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Salvo 'grey nomads' sowing seeds in dusty soil

 Salvo 'grey nomads' sowing seeds in dusty soil

Salvo 'grey nomads' sowing seeds in dusty soil

7 August 2017

A group of retired Salvationists recently travelled to Outback Queensland for an outback mission.

By Lauren Martin

“You will never know how much you’ve lifted the spirits of the town and the community,” is what a group of retired Salvationists were told on a recent trip to outback Queensland.

The group of more than 30 Salvo “grey nomads”, organised by Major Bob Strong at the request of Outback Flying Service chaplain, Captain Mark Bulow, and rural chaplains, Lieutenants John and Karen Jackson, travelled to Eulo, Windorah, Jundah, Quilpie and Stonehenge to visit schools, perform concerts, open-airs and Sunday services. 

Their band and timbrels also performed at the Yowah Opal Festival, which Captain Bulow has been attending for some years.

“They haven’t seen rain out there for many years,” said Major Strong. “The whole community out there is a bit depressed. They were just so impressed that people travelled that far, you know, just to give them a concert.”

Self-confessed “Bushie” at heart, former Australia Eastern Territorial Commander, Commissioner James Condon, was a member of the team. “I’d heard about these missions for years and I’d always wanted to be part of it,” he said. “It was a great experience; you just had amazing conversations with people.”

While conducting a Sunday service in Windorah, one of Queensland’s most western towns, a tourist who was walking by heard the music and came inside. “She didn’t participate at all, she just sat there the whole time, but during the last song she ducked out,” said Commissioner Condon, explaining that a member of the group caught up with her on the street and she had tears in her eyes. “She’d never been to a church service before but said, ‘it made sense’.”

Members of the group are planning to reconnect with her when she returns to her home city, which happened to be where they also lived.

“There were two other ladies in that service from the local caravan park who had just gone into the laundry to do their washing and heard the band playing,” said Major Strong. “They wondered how a town so small could have a band like that, so they came to see.”

In another town, Quilpie, the team were planning on simply passing through. However, a member of the team needed to pick up a script at the local chemist so they rang ahead to have it prepared. When the chemist, a Christian, heard about what they were doing, he implored them to stop and conduct a meeting because the local minister only visited every few weeks.

“So, I called the council and got permission to play in the street,” says Major Strong. “By the time the team got there, the event had been advertised through the local tourist information centre and there was a small crowd of people who came to watch.”

According to Major Strong, the outback mission’s greatest strength is its ministry of presence. At most towns, the group would visit the local school and teach songs, give the kids a chance to conduct the band and perhaps try their hand at a timbrel. The next night, the group would hold a concert. Major Strong said one family travelled 67 kilometres to attend. But it was during the supper after the concert that seeds were really planted, he said. 

“The program is usually an hour, but sometimes we were all still standing around talking for nearly two hours afterwards,” said Major Strong. “On the last Sunday [at Stonehenge] we had a testimony period and the lady from the information centre, she stood up and thanked us all very much and said how much it meant to the townspeople and the people in the community. She said it’s just overwhelming that we came.”

Major Strong says there’s no lack of opportunity for future mission. At the end of the Opal Festival, organisers invited the group back, but Major Strong said, “we’d like to get a lot of younger retirees so this sort of thing can continue to happen. If people want to be involved in it, they can just get together like we did, just as a group of Salvationists that blow instruments, and off you go!”

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