Pr Rodney Woods
It was a quiet afternoon at the Stuarts Point campground on Thursday 13th May, 2021. The Adventist Senior Living contingent were beginning to crank up their lofty afternoon program of “Picasso and Patritti” (painting and drinking). When suddenly, the quiet sound of Grey Nomad’s chatting and laughing and having a wonderful time with Leanne and Team from Adventist Senior Living, was broken by the rumbling note of not one, not two, not four but eight V8 Ford Mustangs of various vintages and models driving through the campground.
As a Mustang owner I have found many opportunities to talk to men at service stations, shopping car parks and traffic lights about a car that only some 3 years earlier, I knew very little about! Men being men, the topic of occupations soon comes up and when they find out that I am a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church their eyebrows start to rise. “A religious person, nay a pastor, that is interested in motor cars – that is different”. They do not all verbalise it, but one does not have to be a mind reader to know, by the expression of surprise on their faces, that this is something unusual.
The subject quickly turns back to the Mustang and its statistics, and then Mustangs in general, and then often, their experience of “muscle cars”. They are usually older men. Men who then take me on a journey into their past days of the Australian made Ford XY GT - the most powerful muscle car in the world at that time; or the 1970 VG Valiant Pacer Coupe; the Holden HQ GTS Monaro 350 or the Peter Brock race winning A9X Holden Torana. A distant look with a smile to follow as the memories come flooding back.
A connection is made. A moment in time. A sharing that breaks down the barriers of religion. A handshake (covid-19 permitting) and a smile later, and he walks away thinking “not all religious people are bible bashers” and I walk away praying “God I hope a door has been opened in that man’s life”.
It was with this background in mind that I suggested to Abel Iorgulescu the general secretary for the North NSW Conference, that there might be some Grey Nomads who might like a visit from my Mustang Club. He advised me that he had a day with nothing booked in and I said, “Let’s see what we can do”. My club at Newcastle thought it was too long a drive, but the president of the Newcastle Chapter contacted the President of the Port Macquarie Chapter, Neville Cooper and he was very enthusiastic. Being a midweek event, he could not guarantee many cars would participate and said it would depend upon the weather (muscle cars don’t like to get wet – go figure).
The week of Grey Nomads came, and the weather forecast was bleak – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – rain. I need not have worried however because Debbie Head said to me that she knew that “God would work it out”. Wednesday night, and it poured cats and dogs. Thursday morning and it was blue sky and spotted white clouds!!
All the drivers who came had a fantastic time interacting with our folk and my last concern disappeared (“Would anyone be interested?”) when as soon as the cars were parked, they were swarmed like bees to honey. Conversations were had, pleasantries were made and one of the car owners went home the proud winner of a trophy which said “Seventh-day Adventist Grey Nomads – Mustang – The People’s Choice Award – 2021”. Some of these guys had met Seventh-day Adventist’s before but knew very little about us. None of them had ever been near a Seventh-day Adventist church or church event.
Nevelle in his article for printing in the PONYexpress (the Mustang owners club of Australia) wrote:
All I can say on behalf of all of those who attended, is that it was a fantastic afternoon, with both a rolling and static display of our Mustangs…Congratulations to Peter Murgatroyd with his yellow ’70 Mach 1, for taking out the Trophy…and a ‘very big thank you’ to Rodney and the Convention Centre team for organising this event, we’re sure to attend again given an invitation.
Praise God! My take home message of that day was simply this: if we are willing to use the gifts God has given, doors can be opened, barriers can be broken, lives can be changed.