by Al Williams
Five years of service in South Canterbury will come to an end early next year for Timaru Salvation Army majors Murray and Wendy Sanson. The couple will move to Waihi in the North Island in January to take up a similar post with the Salvation Army.
The Sansons have overseen big projects during their time in Timaru, including the construction of a $500,000 family shop at the church site at the intersection of Wai-iti and Otipua Rds; the conversion of the former family store to a community ministries and service centre; and the restructuring of counselling services in Timaru.
Mr Sanson has been outspoken during his time in South Canterbury, often commenting on social issues and welfare matters. The Salvation Army in Timaru stepped in when counselling services faced closure in 2015.
At the time, Mr Sanson said the end of courses such as Highway 2, a programme for boys that was administered under the South Canterbury Violence Intervention Project, would come at a massive cost to the community.
He went into talks with various agencies in a combined effort to counter the effect of funding cuts after a major provider of counselling services nationwide, Relationships Aotearoa, was forced to close.
Within two months, the army had stepped in and picked up funding of counselling services in South Canterbury.
Speaking to The Courier this week, Mr and Mrs Sanson said the community had provided them with huge support during their five years here.
“We have been blessed to have been in Timaru because public support has been huge,” Mr Sanson said.
“The ministry has grown with the building of a new store, converting the old family store into a new community ministries centre [and the setting up of] the Salvation Army Bridge Programme, rural pathways programmes in Waimate and Geraldine, night meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous and the counselling services,” he said.
Mrs Sanson said she had noticed that needs in the town had become “more in-depth and more complex” over the five-year period.
“It’s bigger than a lot of things – it’s about positive lifestyle. It’s been an extra opportunity to engage with people – God has been at work,” she said.
The Sansons have served with the Salvation Army in Wellington, Westport, Paeroa and Alexandra.
The transition to Waihi would be relatively easy as it was within their former catchment, they said.
Salvation Army lieutenants Emma and Jacob Howan Jacob Howan scheduled to take over the Timaru operation on January 12.
The couple are both longstanding Salvation Army members, Mrs Howan with the Wanganui Corps and Mr Howan with the Wellington South Corps. Both gained tertiary qualifications and spent several years working in Wellington before entering training with the Salvation Army.
“As we now complete our training and look forward to commissioning and joining you all in Timaru, we feel both excited and humbled that we can come and serve with you,” Mr Howan said.