No easy path for snowfields mission

The road to Eternity is no easy one; and the extreme weather conditions and 15-hour power blackout which greeted the Uniting Church‚’s first snowfields mission ‚- called Eternity4u‚ ‚- brought even greater challenges than expected.

Members of the Alpine congregation, helped by visitors from around the region, Sydney and the NSW north coast, had planned to provide entertainment and a drop-in space at Perisher Valley, followed by fun evenings in the Jindabyne Memorial Hall with Christian band ‚”Tent in the Sun‚”, extreme sport video playing and a snacks-and-coffee shop.

The events in the Jindabyne hall went ahead in low-key fashion, but events at Perisher had to be cancelled. Mobile phone networks were out and TV stations were down, so communication suffered and planned advertising didn’t eventuate.

“It was vastly different to how we thought it would go,‚” said Snowfields Chaplain Matthew McBurney. ‚”Organisation-wise, it was excellent. We had a good team of locals in the end who all got involved, and Steve Hammon from Narooma was fantastic ‚- he had come from the faith-sharing workshops.‚ I think we had the formula right and the processes right. But we needed wider advertising and to get it out a bit sooner. If we had been able to get up the mountain, I think we would have had a better outcome.‚”

Matthew said Perisher Valley management was happy to have the band, which came from the mid-north coast of NSW, back to perform later in the ski season, and hats and beanies produced with the ‚Eternity4u‚ logo would be used for a local children’s program.

Church members managed to survey around 100 people from a wide cross-section of snowfields visitors and will continue conducting surveys until the end of July. The results will help with planning future events.

“It was a very worthwhile experience,‚” said Matthew. ‚”There‚’ll be a heck of a lot we can take out of it.‚”

Matthew hopes to extend activities next year to Thredbo as well as Perisher Valley and Jindabyne. ‚”We have very good relationships with Perisher, and we’re growing the relationship with Thredbo,” he said.

Every year, many snowfields visitors need the support of the church for practical help such as food, clothes and emergency help, as well as pastoral care in times of stress such as relationship breakdown and bereavement. And while the planned events may not have happened, the practical help was still there: typified by Matthew spending more than an hour late at night ferrying foreign tourists from their broken-down bus to their accommodation at the top of Jindabyne in his four-wheel drive.

The Jindabyne Primary School Ladies Auxiliary was happy to have AMOS, the Uniting Church’s Alpine Mobile Op-Shop, take part in its recent annual school fete. Sales were good, and resulted in Alpine UC presenting a cheque for $300 to Ian McCluggage, the school principal, to pass on to the auxiliary.