Rewarding opportunities can await ministry partners willing to venture beyond the city lights, as Dianne Jensen discovered on the moderator’s recent trip to the outback.
Rev Jenny Coombes and her husband Peter had plenty of time to consider the pros and cons of moving to Longreach on the long drive to meet congregation members.
Newly ordained, Jenny had asked for a country placement, assuming that she would find a role near their working property in Murgon. But the moderator suggested Longreach, and Central Queensland Presbytery agreed to support a full-time role in the outback community, so the couple were faced with a decision.
“As I looked at the congregational profile I thought wow, so much of what I had done and learnt in Murgon was just setting me up for what I was seeing there,” says Jenny. “There was that really strong sense of—this is where I’m meant to be at this time.”
As a former teacher who had supported Peter’s army career until he retired, Jenny’s call to ministry was a journey through accreditation as a lay preacher, a pastor, and finally minister of the word.
Peter Coombes admits that “a fair bit of prayer coverage” went into the decision to up stumps and head west.
As a former generalist officer in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps, Peter had spent 20 years organising everything from drought relief in Papua New Guinea to humanitarian missions to northern Iraq after the first gulf war.
His willingness to tackle a challenge—and his unique professional background—turned out to be a perfect fit for a part-time position in Longreach looking after James Cook and other university health students on placement.
“All of those roles had led to us to being where we are, but prepared for it,” says Peter, who combines his part-time work with managing the household and keeping an eye on their farm.
“Working in a community like this—it might not be the job that you believe you are trained for, but particularly if you’ve got a bit of experience under your belt, there are numerous positions that quietly appear in rural areas.”
Country life offers a rich community and endless opportunities for people prepared to think outside the square, he adds.
“Ministry is a call on your life—it’s not a call on your life in Brisbane. If you are available for God’s work—then that’s the role. Sure, circumstances change as you go through life, but sometimes you need to step into the void with faith.”