It’s autumn / winter here on The Gold Coast, with an unusual amount of heavy rain. Our wonderful host couple apologise for the odd deluge, but the sunshine and balmy temperatures more than make up for it. Most days are like the warmest we get in a Scottish summer, which doesn’t really suit my fair skin, but I’m coping!
A week into my stint as a chaplain in the Commonwealth Games Athletes Village I’m a little weary from the long shifts, but daily reminded of why I love the ‘Friendly Games’ so much. The Multi-Faith Centre is right at the heart of the Village, a thoroughfare for the 71 national competing teams, village staff and volunteers continuously passing by, open to warm banter and greetings. Similarly, my bright yellow uniform is a magnet for laughs and chats on the trams.
And then there’s the pastoring, encouraging and supporting all who come by the Faith Centre for prayer, Bible study, services and counselling. We have a wonderful international and local team, which Hannah Johnson, our team leader has brought together.
Highlights for me are our evening gatherings for learning and prayer. It’s thrilling to see so many athletes and their staff keen to grow in their faith, some of whom pray together in the arena with opponents after competing.
Sadly, death is never far away, and there have been numerous bereavements affecting some of the teams. The awful tragedy of nearly a whole team of Canadian hockey players dying in a motor accident in N America has had an impact here. In the Chaplaincy team, which has 2 Canadians, we’ve sought to bring sympathy and comfort.
One sadness for me, as a parish minister away from home, is missing the funerals of people like Mae Greig, who died a few weeks ago. One of our elders, Fraser Hutchison, is well able to take the service, but lo and behold Mae’s daughter Lynn is here in The Gold Coast supporting her man and 2 boys involved with the Scottish hockey team. It was a delight and privilege to meet up with Lynn and fondly remember Wee Mae, such a bright light and regular at our fortnightly Greenbank Care Home Services!
It’s hard to believe we’re so far from home. Having Dorothy with me makes it much easier, but the imminent birth of our first grandchild makes us more homesick than normal. Facetiming and photos are no replacement for being physically there, but we take comfort from the likelihood that there’ll be plenty of nappies to change on our return!