Dear Inner Circle,
Thank you for allowing me into this space that for so long has been yours and Graham’s.
About 15 years ago I was speaking somewhere at a conference about something. It wasn’t the most memorable of moments except for a chesty, crackling laugh that kept erupting from the audience. Later that day a friend introduced me to the owner of the disconcerting bronchial tract. “That was so funny,” was all I can remember him saying to me. As he walked off someone whispered “Do you know who that is? That’s Graham Long”. “Well, whoever he is, he should go see a doctor about his chest”. Little did I know just how much that man would one day change my life.
My wife Lisa and I first met when she was sheltering women escaping domestic violence in her home and I was taking men who were in recovery from addiction into mine. You could say it was love at first crisis. We both fell in love with the people in our homes and soon with each other. The first decade of our marriage was spent in Melbourne. The second decade was in Mount Druitt where we shared our home with people seeking asylum, kids living on the streets, refugees and ex-prisoners. There wasn’t a night when our heads hit the pillow that we weren’t convinced that we were exactly where we needed to be. Love is costly, but so are her rewards. However, like everything in life, there comes a beginning and there comes an end. After 20 years of living and working in these places we both knew it was the right time to finish up.[vc_row columns_on_tablet=”keep” padding_top=”0″ padding_bottom=”0″][vc_column h_text_align=”left” h_text_align_mobile=”left” v_align=”v-align-middle” use_background=”” width=”1/1″][tm_image image_id=”1225″ link_image=”none” textarea_html_bkg_color=”#ffffff” caption_type=””][/tm_image][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row columns_on_tablet=”keep” padding_top=”50″ padding_bottom=”50″][vc_column h_text_align=”left” h_text_align_mobile=”left” v_align=”v-align-middle” use_background=”” width=”1/1″][tm_textblock textarea_html_bkg_color=”#ffffff”]No sooner had we made that decision when my phone rang. On the other end was the guy with the cough. We had kept in touch over the years after he helped us set up in Mount Druitt. He came over and as we sat in a local kebab shop in our community he invited me to join him at Wayside as the Assistant Pastor. “There is no one quite like you, but there is no place quite like Wayside either”. So two years ago I came and checked out Wayside. One of my first interactions was with a young man sitting just outside the op-shop with his head locked in between his knees, whilst clinging desperately to a suitcase. He was new around here and I asked how he was. He wanted to be left alone and informed me as much, yet even while his world was falling apart he still ended his request with “please”.
I watched as he was shown love and compassion by everyone from Wayside. Over the space of a few weeks his frown faded and he rediscovered a smile that could light up any room. As I was leaving one evening I was concerned to see him once again hunched over. This time however, instead of clutching a suitcase he was holding some knitting. I asked what he was doing and he told me that he was learning to knit. He wanted to make blankets to send overseas to war zones where kids in refugee camps needed them. He was upset because he had just dropped a stitch. He showed his work to someone who quickly got him back on the right track.
There are times that transform the mundane into the majestic, when a man turns from clutching at life with his bare hands to using them to serve others. His transformation has come through love that has the power to move a man from death to life. As I went home that night I whispered to Lisa “I think we have found our new home”.
We may not know each other but we all share something in common. Graham has somehow in some way become a part of our lives and we are the better for having that happen. He would recoil at such praise such is the measure of the man. As I step into his role as Pastor and CEO I have nothing but gratitude in my heart for him and Robyn and excitement for the future of Wayside. The need for creating community is greater now than it has ever been and I look forward to sharing new stories from a different perspective.
Thanks for being a gracious Inner Circle,
Pastor & CEO