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Last month Walk My Way Barossa brought 650 walkers together for a common cause – helping to build a brighter, more hopeful future for refugee children through education. We asked Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS) Community Action Manager Jonathan Krause to share with us how Walk My Way is scattering the light of hope.

by Jonathan Krause

Walk My Way was born inside a refugee camp in the desert in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa in 2016.

A group of teachers from Lutheran schools in Australia was there on an ALWS leadership tour. They met people who had lost everything. They saw a bare block of land that in six months our Australian Lutheran family would turn into a school for 2000 children through a partnership with the European Union.

They met Kalsuma, a refugee for 16 years, who fled the war that destroyed her home and farm in Somalia. ‘We welcome you with open hearts. We have not before seen visitors like you, interested in education’, she said. ‘We really appreciate that you put aside all your things and come to be with us. It seems to me an illiterate person is like a person who is blind. We who are parents see education as the light. We need that light of education to scatter. We are thanking all those who support education. Please keep telling our story to your people.’

One of the teachers from that leadership tour was so inspired, that they decided to walk from Melbourne to Adelaide to raise money to help refugee children go to school. When the logistics of that proved too difficult, ALWS instead created a walk down the Adelaide Hills from Hahndorf, following the trail taken by pioneer Lutheran women in the 1840s. The trail was 26 kilometres long, which ‘matched’ the average cost of supporting a refugee child in school for a year – $26.

So, Walk My Way was on the way.

That refugee camp in Djibouti and those at Kakuma in Kenya where our Lutheran church works through ALWS, are a long way from South Australia’s Barossa Valley, which was host to this year’s Walk My Way. And the original hope for the first Walk My Way in 2017, that perhaps 50 people might be persuaded to take up the challenge to walk 26 kilometres, is a lot different from the 650 people who walked on Saturday 1 May.

Yet, for me, being both in that refugee camp in Djibouti and at Walk My Way in the Barossa Valley, there are many things that intersect.

First, when people arrive in a refugee camp, our Lutheran-supported team welcomes them with a friendly face and three good meals a day.

ALWS aimed to do this at Walk My Way too – with a donated big box Barossa brekkie, a sausage sizzle lunch and ‘Made-It’ munchies at the finish line at St Jakobi Lutheran School Lyndoch.

Second, Walk My Way welcomes everyone, and especially celebrates the gifts of those the world sometimes overlooks – those who are senior, young children, those with a disability.

This is what happens in the refugee camps too, where our ALWS family works hard to make sure no-one is forgotten, and those who may be overlooked or ignored are instead welcomed with open arms, just as Jesus asks of us in Matthew 25:40.

Third, Walk My Way has the simple goal of supporting refugee children to go to school – like 14-year-old Sebit, who says: ‘When I am in school, I forget that I am a refugee.’

Of course, throughout our Lutheran history in Australia, we have known the importance of a values-rich education. The 40,000 students in Lutheran schools parallels the thousands of refugee and displaced children who receive a Lutheran-supported education in places like South Sudan, Somalia and the refugee camps at Kakuma.

Fourth, Walk My Way asks people to take on a challenge, to do something hard, in order to make a difference for others.

In this, we seek to echo the courage and commitment of parents who carry their children out of warzones in the hope that they may find safety, and perhaps even the hope an education can bring.

At the Barossa Valley Walk My Way, I spent some time at the 24-kilometre mark with my 85-year-old dad, Colin, and his four-legged best friend Oscar, as they directed weary walkers across the road. By 4pm, all but two of our 650 walkers had completed their walk.

Thirty minutes passed. Not a walker in sight.

Then, two figures appeared in the distance.

Slowly they stumble-walked toward us, clearly exhausted.

Sharon is a retired nurse, Fiona a farmer. They told us that cars had slowed regularly to offer them a lift. Each time they said no. ‘We want to do the full 26 kilometres, so our sponsors help out’, Fiona explained. ‘We are doing it for the girls.’

I walked with Fiona to the finish line. Telling her that, as Christians, we know the first will be last, and the last will be first.

