Dear Inner Circle,

Many years ago the Board of Wayside took a punt and gave a postie the role of Pastor and CEO of the Wayside Chapel. When he announced his retirement 15 years later, they scoured the gutters and looked high and low and took another shot on someone living and working in relative obscurity, a nobody who had once run a refuge from a lounge room in the middle of Western Sydney. Can you believe that it has already been a year? My heart doesn’t believe it but my hairline does. What a journey it has been so far. From the moment I walked in I was embraced by everyone well – except for the staff member who thought I looked like a drug dealer!

This place is a testament to the power of love over hate, and every day it bears witness to the fact that connection can defeat addiction; that community can overcome isolation and that self-hatred is no match for compassion. In such a short time I have met so many whose lives tell the same story. One such story began when a baby was born into the world with foetal alcohol syndrome. To say that his life began behind the 8-ball would be an understatement. His life has been a story of deprivation and struggle against alcohol addiction. I’ve come to know a man who is now more than twenty years free of all addictions and I would gladly pay him the highest compliment of all – that he is a good man. Another story began when a baby was born and the state determined that his mother was incapable of offering adequate care. The alternate care supplied by the state was a long and torturous history of institutional abuse. It is one of the cruellest twists in Australian history that a plan that was intended to help children, only visited suffering. Recently, at the very end of his life, we were able to support him to receive an official apology and some compensation that will enable him to be able to acquit every father’s wish –  to provide for his family.

I wish I could publish a book of all the responses I receive from writing these notes to you our inner circle. A recent one came from a broken-hearted mum, now a single pensioner. Every once in while she scrapes up enough money to buy some towels and soap for Wayside. She’ll send me an email and arrange to meet me in the alley behind our building and there she hands me the gifts of soap or towels which I know come sacrificially. She never wants to walk into our building because if she was to see her son, she might lose control in a way that would not be helpful for him. I accept her packages with the same reverence I give to holding a newborn baby, knowing the love and sacrifice that has been invested into this gift of love. I’m aware that she takes great comfort in the knowledge that her boy finds support at Wayside and this is her way of offering him some love. It does my heart a load of good to think that for every person who receives our care at Wayside, we are indirectly bringing comfort for to a myriad of other broken-hearted mums, dads and siblings.

How lucky I am to have been the leader here at Wayside for a whole year now! I continue to see our community flourish. I’m filled with gratitude and most especially offer my deepest thanks to all who dug deep to help us surpass our Winter Appeal target. Without your sacrifice, none of this could happen.

Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

Jon

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