Working overtime: A group that’s kept our nation going

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Students from Central Coast Adventist School with Principal Tony Kent.

Colloquially known as “Black Summer”, this year began with a devastating bushfire season in Australia—18.6 million hectares burned, 5900 buildings destroyed, 34 people and 1 billion animals killed.

If it wasn’t for our firefighters, who toiled night and day to save land, lives and livestock, it could have been a lot worse. Our firefighters deserve to be heralded and honoured for their work.

On the heels of Black Summer came COVID-19. Handshakes were banned, hugs out of the question, and if you wanted to get a seat to yourself all you had to do was offer a slight sniffle or deliver a petite cough and you were afforded the wide-open spaces.

During this pandemic a new set of heroes emerged—another army being mobilised all across the land. Quietly they move into position, resolutely staying at their post, often day and night. They aren’t lawyers, politicians, academics, elite sportspeople or A-listers, but rather teachers, nurses, doctors, ambulance personnel, cleaners, supermarket workers, service station operators, branch tellers, Bunnings employees, toilet paper manufacturers. These people became the frontline troops in the battle against COVID-19.

If it wasn’t for them, who toiled night and day to save lives, loans, and larders, it could have been a lot worse. These deserve to be heralded and honoured for their work.

Our school administrators, teachers and chaplains are heroes in their own right. Parents and students deserve honourable mention as well.

When our Adventist schools were not closed there were some who criticised. When the decision was finally made to close, there were still some who criticised. As the days marched on, however, two things soon became apparent. Firstly, the timeframe for the decision to act was a timely one; and secondly, what an incredible job our school leaders, teachers and chaplains do to educate the students in their care.

For the past few weeks, many of us have sat back and watched an amazing series of events unfold in terms of online teaching, evangelism and pastoral care to the students and families of our 48 schools across Australia. Key descriptors come to mind: creative, resourceful, brilliant, patient, professional, dedicated, conscientious, assiduous, enthusiastic.

"Under these trying circumstances, our school communities could have easily descended into gloom and doom, but instead it’s been a time of Zoom and boom . . ."

What our teachers and chaplains have done in our education system over the course of lockdown and isolation has been remarkable. School lessons have been delivered online, chapel programs have continued to inspire and encourage, Bible studies have been brought into kitchens and dining rooms all over Australia, songs have been sung, prayers offered. Videos and comments float back and forth between schools and their fans, fans and their schools.

“I am completely blown away by all your hard work. After this pandemic I will be shouting from the rooftops about how amazing this school is.”—Parent.

“You are deeply appreciated. Thanks for redeveloping material, and platforms for remote learning. Thanks for being like Uncles and Aunties as well as our kid’s teachers. You are more than teachers, you love and mentor our young men and women.”—Parent.

“The extra workload has been enormous. I work in a school myself and understand that the out of hours workload has now tripled. The College has been supportive, encouraging and communicative at every step. The staff are checking in regularly with both our children to ensure they are coping with this platform of learning. This hasn’t gone unnoticed. Both my husband and I appreciate the huge sacrifice the staff have made.”—Parent.

“The College has gone above and beyond in organizing and delivering our take home packs and we are just so grateful! As a family we would love to bless the Primary staff and show our gratitude. If possible, we would love to provide some pizzas for lunch just to show our appreciation. If this is okay with you, could you please provide us a suitable date and time as well as the number of staff to have lunch catered for.”—Parent. 

“I’ve been in awe of how you’ve all handled this crisis. The Holy Spirit was obviously guiding you all with this new system as it seemed flawless, from our end. It might have been the proverbial swan paddling away under the water but it appeared like you’d always done things this way.”—Parent of Year 1 and 9 students.

These are just a handful of the responses from parents toward our Adventist schools in Australia. Under these trying circumstances, our school communities could have easily descended into gloom and doom, but instead it’s been a time of Zoom and boom, all thanks to the efforts of our sensational army of educators.

To our school administrations, teachers and chaplains, we tip our school hats and praise the Lord for you. May the Spirit continue to provide you with the wisdom, discernment, strength and courage to carry out the work He has called you to do.


Pastor Murray Hunter is media project officer at the Australian Union Conference (AUC).