by Lisa McIntosh

Each year in The Lutheran, we introduce the wider church to the newest pastors of the LCANZ, including sharing a bit about their work and family backgrounds and their call to the ordained ministry. It is both amazing and encouraging to learn of the many different paths our shepherds have taken to get where they are today. No two are exactly alike. And God uses their experiences for his kingdom as they serve in our congregations, schools, care settings, or district or churchwide ministries.

Among the ranks of serving pastors in the LCANZ are former funeral directors and footy umpires, fast-food outlet managers and farmers, taxi (and bus) drivers and teachers, economists and engineers, scientists, business bankers, finance and IT industry specialists, medical doctors and defence force personnel, cleaners, counsellors and copywriters, retail managers and sales staff, and even a prize-winning livestock photographer. And the list goes on.

But what do these ‘former lives’ mean for present-day ministries? Do any of the skills learnt behind a fast-food or shop counter, or on a tractor, in a laboratory, factory or classroom really translate into a parish setting?

Rev Dr Dan Mueller, who has served the Walla Walla Lutheran Parish in New South Wales since 2017, thinks so. A former software engineer and research scientist who worked in the Netherlands for several years, Pastor Dan believes there are two aspects from his ‘previous life’ that God continues to use in his ministry. ‘Firstly, I always had a desire to help and heal people. This is why I specialised in medical computing’, he says. ‘In particular, I designed algorithms and wrote software used by doctors in hospitals to diagnose and treat various medical conditions including cancer. This desire to help remains in my pastoral ministry. Now I help by speaking God’s gospel word of comfort; now I heal with water, bread and wine.

‘Secondly, my time living abroad and travelling, has shown me the diversity of God’s wonderful creation. It was a thrill to meet people with vastly different stories from my own. This connects with cross-cultural ministry. We need “many eyes” to see the cross. Each culture, each person, each story, enables us as individuals and as a church collective to hear, see, know, experience God more fully.’

Pastor Matt Bishop’s own experience backs up the idea that God can use any work or vocational journey to grow his kingdom. Pastor Matt, who currently serves at Blair Athol in South Australia and was ordained in 2015, was an Economic Policy Advisor with the Commonwealth Treasury, worked in the Australian Government’s Department of Finance, was deployed to the Papua New Guinea Treasury, and managed a McDonald’s franchise and served as a kitchen hand with the fast-food giant.

‘I don’t think too much is wasted, right down to being able to use my previous “Maccas” experience to place 24 pancakes expertly on a barbecue hotplate at the local high school breakfast club our (former) congregation ran in Morley Western Australia’, he said. ‘Being able to take a big-picture approach, assess competing narratives, and have some financial skills has helped with my service on the LCA’s Council for Local Mission, and more generally, in the parish as we think about where Christianity is at in an increasingly “no-religion”, if not hostile, society. More generally, my research and policy development skills, and my God-given inquiring mind, continue to find all sorts of applications.’

With Pastor Peter Klemm’s call to the ministry taking more than 20 years to come to fruition, he also had plenty of time to explore different occupations. Pastor Peter, who serves at Cummins on SA’s Eyre Peninsula, was a farmhand on his family’s farm after leaving school, next headed to Central Australia to work at the Finke River Mission store at Hermannsburg/Ntaria, then worked in roles including tyre-fitter, delivery driver and selling batteries, stockfeed, petrol, hardware and paint, as well as quoting jobs for tradesmen for HR Sanders in Clare in SA’s Mid-North.

Pastor Peter believes that his previous roles have helped him to be able to relate to people from all walks of life and ‘to always lean on God in all things’.

‘I believe God has placed me into ministry after moulding me over a number of years’, he says. ‘God has given me a pastoral heart, a thirst to know more about him, a willingness to listen to other people and a yearning to visit people, whether on the tractor or header, in aged-care facilities, or their homes.’

Pastor Peter Heintze also comes from a rural background and says he spent 34 years ‘wandering in the wilderness’ before studying for the ministry and being ordained in 2017.

