Saturday, 15 March 2008

Life on the JCI road...

Today the Cross & Icon's sole mission was to travel from Bendigo to Parramatta so today's blog entry comes from the JCI Team Driver, Frank Hansby, who shares with us some thoughts from the journey so far...

While Fr Chris and the youth ministery volunteers (Dan, Berna and Annie) do the up-front ministry on the JCI and Rod takes the photos and Janine keeps us all together, my main ministry begins when the engine turns on in the JCI van. I'm pretty attached to the vehicle as it’s our mobile home on wheels. While we have new accommodation almost every day, and the faces and place names are constantly changing, the van and the 4m long trailer that carries the Cross & Icon (oh, and all our luggage!) is our constant mode of transport which the 7 of us jump in and out of several times a day.

Our drive today from Bendigo to Parramatta has been relaxing because we've shared it amongst three drivers, which helped ease the load. It's one of the great things about our team really, that we all rely on each other and help each other out.

The first couple of hours today were really peaceful - all pretty quiet in the back, which meant that the team were watching movies, or praying or maybe catching some snooze time!

Since we began on January 25 we've clocked up around 12,000km, and as the dedicated driver, I've been behind the wheel for most of those. I love the open road and have really enjoyed watching the countryside change from one Diocese to the next.

In Armidale it was hilly and undulating (and beautiful!) while when we got out to the Wagga Wagga Diocese it was flat, irrigation country, and the beauty of the land took on another dimension because you can really take in the vast distance and see the hills and mountains on the horizon. There's a different dynamic in different parts of the country, but I find I have to concentrate more in flat country, mostly because I'm trying to point out irrigation channels to educate the young team members – whether they are interested or not!

The journey's been quite remarkable, and it's been an honour to witness some of what we have seen. There's been numerous occasions when I have seen women with tears rolling down their cheeks at the events surrounding the Cross & Icon and I find it motivates me to keep going. When I catch the emotion of people it reminds me how important what we're doing is to people – right from little toddlers to retirees and grey nomads who are all a part of Catholic church.

While the other members of the team have their work to do up the front of the events, I stand back a bit more and have become known for the way I chat to the senior members of the congregation. I find lots of people come up to me to find out where I fit in as part of the team (sometimes people think that as the old bloke of the team I must be Fr Chris!) and they inquire about why I’m doing the JCI.

A really special example of this was in the Armidale Diocese, I got chatting to a guy at the back of the congregation who had me convinced that he wasn't a Catholic and wasn't interested in the Church, only to find him playing guitar at the event later on! When I asked him what was going on, he shared with me that he comes to Church and plays the music as a way of being with his wife. It was a really special moment for me when after his chat with me where I encouraged him to go up and touch the cross, he came back and said that he'd had a really good feeling when he went up and touched it.

It's been a great experience to this point, and great to share it with the people in the communities that we visit and with the team. I guess as far as the driving goes, I have always believed that living beings are all a part of God’s creation, so to look out over what is there in nature I find brings me closer to God.

Well, that's about all I have to say for now, except thanks for taking the time to read the blog today and thanks to all those who continue to pray for our safety on the road.

Ps - A few photos 'from the road!' Just magic!

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