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HULLO THIS IS LIFE LINE. CAN I HELP YOU?
Isaiah 9:1-6

40TH ANNIVERSARY OF LIFE LINE

16th March 2003

Many people find this a hostile world in which they struggle to survive. We obviously think of those who live in a potential war zone overseas, but I hear from people who can struggle no more and who give up the fight here. Many people are fearful of terrorism and retaliation upon our people on our shores. Many in our great cities find life too stressful to continue living. Many prefer suicide to survival. In the rat-race, only rats seem to win.

The community as a whole need to partner to help each other. Last Friday, the Minister of Housing, Dr Andrew Refshauge and myself, declared open a new centre in Miller, called the "Live Ní Learn Centre." There are 29 units each with bedroom, kitchen, laundry, bathroom, and study provided for twenty-nine young people between 16 and 25 years who are in danger of homeless and dropping out of education at school or TAFE. These people have a desire to go on with their education but cannot live with their parents. Living on the campus are Wesley Mission tutors and counsellors who teach living skills. This program, Prime Minister, is an example of your desire to see Community and Business partnerships. Here a partnership with a local community board, the Department of Housing and Premierís Department, the CFMEUnion provides the staff costs, Wesley Mission runs, local businesses provide furniture, white goods and computers, and the Commonwealth Government provides financial help for the students and Work for the Dole teams who maintain the gardens. We expect to re-duplicate that program across the whole state. Those 29 young people will graduate and cease to be dependent upon welfare, being independent and capable of facing lifeís stresses. They have become survivors.

Isaiah speaks of "the survivors in Israel." They survived a hostile world. How? Can we learn survival techniques in a hostile world? At an international level we ask "How will we ever survive?" At a personal level we can also ask: "How will we ever survive?" Family unity is threatened because some are unemployed. The identity of a man involved in his job is lost when he loses his job. The death of a husband means a wife may lose her identity. Some people suffer illness that makes them fear the future. They too are asking: "How will we ever survive?" Cornelia Frances entertained hundreds here in Friday night telling about her television programs. Many people fear God will be like Cornelia, pointing the finger and saying, "You are the weakest link!"

Are there survival techniques for a hostile world? That is where Life Line comes in. Sydney Life Line, operated by Wesley Mission, has 250 trained counsellors on a roster system of 24 hour counselling, together with face to face counselling by appointment. The telephone links people to trained counsellors in time of crisis and has saved thousands of lives. This service has cost Wesley Mission several million dollars to support over the years, but it is a lifeline of hope to many in crisis. After Sir Alan Walkerís leadership of fifteen years, it has been my responsibility to oversight Life Line these last twentyfive years. All counsellors undergo a two year training program and for twenty four years, every Tuesday night I have lectured a total of over 2,000 trainee counsellors in counselling with the insights of Jesus. I recently handed that responsibility over to the newly appointed Life Line Chaplain, Rev Ron Schepis. The story has been one of continuous growth in service to people in crisis, not only in Sydney and Australia, but to the world.

In 1979, we sold the original Life line building, and opened a new counselling centre for our expanding work. Then in 1992 we moved gain into a large, high security building. In 2002 we moved into a larger Life Line Centre in Surrey Hills. In the 1970ís we established Youth Line, the largest youth to youth telephone counselling service in Australia. In 1983, Wesley Mission began Ethnic Life Line. Scores of people with proficiency in a language other than English were trained as multi-lingual counsellors. This was a world first. People of almost every nationality were counselled in their mother tongue. The worth-whileness of this service was recognized by the State Government took it over as its own. I predicted in 1978 that the 1980's would see a rise in the inability of people to handle their finances. In 1980 we appointed a financial counsellor and a part-time secretary, Within twenty years, Creditline would become the largest and most influential financial counselling service in the country, taking even more calls than Life Line. At any one time thousands of families are receiving guidance and help in budgeting, repayment of loans, court cases, bankruptcies and the like. This service is entirely free. Branches have been established in rural and urban areas and all over Australia. A national phone number is operational. Creditline counsellors also make trips to country areas to help clients deal with the real financial difficulties caused by the rural crisis. During the height of the rural recession, Credit Line counsellors "Have Plane - will travel" were flown by light air-craft to remote locations to advise farmers how to cope.

