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Tuesday and Wednesday was a highlight of the school visit. Over 50 prep school students came to be Baptised and or admitted to Communion. Parents, friends, sponsors, teachers all came to support the students in this big day.

It was great to be a part of their preparation for First Communion and then to be part of the service. For most of them this was their first time wearing their Chapel Dress, or being in the senior Chapel. It was a particular treat for them on the Wednesday night when the senior school captain was present to show his support. Though a secret was given away about a certain prep boy who had to be asked to leave Chapel once, yes even great leaders can start out as terrors.

I’m sure that every proud parent and supporter looked on with pride as each boy for Baptism came forward and later as each of them affirmed their faith and their desire to be admitted to Communion. This followed by glowing prep students coming forward and taking their first Communion. The site had to be experienced, words cannot express it well enough.

Br Wade and I were invited to lead the prep school chapel services. Br Wade spoke to the Cribb (junior prep) Chapel students about faith, which like a mustard seed, grows from a small seed. He used the story of an Emperor who seeks to find a child to be his heir. The children are given a seed to grow. A Year later the children return with their plants. One child had no success, he grew nothing. He is chose. Why, because the Emperor had deliberately given them seeds which would not grow, and the boy was the only one not to try and trick the Emperor by bringing a plan which they grew from another seed. The Emperor was looking for the child who had honesty and integrity, this would be the Emperor’s heir.

Later, in the Upper Prep (senior) Chapel we talked about the importance of sharing. I used the story of the Knight who made Stone Soup. After being refused food by a village the Knight makes soup from a stone he tripped over on his journey to the village. He eventually encourages the people of the villiage to contribute to the Soup; feeding all the villiage.

I was impressed how engaging the students were during the Chapel services. Their willingness to participate was wonderful. Some of these students were also ones who were candidates for Baptism and First Communion. I knew that they had taken the story on board when a number of them refereed to it later.

What can we learn about leadership from a piece of string? The question I posed to the prefects-elect at their Institution Service. Basically it is easier to pull a string than it is to push it. That is, leadership which seeks to lead by example, drawing people forward will be more successful than leadership which seeks to ‘expect rather than do’. Leadership, I shared with them, is hard, it requires sacrifice, it requires time and energy, it requires stepping up to the plate when you risk popularity and friendship.

Leaders who model themselves on the life of Christ will be leaders who pull the string and don’t push it. Christ taught us that we must be concerned about those who others are not concerned, to help those who cannot help themselves, to stand up for those who have no one to advocate for them, to be prepared to serve rather than be served.

New and continuing prefects were challenged to think about the kind of leadership style they would express. Would they be a leader who leads by example or one who leads by force. After which the newly elected prefects stood before their peers, friends, family, and school community and pledged to exercise their office with honesty and integrity. It was particulalry good to be a part of this service when one of the gentlemen was a fellow who I have worked with alongside through his role as Sacristan.  

Part of the brother’s visit to TSS is centred around the Confirmation (and Baptism) of students, family members and staff. I always find this part of our visit a particular privilege. We get to spend time getting to know the candidates and talking with them on various aspects of faith. This year we were invited to talk on aspects of scripture, prayer and rule of life as well as reinforcing information on the Sacraments. 

I initially found it challenging to try and link the topics of scripture, prayer and rule of life. However, as I was preparing for the session it became crystal clear. Scripture, I shared with the candidates, is the basis of our faith. Scripture is the way in which God reveals God’s self to humanity. It is in Scripture that we learn all we need to learn to know how to respond to God’s call for us to enter into relationship with God. Prayer then, was the way in which we respond to God’s Divine Revelation. Prayer is the way in which we hear God’s Word, allow it to become part of us and transform us, and to then live that out in our lives. Through developing a rule of life we can develop habits which allow us to hear and respond to the Word of God. 

After reviewing the Sacraments of the Church and how we are called to a Sacramental life as members of the Church the Candidates then met with Bishop Rob Nolan. This was their opportunity to meet him and vice versa. Lunch with the Bishop is an integral part of the Candidates’ Confirmation experience. 

