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8 August 2022
Captain Philip Sutcliffe is community-focused as he and his family serve those in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, in both the good times and the tough.
Supporting those impacted by devastating floods
Over the coming months, Salvos Magazine will feature different people from all walks of life who are part of the varied work of the Salvos across the country. Below we feature Salvation Army officer (pastor) Captain Philip Sutcliffe, who, with Captain Donna Sutcliffe, oversee the work of the Northern Rivers Salvos. This NSW region experienced a series of devastating floods earlier this year, and a large part of the Sutcliffes’ work involves responding to the long-term needs of locals impacted by disasters.
Can you give us an overview of your job?
My wife Donna and I look after everything branded with a Salvo logo in the Northern Rivers area [of NSW]. This includes the church and its programs in Lismore and family stores from Ballina to Byron Bay. Our role is to lead the way and connect with the community.
What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at work?
I usually check in with the teams in the church building. I like to check my emails at my desk because I tend not to respond if I check them on my phone.
What can a typical day involve for you?
If in the office, we connect with the programs running that day and with other groups who now use our space because theirs was damaged in the floods. I check in with our volunteers and travel to our various family stores, some of which are an hour away. We might have emergency relief in the afternoon, so I like to connect with those accessing our services. There is a lot of on-the-ground work and interacting with people and connecting. Wherever I go I like to drive our Salvo-branded vehicle to show the community we are around and doing what we can. I regularly go for a walk through the CBD to just chat, listen and be available. This is a really important part of what we do, especially since the floods because so many people and local businesses need that support.
What’s the most challenging part of your work?
Unfortunately, there is an ever-increasing need for Salvo services everywhere. As a result, funding is spread out, is harder to access and hinders our work. It’s getting increasingly hard to get donations from the community because so many people are just struggling to survive financially because of flood devastation.
What’s the most rewarding?
It is interacting and being involved in people’s lives – from being with someone in their final moments to celebrating a newborn baby. I enjoy the variety because everyone is different. It’s a privilege to be involved in people’s lives.
How has COVID-19 affected how your work?
This had a massive impact on our ability to be out in the community and on donations. But we have been able to do lots of things we wouldn’t have been doing without the COVID restrictions, for example, developing an online presence, which has reconnected the Salvos with those disengaged from church.
What drives/motivates you to get up each day and go to work?
We have the opportunity to bring positive change into the community. The Salvation Army logo allows us to sit at the table that others don’t get to do. One of the biggest encouragements from the recent floods is seeing how the churches at large in our affected communities come together and show the unconditional love of Jesus to people. The usual differences are pushed aside to respond in love by doing what the Church should do best – help a hurting community.
How do you see your work achieving the mission of the Salvos to transform lives?
Every single day we get to see transformation happen in people’s lives. Sure, we can do the physical things, but the biggest impact is being available for others because so many don’t have someone there for them. Genuine interest leads to transformation.
How does self-care fit into your ministry?
It is always tricky for me. Being quite a driven person, I want to see things happen quickly. I know we are just at the beginning of the flood recovery process for our communities, and I understand it will be a long, slow process and this is mentally draining. Everyone is affected because so many places are destroyed. For example, places we used to go to de-stress aren’t useable at the moment. I try to remember that it’s a marathon and not a sprint and to pace ourselves. It is difficult to take a break while others are in the middle of so much hurt, but I want to be at my best, so I know need to take care of myself.