‘God was preparing me for something that I did not think I was capable of, or even worthy’, says Pastor Peter, who serves at Coonalpyn in SA’s South-East. ‘What amazes me is how God uses our journeys through someone like me, who did not like school, left as soon as I could to work on the family farm for 20 years, which I did not like, but I did learn a lot.’

As well as having been a primary producer for two decades, Pastor Peter worked as a cleaner, a school handyman and tutor, a Community Development Employment Projects supervisor, a mining laboratory soil sampler, a Big W warehouse employee, a Centrelink work supervisor, a painter/renovator and in water compliance.

‘The different occupations, the diverse range of people I worked with, the people skills I acquired, the life experiences gained, the myriad of role models, and the power of the Holy Spirit helped to prepare me for the ordained ministry’, he says.

Another pastor who spent many years of his pre-ministry life in his family’s business is Darryl Shoesmith, who serves at Christchurch in New Zealand.

Pastor Darryl, who previously studied at Queensland Agricultural College in Gatton, worked at the college as a vet’s assistant for a year while undertaking an honours endorsement in wildlife management. The following year though, he was employed at the family firearms shop as a retail assistant.

A love of the craftsmanship of firearms and their history led to study in gunsmithing in the US in 1982 and, after returning to Australia and Shoesmith Firearms, he worked as an employee for several years and then managed the business until 2008 when he retired early.

While Pastor Darryl had given thought to studying for the ministry earlier, it was only in his fourth year of retirement, after discussions with the pastor taking his father’s funeral, that he pursued his new vocation.

And he believes his customer-service background has helped prepare him for serving a parish. ‘Dealing with, speaking with, getting to know, so many different types of people on a day-to-day basis is a good grounding because it is not just about them, but is good for knowing yourself’, he says.

And how would he best explain to people that you can have both firearms as a hobby and a love of sharing Jesus’ message of reconciliation and peace? ‘Like other tools – a good chisel for the woodworker, a quality sharp knife in a chef’s kitchen – (firearms) are not necessarily killing implements, but articles used for appreciation and peaceful enjoyment’, he says. ‘Jesus’ message of reconciliation and peace pertains not to objects, but to the human heart.’

Pastor Joseph Theodorsen also had customer or client-focused roles before studying for the ministry and being installed to serve Top End Lutheran Parish Northern Territory earlier this year. After attending school in Western Australia, he was a service station attendant then manager, a clerk, a recruitment consultant, a Bachelor of Education student and taxi driver who had explored the option of becoming a Specific Ministry Pastor at his home church of Geraldton before moving to Adelaide to attend Australian Lutheran College to study to become a General Ministry Pastor.

‘There are many ways God had planned for me to grow as his servant through the various roles I had before the ordained ministry’, he says. ‘Many of them were customer or client-focused, and a desire to help people was always very strong for me. Also, the wide range of people that I would interact with through these roles, particularly as a taxi driver and at the service station, was great preparation for the ministry. To have had such a large amount of experience with people from all walks of life helps in many ways.’

Like the other pastors who’ve shared their reflections here, South African-born Roelof Buitendag didn’t start out wanting to be a pastor. After a move to Australia and studies in psychology and science, his main role was as a sleep scientist, but he had also worked in casual jobs as a shop hand at a convenience store in West End, Queensland, in a bagel shop, as a bartender, hotel cleaner, sales attendant and paint mixer with Dulux Paints, bricky’s labourer, and a youth coordinator.

Pastor Roelof, who serves at Ipswich Queensland, believes God’s will for our lives is often only ‘revealed as we walk on that journey’. ‘Everything beforehand has helped me relate to people and hopefully helped me communicate the reality and truth of the God of the Bible into the utmost needs of people’, he says.

‘In the end, my studies and career in psychology, science and sleep science have made me more aware, and more passionate, about the issue behind the issues that so many people face every moment of every day – and, most importantly, that there is an “ultimate remedy” to the issue behind the issues, and his name is Jesus.’

