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Living abundant lives

WHILE waiting by the carousel for luggage after our flight home from Adelaide, with memories of the 13th Assembly swirling in my head, I read a text message from my sister announcing that my aunt had died.

Aunty Beth, a maiden aunt, had lived with my parents for most of my life.

Hers was a remarkable life.

Born in 1920, she was raised by her grandmother because her mother died when she was a fortnight old.

She told me she was fed on a rag dipped in cow's milk.

A precarious start to life!

Her grandfather was building a weatherboard and corrugated iron house but it was never finished because he died when Beth was just 12 months old.

Beth's father remarried three years later but Beth continued to live with her grandmother and uncle on the dairy farm in northeast Victoria.

In childhood her thyroid gland began to malfunction which meant that she stopped growing at 1.2 metres.

Medication would have helped but they couldn't afford it.

At school she worked hard and became a good reader who helped the younger children.

One day when the Cann River was in flood she slipped off the log used as a bridge.

An older boy grabbed her just before she was washed away, saving her life.

For many years Beth worked for her board, cooking the meals on a wood stove for all of the men on the farm.

She joined the CWA and won prizes for her needlework. In her early forties she finally got treatment for her thyroid condition and eventually went on the pension.

For the next 50 years she filled her days with knitting, crocheting, cooking and helping with the children in the extended family.

While there were many hard times, Beth was loved by a network of family and friends, and was able to have an abundant life using busy and helpful hands to give care and comfort to the people.

During the 13th Assembly in Adelaide we heard about many people living a precarious existence in risky circumstances.

For example, as a result of the fighting between Tamil and Sinhalese people there are 84 000 war widows in Sri Lanka with few options to feed their families.

Many are forced to turn to prostitution, ironically with the soldiers who killed their husbands.

We listened to the Indigenous people of the Northern Territory who have experienced the impact of the Intervention strategies, and wondered whether the Stronger Futures legislation will actually address the disadvantage in their communities or just contribute to low morale, resentment and a sense of injustice.

There is a need to help close the gaps in education, health and life expectancy and to reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Islander people in prison, but perhaps a more abundant life cannot be achieved by legislation.

We heard from Rev Christine Senini, former chaplain on Christmas Island, about naming and uncovering the sacred in the lives of those who have fled the terror of civil war to risk their lives in boats on treacherous seas.

In a recent service on Christmas Island, Tamil and Sinhalese Christians worshipped together in the chapel.

The Bible study leader, Rev Luna Dingayan from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, urged us to listen to the cries of God's people and let that expression of need direct our mission.

With timely help, many people would be able to lead safe, productive and abundant lives.

My Aunty Beth was given a helping hand to make her life healthy, safe, productive and abundant.

Rev Dingayan commented, "For as long as people are denied the fullness of life there will never be true peace".

Being a follower of Christ means that we not only get to enjoy abundant life, we are enlisted to contribute to making choices that release life overflowing for all people.