Soft hearts, sharp minds: The advise I'd give my 18-year-old self

If you had told me when I was a young fella that I’d one day be the CEO and Superintendent of an organisation and movement as large as Wesley Mission, I would have said, “tell him he’s dreaming”! (Bonus points if you hit reply and tell me what movie that quote comes from)

When I graduated from high school in Naracoorte, it wasn’t obvious what direction my life was going in. Taking a job in a bank in Adelaide at 16 years of age, I briefly drifted away from God and was confused, lonely and not in a great place. Through some amazing people and after a series of God-orchestrated moments, my faith was rekindled. In that process, by the time I was 18, I developed a strong sense that God was calling me to become an accountant. Weird, right?

I didn’t know what it all meant – I just had the sense that God would use the skills I developed for something purposeful. And so, I decided to apply to go to University. At just two years out of school, I was classified as a mature-aged student. Looking back, there was nothing mature about me – I couldn’t even cook for myself! But in receiving that classification, the high school marks that I thought would make me a shoo-in for the accountancy course I was keen on were now not quite enough.

In those days, you had to wait for ‘snail mail’ to arrive in your letterbox, and in the first two rounds of university offers, my application was declined. But I could not deny that feeling of being called, and so it eventually came to a crunch point where I had to resign from my job in the bank, giving two weeks’ notice to be ready to start week one of classes. It was make or break time, and still no letter. And so, on one eventful Monday morning, with no University offer in place, I resigned – no safety net under me. That night when I arrived home, there was my letter of acceptance. I wept with both joy and relief – so very grateful to God.

Eventually, I graduated as an accountant, and since then, I have seen how God has used the skills and experience I developed in the various leadership roles I have enjoyed – including this one. Faith is such an adventure, and God is so very good.

The storied history of Wesley Mission is an absolute page-turner of adventures in faith. And the story of this last year is no exception. On Sunday, we launched our 2022 Annual Report, the latest chapter in this history.

If I told the story of the last year at Wesley Mission through the eyes of an accountant, the story might go a little something like this…

In the last year, Wesley Mission assisted 138,307 clients, 19% more than the previous year.

Of that number, 58,532 were people most in need (in crisis or close to crisis), up 64%. We journeyed alongside 36,994 people providing early intervention support and a further 42,781 people to build capacity to achieve their goals, both up 10%.

And we help people through a truly diverse range of services and programs.

Annual report graph breakdown stats of people assisted in 2021 and 2022

Maybe I’ve lost you. The numbers are powerful, but they don’t tell the whole story, do they? What I had no concept of as an 18-year-old is that one day, my continued sense of calling would lead me to become a passionate storyteller. Why?

Because every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story matters to God.

And that’s why every story matters to Wesley Mission.

That’s also why our 2022 Annual Report is full of stories. Stories like Keena’s (page 22), who found the confidence to express herself through art and a community to give back to, supported by Wesley ParentsNext. Or Rosalie’s story (page 26), who found a safe new home, caring friends and freedom from credit card debt with help from Wesley Mission’s Assistance with Care and Housing program, Wesley Community Housing and Wesley Financial Counselling.

I hope you are encouraged by these and so many other stories. And as part of the Wesley Mission community, thank you for playing your part in 138,307 stories this last year.

Every blessing,

Rev Stu Cameron
CEO and Superintendent, Wesley Mission

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