Scripture: PHILIPPIANS 4:1-13
Phillip Adams is an Australian journalist and broadcaster, who dresses in black, and writes with cynicism. I wondered what influences dominated Phillip's early life. ABC colleague Terry Lane recorded experiences that had a profound effect upon Adams as a boy. To the outside world his dad was all charm but to Phillip and his mother his father was a sadist. His parents divorced and his mother remarried.
Phillip says that the most horrific day of his childhood was when he set out to see his dad and meet his new wife who was supposed to look like a film star. But, just before Phillip left home for the railway station to visit them, there was a huge fight between his mum and his new step-father. Phillip entered the fight, knocking his step-father across the room, into the venetian blinds.
Phillip ran from the house in fear. His step-father charged after him in his big black car and tried to run him down. He only saved himself by hurling himself into the grass by the side of the road and hiding until he want away. To his horror, at the next train station on the way to his dad's, his enraged step-father was there at the train window with his hand on the door. The train and platform was packed.
He dragged Phillip out of the carriage, threw out his suitcase which broke open, scattering everything. His step-father screamed that Phillip was a thief. Then he switched to being sweetly reasonable. He apologised to the crowd, became tearful and said that he would take Phillip on in his car.
Phillip begged people not to let him put him in the car. But into the car he went. As they were going past the police station Phillip flung himself out of the car. Somehow Phillip got to his father's that night.
He has never forgotten that at his father's house, through the window he could see this woman, supposedly like a film star, trying to stab his dad with scissors. His father was shouting in terror. Phillip ran in and knocked her unconscious.
That was his first meeting with his stepmother. He remembers shaking and crying with the accumulated horror of that day. Some families never know how to work together in good family relationships.
Dr Moira Eastman, in her excellent book, "Family: The Vital factor" declares that healthy families are the key to society's survival. She is one of Australia's leading exponents of family life. Dr Eastman indicates six factors make a family work. This report to our major donors shows how Wesley Mission is contributing to Australia's family health.
1. THE FAMILY COMMUNICATES WELL.
Communication is the key to family satisfaction and the development of family members. This is a relatively recent understanding. We do not know why there has been this recent recognition of the importance of communication within family life. It is ironic that no other generation has so many means of communication - telephones at home, work, in the car and mobile ones in the pocket, faxes, radio and television, videos, cassettes, postal services and couriers - and yet families communicate meaningfully so badly between members.
Good communication in families involves communicating three positive messages. First, good family communication encourages the free expression of individual wants, needs and opinions.
Second, good family communication involves a high degree of praise. There is a correlation between the amount of praise children receive and their school achievement. Third, there is a strong sense of discipline towards children who erred. Wesley Mission is committed to improving communication between family members. That philosophy is saving hundreds of lives from suicide through our LifeForce Suicide Prevention Program and LifeLine 24 hour telephone counselling service. Our weekly television programs "Turn Round Australia" and "Swordfish" and our four hour weekly radio program "Sunday Night Live" on 2GB, and our magazines "Impact" and "Frontlines" provide family interaction.
In our work at Wesley Mission among the profoundly disabled, among hundreds of underprivileged children in our childrens' camps, in our Sunday Schools and Childrens' Church we teach proper expression of opinions and feelings, give praise and concern, exercise discipline and expectation as the first principle in making families work.
2. THE FAMILY SENSIBLY USES POWER AND AUTHORITY.
The key factor is how authority is used between parents and with children. In healthy families, power was shared even though not equally. In the classes our staff conduct in Long Bay Jail, Silverwater Jail and Emu Plains prison for women, they have found prisoners never have learned proper power relationships between adults and with children. Research shows family breakdown and crime involves spouses who were not equals in the power relations. Domination and submission lead to abuse, domestic violence and child bashing. We make sure people come out of prison better people.
The inability to share authority and power in families is a reason why our Drug Arm vans and our StreetSmart have to work among homeless kids who are abusing drugs and fleeing home for the streets. Power must be shared with children. Some people believe children have neither rights nor authority, but these are not healthy families. Our Wesley Dalmar programs not only rescue the children in broken relationships but are constantly supporting poor parents to be better parents, and giving inadequate people role models to follow.
Research shows weak, passive and uninvolved fathers are found in the vast majority of dysfunctional families. Men play an essential role in families. When men are absent, passive, or withdrawn, or, conversely abusive, tyrannical, or authoritarian the affect on the family is destructive. So Wesley Mission is running special programs for men. When children flout the law, indulge in anti-social behaviour and have no respect for teachers or the community we see the results of poor parenting and an inability to properly exercise authority.
