Australian Missionary News IPTV Anchorman Mark Tronson was one of the lads in those days, and this interview with Bill Hellier can be found at
tv.bushorchestra.com and www.safeworlds.net
Bill Hellier explained that the Canberra Baptist Hockey Club was established in the 1950s by a then young fellow, John Knight who was looking for ways and means to evangelise young teenager boys for Christ and bring them into the life of the church.
At that time, Canberra wasn't much more than a big country town and there wasn't much for young people to do. Sport was one activity that was not too difficult to arrange, it appealed to the energy of youths, and it provided a non-threatening and non-preaching environment. Soon, a number of the churches combined their efforts across the denominational divide to form the ACT Hockey Association.
Mark Tronson said that he recalls the pie nights. Bill Hellier said of these fabulous pie nights, that they were simple, although not much of a recipe for pastoral care, but that he always asked himself, what would these boys be interested in.
"They don't remember the flowery sermons, but they do recall the pie nights," he reminisces fondly. "What the teenagers did not realise, is that this informal gathering, with sport as a focus of interest, provided a time and place for effective mentoring and counselling when the needs arose."
This casual mentoring, Bill Hellier suggests, might be a lost skill in the churches today. It is a form of personal evangelism; it involves being 'normal' and simply talking to people. It is often not seen as official mentoring, but respected advice supplied by someone the young person looks up to. In this situation, it is more likely that something that was said during the conversation will be remembered.
This style of evangelism is not about programs or projects which might be here today and gone tomorrow; the type of thing that Bill Hellier referred to as 'spiritual gymnastics'.
Mark Tronson recalled how he was mentored by Bill Hellier as a teenager, often just during a casual chat while Bill was driving Mark to the hockey match.
Another aspect to Bill's mentoring and ministering is his long association with foreign aid as part of his Government job. He became familiar with some of the problems of less advantaged countries during his work in the South Pacific, South East Asia, China, Sri Lanka and India over a period of 24 years.
This too reflects not only the interest of Canberra Baptist Church for the third world, but the general knowledge of other countries by Canberrans in general, due to a large proportion of Government employees who originally came from other places when Parliament was moved there in 1927.
The multicultural tradition continued with the development of the prestigious Australian National University, which attracted students and staff from Australia and the rest of the world, as well as the constant movement of Embassy staff from many countries and the movement of Australian Embassy officials to and from overseas postings.
Bill Hellier has observed that many of Canberra's churches have this same interest, helping the 'have nots', but he is particularly proud of that philosophy being continued at Canberra Baptist Church where, for many years, teams of young people have been sent out to the third world, particularly to conferences, where they mix tourism with learning experiences. He observes that the initiative has often come from these young people themselves, and the church has encouraged this.
In addition, the specific aid the church gives by assisting talented third world young people with education, health and onto tertiary studies has shown our own Canberra Baptist youth that an opportunity is all that is needed in order for a person to succeed.
"This double sided approach - where our young people both experience both what we can do in this area, and also see how talented young people from anywhere in the world can perform as well as they do, given the chance - broadens their outlook and helps in their future career development," concludes Bill Hellier.