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by Lisa McIntosh

Many people who serve in ministry roles have fascinating stories from their life before this work or volunteering, and uplifting testimonies about their change in vocational course or increasing commitment to God’s mission.

Danielle Robinson, office manager for the LCANZ’s Queensland District, is an example. A large part of her role is providing secretarial support to district committees which, she says ‘is a wonderful way to utilise years of experience on boards and councils of the church’.

In between taking on the role earlier this year and serving across eight years at Grace Redcliffe as an office administrator and chaplain, she had returned as a freelancer to her first career – the beauty and fashion industry. Before her ministry work at Redcliffe, Danielle began modelling in her teens and later operated the state’s top-ranked bridal styling house. Upon her return to the industry in 2018, she found success as a make-up artist, but says she ‘wasn’t feeling the same spark of excitement that I used to’, so she re-enrolled with Australian Lutheran College to continue theological studies and pursued ministry opportunities.

In a congregational setting, Danielle is the worship coordinator for Living Faith Murrumba Downs and serves on the LCANZ’s Council for Local Mission. She says her volunteer and work backgrounds – she also worked for a bank and managed another office before she was married and had children – have all contributed to her current service.

‘I can see my years of experience in governance and business administration leading to serve in this position in the church, but also my compassion and love for God’s children’, she says. ‘God’s ways are so amazing. It’s only now that I can begin to see the exquisite tapestry that God is weaving, and I know that he doesn’t mean for all of that to simply grow me, but to grow those souls he places in our paths.’

Graham Smith also finds joy and blessings in engaging with and sharing Jesus’ love with the people God introduces him to through volunteer service, in his case at St Petri Nuriootpa in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

A member of SA Police (SAPOL) from 1971 to 2003, Graham had a ‘second career’ with Penfolds winery Nuriootpa from 2004 until 2019. While he and wife Sandy have served their local congregations around SA through a variety of roles over many years, Graham says most of his church volunteering has been since retirement.

‘God uses many people in his mission’, he says. ‘I’m just one of them. And the little things are important to God as well as the big things. And if I can help out a little, I’m hoping God will be happy with that.

‘My time in SAPOL has given me an opportunity to see people in all walks of life, in good times and bad. Perhaps I’m better able to connect with the community because of that. Having been involved with Messy Church, Shed Happens, and Sunday services (at St Petri), it’s satisfying to see the love of Jesus manifesting itself in these events.’

Fellow St Petri member Libby Krahling has had many different careers. Early in her working life, she was with the Federal Attorney-General’s Department in Canberra and then the Department of Defence in Melbourne and Canberra. During that time, she spent a year full-time learning Indonesian.

Now the LCANZ’s Commission on Worship’s administration coordinator, Libby worked as personal assistant to the director of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne and volunteered as an Indonesian interpreter. Later, she worked for Cambridge University Press in science marketing.

During time off from paid work, while she raised two children with husband Phil, Libby became more involved in volunteering for her church and community.

She then was a high school teacher in Kadina SA and the Barossa Valley, before working as assistant parish secretary with St Petri and, in 2019, taking on her role with the Commission on Worship.

‘As a young single person, I would never have imagined that I would work for a church in any capacity’, she says. ‘I’ve learnt that just when I think I have my life all planned, God has a surprise in store for me.

‘I believe that God has placed me in this place at this time for his purposes. Some I can see, others I may never know. I believe that nothing in life is wasted, and this role calls on many of the skills I’ve developed in the past. I hope that I have been able to make a contribution to the kingdom.’

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Jamie Davies, Executive Director of Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS), says it has been a privilege to shepherd the organisation through some exciting changes for more than three years. She will be leaving ALWS early next year.

The six-month transition period will allow her to complete some critical projects with the team, including re-accreditation and operational planning in line with the organisation’s new strategic directions. The lead time will also smooth the path for Jamie’s successor.