By this time, the band at St Jakobi had played its last song. The food vans had closed their windows. Stalls were being packed away.

Yet, as Fiona reached the finish, the cheer that greeted her was the loudest of the day.

Last. First. Jesus turns the world upside down. Seeks the lost; the overlooked; the forgotten.

That’s what the 650 walkers in the Barossa Valley … and the 200-plus walkers in other walks across the country … and those who sponsored them or donated … and the volunteers who prepared food, marshalled traffic, took photos, or emptied rubbish bins … did too.

Quiet humble service. Courage to care. Willingness to give the best they had, no matter what they had to give. Stepping out … so refugee children can step in to school.

Through Walk My Way, people like you do just what Kalsuma begged us to do. You make the light of education scatter. In doing so, you are a blessing ALWayS.

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More than 650 members and friends of our LCANZ family walked or cycled up to 26 kilometres through South Australia’s Barossa Valley last month to support thousands of refugee children to go to school.

The walk from Redeemer Lutheran School Nuriootpa to St Jakobi Lutheran School Lyndoch on 1 May was part of Australian Lutheran World Service’s (ALWS) Walk My Way, which is aiming to support schooling for 10,000 children in East African refugee camps this year. It costs $26 to support one child in school for one year and, as of 18 May, the Barossa Walk My Way had raised enough money to support 7102 children.

Bringing together people from the ages of five to 85, from as far afield as Townsville in Far North Queensland, the walkers and cyclists created a virtual river of blue t-shirts flowing through the valley against a backdrop of autumn-hued vines. With varying abilities and disabilities, some accompanied by their dogs, on bicycles or in wheelchairs, or pushing strollers, the walkers, wheelers and cyclists were supported by approximately 130 volunteers.

Sam Hoopmann, 15, was first to finish the course in just under three hours, ahead of Rev Dr Dean Zweck, 75.

The same day, members and friends of St John’s Lutheran Church Unley participated in shorter walks in support of Walk My Way in suburban Adelaide, while walks and fundraising challenges have been held or are ongoing among the communities of Encounter Lutheran College Victor Harbor, south of Adelaide and Good Shepherd Lutheran College in the Northern Territory, and by members and friends of the Ringwood-Knox Parish in suburban Melbourne and Tarrington in western Victoria. The St Marks Kids Club is taking on the challenge of walking 26 laps around the Freeling wetlands in South Australia between May and September.

Individuals are also completing Walk Your Way in their own time to support the cause, while other churches and schools in Queensland and South Australia are planning to take part in the coming months.

By 18 May, these had added 249 walkers and more than $50,000 to the Barossa tally – in total more than double the numbers who participated in the previous group Walk My Ways in 2019. With group walks cancelled by COVID last year, more than 2800 people participated in Walk Your Way individually or with their families and helped 6390 refugee children go to school. As of 18 May, walkers had raised more than $234,756, which supports schooling for 9029 refugee children.

ALWS Community Action Manager, Jonathan Krause, who has visited the schools supported at Kakuma Refugee Camp, and in South Sudan, said ‘before our help from Australia, these children did their learning sitting on rocks under trees, practising their writing in the dirt’.

‘Walk My Way walkers help supply books, uniforms, teaching materials, school desks, the repair and building of classrooms and the training of teachers’, he said.

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by Marilyn Wall

Almost 12 months on from the endorsement of the LCA Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and six months after copies were distributed to all congregations, schools and agencies of the LCA, we might ask: ‘Are we there yet?’

That depends how we define ‘there’. One way is to measure our progress against the RAP’s four objectives, which encompass building relationships through listening;

understanding what is important to Aboriginal people; providing a culturally appropriate mechanism to address recognition and representation; and developing appropriate ways to encourage and enable Aboriginal people to serve and lead in church life. While we have made a start, there is much to be done before such matters are embedded into the fabric of the church.

We can still improve our awareness. For example, did you know that more than 80 per cent of those who identify as First Nations or Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia live, work and raise families in urban areas? So, we may have First Nations peoples in our local communities and ministry spaces.

