8 MINUTE READ
Nisi Dominus Frustra – Without God’s purpose we labour in vain
In October 2018, I was invited to accept the position of NSW state chair of CMDFA. This was not a position that I had sought, or even anticipated.
I had retired from full-time practice in February of that year but had remained busy completing a third book, and was an active member of the National selection panel of the General Sir John Monash Foundation. I had looked forward to a little more time with family, travel perhaps, and even some time fishing. But I was to discover that we actually never retire as Christians. God always has something new for us to experience. And that when we follow his direction, we cannot fail.
2019 was a year of challenge for CMDFA nationally. In the context of leadership change and financial constraint, we confronted the issues of euthanasia, the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019, and addressed debates relating to gender dysphoria and religious freedom. At the state level, where possible, we addressed all of these issues.
Fortunately, I was blessed with a wonderful committee. We met regularly face-to-face and via Zoom. Members included Lauren Chong (secretary), Michael Nicholson (treasurer), Angela Wang (prayer secretary), Peter Keith (mentoring), Bob Claxton and Michael Burke (Saline Process) and James Yun (board representative). Shimon Wasker and Sarah Appleby have been our student representatives with help from Shaddy Hanna and Phyllis Tay, our recent graduate representative. James Xu, our past chair, has continued on as a committee member.
But the course has not been easy. Just prior to the 2019 Federal elections, I listened in dismay as Tanya Plibersek spruiked her party’s policy for abortion on demand in public hospitals across Australia in the morning news. “Someone will have to respond,” I thought. Two hours later, reality bit when I was invited to comment that evening on ABC 702’s programme PM. I was reluctant to do so, especially when I realised that we had no formal policy on abortion and that I must speak as an individual. I could see myself being grilled by Leigh Sales on The 7:30 Report or, worse still, appearing on Q&A. However, following prayerful consideration, I accepted the invitation. God gave me the words to speak, the interviewing journalist was sympathetic, and comments were well received.
Subsequent to that time, following collaboration with John Whitehall, our national office, the committee and members, we developed a policy and, with that policy, a voice to speak out as the body of Christ in Healthcare. We went on to present a submission to the NSW Legislative Council regarding the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019. Our sincere appreciation is expressed to those involved in preparing the submission, especially Megan Best.
Bootcamp 19 January: The year began with a most successful boot camp arranged by Renee Sees and Kim Van. Thirty-nine attended. There were presentations on work-life balance, preparation and finances. This was followed up with a ‘Reboot’ in August, hosted by Rosemary Isaacs with seven doctor-in-training attending.
Supper Meetings: Five successful metropolitan supper meetings were held. The emphasis was on fellowship and teaching across the Sydney area with outreach to regional and rural areas by visitation, and by ‘Zoom’ live conferencing. A hot meal was always provided and where possible a time of praise and worship included. Meetings were as follows:
• 23 February: Andrew Browning of Barbara May Foundation. 38 attended (Castle Hill).
• 15 March: John and Sally Padget. Returning to the Mission field. 26 attended (Petersham).
• 1 June: Dr Reg Zahiruddin told of his rescue from Mujahadin and of his family’s ongoing project to free human slaves in Pakistan. 28 attended (Ashfield).
• 17 August: German surgeon Klaus Dieter-John. Spoke of medical outreach to Quechua people of Peru. 38 attended (Castle Hill).
• 31 August: Prof Graeme Hughes. Christianity and fertility/IVF. 24 attended (Bellevue Hill).
A regional home meeting at Narrandera on 21 March was hosted by Joe and Liz Romeo who provided overnight accommodation and a wonderful home cooked meal. Local doctors attended and regional issues were discussed.
Cooma Breakaway: 27-28 July. Rob and Dawn Wiles and the Cooma practice hosted a ‘breakaway’ for students from ANU. The temperature plummeted to -9 degrees Celsius but the fellowship was warm. There was lots of interesting discussion and we attended a church service on the Sunday morning. Lynne and I were able to attend and participate.
Euthanasia Seminars: Were held at Newcastle and Castle Hill. These were presented by Megan Best and Andrew Sloane. Both seminars were well attended. As a follow-up, Michael Nicholson is currently producing a PowerPoint presentation for churches and other Christian organisations with the assistance of Megan Best, David Brown and Maria Cigolini.
Prayer Meetings: Several prayer meetings were conducted during the year, the last two utilising Zoom. One of our rural doctors spoke of her isolation and expressed her delight in being able to participate. On Monday 11 November, we hosted a national prayer meeting on Zoom to pray that God would bring the bush fires under control and that people would be protected and comforted in their loss. Members from NSW, Queensland and South Australia participated. We intend to provide similar planned and ad hoc prayer opportunities as required.
Our NSW State dinner was held at the Sydney Missionary and Bible College on 2 November and was enjoyed by all. 85 attended. Dr Michael Spence, Vice Chancellor and Principal Sydney University spoke on his chosen topic Disagreeing Well. He also prayed over the seven graduating students. To me, this was a highlight of the evening. Dr Spence’s presentation was recorded and is available on our website. A transcript of his talk is included in this edition of Luke’s Journal (page 37)
Video live streaming
We have successfully introduced Zoom to conduct our committee meetings this year and have also implemented Zoom in our final supper meeting presentation, allowing regional and rural members to comment and ask questions. In 2020, we intend to utilise this on a wider scale to enable those in remote locations to participate.
Saline Process Training days are held twice a year in Sydney in association with the Nurses Christian Fellowship. A course is held in Newcastle every three years, organised by Catherine Hollier. The last Sydney course was in July at Macquarie Centre and the next was at the Summer Hill Anglican Church Hall on November 30th. A Saline ‘taster’ (introduction to training) was recently held at our National Conference and one will be provided at Impact 2020. These courses help equip health care personnel to effectively communicate their faith through their work.
PLANS FOR 2020
In 2020, we plan to continue along a similar course embracing the four pillars of fellowship, teaching, mentoring and advocacy. There will be an emphasis on reaching out to rural and regional areas and to students and doctors in training.
Events to be finalised include: Supper meetings to continue in a similar format to 2019. These will include an interesting and helpful presentation in conjunction with fellowship, a hot meal, zoom relay to regions, and praise and worship where possible. We would appreciate any offers to host these meetings and also suggestions for worthwhile topics to be discussed.
Our Biennial State Conference is currently planned for the October long weekend and will be held in association with the annual dinner on the Saturday evening and a service on the Sunday morning. We are currently negotiating with a Sydney hotel for favourable rates. The programme has been designed to enable country and regional members to attend and to include time for pre-Christmas shopping, visiting friends and sight-seeing.
Finally, I wish to thank those individuals who have been instrumental in making this a most successful year. These include committee members, our national manager David Brown, Marilyn Byrne, and our new National Chair, John Whitehall.
My friend, Peter Irvine, is quoted as saying that, “We should cast our seed into the fertile ground. This will bring the greatest harvest.” During this period of national drought, these words are of particular significance, as God will nurture and protect that seed, until the rains come.
A stained-glass window in the rectory at All Saints Hunters Hill contains the words Nisi Dominus frustra – ‘without God’s purpose we labour in vain’. We are busy people, as students, graduates and retirees, but with God’s help we cannot fail. Let us step out in faith to explore how God will use us in 2020. We can ‘do all things, through Christ who strengthens us.’
Dr Ern Crocker (BSc (Med) MBBS FRACP DDU FAANMS)