Dear Inner Circle,

A feisty young girl was one of fifteen children. She was brought up in the bush and in poverty, learning to fight for her place, her food and her airspace while at the same time, living with all her siblings who had as much right to life, food and love as herself. She was brought up in a world that is unknown in our time. No screens, no ATMs, no plastic, no refrigerators! Although there were cars around in her childhood, only wealthy people owned them. This feisty young girl, who became a defiant woman, didn’t buy a car until after she’d raised her own children. She was married for sixty years but no-one alleged wedded bliss. It was hard work being married to a man who always worked for minimum wage and who had plenty of his own issues. She’d have stayed with this man for a hundred years if she’d had the option even though their way was never easy. She had the kind of loyalty that came with strength, tenacity and plenty of inappropriate language. If she laughed, she’d soon become helpless although her default position was to convince me that she was “tough”, and could sort the world’s problems if only people would take her advice! Yesterday she lay fighting for her final breath. I don’t remember when I’ve seen such strength and frailty in one place. Although this lady was not remotely religious, I’d agreed I would come to pray on her death bed. So a good woman has died. I doubt that anything more wonderful can be said about a person.

A runaway from a nursing home showed up at our Sunday gathering last week. It turns out she was quite an identity of the Cross back in the sixties and seventies. In keeping with our early tradition, she felt quite free to make poorly-timed contributions in our Sunday service. She told Graham that she knew various bible stories. Keen to demonstrate her knowledge she said to Graham, “Do you know the story about Jesus showing up in the upper room and finding his disciples all eating take-away Chinese?” What could Graham say but, “No, tell me!” “Well” she said, “Jesus looked at the food and asked what was going on. Peter answered saying, ‘Judas has come into some money!’” What do you know, we have biblical scholars among us.

One of our street dwellers is unwell and no street dwellers live long lives. This fellow has never been a burden on tax payers. He’s spent most of his life with a dog and his car travelling from farm to farm, working long enough just for a tank of petrol to enable him to move on to the next place. He’s spent more nights under the stars than under a roof. He’s been diagnosed with extensive tumours, and a demanding course of radiation and possibly chemo lies ahead. This man’s story has come straight out of a Henry Lawson essay. He is softly spoken. He asked his doctor if he could be given a local anaesthetic and a pocket knife so that he could do his own surgery. We’ll love and support him and hope that one day, his car and his dog can be returned so that he can hit the road, sleep under the stars and find odd jobs, enough to fill his tank and move along in the country he loves.

Three years ago, we started a journey of establishing a social enterprise cafe in the heart of Bondi Beach. It was no easy task but the core purpose of the project kept us motivated – to train and employ young people who have been affected by disadvantage and who have faced barriers to employment. We will pay them a proper living wage and take a full twelve months to train them in hospitality so that they can be competently employed anywhere in that field. This has been a risky and large investment but I’m pleased to report, “so far go good”. We launched the Heart Cafe last November, followed closely by our new youth program, The Wingspan Project. We welcomed a group of young people facing long-term unemployment into the program, and took care in preparing them for the challenge of entering the workforce. This week we brought our first cohort of young people from The Wingspan Project on staff! Every young person who completes the traineeship and goes on to be in long-term employment can prevent a societal cost of $3 million over their lifetime. This project has been solely funded by individuals and corporate partners that believe young people deserve the opportunity to escape the generational cycle of poverty. Our deepest thanks to the donors, corporate partners and the Heart Cafe customers who have made this leap possible.

That’s about enough, eh? Thanks for being part of our inner circle,


Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

P.S – In honour of Wayside Chapel’s 55th anniversary, on Thursday, 11 April, we are celebrating with a very special event. Partnering with The Funding Network and Macquarie Group, Wayside is hosting our very first live-crowdfunding experience! Three of our programs will present a pitch, and attendees can take part in an exciting live-pledging session. If you would like to join us for what should be a memorable, feel-good evening with drinks and canapes, RSVP to [email protected]. There are limited spaces, so you’ll need to get in quick.

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