By 1996, Credit Line was appointed by the Federal Government to be the Advisory Services to all financial counselling services in Australia which receive Government funding. A most significant development in suicide prevention came in 1994, when Wesley Mission established a national organization to train local communities to identify and support potential suicides. Rural Australia has seen a six fold increase over the last 20 years in the number of young males under 25 years who kill themselves. Some 2,420 people kill themselves each year, more than are killed in the national road toll. Wesley Missionís "Life Force" is funded by a group of corporations with strong social consciences. We conduct seminars across the nation currently. In the early 1980ís we added Tele-counsellors, spiritual counsellors who deal with calls from viewers of our national weekly television programs, from our daily radio programs and our worship services. We then added Wesley Legal Services to counsel people calling us who were facing court. From 1986 we appointed gambling and addictions counsellors, training hundreds for service across the nation. Our gambling Counselling Service is now also the largest in the nation. These services together last year received well over 100,000 crisis calls. The telephone counselling services, and specialist face-to- face counsellors, are now supported by those who provide physical, social and welfare relief. Our mental health teams and employment counsellors complete the range of counselling services, all designed to help people survive in a hostile world. Is all this counselling available in a nutshell? It is. Here are three points for survival:

1. REALISE YOUR OWN SIGNIFICANCE.

You are worthwhile! What encourages me is the thought that no matter what I have done, Jesus loves me and gave Himself for me. Jesus also considered you worthwhile - so worthwhile that He gave His life for you. Your value is the life of God's Son. Realise that and you realise your own personal significance. You are worthwhile. You can survive.

Lisa was 19 years old. She left home after fights with her family. She was intellectually slow and repressed. She got a flat but was unexpectedly made redundant when the travel company for which she worked went into liquidation. She could not afford the rent. A man she worked with came to visit her. He then just moved in. She was so frightened and desperate she could not do a thing. He raped her several times but she would not say anything to him as he had taken over the flat payments and she was afraid that he would throw her out. She was absolutely full of self-doubt and despair when she rang Sydney Life Line.

The counsellor on duty talked it all through. I received a letter later which said: "I am just writing to thank you for having a counsellor to listen to me. I told Jim to "ship out", something I never had the courage to do be fore. And he's gone. The counsellor told me that I was a good person, and I now feel I am for the first time. I have arranged to see a Life Line counsellor and work through my problems. I know I will be able to cope with life and hopefully to start to enjoy living." Find your own inner personal worth. You are loved. God cares for you. Start your personal survival by realizing you are worthwhile.

2. DETERMINE TO CONTROL YOUR OWN DESTINY.

You are not a hopeless pawn in the game of life. So many people feel tossed around in the storms of life, helpless and hopeless. You have more control over your destiny than you realise. Once, helping to raise funds for cancer research, I premiered a film about the Canadian, Terry Fox. This active teenager was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer) and forced to have his right leg amputated. At 18 years. Terry was so overcome by the suffering of other cancer patients, many of them young children, that he decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. He would call his journey the Marathon of Hope. Terry started in Newfoundland, April 12, 1980. Enthusiasm grew, and the money collected along his route began to mount. He ran 42 kilometres (26 miles) every day until on September 1st, after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles), Terry was forced to stop running because cancer had appeared in his lungs. An entire nation was stunned and saddened. Terry passed away on June 28, 1981 at age 22. The heroic Canadian was gone, but his legacy lives. To date, almost $300 million has been raised for cancer research in Terry's name through the annual Terry Fox Run, held across Canada and around the world. Terry controlled his destiny, not cancer.

3. ALIGN YOURSELF WITH THE INVINCIBLE CHRIST.

Many people find power outside their own resources. People find the power of God in their own lives, and whenever they have aligned themselves with Jesus Christ, they discover that His presence empowers them. They say with Paul: Phil 4:11-13 "I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength."

Mrs. Ursulla Bennett organized a political rally for me recently in Ulladulla. She is the Christian Democratic Party Candidate for Bega. She and her husband Garry have seven children. In Fridayís Sydney Morning Herald Ursulla said: "I just wanted to present a Christian message to the people of Bega. The only thing I am really concerned about is getting kicked out of Parliament for breastfeeding like that woman in Victoria. Iím expecting another baby!" The remarkable thing about Ursulla is not her great organizing skills with a large family, but that she is totally blind, and she teaches her children at home! She believes that through her deep, personal faith Jesus Christ she can do all things! When you believe in Jesus Christ you align yourself with His purposes and program for the world. You will discover that in taking Him upon yourself, you have taken into yourself His strength and ability to cope. Align yourself with the world's most invincible force. You can survive a hostile world. You need not remain the weakest link. Align yourself with the invincible Christ!

That is why the Christian basis of Life Line is central. Life Line was founded as our telephone counselling service based on counselling with the insights of Jesus. Over three million Australians have rung Life Line. There are now 360 Life Line centres and 50,000 trained counsellors in major cities all over the world. The newest one, Sutherland Life Line, was established this year by Sydney Life Line. It is possible to survive in a hostile world by realising your own significance, by determining to control your own life, and through finding the power of Jesus Christ. At any hour of the day or night, people who believe this, answer the telephone with the words, "Hullo. This is Life Line. Can I help you?"

Wesley Mission, Sydney.