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A quiet visitor in times of need

A quiet visitor in times of need

A quiet visitor in times of need

10 March 2017

Heather Cook waits on the guidance of God in her caring ministry. Photo: Brad Ogle

By Bill Simpson

Every Sunday morning, grandmother Heather Cook sits in the tenor horn section of her corps band.

She has been playing in Salvation Army bands only since her mid-50s. There was no place for females in Army bands in Melbourne when Heather was being raised by officer parents.

But just over 10 years ago, when Heather and husband David were soldiers at Canberra City Corps, the bandmaster announced the band would fold unless there were more players. Heather accepted the challenge. She learned to play and, eventually, joined the bandsmen.

One year later, for family reasons, Heather and David moved back to Victoria after 30 years in Canberra. They settled at Leopold, on the Bellarine Peninsula, 85km south of Melbourne, and joined the South Barwon Corps.

David sits behind Heather on baritone in the corps band. She loves the band, but there is something else that even most of her corps doesn’t know. When some people at South Barwon Corps read this article, says Corps Officer Captain Mal Davies, they will be surprised.

“Heather goes about her ministry so discreetly and humbly,” Captain Davies says, “that not many people are aware of it.” Her quietly carried-out ministry perfectly reflects the Caring for People tenet of The Salvation Army’s new Mission and Values statements in Australia: “Being there when people need us most ... offering care and compassion as a sacred encounter with transformative potential.”

Heather gives her time to people who are dying, have lost a loved one or are facing the imminent loss of a loved one – when people need us most. Her call to the ministry came in Canberra almost 25 years ago.

“It was during a Red Shield Appeal Sunday morning service, of all things. I was sitting in the Canberra City Temple feeling sorry for myself having to go out and collect straight after the meeting.”

On her mind was a television segment about a young military officer who was a hospice volunteer. “During the Sunday worship service, I felt God’s spirit speaking to me and reminding me about this young man. God said, ‘I want you to apply to become a hospice volunteer. I will support and be with you all the way’.”

She became a hospice and home visitor for a church organisation for almost 15 years. After returning to Victoria almost 10 years ago now, Heather wasn’t able to find an organisation that would allow her to do her work in the same way as she did it in Canberra. So, she did it, anyway, independently.

“I visit people,” she says, “when the Holy Spirit tells me to. I have learned to listen to and appreciate the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit directs – and he does – then it is my responsibility to act.”

It was her father, the late Brigadier Horry Wishart, who taught her the awareness of the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit was large in the life and teaching of my father,” she says. “So now, I wait for the Holy Spirit to speak. I don’t go (to visit) unless I know for certain that the call has come from God. He makes it very clear. And when I visit, people tell me that I turned up just at the right time.”

Heather visits corps members and the community, in general. On a recent Saturday, Heather was shopping at local markets. She was aware of a woman who was grieving the loss of her husband. She had delayed visiting.

“I had been making excuses. But while I was shopping, the Holy Spirit said, very clearly, ‘Go’. So I went. I told the woman that the Holy Spirit sent me. After we had spent time talking, she said to me, ‘I am glad you listened to the Holy Spirit’. “I come from a deep calling. If God hadn’t called me to this work, I couldn’t do it. I am very comfortable that if God has called me, he will equip me.”

Bill Simpson is a contributing writer for Others magazine.

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