In this writer’s over 20 years in the MSS, this was a weekend like no other.
Broughton is in the far west of Victoria, in the Wimmera, and not very far from the border with South Australia. It is farming territory - particularly wheat and sheep. Thus, for people in this area, Harvest Festival is a very significant event, coming at the end of a very average season during a drought.
We arrived at our accommodation in Kaniva township at about 3.30 on Saturday afternoon, and just after 4 we were heading into the “bush” - vast wheat paddocks to the horizon, with evidence of the crop having been harvested, and sometimes flocks of sheep grazing on the residue. After driving for around 30 minutes, apparently towards nowhere, we arrived at the settlement of Broughton, where Corps Officers, Lts Chris and Tracey Sutton, are in the second year of pastoring both here and Kaniva. Their quarters is in Kaniva, because basically no-one actually lives in Broughton. The “town” (see the photo) consists of a fairly new CFA fire station, the community hall, and the Salvos, all located at a crossroads.
As we “settled in” at the community hall, we imagined the many community events which had been held here over the generations, and our thoughts were stimulated by the comprehensive display of photos on the walls of the family dynasties from the area.
Our evening meal was transported from Kaniva, and then, as we approached the starting time of 7.30pm, cars arrived and filled the car park, and the tables began filling with produce for the auction, which has been part of Harvest in this place for decades.
We opened and closed the evening with singing, and also gave the auctioneer a break in the middle; otherwise we joined in the fun of the auction, competing with the locals for fruit, vegetables, home-grown meat, and the most amazing home-cooked goodies. This was no bargain-basement event - the prices achieved made upmarket department-store food halls look cheap! At the end of the auction over $2500 had been raised.
Before returning to Kaniva to eat an $18 passion-fruit cream sponge, and then sleep, we carried our gear over to the Salvo hall, ready for the next morning.
This weekend was the first ‘gig’ for soprano Bev McMurray and our Executive Officers, Paul and Wendy Hateley. They led Sunday morning’s Harvest Celebration service. We opened with Ames’ “Rejoice”, and concluded with “An Irish Blessing” and “Let Everything That Hath Breath”. In between we sang several other pieces, Judi Agnew talked with the children, Ken Smith read the scripture, Arthur Drummond shared his testimony, and Paul preached about the importance of trusting God for his provision. In a drought year, these thoughts struck a chord with the locals.
Then it was back to the community hall for a “banquet” lunch. Be assured, the art of bountiful old-fashioned cooking has not been lost in this part of the world!
Then it was time to begin the long journey home, via the Avonlea Home for the Aged in Nhill, where we presented an hour of music and spoken word (Ruth Hamilton and Arthur) to an excellent audience, perhaps bolstered by some unexpected publicity on Melbourne’s radio 3AW in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Feedback received indicates that our visit was meaningful for the people we met in this part of rural Victoria; it also was a great bonding time for us.