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Flying padre's legacy inspires Bessie to give back to the Salvos

Flying padre's legacy inspires Bessie to give back to the Salvos

Flying padre's legacy inspires Bessie to give back to the Salvos

6 October 2017

Bessie loves coming to the Beacon drop-in centre to chat with the clients and help make them feel welcome and at home. Photo by Sonya Hart.

By Simone Worthing

“I’ve known that God has been with me since I was 17, although I didn’t really take much notice of him then,” says Bessie, a volunteer at the Beacon Drop-In Centre in Katherine, Northern Territory.

“He’s given us a lot over the years, and The Salvation Army has looked after us so well, so it’s just nice to come in here and give a little bit back. I’m retired now, so I have the time and want to do it.”

Bessie lives outside Katherine on an eight-acre property with her husband, Ted, and comes into the centre twice a week to serve toast and a hot cup of tea or coffee to clients, and to spend time chatting with them. She also makes scones for them on a Thursday!

“One of the highlights of my week is to be here when the clients come in, say ‘g’day’, and make them feel welcome and at home,” she says.

Bessie is in her fourth year of volunteering for The Salvation Army. She has been the only volunteer at the centre this year, due to the ill health of another volunteer who can only make it in occasionally.

“The staff are lovely here and so nice to be around,” she says. “The clients come into the cool here, to watch TV, sit and relax, read the newspaper and just feel comfortable and safe.

“I am really looking forward to seeing the showers, the washing machines and the dryers installed and working – to make our clients even more comfortable and give them some dignity.

“This is a happy place to be.”

Bessie has been asking God to send some more people to the Katherine Corps, which is part of the building that houses the drop-in centre.

“A few more people have come, and some of our clients also attend sometimes. We’re a small mob, but God says that where two or three are gathered in his name, he is there too. God has it all worked out, and he knows what he wants.”

Bessie has been associated with The Salvation Army since 1973 when she and Ted, and their children, lived on a 1110sq/km property at Hodgson River, 300km south-west of Katherine.

“On 6 April we were at home when our neighbour came over and said that Captain Hilton Morris, The Salvation Army flying padre at the time, would like to come and see us – if our airstrip was ready for him to land on,” Bessie shared.

“It was, and ever since then, we’ve all had close relationships with The Salvation Army flying padres, and still see some of them today.

Captain Greg Howard, flying padre.

“Captain Greg Howard is our current padre and is based here in Katherine. He serves and loves the people just like all the others have done.”

Bessie loves to tell the stories of former flying padres who would fly out to conduct weddings and funerals, deliver toys at Christmas to those who had very little, and often bring spare parts for broken bores and equipment.

“The Salvos understood us, helped us, and were always there for us,” she said. “And they were, and are, practical men too – they could draft cattle, fix fences and repair plumbing as well.

“This is how you minister to people in the bush. You help meet their practical needs, show up for them, and they will open up to you with their worries, and even about faith.”

Bessie describes the flying padres as “our mates” and “necessary” in the remote and often harsh outback conditions.

“Captain Greg carries this legacy today,” she shares. “People in the bush who are worried, depressed, or need a friend, know they can call on the flying padre.

“We can always depend on the Salvos.”



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