by Angela Laing
My husband Duncan and I first visited the Red Centre a few years ago. Unknowingly, that’s when our current work at Hermannsburg as retirees began.
Duncan retired a little earlier than we’d planned. We had thought that maybe we could help out in some way in Hermannsburg in 2023, but when we heard that the Historical Precinct’s Tea Rooms could not open this year because of lack of staff, we ‘put our hands up’. Our skills, we believe, make us a good fit for the position of managers. Duncan has a background in IT and retail, and I have experience in hospitality and administration. Earlier this year, I had relinquished my church commitments, not knowing I’d be leaving. God’s timing!
As I write this article, we have been open for four weeks, and we can see that the tourist season is yet to reach its peak. Our bodies have adjusted to the busy days, and we have gradually implemented more streamlined processes. There are many challenges. What to do when stock is not delivered? How much food do we prepare, not knowing the number of customers? How much strudel do we make? Will the weather cause people not to come? (Even though it rained last week, we had a busy day.) How long are we able to chat with the chatty tourist?
We are helped by Jayne Pfeiffer, a very competent, cheerful and reliable volunteer. Today we are providing lunch for 75 members of the Victorian 4WD Variety Bash.
The newly spruced precinct has a veggie garden, and we endeavour to use its produce: mini capsicums and tomatoes, and basil for pesto. Curry leaves, lemongrass, chillis and herbs are often picked by the locals, and we encourage the tourists to do the same. We decorate tables with vases of basil and rosemary.
Duncan is a keen mountain-biker and is looking forward to discovering new tracks that do not impinge on the Indigenous sacred land or gas-mining company leases. He also hopes to increase the kilometres on his newish Isuzu MUX by exploring local tracks.
We are not missing the wet and cold of the Adelaide Hills but are appreciating the cold, crisp mornings and sunny days. Great clothes-washing weather! The night silence, other than the odd fighting cat, does wonders for sleep. Sunsets and sunrises are spectacular sights, particularly when it appears that rockmelon has been smeared across the horizon.
I attended a funeral recently where the service was conducted in the local language of Arrarnta. We are gradually getting to know the locals, and I could certainly do with a good pinch of their relaxed attitude to life.
The Jeremiah 29:11 text has popped up in my social media quite a bit over the last months and is proving to be so true for us: ‘“I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future”.’
Angela and Duncan Laing are members of the Grace Lutheran community at Bridgewater, South Australia.
The joy of volunteering
by Chris Pfeiffer
I served for a number of years on the FRM Board and made many visits to the communities in the Centre. Now it was time for my wife Jayne and I to spend some time helping Finke River Mission in other ways, doing whatever was required. We made a three-month commitment to live and work at Hermannsburg.
Our fellow volunteers were Alan and Sue Waterson (Horsfield Bay, NSW) and Graeme and Jill Obst (Mackay, Queensland). Both couples are travelling around Australia in their caravans. As non-caravaners, Jayne and I are housed in brand new accommodation in the ‘Old Manse’, with all the modern conveniences.
Alan and Sue stayed for a month and Graeme and Jill for a week. Retired farmers, they could fix and make anything. Meanwhile, Jayne and I dug out weeds and helped clean up around the Historical Precinct, which had been closed for six months due to the summer heat and COVID. It was great to meet other Lutherans and offer our services while enjoying the scenery and meeting some of the locals.
Jayne volunteers in the Tea Rooms five days a week, serving the famous strudel and scones that people talk about from Perth to Cairns. I have resumed my old ‘retail hat’ and am helping long-term FRM employee Rod Matuschka as he sells artwork by the local Indigenous people and receives entry fees. Every day we spend time talking with the artists who sell their work, and we meet the visitors (up to 140 a day). Once I have learnt the complexity of the cash register, I will relieve Rod on his days off and over lunch. The remainder of my day will be gardening and maintenance.
Sundays are special. We attend Bethlehem Church, singing in Arrarnta and listening to Pastor Rodney Malbunka and Pastor Marcus Wheeler as they read in their own language.
While here, I experienced a serious medical issue and was pleased that the local clinic could offer professional care before sending me to Adelaide for surgery. Three days later, I was back, thanks to the care of the medical staff at the clinic, only 100 metres from the Historical Precinct.
Being out here with no television has brought us closer together, at the same time, providing us with a valuable experience. We absolutely recommend to retirees like us to take the plunge and volunteer for a week or some months. As for Jayne and me, we’ll be back for another three months next year!
Chris Pfeiffer spent most of his working life with Lutheran Publishing House/Openbook Publishers, retiring as General Manager in 2016. He was a member of the FRM Board for eight years.
THINKING OF VOLUNTEERING?
Contact Wayne Beven, FRM Operations Manager
Phone 08 8952 4666
Mobile 0448 336 128