Chaplain starting a new chapter in Townsville

“It was time,” is Andrew Bollom’s explanation as to why his family moved from his home in Australia’s biggest city to regional Queensland.

Without a job secured or a specific destination in mind, this family left their pastoral roles in Sydney and headed north – far north – with their infant daughter.

“Five years ago, I had an encounter with God where I had a vision and a sense in my heart that the Holy Spirit was leading my family to minister in and live in North Queensland,” Andrew explains.

“I knew no one there; it was purely something God just dropped on my heart.

“I began visiting an Aboriginal community called Yarrabah near Cairns twice a year. My wife Emma visited and she also sensed the same call and then we prayed and sat on that with God for five years while pastoring in Sydney.

“Then we felt it was time to move north. We knew we wanted to live somewhere a little more regional and remote to partner with local churches.

“We didn’t know what it would be like, we didn’t know where we would live or what job or what ministry would emerge, but we were unified as a marriage that this was His plan.

“Then God led us through the door of Shalom.”

The Shalom way

Andrew is the new chaplain at Shalom Christian College in Townsville, Carinity’s newest school which specialises in education for children from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

Saved from closure by Carinity, the school is flourishing after re-opening last year. Enrolment has increased 35% to more than 100 students from Prep to Year 8 for 2020.

The co-educational school provides a culturally safe and supportive learning environment for students and a range of extra support services focused on assisting families and maintaining the health and well-being of students.

This includes providing daily breakfast for students and buses to and from school, and running programs to develop proactive student behaviours and build positive relationships within their community.

“We are committed to providing an inclusive approach to education and improving the academic, spiritual and cultural outcomes for all students in our care,” Shalom Christian College Principal Sharyn Ive says.

Sharyn is proud that Shalom Christian College has helped students develop into positive role models for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Past students include hip-hop musician and 2019 Young Australian of the Year, Danzel Baker, known as Baker Boy.

“At Shalom Christian College we’re not just about students achieving academic goals – it’s about them achieving all their goals,” Sharyn says.

Supporting Indigenous youth

Andrew Bollom is also dedicated to supporting Indigenous youth and families, partly inspired by the needs in regional Australia and abroad.

“I was really fortunate growing up in a church that had a real heart for going to places further in Australia and also the Solomon Islands, and have done a few trips there and seen the power of ministering outside of your context,” he says.

“A key seed that was planted in my heart was during a trip to the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys when I was 16 years old and that was the first time I had seen a huge gap in opportunity, access to services and living for our First Nation people in Australia.

“I felt something in my heart that I wanted to pour part of my life into helping, encouraging and supporting the people that God had given this land to thousands and thousands of years ago.”

Having adjusted to the Townsville heat during “the fire of summer”, Andrew is enjoying the “great diversity” and “really wide spread of people and cultures and nations” in the city.

He has been inspired by “the level of passion and focus” in the principal, staff and teachers at Shalom Christian College.

“The devotion to the students and the attention and the support and encouragement these kids get is really unique and really special,” Andrew says.

“I’ve been blown away… by the real devotion to see as much opportunity given to these students to be encouraged and to form confidence and to learn.

“I’ve been really encouraged to be part of a school that’s committed to really helping local Indigenous families and communities have the best chance they can.

“And to work in such a place and represent Jesus is a real privilege and answer to prayer.”

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