Moderator's Comments - Posted 29 March 2016
Wee Waa’s boom years were the mid 1960’s to the mid 1980’s, there was plenty of water, and cotton, as an Australian industry, was in its infancy.
American farmers led by Paul Kahl and Frank Hadley, two Christian men from California, were instrumental in establishing the industry, centred on Wee Waa.
Wee Waa Presbyterian was our first parish. We ministered there from February 1976 to December 1981. This last Easter we had the joy of going back to lead the Easter services.
How things have changed!
There were 12 elders when we were there, 11 of them were farmers. Now there are only three farmers in the church, one of whom told me that 17 of the past 20 years have been drought years. Most of the fields where we stayed were empty of crops, they should have been getting ready for the cotton harvest, but no available water.
The town has shrunk, in fact, vacant shops were obvious in Muswellbrook, Scone, Gunnedah and Narrabri all the way up to Wee Waa itself. We visited the cemetery, the graves of many of our people, many old, some tragically cut down in their youth.
Good Friday and Sunday we met to proclaim the central facts of our faith, of the faith, “that Christ died …. that he was buried…. that he rose….. that he was seen” (1 Corinthians 15:3 – 11).
Some of the old members are still there, one 90 year old, had visited her whole block in town and invited all the neighbours to the services. The vigorous faith, the steadfast faithfulness is still there in those remaining pioneers, and a new generation has arisen to take on the leadership.
Here was a church which was prayerful, hospitable, evangelistic and always visionary. It was a privilege to be a part of it all, and on Easter day to declare Christ’s victory over death, in the face of death claiming many of our previous congregation , I found a most moving experience.
Not only were men like Paul Kahl, Harold Freer, Frank Hadley, Hadley Alf, Albert Davis, Colin Morrison brave pioneers but they were gospel men, one and all, and what wonderful wives to leave the comfort of California and in one case, Northern Ireland, and pack up the family and come to outback New South Wales; Jean, Clara, Norma, Nita, Margaret, all still alive, all looking for the day of Christ with a gleam in their eyes. What an example they have been and are. We are humbled and challenged by them, a privilege to know them. They challenged the church authorities in Sydney, challenged the Code, generously supported projects, helped establish the work of Christian Education in New South Wales and without them, there would be no APWM, which is flourishing today, it was their enterprising spirit which saw it established in the late 1970’s.
All weekend, one verse kept coming to me:
“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
They grew cotton, but they so lived and live that they robbed death of many of its prey, by pointing people to Christ. Their work was not in vain. Many of them are with Christ which is better by far. We will soon be there as well, awaiting our new resurrection body.
Harold Freer, a beloved elder, used to keep me supplied with Bibles, he would send me one every five years or so. In the last one I received from him, before he died, he included these words in the front cover:
“When I reach the end of my days, a moment or two from now, I must look backward on something more meaningful than the pursuit of houses and land and machines and stocks and bonds. I will consider my earthly existence to have been wasted unless I can recall a loving family, a consistent investment in the lives of people, an earnest attempt to serve the God who made me. Nothing else makes much sense.”
A fitting testimony to the way they lived.