Call­ing draws cou­ple to town

A big thanks

Waihi Leader - - News - By CAR­MEN HALL [email protected]­

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.

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