For all the quirks of the church – and they are legion –
there are some truly fantastic things that are happening
as people put into practice acts of hospitality, care and service
because they bear the name of Christ.
In my role with UnitingCare NSW ACT, I get to hear some great stories.
I am really sorry you don’t get to hear them all too,
but let me share two with you today
In our aged care facilities, we seek to offer what is called “inspired care” –
it is meant to be something that absolutely places the person at the centre,
and doesn’t treat them as a number, or “just another old person”.
I’d like to invite you to watch this clip –
or if you don’t have 15 minutes, at least watch the last 4.
In a very different form of care and concern,
UnitingCare NSW ACT operates the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre
and, for the past 13 years, has been supervising the only place in Australia
where someone can inject drugs legally,
under the supervision of trained clinical staff.
The main purpose of the Centre is to reduce deaths from drug overdose.
It is a life saver.
In 13 years, over 800,000 supervised injections have taken place
and there have been medical interventions in around 5,000 overdoses.
There has not been a single death in the centre in all that time.
The drugs are never provided as part of the centre’s work. Ever.
But one of the things that is provided is some sterile water,
so that when the injections are occurring, the risk of hepatitis is drastically reduced.
Even those who offer a glass of water in Jesus’ name will be rewarded.
But the care – the simple acts of service – are not just “out there”
Twenty steps down the corridor from here,
practical care and support is turning lives around.
A little while back, we came into a caring relationship with Janet, in Newpin,
who had her children removed in 2013 in the early stages of potential harm from neglect.
Between then and May 2014 this year,
she has been part of a life changing program we run here.
She has been cared for and has built her skills and her strengths.
She has been able to improved her focus on her parenting,
made a clear commitment to the program
and been consistent in her attendance and participation
And because of that Janet has received notification that two of her children
would be returned in six months’ time.
Janet has said that her experiences with NewPIN were positive primarily
because of the way in which the program works with parents…
its approach of working with participants and building on their strengths
rather than directing them to behave in particular ways was seen as empowering and encouraging.
A glass of water has been offered in Jesus name
Or let me tell you about Amelia:
Amelia and her three children have been struggling to afford basic living expenses,
and were having difficulty making life work.
At the centre of this was workplace bullying that Amelia was experiencing
in her low level public service job, that resulted in time off,
and a stressful complaints procedure to follow.
Amelia and the kids lived in a caravan park just outside of the ACT.
Here – twenty steps to the other side of the auditorium
we have provided emergency food assistance,
pharmacy assistance for Amelia’s antidepressant medicine
and assistance with the Telstra bill
so the kids could access the internet for school.
With continued support Amelia’s situation has greatly improved,
she is now in a privately rented house in West Belconnen,
happier with work and life and feeling better about parenting.
We continue to assist the family to build resilience.
Another glass of water has been poured and offered
And the stories keep coming: what about Sarah?
Sarah is a single mother who has been fighting for custody
of her almost 4yr old daughter Lily since she was 6 months of age
Throughout this process,
Lily has struggled with some really difficult things going on for her,
which has meant that Sarah has had to deal with issues such as regression
and difficult behaviours for Lily
which their child psychologist believes stems from the lack of routine she has in her life
Together we have been working on such issues,
but both feel that once Final Orders have been set,
Lily will then be able to fall into a proper routine and in turn feel safer and more secure.
Sarah has recently given up smoking and is working on her anxiety surrounding Lily
and the unknown future of her custody battle.
As of this week, Sarah has finally been given a final Court Hearing date –
for the end of this year
Sarah was beginning to feel that there was no end in sight
and now she has a sense of hope.
Another glass of water has been poured and offered.
And finally, let me tell you about Mark and Graham
Mark and Graham are a young couple who have recently moved to Canberra.
Things haven’t worked well for them just yet
and the financial strains of moving have taken their toll
They came in this week looking for assistance.
And while an emergency hamper was being put together,
Mark asked, with some nervousness, whether this was a church.
Erin mentioned it was and their body language tightened –
as if a church was the last place they wanted to be.
Sadly, a young gay couple aren’t always welcomed by churches.
But the assistance, the hospitality and the sense of welcome that they received
meant that their nervousness faded quickly.
They knew that they had come across a safe place, with a welcoming door.
Another glass of water has been poured and offered.
We do not do this for the reward.
We do not care so that we will feel good,
nor so that we will earn a jewel in our heavenly crown – whatever that means.
We care because we are called to care
We care because we are cared for and loved
We care because we are humans, created in the image of a caring God.
We care because we are welcoming and caring for the God who has made us.
We care because that’s who we are.
And I tell you the truth.
Even those who offer a glass of cold water in Jesus’ name will receive their reward.
And in the hearing of the stories, we have been wonderfully rewarded.