Calling draws couple to town
A big thanks
When Murray and Wendy Sanson answered a “calling from God” more than two decades ago the couple never knew their chosen vocation would take them to communities all over New Zealand.
The husband and wife tag team are ministers at the Salvation Army in Waihi, the place they have called home for the last two years.
The couple had always talked about doing missionary work so they embarked on their challenge at William Booth College in Wellington with two young children Daniel and Vikki in tow.
“It’s basically a tertiary institute that is recognised for the theological education,” Murray explains.
The Sansons also liked the army because “it is different to other churches”.
“There is the military aspect of it, we are deployed like forces. I’ve often joked they send us to where we can do the most good and the least harm.”
Joking aside, Murray says where God is involved there is hope for the future.
“Wendy and I both trained to be ministers to do the full hatch, match and dispatch. We complement each other and both have talents in different areas so our skills work well together.”
The Sansons’ first posting was in Westport where they were based for six years and youngest daughter Livi was born.
The people were welcoming and friendly and had some solid advice.
“One fellow said you do realise we work on a different timescale here, we put the clocks back. I said by how much and he said by about 20 years.”
The next stint was in Paeroa where the Salvation Army was involved in aged care.
Unfortunately many of its aged care facilities around the country were running at a deficit so the Sansons did a feasibility study for Paeroa and the decision was made to sell it.
That was a big challenge, Murray says, as the Paeroa core was run from the home as well so the church was also wound up.
“We facilitated the closure and then assisted the officers at Thames for six months.”
Ironically, Waihi was next on the agenda for six months “which was quite cool”.
“We would have loved to have stayed then but things were in motion for us to move to Alexandra. We stayed there for five years and it was fabulous as we got to help create a community garden.
“We grew the vegetables and then people could come and choose the vegetables.”
Murray says they are often blown away with the generosity of people they have met in their travels.
“One guy had a glass house for sale on Trade Me and he only got one offer for zero dollars and he thought if I’m going to give it away he’d give it to the army. The glass house was huge. Each bay was 10 foot and there were 10 bays, it was massive.
“Needless to say my skills as a maintenance carpenter came in handy to cut all the glass.”
Then it was off to Timaru for another five years where plans where afoot to build a Family Store on site where once again Murray utilised his skills with the hammer.
“We arrived in January and we were able to open the Family Store in December.”
But Waihi has been like a homecoming. “It’s been lovely,” Wendy says.
“We have been re-welcomed and accepted. It was like starting 18 months or two years ahead of a normal appointment anyway because it takes time to get to know the people and the history.”
A country boy at heart, Murray says being in Waihi is “quite fabulous”.
Not ones to shy away from hard work, the Sansons say they have several “projects in development”.
“The interesting thing is the amount of social issues we had in Timaru with a population of 30,000, we are seeing the same level here in Waihi with only a 4000 population. When you are getting people living in cars and garages there is not a lot of rental accommodation here so that is huge.
“It is heart rendering at times to hear some of their stories, the breakdown of their social interactions and every time they have to move it makes it a lot harder for them to connect in with the community.”
Now the Sansons hoped more people would join their congregation.
“We have a church building but our people are the church,” says Wendy.
“They are lovely and neighbours to the community in so many different ways which is amazing.”
Murray says it was great to work alongside people with strong faith who were seen to be supporting the community.
“The Salvation Army has done a lot of good work over many years and often lives literally change.” Wendy Sanson would like to thank the Waihi community for their generosity over Christmas.
This year 74 Christmas hampers went to 106 adults and more than 176 children through a number of agencies around Waihi.
Wendy says this was a 20 per cent increase of hampers given out last year.
‘‘We couldn’t have done it without the community and our volunteers who put it all together. There were about 15 volunteers doing the Christmas boxes... we did it all on one day.’’
Wendy also would like to thank Countdown and New World ‘‘who were very generous and helpful’’.
The hampers included enough food for a Christmas dinner plus a ham and presents for children. Approximately $8-10,000 worth of food and gifts were donated.
Waihi has been like a homecoming for Murray and Wendy Sanson who have been based in the township for two years.