Well-Being Australia's Country Town Tour program which has run since the mid eighties has often had long leads up times as preparations need to be put in place such as youth programs, schools, service clubs, men's breakfasts and dinners and the like.
The Country Town Tour ministry was a phrase coined by Well-Being Australia board member Vic Matthews who recognised that the cut and thrust of this rural and regional ministry required a friendly user name.
This ministry sends athletes and coaches on the one hand, then professionals on another, to rural and regional Australia where as role models they present not only a message of positive attitude, but that of an eternal dimension.
We can think of the the Goondwindi Country Town Tour with footballer Ian Barley and jockey Darren Beadman way back in the early '90s – I mention this because 10 years later on a flight I met one of the Shire Counsellors who said hat visit has enjoyed a lasting positive effect on the community.
Over thirty years the late Tony Dunkerley a past President of Football Victoria (Soccer) and a former Assistant Joey's Coach and enjoyed many Country Town Tours where he combined junior soccer coaching clinics with mentoring seminars for church youth leaders.
My wife Delma and I are also regulars with Country Town Tours. Delma only recently reminded me that I took our son Wesley when at high school with me on two such Victorian ventures in the early nineties. One was to Sale and the other to Timboon near the Twelve Apostles.
The Australian Cricket Ministry has given me many opportunities to speak at rural and regional Cricket functions as part of these Country Town Tours. The Australian Cricket team chaplaincy (Ret 2000) after 17 years and since with Life After Cricket, has provided an open door.
Across the Nation
But none has been in the planning for quite as long as the Pilbara Country Town Tour which is likely to commences in Karratha, Western Australia.
For followers of Jesus Christ, it is not strange how the Lord makes connections. This story had a reconnection in February 2012 when I received this Email from The Anglican Archdeacon of the Pilbara the Reverend Lesley Gaulton and his wife Jenny. They are obviously closely associated with Anglican Bush Church Aid ministry whose office received our Laguna Quays Respite flyer and who in turn circulated it.
I doubt that you remember us, but you had a huge impact on our moving into full time ministry. We were at Silverdale, struggling to hold together a small branch of the Anglican Church in Mulgoa when you were at Warragamba (Baptist). We used to come to your service for some Biblical input and encouragement, I can't remember for how long but it was very important to us at the time.
“We left Silverdale for Tahlee Bible College. After working in a couple of Sydney parishes we took the plunge and moved to the North West with BCA in 1992, where we have been ever since. I am currently (since 2002) the Pastor of Karratha/Dampier Anglican Church and the (very Anglican sounding) Archdeacon of the Pilbara.
“I think the Laguna Quays Respite House is a fantastic idea, and thank you for your generosity in providing it. I am not sure if we will ever get across there but we will certainly keep it in mind if God provides the opportunity.
“The real reason for my email is just to say thank you for your ministry to us so many years ago (sorry it's a bit late).”
Yes, we did remember Lesley and Jenny and this initiated a series of correspondence which has resulted in this Pilbara Country Town Tour. Meantime the Tasmanian Country Town Tour have been a regular on our list of invitations as has numerous Queensland and Victorian invitations.
Many years ago speaking at Bowral the former NSW Railways Chief John Brew was part of the planning group. At a men's breakfast I told them an apocryphal railway story (most are) when the Southern Aurora seemingly was speeding around the Mittagong sharp curves with cutlery flying off the tables in the Dining Car and people thumped out of their beds.
When the train arrived into Central (Sydney) the driver and fireman on the big diesels changed ends (went to the second engine so as to drive back to Eveleigh depot - normal pactice). There were so many complaints that a Locomotive Inspector came and joined the crew, now in the second engine cabin, and removed the 'blue tape' (like a black box on an aircraft).
Sure enough a letter (known as a bung) came to the driver claiming from the Blue Tape he was speeding 17 mph over the speed limit around the sharp curves. The driver responded he was driving from the other locomotive and he wasn't exceeding the speed according to the speedometer on that first engine. But being a driver of 35 years he had never known the Railway Department to be wrong, although neither he nor the fireman had any recollection of the second engine passing them (it was doing 17 mpb faster). Moreover when they got to Sydney the second engine must have rushed off into the Harbour and he claimed its salvage rights.
The driver was fined 5 pounds for insolence rather than 35 pounds for speeding.
Country Town Tours are full of good humour to catch the attention of listeners.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.