”. As an alcoholic, John’s was drink. If accepting Jesus as his Lord meant that along the line he was going to have to hand over his drinking habit, then it was “No thanks”.
At least John was honest about his “except” some people spend their lives fooling others and themselves that they are real Christians when all the time they have never surrendered the “except” part of their life to God. John's honesty paid off. True he continued as an alcoholic, and died a few years back far too young from alcoholic liver failure, But shortly before he died, God gave John's daughter Kylie, who is a devout Christian the pleasure of praying with him as he unreservedly gave his life to God and claimed Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
None the less back in the early 1980's John did some amazing things. He talked about God so much at the pub that he was nicknamed “the reverend”. He invited other men to sit around in his barn (drinking beer) to listen to me talk about Christianity.
When bush fires swept through the nearby Dandenong Ranges with considerable loss of life and destruction of houses, we were asked if we could fence in an area that was to be used as a child minding center in the disaster zone, because some of the people were so traumatized that they did not want to leave the area. It was John who picked me up in his battered old purple ute, collected fencing materials at his own expense, rounded up some mates and together we went and built the fence. (the downside of getting workers out of the pub is that none were sober, the fence they built wasn’t straight: but it served its purpose.)
Another anecdote about John helping the work was this. He was a good looking chap, and one of the barmaids made up to him telling him how bad things were for her at home. John replied: “Love you don’t want me. You want my wife; she’s one of these born again Christians.” And he took her home to meet Rosalie. (Yes, the barmaid became one of the Caring Christians too.)
John also helped solve a riddle with our R.E, classes in the local State School. Rosalie told him about the problems we were having with difficult kids. As Rosalie named child after child who were causing problems in class John was filling in the other side of the puzzle. He might say: “Oh yes his dad is a regular drinker down at the pub. and he beats his wife.” or “Their marriage is on the rocks” and so on.
What became clear was that were we not dealing with “problem kids” we were seeing the result of “problem families”
There were three lines of attack on this problem. John was working on the men – though with limited success because they were generally the cause of the problem and so resistant to change. Rosalie's “Caring Christians” new converts were doing what they could for the women – many of whom became Christians in the process but of course could never attend church. The third was to enlist reinforcements.
The girl who worked in the local milk bar had been converted, and was doing her bit with the kids who hung out there after school. The doctor's young receptionist had also been converted. Both of these took time off work to help with the R.E. Lessons. They and Rosalie would pray and also sit with disturbed kids while I was doing my talk, and help Rosalie during the singing. It made an incredible difference.
There were other people doing great things to, and I can only apologise to them that I cannot remember the details of what they were doing well enough to relate them here. But though my memory of what they did has failed, I say to them: remember what the Bible says: “Your labour in the Lord is not in vain” and God is the one who said “I will repay”.