Staines Memorial College: Where Graham's spirit lives on
GRAHAM Staines' horrific death is not talked about much at Staines Memorial College, but his spirit lives on in the ethos of a school with a mantra of taking in families just as they are.
The college at Redbank Plains has surged to more than 600 students from a staggering 46 nationalities from Africa to India where Graham and his two young sons Philip and Timothy were burnt alive by Hindu extremists.
For principal Norton Sands, the culture of the college is built on the love of Christ - and accepting people from all walks of life, including those from other religions.
Graham's widow Gladys Staines, who grew up around Ipswich, visits the college from her Townsville home each year, sharing with the students the ongoing work in India helping lepers which her husband was involved in for more than three decades.
For some of the students, the horror of what happened to Mr Staines is not foreign to them. Some have come from African backgrounds where their own parents have been killed.
Mr Norton says he is continually struck by the humility of Gladys Staines who is a living example of the scripture in Micah 6 verse 8. ""What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
"She hates any big attention being drawn to herself,'' Mr Norton said.
When she speaks, however, she has a huge impact on the students who are invited to ask questions of her in an open forum.
For their part, Staines students raise money to buy chicken and goats to help feed families being cared for at the leprosy home in India. Teams of students are also travelling to Nepal for mission trips.
Mr Norton has been continually amazed by the strength of Mrs Staines in dealing with the pain of what happened to her family.
"She is a very stoic, pragmatic sort of person. If something needs to be done, she just gets on and does it.''
Mr Norton says he personally believes God never wanted Mr Staines and his children to die in such a horrible way, but believes God 'works all things together for good'.
Mrs Staines' forgiveness of those responsible had led to many Indians coming to a personal faith in Jesus, including more than half of those charged over the deaths, he said.
"We certainly talk about suffering because it's a part of our college.
"We have had children in our school who have seen their parents killed in front of them.''
"We ask 'How can we turn something bad into something good?"
"Let's do what we can to make things better.''
For Gladys Staines that has included continuing the work of her husband.
While she testified against the men to gain justice for her husband, she also publicly forgave them.
"Six of the nine have since become Christians,'' Mr Norton said.
"They have been shown by Gladys that there is a better way.''
While students at the college have come from a wide variety of backgrounds, Mr Norton believes it is important they learn Australian culture and norms.
A community hub has been established with federal funding to help families assimilate, learn English and gain employment.
Students and families are taught they are loved by God and that He has a plan for their lives.
While only a third of those coming are from church backgrounds, that number rises considerably as they see the college's Christian ethos in action.
Mr Norton admits he gets emotional when he sees the lives of young people being turned around in a college which celebrates the fact that 'we are all Australians'.