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Brad and Jeanette Heck, volunteers with Frontier Services Outback Links, enjoy smoko on a grazing property outside Roma. Photo: Supplied

Having a heck of a time out west

Volunteering with Frontier Services Outback Links provided Uniting Church members Brad and Jeanette Heck with the chance to support families doing it tough in remote areas. Dianne Jensen reports.

There’s no question that Frontier Services holds a special place in the hearts of Uniting Church members. Through its network of patrol ministers and support for remote communities, Frontier Services continues the vision of Rev John Flynn, founder of the Australian Inland Mission (AIM), of casting “a mantle of safety” across the outback.

For Brad and Jeanette Heck from Fernvale-Lowood Uniting Church in South East Queensland, volunteering with the Frontier Services Outback Links program was an opportunity to provide a helping hand to a community they knew were doing it tough. Now semi-retired, both had grown up in rural communities and belonged to Uniting Church congregations in Roma, Warwick, St George, Rockhampton North and Gatton.

“When living in western Queensland in the late 1980s we made lots of good friends who were living on properties, and this opened our eyes to the challenges faced by many rural people, particularly in times of great adversity such as drought,” says Brad.

The 2012 celebrations of the centenary of the establishment of the AIM prompted the Hecks to sign up as Frontier Services volunteers. Their first placement was in Lightning Ridge in 2013.

“We felt a special calling from God to use his gift of identifying with and compassion for isolated families,” says Jeanette. “We feel that we are serving God, bringing his love to people in a practical way.”

The Hecks completed a two-week placement at a grazing property southwest of Roma in April.

“There were a lot of maintenance and improvement works to be done, as well as daily ongoing chores,” says Brad. “These included working closely with the grazier in repairing and installing stock water pipelines, cattle mustering and processing, setting out and commencing construction of new cattle yards, clearing rubbish, fixing pumps, gardening, cooking and general cleaning.”

Jeanette reflects that living and working with strangers who have welcomed you into their lives, and being stretched to do new things, are part of the challenges and rewards of volunteering.

“Each evening we had dinner with the grazier in the homestead, which we cherished as a rewarding time of listening and sharing with each other. Being requested to give thanks for the meal was a highlight,” she says.

“We learned to have faith, take each day as it comes, step out of our comfort zone and try new things. We have also learned that it is not for us to judge people, but to serve them.”

To find out more contact outback.links@frontierservices.org or call 1300 731 349.

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