Sustained by faith, hope and love

Rev Nalin Perera, Chaplain at Wesley College shares his reflections on faith, hope and love through the journey of life.

Throughout my adult life journey I have discovered with each passing year that life, first and foremost, is a journey of hope, with its twin companion, faith. Ultimately, by necessity, life has to also be a journey of love, otherwise it will lack depth and any real sense of purpose.

In the early weeks of January, I was struck down by a mystery illness, so serious that I was rushed to hospital and admitted to intensive care.

My family were prepared that my condition could  indeed prove fatal. I had been struck down out of nowhere and I was truly frightened. In my dark moments, I was forced to look back upon my life, wondering if I had been faithful to my calling as a minister; whether I had been a good husband and father; whether I had caused anyone irreparable harm. The list kept on growing.

At the same time, I was so fearful of what might eventuate, I was surrounded by the unique skills of medical staff, who probed and pondered until they knew precisely what they were dealing with.  I received unbelievable medical assistance, while total strangers, whom I will never meet, supplied the blood I needed for several transfusions.

In the midst of all this, I knew I was being sustained in prayer, along with practical support for my family, by friends and by the wonderful community at Wesley College.

Literally, from death’s door I began to rapidly recover, almost as quickly as the manner in which I fell ill. It was truly remarkable, indeed a miracle. So strongly did my health return, I was able to  resume my duties as Wesley College Chaplain, albeit with lots of caveats from concerned colleagues and friends about not overdoing it, with my first public act of 2019 leading the Commissioning Service for Wesley College’s new Headmaster, Ross Barron.

What an inspiring occasion it was!

Ross’ speech at his commissioning still has everyone talking. Staff, students and families alike had tears in their eyes as we heard of a young and vulnerable student, being taken under the wing of a caring teacher who believed in the person she was entrusted to teach.

The highlight was that after 40 years of trying to find the teacher who gave him so much, Ross was able to welcome Aurora Stefani into the Wesley College family at his commissioning and publicly thank her for the diligence of her endeavour. As the familiar Paul Kelly lyrics go, in a song so pivotal to the early Indigenous land rights struggle, ‘From little things big things grow…’

Until this year, I was comfortable with my life and felt a true sense of belonging within the Wesley College community. Then suddenly, as if from nowhere, it could have all been snatched away from me by illness, if not death. I now feel like a new person given a second lease on life and I am excited for what we can do together in this place.

My prayer for the whole community is that we value more than ever the gift we have been given.  It should not have to come within a hair’s breadth of losing one’s life, as I have discovered, to be able to fully appreciate the twin companions of hope and faith that sustain us, undergirded always by love.

We have all been given a wonderful opportunity to pursue lives of service and commitment. Let none of us be found wanting.

Nalin Perera

This article first appeared in The Wesleyan, the publication of Perth’s Wesley College, a Uniting Church WA school.

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