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Q&A with St John’s, Nambour Nominator and Liturgical Assistant and grandmother, Jesma O’Hara

Spotlight Q&A

Meet Jesma O’Hara from our Northern Region and find out about her faith journey, which historical Christian figure inspires her the most and why, the kindest gesture she has witnessed and what she does in her free time

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Jesma O’Hara and her husband John live on the Sunshine Coast. Jesma is active in her parish and community, and enjoys exercising and reading.

Where do you currently live and where do you worship?

My husband John and I live In Nambour on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. We have worshiped at St John’s Anglican Church in Nambour for the past six years.

“My husband John and I by the Sea of Galilee on a study tour in April 2019” (Jesma O’Hara)

How long have you been involved in the Anglican Church and in what roles?

John and I were both raised in the Anglican Church at St Matthew’s, Sherwood in Brisbane (me) and Christ Church, Claremont in Perth (John). My mother’s ancestors were with the first party of Anglican missionaries who accompanied Samuel Marsden to New Zealand’s Bay of Islands in 1814, attending the first service on Christmas Day of that year. John’s family worshipped at All Saints’, Anglican Church in Maymyo in Myanmar until they migrated to Australia following the Second World War.

What is your current role and what does your role involve?

I have served as a Warden, Parish Councillor, Liturgical Assistant, lay preacher and Nominator, also writing articles for the church Font magazine and sharing at women’s high teas and leading a monthly prayer meeting.

My husband John has served as Parish Councillor, Churchwarden and Treasurer.

We believe that as Christians we are called to ‘value add’ to both the Church and the broader community and so are involved in other community-based organisations, trying to be a Gospel presence in the community.

“Some members of St John’s Anglican Church, Nambour and me (front, second from right) in Jaffa on a study tour in April 2019”

What Anglican Church projects and activities are you currently working on?

John is currently church warden and treasurer and I am a nominator. As parents of five children and grandparents of four, we have been asked to be involved in a monthly family service leading discussion groups on parenting.

Our focus in terms of the Church’s mission is to see God’s Kingdom expanded and touching lives, transforming them and our local communities.

“John and I celebrated our youngest daughter’s 40th birthday in New Farm in March 2020 with our large extended family” (Jesma O’Hara)

What have been the highlights of your roles so far?

I enjoy writing articles for our church magazine and doing Bible teaching whenever I get the opportunity, communicating Biblical truths in ways that people can understand.

What have been the key challenges of your roles so far and how have you worked through these?

Because our day-to-day work involves initiatives supporting people in the Majority World with great needs, I do sometimes struggle with some of the things that take up so much time and energy in our Western churches. I try to sort out the difference between what is important and what is urgent in order to use my time effectively.

Can you tell us a little about your personal faith journey?

We left our faith in our teens and, with a number of our friends, had encounters with Jesus while we were living in an alternative community at the back of the Sunshine Coast during the 1970s. The Bible has always played a very important part in my life and I have read and studied it every day since then.

What is your favourite scripture and why?

“The LORD! The LORD! Merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in grace and truth, forgiving offences” Exodus 34.6. This scripture describes God’s character and so it is my daily goal to reflect those attributes in all I do and say.

What person of faith inspires you the most and why?

I am inspired by my husband’s ancestor William Carey who lived in the 18th and early 19th centuries. He left England with his family and established a work in Bengal. The Christian College he and his team started in 1814 is still operating today. He and his team established 100 free village schools for children who were living in poverty.

What are the primary strengths of the Church and what is the best way to make the most of these for the benefit of our communities?

The message of the Gospel in Jesus is a beacon of hope and stability in rapidly changing times when many people are afraid and have no anchor in their lives. We can encourage the Church’s members to share the reality of a relationship with Jesus in their own lives.

What are the primary challenges currently encountered by the Church and what is the best way to overcome these for the benefit of our communities?

Following the COVID-19 lockdowns it has been difficult to reconnect with a lot of the younger families and provide meaningful ways for them and their children to engage with the worship services with mostly older congregants who prefer more traditional liturgy and songs. We need to be welcoming, supportive communities willing to embrace change.

What is the kindest gesture you have ever received or witnessed?

The generosity of spirit of the people in Africa and India we work with who possess little in the way of material means who willingly and joyfully share whatever they do have with others who have even less. Seeing people open their homes and share their food with anyone who has a need constantly inspires me.

“My husband John and I on a trip to Malawi in 2018” (Jesma O’Hara)

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and who gave you this advice?

It’s actually a quote from a book I read describing someone who took God so seriously that he didn’t take himself seriously at all!

What do you do in your free time to recharge and relax?

We love to go for walks at the beach or in the country, catch up with our family and friends and enjoy sharing a meal with them. I also love to read non-fiction and Biblical works. We also regularly attend exercise classes to keep ourselves fit and healthy so we can continue to be involved as we get older.

“This was taken in April 2021 at our townhouse in Nambour, where I am reading Michelle Obama’s inspirational book about her life from her early years growing up in a poor Chicago neighbourhood to becoming the first African American First Lady of the United States” (Jesma O’Hara)

What book have you given away most as a gift and why?

I have given Lessons in Leadership by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks to Christian leaders all over the world. It is based on the Pentateuch (The Torah) and is a practical guide to the character traits of leaders like Abraham and Moses.

Where do you do your best thinking?

Early in the morning when no-one else in the house is up.

What’s your best childhood memory?

My father died suddenly when I was 10, so my best childhood memory is of family picnics with my older brothers and sisters, and a large number of aunts, uncles and cousins.

What day would you like to re-live and why?

I prefer to look forward to the future rather than re-live the past. My husband is a survivor of stage 4 cancer so for us every day is a gift that we are grateful for.

“Men from St John’s, Nambour had a ‘shave-in’ after church to support John’s hair loss during cancer treatment” (Jesma O’Hara)

If you are having a bad day, what do you do to cheer yourself up?

Think about how many blessings I have and ask myself what I can learn from the circumstances I’m facing.

What makes you nostalgic and why?

We oversee educational projects in the Majority World and have missed been able to visit our project partners since 2019 because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. Catching up via Zoom makes me nostalgic for all of our wonderful friends around the world facing great challenges and not being able to be there to support them in person.

What’s your unanswerable question – the question you are always asking yourself?

Life is a gift from God. I’m constantly asking myself how I can use my life more effectively as my gift back to Him.

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