“The reality is that when the farmers do it tough, the whole town does it tough. The guys who sell fertilizer aren’t selling as much, the equipment repair guys aren’t repairing as much, the whole economy of some of these towns, cycles around the land and when nothing happens on the land, nothing happens in town. It’s not just the farmers who are suffering.” Rev Ted Brush, the Bush Church
As we stood in the dust swatting flies away, the farmer prepared to return to the paddock. Pulling his boots on, our new friend paused, looked me in the eyes and said, “it just feels like a prison, ya’ know?”
Ray and Barb Jensen have been visiting some of these farmers for over a decade now. They have established a foundation of generosity and integrity, but also of faithfully obeying the Lord’s prompting. Ray will often pack something because he “just has a feeling” and the farmers are starting to notice, commenting that he “…somehow always turns up with the exact thing I need!”
We delivered one such hamper this trip and were met with overwhelming gratitude at “…what a lifesaver this is!! We haven’t been able to leave the farm in weeks”. I was overjoyed to watch our whole team embrace this sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading as they represented Jesus on this Bush Run. At some properties, this meant celebrating that drought-breaking rain was finally beginning, and at others, it meant grieving a severe loss.
Our sixth stop took us to a homestead where the lady of the land had passed away only three days prior. She had created a beautiful home amidst extreme hardship, and our time around that table felt like holy ground. This property was yet to see any relief from severe drought and would face years of arduous recovery when the rains did come, yet it was a precious time of laughter, reminiscing and encouragement. I was consistently intrigued to notice, that the most significant connections were not made during moments of appreciatively receiving donations, but in being still together. One such memory I will long hold dear happened after dinner on our second night. We said our farewells before an early morning departure and as we stepped out into the night were captivated by the dazzling sky above us. We must have been a sight, wandering in circles, nearly falling over each other, as we craned our necks to take in the majestic view. Our hosts realised what we were doing and thoughtfully turned off all the property lights. They brought out chairs for us and then, to our delight, chairs for themselves too. What followed was another hour of raw and authentic conversation enshrouded by a twinkly blanket of stars.
Everywhere we stopped along our 1500km journey, we were entrusted with tales of suffering and resilience. These properties have weathered droughts before, but some are now in unparalleled positions of self-sacrifice, having invested everything, and then some, to keep their land. The unending cost of providing nourishment that the earth would normally offer, has emptied homes of furniture and broken families apart. For some, days become weeks of not talking to another soul, as they fulfil multiple roles that paid workers used to fill. Faced with such heartbreak the “doer” in me was anxious to help; to clean something, to make a plan, or rally more supplies.
Led by Ray’s gentle example we quickly learned the most valuable thing we could bring was relationship - to slow down, usually with a cuppa in hand, and simply listen.
I watched in wonder as tales of past shenanigans birthed genuine bonds that led to multiple opportunities to pray, releasing the Kingdom of Heaven.
It struck me just how much this journey felt like the early church; being released to reach beyond our homes and comfort zones, travelling hundreds of dusty miles to bring a message of hope, one household at a time, guided by Holy Spirit. God is answering our prayers, and the farmers are acknowledging it! Hearts that had hardened to survive a brutal drought are softening as Holy Spirit ministers to them over tea and tyre repair kits. The Lord confirmed the validity of this approach beautifully on the last day when our intercessors back in Brisbane shared a word for Ray as we drove home.
"But Jacob said, “My master can see that the children are frail. And the flocks and herds are nursing, making for slow going. If I push them too hard, even for a day, I’d lose them all. So, master, you go on ahead of your servant, while I take it easy at the pace of my flocks and children. I’ll catch up with you in Seir.” Genesis 33:13-14 (The Message) It was such a tender reminder that God knows these farmers on a very personal level. He hasn’t forgotten them and is gently wooing them unto His heart with a rascally shepherd who understands their pace.
When our friend with the boots agreed to being prayed for, the team eagerly took turns bringing his needs before the Lord, releasing the promises of Jesus over his property. The drought breaking rain is coming, the Reign of Heaven is coming, and it comes as no surprise then that the prisoners are being set free.
REACHupwards in prayer
We thank you for the resilience of those who work with the land, for farmers and their families, for those who rely upon the land for their life and relationships across Australia in rural and remote places. We know that so many have been, and still are, very close to breaking point due to drought, debt and fire. Loving God, we pray that you will keep them strong, united and hopeful. We come before you, upholding them in ongoing prayer.
We give thanks Lord for recent rains and recall the promises you have spoken in Isaiah of the refreshment of creation, of water in the desert, of renewed hope for the land, of hope, of life. Bring follow-up rains Jesus, where first rains have fallen, let germination be sustained all the way to harvest. Thank you for the opportunity to partner with them. Amen.