Gulgong Team Farewell
Rural Australia’s harvest is ripe but the workers are few
21 December 2004
Tears have been shed over the past week as Cornerstone Community reluctantly withdrew its mission team from the town of Gulgong in the Central West of New South Wales.
Cornerstone has had a presence in the Mudgee and Gulgong area for well over a decade. However, a lack of available students ready for a year of practical mission experience has meant that there were not enough mission teams to go around each of the towns where Cornerstone currently operates.
Cornerstone’s National Director, Mr Laurie McIntosh spoke of his deep regret that a team could not be sent to the town in 2005.
“There are so many towns like Gulgong where the needs are so immense and where our teams are able to make a real difference. Rural Australia is crying out for people to work in communities to address critical issues like youth suicide, drugs and boredom.”
“However, a year on a mission team however goes beyond just being able to have an impact on a town. Our students also undergo a radical transformation through the experience of a year of practical mission and service to the towns that they’re in. Often this is foundational in setting them up for a lifetime of service to Christ’s Kingdom wherever they are.”
“The experience of having to close down our team in Gulgong, not for lack of opportunity but for lack of willing mission team members, has really rammed home to me the pain and anguish that our Lord Jesus felt when he said the harvest were ripe and ready for harvest but the workers few.”
The Principal of the Gulgong Primary School, Mr Alan Walker echoed those comments in a farewell speech given for the departing Gulgong team.
“It is with sadness that we note the impending absence from our community of the Cornerstone Youth Team. The Cornerstone Youth Team have made a positive impact on the youth and families of our town in their short time here.”
“They have been working in Gulgong High and Public School for more than two years as scripture teachers and playground activity leaders, mentoring and helping identified students with self esteem, confidence and friendships.”
“The work that the Cornerstone Youth Team has done has been outstanding and we will all miss their positive input. We wish the individual Cornerstone people all the very best in their next field of endeavour and offer our sincere thanks for a job well done.”
At a farewell for the team, a Mexican feast in the park, more than 60 townsfolk came to speak of their impact on the town and in their lives.
Over that period of time Cornerstone’s activities in the town have included teaching Scripture in the Primary School, being playground Activity Leaders, being volunteer Youth Workers at the High School including lunch-time activities and breakfast clubs, running a Junior Youth Group, running the courseHow to Drug Proof your Kids, operating a Business called Vanguard Carpet Cleaning, working in the vineyards, supermarket, farms, building industry under the banner of Cornerstone Contractors as well as finding the time for each student completing a diploma of Christian Studies.
Teenagers and some parents wept as they told of the hope that the team had provided them and the hole that their departure would leave in their lives.
The mission team has been led by Mr Aidan McIntosh for the past two years. He spoke of what his experience of being on team in Gulgong had meant to him.
"Each year Cornerstone fields numerous requests from towns right across Australia for a mission team to settle in their town. Often Councils are the ones encouraging us to come because they’ve heard of the positive results we’ve had in other places, and there is such a drastic need for youth in rural areas to be given hope and purpose."
"We like to find employment in a town to support ourselves so that the youth work we do comes at no cost to the wider Community. The two years I’ve spent in Gulgong have been amongst the best of my life. I’ve made good friends here, with those on my team and with those that we’ve come in contact with in our various activities in the town.”
With thousands of Year Twelve students considering their options for 2005 and beyond, there is a wonderful opportunity for them to receive foundational training in accredited courses focused on knowing Christ and making him known, and then heading out into needy towns and cities to be a blessing to those communities. Vacancies still exist in Cornerstone’s training centres for 2005.
The Cornerstone Community was established 25 years ago with the vision of giving practical expression to, and teaching in, the Christian faith as a ‘whole of life’ experience. It currently operates Training Centres in Bourke, Dubbo, Broken Hill, Canowindra and Swan Hill. Next year 10 mission teams will be placed in five States across Australia. Details are available on their web-site at www.cornerstone.edu.au.