Of all their posts, leaving Waihi will be hardest for Salvation Army captains Murray and Wendy Sanson.
The officers — a staple in the community — are leaving Waihi after fiveyears to take up a similar, larger-scale role in Invercargill on January 3.
''Saying goodbye will be the toughest thing and this is going to be hardest shift for us in the sense of the core family we have built up here and the connections we have made. They have been lovely,'' Murray says. ''It's those mixed emotions of heading home but leaving behind.''
They are originally from the South Island — Wendy grew up in Dunedin and Murray is from Milton.
Wendy grew up with the Salvation Army and had been a Christian from childhood.
They met as teenagers on a bus during a youth group outing.
''You probably couldn't get away with it these days,'' Murray says, ''but there were less seats than there were people.''
Wendy ended up siting on Murray's lap. Their romance blossomed and they've been married 35 years.
When they married, Murray was a builder and Wendy had started a banking career. But Wendy always intended to be in the full-time ministry.
''I knew God's call on my life. Murray and I had been going out a while and I told him and then it was up to God to talk to him. He fought it off bravely but God was at work and — boom.''
The two have been Salvation Army officers for close to 25 years. They started as church members helping with camps and in youth councils before they trained.
''God laid it on our hearts that we needed to be more than just leaders in a small area and step up to be officers in the Salvation Army,'' Murray says.
They've moved from post to post — two years training in Upper Hutt, their first appointment in Westport, Paeroa, Alexandra, Timaru and then Waihi. Each appointment has lasted approximately five years and they go where they are needed, Murray says.
The pair are ''foremostly ministers'.'
''So we do the hatch, match and dispatch... but seriously, it is leading our people with a faith-based Christian focus. We have about 50 people at church every Sunday.''
Their job has an advocacy element; they help those in need and run the local foodbank.
They also run a positive lifestyle programme helping to build up those dealing with depression, anger and grief.
They are supported by Waihi Salvation Army Family Store.
"When we have a client come in that is in desperate need we can tap into the resource that we have, and the community is incredibly generous in Waihi. They have really supported us."
Invercargill has a bigger population so they'll be doing the same sort of thing, plus emergency housing, on a larger level.
''Our journey with seeing people who have had their lives disrupted and broken, to see the change in their lives when they have become whole again. That is a the true joy of ministry to see lives changed for good.''
The new build
Locals may have noticed Waihi Salvation Army undergoing major construction.
What was supposed to be a re-clad has ballooned into a total rebuild for the old building on Seddon St.
The new build will include a bigger and better foodbank out the back. They'll be able to better stack and organise the area better, Murray says.
The build is expected to finish around Christmas.
Christmas is just around the corner and 'tis the season to prepare for the Christmas Cheer campaign.
Every year Wendy, Murray and Salvation Army volunteers put a massive amount of time into organising Christmas hampers for those in need.
The hampers include basic food necessities with some treats and all children receive a toy.
They're taking donations of toys and non-perishable food from now. Murray asks that toys be new and unwrapped so parents can see what they are giving their children and are involved in the gift-giving process.
The usual amount of hampers given each year is 70. Last year that number rose to just over 100 and they're expecting the same sort of numbers this year.
''We put that down to Covid-19 and the pressure that families are under at the moment.
"Some have had their hours cut, some have lost their jobs and when you are home for longer — it stretches the money.
''It's not just those on a benefit either that are struggling, it's those on low hours and low income.''
INFO + www.salvationarmy.org.nz/centres/nz/waikato/waihi or phone 863 7812.