by Lisa McIntosh

Serving as a missionary overseas is something Pastor Murray Smith never thought he would do. But then God’s call on our lives can often surprise.

Because that’s exactly what Pastor Murray and his wife Tracy are preparing for, after his call to serve as a lecturer at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea’s Senior Flierl Seminary at Logaweng, near Finschhafen, for three years. They plan to move to PNG in mid-November, to allow time for quarantining and orientation before Pastor Murray starts teaching next year.

‘I came into ministry late, and I guess my view of ministry was being ordained to serve in parish ministry and I thought that was what it would always entail’, says Pastor Murray, who worked in agriculture, floriculture and horticulture at Bowhill in South Australia’s Murraylands before God led him to ordained ministry. He has served parishes at Chinchilla in Queensland and at Bordertown in SA, where he also treasured a role as chaplain to an Australian Men’s Shed group.

Among their preparations for PNG, the Smiths have been completing online LCA training in Biblical Reconciliation, one of the subjects Pastor Murray will teach.

Neither has been to PNG but the prospect of engaging with and serving alongside people of a different culture excites them.

‘For me, it will be exciting to engage with the culture and all that means – the spirituality most of all and the lifestyle’, he says. ‘The only real engagement I’ve had with a cross-cultural setting was in Central Australia on a bush course [run by Australian Lutheran College with Aboriginal Lutheran leaders]. I enjoyed that enormously. Also, during my time in training for ministry at ALC, I was privileged to spend time with three pastors from PNG, including Pastor Hans Giegere, whom I had hoped to visit someday. In 2019 the Bordertown Parish also hosted two Indonesian pastors.’

Tracy, who visited Debora Orphanage in Indonesia through LCA International Mission five years ago and travelled to Korea as a representative for SA Flower Growers, is also looking forward to a new cultural experience. ‘What was mind-blowing in Indonesia was how they expressed their love for Christ’, she says. ‘To be able to go to another culture and to worship with them is life-changing. And this time it’s not just spending time with people, it’s living with them and learning what’s important to them.’

While pastoral ministry involves teaching in many forms, Pastor Murray has not served as a lecturer before – something he views as probably his ‘biggest personal challenge’ in the move.

For Tracy, who has worked in various roles, as well as supporting Pastor Murray in his ministry and serving in community groups and on Lutheran Women’s district executives, being separated from family will be a challenge. ‘In faith, we’re going from our comforts, from the known into the unknown, leaving family, kids and grandkids behind’, she says. ‘But what I keep coming back to is that God will never put upon us more than we can bear. And part of the excitement is not knowing where you’re going to fit but, at the end of the day, seeing what God’s plan is.’

Already a subscriber? Click here to login and read this article.
Not a subscriber? Click here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full