Bush Church Aid has a heart for people living in remote and regional Australia. As an organisation they are committed to going the distance to reach Australia for Christ.
People living in sparsely populated areas often don’t benefit from strong support networks. Churches in these areas can struggle financially due to fluctuating populations.
Ongoing fellowship can be hard to maintain and encouragement can become a rarity.
In partnership with Anglican Dioceses across the country, Bush Church Aid places committed and gifted Christians in a variety of locations to help people connect with the grace of God revealed in Jesus.
Brad and Joh Henley have served on Kangaroo Island since August 2012. They came to Christ through the ministry of St Matthew’s Kensington where they met and were married. Brad was ordained in the Adelaide Diocese and has previously served as an assistant in two Parishes and as Diocesan Youth Officer. Joh has worked both as a Pastoral Care Worker in the local school and as a Psychologist, a much-needed profession in remote areas.
Along with children Jemima and Gabriella, the family set sail across the Backstairs Passage knowing that the Lord was leading the way, “Largely, God orchestrated things. We found out that this place was supported by Bush Church Aid (BCA), looking for a minister at just the right time for our family,” explained Brad. “Archbishop Jeffrey (Driver) casually put it out there one time, ‘You could go to Kangaroo Island’, but it didn’t seem like a serious offer. But after talking and praying about it more, one thing lead to another and God said, ‘Here you go!’”
“(After that) we continued to explore (the idea) with the Diocese and BCA, we spoke to the church here and we prayed about it, and God confirmed that it was the place for us to be. If the kids had already settled into a school it might have been a harder idea to come but it was really God’s perfect timing.”
Before adding another member to their own young family, with the birth of Evangeline in late 2016, the Henleys had discovered they were certainly not alone with their young mob, “Our preconceived idea was that Kangaroo Island was a retirement isle but that turned out to be wrong. There are quite a number of young families here and we sort of felt that that was God’s confirmation to be on the island.”
Despite being buoyed by the presence of the younger demographic, Brad’s challenge became finding meaningful ways to engage with them in order to share with them the Good News of Jesus, “Everyone in the church was retired when we arrived, the majority on the great grandparent side of things. We spent some time getting to know the local church scene, where things were up to and where they had been, and through that God lead us to start a Mainly Music program to start growing relationships with the wider community.”
Since then, the Henleys have managed to build strong relationships with the wider community, which has lead them to plant a new Sunday afternoon congregation that they’ve called “Family Church.”
“It’s not huge, it’s not what I’d call flourishing but there is a seed of something there that has the potential to grow into something great! The original congregation has been very gracious. It’s very hard to go through that growth process. Things that I expected that would be quite difficult for them, like moving half of the pews, they got there very generously.”
While signs of growth are encouraging, and friendships have been forged, Brad, Joh and the kids appreciate the continued support from the Diocese, and beyond, to encourage them in their mission, “We have those high points of connection during Synod and Clergy Conference, which are all the more valuable now because we are isolated. There are a few parishes that we maintain a more active connection with through a prayer partnership, and we know that we are supported and prayed for through those guys and through the BCA prayer warrior channels.”
“BCA support has been really wonderful. A number of supporters from all over Australia call quite frequently to tell us that they’re praying for us. And without the financial support of BCA also we wouldn’t be here.”
As well as prayer support, there is also great need for ongoing financial support, “Church finances are a source of stress at present, with the funds that were saved before we arrived from not having a minister now depleted.” The church is unable to meet budget, even with the significant support of Bush Church Aid, which provides half of Brad’s stipend, “We feel that God has called us here for much longer than the five years we’ve been here, as the work we were called to takes time. We’re praying that the Diocese will help out in the short term and that church growth will solve this problem in the longer term.”
To support the work of the Henley family on Kangaroo Island or to sign up to their newsletter head to www.bushchurchaid.com.au