Also, as Aboriginality is not just a matter of skin colour, would we know this is the case? Unless we build strong relationships and provide environments that are culturally inclusive, safe and welcoming to First Nations people, they may not identify as such.

Remember, every journey starts with a first step. But genuine cultural inclusivity takes time to embed, so such actions need to be ongoing.

Perhaps your ministry has a story of engagement with and growth of relationships between First Nations peoples and others. We would love to hear and share your stories and photos – email them to rap@lca.org.au

Marilyn Wall is the LCA’s RAP Project Officer. For more information and resources, go to www.rap.lca.org.au

Want ideas? Here are some initiatives being undertaken by Lutheran ministries:

  • Utilising worship resources shared by the Commission on Worship through its Worship Planning Page (lca.org.au/wpp), for occasions of significance for First Nations peoples
  • Discussing, researching and identifying the traditional country upon which a ministry is happening and including this information on signage or websites
  • Including Acknowledgements of Country in publications
  • Incorporating stories and resources from the LCA RAP website (rap.lca.org.au) into ministry programs
  • Experiencing the relationship and awareness rewards of connections with remote Lutheran Aboriginal communities
  • Developing or investigating a Narragunawalli (a RAP for schools)
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by Reid Matthias

‘After this, the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness’ (Mark 1:12).

This verse strikes my funny bone. Reading it in a 21st century context (and out of biblical context), it sounds like the Spirit and Jesus pile into the ute for a drive into the bush where the Spirit kicks the door open and says, ‘Alright, have a good time camping!’

No, Jesus is not driven by car into the dusty outback of Israel, but he is motivated by the Spirit to walk into the wild where he will encounter temptations, struggle and critters. As I read about Jesus’ time in the wilderness, I wonder if there aren’t some similarities between God’s invitation to his Son to ‘Walk My Way’ and what I encountered in 2021.

As we drove through what could easily be considered something of a dusty wilderness, vast stretches of summer dryness now in different shades of yellow, ochre and brown, I was amazed at the landscape through which we’d walk. I tried to imagine the early pioneers who had to walk down the hill to the eastern parts of Adelaide from Hahndorf and back up again or the refugees who fled for their lives on foot in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

If I’m truly honest with myself, I don’t know if I could have survived very long doing any of those walks.

Imagine, though, if you could have been on the trail with the pioneers or the refugees. Imagine the stories you would hear if you only begged the questions: ‘Tell me your story. Tell me about your life. Help me to make the connection.’

These musings were what Jesus was very, very good at. As he wandered the dusty trails of Palestine, people followed him – throngs of people, multitudes. Pressing up to him, many wanted to touch him, to hear him, to see him. As they walked his way, they all desired a sign or wonder, yet time and time again, Jesus does not give them a miracle, but a question.

For it is in the questions that we find the miracle of walking together. This is where we find that Jesus has an interest in us.

In Luke 10, after Jesus sends 72 people to go walkabout two-by-two, he encounters a teacher of the law who wants to know how to put the cherry on top of life: ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’

Certainly, as their paths had intersected, Jesus could have simply told the man, ‘I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life’, brushed his hands and said, ‘Alright, have a good time’. But what does Jesus do? He comes alongside the lawyer and asks two questions. ‘What is written in the law? How do you read it?’

What do these questions do? Two things.

  1. Jesus establishes that he values the expert in the law enough to ask questions. ‘How do you read it?’ is a perfect way of asking, ‘So, tell me a little bit about your experience. Tell me about your own learning journey.’
  2. All of life is a dialogue. If we are open enough to ask the question, why not dig deeper?

What captures me most about this short incident is that Jesus paused in his own walk to interact with someone who could easily have irked him. But he doesn’t keep to himself, checking his pedometer, making sure he’s getting his steps in and his calories counted. No, he invites people onto the road with him. Even people who are different from him.

To me, this is the difference between walking with and coming alongside someone else.