In making the announcement in late July, ALWS Board chair, Jodie Hoff, paid tribute to Jamie’s leadership, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Jamie’s input and involvement across the wider LCANZ, Lutheran World Federation, and with our fellow sector partners, has added further to ALWS’s contribution in reaching out to the forgotten’, she said.

‘Her passion for ALWS, our church and the most marginalised and forgotten people in the world has been a blessing, building on the strong foundations laid by her predecessors, and starting with her contributions as an ALWS Board Advisor from 2012.’

Born and educated in the USA, Jamie has worked in the aid and development sector for much of her adult life, including in some of the world’s most challenging countries.

‘Although my heart breaks when I see the poverty and injustice suffered by the people we reach together, I am humbled to see the Aussie and Kiwi Lutheran family bringing love to life in places and times of great challenge’, she says. ‘You’ve made my heart for ALWS grow bigger and bigger with your outpourings of love for all those doing it tough, especially during the pandemic. And I am so proud of the talented ALWS team.’

While there is much work to be done before she leaves, Jamie is looking forward to spending time with her elderly father in the USA, once borders re-open, ‘and seeing where God leads me next’.

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Rev John Henderson

Bishop Lutheran Church of Australia

‘God can bless you with everything you need, and you will always have more than enough to do all kinds of good things for others’ (2 Corinthians 9:8 CEV).

Grace and peace to you all in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

It’s nearly time for our church to gather as a synod once again, as we do every three years. The synod includes all our congregations and parishes across Australia and New Zealand, and representatives from various ministries, such as Lutheran schools.

When the LCANZ talks about ‘synod’ we mean ‘walking together’. When we gather as a synod, we call it a ‘convention’, a meeting at which we talk together. In formal terms, a Convention of General Synod is an assembly of delegates to act on particular matters and the ‘highest constitutional authority of the church’ (see LCA Constitution Article 7). The 2021/22 Synod meeting will be the 20th General Convention in the life of the LCANZ.

This time, however, things being as they are, we will structure the meeting in a new way. God willing, we will hold it in two parts. Part one will be two days of online sessions (October 2021). Part two will be three days of in-person sessions (later in 2022 at a location to be announced). Both the online and the in-person sessions will be parts of the same convention, which we will adjourn for the intervening months.

While we’ve never done it like this before, we all know the reasons for the change. The church has certain business that it must transact this year, even though we cannot be in the same physical space. We have other important but more discretionary items that must wait until delegates can gather in the same room. Should an item that is scheduled for the online sessions prove to be complex or controversial and require fuller discussion, it will be held over until the in-person sessions. To be ready for the October 2021 sessions, delegates will need to have read the materials provided and accept that the online situation brings certain restraints.

The decision to organise the convention in this way was made responsibly to reflect the changing, fluid environment of border closures, lockdowns and meeting limits. COVID-19 has affected our lives on so many levels, including church worship. We are thankful that we have been spared the worst so far, but humanly speaking, the situation still causes us unease and uncertainty. These are uncharted waters. Where are we headed with all this?

Whatever changes confront us, the church is resilient because its people are resilient. That resilience is born of faith and trust in our loving, gracious, patient and compassionate God. As St Paul writes in Romans 8:38,39, ‘I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love – not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!’

The 20th Convention of General Synod is important to us, but it is only one aspect of the church. Our real life takes place at the ‘grassroots’, as we gather for worship, praise and thanksgiving, as we hear the word, and as the sacraments are administered. God is truly active in these things. Jesus is truly present, as he says he will be. His mission is enacted by the thousands of believers who carry his word in their hearts and reflect his love in their daily lives.

Please pray for our church and all its members and convention delegates, the planning committee, and all those who are working towards us having as fruitful and productive a meeting as possible. To God be the glory, now and always.

