The Outback Struggle – Liz Howland

One woman’s lifetime mission brings a ray of hope to the Outback.

“As I just drive I’m praying and asking the Lord, ‘Where are the greatest needs?”

“You’d be amazed at the number of times I’ve turned up at these places and the owner will say, ‘You’re just here at the very right time.’”

“They love a celebration. Their lives are fairly challenging at times and they love an opportunity to dress up and to celebrate,” Liz Howland remarked.

‘Special occasions’

Farmers and those living off the land in the Outback are often isolated by more than just distance.

It’s hard to get to the nearest church and in really isolated communities there is often a reliance for a pastor to fly in or make a ‘marathon drive’ for special occasions.

A recent conversation focused on these special occasions in the Outback. Occasions such as church services, weddings, funerals, and baptisms.

‘The harsh Outback’

Regular 20Twenty listeners may have heard Pastor Liz Howland share about her outback ministry Ray of Hope. Liz is no stranger to the hardships and crushing blows that occur frequently and have taken a heavy toll on many living in Australia’s harsh Outback.

Liz is about to embark on a three-month trek into the Outback starting in Western Queensland then into the Northern Territory.

It’s in these remote regions that church services and special occasions such as weddings don’t happen like they used to.

‘‘The greatest needs’

“Sadly, back in the olden days there were churches in every little town. Today many of them are empty and not being used because the locals can’t support a pastor in their district,” Liz revealed, saying there’s a great need for people to assist with the spiritual needs that they value so much.

There are ministers who fly to remote regions and land at the big sheep and cattle stations. Not for Liz Howland. She’ll arrive at her destinations by road. Tough going, but it has its benefits.

“As I just drive I’m praying and asking the Lord, ‘Where are the greatest needs? Lead me down those roads where the greatest needs are. That I may be able to even see people pulled back from the brink of suicide, despair, and discouragement.”

‘Roads less traveled’

“He so graciously leads me to those ones. They’re roads less traveled,” Liz testified, saying the roads are often rough and isolated and in the most unimaginable places.

The properties where Liz often finds herself are very much small communities on their own and by necessity, self-reliant.

“You’d be amazed at the number of times I’ve turned up at these places and the owner will say, ‘You’re just here at the very right time.’”

‘A listening ear’

Liz discovers the needs are multitude. But it’s on these occasions she gets to have one on one time with staff members.

“Whatever time it takes I will give that time,” said Liz. Often it’s about just being a listening ear.

“To sit and listen and then impart what I’m hearing in the spirit that will bring the answers to those ones in greatest need,” Liz explained before she felt to reach out to listeners who are in a deep, dark place in remote areas where Liz is headed.

‘Such a privilege’

“Give me a call and let me know. And when I am in your district we can catch up. I can make a time with you and we can meet in your region.”

“It’s such a privilege to be a confidante of these precious ones in the bush,” Liz shared.

Liz Howland said she heading north first after leaving Brisbane.

“Very much on my heart are areas around Longreach, Winton, Prairie, all that region that’s missed out on summer rain. And I will learn as I go where the greatest needs are,” Liz said, including areas west of Charters Towers in north Queensland.

‘Pain, soul searching’

“I know there are a lot of properties on the market for sale. These things bring their own challenges for the people.”Image result for rural real estate for sale signage images pics

“There are people on the land, fourth and fifth generation, who are facing forced sales. That brings its own set of pain, soul searching, and ‘what am I going to do next?” Liz said with empathy.

Liz has been through what many of these people are facing. She understands and can share with them.

“God met me in those places and carried me through,” Liz confessed, her heart going out to those forced to sell their properties.

‘Failure and shame’

“Those particular people see themselves as the ones that failed. Even though it may or may not have been their fault because of the dry years.”

“For fourth or fifth generation landowners there’s a degree of shame attached to that. They think they’re a failure. But they’re not a failure. They’re just a victim of circumstances,” Liz explained, then telling the story of man who was being threatened to be dragged off his property.

“He said, ‘If they drag me off this property I’ve got my tree picked out’. That really touched my heart. If I can find just one of those I feel it will have been very important to God’s heart.”

‘Exciting things happen’

A crucial element Liz brings to this unique ministry is her first-hand experience, having lived off the land and survived and overcome having been through the worst life in the Outback can throw at a person.Related image

“I can meet people on that level where they’re at. They don’t have to explain things to you and they find that very comfortable,” Liz admitted.

But it’s not all solemn and somber. Exciting things happen in the Outback. Major family celebrations, weddings, baptisms and the suchlike.

‘Red dirt wedding’

Liz agreed saying she loves these impromptu events and spoke of a wedding at which she officiated that took place at Toompine in the red dirt.Image result for Australia red dirt images pics

“The people at the hotel, Daxy and Jonesy provided all of the food. We had the service out in the dirt outside the hall and the whole district came. The whole district contributed.”

“Friends, family and me, decorated the hall for the reception,” Liz said, but there was one anomaly. The wedding coincided with the Rugby League Grand Final that year.

‘The flies!’

“We held the service before the Grand Final started. Then we all adjourned to the hotel to watch the footy on a 20 inch black and white TV set. Everyone pitched in and we had the most wonderful wedding day,” Liz said. Even the photos are taken into account, the sun at its best angles to compliment the bridal party pics.Related image

Another consideration for those attending celebrations in the bush is to be prepared for ‘the great Australian salute!’ The flies!Image result for Aussie hats corks images

Liz Howland said you need plenty of fly spray at the ready.

‘They love a celebration’

And another essential is shade. Especially if you’re the minister presiding over the ceremony.Image result for Aussie wedding images pics

“I have had someone holding an umbrella while I was speaking. But we usually pick a spot where there’s a nice, shady tree and everyone can be more comfortable,” Liz informed, adding one thing people in the bush know what to do – they know how to dress up.

“They love a celebration. Their lives are fairly challenging at times and they love an opportunity to dress up and to celebrate.”

If you would like to listen to the full audio interview click play below

 

Footnote:

Pastor Liz Howland’s family was at the forefront of stud and commercial cattle breeding and some of her siblings remain in those industries today.

For many years, she worked tirelessly alongside her husband managing and owning cattle properties, bred stud cattle and horses and raised 4 fine sons. She has faced floods, droughts, bush fires, slumps in the cattle market, bankruptcy and divorce.

Her passion is to see our Nation come to the life transforming knowledge of Jesus Christ, to convey the message that God’s life giving Word, (the Bible) is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago, and how to practically apply God’s principles in everyday life.

Welcome to Ray of Hope Ministries

 

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