Help people to help others

Andy Coller, QLD Representative for Baptist World Aid

Andy Coller, BST Alumnus and QLD Representative for Baptist World Aid

I was fifteen when I preached my first message at a youth exchange (where two church youth groups attend each other’s church and take the service). I grew up in a Christian family where my grandfather was a minister at the local Methodist church and my father was a lay preacher.

Now more than forty years later, I’m loving my role as the Queensland State Representative for Baptist World Aid Australia. I get to travel across Queensland and Northern New South Wales sharing with Christians the opportunities to bless the lives of people not only through gospel witness but also in alleviating poverty and improving the quality of life of children who would otherwise struggle to access education and essentials like food and water.

If I could give you a snapshot of my typical week it would be this: drinking copious amounts of coffee with pastors during the week and on the weekends, preaching, and sharing about the work of Baptist World Aid. This means that I spend a lot of time travelling, being away from my family and my home church.

It can be a lonely role as I am the sole representative for Baptist World Aid here in Queensland. Despite some of the challenges of the role, I have the incredible support of the senior ministry of the Queensland Baptist Union where I am based at their office in Mitchelton. This year I celebrate ten years with Baptist World Aid. Though my title has changed over the years, essentially my role is the same: engaging with Christians and educating them about the opportunities to help people and communities around the world.

I find that people can be so incredibly generous when their eyes are opened to the opportunities to help. I met one lady who was living in an aged care facility. She gave me $2 in five cent pieces. Now for most working people that wouldn’t seem all that much, but in the context of this lady’s financial situation, I was blown away. She was a pensioner with eighty-five per cent of her income going directly to her aged care accommodation, and only fifteen per cent available for her personal expenses. So for me, $2 was so generous for someone who didn’t have that much to give.

I enjoy seeing the lights go on people’s faces when they understand that helping people physically is as much part of the gospel – word and deed working together. And it’s all for Jesus’ sake!

The path to where I am today was not always straightforward. After leaving home at the age of 17 to live and work in the “Big Smoke” (Brisbane was a big City compared to our little dairy farming community in Rosewood), I was confronted by the culture and all the different temptations like partying too much. After a while I learned that hangovers really weren’t that much fun. God was relentless in pursuing me. His grace and mercy had been working in my life to get me back on track, and I’m thankful that God has never given up.

It was in 1990 that I attended International Outlook (a missions’ conference that was hosted in Mt Tamborine) with my wife Julie. It was a good excuse for a weekend away from the children and the opportunity to hear Bible talks. During one of the talks, the guest speaker challenged us about the call to do more for God. At the time I had been working for Telstra as a technician for 14 years and part of a church family in Bundaberg. The conference weekend was a pivotal point that really challenged my wife and I to serve God more with our lives.

So in 1991 I enrolled at Brisbane School of Theology for the Diploma of Ministries and later upgraded to the Bachelor. Looking back, I sensed from a young age that I would follow in the footsteps of my father and grandfather and be a preacher. As an accredited pastor with the Queensland Baptist Union, I love that I get to integrate my Bible college and ministry training with what I am doing at Baptist World Aid today.