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by Pastor Giesa Panpan

Papua New Guinea (PNG) Christians have marked 135 years since the gospel of Jesus Christ first landed on the PNG mainland, introduced by Lutheran Pastor Johannes Flierl at Simbang Finschhafen, Morobe Province, on 12 July 1886.

The written and oral histories of how the gospel spread are beyond imagination: crossing high mountains, fast-flowing rivers and rough seas, plains and valleys, and to the ‘no-go’ territories of people with different languages and cultures.

This is what God’s mission is all about. The histories record the amazing results from the work of the missionaries, of which you and I are also part. Over and over again, missionaries preached the gospel among remote-living people who had never heard it, and individuals were converted; their lives transformed.

There were many participants in the missionary work, both sending and receiving. The progress of mission was so magnificent because of faith-promise missionary giving. This giving went beyond tithes. It was giving of an amount by faith to mission so systematically.

What can I do for my church, in my time and in my day? This question does not require systematic answers. It is all about giving. God gave Jesus Christ to the world because he is a missionary God. He wants us to continue the mission by giving ourselves – our lives, our time and our resources – so that the gospel reaches and transforms the unreached.

Pastor Giesa Panpan serves with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG’s Ministerial Training Department.

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by Nevin Nitschke

When LCA International Mission put out a call a few months back for volunteers to help teach conversational English online for Indonesian seminary students, we prayed we would find enough willing people to support our overseas partners.

When we first began planning, I thought we would need at least 40 people to help run the four-week course. And God provided! There were 46 volunteers who gave their time to run the 70-minute sessions with first and second-year students from Abdi Sabda Theological College in North Sumatra each day.

Volunteers came from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. They included LCA members and people from Wycliffe Bible Translators and independent churches. Several teachers said they saw the daily lessons as a good distraction during COVID-19 lockdowns.

A ‘grand closing’ for the holiday program was held on 11 August and was attended online by more than 200 people.

Several of the students sang songs for the teachers to thank and bless them.

The online service was a celebration of the previous months and the Australian teachers who attended felt blessed and very honoured, with many teachers and students describing their time together as an amazing experience.

The 2022 course is already being planned and if you would like to join us, or know of someone who would enjoy taking part, please email me at or call LCA International Mission on 08 8267 7300.

Nevin Nitschke is an LCA International Mission program officer.

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Former and current Lutheran school students shone at the recent Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, winning at least nine gold, three silver and seven bronze medals for Australia across five sports.

In addition, two old scholars of St Peters Lutheran College Queensland – Taekwondo player Pita Taufatofua (Tonga) and freestyle swimmer Eve Thomas (New Zealand), who won her 800m freestyle heat – represented other nations in Tokyo.

St Peters had six Olympic athletes among its student and alumni ranks, with current Year 12 Springfield campus student, swimmer Mollie O’Callaghan winning two gold and one bronze medal, while 2018 Indooroopilly campus student Ariane Titmus was another leading contributor to the Australian swim team’s medal haul with two gold, one silver and one bronze. Fellow St Peters old scholars and swimmers Madison Wilson (one gold and one bronze) and Abbey Harkin (200m breaststroke) also competed at the games.

Ten Lutheran Education Queensland (LEQ) school alumni represented Australia at Tokyo 2020 and won a total of eight gold, two silver, and five bronze medals which LEQ Executive Director Dennis Mulherin points out would have placed LEQ 11th on the medal tally if it were a country, ahead of the likes of Canada, Brazil, New Zealand and Cuba.

Kaylee McKeown (old scholar Pacific Lutheran College, Meridan Plains 2018 and St Paul’s Lutheran Primary School, Caboolture 2012) was another of the Aussie swim team’s stars, winning three golds and one bronze.

Taliqua Clancy (old scholar St John’s Lutheran School, Kingaroy 2004) won silver in beach volleyball and Melissa Wu (Trinity Lutheran College, Ashmore 2004) won a bronze medal in diving.