3. THE FAMILY IS SUPPORTED BY NETWORKS.
The more isolated a family becomes the more likely it is to have serious problems. Single-parent families are more likely to suffer poverty and the associated problems in education, housing, social status, employment, and health. What is worse is their children are trapped into that same cycle. Wesley Mission is committed to breaking that cycle. Nothing supports families like getting hundreds of long term unemployed people off the dole and into jobs. Work provides income, self-esteem, personal satisfaction and a future for the whole family.
Our Employment Training Programs are outstanding in their effectiveness. Other support networks are also essential. Hence we provide domiciliary based programs to support families like Wesley Home Care; work programs for support the disabled at David Morgan Enterprises and Goodwill Industries; Pastoral services to visit the sick and support the struggling; accommodation for the homeless in Edward Eagar Lodge and in scores of flats and units; rehabilitation for the victims of strokes and diseases at the Lottie Stewart Hospital, and for victims of drug abuse and alcoholism at the Serenity Lodges; companionship and home groups for the lonely; interest groups like the more than one hundred School For Seniors classes; long-term care for the aged and infirm in hostels, nursing homes and retirement villages; low cost clothing, legal advice and food for the battlers: an extensive ministry of compassion that reaches hundreds of thousands of Sydney people annually.
Our 2,100 staff in 295 centres of care in more than 130 suburbs make this the largest work in Sydney supporting individuals and families.
The opening of the Todds Barrett Day Therapy Centre will enable Wesley Private Hospital to run special programs for disturbed adolescents, teenagers with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, anxiety programs and personality disorders will greatly help families.
The purchase of Wandine Private Hospital in Kogarah and the development of the Norman Cull Centre at Carlingford are two new developments which will aid families in need to find specialised support networks. Mental, emotional, educational, physical and spiritual support is needed if we are to make individuals and families healthy.
4. THE FAMILY SPENDS TIME TOGETHER.
There is no such things as "quality time" which replaces "quantity time". That was Yuppie self-justification for the failure to spend time with children. American sociologist Dr Tony Campolo, puts it clearly in "Everything You've Heard is Wrong", (p138-139):"For ten years I stood by the bedside of a number of dying people.
In those last moments I never once heard a salesman say "Oh, if only I had made a few more calls and racked up a few more sales". Never once did I hear a lawyer wish that he or she had taken on a few more cases. Never once did I hear a business person whose deepest regret was that he or she did not open up a few new branches of the business. When people are dying they wish that they had done more for their families".
Control of family time is one of the key indicators of health in a family system. Hence our Vision Valley, Mangrove Mountain Retreat and Pendleton Home Farm Stay provide a wonderful way of keeping families healthy by spending time together.
5. THE FAMILY HAS COMMITTED PARENTS.
The parental relationships determine the health of the family. You would not expect the private, personal bond between husband and wife could match in power the massive social impact of the Great Depression. Yet research shows that good parental bonds had the power to protect the family from the Depression's negative affects and enabled children to extract a positive benefit from the stress and privation. Families need committed parents. Wesley Mission' skilled counsellors, social workers and pastors to help parents commit themselves to each other and their children. 6. THE FAMILY EXERCISES SPIRITUAL VALUES.
Many studies find attachment to spiritual values are associated with health and well-being in the family. Religious beliefs and practices are at the core of competent family life. They support the family's commitment to each other and their resilience in the day-to-day struggle to cope with the pressures of living. Four factors linking family well-being with religious beliefs have emerged.
The first is the role of spiritual beliefs in enabling family members to deal with loss and grief. The second is the links to a supportive community that many religious groups provide. The third is the role the spiritual traditions play in providing a coherent rationale to support a communal way of life rather than individualism. The fourth is the role of the church in supporting, mediating and challenging growth within the family. Families that are active within the church find resources that others don't.
So Wesley Mission provides 55 services of worship a week with a variety of worship styles to suit ages and interests. We conduct the Alpha Course to help hundreds grow in faith. Our Wesley Institute For Ministry and the Arts trains 250 talented students in being balanced people as well as competent professionals to provide leadership in our nation. For the future well-being of our nation, it is essential family members find spiritual resources. Dr Moira Eastman, has shown that healthy families are the key to society's survival.
Her findings include family studies made by scores of researchers in many countries. Wesley Mission is committed to following her research. For in making our families strong, we are making our nation strong, and our world a better place.
REFERENCES USED IN THIS SERMON:
"Parenting" Dr. John Irvine "Sydney News" March 23rd, 1994.
"As The Twig Is Bent" Terry Lane, Dove, 1979.
"Everything You've Heard is Wrong", Dr Tony Campolo, Word, 1992
"Traits of a Healthy Family" Dr D.Curran, Winston, 1983.
"Family: The Vital factor", Dr Moira Eastman, Dove 1996.
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