Soft hearts, sharp minds: Stories that made me shed a tear this year

This time of year in the business world is Annual General Meeting (AGM) season. In fact, some of Australia’s best-known companies are holding their meetings at our Wesley Conference Centre in Pitt Street. While most people have to work hard to stay awake at AGMs, it’s the complete opposite at Wesley Mission. And this coming Sunday we will celebrate the impact we’ve made together over the last year, a remarkably challenging season, yet a year where we’ve supported and empowered more than 130,000 people across NSW and around Australia.

I want to share three stories that capture the joy and heartbreak of our work: the courageous commitment, unfailing integrity and Christlike servanthood of so many.

Carolyn and David Stedman first became foster carers in 1976, and four decades later, they have supported 75 newborns and children in their care, with no plans to stop!

When I interviewed the Stedmans earlier this year, Carolyn said, “The Bible doesn’t say anything about retiring and putting your feet up at 65. When God has given you a gift, he expects you to use it until you can’t.”

Carolyn describes David and herself to be “ordinary people”. But they’re far from it. They’re extraordinary people who’ve given their lives to caring, loving and supporting young children who need a safe and nurturing environment where they can thrive.

It is no surprise that they received an Order of Australia this year. Our Wesley Dalmar team is honoured to support them and hundreds of other carers as they positively impact many young lives.

This year, after many years of preparation, Wesley Dalmar also achieved the long-term goal of gaining accreditation as an adoption agency in NSW. It’s a remarkable achievement.

David and Carolyn Stedman foster carers

19 October marked one year since Wesley Mission began delivering the Escaping Violence Payment (EVP) as part of the UnitingCare Consortium, led by Uniting Vic.Tas. This program has been implemented across Australia to support victim-survivors, the majority of whom are women, to flee an intimate violent partner and establish a safe home, many with children in tow.

Over the last year, Wesley Mission has supported more than ten thousand people across NSW and the ACT through this pilot program. People have sought support from all over, and sadly, this is one of the reasons Wesley Mission has grown its support in regional areas by 46 per cent in the last year.

EVP team group picture

One of the people supported by the program said, “Your efforts and the EVP program have given me a much better outlook and feeling of support in a very scary and difficult time. I hope the program will continue to be around to help victims like myself into the future.”

I am so thankful for the EVP team who deliver this life-saving work that is incredibly challenging and even heartbreaking at times. They make a profound difference in people’s lives.

The catastrophic flooding experienced in Northern NSW this year had a devastating impact on many of the vulnerable people we work with and on our staff in the regions. Time and again, Wesley Mission people in the flood-impacted areas worked to meet overwhelming needs while also dealing with their own trauma.

Immediately following the floods, a task force of our northern NSW colleagues was formed to take ‘orders’ of items needed most, particularly for children. Donations and supplies were rapidly sourced, and our generous donors rallied to help raise $50,000 in cash, and supporters gave more than $120,000 in goods. Chaplains drove up to deliver the requested supplies as soon as it was helpful, providing practical and emotional support.

house in water flooded

People up north are walking a long road to recovery, psychologically and economically, particularly with another wet summer ahead. Worryingly, the threat of more flooding rain is imminent even as I type now! I’m so grateful to serve in an organisation where there is so much collaboration across teams and regions.

These are just three stories from the past year, and there are many, many more that I could share. Do you have a story of when you have seen Wesley Mission or your local community rise to meet challenges this past year? I would love to hear your reflection. Just hit reply.

This Sunday, 30 October, you are invited as we celebrate lives transformed at our Annual Meeting, where we will also be releasing our 2022 Annual Report that shares many more stories. You can join us at 3.30 pm at the Wesley Centre at 220 Pitt St in Sydney – or if you’re not able to join us in person, you can join via livestream on our website. We’d love you to join us.

Every blessing,

Rev Stu Cameron
CEO and Superintendent, Wesley Mission

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