by Helen Beringen
Some people just get on and do. No fuss, they just find a place where they can quietly help out.
For one such septuagenarian, Annette Wessling, it has been a case of finding not one but several places to lend a helping hand and a listening ear.
But through this quiet service, Annette feels strongly that she gets more than she gives – the joy of being around people, a sense of appreciation and a sense of belonging.
Just ask the folks at the Lutheran Media office in North Adelaide, where she has volunteered for almost 17 years. Her helping hands have stuffed many an envelope, packaged up CDs and bundled brochures to mail out to congregations.
Annette’s stewardship gives her purpose. ‘I enjoy everything, and they tell me I am doing a good job and it makes me feel really appreciated’, she says.
She has seen much change in Lutheran Media’s outreach methods over her weekly Monday visits, from a focus on large mail-outs of booklets to online resources and social media channels.
‘I have been astounded at the difference over the years in how they reach people’, Annette says.
Annette started volunteering with the team when she was asked by a fellow church member at Bethlehem, in Adelaide’s city, to help with a mail-out to supporters.
And she’s been doing it ever since, travelling by bus, as she doesn’t drive. She even walked to her weekly shift once, from her suburban home in Fullarton, about 7 kilometres away. Leaving home at 7.30am, she arrived at 9am after taking a lovely stroll through the Adelaide Botanical Gardens on the way.
Annette feels at home doing office work, which had been her career throughout her adult life.
‘Most of my stuff is behind the scenes and I am happier being a “washer-upper”’, she says. ‘I love being around people, but I am not a good talker, I just like to belong.’
Annette also loves to volunteer at Fullarton Lutheran Homes, in Adelaide’s inner south-eastern suburbs. This stems from an almost 20-year association with the residential aged-care facility, which began on her arrival from Brisbane as a newlywed to her husband of 47 years, Besil.
Annette landed a job at Fullarton on arrival, a job she describes as ‘the most amazing place to work’. ‘That’s why I like to go there, as they were just so generous to me’, she says.
‘I had some wonderful women who looked after me so well’, she recalls of her 19 years there, which include working part-time while bringing up her young family of three children.
Fullarton was an early adopter of the work-from-home practices now normalised in the COVID-era. In 1978 when she was due to have her first child, Elise, they installed their electronic accounting machine in her house (it was the days before home computers were common), so that she could work from home.
‘I have been very blessed to work in Lutheran institutions and God’s love has shone through that institution to me’, Annette says.
Now twice a month on a Wednesday, she volunteers at Fullarton’s coffee shop which provides an opportunity for residents to meet socially. The shop also displays craft that is sold for fundraising.
Annette’s also a member of one of the craft groups that makes the items each Tuesday morning, where residents are also invited to join them for a cuppa and a chat.
That’s one of the outlets for Annette’s passion for knitting. ‘I am learning patchwork and crochet, but I am a knitter first and foremost’, she shares.
‘Anything about knitting I could talk the leg off an iron pot, but when it comes to talking to someone about my faith, I get so tongue-tied I’d probably end up in a knot’, she shares. ‘I was never good at talking … but I can listen to people.
‘If I stayed at home, I would probably mope about, but if I can keep getting out and meeting with other people, then I don’t get down in the dumps.’
And amongst all the busyness, Annette takes comfort from her favourite Bible verse, Psalm 46:10 – ‘Be still and know that I am God’.
‘It makes me stop and think that God’s in control and I am not, and I have to let him take me where he wants to take me.’