Walking with someone else means that you are travelling in the same general direction, but might not have the same goal. Walking with someone means that you might smile politely, nod and put your headphones back in your ears. Walking with someone might mean that you walk a little faster so that you can finish before they do. Walking with someone doesn’t necessarily imply connection, only sharing space.

But walking alongside? Well, that’s a Jesus-kind-of-walk-my-way. It’s a choice. You opt to speed up or slow down so that you can match the other walker’s pace and go in the same direction. Walking alongside necessitates a kindred goal and spirit. Walking alongside is about greeting and creating relationships, asking questions of history and future.

Walking alongside is about the journey, whereas walking with is about the destination.

As the hordes of walkers gathered together for Walk My Way in the Barossa Valley, I was interested in how people separated themselves. Talking with people before, during and afterwards, I noticed those from congregations or friendships tended to walk with each other. Theirs was friendly banter, maybe an occasional jog. It’s natural. The day was designed for the relational journey and connecting with people who have the same goal.

But then on the way back, being driven through the wilderness by bus, back to the very beginning, I met a couple who were come-alongsiders. After having spent years living abroad, they told me the story of different cultures, different struggles, of being a stranger in strange lands, and they asked the same questions of me. For the journey, we found similarities and differences, common bonds of Christian understanding.

Which brought me back to opining about pioneers, refugees and Jesus himself: how are we called to come alongside people? In what ways do we slow our pace to match step with others along the road?

After Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan to this expert in the law, he asked, ‘Which one of these three do you think was a neighbour?’

The expert replied, ‘The one who had mercy’.

Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise’.

Maybe what I learned most about the Walk My Way experience of 2021 was that it didn’t finish on 1 May. Walking Jesus’ way is a daily walk alongside him and other people so that they can experience his grace and love on their own journey.

Go and do likewise.

Pastor Reid Matthias serves the flock at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Para Vista in suburban Adelaide. He completed Walk My Way Barossa Valley with his wife Christine, daughters Josephine and Greta and family friend Madison Watts.

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With Nepal facing a COVID-19 catastrophe along with its neighbour India, Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS) last month launched an appeal for urgent funds towards emergency medical supplies, health care and support for the Himalayan nation.

Donations are being bolstered by Australian Government funding on a 5:1 basis – for every dollar donated, the government will contribute $5.

Last week, Nepal reported 9070 daily infections of COVID-19 – its highest ever rate, while 47 per cent of COVID tests are coming back positive. International news media outlets are reporting that Nepal’s health system is overwhelmed by cases of the virus and that medical supplies have run out.

On 6 May, Lutheran World Federation’s Nepal team, supported by our LCANZ family through ALWS, delivered supplies including hospital beds, IV fluid stands, face shields and surgical masks to Jhapa Rural Municipality. Jhapa borders India, and so is in the frontline COVID danger zone, according to ALWS Community Action Manager Jonathan Krause.

Jonathan said the equipment would be part of a 20-bed Isolation centre the local government is setting up. ‘It is essential because two people in this small area have already died from COVID-19, and another 29 are in home isolation’, he said.

‘Aid is offered to all. You help people regardless of religion, gender and politics and your care is focused on those who are most vulnerable because of age, disability or status in the community.’

To donate to the ALWS Nepal COVID appeal, go to www.alws.org.au/donate and select ‘Nepal 5:1’ from the drop-down menu or phone 1300 763 407.

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JESUS IS GOD’S LOVE.

HE GIVES US NEW HEARTS –

TO LAY ASIDE OUR OLD WAYS,

TO BELIEVE AND FOLLOW HIM,

TO LIVE WITH HIM EVERY DAY.

HEARTLAND

Rev John Henderson

Bishop Lutheran Church of Australia

‘…in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:5 – NIV).

Do you remember those three-legged races at school camps and church picnics? With one leg tied to that of another person, you tried to walk, run, or most likely stumble together to the finish line. Awkward, even agonising, at least the races were mercifully brief. The hilarious spectacle you made was often more important than the actual competition.

I expect such races are off the agenda these days, especially during COVID-19.

