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Bringing hope to struggling farmers

Bringing hope to struggling farmers

Bringing hope to struggling farmers

28 March 2019

Major Bryce Davies (second from left) with two volunteer tradies who travelled to western NSW to assist Rachel (centre) and her family who are struggling due to the drought.

By Lauren Martin

When The Salvation Army’s Major Bryce Davies called fellow officer and rural chaplain Major Di Lawson to ask if there was anything he could do to help a farming family in need, he didn’t realise he would be the answer to prayer she was hoping for.

Majors Di and Rusty Lawson are The Salvation Army rural chaplains in western NSW, an area that’s been in crippling drought since last year. Their role involves farm visitation, over-the-phone support and – in times of crisis like drought – providing emergency financial assistance that literally keeps food on the table. Some of the situations that they are supporting people through are heartbreaking.

“One of our families, the Adams, said the quality of the bore water in the drought got so bad that their pipes just exploded in their bathroom,” Di said. “They had no money to fix it, so the whole family – seven of them with a newborn baby – were having to walk 800 metres down to the shearing shed to shower. In the middle of winter.”

Property owner Matt Adams said the current drought is unlike any the family has ever experienced. “It’s been extremely bad,” he said. “We’ve been landholders now for 20 years and we’ve experienced bad droughts in the past, but just the way this drought fell and the way it came about made it extremely difficult to manage.”

His wife Rachel describes the past year as being one of the most horrendous, and joyous, times of her life. She and husband Matt discovered in late 2017 that they were expecting their fifth child – a surprise, given that their youngest is now a teenager. They were so excited, the farm was doing well and they couldn’t wait to welcome their newest into the family.

Then the drought hit.

“It all turned bad, very, very, fast with the drought … and then Ruby was born,” she said. “It was a wonderful time and a bad time as well if that makes sense? We were very excited that she was born and that she was healthy. That was a joy. But I think it also added to a lot more stress. Matt had a wife that couldn’t do anything and a newborn baby and the bathroom not working …”

ongoing support

Salvation Army rural chaplains have been in contact with the family for close to 20 years, and they have been there again in the latest crisis.

“As far as the rural chaplains go, just being able to talk to them is the biggest part of it,” Rachel said. “They’ve helped us a lot of times financially, but it’s having that mental help, knowing that somebody cares [that makes a difference].”

Major Bryce and his team work on the bathroom.

Di had only just come into her role as Salvation Army rural chaplain in the Adams’ area before Rachel had Ruby. She dropped off a donation of baby clothes and that’s when she found out that the family had no bathroom facilities inside their home due to the pipes bursting.

“In this day and age in Australia, it’s a basic necessity to have a bathroom in your home,” Di said. “I really felt the injustice of it, and I felt for Rachel having to walk down to the shearing shed in the middle of a bitter winter, after just having a caesarean birth!

“I’d been praying about it and had tried to source some help but hadn’t been having much luck. It’s hard to get tradespeople to travel such a huge distance even at the best of times.”

rewarding experience

So, when Bryce called Di, she told him the story of the family, and said: “It would be great if you could help but it’s a really big job, and we’d need a plumber.”

His response was not what she expected: “Well, I am a plumber!”

Within weeks, Bryce and two other tradesmen were making the six-hour journey out to Matt and Rachel’s dairy and cattle farm, north of Dubbo.

“We came in and basically prepped a new design for their bathroom, put all new pipes in,” he said. A few weeks later a gyprocker and another tradesman travelled out to redo the walls.

“Those guys worked all day; they didn’t finish until 9.30 at night,” said Rachel. “And they took the time to sit down and have a meal with us and to ask these questions about the drought … [for people] from the city who took the time to understand what you’re going through and show that they care, it was wonderful.”

For Bryce, it was a hugely rewarding experience. Not just to help a family who truly needed assistance, but to spend time driving there and back with a bunch of guys in fellowship.

“I think that there’s great scope to do something like this on a monthly basis and make it part of your corps’ men’s group,” he said. “If you’ve got a men’s group, they’re always scratching around to try and find something meaningful to do that’s got a bit of a challenge.

“Rather than sitting around just talking and eating food, how do we do something that really makes a difference to someone’s life? Well in two days we were able to help a rural farming family in a way that was reasonably significant. So, I think on a weekend you can do something big.

“Watch this space. I think we are going to create lots more opportunities for guys to be involved in this sort of thing.”

The job isn’t over yet. Tapware, vanities and other bathroom supplies are being sourced and Major Bryce and the crew are organising to head back out to the farm to finish the job.

“To have the guys come back and finish it, hopefully before winter, would be amazing,” said Rachel. “That’s my one wish is not to have to walk to that shed in the middle of winter again.”

Meanwhile, the drought continues and farmers like Matt and Rachel continue to struggle. “It hasn’t eased off for us at all. Unfortunately for us it has just gotten a lot worse,” said Rachel. “We were buying truckloads of hay every week. Now, we just can’t afford to buy one more truckload. That’s it, we’re finished … it’s a pretty bleak outlook.”

Majors Rusty and Di Lawson are encouraging Salvationists to continue to pray for Australian farmers battling the drought. To donate to The Salvation Army drought relief fund go HERE.




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