My family began attending Proserpine Uniting not long after we moved to the area at the start of 2005, when I was nine years old. The year we arrived was also the first year of Rev. Wayne McHugh’s ministry at the church, and he remained as the minister throughout my time there, until after I had finished school and moved away in 2013.
Wayne took a keen interest in supporting me and other young people to grow in our faith and in being active members of the church community. Although we spent plenty of time just hanging out and enjoying each others’ company (including many road trips to Bowen for the cinema, and well beyond for various youth camps), much of our time together centred on the practical outworkings of our faith. Over the years there were several iterations of Sunday night services and a charitable organisation we ran called Compassion Candles, and in all of those things Wayne made sure that I and other young people were part of the driving force. It was very clear to me that church wasn’t something you had to be an adult to really belong to; even as kids we were to be using what God had given us to serve him.
Throughout my time at Proserpine Uniting, and since, the church has been to me an extended family who took care to be interested in my happenings and doings from childhood into adulthood. Having since then spent a decade as a stranger in various cities across the country and the globe, I have learnt how precious it is to be surrounded by many people who have known and loved you over many years. That will always be an important piece of what it means to be part of the family of God, wherever I go.
A small example of this love is the letter Alan Hobson wrote me in my first year out of home. It was a few handwritten pages full of encouragement and a reminder that, of all the things I had done and was about to do, persevering with the Lord Jesus was the most important. He and many others I knew growing up at church are now with the Lord in glory, and they have left behind them a legacy of kindness and encouragement in my life. Now I am grown up, married and living in Armidale, NSW, I enjoy visiting my old church on my trips back to the Whitsundays to see my parents. But the main way I continue the legacy handed to me by Proserpine Uniting is by being a member of a little country church here, and following the Lord Jesus, just Mr Hobson told me all those years ago.