Finally the time arrived. Parents, friends, sponsors, and members of the school community all arrived for that special moment. One cannot help but feel anything but pride as the young men and women came to affirm their faith, and for some to be received as members of the body of Christ through Baptism. As each candidate for Baptism and or Confirmation came forward I realised the privelge one is given in these moments to help start them on a new faith journey with God.

We cannot give these students our God experiences, which would lead them into a relationship with God, but we can help create a space for them to have their own God experiences. I know from talking with some students who have been part of the Baptism and Confirmation service, either as a Candidate or supporter, that they do indeed have some experience of being open to the present reality of God.

There are many moving experiences that I have during visits to schools. I was particularly moved by the experience of praying with the First and Second XV rugby teams and the First XI football (soccer) team. The rugby teams meet in the Chapel before their games and the football team meets on their pitch. They don’t meet to pray for victory over the other team; though I’m sure it is also a silent prayer left unsaid. Rather they meet to be a team who prays together, giving thanks to God for their talent and prayers to use that fairly. They also meet to pray for team mates who are injured and to give thanks for those who support them and coach them.

The Chaplain will share some words of scripture with them and then some reflection on mateship, team spirit, or reflections on who we can draw out experiences of living a christian life through playing sport; or rather how to express christian values through playing sport. The Chaplain will also bless a palm cross for the teams, he gives this to the captain who then gives each of the players a piece of the palm to carry with them during the game. This connects them to their school motto ‘let him how deserves victory bear the palm’. The rugby boys then finish their service by singing verses of Amazing Grace. They may be only be a few young men but the Chapel rings out with their voices. Their singing is not the quietness of one hiding under a bushel but one who is unafraid to express their faith.

Br Wade and I were especially privileged on the Saturday as we were invited to share some prayers and blessings with the First XI between their pre-game warm up and the match. The captain of the 1st XI himself one of the candidates for Confirmation on Sunday.

It can be easy to make jokes about ‘the other religions’ of society (i.e. rugby). But from the experience of a few boys we can learn that there are moments when the divine and the secular can meet.  

The Southport School is an Anglican Boy’s day and boarding school located near the Gold Coast, Qld. The brothers have been visiting the school for a number of years, participating in the life of the school, sharing time with the boys and being involved in the boy’s preparation for Confirmation. This year is my 5th visit to the school. I always enjoy visiting the school and spending time with the students, staff and parents. The school community is always very welcoming and I have been particularly blessed to have the opportunity to live with the students in one of the school house; Biddle House. The hospitality of the students, resident masters, house master and his family always makes me feel part of the school family.

Br Wade and I arrived ‘hitting the ground running’. We arrived in time to assist the Chaplains and other members of staff with the preparation of over 50 prep school students to be admitted to First Communion. I was taken by the prep students’ interest in the various topics we covered. Particularly so by students who wanted to enter into discussions about the nature of the Trinity or the nature of Jesus (humanity v divinity). The level of interest and desire to learn took me by surprise; I had to defer some of their curiosity to their regular RE teacher who would have more time to satisfy their curious minds.

Later in the evening we met most of the 17 students who were undertaking preparations for Confirmation. It was pleasing to see so many young people who wanted to explore and affirm their faith. It was also pleasing to see a variety of students, siblings, senior students, prep students, students who are strongly academic and students who are strongly sport oriented. It showed me that faith and religion transcends other boundaries which can sometimes separate or ‘catagorise’ individuals and groups.

Pormpuraaw arial view

Pormpuraaw from the air (click to enlarge) 

Well today it’s back to the big smoke, noise and busyness of Brisvegas. I took this picture as I was leaving Pompuraaw. You can see that it is located on the coast of the Peninsula and that it is not a large town by any means. I will miss the quietness of the town and the people I met and worked with there. However, it is certainly not my last visit. I look forward to my next trip later next month. It feels kind of weird when one gets on a small plane and leaves a small airstrip only to arrive at a large airport to get onto a large plane. As I was getting into the line with loads of other people to book in for my Brisbane flight I realised how much I shall miss being a part of a small community. I shall miss my little hermitage. However, I take with me the experiences I had and know that they will give me food for thought in the coming weeks as I reflect on finding the balance between contemplative and active prayer. 

