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A wing and a prayer

Thursday, 3rd March, 2011

FLYING PASTOR: Jorge Rebolledo checks out his new aircraft ready for work next week. FLYING PASTOR: Jorge Rebolledo checks out his new aircraft ready for work next week.

On his first visit to Broken Hill, The Reverend Jorge Rebolledo fell in love with life in the outback.

The new Patrol Minister for Frontier Services will soon spend hours and days travelling the bush from Broken Hill north to Tibooburra, south almost as far as the Victorian border, and east to Ivanhoe.

Rev. Rebolledo takes over from Rev. John Blair who served as the "Flying Padre" for close to eight years.

His mission is simply to be there for people in isolated locations and he joins a team of 22 Patrol Ministers in the Frontier Services network that provides support to 15,000 families. 

The Patrol Ministers offer spiritual support, a helping hand and a listening ear. 

The Broken Hill patrol covers 180,000sq kms. As a flying Patrol Minister, Rev. Rebolledo will traverse the distances by plane and by road. He will visit pastoral properties, Aboriginal communities, roadhouses, mines and schools. 

Rev. Rebolledo, who was born in Chile, said he and his wife Susan looked forward to the country lifestyle. 

"People are friendlier," he said. "We walked into a Broken Hill coffee shop that was about to close but unlike people in the city, the woman who ran it said 'not to worry' and served us a meal, even though she had a birthday party to go to," he said.

It was his passion to work with people that called Rev. Rebolledo to the bush. 

"I have heard that Patrol Ministry can be a hard life, and I'm not particularly looking for a hard life but I'm not scared about it either. I'm not worried about getting my hands dirty, sometimes that's really good for the soul.

"I'm looking forward to sharing people's journeys, the good and the bad."

His role is varied. He may conduct services for families and communities but mostly he will be there to offer support. He may share a meal on a station or offer a hand on a farm.

He will also be there to offer counselling when accidents occur at mines and properties as well as during times of drought and flood. 

Rev. Rebolledo admitted he had a lot to learn about life in the outback having come from Sydney. 

"I'll need a lot of help from locals and others. I'm sure I'll get lost a couple of times."

For now, he is learning to fly and will soon receive his private pilot's licence.

His father was an aircraft mechanic for the national Chilean airline while his maternal grandfather was third man in the cockpit. 

Rev. Rebolledo was previously the Ministry of Pastor Consultant for the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and ACT.

Before that he was the Academic Registrar for the United Theological College for almost 10 years. 

He also hopes to do the former flying pastor proud but said he will find it hard to fill his shoes.

"I'm not half the man he was."

His wife Susan, who moved to the city one week ago, has started work at the local hospital as the new midwifery clinical educator.

Rev. Rebolledo will be formally inducted as the Broken Hill Patrol Minister on March 5 at 4.30pm at the Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Centre. 

He said he expected to live in Broken Hill for five years.

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