Wayne Marsden lives in Feilding and has worshipped in the Anglican Church all his adult life. He does the lawns, vacuums the church, welcomes people on Sunday and is the go-to guy for getting things done. But in recent years, Wayne has seen the Diocesan mission in the church bulletin every week and wondered what it meant. “We care for the last, the lost and the least.” Who are these people?
On Wayne’s retirement, he asked God what his purpose was going to be. “I read a book called ‘What to do with the rest of your life’ and decided that I wanted to be useful, to be available, to enjoy myself and to make a difference,” said Wayne. As most of his neighbours left home for work each day, Wayne began walking the neighbourhood and observing the state of the area – and this led him to pick up litter. After a while, the litter stopped appearing. Then he began meeting the neighbours at their gates, and realising they each had stories, many involving loss.
“Loss can mean a lot of different things. Lost health, lost relationships, lost jobs, lost family.” After attending a Neighbourhood Support meeting, Wayne became aware of the multiple needs within his neighbourhood – and began to find ways to meet them, mostly through doing odd jobs for less able people. Soon, he was asked to help some Bhutanese former refugees move house, because they didn’t have access to a trailer. “They didn’t have what I have – they are the least. They fled their country, it wasn’t their fault, but they had needs that I could meet. I could share with them what I have.” From loaning a trailer and moving house, he then began fixing their lawn mowers and even began teaching their teenagers how to drive!
Without meaning to, Wayne discovered a whole new family. “They call me Father for some reason! They are incredibly generous, they share their culture and their cooking – I now know that green chilli is mild, and red chilli is hot.” He even takes his new Bhutanese friends with him when he does jobs for his elderly neighbours. This helps them practice their English, develop their work readiness, and sometimes even earn some money. “You can get a whole lot more gardening done with a large group!” says Wayne.
One elderly couple helped by Wayne didn’t have any family nearby, so Wayne said to them “I’ll do for you what a son would do” and he does just that. When the man fell ill and became a paraplegic, his needs increased dramatically – but as a son, Wayne continued to love and care for him. “It’s a bit strange, I’m a father to my Bhutanese family and a son to this man!” Wayne reflects: “I had to make a decision to be available. Jesus talked about the seed falling on four different types of soil – well, what kind of soil am I cultivating?”
After so much civic achievement, one might be forgiven for thinking Wayne was at the pinnacle of this season of life. However his experience with a completely different culture gave him cause to reflect on the cultural relationships at the foundation of this nation. On Waitangi Day this year, Wayne realised that he has no significant Māori acquaintances or friends, and that his subtly prejudiced Pākehā upbringing led him to be blind to the other culture that forms the Treaty of Waitangi relationship. Rather than having all the answers, Wayne’s lack of bicultural fluency has led him to ask afresh: “really, who is my neighbour?”
We suspect Wayne’s journey will have some further twists and turns. “I’m not plotting my own journey now, God’s plotting the journey! Ring me back in a year and ask how I’m going!”
You can be sure that we will, Wayne.