Nathan in Pormpuraaw

As much as I love the clinical work here, it is still always good to get some free time. Fortunately all my on-calls have had no call backs; so far. This has meant I have not been as exhausted as previously experienced here. The other RNs have not been so fortunate.

Today however, it was time to head of to see the sights, not much to see, more like a walk to the beach is all. One of the RNs was taking her dog, and a dog (horse) she was minding for a walk so we headed off to the beach. She did the short trip as she was flying out that day for Cairns. I continued on out to the southern point of the beach. There are a few campers in town so the camping site has been cleaned up and looks great. Unfortunately one of the fellows has not had such a good holiday. He was mauled by a pack of dogs and had several scrapes and bites to both his legs. We have been treating him for the last week. Though he and his wife were still up at the camp ground, determined not to let the events completely ruin their holiday.

I finally got to see a croc out in the live. Though could not get a good picture of him / her as it was on the opposite bank of the river. I’m happy that it was on the other side. I’m not sure I’d want to end up its breakfast. Without a car here there is not a lot to see, just the town. But it was nice to just wander around, watch the RFDS and Macair plane come in; I know exciting life when you walk down to the airstrip to see planes land. But it was a perfect day for a wander none the less.

Pormpuraaw Crab

No I didn’t catch it myself. One of the things I like about living in a small community is the close ties one develops with people in the community. Last night one of the nurses I work with came over with this wonderful delight. She had been out camping and fishing with friends. They had one more crab than they could handle so brought it over wondering if I wanted it. Well, talk about all your Christmasses coming at once. I was like a child in a lolly shop. Grabbing a rather large heavy knife I cracked away and devoured the entire crab. And a sizeable one it was too. The meat was awesome.

It feels really good when you realise that other people are thinking about you, and offer you a gift that lets you know that they are not only thinking about you but have listened to you when you have been talking with them. I was certainly grateful for this little fellow. My taste buds certainly enjoyed it.

Well life in the remote parts of Australia continue. I have certainly enjoyed the opportunity to once again visit a place where hospitality and welcome is such a precious commodity.

Pormopuraaw Town Centre

Pormpuraaw is a small remote indigenous community on the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula. In 1938 it was established as the Edward River Mission by the Anglican Church. In 1967 the Church handed over administration of the community to the Queensland Government. In 1986 an elected Community Council assumed responsibility for, and gained title over, the land. The following year, in 1987, the community was renamed Pormpuraaw; after a local dreamtime story. The community predominantly consists of members of the Thaayorre and Mungkan people. Remarkably traditional language usage remains strong; even among children whose first language is often a local language, with English being a second or sometimes third language. There is also an active conservation of culture passed on from the Elders to younger generations.

The Pormpuraaw Primary Health Care Centre is staffed by registered nurses and aboriginal health workers. It provides 24 hour primary health care and emergency services. The Royal Flying Doctor Service  also provide emergency and primary health care services to the town of Pormpuraaw. RFDS clinics are conducted two days a week and arrange evacuation of people with serious illness or injury during the rest of the time. Nurses and health care staff work closely with the RFDS in the assessment, management and treatment of clients presenting to the clinic, as well as people with chronic illnesses. Clinic staff have 24 hour access to RFDS on call doctors via telephone.

Nursing in this context is both rewarding and challenging. It enables nurses, and health care staff, to develop a certain amount of autonomy and independence not experienced in mainstream health facilities. It also requires nurses and health care staff to be able to act quickly and decisively in emergent situations to liaise with the RFDS on call team to provide pre-hospital care for the sick or seriously ill patient. Given that definitive care may be at least 1 1/2 hour away this can be a very challenging situation. However, it is precisely this challenge that makes working in this type of position exciting and rewarding.

Google Map Links to Pormpuraaw 

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