Rev Mitch Fialkowski was inducted in Meekatharra as Patrol Minister, or ‘Bush Chaplain’, in the Remote Area Ministry Murchison Patrol in December.
Mitch has been working in the region for around five years with Frontier Services. His role was previously under the umbrella of the National Assembly of the Uniting Church, however recent changes at Frontier Services mean Mitch’s role is now within the Uniting Church WA, and is supported by fundraising though Frontier Services.
Rev Steve Francis, Moderator of the Uniting Church WA, and Rev David de Kock, General Secretary, travelled up to Meekatharra for the service, where Steve preached. Rev John Dihm, Remote Area Minister based in Tom Price, made the seven and a half hour drive to Meekatharra to attend the service and present Mitch with a beautiful stole.
Meekatharra, a town in the Mid-West Region of WA, has a population of around 800 people – 47% of whom are Indigenous. Mitch provides pastoral and practical support to people living within the town and in remote stations in the region. He said while each day is different, he tries to always be prepared for the unknown.
“There’s a lot of things that happen on a daily basis, but they’re unexpected, so you’ve got to be ready to be flexible on how to respond,” he said.
Mitch often assists locals with food parcels and even with furniture. He is a well-loved and well-known bloke about town, making it easier to collect food donations from businesses. Over the recent Christmas period, Mitch’s connection with a local butcher meant he had a supply of meat which could be distributed to families during the holiday.
Furniture is often donated by Uniting Church members from Perth when they downsize, which he picks up on his trips down to the city every now and then.
As the Christian community in the area is quite small, Mitch also works ecumenically and regularly offers accommodation to Christian groups who come through town or help out at the church. At the local Uniting Church, services are casual; Mitch will be available to those who turn up on a Sunday, and if numbers are small he’ll stick around for a coffee.
Within the local community, he also volunteers with the St John Ambulance Service, the local recycling committee and radio station, Meeka FM. The radio station also reaches out to the local school, where during a collaborative project, a classroom with usually around two or three children turning up had six children in attendance.
“I try to get the school involved in it with the children making little [clips], the kids have a giggle and that. It’s trying to get the kids to have confidence in themselves because if they speak on the radio that means they’ll have more confidence when they speak to people outside,” he said.
While he said it can often be a lonely job, Mitch loves how hands-on his ministry can be. Working as a Patrol Minister in remote areas means he can build relationships, build community and provide practical care to people who need it.
“I’ve had this thing that wherever I go I make it my home. I don’t say ‘oh on the long weekend I’ll go back home to Perth.’ Meekatharra is home,” he said.
Mitch spends a lot of time in ministry listening and giving pastoral care to people who need a friendly and neutral ear.
“Some ministers will read a lot, write a lot. Others, like myself, can talk a lot and do things a lot. My strength is hands-on stuff.
“I just enjoy it really. You don’t have a lot of creature comforts, but I tell you what, thank God for airconditioning.”
For more information and to donate to Frontier Services visit www.frontierservices.org.