Other LEQ Games participants included Katie Haywood (St Andrews Lutheran College, Tallebudgera 2017), who finished Top 40 in the 20km walk, Rosie Malone (Trinity Ashmore, 2015), who was a quarter-finalist in hockey and Alyce Wood (Immanuel Lutheran College, Buderim 2009), who was fifth and eighth in the pair and individual canoe sprint.

Another gold medallist was former Nhill Lutheran School student Lucy Stephan, from Victoria, who was part of the victorious Australian women’s coxless fours rowing crew in the 2000m event.

Swimmer Kyle Chalmers, who was a student at Immanuel College Novar Gardens in South Australia when he won gold in the 100m freestyle at the Rio Olympics in 2016, in Tokyo won a silver medal in the same event, as well as two relay bronze medals.

Cyclist Rohan Dennis, a former student of Endeavour College Mawson Lakes in South Australia, won a bronze medal in the time trial at the Olympics.

Fellow cyclist Alex Manly, an old scholar of Cornerstone College Mount Barker in South Australia, was part of Australia’s quartet in the Olympic Women’s Team Pursuit, which finished fifth.

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Hundreds of members of the LCANZ family – from small children to the elderly – shared their creative talents through the Living Water Churchwide Simultaneous Art Exhibition last month.

There were 14 exhibitions held across Australia, with five in South Australia, three in Queensland, while Western Australia and New South Wales hosted two each and there was one each in Victoria and the Northern Territory. Some exhibitions were staged purely for online viewing due to COVID-19 restrictions, while others were able to open to in-person visitors. The members of Immanuel Lutheran Church North Adelaide even took their exhibition to their local streets!

All addressing the theme ‘Living Water’, the exhibitions were put on by congregations, Lutheran schools and early learning centres, while members of aged-care communities also took part. The event, which was deferred from last year because of the pandemic, welcomed artists of ‘all ages, stages and media’ and was staged by the Commission on Worship’s Visual Arts Working Group.

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I am constantly inspired by God’s grace shining through the work of members of our Lutheran family in service to his kingdom.

So many of you lovingly serve God, his church and the communities in which he has placed you, whether as volunteers, paid lay workers or pastors, or as ministry supporters. You give unstintingly and almost inexhaustibly of yourselves by sharing your God-given time, talents and resources, and by your prayers.

Isn’t it wonderful (and mind-boggling) that he works through us in this way, according to our giftings and vocations, and despite our human failings? 2 Corinthians 12:9 springs to mind – ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’. Thank God that this is the case throughout our lives. (If not, there would be some months The Lutheran wouldn’t be finished on time!)

What’s even more remarkable is that no matter how we serve – formally or informally, part-time or full-time, voluntarily or employed, in our congregations or the wider church – or where we’ve come from workwise or vocationally, God uses our life’s experiences to prepare us to bless others and grow his kingdom.

In this edition, we are privileged to share life-journey stories of LCANZ members who serve as pastors, lay workers and volunteers. Their backgrounds are incredibly diverse, and I have been amazed to learn of the many ways God has led these people to his service. I hope you, too, will find encouragement in these testimonies.

Of course, had this been an ‘ordinary’ year, this edition would have been completely different – themed around our upcoming LCANZ Convention of General Synod. But with the triennial meeting now to be held in two parts, including a two-day online meeting on 1–2 October and much of its business deferred until 2022 (see for more details) due to the extraordinary circumstances relating to COVID-19, we felt this was a great opportunity to share some personal good-news stories. With many in our two countries in lockdown as I write, I’m sure we can all do with more of those!

And, with our sisters and brothers in New South Wales suffering more than much of Australia and New Zealand, most of our prayer calendar this month is focused on the people and ministries of the LCANZ’s NSW District. Of course, as usual, there are devotions and a themed Bible study to foster our home faith life, too.

And you can read about some wonderful new resources from our church departments, agencies and congregations, including an encouragement to all congregations to recognise, bless and give thanks for those engaged in care in their communities through the Christian Care Sunday project (see page 13).

God bless your reading,


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