The three-legged race, however, is an apt illustration of learning to walk together. I rarely chose my partner. He was chosen for me out of a pool of available candidates. We would barely know each other’s names, but suddenly we were joined in intimate physical contact, trying to merge as one.

When we succeeded in establishing a sort of rhythm, momentum would often take over and our different heights and weights would put us on the ground. If I tried to force my partner to walk or run my way, this would always end in total collapse. He would become a dead weight. Trying to stand up again was harder than learning to walk together in the first place.

I have never read of a three-legged race in the Bible, but I have read of Christians learning to walk together as members of the one body. St Paul writes about it in a well-known passage in Romans 12 and expands on it in 1 Corinthians 12. He emphasises how all the different parts of the body work and move together. Each part must pay careful attention to the needs of the others.

St Paul says that the body of believers is the body of Christ. As the body speaks, acts and walks, so Christ himself speaks, acts and walks.

In the body, all the parts belong to each other. No single part can be lopped off without the whole body taking a blow. And as we know from personal experience, a pain in the smallest part of the body resonates through our whole being. It is the same with Christ: he feels the pains and the hurts in his body – our pains, and our hurts.

Bodies, of course, are made to move. Christ’s body is also made to move.

St Paul tells us how: in prophesying, in serving, in teaching, in encouraging, in giving and in showing mercy. The body of Christ is alive and breathing, always doing something, engaging in the world with the mission of Christ.

So, this business of learning to walk together is much more than a curious pastime. It is of the essence for Christian faith and life.

If we want to grow in faith and move forward in our spiritual life, we must learn to walk in step with each other. We need to value each other. We need to forgive each other for any missteps. We need to encourage each other and celebrate our progress together. When we fall, we will feel the other’s pain as much as we feel our own. We won’t want to coerce or overcome other members of Christ’s body by force because we would only be hurting ourselves, and even worse, hurting Christ.

This is a great mystery. God chose us and gave us faith. As we share that faith, God opens up between us an extraordinarily intimate, sacred space. As fellow believers, saints in the body of Christ, we care for one another, pray for one another, and bow down as one before the throne of grace, where he forgives our sins and equips us, once more, to move out into the world with his mission of truth and love.

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We know Walk My Way raises money to support refugee children to go to school in East Africa, and that each $26 of support helps to provide a teacher, textbooks and school desks for one child for a year. Deng (pictured), a Year 7 teacher in Kakuma Refugee Camp, explains how the education Walk My Way supports changes lives …

I arrived in Kakuma in the early 2000s from South Sudan with both of my younger brothers, who were very young when we arrived. We lost everyone in the family whilst travelling to Kakuma. I am the head of our household. I never had any formal education and neither had my brothers.

Here at Kakuma, I had a chance to go to school. I went right through to Year 8. I was able to go to school here, at Shabelle in the camp, where I am now teaching! And now I am teaching my brothers as I work here in this same school in Kakuma!

One of my challenges is riding my bike here each day on a dusty, bumpy, difficult road to get to the school. It takes me over half an hour to get here. If I am walking it takes over an hour.

My brothers and I have nothing, yet education is so rich, and no-one can ever take that from us or anyone in the camp. I feel very privileged to teach. No-one can ever take an education away from a child. All possessions can be taken away, but not what’s in your head.

We are so grateful for all the support we receive.

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LCANZ Bishop John Henderson has announced that he will not be standing for re-election at this year’s Convention of General Synod.

Bishop Henderson, the first LCA leader to be known by that title, has held the position for three synodical terms, having been elected in April 2013. He has also indicated that he intends to retire from the active pastoral ministry.

General Synod delegates will therefore need to elect a new churchwide bishop.

Pastor delegates at General Pastors Conference in July will hold a nominating ballot to select pastor nominees for the position of LCA bishop. Those nominees will be presented to General Synod. Each nominee must receive a minimum of 25 per cent of Pastors Conference votes in order to be placed on the electoral ballot at Convention of General Synod. Typically, this process results in the Pastors Conference nominating two or maybe three candidates.

There is also a special provision, although rarely used, for delegates at General Synod to nominate further candidates from the floor.

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